Charging freelancers to get paid?

Got it on the faculty meeting agenda.

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Authors’ Guild statement on it, plus a petition.

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Wow. Super weird. Probably is illegal in many cases as breach of contract. I didn’t read the article, but I wouldn’t agree to that contract. I’ve also had to argue with companies who want my invoice in specific ways, and explain what I will and won’t do (I’ll break this one down further, but if you want to work together ongoing, I’ll have to crank my rate to accommodate that request; yes I can do paper, yes I can do pdf, yes I can cc a random other email address on my invoice emails)

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I’m less worried about freelancers with a bit more choice in who they freelance for, as @AllHat said, if you’re an illustrator or writer, just find a new client. But then the freelancers who take these gigs will be the ones with fewer choices, who feel like they can’t fight back…

But I’m worried about this legal precedent for people that have WAY less choice in contractor relationships - like what is stopping ubereats, doordash, any gig economy worker, from having a fee for drivers to get their money out?

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There are obviously a lot of different kinds of freelancers doing work for such a large company, but in the industry, when I’ve worked with (hundreds of) consultants, we tell them the rate we pay, they say yes or no. They don’t tell us what they charge for the work we want, like one might do for consulting in other industries, or even writing guest blogs or news articles.

But I’ve also never worked somewhere that charges a fee like this. It is not an industry wide practice, and I really hope it doesn’t become one.

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But if a company offers me 1000 dollars to do x, I say yes, and then they try to get me to use their weird fee for service platform at 2.2% less, I say no, issue a few threats, make it clear they’ve breached contract. Eventually I probably use the platform instead of lawyering up, but then I never work for them again.

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Yeah, pulling this on people who have already signed a contract, I’d think that is illegal. But what does it cost to fight it? More or less than the difference?

But I guess I imagined this as “going forward…”

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Yea, apparently they sneakily did this last year though! And it seems like a lot of their contractors are just like “ugh I guess it’s only a few hundred dollars a year”

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And it sounds like they have a lot of freelancers who have been working with them for a while. So depending on how they handled it, it’s total BS.

I do think that a lot of creative freelancers accept bullshit pay and treatment, but it’s on them to realize their worth. Aka I hope they walk.

I’ve had clinics need to adjust client fees down - I asked to renegotiate my contract and came out ahead, to add linen fees when I renegotiated - I checked fees and increased my prices. And when I did creative freelance work, sometimes I took shit, but if it was an admin nightmare I walked

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A lot of their freelancers are also likely moonlighting teachers.

I know I accepted some really really low rates when I started freelancing until I saw what some more legit companies paid (including McGraw Hill, actually) and what BS those companies were pulling offering that rate.

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This. I agree that freelancers, especially in creative fields, often take bad deals. I think part of it is that freelancing is running a business and many people jump into it without that frame of mind. I also think schools actively discourage students in creative fields from looking at it like a business and the majority do not teach any business skills (mine certainly didn’t). It’s hard to negotiate when you have no idea what you’re doing. Plus, I was literally told to work for free by multiple professors and my college advisor. It’s super common to hear that you should just do whatever work for whatever pay at first and I think that’s ridiculous.

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Considering how frequently educational publishing has large layoffs, particularly during covid, I think a lot of freelancers are also grabbing any work that they can get even if it’s a shit deal like this. They likely don’t feel like they have negotiating power, and truthfully, they are probably correct in that. It is tough out there, full-time jobs do not currently exist in educational publishing right now except for very technical roles usually to do with software engineering, and honestly I’d be doing the same thing - scrambling for freelance work - if last fall’s huge layoff had taken me.

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That’s unfortunate about your field, but not insurmountable, and I disagree with this ^. I started out writing in an extremely oversaturated field (think lifestyle stuff) at first that was having a similar moment. Even really big magazines were folding left and right and suddenly major outlets were paying practically nothing. Most pitches were never even responded to! That’s when I shifted from writing mostly for consumer publications to internal copy stuff and from a very popular topic to one that had a lot more work and less competition. That’s what I mean by thinking like a business person!

