Dear Freelancers, Stop writing on spec. Please.

I had a disappointing experience recently.

Long story short, an editor asked if I’d be interested in writing for them and, by the way, their rate is x. I said sure.

I asked if he had assignments lined up or needed pitches. Pitches. So, I pitched.

We went back and forth and ultimately decided on two stories. Then, the assistant editor emailed to say… write and submit them both, they’ll see what works, and pay me for/if they want one of the stories.


Dear Freelancers, Stop writing on spec. Please.

I imagine that same assistant editor would balk at the prospect of doing her job all day, showing her boss what she accomplished at the end of the eight hours, and then getting paid for only the work he deemed usable. Eight hours behind a desk, say, but only two hours of work passed muster. No way would anyone agree to that.

Or imagine your dentist agreeing to clean your teeth, but you’re only going to pay him for the teeth that you think are cleaned well. What dentist in his right mind would agree to such an arrangement?

And, yet, that is exactly what they were asking me to do.

The problem? (I mean, other than the obvious…)

MANY freelancers take on this type of “on spec” work. It’s undercutting and undermining those of us who make our living at this. I pride myself in putting time and effort into every story I write. That includes background research, telephone calls, rough drafts, and editing. I’m unwilling and unable to commit that time to something I might – or might not – get paid for.

I’m also unwilling and unable to turn in shoddy work on the off change that I might – or might not – get paid for it.

Dear freelancers, please stop writing on spec.

You, your time, and your talent are worth so much more than a maybe/if scenario.