Huff Post just spat in the faces of all those who made it what it is today.

Any Huff Post contributors here?

“You have one new email from the Huff Post Blog Team” — my phone read. I’d been refreshing my emails, over and over again, waiting on a reply to come through about my newly ordered wedding shoes.

Not the email I was waiting for but, intrigued, I immediately clicked to open it.

Marked “Important” at the top of the email was a subheading:

“The Huff Post contributor platform is closing.”

What the actual f*ck??

Surely this is not how my loyal two years of writing for them [for free] would end?

Thanks for making us squillions in readership views and advertising dollars…. Now fuck off

I couldn’t help but feel that – the abrupt and inconsiderate – mass email that had been circulated to all their loyal contributors felt like a spit in the face to all those who had loyally supplied them with FREE content, over the years.

The dinner conversation around me faded to indistinct chatter as I stared at the tiny text on my phone screen in my lap. My foot tapped impatiently on the ground as I waited for the rest of the email to load…

Fucking iPhone.

Fucking internet connection.

Huff Post was one of the first publications to take me on, back when I’d just started writing publicly. I still had the email from Arianna Huffington, herself, stuck to my office wall. It has always been one of my proudest achievements in my writing career and the thought of not being able to add “Writer for the Huff Post” to the end of all my bio’s made my stomach flip anxiously…

Let alone that fact that the countless articles I’d diligently posted over the years would now be ummm, where exactly?? Lost in the ethos? Deleted?

Fuck.

The decision came from the platform’s Editor in chief Lydia Polgreen — the email read:

“while once a groundbreaking gateway to the web, [the contributor platform] has since been overtaken by “noise” — as well as by the sheer volume of commentary across newer social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter.”

Lydia said she will instead:

“introduce two new sections, Opinion and Personal. Writers for those sections will be selected and assigned stories — and be paid.”

No mention about the current writer’s being re-assessed. No. We’d have to re-apply I guess, along with all the other writing ‘plebs’…

Cool. Thanks Lydia, mate.

It’s well known that Huff Post has been criticised by writers’ groups over the years because many of the contributors who helped the website get it’s footing in the early days weren’t being paid.

I mean, I’m glad they finally did something about it…

It was just the WAY they went about it that I thought was pretty shitty.

***

“Wow, and do they pay you well?”

Was my father’s first response, when I’d excitedly waved the acceptance email I’d received from Arianna under his nose…

“Well, no. We get paid in exposure, Dad…”

Came my answer.

An answer I would eventually become tired of saying when talking about new publications giving me the ‘opportunity’ to ‘gain exposure’ in exchange for my words.

I soon learnt, that those in the creative/Arts industries, especially ‘writers’, were often expected to work for free. Like, their talents were not seen as deserving of monetary payment. Why is that? It’s still a skill? Because, we’re not saving the world or correcting the eyesight of blind children, are we?

Our work is often read, viewed, enjoyed by strangers with nothing more than a “hmmm, that was nice…” response and a click away.

Dont get me wrong, I had no qualms about writing for free in about my first year of writing and, in fact, I deliberately pitched to publications knowing full well that I would not be paid for my time. I knew that to ‘get your foot in the door’ in this industry, I had to build up my name, prove I had things to say which were actually worth reading.

I did that.

I kinda feel I’ve served my time. I’ve even secured countless paid writing opportunities, since…

But, to this day, I’m still seeing that irritating stock-standard wording that seemingly everyone in the industry is adopting:

“CONTRIBUTORS WANTED….

Followed by the usual -

Whilst, we can’t [yet] afford to pay our contributors for any submissions to our publication, we do offer the opportunity to build your writer’s profile among our audience…”

I saw one just yesterday. A call-out from a fresh ‘startup’…

I’m sorry, but if you’re a startup and therefore, barely even launched yet, one would think that you would have NO readership or following yet?? So, then —

WHAT EXPOSURE COULD YOU POSSIBLY OFFER YOUR VOLUNTEER WRITERS?

**inserts laughing face emoji**

Where did this idea of starting up a business with no money to pay employees or contributors, even come from??

No. A writer shouldn’t have to work for free (past a certain point in their career). It shouldn’t be an industry norm. And, my bad for allowing it up till this point.

Jon Westerberg is a freelancer who is often approached to do work for free. He says it perfectly in his article “Fuck off. Pay me.”

“I have a finite number of hours, minutes and seconds left to be alive. The average life expectancy here in Australia is 82 years, so let’s say I’ve got another 55 years left on this planet. Ok. So that’s around 480,000 hours. Sounds like a lot, right?

Wrong. Let’s say I spend 8 hours a night sleeping, that’s 160,000 hours gone and I’m down to 320,000. By the time I go on to cut out weekends, holidays, time spent with my loved ones, time spent working on my own business, time spent educating myself, building my skills, writing my blog, filling out taxes, getting sick and recovering and squeezing out a little time here and there to watch TV…how much time do you think I’ll have left?

Hint: nowhere near 480,000 hours.

So considering the fact that my time is already running out down here on earth, here’s my response when people want my work without paying for it.

If I sacrifice a bunch of hours to your project for free, that’s time I can never get back, time taken from a constantly running out well, and time that my family will now never have with me.

What the fuck makes you think you deserve that?”

So, enough whinging and whining. Thanks huff Post for flushing years worth of my work down the drain! To avoid feeling bitter and taken advantage of in future, I’ll avoid writing for free this year!

Lesson learnt.

Rebecca Achelles.

I mostly write words for businesses now. Check it out: The Quirky Copywriter