Welcome to The Matrix: You Work for FREE & There IS No Payday
This post is for creative professionals (namely writers) who desire to make a living writing full time being paid real money. If you’re writing simply for fun or enjoyment or love, then that’s wonderful! But if you long to be paid to do what you love, then read on because you work for free and there IS NO PAYDAY.
Sorry to be the one to break the news. Nah, not really.
Today’s post is one of those crucial conversations we need to have because the creative world is at a crisis point.
While New Publishing has offered us a lot of new freedom, freedom is always scary and even dangerous. It’s especially scary for those of us who grew up in a pre-digital world.
So let me say this…
Millennials often get a bad rap. They’ve been called “the most selfish generation ever.” They’re enamored with social media and obsessed with personal brands. Surrounded by participation trophies and emojis, these young people have a developed a sense of bulletproof “specialness” that rivals Steve Jobs’ famous “reality distortion field.”
BTW…this is not entirely a bad thing 😉
By the end of this post, I hope you see how much we have to learn from this insane, passionate and yes, often “deluded” generation. How maybe, just maybe these crazy kids know a hell of a lot more than we do and why we’d be wise to take some lessons.
Since this is a longer post, I am breaking into clear sections. I feel breaking this into separate posts would hurt the overall integrity of the lesson. So read all at once or in segments. But I do hope you read it though since your future is at stake and no, I am not just being dramatic.
PART ONE: Birth Of a STAR (Web 2.0)—Yeah This MATTERS
Most of us older folks were around when Web 1.0 (the Dot Com Revolution) went up in flames—along with our hopes of getting a job (*Gen X fist bump*). Yet, Millennials were too young to understand the chaos, too busy playing Nintendo to notice that their parents suddenly took up drinking while they stared, weeping, at their investment portfolios.
Then an odd thing happened, an event completely and utterly unplanned.
From the liquified remains of Web 1.0’s decaying parts something stirred in the primordial ooze of 0s and 1s. It wriggled a bit then skittered up from beneath. By sheer accident, a creation unlike anything witnessed in human history was born. Web 2.0 poked its head up from beneath the debris and it had evolved.
Web 1.0 was fundamentally powered by PAID content. Web 2.0, however, was and continues to be powered by user-generated content (or UNPAID content).
This was a radical shift. Trust me, none of the dot.com investors were ever keen on the idea of anything being free. EVER. Like, how can we get stamps for email? They HATED free. Free couldn’t be controlled, measured and monetized. Free…was well FREE. Nobody gets rich with FREE? WTH?
The dreamers who envisioned the world they longed to build in Web 1.0 rejoiced at Web 2.0. Meanwhile those who were in the investing and making money business had more this reaction…
***And as a warning, I’ll be mixing metaphors more than a 90s DJ, but y’all are smart, so roll with it.
Anyway, to grasp what a HUGE deal this shift really was, think of it this way:
Web 1.0 was fossil fuels. Fossil fuels can be controlled, restricted and given a PRICE. This paradigm makes a small sector of people obscenely rich, and even more powerful.
Web 2.0, conversely, is more like fusion. Never ending energy and self-sustaining. Fusion, however, is impossible to control and a %$#@ to monetize. No business wants our cars or homes powered by fusion because we’d have all the power we needed…forever and they’d be irrelevant and broke.
Businesses don’t get rich unless they can control and monetize. Keep this in mind.
This, however, does NOT change the simple fact that Web 2.0 has the power of a star, or rather stars give it power 😉 .
Stars like our sun burn bright because of the constant fusion of two molecules of hydrogen that bond (share valences and electrons) to create helium. That bonding then releases energy in the form of light and heat. Sure one day the sun will burn out but that won’t be for a seriously long damn time.
Web 2.0 is powered in a similar fashion, though fusion is between people.
Users share valences, but instead of electrons, we share memes, pictures, videos, blogs, and gluten-free cherry cobbler recipes.
