Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Don't Give Away Your Time - But Don't Turn Away Unpaid Opportunities

Here's some unsolicited advice for people who want to make a living as writers -- or any kind of creative folk, really:  Don't turn down a good opportunity. 

More importantly, judge an opportunity by its long-term effects on your career.  Any job you take should do one of three things:
  1. Pay you well for your time.  
  2. Develop a skill that will enable you to do better paid work later. 
  3. Provide you with exposure that you can use to leverage yourself to get a better position.  
In other words, you should always look at how any particular gig can help you reach your goals.  Sometimes, it's worth taking a pay cut to do something that, in the long term, will pay off.  But sometimes you get so wrapped up in working for free or small amounts of money that you waste time that could be spent doing other things. 

For example, I write game content for Black Chicken LLC.  It pays $10 a week for what amounts to several hours worth of work.  But I stick with it -- and, indeed, look forward to it -- because the editorial staff is a joy to work with, the work itself is fun and engaging, and it gives me experience in writing for the game industry.  Who knows how that skill might pay off in the long term? 

Similarly, I recently landed myself a position as a columnist for the online horror magazine, Ravenous Monsters.  It's currently an unpaid position, but I get a byline and exposure, and I get to write about something I'm really passionate about.  Again, the editor is a joy to work with, the project is fun, and I get to pitch my own articles and set my own deadlines.  Down the line, maybe I can leverage this into paid article gigs at other magazines, or maybe this one will get big enough to start paying. 

On the other hand, some projects aren't worth pursuing.  I found an office job that I am undoubtedly qualified for.  It would earn me $12/hr plus benefits for essentially the job that I currently do right now.  And, let me tell you, it's really tempting to do that right now when freelancing is so slow and paying my bills is an uncertain endeavor.  But on a good day, I can make double that in an hour.  And I can make my own schedule, set my own hours and decide what projects to take on -- which I couldn't do in a corporate setting.  I could be compelled to take a company job...but not for that rate. 

So whether you're considering your job options, thinking about how/where to publish your book, or deciding what hobbies to pursue...think long-term. Keep an eye out for opportunities (both of my super-fun weekend jobs came from answering ads online).  And always follow your heart. 

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