Two Simple Steps to Avoiding a Bad Gig

Photo by Antoine Beauvillain

Recently, there have been a few articles written about the predatory nature of some of the biggest content producers on the web. Namely, that they prey on marginalized groups to create content without paying them or lock them into contracts that limit their ability to profit from their own work. Although it’s very true that internet outlets certainly have a habit of engaging in these practices, it is also true that creators can protect themselves better simply by doing two things: Reading their contracts and not working for free.

Creators aren’t often taught much in the way of business. Money is a four letter word when you’re an artist. This is true in all creative fields. It is pushed that it is MORE important to do the work and get it out there than it is to be PAID for the work. Which is counterintuitive for something that is a job. So when faced with an opportunity to do something you love and have it seen, many creators jump at the chance with the idea that the rewards will come later.

They won’t. That’s why electricians tell you how much something will cost up front. Not because they don’t love what they do but because they understand that jobs require payment in real world money. Not Exposure Bucks.

Not having a background in business also leads to agreeing to bad contracts. Many creators, young or just new, don’t understand what a lot of legalize in the things they are signing mean or how it will affect them in the long run, if they bother to fully read the contract at all.

The websites that prey on creators are counting on you not to read or question the terms they set out in those contracts. They’re multipage documents that include a lot of jargon which can be overwhelming. But, at the same time, as scary as they are, reading that before you sign is part of your new job. And if you don’t like what it says, DO NOT SIGN IT!

These places prey on your desperation to be seen or heard. They know that you have been conditioned to think the important part of being a creative is to be known but it is not. If you’re doing creative WORK then the important thing is to be paid. The fact that you enjoyed it is a bonus.

You are not missing out because you don’t agree to be taken advantage of. I will say it again, YOU ARE NOT MISSING OUT BECAUSE YOU DON’T AGREE TO BE TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF!

So what should you do when an opportunity comes knocking but they can’t pay or the contract seems a bit off?

If it’s the contract, read it, ask questions if you don’t understand something and if you don’t like something, renegotiate it. It’s scary because they might walk away but if the point of contention is something that will harm your career in the long run, it’s not worth it. Remember, you still have to live and support yourself long after their contract is up.

If they can’t pay, tell them to call you back when they can cut a check. Your time and work is valuable. Stop giving it away for free. That old adage “Why buy the cow when you can have the milk for free?” is a gross, sexist statement when applied to women’s bodies BUT is a perfect expression for working for exposure. Why should anyone pay you if you’re willing to put in your best for nothing?

Stop doing that.

So if you want to not be taken advantage of, follow these two simple steps.

1. Don’t work for free. You’re worth more.

2. Read your contract. The whole thing.

You may get nervous because you feel like you’re going to miss a chance at something great but if that chance will ultimately hurt you and the people you’re working for profit FAR more than you will, then you’re not missing anything.


If You Wanna Be A Better Ally, Google It


“Google It.”

This has become a common phrase online and more recently it has been popping up in conversations about social issues such as sexism or racism. Marginalized people are answering questions with “Google it” instead of links or drawn out explanations. This is happening because marginalized people are tired of being responsible for the education of people who claim they want to help.

Online, especially, we are met with heated conversations about social justice issues. Wage inequality, racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, trans issues, etc. and unlike when these conversations happen in the wild, online there is a higher occurrence of people who are not aware of these realities or only passably educated on them.

Which is to say, many of the people that we engage with in these issues don’t know much about these issues. But they, sometimes, want to learn. The response of “Google it” may seem counterintuitive, why would you say that when someone wants to learn?

The answer is very simple. They say that because it is not their job to teach anyone about these topics. If you have been made aware of them, there is no reason you can’t utilize the ample resources found online to become more familiar with the history, terms, and current trends.

People have no problem looking up the specs of a washing machine or car online but tell them they need to do their own research to become a more educated ally and suddenly, you’re shutting them out.

There’s also an undercurrent of supremacy in this attitude, that it is up to the marginalized person to teach you something, to spend time and educate you instead of you going out and doing the work yourself. Many people would be happy to help, I write this blog, free to view, about many of these issues, for example. In many cases, however, the person asking wants the person they are speaking with to do all the heavy lifting. Which is why they get “Google it.”

It may not seem that way to the person asking, it may seem innocent, just a question but being asked the same things over and over again, being expected to provide proof is exhausting. And the people claiming to want to help should try to take some of that burden instead of adding to it.

There are also ample cases where people are questioning marginalized groups not to educate themselves but to belittle them. They are antagonizing people who are attempting to speak up and belittling their lived experiences and “Google it” is a form of protection. If the person you are speaking to does not know you well, you may be coming off not as a curious person but someone who is trying to derail and bury the discussion.

To be fair, there is a lot of information out there on the internet. It’s what makes it great and terrible. But by doing some of the legwork on your own, you’re already being a better ally. Going into a conversation with some knowledge and questioning the specific things that you struggle to understand is far preferable than asking to be spoon fed an education in marginalization.

If you really want to be a better ally then honestly the best thing you can do is Google it.

You Are Not Required To Be a Punching Bag


This month has been pretty tough for people. There has been tragedy, after tragedy. Lots of judgement and hurtful words have been thrown around. So this is just a reminder for everyone who is vulnerable: You are not required to engage with or keep hurtful people in your life.

If you are hurting and someone is just making it worse, you don’t have to keep talking with them. You don’t have to be polite. Tell them they’re hurting you and if you need, cut contact. Or just cut contact. You are not required to be someone else’s punching bag.

It doesn’t matter if that person is a relative, a significant other or just some rando on Facebook. You are not required to take their shit.

This may just be a temporary situation and in a few days of space you’ll be fine to engage again. It may be a permanent change in the relationship but either way, YOU are important. YOUR mental health is important and trumps their need to say whatever they want to say to you.