For instance, when one person shares a a funny meme, there is a reaction of energy (laughter) and this is then shared again–>setting off the reaction and constant energy that is the dynamic and powerful Web 2.0.
Without sharing of content, the energy would disappear much like a star winking out because it no longer had hydrogen (memes) to share.
This is a major reason why a lot of stuff needs to be shared for FREE. The more sharing, the more energy. If people had to pay a fee for every blog or picture they shared, they’d lose interest and likely rediscover a lost love for vinyl records and hanging out in mall food courts.
Initially this whole FREE was terrifying for the powerful and mega-rich who wanted to remain powerful and mega-rich. How could they keep and even increase their status and wealth in a world powered by FREE? Newspapers and magazine sales were plummeting and people were no longer paying attention to ads and commercials.
The RICH…they were suffering. This whole FREE thing threatened all they’d worked so hard to….wait a minute….
Never mind. Nothing to see.
PART TWO: YOU ARE A BATTERY
So how DID the mega-rich media brands (the MEGAs) talk us into making them even richer? They cooked up a business model that is pure (evil) genius and they did this by working together.
See, we all thought The Matrix was a movie *falls over laughing*. Nope. The MEGAs created their own Matrix and we (content creators) are the batteries.
Useful, necessary, disposable and easily replaced.
The entire MEGA business model hinges on content creators being ignorant because that’s how they can keep using us as a power source. The MEGA media brands needed content and the MEGA other brands (McDonald’s, GEIKO, Starbucks) needed to remain top of mind.
To accomplish this, though, they had to pull off a magic show that Criss Angel couldn’t pull off if he sewed himself to David Copperfield.
The MEGAs counted on basic human nostalgia and bet that we would hold on to outdated thinking of how success actually happens. If we did this, we’d make perfect and compliant batteries.
The MEGAs are counting on us working like it’s 1999, like we are in Web 1.0 (paid content) and not in Web 2.0 (unpaid content).
Batteries don’t work with near the gusto when they realize they’re being used up. How have the MEGAs been able to convince us to enslave ourselves? Same way as in The Matrix.
The MEGAs use our ignorance and fear of authentic freedom to keep us compliant. They manipulate the rules of how the world really works. How business and success works.
They feed us outdated advice we grew up on because that’s the world we know and that keeps us obedient.
We Need Exposure to Succeed—Wait….WHAT?
Back before Web 2.0 exposure was highly valuable. Writers could often get their start writing for free or nearly free for a small publication like a local paper. The point of taking the temporary monetary hit was that working for free was an investment in our future.
Exposure was a great idea. Why?
Because before Web 2.0 there was no other cost-effective way for the small fish to reach a large audience. Exposure gave us access to an audience we had NO OTHER WAY TO REACH.
With strict gatekeepers in play, we had to earn our stripes and build an impressive CV by working for free or close to free to get the paid work then the (ideally) BIG PAYING work. Can you say syndication?
Writers needed publishers, magazines and major media outlets for exposure, for the simple reason we had no other way to expose ourselves…that didn’t generally involve handcuffs, a hefty fine and court-ordered therapy.
Times have changed, yet many content creators haven’t realized this.
Gatekeepers are pretty much gone, everyone can be published, very few media outlets PAY, and exposure is a useless currency.
Yet many content creators still take it as payment. Why?
Because we are like the humans plugged into The Matrix, unaware what’s truly going on. We are operating as if we are in a world where a CV is vital, where some big brand is going to launch our careers and where all this exposure will eventually pay off.
The MEGAs saw what the Millennials saw. The MEGAs used (and continue to use) our ignorance to their massive advantage.
How? Hope you guys are ready to get unplugged. Expect some wobbly legs but you will be free.
The Red Pill or the Blue?
Today, I get to be Morpheus. The red pill or the blue? You can choose reality or the fiction of reality.
