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.