Chamonix. Giving up on the Dream?

I’m not usually one for writing massively personal stuff on my website, but some occurrences of the last week have stirred me into action.

A few people have been asking what’s going on – especially if you’ve been following me on Twitter- as I’ve mentioned I cannot now return to Chamonix. Well, perhaps I’ve been hasty declaring this- but I’m beginning to see no option.

I’ve been motivated to write down my situation after reading this recent article in The Guardian: Philip Hensher stirs debate among authors after refusing to write for free

I’ve also just read another similar and very interesting article on this topic: Slaves of the Internet.

Well, its not just creative writers that have this problem. I’ve suffered it in journalism over and over again. From having to work several shifts for free at every new place I’m attempting to work at – despite  years of experience – to contributing travel features for free/next to nothing.

The latest kick in the stomach was thus: Philip Henshers article came out a day or so after I was told I was no longer needed for a job I was pretty much promised in Chamonix ( although not a formal job offer with a contract signed etc- NOTE TO SELF- ALWAYS GET A CONTRACT). The job was as a news editor or broadcast journalist ( i could take first pick) for a new radio station in the town. I was very keen as it offered a secure monthly income and would still allow time for a bit of writing and skiing! It would also be exciting to work for a new, local station for Chamonix – I was psyched.

(I had also been told by the other station I’d been working for that – because of their partners- the Mayor and Mont Blanc Radio- that they needed a fluent French speaker- fair enough I suppose -I can’t argue with this- I am living in France after all.)

Well last week I was told I was no longer needed because ” We have been inundated with applicants (over 90) and some are even willing to work free of charge to help the station succeed.” I was however offered the chance of some freelance work.

I’m *guessing* these are fresh out of uni, supported by the bank of mum and dad- and cheap labour. I’d not even discussed a salary at this point and myself would have been satisfied for enough to just cover my rent-plus some.

Anyway- perhaps this is Karma as I’ve been criticised for writing articles for free.( I emphasis TRAVEL here as it has only been in this genre)

My argument at the time was:-  as I was trying to break into the industry and at that point didn’t have any print/online experience – I was trying to build up a portfolio. I believed this was normal? I thoroughly intended to get paid – however, its been harder and harder to get an money out of anyone. Certain (national) publications say that because it’s travel- its a perk, a “holiday” (and there will always someone else will to do it for free). This does not consider the quality of the writer ( I’ve been on trips with non journos) or that you have to take a week or so off, then spend several days writing the piece- with no money. I’m not asking for much- but I need to pay the bills!

But now it would seem I’m getting *a taste of my own medicine*

Some may say- well it’s only travel- get a worthwhile “proper” job.  I have tried- especially in Chamonix. It’s also not that easy as people ask me:” why do you want to do this job when you’ve done all that?”etc etc. I’ve tried to PR path- but gone are the days when being a journalist was enough to get you a job in PR. I’d need to become an intern again. Same problem as above- plus I’m possibly too old to become an intern?!

Anyway- I read the article on Philip Hensher with interest. Once I’ve finished my last round of TRAVEL articles- I will no longer be working for free. If that’s in Chamonix, a climbing destination( more on this soon) or back in South London remains to be seen…..

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3 responses to “Chamonix. Giving up on the Dream?

  1. Hello Katy,

    I’m interested in skiing for the first time in Chamonix. I am planning a trip for my birthday in late January.
    After reading many of your blogs and articles you seem to have become quite knowledgeable of the area.

    Anyways, if you are interested in guiding me (including preparing the itinerary, hotel, etc) I would be happy to hire you for 5 – 7 days.

    Let me know if this proposal is of interest to you and we can discuss your compensation arrangement.

    All the best,

    -Ken

    Marina Del Rey, CA

  2. Katy, as the Joker once said to Batman:

    “If you’re good at something, never do it for free”

    Chin up, keep striving and you will succeed mate

  3. It’s endemic.

    Writers all over the world are offering a varied quality of service – in terms of the standards offered in composition, grammar, spelling, copyediting, timely submission of copy, assiduous research, decent quotes (need I go on) – for next to nothing or, better still, actually nothing, many of those now seeking copy seem not to be fussed about the quality of the work they are receiving. They seem happy to receive content as so much of the game is about SEO now, rather than a quality reading experience. And we are fighting another battle too: Image vs words? No contest. Video vs image? Soon to be no contest. Short-termism rules websites which seem to be the main consumers of copy these days as magazines struggle to find a foothold in a shifting landscape. I recently wrote thousands of words of well researched, engaging copy for an expedition. 80% of it was ditched in favour of a few more photographs and another diagram or two. ‘Nuff said.

    When I first started freelance work in 2011, £300-400 for a 2,000 word feature with photography was standard and even that was less than NUJ suggested rates. Now £150-200 seems more like it and even then it’s hard to find a rich vein of that work. There’s no way in the world I can make a living on feature writing alone. Copywriting is an essential subsidy but that’s oversubscribed too. But at the least the quality of writing in that industry is high. I can be satisfied that the people beating me to the bounce have more experience and can weave words every bit as well as I can. It’s a little less galling than being beaten by some chap abroad offering 50c for a feature that has more spelling errors and factual errors than it does sentences.

    But I think it’s not all doom and gloom. Firstly, copy is sourced for all sorts of different media. And websites will fail as readers realise the standard of writing delivers almost zero experience and companies will soon realise, as I think they already are, that to remain stable writers need to be paid like anyone else. Having low quality copy on a website will undermine the slick, impressive design and engaging imagery.

    There were some comments on the response by the Cambridge Professor to Henscher. Most talked about volunteering for the good of literature and so on. Such a pampered view. Volunteering is something someone who is able to meet the basic requirements of life is able to do. No one would be expected to volunteer their time when they don’t have a stable income to meet the basic necessities. So easy to forget. Writers deserve to be paid for everything they do and then they can make a decision as to whether or not to give their time altruistically. They certainly should not be criticised for it.

    Sadly, microstock, where exactly the same problem has accrued, has ended stock photography as a viable income source for all except those who devote 100% of their time to pretty mundane, pedestrian images. Find multiple income strands and it can work. That’s my theory. Expand your contacts and get contract work. Over-deliver every time. Submit copy early. Be pleasant to deal with. Anticipate problems and fix them before they arise. In short, do a job of work. That will eventually set you apart. But someone like you already knows all this. It’s frustrating but you’ll stick with it, I’m sure.

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