Pay the WRITER 2—Out-Hustle the Hustlers

Kristen Lamb, pay the writer, creatives being exploited, media brands robbing writers, exposure dollars, make money writing

So last week I discussed the new and fairly grim reality for many creatives. I pointed out the big picture of what’s really going on in the New Publishing Paradigm—The Matrix. Playing a short, blonde, sassy Morpheus from Texas…I offered a choice…

The Blue Pill—get paid in exposure dollars and empty promises.

OR the Red Pill—tough truth, hard work, but a way forward for authentic PAID success.

If you’re the Red Pill crowd, Wonderland is gone and now I’m telling you the game is rigged and it’s all a hustle. The MEGAs (big brands, I.e. Huffington Post) are using us as human batteries to power their brand.

And once you recover from envisioning a female middle-aged Morpheus in yoga pants…your next question might be, “Fine, no how do we get PAID?”

We beat the hustle 😉 .

*hands paper bag* It’s fine. I am here.

I want y’all to HUSTLE…not GET HUSTLED. Big—no HUGE—difference.

Step One: Best way to beat a hustle is to know we’re being hustled in the first place.

Kristen Lamb, pay the writer, creatives being exploited, media brands robbing writers, exposure dollars, make money writing

That’s what I hopefully did in my post Welcome to the Matrix—You Work for Free and there IS NO Payday.

I’ve known the hustle existed for a long time and my first time calling it out involved blood, guts and being called the “c” word more times than ever in my life.

Creative is not the word I am referring to. Nope, not clever either. Compassionate? Um…nope. Not that one either.


Almost two years ago, I blew up the Internet with my first Pay the Writer post, but at the time, I only knew enough to be royally ticked off…ok, blind with rage is more accurate.

In hindsight? Not the best approach, but a start.

I’ve grown a lot since then. I’m wiser and have had more time to study the “game.”

Though back in 2016 I knew writers (creatives) were getting shafted, I hadn’t figured much of anything out beyond that. It’s taken me eighteen months to unravel HOW those exploiting us were doing what they were doing (and HOW they’re still doing it).

HOW were/are they getting us to so eagerly go along, calm as Hindu cash cows?

The Hustle

Kristen Lamb, pay the writer, creatives being exploited, media brands robbing writers, exposure dollars, make money writing

If we look to the slang definition of hustle it is an inducing by fraud, pressure or deception, especially of inexperienced or uniformed persons to buy something or participate in an illicit scheme. It also means to fraud or to deceive.

Please keep in mind that the best hustles are completely legal.

Everything we creatives have endured by and large is completely legal and we willingly consented.

Yet, with new information, we now have the option to revoke our consent.

All this said, blame games and being a victim aren’t my thing, so I take the mea culpa. In defense of all parties involved we knew this was uncharted territory and well…mistakes were made.

Whether this behavior continues, by and large is up to author education. Here’s where I come in.

If being paid in feel-goods and participation trophies is cool with you? Rock on. Keep on posting. Not all writers have the same goals. But for those who desire a paid career, we need to get street smart.


Kristen Lamb, pay the writer, creatives being exploited, media brands robbing writers, exposure dollars, make money writing

All hustlers from con men to that deadbeat ex we fell for sophomore year all work the same way. Like sharks, they can taste blood in the water. Blood in the water means something/someone is injured or damaged.

They must select the perfect mark in order for the hustle to offer the largest payoff for the least effort (MAX ROI).

Even in completely legal “hustles.” Okay especially in legal hustles.

A family member of mine recently went through a nasty divorce. I begged her to let me help her with searching for a new house. She didn’t want to be a burden and fell victim to a real estate agent with no scruples.

What this agent did was technically legal. But the agent spotted an angry, deeply wounded female with no work history and no real world experience on her own alone and unguarded…who could be cajoled into a seriously BAD deal.

The real estate agent probably “deeply cared” about my family member…until the commission check cleared. Sadly my family member is now in for a rough road.

Emotion, desire, longing, fear, doubt, insecurity are all blood in the water for any kind of hustle.

The MEGAs use our fear, lack of knowledge, our insecurity coupled with our desire for approval against us. They know a lot of creatives over the age of thirty-five are scared of the Internet, used to the old world, and desperate for a helping hand to guide them.

They don’t believe they can go it alone.

