Don’t sell yourself short as a Freelance writer in Italy

writerOnce upon a time (about a year ago) a Sardinian travel agency contacted me to write brief English articles to help promote their travel brand. Unfortunately, at that time I was just packing up to move to Cayman Islands and I didn’t have the time nor energy to craft posts about Sardinia after slinging beer for 10 hours a day. I emailed them a polite reply stating that I was grateful for their consideration but am out of the country and haven’t the time to freelance for them.

When I returned to Sardinia last June I contacted this travel agency and told them that if the offer still stands I would be more than willing to write articles on Sardinia for them.

I didn’t hear back from them for six months.

I thought it was water under the bridge until a month ago when the same agency contacted me. At this point I thought “what the heck, eh” let’s do it.

This was their offer:

  • 6 articles a month, 250-300 words (I could even use my existing blog posts but they would have to be re-worded).
  • Write one post a week for their Facebook profile about Sardinia.
  • Respond to any questions about Sardinia on their profile – maximum three questions.
  • My pictures would greatly be accepted.
  • €100 a month for three months.

I took to my super fabulous expat group and asked a few questions about this type of work, as I’m new-ish to the freelance world and I certainly didn’t want to sell myself short.

Here are some of the responses from my trusted, in-the-know peeps:

  • not enough money.
  • that is ridiculously low payment.
  • you need to negotiate.
  • work like this is likely never under €300 per month and that would be the bottom of the bottom.
  • They will never find a native English-speaking person to work for that money.
  • if you start low, you will stay low on the pay scale. It’s better to play hardball and present yourself as a professional.
  • Off the top of my head €25 per hour for this type of work.

Like any professional freelance writer I responded with:

Good morning. I would be pleased to work alongside your team, however I would like to negotiate the salary. I am willing to write 6 articles a month including the use of my photos for €250 per month. I look forward to your response.

And this is what the agency said:

Good afternoon. Currently we cannot afford €250 a month as our budget for article writing is €100 a month. Please keep in mind that the articles do not have to be original articles, you are free to re-word the existing articles on your blog. Can we negotiate with 4 articles a month?

I thought over this offer for a good five minutes and decided that yes, I will give it a go. I’ve wanted to work for a company that is 100% owned and operated by an islander for a long time. It’s important for me to root my words, work and photography with the islanders who have adopted me.

I responded with:

Thank you and I accept your proposal of 4 articles per month for €100. I would like to be paid every month, not at the end of the three months. If you would like to add any of my photography, the cost will be €50 for each photo. How do you propose payment?

I understand that their budget is €100 a month, but I can’t nor I won’t give away my photographic work. Work that took hours of hiking in the mountains just to capture the feeling of Sardinia.

And now, eight days after I sent the last email I’ve heard nothing. Nadda, zilch, zero. I could have sent another email asking “what’s up” but I’m not desperate and I refuse to sell myself short.

You know what I’m tired of?

I’m tired of being paid pennies for my time and hard work. I’m tired of being taken advantage of with extremely low pay and no respect for the work done. This applies for hospitality work and freelance work.

Everyone I speak with says “Those are the rules here in Italy. Companies can and will take advantage of someone just so they can have more money in their pocket at the end of the day. We are just the little people here. In the end, it’s we who suffer. The ones who cannot make a difference. You either work for nothing or starve.”

Am I disappointed with the Italian way?

Sure, I am. Does it dishearten me to know people try to take advantage of me? Sure, it does. Does it lessen my love affair with the island I’ve come to call my own? Absolutely not.

If I’m going to work for free then I’m going to continue to craft posts about Sardinia and post them here, on my blog, where the only rules are mine.

Are you a freelance writer or photographer living or working in Italy? Would you submit your photography for free? Tell me all about it in the comment section below.

29 thoughts on “Don’t sell yourself short as a Freelance writer in Italy

  1. I feel for you! I am amazed at how often I have to type these words: “Thanks so much for contacting me with this opportunity but unfortunately my schedule does not allow for any uncompensated work at this time.”
    It’s unbelievable that anyone should have to spell it out so plainly. My most recent “offer” was the “opportunity” to take over the social media management of a new travel website and answer all questions about Rome on their site, in exchange for a badge for my site. Um… last time I checked, badges don’t pay rent.
    Good for you for not selling yourself short. I am the deputy editor of a travel magazine and was SHOCKED by the low level of writers out there the last time I was looking for a staff writer. Good writers are NOT a dime a dozen, and your talent and efforts will eventually pay off.
    All the best,

  2. Hello Jennifer,

    being Italian unfortunately I have to say that not answering is the norm and it is annoying. I noticed the difference once I was looking for a job in Holland and I was surprised by all the answers (even the negative ones) from employers.

    Just to let you know anyway, the minimum rate by law for any article written by a journalist is now at 20€. It is really a low rate, since it includes also long research pieces that is required for example for writing investigative reporting.

    Hence the offer they made to you was even lower so good for you you didn’t do it!


