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Should writers not get paid for outlines?

indianscrewup
Ace Contributor

This is just something for all the writers out there, and I really want to know how everyone else tackles with it. 

 

Recently I communicated with a client who wanted me to submit the article outline as part of the Job Proposal. He told me he had asked 3 other writers to do the same. 

 

Then he said he would pay 30% of the amount for the first draft and the rest when final draft is delivered. 

 

My question is - The first draft is 75% of the total work, then why get 30% for it? 

 

And is it fair to submit outlines pro bono, the research does take a lot of time. 

 

I have honestly never done that except for some really big websites where I wanted to be featured and money for just secondary.

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Anonymous User
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@Ritika T wrote:

This is just something for all the writers out there, and I really want to know how everyone else tackles with it. 

 

Recently I communicated with a client who wanted me to submit the article outline as part of the Job Proposal. He told me he had asked 3 other writers to do the same. 

 

Then he said he would pay 30% of the amount for the first draft and the rest when final draft is delivered. 

 

My question is - The first draft is 75% of the total work, then why get 30% for it? 

 

And is it fair to submit outlines pro bono, the research does take a lot of time. 

 

I have honestly never done that except for some really big websites where I wanted to be featured and money for just secondary.


There are a lot of clients who try to get free work. Report this client to Upwork's customer service. 

Re: "Should writers not get paid for outlines?"

 

All contractors should be paid for all work that they do.

 

So the precise details of your question are irrelevant. There are no exceptions for specific types of work or specific types of contractors.

 

It is unethical and unprofessional to have contractors work for free.

 

It is a violation of Upwork TOS to do so.

lysis10
Community Guru

I tell people I'll do an outline for $25. I do it to A) get paid for my time and B) it's not what I want to do for something that's a short article that I know. By charghing them, I get out of doing one. 😄

 

I've had people break up milestones and the first one is the outline and then the last and final is the draft. I'm OK with that too.

innovatusc
Ace Contributor

Hello Ritika,

 

Pro bono work is out of the questions since neither you nor UP earn any money. My suggestion is this - if an initial analysis of the work requested equates to 75% of the total project work/job requirement then you should bill the client accordingly. Alternatively, you should have a pre-defined rate for clients who want an initial part of their project completed. From your profile I infer that you are a top rated freelancer and clients who are looking for quality work would have no qualms about paying for outlines.

 

Most importantly, beware of clients who tend to spread the work between multiple providers since most of these clients outsource sections to multiplte providers and once the work is delivered, piece it together without having to pay anyone. Remember, for clients outsourcing sections of work to multiple providers, hedge your risks and ask for a payment upfront depending on the quantum of work. SInce, it is likely that once you submit the work, you won't even get paid. Hope this helps.

"Pro bono" means "for the public good."

 

Please do not use the word interchangeably with the word "free."

 

If an Upwork client asks a contractor to work for free, she is not asking for "pro bono work."

 

She is asking for "free work," which is against Upwork ToS.

Preston,

 

I stand corrected. If the provider used the phrase pro bono, I mistook it to mean for 'free' drawing upon my experience on a Sean Penn and Michelle Pfeiffer movie where she was a lawyer and Sean was played the role of an individual with a developmental disability. Your definition of the word pro bono is spot on. Like I said, I stand corrected.

Actually, 'pro bono' is widely used to indicate 'professional work undertaken voluntarily and without payment or at a reduced fee as a public service'.


@Evelina Z wrote:

Actually, 'pro bono' is widely used to indicate 'professional work undertaken voluntarily and without payment or at a reduced fee as a public service'.


Which is exactly what Preston said, except that he said "public good" instead of "public service". I'm not sure what distinction you're making? 

tlsanders
Community Guru

I think that there are two types of clients who do this.

 

One is a cheapskate with no clue what he wants, who is going to collect outlines from qualified writers and then choose one to pass along to a low-end writer.

 

The other just truly doesn't understand the research/planning that goes into the outline, and thinks it's a quick way for him to get an idea as to whether you're on the same page. 

 

The latter group almost always adapts,either by nixing the request or offering to pay for that step, when educated. 

Ritika, other than it sounds as if the buyer was trying to scam - something you realized - you should be paid for any and all work. 

 

You nailed it when you mentioned that the thinking, planning and overall creative process is what is most time consuming.  I've never been asked for an outline other than in generalities - what pages needed for a website and/or what should be stressed in a video script or brochure. 

 

When it comes to more involved and usually lengthier writing, such as preliminary thoughts on character or plot development, these are best left until you have a solid working arrangement with a client.  You both know the purpose(s), the goals, and most important, if the two of you can partner together successfully.

miroslav84
Community Guru
It is free work by all standards and by Upwork rules it is ToS violation. Report the posting to the CS should they remove it asap.

@Preston (who probably knows this already), @ Prashant, & @Evelina--

 

The pedantic Latin teacher within me is, like Mr. Hyde, unable to stay decently hidden. Sorry, guys... Must... go... into... lecture... mode... Cannot... help... self...

 

pro bono is actually a foreshortened phrase. It is short for the three-word Latin phrase pro bono publico, which means, literally, "for the good of the public." (It coud also mean "to/toward the good of the public," but that is not a context in which the phrase is ever used.) While this phrase has come to mean generally "public services done for free," it need not actually include the idea of "free" (the Latin word for which is more properly gratis). The general sense of "for free" derives from the practice of well-heeled individuals and companies (often legal and medical in orientation) providing services undertaken for the public good without charge, especially legal or medical work work for [a] low-income client[s]. This type of [free-to-the-client] pro bono publico work is, however, a sub-set of such work generally. The aspect of the work provided being un-billed is not a necessary aspect of pro bono work.

 

In any event, no Upwork client need be offered (and should certainly neither expect nor demand!) any "pro bono" work. We freelancers work pro bono familiis nostris. ("For the good of our families.") We should work professionally, but not gratis.

 

ex animo --

 

"magistra"

aocumen
Moderator
Moderator

Hi Ritika, 


I would follow the suggestions of the other users to report your client to our support team as it is a violation of the Upwork ToS to be requesting for free work. Please include screen grabs of your conversation with your client for the team's reference. 


~ Avery
Upwork

Hmm, I think this is a bit of a grey area.

I do video game journalism. Outside of news coverage, occasionally I also pitch feature/opinion pieces to various sites.

I'm not compensated for the time and effort it took me to pitch and outline the article. If the article isn't commissioned by one site, I can send the pitch to others. In the worst of cases, the pitch may never get picked up and then I've wasted my time.

 

However, from what you've described the "outline" as, it does seem as though there's a lot of work to do for, potentially, nothing. I would say that if the outline takes you, say, more than half an hour, then just don't bother or ask the client if they're willing to pay you for the time taken to draft the outline, even if the article idea isn't something they're interested in commissioning in full.

 

For me, personally, a pitch starts with one or two paragraphs of how the full article would read, (essentially it's "the hook" of the piece) with the rest of the article laid out in brief bullet points of what will be covered.

 

But, then again, this is Upwork, so perhaps it's a bit of a different environment.

Daniel, to me the big difference seems to be that it sounds like you're pitching articles based on ideas you've come up with, which would of course necessitate telling the client/editor what you were planning to write about.

 

What typically happens on Upwork is that the prospective client tells you what he wants you to write about, then asks you to create an outline based on his idea. That seems less like a pitch and more like starting the job to me.

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