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Monday, April 2, 2012

Indentured servitude at Houzz


So last week I was all set to announce my debut series for Houzz. I had been contacted a couple of weeks earlier by Annie Thorton, the website's Content Coordinator, about becoming a regular contributor with a weekly series. I was told Houzz was going in a new direction - more professional and less "weekend warrior." They were looking for more "informed" contributors, people who would offer something more than "10 French Country Kitchens to Love."

I submitted a private audition piece written as kick-off to a possible series about decorating trends. The editor was thrilled with it and it was to run last Thursday.

A freelance contract was emailed to me last Tuesday and I was shocked by its language. I would basically be an indentured writing servant. In its broadest interpretation, Houzz would own the content of this blog and any other writing I may publish. Needless to say, I declined the offer.

Imagine my surprise when today I received notice of a comment on my private audition. Not only had Houzz published it, but they significantly changed the copy. I deleted the copy and requested that Houzz wipe any trace of the audition Ideabook. I've just received notice that they obliged.

Let this post serve as a warning to any other bloggers who may be contacted to write for Houzz.

24 comments:

Annie Smith said...

Ewww, icky business ethics! Glad you dodged that bullet!

Kathy said...

Your sharing of this info is the good deed of the day....well done..k

Cathy Wall said...

Wow...that is ballsy! I agree with Kathy.... a good deed in sharing!

David said...

Not agreeing on a contract is one thing. It happens all the time. Changing your audition and publishing it is something else entirely.

So Houzz will remain something I know of but have never read.

Glamour Drops said...

A chilling reminder to carefully read every contract. Agree with Kathy - your sharing of this information is vital so others can avoid falling into such a ghastly outcome.

Naomi@DesignManifest said...

Oh man you are making me think of contracts I have signed recently and now I'm second guessing myself if I read them thoroughly enough.

Thanks for sharing.

wellfedfred said...

That's outrageous! Good for you, and thanks for the warning.

brismod said...

Now that is dodgy...good on you for sharing your experience. x

Tara Dillard said...

Have 5 published books.

One of the publishers, Sterling, not only wanted the ownership of my name they wanted the ownership of my content.

No kidding.

They agreed to everything my lawyer wanted.

Moral to the story. Publishers ask for the world. It's up to YOU to protect yourself.

And how many 'opportunities' have I turned down in the past several years to write for online 'namebrand' sites? Ha. Why waste my time? Their offers are more than a joke, they're insulting.

Those 'opportunities' don't even know how I make my money, or how much.

I design landscapes. For the past 30 years. The past 3 years have been the best of my career. No, I don't have to say 'yes' to CRAP offers from big name venues.

This doesn't even start the conversation on stupid advertising offers I get. Why ruin my website with their TRASH? I'm making money without them!!

Why insult my readers or waste their time?

Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

My Interior Life said...

Wow. Definitely a cautionary tale. Thanks, Raina, and good for you for taking control and denying them your content. Crazy.

smiffy said...

dayum, that is seriously messed up that they published your PRIVATE audition. Way to turn off the very group they are looking for: professional design bloggers. So stupid (and crappy) of them, imo.

smiffy said...

dayum, that is seriously messed up that they published your PRIVATE audition. Way to turn off the very group they are looking for: professional design bloggers. So stupid (and crappy) of them, imo.

Alcira Molina-Ali said...

Oh dear,

So sorry to hear of this mishap but relieved that you were clever enough to read through the fine print.
No one wants to be owned :(
On the bright side, surely a much more interesting and lucrative opportunity will sashay-chante your way soon.
Alcira

nerochronicles.com

Luna Landing said...

Way to go for you - and good to know a bit about what goes on. Big mistake on their behalf. Don't they know bad business ethics begets bad business karma? Most unimpressive. Again, good for you.

Matters of Style said...

Something tells me that Pinterest is the last nail
In houzz's coffin....

Margaret said...

Your honesty in naming who to avoid is greatly appreciated. Their loss was gained through stupidity, and I don't care for their, "Harry Homeowner" site, anyway. Last fall, I did photojournalism for a local magazine, "Our Town" in Metro DC, was featured, but WAS NEVER PAID, nor was I properly by-lined for my published works. I have a 2-year window to in which to sue for wages, so they're not off-the-hook for this. Hindsight, and foresight, are so much better.

Nick Klaus said...

It's almost like they don't realize that the internet is also a great way to share cautionary tales with thousands of people in a community of a shared interest.

Here's hoping they apologize because that's just not right.

ChrisToronto said...

Stand your ground, sister!

Jane Kilpatrick Schott said...

Good for you!

Erin said...

COMPLETELY unethical. Fuckers.

Jill said...

I've heard the same about The Food Network. They own you for life.

Modern Country Lady said...

Their loss, Raina.No-one should own you ever!

Designers' Brew said...

Assholes!

Linda {Calling it Home} said...

How about all the BS "awards" they give to bloggers so that it will sit on their sidebar and bring traffic back to them. Good for you.