The major advantage to freelance is that you are in charge and if you want to stop doing business with certain industries you can. I stopped writing for the oversaturated industry where I felt underpaid and found another niche where I could pitch. Research is such an innately vital part of writing that I would think most professional writers could do that: research and shift focus. Writing is still super in demand as a professional skill. If you’re incredible at textbook stuff or whatever, I’m sure that can translate to other things like nonfiction journalism, copywriting for companies that have something to do with your special interests, or maybe you have to learn a bunch of new areas (that’s what I did) and gradually shift into something totally different.

I don’t think the outlook has to be like, if the industry is doing poorly you’re just fucked and stuck and there’s nothing you can do so you just have to deal. There’s always something you can do! But I think that all plays into thinking like an entrepreneur, which maybe doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people.

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Well, we’ve pulled the McGraw-Hill books off all of the departmental syllabi. I’ll let everyone in the department know if they back down on this, but it’ll be another year before we look at this again. I wonder if McGraw-Hill will be around in a year?

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I meant more the folks who feel for whatever reason that they have to stay in educational publishing. Many of my co-workers who got shitcanned in the last round had 30 plus years’ experience in the field and can’t fathom doing something else. Also, many were not writers. Many were print designers and print design is also very very tough right now. A lot of folks don’t have any digital design experience, whether by circumstance (I myself have had to push VERY hard to be given opportunities to learn digital production and be placed on digital projects) or because they don’t feel they can learn it. Hence, panic and taking whatever is offered. Especially in a pandemic.

Thinking like a businessperson is not something that comes easily to a lot of people - they should teach it in school! Hell, I HAVE a business and I still can’t think that way with any degree of skill!

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Yeah it makes sense job prospects would be very limited in that case, especially if you do exclusively print design and don’t do anything digital. I totally agree we should teach business skills in college and maybe research skills too. I think if we did maybe what you’re talking about wouldn’t happen as often because people would update their skills on the side once they saw trends changing.

I know several older writers in my field who have succeeded in digital writing despite starting in print journalism (on typewriters). The industry has changed so much! The one thing they all have in common is they really keep their finger on what is coming in the industry. I first heard about SEO (maybe 7-10 years ago or so? it wasn’t a thing when I started writing) from an older writer in his 60s who was like, “this is going to be a thing we all have to use at some point.” He didn’t tell me to learn it on the side but I could tell that’s what he was going to do so that’s what I did. I also knew an older female writer who was super successful and she was the exact same way. She had started writing for a daily newspaper doing maybe one article a week (at full time!). Now she heads a digital content department. I really admire that level of business adaptability. I’m lucky I saw some examples of that very early in my career.

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I agree, and I also think that when someone gets laid off and is offered outplacement services, that should include stuff about how to reinvent yourself/follow trends AND how to become an entrepreneur or at least think that way. Rather than the whole “here’s how to get another corporate job so you can continue being a corporate drone doing the same damned thing” focus, as I’m told my company does.

I also think that when you’re in an industry where 70-80 hour weeks are common, it’s tough to muster the mental energy to learn new skills that are not yet related to your job, but will be, on top of trying to stay afloat with your normal responsibilities. Not making excuses for people, but I don’t work that schedule and I know I have had a hard time forcing myself to learn (and retain) new technology this year.

But, this is a thing we are all going to have to figure out going forward though. Many industries are changing so quickly now.

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Gross. This is why I couldn’t be an employee unless I was hourly.

I think this is a really interesting discussion. I absolutely think that there should be a safety net for retraining time when people are laid off or unemployed or need to change industries. But I also think that, in general, a lot of employees and contractors and freelancers are taking shit treatment and they shouldn’t. There was an interesting article the other day about how it could benefit.goldman sachs employees to form a union. And that industry is super strong, but the author was arguing that the employees would get better pay and work conditions and the c suite might get less if there was a union. It would be more polite of me to link, but I’m in the bath so I’ll just switch to my romance novel and hope no one notices

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I have no sympathy for goldman sachs invesment bankers. They could all easily get a job elsewhere that requires many fewer hours. They choose to join Goldman Sachs because the pay is obscene.

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The article was basically calling them dumb. It wasn’t coming from a place of sympathy. It was basically saying that they are opting into a situation that they could choose to change

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