Bloggers’ dilemma: how to get health plan, pay?

tn_money_tree5.jpg Blogging is supposed to be a conversation, right? So perhaps I stumbled, mouth-first, into a topic that concerns all who write regularly for what. . .  the glory, the exposure, the mission, call it whatever so long as we agree that, for the time being, we don’t write for pay.

Of course that isn’t by choice since none of the bloggers I’ve ever encountered, on- or off-line, are indpendently wealthy. In fact whenever two or three of us gather in one place the conversation turns to getting paid, or getting a health plan (good luck if you’re self-employed!).

Health coverage was an issue that came up when I met search industry consultant Greg (Screenwerk) Sterling for coffee one morning at my favorite locally-owned watering hole. Greg subsequently sent me a link to a discussion on TechCrunch about efforts to unionize bloggers.

I referenced that article in a subsequent posting that advanced my own long-held belief that producer cooperatives, like those created by farmers a century ago, were the best economic unit for disaggregated freelancers – which is how corporate media and Internet starups view us when they talk about “user-generated content.”

One reference in that posting – that bloggers and freelancers could begin to increase their bargaining power simply by listing how much they get paid – elicted this comment from media blogger Howard Owens:

“If freelancers in the US started posting their pay rates, wouldn’t that run afoul of anti-trust laws?”

Poynter commentator Tish Grier wrote two lengthy and instructive comments that I want to excerpt and highlight here, lest her remarks be overlooked:

“One of the things that bloggers can do to help and support one another is to not give free content (as in blog posts or short articles) to mulit-million dollar publishing concerns. Recently, I’ve been approached by a number of outlets asking me to ‘contribute’ something to their online efforts in exchange for ‘traffic’–which is kind of like when old small presses would pay in copies. Often, these concerns also ask for all rights on the free content, that can also be re-published whenever they want . . .

“Actually, it’s easier to find info on freelancer rates than on problogger rates. The ASJA and several writers’ unions offer services that help track freelance rates, as a way of making sure all writers aren’t getting low-balled for their work . . . With bloggers, however, it’s difficult to figure out what the correct, or what a reasonable, rate should be. Problogger lists a number of blogging jobs, with varying rates. One I looked at offered $100 a month for 3 posts a week. Marshall Kirkpatrick blogged today about introducing bloggers he knows to businesses that are looking for bloggers. And suggested that probloggers be paid between $5K and $8K a month . . .”

There’s a bit more from Tish in the comments section of my Unite Differently post but I thought these the most generally useful nuggets. If you have more money-making tips or tricks, please do share and I’ll recirculate them as best I can.