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My open application letter to ElephantJournal’s “Apprentice Certificate Training Program”

Money Money Money
Money Money Money
(Image from jdurham via morgueFile http://mrg.bz/fhzsZy)

As a writer, I’m used to seeing any number of publications who offer “exposure only” for work.  While that may not seem like a good deal to most – it doesn’t pay for groceries or the mortgage, unless it’s the kind of exposure that comes along with tips in dollar bills – sometimes it’s worth it for an author, especially if they’re trying to get their name out there or if it’s for a good cause.

I, however, generally prefer to get paid for my work, like most normal people I know.  If you (rule number 6) prefer to not get paid, and, instead, you very (rule number 6 times 2!) much enjoy paying someone else for the privilege of working, then I think I’ve found your place in the world.

Let me start at the beginning.

First, what an apprentice is.  As per the Merriam-Webster dictionary, an apprentice is “a person who learns a job or skill by working for a fixed period of time for someone who is very good at that job or skill.”  Makes sense.  Always good to learn by doing, right?  As a teacher, I know that practice makes perfect when it comes to a lot of things, and that includes writing.  So a writing apprentice program makes a whole lot of sense.

Second, the apprentice program I found listed on ElephantJournal’s page.  You see, they are willing to let you apply to be an apprentice in their program.  In return for a potentially non-refundable (it’s at their discretion, rule number 10) $100, you are allowed to find them pictures, post articles, use social media, write weekly blog posts, work for 10 to 15 hours a week, and attend non-optional training twice a week (rules numbers 1 through 7).  They fully admit that they probably won’t hire you on at the end (number 8) and they will “fire” you (rule number 6) because you’re not productive enough (rule number 9).

Yes, you read all that right.  You pay them, and then they decide if they like you.

So I have a counter-offer for them.  I want one of their yogis to come offer me free yoga lessons twice a week.  But before they can start teaching me yoga, they have to pony up $100 to me.  If I decide that I don’t like the lessons, I can fire them and keep their cash.  If they get sick and miss, I keep their cash.  And, at the end, if I decide they’ve done a great job, I’ll return their money, but I won’t hire them or ever pay them for all their hard work.

Sounds like a fair deal to me!

Writers, remember the rule: money flows *to* the author.  Paying for the privilege of working for someone else doesn’t sound like a good deal to me.  (And I’m saying this as someone who had done a writing apprentice program before…and I got paid for doing so!)