Freelancing: To pay or not to pay

There's light at the end of the tunnel. (RambergMediaImages/Flickr Creative Commons)

There’s light at the end of the tunnel. (RambergMediaImages/Flickr Creative Commons)

The topic of paid and unpaid freelance writing continues to develop Thursday. While someone accused Nate Thayer of plagiarizing the North Korea piece he wrote that set this all off, Ann Friedman at the Columbia Journalism Review broke down her freelancing philosophy.

Friedman pays her bills with a number of freelancing gigs, including two columns, and has created a paradigm that allows her to do unpaid and low-pay work that may benefit her in other ways. She separates her approach to doing free/low-pay work into four categories: to establish experience; because she was writing it anyway; to raise her profile; and to be part of a project she loves.

Unpaid work, she says, is a great way for some writers to make headway. It can even lead to some happy accidents, as it did for her when she started publishing some “silly, hand-drawn charts” for free, and it led to her getting a job to draw for a monthly magazine.

And then there’s Paul Carr, arguing for a sort of return to the high-flying days of Big Journali$m, when (apparently) a reporter could expense the purchase of a Mustang on assignment. Read the comments on this one — not everyone agrees with him — but it’s quite a defense of the value of in-depth, well-reported, and expensive stories.

About Michael Juliani

Michael Juliani is a senior studying Print and Digital Journalism at USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. He's a senior news editor and executive producer for Neon Tommy and an associate editor and contributor for the Online Journalism Review. His writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and the Huffington Post, among other places.