When Exposure Just Isn’t Payment

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Twitter account For Exposure.

Here you’ll find myriad reasons why the boss won’t be parting with some cash. You know – aside from the usual reason why nobody really wants to part with cash. Well… I say “nobody”. I sure as hell would to get an awesome house of my very own.

But while exposure isn’t actually a bad thing… I can’t think of a way to actually finish that.

Yesterday I was pretty much offered a job within five minutes of a conversation with a man I went to the extent of Googling in the run-up to this chat. Kudos on the multiple ventures and the title that everyone’s throwing around – “entrepreneur” – but my brain went into overdrive.

Here’s what happened leading up to it:

  • Friend texts to tell me of an average-looking site with articles written in a style he knows I would appreciate. “Send out the feelers,” he insisted, “and ask if they’re hiring copy editors.”
  • I obey friend. I’m told “I think you mean proofreader” – I almost balked at that; I thought everyone knew there was a difference. But hey – you can’t get experience without experience, can you? And they are apparently hiring.
  • Conversation happens. In comes the interjection: “You are aware that this is an unpaid position, right?”
  • Totally fine with that for the addition on the CV, I tell him, but now comes the bigger catch: he wants me to write for him as well.
  • Friend comes back to me: “That’s weird. I saw it advertised on a site. It was definitely paying good money there.”

I’m not disgruntled, nor am I put off, by the fact that I would be working for “equity”. But when I expressed the pros, my colleagues, friends and relatives were quick to point out the cons.

“If you work two full-time jobs and take on a third job, when do you expect to have time to write for yourself?”

“I need to be paid to do something I hate so that I can forget that I hate what I do.”

“You wanted to get a third job to help your parents. How can you do that if you’re basically paid in hope?”

“You what? [Laughs hysterically.]”

Now, if Huffington Post were to approach me and ask me to write something, promising the payment of nothing tra-la-la, I wouldn’t even hesitate in saying yes. Huffington Post is an established site and promises exposure. I might not get a lot, I might get a lot of comments telling me to do one, but it’s exposure.

The company that is trying to poach – or fry – me is four months old. That’s it. I know there was a point where the high fliers were also four months old, however, when I came on board (paid!) with one of the companies I’m with, it was just a little older at six months.

I could easily volunteer – keyword: volunteer – if I thought it might lead me somewhere. I’m brought back to Bullet Point No. 5, however: do I have faith in someone who is offering to pay people who apply through one route but shaft anyone who approaches directly?

And why, oh why does he want me to write when he has no idea I have ever written?

I’m happy to go unpaid. However, I’m largely happy to go unpaid if I think that my effort will lead somewhere.

Luck is not something that defines the Harris household.

In the past two years, my dad has been made redundant twice and forced to quit (workplace bullying) once. In his current low-paid position, he was promised his wages would increase when he had been there three months. The only increase was the amount of time until they considered him no longer probation. He’s playing catch-up on bills from the house we lost at the beginning of last year.

My mother, on the other hand, was forced to quit one job due to arthritis in her hands. She managed to get a job at a school, a job she loves, and then the doctor hits her with stage 4 (but low-grade) cancer.

Quite simply, when I work 16.5 hours a day, I’d rather find something that I can be paid for in the 7.5 hours I have spare to ensure my mum and dad have the rent covered, especially when my mother starts radiotherapy and chemotherapy. It’s not too much to ask, is it?

Exposure doesn’t pay bills. If it did, I would be bigging up the parents’ useless landlord each month. I would bescreaming from the rooftops that Sainsburys is the best place ever to go for your weekly shop.

So, employers, don’t tell me you have a position going if what you mean is you have room for a volunteer. Definitely don’t sell me an unpaid role when you’re offering it as a paid position elsewhere.

I’m not taking it as an insult because I don’t have the experience in freelance writing (yet!) to take it as such. If it’s the line you’re going for, though, at least place the word “unpaid” strategically in the opening sentence so I can think a little more about how I can help you in a way that may benefit the both of us.

I’m afraid I am, for now, a slave to Capitalism until I earn an adult wage.

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