Writing in a Capitalist Society: A Self-Serving Marxist Perspective
I recently answered an ad to be a writer for a blog exclusively run by women. I sent an e-mail outlining my credentials and attached my resume and writing samples. The blog administrator responded, acknowledging I was super-duper qualified, and said they were looking for someone to submit one blog entry per day.
She wrote, “This is not a paid position. While we are growing and hope to one day get there, at the moment we are all here on a volunteer basis.”
I was pretty taken aback at an organization requesting that I contribute however long it takes to cobble together a presentable daily blog entry–let’s say five hours a week, conservatively?–with not only no pay, but with no discernible alternative benefit such as widespread exposure. (I wasn’t communicating with HuffPo.)
A writer’s left to ask, “You’re asking me to contribute content to drive up your numbers, but what’s in it for me?”
Writing is a skill, and I’ve been trained extensively in that skill, and if you hire me to write something for your website, that website will have more polished, more interesting content than if you’d hired someone more–well–linguistically clunky.
But why are writers expected to source all this rhetorical fun at no cost? If you hire a plumber, or a maid, or a babysitter, to come to your house five hours a week, there’s no expectation that that individual will perform their services for free. Yet someone (a me kind of someone) working as a college instructor–with an advanced degree–who has been previously published–is expected to act as the blogging equivalent of an unpaid intern.
I decided to be honest in my response, and wrote, “While I’m still interested in writing for the site, submitting 7 blog entries per week would be a major time commitment, and committing that much time without compensation wouldn’t be a smart move for me at this point.”
I offered to submit one or two blog entries a week, which I’m willing to do because it would simply be for my own enjoyment, and hey, I can slap it on my resume, and I can get that done in the amount of time it takes to watch an episode of Home Improvement.
What the puppy looks like after a 3.5 mile walk:
Foolishly, she walks for free.
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