I am getting a bit annoyed with the Hollywood writers strike. Not at the writers but at what people are saying about them. While I do not know any details about what caused the strike, the popular perception seems to be these writers are over-paid already.
Some are obviously paid very well indeed, I expect 99% are not. People seem to take the headline figure and determine that is what each and every writer in that industry gets 365 days a year. I’m willing to bet that is not the case!
It reminds me of what people have long said about freelance programming, writing, design. “Freelancers have it so good!”. Since I have been involved with freelancers and freelancing it has always been something I have witnessed. Yes, freelancing can be lucrative, but it isn’t necessarily so.
- Not all freelancers get the top pay
- Do not take hourly rates and assume all hours are paid at that rate
- Most freelancers have time when they are out of work
- Freelancers don’t get paid vacations or sick time
- It can take weeks or months for a freelancer to get paid
For every freelancer that is fully booked at their top rate, there are many who are not working at all or working at a much lower hourly rate.
Even when a freelancer does earn their top rate, those good pay days have to compensate for the hours spent doing non-billable work, such as finding the next gig, administration, yada-yada. This is why I refuse to pitch, many companies use “pitching” as a way to get freelancers to work for nothing or provide free consultancy.
One of the advantages that some freelance writers have is the potential to make residuals or royalties. This is why I am willing to get less a word on a book deal than writing a magazine article, for example. In actual fact though those percentages are dwindling or being excluded from new distribution channels, I believe (correct me if I am wrong) this is what the strike is about. Very few of us make the sort of royalties you would get from writing a Harry Potter, in fact most books are not a safe bet at all.
For an employee, it is easy to compare hourly rates and think they are getting a bad deal before they consider all the facts. If you are thinking about freelancing yourself, make sure you think it all the way through first. There are many, many great things about freelance working, but I wouldn’t put “potential to get rich” amongst them!