Us older writers are also are most likely to want to believe we’re still playing the same game with the same rules only in digital form and the MEGAs are happy to let us believe that lovely lie and pray we take the blue pill.

We are the perfect mark—target—for blogging for free (exposure dollars).

Kristen Lamb, pay the writer, creatives being exploited, media brands robbing writers, exposure dollars, make money writing

The MEGAs know the money is and always will be IN THE ADS (and are counting on us not putting this all together).

MEGAs convince us we cannot possibly make it without them and we need them and are better working for them even if it is for free (“temporarily” of course).

Patently 100% false.


Snowflake Honey Badger Don’t Care

Kristen Lamb, pay the writer, creatives being exploited, media brands robbing writers, exposure dollars, make money writing

Millennials grew up on-line teething on keyboards and have paved the way we can follow. Sure Millennials might be “delicate” in other ways, but ON-LINE?

*backs away slowly and makes notes*

Millennials are like the honey badgers of social media. Honey badger don’t care!

***linked to the video I am referencing but warning you there are curse words…yet SO APROPOS****

They bite into stuff, chase social media snakes, take what they want, get stung, then bitten by digital cobras, pass out and sleep off the venom…then eat the cobra that just bit them and resume digging and working and move along unfazed.

It’s why a lot of Millennials have become the new MEGA brands of the 21st century.

Millennials have been able to be the honey badgers of social media because they were never the ideal target for the hustle.

Why do I need you to make me a star? I ALREADY AM ONE!

Money? Meh, I live at home.

Exposure? Wikipedia says people die from that.

Because the Millennial MEGAs started out young and fearless with technology, they held an advantage. They never knew a world with gatekeepers or rules and if there were rules, then they didn’t matter. Rules didn’t apply to THEM. Since they didn’t have bills to pay they had a lot of freedom to work for free…authentically.

Keep that in mind.

The Game Has Changed and SO HAVE THE RULES

Kristen Lamb, pay the writer, creatives being exploited, media brands robbing writers, exposure dollars, make money writing

We keep thinking we are playing the old paradigm publishing game. Write, get exposure, build a CV, pass gatekeepers and POOF paid work comes our way.

Not so fast.

Remember it’s a different game entirely. The old rules NO LONGER APPLY.

Just try playing Monopoly using the rules from RISK with Tiddly Winks on a Chinese Checkers board and see if you aren’t ready to start drinking heavily by noon.

Yet that’s essentially what we older writers have been doing since 2006. We allowed the MEGAs to guide us because they had the power, brains and resources and they said they would help us learn the new game. Right?


The Honey Badger Hustle

Kristen Lamb, pay the writer, creatives being exploited, media brands robbing writers, exposure dollars, make money writing

In my POV, making this simple, there are three options for writers who want to be PAID.

Option One: Refuse to Play

Some writers simply refuse to get on-line. They write books and have no want for social media, and that’s cool if you can write a book a month and simply bombard Amazon with so many books something eventually sticks (though without social media this is a tough way to get paid, but doable).

Option Two: Play Our Own Game

We build our brand. If we’re going to work for free then it will be for OUR BRAND. We build our brand any number of ways (my preference is the blog because no one can arbitrarily shut down your site). But whether it is videos, blogs, images, it is under OUR NAME.

We cultivate our own audience and eventually they will know us, hopefully like us and buy books and such.

Option Three: The Honey Badger Hustle

Kristen Lamb, pay the writer, creatives being exploited, media brands robbing writers, exposure dollars, make money writing

Option two can naturally dovetail into this. In fact, it is on my business plan. I hope more of you join us. The more honey badgers, the better for creatives. We must stop caring so much.

Trust the process. Build a brand, cultivate an audience and THEN approval and money eventually will come, but only if we are fearless and selfish. We must rabidly guard our dreams and HUSTLE.

Millennials inherently or accidentally understood that if they built it (the audience) the MEGAs would come…to THEM with MONEY.

We can learn from this. A lot of bloggers already have.

I know a mommy blogger who’s making $15,000 a month…off ADS ALONE.

Trust me, she started at ground zero and didn’t waste time or content on any MEGA to “launch” her. They pay HER to help THEM.

The Honey Badger Hustle is when we understand the hustle and use it to OUR advantage—out-hustle the hustler, so to speak. We still can write for MEGAs but in a symbiotic way. Everyone wins.

