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‘Tis The Season For Freelance Journalists

Over the past months Tim Buckley at Ctrl+Alt+Del has morphed his comic into a self-sustained community. He’s reinvented his site design, introduced animated shorts of his beloved characters and opened up CADMedia for reviews and previews of video games on all platforms. Up until now, however, it’s been all Tim, all the time.

This morning Buckley put out a broad call for writer applications to fill a staff working on CADMedia. The expectations for applicants are intimidating and he’s not calling it a volunteer position for nothing. The applicants can expect criticism, disagreements, deadlines, hard work and no pay. Sounds grueling you say? That sounds exactly like the life of your typical comic creator. We all work within our art form not for its rewards but because we don’t know how to live our lives without it.

The value of a well-written and honest review is immeasurable for readers. It’s not about typing up 300 words on what you like or don’t like. Journalists have to juggle their own personal opinions with useful, needful information and sometimes these two things clash with wild and spectacular production. We journalists tell you what we like and hopefully we tell you why, but we don’t always tell you if it’s any good. A good video game review will help someone turn over $49.99 of their money for something they’ll love, or pass it up until they can get it used for $12.99.  

Good luck to Tim in his search for the logophiles, the verbose and the poignant. For those who are brave enough to go through the application trial I have a few words of advice. Don’t let deadlines scare you, edit yourself religiously and remember that you are not bothering contacts when you call for information. They want to talk to you as much as you need to talk to them. Finally, at the risk of sounding embarrassingly clichéd, if you really enjoy your subject matter, the rest will come easy. Just write.

He should at least pick up the games for these kids. And I do mean kids. Taking a look at his forums, it looks like a majority of his fans don’t meet his age requirement of 18 years old.

It’s ridiculous that he’s going to be earning money from these reviews, running the ads on those pages and benefiting from the content and traffic, but not paying these kids.

For him to brag about all the tee shirts he sells, the car he just rebuilt and detailed, the Wacom Cintiq he purchased…and then pretend to not have the scratch to pick up the games for these kids…

It’s bullshit.

I call bullshit.

It’s new and we’ll see how it all rolls out. He may find the way to compensate his writers, he may not. If it becomes useful enough, and well read enough, no one will have to purchase anything, many items will be submitted for review.

I’ve worked freelance jobs where I’ve had to purchase tickets to my own events, eat at places to review, buy tickets to movies to review and I’ve worked for magazines that repayed everything. For most of my early freelancing years, building my portfolio was more important than the money, which came infrequently and in small amounts.

For people wanting to break into freelance writing, working at CADMedia is a good place to start. Chances are they’re buying the games they will review anyway.

So do you think Tim’s audition process will be harder than Fleen’s was?

wait, fleen has an audition process?

Fleen’s was pretty tough but the subject matter is a little broader. It’s not just reviews, there are discussions here, and ideas, and concerns. Being able to churn out the same type of writing on the same subject matter is so very hard.

I imagine the process will probably be in the same nature that Fleen’s was. Yes, the writing is important and yes, picking your topics is important, but I think our natures and characters were tested with a little more suspicion. Can we keep up a crazy updating schedle? Can we keep our subject fresh? How about communication? Will we lose interest after a week and quit? I think this will be the breaking point for Tim’s audition.

Writing can always improve if you’re willing to stick around.

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