Tell me, if you were a freelance writer, what would you like to be paid for the following job?
(Note: this ad has been copied directly from the website, so any spelling or grammatical errors are that of the advertiser).
This is a bit of and odd one, but I’m hoping to reach someone out there who’s looking to earn a little extra side money as a ghost writer / article writer.
To be more specific:
– I will provide the topic, the sub headings and references for you
– You will then use that research and turn it into your own words
– I am looking for articles about 5 pages long (approx 2500 words)
And that’s pretty much it!
I require your English to be top notch, so native English speakers would probably be more ideal. I would also like each article in about a week.
I mainly focus on health and wellness, so example articles would include detoxing, weight loss etc. But, as I said, I will provide all of the research so you don’t need to know anything about it!
I could outsource this work overseas for much cheaper, but thought I would look local first incase anyone would like to earn a little money from home.
Pay is $___ upon completion of a 2500ish word article.
Scope is there to do as many articles per week as you like
I hope this ad has reached someone looking for a little extra money, and if that’s you – I can’t wait to hear from you!
By the way, this ad is about 250 words.. so 2500 is not that many 🙂
Got a figure in mind? Good. I’ll tell you what you can expect a little later on.
In the meantime, know that this ad is typical of the many that I come across in my freelance writing profession.
On the surface, working freelance may seem to be the dream job — and in many ways, it is. You can work the hours you choose. You can be flexible regarding which hours you work, meaning you can free yourself up to watch your kids’ sports day, or not be in a tailspin about childcare when your child is sick. You can also choose the kinds of clients and projects you would like to work with.
But that’s often where the dream ends.
As a freelancer, you are responsible for finding your own work. You don’t get paid sick leave, annual leave, carer’s leave or, superannuation. You can often find yourself trying to be everything — project manager, marketer, accountant, web guru and even office manager. (Someone has to take care of the coffee, right?)
However, perhaps the biggest challenge, is the misunderstanding from many, that freelancers (in particular, writers) don’t deserve to be paid what they are worth.
Sure, there are some people out there working as freelancers who really don’t deserve to be paid anything at all for the services they offer. Some ‘freelance writers’ I have come across don’t know the difference between ‘their’, ‘they’re’ and ‘there’. Nor do they even know how to proofread their own advertising!
However, there are many of us (myself included) who are brilliant at what we do, and as such, deserved to be paid an appropriate amount for services rendered.
That may sound conceited, but it’s not meant to be. It simply means I believe in what I do, just as I’m sure many other freelancers do too.
The freelance writer
While people freelance in many different capacities and industries, the path of the freelance writer is the one most vulnerable to exploitation. In particular, is the expectation that we will write for free, in exchange for ‘publicity’ or a token amount of money.
Why is that?
Not many of us expect doctors to provide their services for free. What about plumbers? Imagine the quality of work they would deliver if they knew they were not being paid for it. Do clothing shops offer us free clothing in exchange for us wearing them to promote their brand? Would you ask your mechanic to service your car for nothing, just to give him more experience or ‘exposure’? Of course not.
So why do people think it’s okay to ask (or expect) writers to write for free?
In short, it’s insulting.
Writers are professionals who have consciously decided that working with words is their craft, their niche, their career. Sure, there are many different kinds of writers out there, all with their different specialities. However, the one thing we have in common is that we are professionals, who have invested money and time into our careers.
For example, I am a writer who specialises in writing for the health and wellbeing market. This doesn’t mean that I can’t write other things, or edit or proofread. It just means that I have spent time and money honing my craft in that particular area.
My niche didn’t just ‘happen’. I studied at university for three years and gained my Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Journalism, Communication Studies and Australian Literature. I also hold qualifications in Magazine Writing, Editing and Publishing.
My working career has totaled 19 years. (I took five years off when my two children were born).
