For some of the creative writing classes I teach—thankfully, not all—I’m paid according to the number of students who enroll. Each student pays a very modest amount, so a small class means small remuneration for me.
After recently teaching six students at an arts center, I screwed up my courage and told the personable program coordinator I wouldn’t be able to offer my services there again.
“It simply doesn’t pay enough,” I said.
“How about offering a free seminar to the public so more people can learn of the class? Some of them might enroll,” she suggested.
To boost enrollment at a couple of places where I teach, I twice (make that three or more times) offered talks about creative writing. I put in extra time coaching my students so they could read from their own very fine work. The audiences sighed and clapped and laughed at all the right moments during the programs.
Afterwards, we held receptions and served coffee, tea, and pastries. Often I bought or baked the goodies myself.
Guess what? Few people who attended the talks ever took a class. One time, several people just wandered into the room and sidled straight up to the cookies.
No more freebies for me.
Since then, I’ve made it a point to seek (and get) teaching jobs that pay a flat fee.
But that can be tricky, too.
Recently I had an opportunity to submit proposals to teach several writing classes at a community education program where I’d always longed to teach. Then I learned they would pay $22.00 per teaching hour. Nothing for preparation. Nothing for the 30 minutes after each class answering questions from students too shy to ask during the class. What about the emails from students between classes?
So, I had to learn to demand not only a flat fee, but a decent one.
Writers are mostly paid peanuts, considering our formal education, and post college training and experience. (I won’t even go into our years of blood, sweat, and tears.) Most of us have written for free many, many times. We even guest post on one another’s blogs—for free. But, at least that’s usually reciprocal.
No more ridiculously low-paying teaching gigs for me. Well, except for two classes I’ve had for years and love.
How about you? Do you teach writing for pennies? Are you fed up with writing for free? Have you got a plan?