Sunday, December 30, 2007

Punctuation Points

You know why punctuation is such a thorn in our sides? (Besides the fact that it seems to be engulfed in an arbitrary set of really picky rules, I mean.) This is why: when you get it right, no one (except your English teacher) notices, and when you get it wrong, people point it out.

OK, not a lot of people. Mostly, people like me. But (stomping my foot) it matters!

For example....Christmas cards. (I know it's a bit disingenuous to critique holiday greetings, but goodness - such a broad target!)

Folks, "Merry Christmas from The Smith's" is wrong. The Smiths are the Smiths. Putting in an apostrophe is fine if you're referring to the Smiths' dog, but if you refer to the Smith's dog, I'm going to have to assume you mean the BLACKsmith's canine. Get it? If the dog belongs to the Smith family, also known as the Smiths, it's the Smiths' dog. Ergo, it's the Smiths' greetings. And I'm sure they were merrier than this...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Proofreading - still not a computer's job

I've been reading a lot of government publications this week, and even though my eyes glazed over long ago, I had to stop and laugh at the "wise variety of legal issues" that one of the documents cited.

I realize some may see having a proofreader on the government payroll as a waste, but folks, if that little gem slipped in the document, don't you wonder what else may have been overlooked?

I do.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Permalancers Need Health Benefits, Too

Wanna be a freelance writer? You'll probably have to take care of yourself, or get a REAL job, too, if you want benefits. I highly recommend you read this about the situation that's boiled over at Viacom. Yep. Viacom.

You might have heard of a few of the company's brands, like MTv. Nickelodeon. Comedy Central. Ah yes, THAT little company. I'm a freelancer/permalancer for Viacom, and was delighted to sign up for my 401K a few months ago. Last week, I found out through several hard-to-decipher e-mails that there's no more 401K for me, and virtually no health care coverage for me and my fellow 'lancers.

We're ticked off, of course, and I sincerely hope the company takes notice. If The Nation's article is accurate, about HALF of Viacom's creative juices flow from a pool of "permalancers." I happen to know that's a pretty good estimate of the company's IT staff, too.

Look, if a company wants to claim its people are freelancers - people who are REQUIRED to put in a regular 20, 30, 40, or more hours per week, people who get regular performance reviews, and who have ongoing duties related to BRANDS, which the company chooses to call "projects" - that's between the company and its lawyers, and a judge if the case goes to court. But there's no way to deny an entertainment company derives its revenue from the creative juices of its people - and therefore, usurping the option to be in a 401K plan is pretty damned petty. And greedy. And stupid.

If you freelance, or just think this doesn't sound fair, I urge you to send a message to Viacom. And maybe forgo the MTv until this little matter is resolved. On behalf of several thousand folks who work pretty darned hard, regardless of our "employment status" with the entertainment behemoth, I thank you.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Payment Varies

Hmmmmm. Hmmmmm. That's the sound of my brain cells trying not to calculate the hourly rate I'm really earning at this job called "freelance writer." I start to prepare my taxes each year about this time, always with the same reaction: THAT'S ALL I MADE?!

The good news is (I always tell myself this) that I'm not in it just for the money. This year I've learned about solar integrated roofing panels, EEOC audits, retail security systems, campfire cooking, and a few other things I wouldn't have set out to learn, frankly, if I wasn't getting paid to write about them. Ahhhh, well. I like to tell people "it's like getting paid to get an education." You just can't be too picky about WHAT that education will cover...

For what it's worth, a number of professional organizations have weighed in on what writers "should" make. Most suggest "professional writers" should charge a minimum of $1-$2 per word. That sounds like a lot, I know, but the fact is an 800-word article may take a week to research and a week to write. And even if the client provides all the research, the writer still needs to do quite of bit of reading/learning before the article can begin. So even at the top end of things - two bucks a word - the writer is making $800/week... and yet, folks are clamoring to break in to the biz, even writing for nuthin.' Go figure.

To see what ASJA says about fees, see the organization's website.