The MEGAs are counting on us a) remaining ignorant batteries who don’t understand how Web 2.0 really works or b) that we will swallow the blue pill and remain in Wonderland.
Wonderland is what we grew up with…that had no power to get big on our own and required the blessing of a MEGA if we hoped to make it BIG.
The blue pill reinforces that attention from a MEGA will catapult us into fame and fortune faster than you can say “Oprah’s Book of the Month.”
But that is no longer reality.
The Blue Pill World
We’re now in a world where the rich are getting richer by selling us (content creators) dreams and paying us in “exposure” dollars even though they know that currency is akin to paying us in Monopoly money.
The MEGAs know what Millennials knew all along. They SAW the door, too.
MEGAs know Web 2.0 works best when your brand can churn out great content. The more the better.
Unlike Web 1.0 where the content (I.e. an article) was the product for sale, now the content is merely the bait for paid advertising, products or services which is where the actual money is made.
The MEGAs are using our hard work, gifts and talent to make themselves richer and enhance THEIR brand at the expense of our dreams and futures.
The Matrix created by the MEGAs is NOT a symbiotic relationship. It is fundamentally parasitic. The MEGAs get stronger by using up compliant content creators paid in feel-goods and bragging rights.
Down the Rabbit Hole
What if we take the red pill though? What is really happening? What is going on?
If you’ve followed my blog long enough you know exactly what I feel about Huffington Post and the creator Arianna Huffington.
I’m using Huffington Post because *shrugs* it’s used writers for years. What? Seems only fair to me.
A.H. created Huffington to give unknowns a platform, where by some “exposure magic” writing entrepreneurs would eventually get paid writing jobs. Hey, maybe in the beginning that was the goal. Who knows?
Don’t care because the HuffPo goal, agenda, and business model shifted from symbiotic to parasitic faster than you can say CLICK FOR MORE!
See, Huffington Post figured out there were a lot of eager content creators dying to get their work out there and this presented a ripe business opportunity. With Web 2.0 Huffington Post knew it needed lots and lots of AMAZING content churned out everyday to make money…off ads and clicks.
But, like I said, this wasn’t 1999 and the money wasn’t in the actual content. #DUH
Consumers weren’t buying papers and magazines and were increasingly on-line looking for the same information. Why not give it for FREE?
The MEGAs saw this shift from paper to digital and knew people would gravitate to free. But therein lies the pickle. How can a MEGA brand increase profits?
Cut costs. What was the easiest cost to cut?
How did Huffington Post do this? They built a Matrix.
Give writers some prestige, tell them they are building their CV and their brands just like the good old days. String them along with the promise this free work and “exposure” would eventually lead to a true payoff…and BOOM!
I now present countless worker bees making the sweetest honey ever made—but they will die before ever tasting a single drop.
Huffington Post made hundreds of millions of dollars (and still does) without actually having to pay most of the contributors. This of course, created an even BIGGER problem for the content creators (many still unaware of what’s really going on).
Other MEGA media outlets couldn’t compete if they continued to pay all of their content contributors, which led to these guys embracing the “Exposure Dollar Business Model” and creating their own Matrix.
Thus, any “platform” writing for unpaid MEGA brand for exposure simply led to even more unpaid (or low paid) work for another MEGA for even more exposure….
Welcome to THE MATRIX!
But How Do They Get Away With It?
***NOTE: I have hyperlinked all my assertions to show I am basing my arguments on facts, yet be aware every click feeds the very beast I want to starve.
Over time content creators gave and gave and gave, but the payoff never seemed to come. That was a serious problem, which required some quick thinking to remedy. The MEGAs were faced with two options.
Option One: Pay the content creators.
Scratch that. What kind of nonsense-crazy- mumbo-jumbo-talk is that? NO!
Option Two: Appeal to emotions.
Creative people dig emotions. Use words like “self-fulfillment” “giving” “contributing” “better world” and they’ll totally buy it.
