Thursday, 20 November 2014

working for free

We decided long ago in 2006 that we were going to shake up the way our family worked. My husband, Kenny, would go for a job with a bigger salary, with the flexibility which has to go with that, and we would move our family as required. I would look after our children, and make sure that things at home worked, even as Kenny needed to work away for his job.

It's worked out well for us. Kenny's doing well in his career, and our children are happy and secure, despite having moved a few times, but nothing is all good.

Everyone has something they don't like about their work, and being a full time Mum, while being very rewarding, and completely worthwhile, can also be dull, repetitive, and frustrating. For me, I need to have another focus as well.

When we first moved for Kenny's work my other focus was on the charitable organisation I was running (in Suffolk). b.a.b.i.e.s (Babies and Birthing in East Suffolk) was fun and so very useful, and gave me plenty of adult focused things to do while I was with my children.

When we moved back to Scotland I was considering running something similar, but found there wasn't the appetite for it, so, after a brief period of obsessively playing The Sims (I still love the Sims, and am hoping for Sims 4 for Christmas), I started to write.

I have always written. I won some writing competitions as a kid, but then focused more on Sociology. While I was a social researcher though, I enjoyed writing accessible reports on research findings, and prided myself on being able to translate complicated papers for normal people to be able to understand. I loved being able to make good research more useful through writing.

When I decided to write as the 'thing I do' though, I figured I'd need a lot of practice before my work was good enough to sell. So I started practicing. I followed Neil Gaiman's advice:
"This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it's done. It's that easy, and that hard."
I joined a writing group, and wrote what I was told to. I pushed myself, I tried things.

I started blogging, and kept it up because it was good practice.

I entered competitions. I've not won one yet (not one based on skill anyway), but I've been placed, and I'm getting better. I feel like I've been serving an apprenticeship, which is coming to an end.

How do I know it's coming to an end? Because it's time I got paid. I've got lots of work to do on the book, that will come in time, but I'm submitting short stories and articles to magazines, and to bigger competitions. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

I'm also now being approached to write things for people. The proper term for this is 'being commissioned', but you'll note that I'm not using that term. Why? Because the people who are approaching me aren't offering to pay me! Just this morning, I've had two people ask me to do work for them for free. One of them I don't mind. I have set a precedent there by doing work for free for them before, and while I have the time I will do it, because it's a good way to be involved in my community.

The other one was wanting me to write a blog post, promoting their company, but wanted me to do lots of research about related things too. I have no experience of their company, (and by the way, I will only promote brands I have experience of on the blog, like Hotel Chocolat or Getting Personal), and wouldn't have been averse to getting some experience, except they were not planning on paying me!

Would you place an ad in the local paper and not plan to pay them? Would you have one of those odd-job people tidy out your gutters and not pay them? It's rude, basically. I might choose to work for my family for free (and even for my mates), but if you want me to do a job for you, you're going to need to pay - it might not be in money, but you shouldn't expect me to give of my time, away from my family, without some recompense.

And breathe.

Do people expect you to work for free?