On Writing: FREELANCE DOES NOT MEAN FREE

I don’t like to get angry on this blog. You guys generally don’t come here for rants; you come here for bright colours and a positive, upbeat attitude. But even the sparkliest unicorn gets severely pissed off on occasion, and today is one of those occasions. So prepare yourself for a Very Ranty Edition of…
onwriting

There is nothing, and I do mean NOTHING, that makes me angrier than big companies that ask me to work for free.

I recently had a very popular men’s grooming company contact me to see if I’d make a two-minute “viral” video to promote their product. When I asked them what they were willing to pay me to write, film, shoot and post-produce this ad for them–because let’s not get it twisted, they were asking me to make a commercial–I was informed that I would be doing this “to generate conversation with my readers” and “for exposure.” In other words, I would giving them my ideas, likeness and hours of time and effort FOR THE PRICE OF FREE.

A quick google search told me that this company has nineteen million dollars worth of venture capital funding, and has begun expanding into overseas markets. They’ve been able to do all of this partially because of their clever internet-based advertising. And yet they don’t want to pay the people who create said advertising.

This is MESSED UP, and it’s just one example. I get these requests all the time. I got a great one just yesterday–making playlists of beauty videos for a content aggregator, unpaid of course, because it’s “my passion.”

No. No no no no no no. Hard pass forever.

People who do creative stuff for a living still need to make a living. Writing, photography, making videos, community building–these are all skills that I’ve worked long and hard to acquire. Work that you love is still work. I LOVE to write, but it’s hard and it takes up a lot of time and not everyone can do it. I am not automatically delighted when a company deigns to notice that I’m good at it–so good at it, in fact, that it would be an INSULT to pay me. As if writers live in a magical kingdom where rent is free, medical bills don’t exist and stuff like food just appears.

I don’t live on the goddamned Starship Enterprise. I live on Earth, and last I checked “exposure” isn’t legal fucking tender.

I am really, really sick of my skills being devalued to the point where companies are legitimately SHOCKED when I ask to be paid. Because how dare I, right? Shouldn’t the honour of writing 800 words for their site’s blog and “whipping up” some original pictures be enough for me? No, and do you know why? Because producing branded copy is not a passion project for me. It’s a potential income stream.

I am a freelancer, and the only money that I get is money that I earn. My time, my voice, my skills and my image are all that I have, and if companies want to use those things and capitalise on the career that I have worked really hard to create, then they will pay me accordingly.

Because that’s the thing: I am valuable, and so are you. Our skills, creative as they are, unique as they are, are valuable. Don’t let big companies turn around and say that they’ll DEIGN to let us work for them and make them more money, so long as we realise that our contributions are literally worthless.

That is offensive bullshit that you must not stand for or fall for.

When you’re just starting out and you don’t have much work to your name, you may need to work for free or for not a whole tonne of money per story. This is to demonstrate that you CAN do what you say you can do, that you can meet your deadlines and that you can work well with editors. It’s like a professional internship or apprenticeship, but those don’t last forever. As a full-time professional, you may choose to donate your time and skills to new publications, causes you feel passionately about, small companies, schools and charities–but there is NO reason not to get money from big companies for work that you do. Zero. None.

And here’s the thing: I know it’s rough out there. I get that budgets are limited. But companies, businesses and brands, if you’re reading this? You need to make room in those budgets to pay the people who are going to make your projects go. You pay the developers who create them. You pay the PR people who email me and try to get me involved. If you told those people that you were going to “let” them work for no money because “it’s their passion,” they would quit so fast your heads would spin. Don’t expect me, or any other freelancer, to do any differently.

And freelancers: don’t fall for this trick. Your time and skills and voice are valuable, and you deserve to be compensated for them.

The end.

No BS Beauty! Episode 4: SKINCARE

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Today’s question comes from Mandi, who says:

i have a question for you! i am unfortunately getting older, and i feel like i need to really kick it into gear with my anti-wrinkle regimen. any products that i should be using for fine lines around/under my eyes and laugh lines?

Okay! This is a fantastic question, and one for which I have a long answer. The first thing I am going to say is that everyone should take care of their skin. It’s the largest organ in (or rather on) your body, and obvs you want your organs to be as healthy and functional as possible for a long, long time.

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THAT SAID, there is so much bullshit out there about skincare, it is ridiculous. It’s like cosmetic companies are competing to see which can tell us the biggest lies and still have people fall for it. This product will reverse the aging process! This product will erase your wrinkles! This one will make you invisible! This one will allow you to fly! This one is actual magic that we distilled from the tears of a unicorn!

