|Posted by Jennifer L Pozner|
March 31st, 2012
Liveblogging the #WAMNYC (Women, Action & Media NYC chapter’s 2012 conference today. I’ll be leading a media training (”Framing 101″) later, but I’m starting the day listening to a session on funding feminist media and making a living as a freelance journalist. Speakers include:
Moderator: Helaine Olen
Twanna Hines (@funkybrownchick)
I am paraphrasing this conversation, so unless you see a direct quote below, assume this is my summary of panelists’ discussion. I’m also coming in half way into the discussion because the wifi didn’t kick in until it was already under way:
Twanna Hines says that she does not believe in the need for “starving artists” — that you should not have to choose between writing/journalism/blogging and making a living. Have to figure out the hustle, how to find a balance between the work you want to do, and the economics to support yourself in the meantime.
Twanna: “Never ever write for free. Always only write for fame or fortune.” Fame = attention for your reputation as a writer, for a social justice topic that isn’t getting attention, for your ideas. Fortune = bringing resources to your own work, other peoples’/organizations’ work/ideas.
Samhita: there is no reason to ever write for free for an organization that regularly pays (ie, corporate outlets). But there are many benefits to writing for free for a feminist blog that doesn’t pay anyone because there *is no money* — but that will allow you to develop your voice, gain exposure, get attention for ideas, change public debate, and gain the clips and platform you need to move into paid writing and speaking work. But that is different from writing for a corporate (or non-profit) outlet that does pay some, that can pay you but doesn’t want to.
Helaine: if you’re traded on the NASDAQ and you ask me to write for free? NO. “I describe my writing as a hobby that pays for itself.”
Nancy Goldstein: discusses the fact that young, untested writers shouldn’t be judged for writing for free even for corporate outlets, as they can create a route to getting published for money. (Nancy also said some really important things in her opening salvo before my wifi access kicked in — so if there is audio from this session, I’ll post it later.)
Twanna: “I’ve never been anti- working full time in a non-profit or other job that can give you skills.”
Twanna offers resource tips: Mint.com for financial planning. Salary Tutor is a book by Jim Hopkinson (@hopkinsonreport) — tell him Twanna sent you to buy his book but to give you three tips for free first. GreenPath, One Penn Plaza, financial planning.
Samhita: “I agree, people should have full time jobs. I would have a full time job if I enjoyed putting clothes on.” Most of my friends in NY are writers, very few people I know actually make their full-time money that way. I don’t. It’s not a coincidence that all these women who run blogs have no money. There are so many male-run blogs that are fully funded. I’m not going to get venture capital in the way that male-run business blogs get paid, but women internalize this idea of the martyr complex (this is ideas-based, noble work) or internalizing the third shift: women work for free, my full time job, my activism, and then the writing is the third shift, unpaid.
Helaine: why do you think the feminist blogosphere has so many problems getting money?
Samhita: Feminist media itelf, doesn’t have much money. Bitch magazine is constantly struggling. Ms. magazine is aligned with a non-profit but they don’t have much money. So, that’s part of it. But that’s part of why pet bloggers and mom bloggers get paid so much — because they get corporate sponsorship [ed note: which comes with its own problems with cooptation, censorship, etc.]
Nancy: free legal clinic at the LGBT Center in NYC on 13th St. Also, sliding scale and free health care services for queer people and queer youth; Callen-Lourde on 18th St
Twanna: if you don’t have health insurance: Freelancers Union; do cost-benefit analysis of guilds, etc. Private options: if you are low income, Healthy NY if you’re low-income. Family Planning Benefit Program, free paps and etc. for low-income. Your employer. Self-employed as sole-proprieter: can you get tax cuts, insurance etc benefits better as a sole proprieter?
Resource @blogdiva: from Sydney Hillman Family Practice: they are one of the oldest semi-public clinics in NYC left, they do a sliding scale up to zero. They have in-house people that can get you Medicaire or Medicaide if you qualify. They have mental health care as well.
Free legal advice, near-free legal advice — available with websites.
Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts — just because your an artist doesn’t mean you deserve to be screwed.
National Writers Union; membership costs basedo n your income. Chartered union out of UAW. Health ins eligible, etc.
Helaine: the rights grabs are very bad, they want to own every version of the piece, you won’t be able to do books based on your writing, etc. Some of your answer has to be saying no to writing for an outlet that want to keep your ideological property.
Lynn Harris in audience says: for non-compete clause: ask them to add “without permission from them.”
Samhita: recs writers workshops, coaching for free from friends who are talented writers, etc. When you sign a contract to write a book your editor will look at drafts but you don’t get the kind of real editorial support you expect.
Helaine: So, why do we freelance if it’s virtually impossible to make a living?
Nancy: because I want a national audience for my ideas about national security, LGBT issues, more. I want to be heard.
Twanna: because we live in a country where you can say “elbow” it’s fine, but if you say “vagina” it gets bleeped out… that’s why I write about sex.
Samhita: Because I have important things to say and I am not a commonly heard voice in the media, even within progressive independent media. Freelance gives me the flexibility to not have a specific beat, I can pick and choose which things I’m going to weigh in on. You can be strategic.
Samhita: ask for more money than you think you deserve, but just ask anyway — you may get it, but you should get it or something near it…