Why I don’t offer paid feedback services (anymore)

In my website’s long origin story, nothing has changed more frequently than my services page. 

At the start, way back in 2017, I resolved not to charge fellow writers for feedback. We’re one creative community, and if I can help others fill this world with more great stories, I don’t want to do this through a capitalist lens. 

Too bad my precarious situation didn’t fit with my principles. In 2018, when Susan Joyce, a writer friend of mine, asked to enlist my help and pay for my services, I decided to take her up on it.

Here is how I explained it: 

Email response to a Susan Joyce writer, June 17 2018

Re: pay 

Bear with me, since I’m very split about this. 

I’ve decided to offer consultancy services through my website (which will be up hopefully by July after a long journey of my webdesigner being too swamped with work to finish it earlier). However, I don’t feel 100% comfortable about it. I believe that we writers are a community and we should help each other, by giving feedback, by reading each others’ work, etc.

It’s what I hear from professional writers, too – they have friends in the industry whom they can ask to read their work (my favourite story is the writers of Game of Thrones had a Very Bad First Draft and a screenwriter friend told them why it was bad and how to make it better, which they did and BAM, that led to the GoT pilot that exists now). 

I personally believe that it’s always about the person you ask to give feedback, not their CV or the credits they have. If you trust their opinion and them to have your story’s best interest at heart, that’s ideal. 

That said, I realized I also need to get my footing as a freelancer at some point and this is something I know I’m good at, something where I know I can help writers and creatives, something I can offer/sell that I’m confident in, idealism aside.

My resolution was (and still is) to start offering the services to people I haven’t worked with before but keep going as I have with my friends. So I didn’t offer my assistance to you hoping for pay, which is why I’m so surprised and delighted you’re offering! 

If you actually want to pay me, I’ll be able to prioritize your project and get back to you sooner. We could also schedule feedback Skypes/Zooms, which would be more helpful to talk through feedback :) 

But if you decide to keep the status quo going, so to speak, I’ll still gladly read your work and offer any feedback and help I can (might just take a bit longer since I’ll do it my free time). Writers have to stick together, after all! 

Long story short – if you would like to have me on as a continuous feedback-giver and/or consultant, I’m happy to help! 

Sorry this escalated… I could have just glossed over my reservations about moving into a paid-feedback-situation with you, but I want to be able to sleep at night. 

The writer friend generously decided to pay me an hourly rate for reads and notes and it felt like I was one step closer to being a “pro”. 

*

Doubts kept gnawing at me, however. I never fully shook the sense of ‘I’m no better than the exploitative services tricking writers into spending money that I so openly despise!’ Yet throughout 2019, my anxieties around money made me cling to the idea of earning a stable income through feedback like an addict to their habit. I knew it’s not good for me and my well-being, but the psychology of addiction was stronger. 

So what changed?

For one, I entered recovery. Yup, that addiction comparison is based on personal experience. After eight years of bulimia and over a decade of disordered eating, I have managed to stay relapse free since April 7, 2019. 

Without spending several hundred Euros a month on binge food, my financial anxieties started to dwindle. In September 2019, I found a second ‘day job’ to cover necessities after blissful years of relying on student loans, and my writing career has become more stable. 

In addition to that, I’m further along on my spiritual journey. 

I am no longer motivated by maximizing my income through my passions because I realized that I am much more comfortable working a ‘day job’ (or three) to cover my bills than exploiting fellow creatives. 

Of course there is a line between supporting each other and ‘working for/with’ someone. I  won’t do free labour on sets anymore, just like I won’t rewrite your script free of charge. 

But providing feedback? That should be something we do for one another, as part of a creative collective. The more great projects out there, the better. There’s no limit to media or content, just as there’s no limit to how many books the world needs. 

If the people for whom I provide feedback then want to tip me, I won’t say no, of course. But I will not make that a condition for anyone anymore. 

You might think me naive or idealistic – go ahead. I don’t see how that’s an insult!

Hugs from Berlin, 

Jay

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