It is not rude, it is not selfish to take care of yourself in this way. You are not required to engage with people who do not value your health and wellbeing.

Take care of yourself out there.

Speak Up

Omar Mateen was not an Islamic terrorist. He was a normal, home grown American terrorist. He didn’t decide to murder those innocent people because of Allah. He did it because he lives in a country that supports hate against those that it considers “other”.

He was a brown Dylan Roof.

The biggest threat to America isn’t some group across the ocean. The biggest threat to America is America and it will stay that way as long as groups that support hate are allowed to continue to fester. It will stay that way as long as people are silent when they witness friends and family make causal remarks against Muslims, LGBTQ people, Black people, Indians, etc.

It will stay that way until people in this country stop letting the worst of us decide how the rest of us are going to live.

Reasonable Becomes Expensive When Cheap Is The Norm


Here’s a bit of truth for people who are independent workers: When you offer your work for free or low cost, you’re hurting everyone, including yourself. And I don’t mean just on that one sale, I mean you’re hurting the market and lowering it for everyone involved. When you sell or create for cheap, you’re helping to create an anchor and that anchor is holding down the market.

Last time I talked about the clients/consumers of creative work and called on them to stop devaluing it. This time I’m talking to the creators and calling on all of us to charge what we’re worth.

“Anchoring” is a psychological bias that basically says people will use one key point of information to make our decisions. In this case, that piece of information is “how much is THIS worth?” The “THIS” can be anything. A custom piece of art, a website design, a sweater, 200 words of text. It doesn’t matter what it is, if you happen to the first person that the buyer talks to than your price is the anchor point. Congrats! But you aren’t the only person they talk to. Your rate isn’t the only one they’re exposed to.

They have access to the sea of people who are charging below market value for work. Sometimes this is because they happen to be somewhere where the cost of living is less so they don’t have to charge as much for the same product but most of the time it’s just the desire to make a sale and undercut the competition. At least that’s how it starts. But with the market flooded with free or near free options, it’s unlikely that a perfectly reasonable price will be seen as such. Reasonable becomes expensive when the norm becomes cheap.

And because the vast majority of clients are focused on cost as their main anchor (mostly, getting the most bang for their buck) they likely won’t consider other factors that go into your price.

So if you are a creator and you charge low to “get your name” out there or because you just really need money, I understand. The hustle is real. But also understand that those choices cause negative outward ripples that will affect you long after you gain the confidence/experience/get over the broke hump.

You’ve helped to set the market rate low and it’s an upward battle to correct that. Charge what you’re worth from the door. You’ll never regret getting paid what you asked for.

Your Faves are Problematic: The Billboard Incident


Here’s a message to the fandom communities: Your imagery can be integral to the story and still problematic. This message is brought to you today by Fox’s Mystique V. Apocalypse billboard. Yes, it is the hero being attacked by the villain but it also a woman being attacked by a man and unless you’re familiar with the story and plot, you wouldn’t really know the first part.

By accepting that it was problematic you are not denouncing the story, the comic, the creators. You are not claiming that film promotes violence against women. You can still enjoy this media while at the same time admitting that this particular billboard was not the best choice for advertisement.

Not everyone follows the films or reads the comics. Not every person is going to know who the people on the advert are or the full story of what is happening. But every person who sees that can tell that it is a woman being attacked by a man.

When we display violent media it helps to normalize those things in society. This billboard is not promoting violence against women but it is sharing imagery that may help to normalize it. Is it DIRECTLY causing harm, no, not in so much but it is not helping to stop harm.

We can do better and it starts with members of the fandom accepting that their faves are problematic and calling for them to do better. You can STILL have all the content you love but that doesn’t mean that you can’t call them out when they’ve done something that wasn’t cool.

To The Brock Turners, It Really Is Just 20 Minutes Of Action

Court House

By now, you’ve likely heard of the Brock Turner, the rapist, and of the joke that is his six-month sentence for the OBVIOUS and CONVICTED rape of a UNCONSCIOUS woman. I’m not going to talk about that. I’m going to talk about his dad who wrote a letter about how hard his rapist son now has it. I’m actually a little glad that his father sat down and took the time to write this little missive that reduces a brutal rape to “20 minutes of action” because it perfectly illustrates how and why the Brock Turners of the world keep happening.

It’s not because they’re horrible people, the Brock Tuners. They are usually special and accomplished and the people around them treat them as if that somehow gives them a pass because they are so special and the things they do are so amazing that even the most horrible acts they commit shouldn’t tarnish that.

That’s the message they get their entire lives, that’s the bubble they live in. So why should they stop and think that maybe, that other person has a life and a body that matters. The world is THEIR oyster, it exists for their pleasure and enjoyment, as a stage for their greatness. They don’t think about consequences because in their world there are none.

That’s why Brock’s dad could write a letter that equates rape with a quickie and help get his son’s sentence reduced to a laughable amount. That’s why whole town’s worth of people rally behind football players who rape people in the bathroom and at parties.

Because they are special and talented and more worthy of a future than the people they violated and that idea is supported by their parents, their communities, the legal system. Everywhere. And we’re going to keep seeing them as long we live in a society that supports the idea that if you can throw a ball or swim really well or just have more money then you can do anything you want.

Brock Turners aren’t monsters born into the world from voids. They are cultivated by people like Brock Turner’s dad and the judge that didn’t want to ruin his life. Brock Turners are manufactured. If you want to see less Brock Turners in the world, then you have to shut down the factories that keep pumping them out. Stop telling the special and talented boys of the world that it’s ok to trample over the lives of others. And when your dad writes a letter that refers to rape as 20 minutes of action, he’s saying that it’s ok.