Should you Give Your Work Away for Free During a Crisis?

Counterintuitive thoughts on being a freelancer right now

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How do you get the words to the people they might help may be a presumptuous question. Then again, if writing is your livelihood then there has to be a reason you come back to the page day after day unless you’re selling something, be that your writing skills.

The problem with a journalism background is the impossibility of writing anything that doesn’t serve the public interest in some way. My jam is thinking out loud and attempting to make people feel a little less despondent. In short, keep calm and carry on, no matter how shit life gets. I’m a limpet.

As a result, I’m still writing on the internet even though it keeps me well below the poverty line but then again it was only ever meant as a temporary measure and investment. And right now, it’s also very practical when you’re stuck at home.

We’re discovering solidarity in real time as a species and it’s probably the coolest thing that has happened in our life time at global level. But it’s not happening everywhere at once, some social media platforms and formats are better at elevating it than others.

Since I’m still in the process of figuring out which ones do this best, it’s occurred to me now may be a good time to let words roam freely.

The challenge, however, lies in offering something of value to others. And you can’t do that if you don’t know what that is when the entire planet has a one-track mind: We all want to get to the other side of this pandemic and rebuild what it destroyed.

Could the new habits we are picking up now help us do that? Could the internet help us do that? Could writing help us do that, all of us?

While grifters rush to capture the desperation dollar with a wealth of digital offerings, I can’t help but question the ethics of a business model based on exploiting fear and disempowerment. It strikes me as indecent, like kicking people when they’re down before pinching their wallet. If your wallet is like mine, there’s nothing but old receipts in it and it’s only a matter of time before you pluck up the courage to ask for help.

Could helping others help you, too, or is my socialism showing?

If words still matter then perhaps we could do worse than be generous with them while keeping our editorials skills sharp.

How are freelancers supposed to get through this? Frankly, I haven’t a clue but language hasn’t become obsolete yet so how we can probably try find the words that fit the weirdness while we figure out different ways to be and do human?

Being able to make a handful of change on the internet some days as a reward for making someone else think or laugh is quite something in those bizarre times. But would you still write the things you do if you weren’t getting paid for them?

Beside honing your skills, what other reason is there to write if not to connect with others and figure out how to keep moving forward, together? Can we use creativity to overcome the unexpected by remote? What else are we going to do, seriously? Netflix and chill until we freeze to death?

That doesn’t mean you have to work for free, just that there might be a different way to go about helping others help you by embodying something we all need:

Hope.

I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor now based in the Netherlands. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.

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