Freelancers don’t want to be “paid” in exposure!

If you’re a freelancer in any field, chances are that you’re being asked, more and more, to work without pay for the “exposure” to millions of potential buyers for your work.
Just say no.
Nate Thayer discussing Pol Pot's trial, July 1997
Nate Thayer discussing Pol Pot’s trial, July 1997 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Here’s a link to his site, and some of his email with The Atlantic.com:

After a brief phone call where no specifics were really discussed, and she requested I email her:

Hi Olga: What did you have in mind for length, storyline, deadline, and fees for the basketball  diplomacy piece. Or any other specifics. I think we can work something out, but I want to make sure I have the time to do it properly to meet your deadline, so give me a shout back when you have the earliest chance.

best,

Nate Thayer

From the Atlantic:

Thanks for responding. Maybe by the end of the week? 1,200 words? We unfortunately can’t pay you for it, but we do reach 13 million readers a month. I understand if that’s not a workable arrangement for you, I just wanted to see if you were interested.

Thanks so much again for your time. A great piece!

From me:

Thanks Olga:

I am a professional journalist who has made my living by writing for 25 years and am not in the habit of giving my services for free to for profit media outlets so they can make money by using my work and efforts by removing my ability to pay my bills and feed my children. I know several people who write for the Atlantic who of course get paid. I appreciate your interest, but, while I respect the Atlantic, and have several friends who write for it, I have bills to pay and cannot expect to do so by giving my work away for free to a for profit company so they can make money off of my efforts. 1200 words by the end of the week would be fine, and I can assure you it would be well received, but not for free.

If there is a phrase that causes apoplexy among veteran freelancers, it’s the increasing fantasy that “exposure” — i.e. having millions of people see our stuff, without pay — is worthwhile. Editors now routinely offer freelancers in many fields exposure to their audiences, none of whom are guaranteed to offer us paid work.
I can’t buy groceries or gas with “exposure”, nor get my hair cut or see a dentist. None of them work for “exposure.”
Very few freelancers have the cojones to tell editors offering us this insult to just piss off. Nor do they ever make public that they actually took a stand — what if no one else has? In a crappy economy, everyone’s afraid to lose a client or get a rep for being a diva.
Thayer is right.
Enough already!