Making Freelance Academic Work a Fairly Paid Venture
Source: Inside Higher Ed By Brian DeGrazia
As a graduate student and early-career scholar, building a portfolio of professional academic experiences provides a lot of potential value. Freelancer jobs in editing, translation, indexing, research and similar kinds of work… The benefits of such work are certainly real, but they should not be thought of as compensation or reason enough by themselves to take on a project. Indeed, one of the main challenges of this kind of work is receiving market-rate pay for it. The notion that working for free or less than market rate can be “worth it” for the experience or exposure is pervasive and certainly not limited to the academy.
Freelancers, regardless of their title or position within the university, are workers, and they should be treated and compensated as such. A fair rate of pay, beyond helping to pay the bills, also offers one last but vital piece of professional development for early-career scholars: it helps them see the value of their time and work, hopefully giving them more confidence throughout their careers to seek properly paid freelance and full-time opportunities and avoid those that are less desirable and less fair.
Below I suggest some best practices, both for those of you looking to be hired to do this kind of work and for those looking to hire them.
Nick’s take on freelancer abuse
Academic and commercial employers get highly educated graduate students and other academics to do freelancer work cheap. These folks are usually terrified of the job market and will often accept jobs for no pay at all “to gain experience.” DeGrazia exposes this slave-wages racket. Read his article for great suggestions about how to get fair pay! (Also see 20 pointers for new graduates.)
What’s your take? Are you a grad student or other academic just starting out? Have you taken jobs that pay little or nothing? Is “experience” worth working for slave wages? How do you convince employers to pay for your work? If you’re an employer, do you pay academic freelancers fairly?