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Work problems and Your Money or Your Life.

April 1st, 2015 at 07:00 am

As some of you know, I put in notice at my main freelancing gig. It's a weekly article for the newspaper. I've been writing it for 6 years, and the pay has not gone up once. It was never a lot of money, but when I started I had just left the newspaper as a full time staffer and was home with two little kids. I naively thought that I would be welcome back to a full-time job once the kids got older. Alas, my boss has hired four people instead of me in that time, and only once briefly considered me, before backtracking because he essentially didn't want to hire a mom with childcare concerns. (I swear he is a nice guy in real life and probably doesn't even realize the gravity of those kinds of actions) So yes. This is the world we live in.

Anyway, I put in notice because after taxes (self-employment), I was only making about $25 on each article. Ouch. After I paid for childcare, I was paying to work. That was a cold hard fact to swallow. When I put in my notice, they said can we pay you to stay? Then immediately said sorry, we can't afford to pay anymore. Way to make you feel special for busting your butt to meet all those deadlines!

That is the end of my rant. All of this has made me seriously reevaluate work and my work life. I have to accept that giving this weekly gig up isn't just giving up a job. It's giving up a career. Journalism is dead. I mean, I work in the industry and even I can't remember the last time I paid to read the news. It's nothing but layoffs and no future. I'm 40, so I'm too young to just wait out retirement.

Although, I do still get editors calling me to write for them. I'm lucky in that I don't have to seek out work, it seeks me. I just wish it paid more. Which brings me to what I've been ruminating about.

Yesterday, another editor asked me if I wanted to write an article for a special monthly Sunday section. I've written for him before and I like him. The problem: The same crappy pay rate, for a story that requires more planning and more interviews. I filled with dread when I got the email. I used to be excited at the prospect of another check, another byline, etc. but I guess the thrill is gone.

I was debating whether I should say yes or no (Yes being, a check, and maintaining a good relationship with this editor in case I need work in the future. No, being low pay and more time working when I have other things I need to focus on: my novel, my kids, my garden, etc.)

I re-read part of Your Money or Your Life last night and it was a very poignant reminder that work is paid employment-- the small part of your life when you do something to earn money, and as such, you should seek to maximize what you earn for the hours you spend working.

So it all got me thinking. Maybe I should stop feeling so obligated to a company that offers me only low pay, no full-time gig, and shrugged shoulders when I quit.

Maybe instead of saying yes, I should just make it clear I'm only taking assignments that pay at a certain level or above. My level would be 2x what the weekly gig and this Sunday story pay. Those jobs do come along. I'm working on one for that rate now for a different editor, and another magazine within the company always pays me at that rate of higher. I Wouldn't be working nearly as often, but when I did take a story, I'd at least be making more for it.

Any thoughts?

I'm wrapping up my last few weeks at my weekly gig. I think I have four more articles to write before my time is up. I'm looking forward to moving on.

6 Responses to “Work problems and Your Money or Your Life.”

  1. DeniseNTexas Says:

    I truly believe that a laborer is worthy of his hire. If you (realistically) believe you should be making a higher rate then I think holding out for that is being true to yourself. Now, if you really need ANY money, even small amounts (like me LOL) that might be different but if you can afford to leave the smaller paying gigs behind and hold out for the higher paying ones, then I say go for it. After all, work shouldn't be JUST a way to earn money. You should derive pleasure and a feeling of worth from it.

  2. creditcardfree Says:

    I think that higher rate SHOULD be your new standard. The lower standard isn't really paying you as you said...you were paying to work because of childcare. And then if the new higher standard doesn't cut it then it really is just time to move on.

    As I read your post I realized that part of the problem with getting the truth of a story or a full report is often because of the lack of pay or funding to get that story. This worries me as a citizen. I hope some day the demand for good writing and reporting comes back around. Wishful thinking maybe. (We do subscribe to our local paper for part of that reason.) Smile

  3. ThriftoRama Says:

    You're totally right, CCF. It worries me too as a citizen. I know what stresses journalists are under, and there is no way we can do good, thorough, investigative, society helping work the way the industry is heading. Most people hate journalist and don't understand what we actually do for a living, which is unfortunate. We are here to keep companies and governments accountable to the people, to uncover fraud and crimes, and how can we do that if we aren't making a living?

    Hopefully a solution will present itself.

    As for Denise... The issue is the rate is very low to start with. In fact, the current rate is half what I was being paid per story in 2005. Publications have cut rates because of industry problems and the recession, and just expect freelancers to be able to live and work and do good work on a shadow of what we used to be paid, which frankly wasn't that much to begin with.

    It isn't profitable for me, so I'm cutting back and saving the money I would have spent on childcare, which sadly is more profitable than working.

  4. DeniseNTexas Says:

    That is very sad, indeed. I would make the same decision, I suppose!

  5. Miz Pat Says:

    First of all, I think you should go with the increased rate. It sets a standard for you and you deserve it. You should love what you do, not immediately feel stressed because you can't afford to work!

    Second of all, it scares me. In a world where journalists actually get killed getting news, they can hardly make a living. Corporations and politicians are controlling the news, not the integrity of the people on the front line.

    I wish the best for you. Let us know how it works out.

  6. rob62521 Says:

    I agree...ask for the higher rate. I totally get your frustration on not really being valued and you questioning whether it is good that you are paying to work. If you can make it financially without these low paying stories, I'd say move on.

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