A handful of years ago I had a gig writing for Fast Company. Part of their “Labs” division. I call it a gig, because I was supposed to be paid per article. I never got paid. That’s partly my fault. I never took the time to understand how to use their system to get payment for an article. I love writing. I’ve made writing software. I write for the fun and challenge of organizing my weird ideas and the stories I find into something that’s interesting to share with the public. I was happy to do it for free. (I’ll get back to this.)
The assignment for Fast Company was to write about my experiences running companies and making products. I think I did well. My editor was happy. The articles appeared to receive traffic. Twitter accounts were happy to spread them.
But then Fast Company quit their Labs project. I don’t know the internals of the decision or how many people it affected. My editor had moved on or been let go. His boss, who was the original person who invited me, moved on.
Despite a referral from him to an editor still at Fast Company, I just kept getting blown off. Emails ignored. Drafts not read. Persona non grata. Relationship dead.
You can still find some, maybe all of my articles using Google. But my profile is a 404 page now.
Don’t get me wrong. Fast Company can make whatever decisions they want. I’m not bitter about not being able to write there any longer. Though they could be a bit better about communicating with me.
But the real takeaway from this is how little loyalty these folks have to helping me grow my audience and creating long lasting places for my thoughts to live.
I admit it’s a tad cynical.
But I see so much time spent by myself and others giving away our thoughts and words and creativity to build up the Fast Companies for nothing. Not even payment.
So I’ve put an end to spending time actively pursuing outside publications.
A huge reason I started a daily vlog, was simply because I decided to spend this new found time on a channel where I have more control instead of trying to fit inside someone else’s content schedule. And since I kept seeing video eating up attention everywhere, it made sense to figure out what YouTube was all about.
This isn’t just a lesson about video and vlogging. It’s about ownership of your ideas, and time spent on building your own audience.
If I were asked by a publication to work with them, I’m by all means open to it, but I’d make sure they didn’t have exclusive rights to my content or payment for the work was very clearly established.
The time I’ve gained back has been equally useful to step up my writing schedule on places where I have much more control like my Medium account and Signal v. Noise where I can publish freely and frequently.
Now don’t get me wrong. I realize I still am not fully in control over YouTube or Medium. I could find myself shut out of those audiences simply from a change in business strategy or mood. But at least I’m closer to being the gatekeeper of my work there.
And I’m not preaching you drop your desire to publish in someone else’s publication. But go in with open eyes. And realize your best interest to keep some permanence of your audience and ideas is still best served by you. Knowing that, you might just determine your time is better spent somewhere else too.
P.S. If you enjoyed this article, please help spread it by clicking that ❤ below. And if you are interested in more, you should follow my YouTube channel, where I share more about how history, psychology, and science can help us come up with better ideas and start businesses. And if you need a simple system to track leads and follow-ups you should give Highrise a look.