Seriously, watch *giggles*. It works. Look at ’em GO!
I cannot make this stuff up.
Arianna Huffington, in an interview on Forbes encouraged entrepreneurs to focus less on money and power and more on giving and personal fulfillment. This interview was ironically right around the time she sold Huffington Post to AoL for $315 million.
I’m uncertain what dictionary A.H. used for her definition of “entrepreneur” but my definition of “entrepreneur” says nothing about yoga and also claims money and power are a pretty big deal.
Yep, looked up business plans and no diagrams of downward-facing-dog.
A.H. goes on in the interview to basically claim that lack of money and power is not our problem…stress is. We don’t need more money, we need meditation, a balanced meaningful life and more sleep.
Don’t know about you but give me more money and empower me and magically stress goes away. I also sleep way better when I’m not terrified of losing my home.
A.H. also continues to be paid big bucks to give lectures about liberating ourselves from desiring money and power and instead “embracing the third metric.”
…which just leaves me feeling dirty and used. #TouchIt #TouchTheThirdMetric
As mentioned Arianna Huffington sold Huffington Post to AoL for $315 million. Granted Business Insider rallied to her defense that she only made $21 million since a lot of other people (MEGAs) got a piece of the pie.
I feel so much better now t—NO! I don’t. Because of statement like this:
Aren’t you ready to unplug? I sure am!
PART THREE: Collapsing The Matrix—Just Say “NOPE!”
My goal is and always has been to empower authors (creative professionals) and show you that you are valuable and worthwhile.
I’m here to show you the door and help you unplug from the MEGAs that are using you up faster than a Dollar Store battery.
To do this, we’re going to inject you with a BS antidote. This might sting. I’m vaccinating you with a little Business 101.
This is how it all REALLY works.
Content Creators Eagerly Work For Exposure Dollars to Build MEGA BRANDS—> MEGA BRANDS Make MEGA Profits
Content Creators Work for Actual Dollars to Build MEGA BRANDS—> MEGA BRANDS Make WAY LOWER Profits
Content Creators Fed Up Being USED Tell MEGA BRANDS to Embrace Their Own Third Metric—> MEGA BRANDS Forced to Pay Content Creators or Write/Create Their Own $#!*
Content Creators Realize THEY ARE & HAVE ALWAYS BEEN the Brand & Do NOT NEED the MEGA BRAND—> Content Creators Finally Making REAL Money and Living a DREAM NOT an ILLUSION Because MEGAs NOW NEED THEM & PAY THEM
The revenue stream in the digital age is the pay per click, the ads, the products or services for sale. While this isn’t at all bad, why don’t we start doing some of this for ourselves?
I mean, if we’re going to invest months or years creating content for free, shouldn’t it pay off eventually for US?
Just leaving that there….
TRUTH: We don’t NEED the MEGAs. They NEED US.
Arianna Huffington at one point (no date listed on article) was making $2,330,000 per month off Huffington.
Off the blogs she personally crafted.
BWA HA HA HA HA!!!! #Kidding
The blog and brand (Huffington) makes the money and then proudly proclaims that writers working for free forever is “authenticity.”
Sadly this is more and more common. I blogged last year about Revolva and how Oprah’s conference paid in exposure dollars while not even offering so much as parking money for the performers. Exposure is impacting a lot of creatives, like the UK baker who refused to bake a FREE cake for the X Factor in exchange for “exposure.”
Pretty sure Simon Cowell isn’t paid in exposure dollars, and one would think a show as popular as X Factor would have a budget that accounts for expenses like…paying bakers for their cakes.
The thing is this. A lot of BIG BRANDS think like a business and work hard to plug us into their Matrix to increase profits.
This way we will sing, dance, write, bake cakes and on and on and on and all for free, while we take the third metric up the keister and claim it was fun!
Meanwhile, the MEGAs laugh all the way to the bank.