Cosmetics companies will promise you anything in order to get you to buy the skincare stuff they are selling, and literally nothing they are saying is true. Here are the only legit claims any kind of cream, gel or potion can make:

  • That it moisturises your skin.
  • That it has sunscreen in it.
  • That it has certain ingredients in it that have been shown to help with acne.
  • That it has an ingredient that will exfoliate your skin.

If a product says anything other than that–like that it will fade acne marks, or get rid of sunspots, or shrink your pores, or get rid of wrinkles, or banish your undereye circles–it is lying to you. If that shit could be done by something you buy at Sephora, plastic surgeons and cosmetic dermatologists would be out of business.

So let’s talk a little bit about skin and how it works so that everyone understands what a massive, massive crock of crap 99% of skincare advertising is.

There are very strict rules about what cosmetic companies are and are not allowed to say about their products. This is why you’ll hear ads say things like “Reduces THE LOOK of fine lines and wrinkles” instead of “Reduces fine lines and wrinkles.” The former is doing some selective truth-telling whereas the latter is straight up lying, and there are penalties for that. Lancome was smacked down by the FDA in 2012 after advertising that one of it’s expensive magical potions would “Boost the activity of genes” and “Stimulate stem cell regeneration.” Those are the kind of claims that only drugs can make, because drugs are tested like crazy to be sure that they work. Face creams don’t have to meet those kind of standards, so they can claim they do anything, even if what they’re claiming is impossible. And changing the composition of your skin–ie, getting rid of wrinkles, making you look younger, getting rid of dark circles–are all impossible claims.

Now let’s get to why.

Your skin, as I mentioned, is the biggest organ you have. The top layer of it is designed to protect you from infection and stop you from losing too much water. That’s it. It does not care what it looks like, just like your heart doesn’t care if it’s a perfect size six with flowing golden hair and blue-green eyes like a Wakefield twin. Not having wrinkles is not your skin’s job. If you told it that it is, it would be all “Come the fuck on, I’m making sure you don’t get avian flu from the ATM at Target. You think I’m going to change how I work so that you can be prettier? I HAVE OTHER PRIORITIES.”

Skin is not very permeable, which means that most things can’t get past it. It’s whole reason for existing is to be a roadblock, not a fishing net. So all those cool graphics you see of magical creams penetrating to the deepest layers of your skin? Bullshit. At best, those creams moisturise the very top layer of your epidermis, which is made of dead skin cells and sloughs off in about 27 days. If there truly was a cream that could penetrate allllllll the way down to your dermis and change the way your skin works–like to “increase collagen production” or “undo sun damage”–it would be considered a drug by the FDA. You would need a prescription to get it and it would probably cost a million dollars. You would not be able to buy it at Walgreens.

You can’t magically reverse most of the damage that you do to your organs, you can only do things to prevent it. The only way you can fix them once they’re fucked up is with surgery. There is no miracle cream you can rub on your liver that will undo 30 years of alcohol abuse, there’s only a liver transplant. Likewise, you can’t lie in tanning booths and then slather on a nightcream and undo all the sunspots and wrinkles those choices have gotten you. You can only go to a cosmetic surgeon for resurfacing or lasers or whatever that terrifying scar removal procedure was in The Craft. (You’ll probably have to pray to some weird god to make that last one work, though)

Of course, we’re all going to die eventually, and when we do it’ll matter very little whether we had laugh lines or not. If you treat your body (and your skin) well, you’ll look and feel better at 80 than someone who eats pizza every night and washes their face in the cheese grease. But eventually both of those people will be dead. All the sunscreen in the world won’t change the fact that humans are mortal.

Mandi’s question deals specifically with wrinkles, specifically, what can we as ladies who are no longer teenagers but not yet middle aged do about them? As you’ve probably guessed, the Official No BS Beauty answer is: not a lot. Your skin really doesn’t give a shit if it gets wrinkled or scarred; it has a JOB to do. All you can do is be kind to your skin and trust that in 40 years, you–the person who has taken care of themself–will look better than the person who washes their face in cheese grease.

No matter what you do, at some point in your life you’re gonna get wrinkles. But let’s be proactive about it. If you don’t have lines yet, let’s work on delaying the ones you will eventually get. If you have a couple, let’s work on not getting more. And there’s no such thing as too late; the best time to start doing this stuff is today!