  3. Veeeeery interesting. I am considering doing some freelance writing when my corporate schedule lightens up (I already do freelance translating/editing on occasion, but through a third party with decent set rates), and this is very helpful info on negotiating.

  4. It seems to happen all over. i don’t think you were wrong to not hand over your photos for free at all. And even being able to reword old posts takes time. The trouble is there are so many out there who take other people’s work, use those spin programmes to reword them, them sell them for next to nothing. Companies these days seem to expect to get everything for nothing…grrrrrr

  5. So many companies who reach out to bloggers do this. They don’t appreciate the work that goes into it or if they do they still want you to give free ad space, or work for them for next to nothing. My blog is just for my random adventures and I’m not trying to be free lance, so I won’t even take an offer unless it is worth it.

    • I’ve been doing the same with my blog, I started it just for me, then to share the beauty of Sardinia, then people started to call and wanted me to freelance albeit for next to nothing all the while they rake in the money from people booking. Che vita!

  6. There’s always some bastard going to try to screw you, eh? – when we were making corporate video back in the ’80s/’90s, many companies put up tenders that included a script!!!! Mind you, all they got was absolute garbage, and serve ’em right.

  7. Great post, Jennifer, and really useful to hear what others are doing. I ayou shouldn’t sell yourself short but hope you hear back eventually!! Lizzie

  8. Jennifer
    Your posts are all wonderful, full of interest and so exciting with fantastic photos. Never sell yourself and your talent short. People are full of greed everywhere, Europe is no exception. Be true to who you are and have been. Someone will come along with a very generous and fair offer for your fabulous work! They just lost out by being the way they are! The idea of an offer was a good thing, just not the right one! hang in there! Have a beautiful and happier day!

    The Sard/American

  9. I don’t think it is related to a country or a type of writing, I think it is because of the internet and the availability of low cost work. You can buy anything from articles to graphic designs on Fiverr. Other sites for freelance writer let you bid on doing article, some for no fee. As long as freelancers and the public are willing to provide content at little or no cost (look at PInterest and Reddit) why should feel they have to pay for it. Shame they didn’t bother to respond, but I think that has become the norm.

  10. Same in LV – clients want to pay 3.5 lats (around 5 euro) per page for proofing. I was thinking more like 20 but I’ll never get it here! Sucks to have to undersell yourself but in the end, more work comes out of it and it keeps trickling in in the meantime!

  11. I feel for you. I’m also a freelance writer, though not a travel writer, and I’m in the lucky position of having a long-term client who pays OK and on time. I would like to branch out a bit, and your post shows just how tough it is. Their offer is totally ridiculous 😦

  12. It’s not so much “the Italian way” – at least they offered to pay. I have received lots of emails asking for content from US and British companies, that sound like great gigs until I read the line “in compensation you will be given credit and a link” or “We pay $10 per post!” – with the exclamation mark, as if that’s a great incentive. Being able to use previously published posts rather than writing new material always pays less (and doesn’t require much effort on your part, either!) Hang in there.

    • I think what disappoints me the most is that they didn’t even respond with my final offer. They could have said yes to the four articles for 100 euro and no to any of my photos, they could certainly use one of their own photos to go along with my story. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. 🙂

  13. Definitely don’t sell yourself short!

    Alas journalists – especially “life style” type stuff often pays a pittance. I had an Aussie friend that was just getting his career started and did a stint for “Time Out Mumbai” doing the nightlife beat. Let’s just say the arrangement couldn’t continue as they couldn’t even afford to pay the minimum legal amount to employ a ‘foreigner’ ie USD24,000 per year. The actual pay was more like 1/5th that amount. No way was there going to be any ‘meeting in the middle.’

    It reminded of how I was recently asked if I would consider writing on my blog about an upcoming dinner event for a fancy new 5-star. “Oh, I’ve not considered commercializing my blog.” sez I… “But we won’t pay you” sez them… “So… I’m confused… you want free publicity using a personal forum I’ve created for my own indulgence because…???” Hmmm… “Well, we’d provide you dinner and wouldn’t expect you to pay for the sampling of the event menu.” ….Huh?! Gee thanks! But… funny… I wonder why I didn’t jump at the fabulous amazing stupendous offer!! (Groan!)

  14. I agree with you. Unfortunitly it is just like this in the United States and getting worse. I was hoping Italy would be different but greed is everywhere around the world. You are a good person and I enjoy your blog about
    Sardenia. There are fewer and fewer decient people in the world. So hang in
    there and be glad of who you are because you are a rare breed. Now a days there is always someone taking you for granted for being nice. Your not alone.
    Thank you for your wonderful posts.

    • Linda, thank you for your kind words and encouragement. You hit the nail on the head with ‘greed is everywhere’. I’d rather have little to nothing and be content within myself.

  15. Isn’t being your own boss more gratifying? Continue to craft your own work for yourself! I love ‘craft’ 😉 Brava!

Your comments are greatly appreciated, thank you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.