I never thought I’d say it, but I have some sympathy with guests on the Jeremy Kyle Show. Not that I sit around watching daytime TV all day, of course. Well, apart from a triple-bill of Frasier to get me going in the morning on my days off. Anyway, one of the criticisms Kyle often launches at his hapless guests (when he isn’t accusing them of being promiscuous dopeheads) is that they’re all basically benefits layabouts. A lot of people might well agree with that, but recently I’ve started to wonder about a parallel.
No, before you ask, I’m not claiming or thinking of claiming benefits. I want to work and I am working. But only when I and my work are valued and it’s financially worth my while.
I stay in touch with most of my previous clients, and most freelancers would agree that it’s much easier to get work from someone you’ve worked with before than to tout around for new work. Forging new relationships is a time-consuming business, as is applying for jobs on spec, networking and so on – although this is all part of the process. Whilst my longstanding clients know and are happy with my average day rate for copywriting or proofreading, it seems strange to me that other potential new clients really don’t.
And they want something for nothing.
I once had a conversation with a recruiter, no less, who was positively shocked by my day rate. In fact, she said, ‘That can’t be right!’ or words to that effect. Perhaps she was new to the job, who knows? The fact is, freelancers obviously have to be paid more per day than a permanent member of staff, often just to keep their heads above water. That is simply the nature of things for reasons I’m sure you’re all familiar with.
So I was pretty peeved the other day when someone spent a rather long time explaining to me how great this role was and why I should go for it, only to then tell me at the end that I would be earning the princely sum of £100-120 per day. Gross.
At a massive push, that might be just about borderline ok for a new graduate, working five days a week with paid holiday, paid sick leave, a company pension, security, and possibly all sorts of other perks. But it is most certainly NOT fine for an experienced copywriter who has worked on global campaigns.
In no small way do I blame LinkedIn for this trend in bargain-bucket recruitment. If you’re a member of some of these groups, you’ll know that the jobs boards are constantly awash with ‘great opportunities’, and many of these receive effusive replies by willing professionals in poorer countries. I read of one copywriter in India who would work for £7 an hour. But in the Western world – and nowhere more so than London – to offer a professional £100 a day for their time and talent is really unacceptable. And it’s the way these jobs are presented as ‘great opportunities’ for which I and many of my highly qualified peers should be grateful that also winds me up.
Just so that I knew I wasn't alone and I hadn't taken more than my usual dose of angry-bitter pills this morning, I contacted a few fellow copywriters to see what they thought. Jim agreed but also added that the industry was suffering from those websites which allow people to bid for work: "You would think that quality would count for more than it does," he said. "But I've never won a pitch, so I eventually stopped using those websites. The trouble is, particularly where a small company is concerned, they seem to be happy with an average-to-good job for next to no money rather than an excellent job for admittedly more. You and I would think that was a false economy. It's frustrating that they don't see it like that."
Ali was a bit more blunt: "I wouldn't get out of bed for £100 a day. If people are too stupid to realise that you're going to get rubbish copy for that money, then that's their problem."
Phew, and there was me thinking I was the one taking angry-bitter pills!
Luckily, a large proportion of employers also find this unacceptable and my previous clients would think twice before approaching me with such a meagre figure. If you want to put a positive spin on it, perhaps I’m lucky to be able to turn work away in the first place. The fact is, my time alone is worth more to me than £100 per day gross. I’d rather sacrifice that money and work on other parts of my career and finally get my website up and running, for a start.
Perhaps these companies who think offering £100 per day is reasonable will end up shooting themselves in the foot. As the saying goes: if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.
So thank you very much for the offer of pocket money, but I’m staying in my pyjamas till midday and drinking tea while beavering away on my laptop. Oh, and look – I’ve got a few episodes of Dallas to catch up on too. See ya…
Ashley is a blogger, copywriter and editor.
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