Here is how you can be kind to your skin at any age:

  • Don’t sleep in your makeup. Human skin is home to millions of bacteria from thousands of species. Most of them are friendly, but some of them are not, and tipping that balance can contribute to acne, rosacea and psoriasis. Bacteria likes to grow in a warm, dark, moist environment where there’s lots of stuff for it to eat, ie: your face at night covered in makeup. Yuck. Doctors wash their hands; you gotta wash your face. Take that shit off.
  • Wash your face. Use something gentle. I really like this stuff Burt’s Bees makes, but I also use CeraVe and that’s awesome. Don’t waste your money on stuff that promises to anti-age or de-scar you or whatever, because that is lie-telling. I wash my face in the morning and again in the evening after I work out. Toner isn’t necessary, so don’t waste your money on it unless you really like the smell.
  • Don’t get too wacky with acne products. Repeat after me: spot treat, don’t scorch the earth. I get zits to this day and the only thing that gets rid of them is time and a little dab of 2.5% benzoyl peroxide cream. Put it on the spot, don’t rub it all over your face; it will irritate the shit out of the rest of your skin. And unless a dermatologist tells you to, don’t buy the 10% benzoyl stuff. It won’t heal things any faster, it will only make you drier and flakier.
  • Exfoliate. You can buy exfoliation creams, or you can get one of those crazy expensive Clairsonic things if you want. I put a bit of cleanser on a washcloth and exfoliate it GRANDMA STYLE twice a week. Be gentle with this. If you get too crazy with it–by this I mean attacking your skin with a pumice stone or something–you’ll end up looking like Samantha Jones: Beekeeper.samantha_chemical_peel
  • Use sunscreen. Yes, even if it’s cloudy. Yes, even if it’s cold. Just do it. I come from Australia and we know that skin cancer is no joke. Plus, ultraviolet rays cause wrinkles and other signs of premature aging. The Mayo Clinic says so.
  • Don’t go tanning. And also, Don’t bleach your skin. Whatever colour your skin is naturally, it’s perfect. Don’t fuck around and burn/bleach it it so that it’s a different shade. It is TERRIBLE FOR YOU.
  • Moisturise. When you’re done taking off your makeup and washing your face, pat it dry with a clean towel and put on some moisturiser. I like this from Burt’s Bees and this from Say Yes to Carrots, which also has SPF in it. Lately my skin has been really irritated and bitchy because of the weather, so I put a few drops of Argan oil on my face at night and it’s THE BEST. I wake up and my skin looks happy, feels really nice and doesn’t get dry & flaky OR too oily. Right now I’m using the Josie Maran stuff because it doesn’t smell (I hate smells), but that is expensive. You can get Argan oil for cheaper at Whole Foods or by looking around on Amazon, though. Read the reviews and make sure it’s not a smelly brand, though.
  • Don’t eat too much shit. I know science disproved the whole chocolate-gives-you-zits thing in the 90s. But when I eat tonnes of crappy food, my skin starts looking really crappy too. Eat more fruits, veggies and protein, don’t be scared of fats (you need them!) and stay away from too much processed stuff.
  • Get enough sleep. I need eight hours, maybe you need less (or more). Get the amount that you need. When I get less, my skin is waaaaay dull looking, as well as more prone to breakouts. Sleep is good for your skin and good for the rest of your life.
  • Don’t smoke. It’s bad for your insides and bad for your outsides.
  • Stay away from meth. Self-explanatory.

This is just a rough guide for skincare, not a sure thing. Hormones can change how your skin looks (especially when it comes to acne) and genetics play a giant role in how you look as you age. Which means you could do all this stuff and still get a whole tonne of wrinkles. You’re gonna end up with wrinkles no matter what happens–that’s just what happens to skin as it ages–and so you can either say “Fuck it, these are the badges of a life well lived” or spend your dollars on plastic surgery (or cosmetic dermatology, or whatever it’s called). I am all for plastic surgery if it makes you happy and you can afford it, but probably don’t take out a bunch of loans to “fix” your laugh lines when you’re 30, you know? And honestly, I’d rather spend a few thousand dollars to get guaranteed results in a doctor’s office than waste my money on creams that promise miracles and don’t deliver.

There is literally NO REASON to spend hundreds of dollars on a tiny jar of La Mer or similar. It’s not magic. It’s not actual Polyjuice Potion. It will make no difference to your face or your life, except to eventually make you feel like a dummy for wasting your money.

How about you guys? What’s your skincare routine? Do you have any products that you love/hate? Let me know in the comments or on twitter!

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