Friday, 6 May 2011

And We're Off

It's been an interesting and industrious week, article writing, for me. You may recall that just before Easter I'd submitted two assignments for the Journalism course I'm doing with the Writers' Bureau. Well I got them back today with lots of encouraging comments from my tutor and some good advice on how I can improve.

I feel like I've turned a corner on the course, as I hadn't sent any assignments in for some time (to my shame!) But I'm determined to get the course finished this year, and having such great feedback has ignited my fire again. One thing I will say for the course is that it has certainly made me think more about the magazines I can target and how to give my pitches and articles the best chance I can. So if you're struggling a bit with your article writing and want to improve your skills, or are starting from scratch and want to learn how to do it, a course might be the way to go for you. It's certainly helped me.

Another thing of interest to article writers that I've come across today is an article in the current issue of Writing Magazine by Rebecca Lees, a freelance writer, who talks about getting paid for your work and how to ensure you get the cash owed to you for your writing. It's an informative article, so get a copy if you can. It will come in very useful.

In the article she also looks at the pros and cons of writing for free and the question of whether writers should write for free or not. She holds an interesting argument and says that we, as writers, need to value our work. She's not a fan of writing for free except in exceptional circumstances. I have to say that neither am I, although I have done a few pieces for the local paper for free. But to me that writing for free has allowed me to hone my skills and as they were short pieces, I can now expand them to form longer articles that I can send out to paying markets. All the research and photographs are there and ready for me to use. I can get at least three articles out of those initial ideas!

Sometimes writing for free has its advantages: highlighting local issues and community projects is a favourite for me. I understand the other side of the argument too from writers who say it's exploitation and if writers will write for free they undermine the position of professional writers trying to earn a living from their writing. Why should editors pay a writer for their work if they know someone else will do it for free? It's a complex issue. Which side of the fence do you fall?

I'm looking forward to tackling my next assignment for the Journalism course and pinging my next batch of pitches off. How is the challenge I set going on? Has anyone had any success yet?

Happy writing!

Julie xx

6 comments:

  1. Good luck. Glad to hear you're enthused about your course again.

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  2. I seem to have problems even getting a payment from those who say they will pay and then don't so would not like to offer a full article for free. I think it may be good to get experience for shorter items such as the letters page but we should be paid for our longer pieces.

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  3. Hi, Helen

    Thank you! I'm hoping to get it all done by the end of this year so I can move on.
    Julie xx

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  4. Hi, Di

    It seems to be a big problem. But when you think about it, you wouldn't expect a plumber to see to your pipes for free so why should editors expect a writer to write for free?

    On the upshot, though, writing occasionally for free does get your cuttings rate up for your writing portfolio. It's different agreeing to write for free than the editor saying they'll pay for it but then they don't - that's unprofessional! Rebecca Lees goes into what you can do if that happens - the article is excellent.

    Julie xx

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  5. As Rebecca says - its all about the communication at the start. We get excited and jump for joy when the editor comes back and says 'yes' and in our excitement it's easy to forget about asking how much will be paid. And then, because nothing is asked, the editor might assume that no payment is required. Some editors are nice though. Had two this week who've commissioned articles and told me up front how much to invoice. Occasionally, editors can be even nicer. Just had one accept two pieces from me and he's even increased how much he pays!

    Simon

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  6. That's true, Simon.
    Congrats on the commissions and pay rise!

    Julie xx

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