Now, I’m off to eat some snakes 😉 ….

In the End

We’ll unpack this grift more as we go along. This is a system over a decade in the making, and I can’t unravel it with one or two posts.

Yet, if you Honey Badger UP, learn to be fearless. You can be tough, but social media is NOT tough. Teenagers can figure it out. A toddler with an iPhone can do better than a lot of us.

I can help you. We are all worth being paid for what we do well and anyone shaming you for wanting to be paid is a user.

Honey badgers don’t care.

What are your thoughts? Have you been afraid of social media? Confused and thinking you were playing the old game and the old rules? Are you scared? It’s cool. Shows you are onto something. I am here. Haven’t abandoned y’all in eight years, so y’all are stuck with me.


What do you WIN? For the month of OCTOBER, for everyone who leaves a comment, I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

I hope you take the red pill, and I am here to guide you.

Social media is and should be super fun and that while you might need solid training, you DO NOT need a team of professionals paid a never ending stream of cash to “manage your brand”. You also DO NOT meed MEGAs to “launch you.”

I can train you what to do and how it all works. How you can create something where MEGAs come to YOU…

I have two upcoming classes Social Media FREEDOM–Harnessing Passion & Creativity to Cultivate Fans & Harnessing Our Writing POWER–The Blog

I highly recommend you sign up for one of our upcoming classes listed below, especially to properly prep for Nano.

Fail to plan, plan to fail 😉 .

****Note, those who subscribe by email, the visual gallery doesn’t show, so please click through and sign up! We look forward to seeing you and serving you in class! Helping you be the best you can so your work can stand apart 😀 .

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    • Cynthia on October 16, 2017 at 5:17 pm
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    Could you please explain what MEGAs are for someone just now stumbling across your blog?

    1. MEGA media brands (I.e. Huffington Post). Will add that in. Thanks!

  1. Love the honey badgers!

    I work with Millennials, and you are correct. They know their digital world. They make it work for them. And if it doesn’t? They find something else that does. Because to them, technology is second nature. And if there’s an issue, it’s clearly with the tech.

    My cynical old Gen-X self has a lot to learn from them.

  2. Honestly I couldn’t agree more with this. More and more writers are taking this route too. Getting even one book published used to seem like a dream, but then I finished my novel and started to look for publishers. All I found were rules to follow, boxes to jam myself into, and lots and lots of waiting, even if my book did get picked up. I’m a writer and I want to spend all my time writing, so that’s what I do now. I write, I build my brand, I self-publish. I enjoy every minute of it. : D


  3. I need a millennial to help me! (feeling older than dirt!) 🙂

    1. Fortunately I am a teenage boy trapped in a middle-aged woman 😀 . More posts to come. I would never leave y’all hanging *fist bump*

  4. Thanks so much for these posts Kristen as you’ve certainly given me a bit of a wake up call at the moment. Lately I’ve been sending some of my short stories into competitions because, yes, I believe it would help build my CV. I’ve spent years doing this already and have only been successful once (perhaps that’s why I persevere). One beta reader suggested I compile them and self-publish. I’ve been thinking of doing exactly that, but it’s fear that is preventing me from doing so. I think that by sending my work out to competitions, I’m still waiting for that ‘validation’ in order to run with self-publishing. That older way of thinking is a bit hard to shake!

  5. Kristen, Do you use CreateSpace? Did you get their email last Friday about doing away with their site stores, rolling into Amazon’s site totally, AND cutting our royalties from 80% to 60%. They are always out to get us. Darn their hides.

    1. Not on top of all that at the moment, but thanks for the heads up. I know that the stronger our brands, the more maneuverability we have to get around this nonsense.

    • Anna Erishkigal on October 16, 2017 at 7:18 pm
    • Reply

    I stopped playing the always-social-media / always-buying-ads game about a year ago when KU-2 came out and it became obvious we were all getting played. Everyone is making money off our hard work except for us. But my baseline (zero effort due to ‘branding’) sales is nothing to sneeze at, so it’s off to write that next book.

    1. There are new models coming out to get around all this I am exploring. But they only work if OUR BRAND is a ROCK and why I push a blog. On OUR SITE. OUR DOMAIN MUAH HA HA HA HA HA!

