Thank you, technology, for f—ing up my writing business

technology,writing business,20th century,scripts,scriptwriting,corporate videoHave you and your skillset been shafted by the miniaturization of media production costs?

Mine were, along with those of many thousands of colleagues whose value in soft skills got flushed down the toilet by the cost of hard skills and equipment coming down to little more than that of a Happy Meal with a small Coke.

Talk about careercurveballs (as I was invited to do by Dan Roth no less, executive editor of LinkedIn.) For me this was the curveball that gutted me right in the wallet of my scriptwriting business. Considering that at one zenith point in my career I had become the Grandma Moses of corporate video and business theatre circa late 20th century, thanks to cheapo new IT suddenly I was expected to write the same standard of scripts for the price of a chicken nugget.

Back in those gleeful days when the average spend on a broadcast quality corporate video in the UK was about £20K – £30K (USD $35K – $50Kish) for the script budget to account for 10 percent or so was viewed as reasonable, considering the amount of research, work, revisions, etc. required to produce the finished script. That meant that for me to charge £2,000 – £3,000 (USD $3,500 – $5,000) for researching, writing, editing, and sometimes directing the audio element of a script in post-production was fair enough.

Anyway, along came new technology

It pulverized entire film units and edit suites which previously had taken up whole buildings in London’s Soho … and reduced things to one nice young man with geeky glasses and a prominent Adam’s Apple shooting the whole thing on a camera smaller than a slice of toast and editing it on a laptop. Poor quality? Nope. Quality just as good as the elephantine machinery required to produce the same “broadcast standard” of a mere 10 or so years earlier.

And for 10 percent of the cost.

Given that our geeky friend can churn out a decent quality video for a couple of grand, what do you think happens when some idiot scriptwriter or graphic designer or director asks for a decent fee as if in the good old days?

Here, you can borrow my whoopee cushion.

Net result: business value of soft skills circles drain and enters sewer

I hope you’re shedding tears for us, er, grownup creatives by now. We shed quite a few tears about all this stuff, too.

Some of the older members of our “creatives” generation have either retired early to farm organic pigs or gone for total career changes and become anything from business coaches to bus drivers to Law Of Attraction gurus.

I have been lucky; being a business writer with a background of broad experience across most media I was able to refocus on areas where clients still want expert help and are prepared to pay sensible money for it.

In keeping with the DIY trend (and the meme “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em) a number of us also are now training non-professionals to do their own writing and even teaching them how to make their own videos properly – more or less.

blog,writing,news,blogging,business,Suzan St Maur,howtowritebetter.net,how to write betterBut sadly, the lovely, award winning “corporate videos” that cost thousands but motivated and inspired millions are a biz-artform of the past.

If you’re over the age of 40 (or even if you aren’t) … has the advancement of tinier, cheaper technology belittled your “soft skills” raison d’être, too? I would love to know, so please share.

This article first appeared on LinkedIn.

photo credit: “Caveman Chuck” Coker via photopin cc

Comments

comments

Thoughts

  1. It has!
    Years ago, any free ‘teach yourself German’ resources were usually absolute rubbish and therefore no danger of taking work away from me. Nowadays they get better and better and people can teach themselves quite nicely using these resources. I am now using this to my advantage. I encourage people to use these resources but I am there for them if they are stuck. That way I get those students who have no intentions to take lessons from a teacher, as they now know who to ask when they get stuck. And most do get stuck sometime!

  2. Those teach-yourself language products can’t be the same as the real thing though, surely, Angelika? They’re fine for people to learn vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation etc. but they can’t replace live, spontaneous conversation.

    Mind you, the one-way language learning approach does seem to have worked for a friend of mine’s son – an autistic boy who never spoke at all until he was 7 years old. One day he just started speaking English fluently, but with an American accent – yet they’re a British family living in England. It turned out that he had learned to speak by watching Sesame Street (US educational children’s series.) Because of his autism two-way communication was difficult for him but the one-way input worked. He’s 24 now and still speaks with a US accent.

    • I learnt some of my English with Sesame Street 🙂 but luckily minus the American accent.

      A lot of the online resources now also include interaction with native speakers – a bit like learning it on the street, I guess (haven’t tried it myself). And those people who want to use them, usually aren’t willing to pay for regular lessons anyway. Now a lot do come for lessons, once a month or whenever they feel the need – and they are easy to fit around regular clients – win win!

  3. Great that it’s working out OK for you, Angelika! I think the most important lesson this techno-revolution has taught us is to be very, very adaptable, and be flexible in the services we offer clients. Would you agree with that?

  4. Yes! Absolutely (had to add a few words to my original ‘yes’ as that wasn’t enough to be posted – this should suffice 😉 )

  5. Oh, Suzan, you nailed it!

    I could write a book about the number of times I have been told that I am too expensive. The other day a company wanted to hire me to create a social media presentation from scratch and in French. And do you know how much they were willing to pay me? 350 dollars for three hours. “You know, we don’t have that kind of money.” This wouldn’t even cover research time at all.

    When I started my career, I was a translator. Rates were around 16 cents a word for my language pair. Now? If you get 7 cents a word, you are lucky. It was just a little over 10 years ago!

    Now, my policy is simple. I had rather with one great client in one year than 10 who will bother me for every little thing.

    • It really is depressing, isn’t it, Cendrine? And particularly in the field of translation, where mechanized translations – e.g. Google translate – are laughable, the fact that technology seems to have knocked the perceived value of human translation skill down over the years, is just awful.

      I think your current policy is excellent..

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