To be clear…
I WANT the MEGAs to make money!
I want us ALL to make money!
We can HELP each other and that is actually happening…as in now. Go look on YouTube.
I have zero issue with us all walking away happy and well PAID. GIMME MO!
I DO, however, have a MAJOR issue with MEGAs making billions off using us, then shaming us for wanting to be paid in real money just like they are.
We can be business partners, but partners in a mutually beneficial relationship. To do this? UNPLUG! Start valuing and building OUR brand.
Remember I told you Millennials were crazy smart?
The GREAT NEWS…
We have the ability to unplug and to tell any parasitic MEGAs they need to pay their power bill or they are CUT OFF!
Embrace “Special Snowflake” Thinking
Thank you you crazy-deluded-fearless-special-often-annoying-but-awesome-Millennials! It would figure your childlike enthusiasm, passion and raw fearlessness would give us the answer.
Don’t get crazy, though. Y’all aren’t the first special snowflakes to exist 😛 . *smooch*
Every MEGA in history started out with special snowflake thinking. It was their “reality distortion fields” that gave them their dreams and their drive that changed the world. This “specialness” fueled the will and passion to keep going no matter the pushback.
The MEGAs can still thrive, but how they continue to do business from here is up to US. Red pill or blue? Parasitic or symbiotic? What are you WORTH?
Web 2.0 does involve a lot of FREE but it works BEST when people come together in mutually beneficial ways. For instance famous YouTuber Lilly Singh a.k.a. IISuperwomanII gets to do what she was born to DO. What she LOVES!
The more she does what she loves, the better she gets at it. The more she improves, the larger her audience. The larger her audience, the more big brands want to be part of her world (and PAY HER to reach HER audience).
My new favorite book is The Power of Broke by Daymond John (known as The People’s Shark). Part of why I like it so much is he preaches a lot of what I’ve been hammering into writers since MySpace had a pulse.
WE ARE THE BRAND. YOU…YES YOU ARE THE BRAND.
The book I mentioned is a must read for writers. We need to value what we do and learn to think like a business.
Trust me, anyone who set foot on the set of Shark Tank and promised to pay in “exposure” and “warm feelings” would be laughed off the stage. That isn’t business. Don’t know what it is, but know it is NOT business.
Daymond’s book is filled with examples of entrepreneurs bootstrapping from nothing and using grit, imagination and creativity to eventually MAKE MONEY.
He highlights highly successful entrepreneurs of all ages and backgrounds to make his point (many who are in creative fields). His core concept, however, is the same one I’ve been preaching to writers for years.
The path to success is VASTLY different in the 21st century and buying into outdated ideas costs us BIG.
Millennials always understood they didn’t need MEGA brands to launch them. They always knew they were stars *hair flip*. They believed they just needed to build enough pressure to ignite and shine!
They didn’t use angel investors or banks or the idea of riding on MEGA coattails.
They used what they had on hand. Technology, social media, creativity and their insatiable desire to connect and share with passion and enthusiasm. Millennials grasped that if they kept at it, learned, grew, failed, retooled, and kept pushing in their relentless, fearless, and often annoying way…it could and would pay off.
If they created content people loved sharing…eventually MEGAs would come to THEM and PAY THEM.
Same with you guys! Too many writers are terrified of social media or blogging. Too many of you believe you need the magic feather of the MEGA, or a major marketing budget or lots of ads to make money. You aren’t a “real” writer without some MEGA stamp of approval.
You’re strung out, depressed and can’t get out of bed, not because you need meditation…you need money. And that is OKAY. Ignore the Matrix.
Really. It’s a scam. Just walk away.
Yes, it is scary, there is a learning curve and you’ll probably fail…a lot. But in the end? Don’t know about y’all, but I prefer authentic failure over fake success.
What about you? What are your thoughts?
I LOVE HEARING FROM YOU! And I am NOT above BRIBERY!
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 😀 .