  6. Inspiring, as always! Thank you.

  7. Great post, as usual. And great of you to teach us all this!
    Speaking of generational learning: my two-year-old granddaughter sits playing with her mom’s iPad, knows how to find kid’s games, and has a gleam in her eye when looking at my computer keyboard. Our local schools will start teaching computer coding to kids in kindergarten.
    The honey badger video is priceless. Haven’t laughed so hard in a long time. Thanks!

  8. I love that honey badger video. Have it bookmarked for future giggles.

    When you said: ” inducing by fraud, pressure or deception, especially of inexperienced or uninformed persons to buy something or participate in an illicit scheme. It also means to fraud or to deceive.” I started adding mental ellipses…

    “inducing… pressure or deception, especially of inexperienced or uninformed persons… [to] participate…”

    And thought: That’s one hell of a dance. LOL Ah, those were the days. Loads of us klutzes, convinced that being awkward in a line together validated our Cool Factor.

    Quite the metaphor, there. And the young whippersnappers will be so confused.

    – shakes cane – Get off my lawn!

    1. Yeah I had to cobble the Urban dictionary together *sighs*.

  9. Great post, Kristen. I remember clearly the moment when I realized I didn’t have to wait for a gatekeeper to decide I was good enough while watching a Peter Hollens video and seeing the model he was pretty much pioneering with great success. Anything someone else can do, I can learn to do. I love that you are pushing us towards millenials and good business practices and helping people realize they’ve been working in the slavery business model. Hard to make money that way.

  10. Enjoyed the post. Looking forward to the next one in this series. Good information.

  11. I just used the honey badger as my heroine’s spirit animal, because they are fearless. I strive to be more like them, and develop a ‘don’t give a shit’ attitude. Thanks for the uplifting, entertaining, words of wisdom.

  12. This is such a relevant and needed post in today’s digital free-for-all of content abusers. I see so many websites advertising “jobs” for writers but all they’re really looking for is more fingers to type out clickbait. I had a friend that fell prey to one of these in the outdoor industry recently.

    For those of you that aren’t familiar, these websites post on EVERY JOB BOARD IMAGINABLE. The process is exactly like any other writing job except it moves at lightning speed (which, sure…maybe that should be a giveaway but in today’s digital world everything moves faster). Once you’re on board, they tell you how payment works: you get paid for views of your content. So, the more content you write, the more you get paid, and on the surface I guess that sounds reasonable (but afaik actual writing positions offer a monetary compensation, not pure commission). They’ll send out lists of categories they want you to write about and then you submit your work to your website.

    Then, it’s on you. They’ll post a select number of articles on their social media pages (usually those written by the proprietors) but the rest is your hustle. You sharing your work. You plugging and hustling away for dividends that are less than a fraction of a percent of what they’re bringing in from their advertisers. Meanwhile, you only receive that red cent when you’ve reached a minimum dollar amount, usually relatively high. My friend burned out on busting his ass for the platform before he ever got the paycheck.

    You may say here that as long as you write well you can rise to the top and make a lot of money (and I’m sure some people can and do, not negating your hustle) but for most of these platforms your completing against a hoard of writers all creating dozens of articles every week…AND if you ARE bringing in money, it represents a fraction of a percent of what the website is making because there’s basically no overheard. They don’t have to pay “employees” a salary so all they’re losing is that 1% of the income they’re handing over to you.

    Yes, it can build your platform, but Kristen is so 100% ON POINT. You can build your own. If you’re going to knock out thousands of words every week for little or no pay, make them your own.

    1. Thanks for the affirmation and I have ONLY begun to expose this nonsense. May I have your permission to quote this in a post? Would be happy to offer you a class or a page edit (if you need one) in return as compensation.

      1. Of course! You have my full permission to this. You’re welcome to it without compensation but I would never turn down a class.

        I look forward to seeing more of your thoughts and information on the topic!

  1. […] Amazon is pulling a grift with Kindle Unlimited and counting on the naivete of most readers and writers. Remember Kristen’s earlier post? The best hustles are completely legal. […]

  2. […] second was “Pay the WRITER 2—Out-Hustle the Hustlers”. Basically she explains how you can become fearless and work towards your brand instead of […]

  3. […] mentioned in my last post Pay the Writer 2–Out Hustle the Hustlers, the key (aside from realizing we’re being hustled in the first place) is to study the hustle […]

  4. […] Here’s a post that explains.  […] […]

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