I knew the freelance world was changing back in the late 1990s, when a giant Silicon Valley network products company implemented an online bidding system for their vendors.
They would post projects on their new online system, and approved vendors would — in a profit-killing race to the bottom — bid against each other to win the project.
Since then, sites like Elance and others have pitted freelancer creatives against each other, often with ludicrous result.
Not so good for us.
Scott Carney wants to turn that dynamic on its head (at least in the freelance journalism universe) by founding the WordRates and PitchLab platform, which allows “journalists to share payment structures, rate editors and sell pitches.”
The idea is to not only compare the rates paid by magazines, but to also “encourage” editors to compete against each other for top-tier stories.
I see problems (freelance writers are notorious loners, and pitches for big projects are typically aimed at specific magazines). But I also see possibilities.
Enough, at least, that I backed his Kickstarter project.
Predictably, Carney is not shy about the state of freelance journalism:
The dirty secret of the publishing business is that there is still a lot of money in the media. It’s just that writers aren’t getting any of it. Publishing empires like Conde Nast pay less than 1% of their gross revenue to writers and instead buy billions of dollars worth of real estate in Manhattan. VICE, a company that has been valued as high as $2.5 billion, pays a mere $250 for a reported piece. And let’s not forget that its CEO was willing to blow $300,000 on a dinner with 30 of his closest friends.
Antitrust laws make it illegal for freelancers to unionize so the only practical solution is to rely on the principles of the free market. It is time for a disruptive website that will change the playing field for freelance writers and photographers. By sharing information and promoting a business model that has been successful in both the book publishing and film industries it will be possible to get a bigger piece of the overall publishing revenue.
Left out of the discussion entirely is the biggest, least-talked-about issue in the freelance writing world; the oversupply of people billing themselves as writers.
Here’s Carney’s video:
Keep writing, Tom Chandler.