Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I don't know how commercial I want this blog -- or my life -- to be.

We're in the last few days of this incarnation of the blog -- the fifth, and I would say probably the least successful (in rank order, I'd say the first year's theme was still the best, followed by the Books I've Kept, Questions, Terms of Art, and then this one). The blog takes August off (mostly), and I already know what next year's theme will be.

I always start the new blog year with a new layout, which gives me a chance to make other changes as well. If you'd like me to link to your blog, send me an email and ask; I make no promises, but I'll consider it. Guest bloggers are also welcome, but I limit the guest blogging to people I actually know.

Which brings me to the subject of today's post. I got a very nice email from a complete stranger the other day, asking whether I'd agree to let her guest-blog in order to promote her education-related service. It's a legitimate service and the request was perfectly polite, but I refused.

"The blog is not a commercial site in any way," I wrote. That's true, and I want it to continue to be true. I've never taken advertising, and don't plan to. I do invite friends and family members to guest blog when they have books out or other projects to promote, but those posts are never direct advertisements, and I try to limit even my own promotional stuff (Gaslight, the Mystery Bookstore, various clients, etc.).

This does, however, remind me that the blog is basically a big chunk of work I give away -- on top of a lot of other work I give away, on top of the fact that I've already had two clients this year push back on my rates, which I know to be well below (in some cases, shockingly below) market standards. I even had a good friend, earlier this year, suggest that a pittance I'd been paid for work in December, January and February also covered extra work I was doing, just to be helpful, in June and July.

No one can take advantage of you without your consent. Ann Landers said it, and it's true. I've built my current lifestyle around a determination to do work because I want to do it, not because I have to do it, with money being among the least important factors in whether and how I work.

But this is not sustainable over the long term, except for those lucky few who are independently wealthy, or are partnered with people willing to support them. I'm not, and too much of my life is currently subsidized by the kindness of friends and the tolerance of creditors. It's going to have to change. Exactly how remains to be seen. I plan to spend August trying to figure it out.

This excellent blog post discusses the bigger issue of creative people giving work away. I'm also planning to read this book next month. Maybe it'll give me some ideas.


Bea said...

Can I guest blog just before the election this year? Or maybe just after?

AnswerGirl said...

Of course! Any time ... you'll like the new theme.

Claire said...

Aww man, I hate Chris Anderson and I'm sure his book is dumb and wrong. But let me know what you think!

AnswerGirl said...

I don't know enough about him to have an opinion -- saw him on Colbert and thought he was about an inch deep -- but the underlying idea is one that deserves attention and discussion, so I thought the book would be a place to start.

Tom Ehrenfeld said...

I think there's a lot wrong with Chris Anderson's book and argument--among them the fact that he cribbed huge passages directly from Wikipedia and failed to attribute the material as such...which even if he did this inadvertently is just wrong on many levels. Malcolm Gladwell has a very smart takedown of his book (though even his position has slight seams.)

At any rate, I hear you very loudly about the vast amount of work and care you've put into this blog, especially when compared with the lack of funds you've realized as a result.....I basically stopped blogging when I realized that the activity completely devalued the currency of my work.

I do think that blog-writing is not book-writing and is simply not-writing in a manner that is still becoming understood by folks who are doing both. I think that great bloggers do create something timeless and valuable, such as an audience and community who take things further as a result of a smart and committed and fair person playing host to an ongoing conversation. And you are unique in the sense that you really have achieved this! Not once but really with each iteration of the blog. To what end I certainly can't say...but I do count your blog as a daily read of mine, and trust me, I have few daily reads.

At any rate, as a faithful fan, I'll say this: thanks for putting yourself out there for another year, I've enjoyed it immensely and look forward to next year's model.

AnswerGirl said...

Thanks, Tom. I realize, as I reread this post, that it comes off as sour, when I don't feel sour, I just feel stressed.

The blog has always been directed to my family and friends, and if it's drawn in a larger community or even gotten me some work, that's a bonus. It's not something I want to consider work, which is why I don't ever plan to take advertising, and don't want to pimp it out to anyone who's overtly trying to sell something.

Beyond that, nothing makes me feel wealthier than the ability to give stuff away, whether that's knowledge or time or used books or mediocre baked goods. I _like_ giving things away. I want to keep giving things away, and I'd work for free if I could.

I'm just becoming more acutely aware that I have bills to pay, and that some day I'll be an old woman, with an old woman's medical expenses...

Diggory Brooke said...

I read this blog after your site was quoted in the latest John Connelly work.
I agree wholeheartedly with your feelings of frustration on the matter of payment for work done... in fact I had to change my way of working last year because much of my time ended up being 'given' away.
At the peril of being slated for my vocation which is finance broker!!! --
( www.brookeriskmanagement.co.nz) - I say that you ought to work for those who value what it is you do- and charge a commitment fee!!
Its a one way of ensuring the clients recognition of your value
Which Mr Connelly obviously rates!!

best regards

Diggory Brooke
New Zealand

AnswerGirl said...

Almost everyone who provides a professional service faces this challenge -- I've been at parties where people have asked doctor friends to feel lumps, or look at some skin tag! And really, I'm usually happy to look at friends' work or answer quick questions or even help with things like marketing campaigns.

But because I've basically turned my personality into my means of making a living, I just don't always know where to draw the line and start charging.

I'm absolutely tickled that you found this blog through the link at the end of John's book, and am very glad and grateful to count John as a client, as well as a friend.