Friday, April 8, 2011

Why You Should Stop Donating -- And Volunteering -- Now

A journalist friend of mine recently posted a great video by Good Intentions that brilliantly highlights why we should all stop donating our used clothes to international charities.

I love this video mainly because it does what I try to do every day: turn complex issues into compelling messages that stick and spread like wildfire.

But I also loved this video because it speaks to me as a writer and journalist. It's becoming increasingly difficult for people who are skilled and talented at their craft to make a living wage off their years of hardwork. Not that anyone goes into writing with the expectation of being a billionaire, but the plethora of "citizen journalists" and Craiglist writers willing to write for $15/hour is forcing those of us with years in the trade to justify rates that would allow us to eat, keep a roof over our heads and pay for vital necessities like healthcare and retirement plans.

It's only with the advent of social entrepreneurship that people have begun to believe that, perhaps, we can have an economy that rewards people for doing good--isn't that the best way to get more people to do good, afterall? But writers and journalists seem to be excluded from this social enterprise movement, even though we provide a vital function, especially my non-fiction breathren.

As a writer, it's important to me and my conscience that I write about things that matter in a way that respects readers. But this year, I've been forced to write for a company that markets products through lifestyle articles (with no mention of their advertorial nature) just to pay the bills. Every day it eats away at me, but every time I pitch nonprofits AND social enterprises, for that matter, I'm asked if I'll work for free like the rest of their volunteers (i.e., slave writing labor).

Wouldn't it be nice if all writers stood in solidarity and simply refused to write for free anymore? Would you join me?


Lauren of Fizgiggery said...

It's not just writers - it's anyone in a freelance and/ or creative field. I can't tell you the number of ads I've seen requesting actresses to perform a role with nudity for no pay - but somehow the producer's contacts will make it worthwhile...

I've given more voice overs, on-camera performances, and pieces of jewellery for free than you've 'ad 'ot dinners!

Sadly, sometimes the credit on your resume might be worth more than the pay. After all, if you won't do it, there are 10 others who will, so I think refusing to write for free will only hurt yourself.

But despair not, you are not alone!

Minal Bopaiah said...

Very true, Lauren. I know creatives are a long-suffering bunch.

But I'm still not sure if I should accept doing anything for free. I agree that sometimes the credit is helpful (such as my unpaid internship at Doctors Without Borders), but I also have a limited amount of time in a day/week/lifetime, and each free job takes away time and mental energy from a potentially paying gig. At 34, I'm inclined to go with the paying job and use my reserves for long-term creative projects that may yield financially gain later down the line.

But I admit it's always a tough call. And those sexy nonprofits do know how to seduce a girl with their mission and work...

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