During those 19 years, I have worked in a variety of roles and industries, all of them using my writing skills. Prior to going freelance, I worked in a corporate wellness company as a health writer for several years. My work was published overseas and in Australia — both online and in print. I even wrote a great deal of copy for a leading Australian pharmacy. In fact, you’ve probably read some of it. All of that experience means I have developed the following skillset:
- a knowledge of the health and wellness industry
- a solid understanding of key health concerns facing the Australian population
- an understanding of how to write for the health and wellness industry
- an ability to take complex information and express it in a way that the average person can understand
- highly developed research skills
- a knowledge of where to source up-to-date and accurate health information
- an ability to read scientific studies and interpret the information
- an understanding of the publishing process
- brilliant administrative, organisational and time-management skills
- highly developed event management skills
- highly developed verbal communication skills; strong negotiation skills
- an ability to work to deadlines
- an ability to work autonomously or as part of a team
- desktop publishing and layout skills
- highly developed computer skills
- an ability to learn quickly.
The above list doesn’t even consider the skills I have in terms of spelling, grammar and sentence construction, etc. (i.e. ‘writing’).
Yet, I am still constantly asked and expected to write for free.
Although it isn’t phrased as bluntly as that. It’s more like this: “We would love you to write for us, as you have the exact skills we are looking for. However, we don’t have a budget to pay writers at present, but we would be happy to provide you with publicity, or links to your website in exchange for your writing.”
Ummm. No. I don’t need publicity or links to my website.
I want to be paid. I deserve to be paid.
If I was employed with a company, I would be earning a pretty decent wage. I also wouldn’t have to provide my own computer, printer, paper, stationery, lighting or heating. I wouldn’t have to pay for my website or other costs of doing business. I wouldn’t have to spend my time looking for work, preparing quotes and invoices. And my employer would probably pay the fees for any professional organisations I belonged to.
I also wouldn’t have to justify why I am worth being paid.
Writing for free
I have had a few people ask me why won’t I write for free.
Well, I have in the past. Yet, in every case it was carefully considered and each case had its own reasons. There are still circumstances in which I would write for free (or a reduced rate) — most notably for charitable institutions.
However, every time a writer agrees to write for free, they undermine their own worth, the worth of other writers and devalue the writing industry in general.
Once an editor/publisher receives an article for free, they expect the next person to provide it for nothing. If they have two people who can provide work, one who will do it for next to nothing, and one who wants to be paid what they are worth, who will they choose?
You guessed it — the person who writes for nothing.
Who loses? Well, obviously the writer expecting payment. But do you realise that you will lose out too?
You see, when it comes to writing, you really get what you pay for. If you pay poorly (or not at all), you get poor quality. When editors, publishers and everyone in between consider price before quality, you are going to get very badly written and/or incorrect information.
Anyone who once enjoyed reading satirical articles, amusing tales, in-depth analyses or informative pieces, will have to make do with poorly constructed sentences, misspelled words, and dull writing. Eventually, publications, websites and newspapers lose readers, which means less money to pay writers which means — yep, you guessed it — more trashy writing.
I bet you didn’t think about it like that, did you?
So back to our job ad.
Assume you have my experience, all my skills and know you can do a great job. This is also in your niche area of expertise which you have spent years learning.
Remember, you have to write to the brief, read the research attached, interpret the research and then ‘write it all in your own words’. 2,500 of them. That’s five pages — all correctly spelled, grammatically correct and easy to read. It could take you anywhere from 6-12 hours (remember, you haven’t even seen the brief yet).
What would you expect to be paid?
What if I told you, that if you agreed to the job advertised, you could expect to receive the grand total of $20.
Yes, that’s right. $20. Less than 1 cent per word. And if you’re lucky, you might even see that $20 after you submit the article. (Believe it or not, there have been instances where I haven’t received full payment for the work I have completed).
Would you write the article?
Imagine being asked to do that for no payment at all.
Would you be insulted? Feel angry? Feel bemused?
How would you feel, if your boss came to you and renegotiated your hourly rate to below $3 per hour? Would you bother working?
So if you ever need to engage the services of a freelancer (whether a writer, web designer, photographer, or consultant), ask yourself this question:
What would YOU like to be paid if you had to do that job?
Nerissa Bentley is a Melbourne-based freelance writer at Write to the Point Communications. This blog is just one of the things she writes in her spare time.
She also specialises in writing for the health and well-being market. As well as writing thoroughly researched articles, she can provide assistance with press releases, copywriting, editing, proofreading and communication strategies.
So if you would like her to help you (and you are willing to pay her), contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org