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Are Writers Taken For Granted?

Posted by on Nov 18, 2009
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I’ve been a part of a couple of interesting discussions in the last couple of days. One occurred on a blog written by a commenter here, Anne, called About Freelance Writing. Another was on the Digital Point forums site.

On Anne’s site, she wrote a fairly innocuous article that took on a life of its own when one writer actually called some other writers “hacks” because they’ll write some low paying articles for other websites. That one pretty much sparked its own version of a class war that still hasn’t died down.

On Digital Point, the topic was whether people could find quality in paying writers a penny a word or less for articles, and if those writers were bringing down the rates for everyone else.

I have to admit that I’m kind of in the middle on both of these topics. Let me explain myself, if I can.

On the first topic, I certainly wouldn’t call anyone a hack. You already know the rants I just wrote about Demand Studios (which I might back off a little from, as I’m not as mad at them as I was before) and Helium (I’m still mad at them, so it’s not happening).

What my gripe was not about was how each of them paid. I mentioned it in passing on the Helium article, but Demand Studios pays a bit better, and if you can find something in a topic you know and don’t have to overly research you can make a nice chunk of change, though it can also be hard to find articles to write at times. If you could write one of their regular articles in an hour, or two of their shorter articles in an hour, and get them approved, that ends up being at least $15 an hour. That’s not overly great, but it’s twice minimum wage, and if you could do that 8 times a day during the regular work week, or 5 to 6 times a day seven days a week, it’s not bad.

For the year, that’s around $30,000 a year or so; as I said, not overly great, but not bad if you don’t have a lot of bills. But let’s look at the second topic. When I decided I was going to try to make some money writing, I started out with the penny a word thing. I was able to do it, but I hated myself with every article I wrote, especially on topics I didn’t know well, and topics that I thought were, well, stupid.

For instance, one of the last batches of articles I wrote were on epilators. For the guys, an epilator is a hair removal device. Women use them to remove hair from mainly their arms and legs, though they can be used in other areas as well (that is, if they want to use things like wax or electrolysis; I doubt most women would want to deal with the pain elsewhere). This guy wanted 30 articles on epilators. And he gave me the keyword phrases he wanted, and he wanted each phrase at least 3 times per article, for 400 words. They were all for a penny a word, and I barely made $100 for 14 hours of work; that’s why it was pretty much the last time I did it.

The point, though, is that, if I consider myself a quality writer, then it proves that quality writers can be found for a penny a word, possibly less. However, they won’t stay there for long, which means they’ll have to work hard to convince others that they’re worth more than that, or lose out to those people who really value quantity more than quality. And those people aren’t paying much attention, because when they have to rewrite stuff they’ve been sent, it’s killing their time and taking money out of their pockets.

The freelance writing business isn’t all that easy. Many people tend to devalue it just like they devalue training. I know because I do that as well. Remember the survey I asked people to take some weeks ago (it’s now closed)? The overall indication is that most people want live seminars if they’re in town, but will do online seminars. The survey also indicated that most people believe paying $25 for a live seminar is as high as they should go, and around $15 for an online seminar; $10 for a podcast.

Just like training, it takes a little bit of time to write. Sure, I write fast, but that’s on topics I know. If I don’t know a topic, it could take up to three hours to learn enough about some topics to be able to write a quality 500 word article. That’s because more people are protecting their information online, so it’s harder to find exactly what you need. Sure, you can be creative, but only if the basic information is solid. If you want something good, time is money.

I won’t take $15 for something I have to research more than an hour; it’s a killer. Does that beat not writing at all, thus not making any money? Probably not, but everyone has to draw a line somewhere. Been there, done that, looking for better stuff, better writing opportunities. I have gotten a couple of $100 assignments, but not nearly enough. That’s why I’ve been talking about it more often around here. I feel everyone has a right to make a nice living if they’re willing to work for it and someone else is willing to pay for it.

Just another thought for the day; what say you?


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9 Comments »

Freelance writing is now this day pretty much competitive. New comer trying to do work is less money and buyer trying to compromising with quality to save some buck.
.-= Arafat Hossain Piyada┬┤s last blog ..Another Time Waster Coming on Facebook, This Time PetVille =-.

Mitch Reply:

And that’s a terrible way for things to go, Arafat. Well, it might be an American gripe because we can’t compete based on dollars for those low paying gigs, though we can easily compete on the writing part. But folks allow some of these people to use them in a bad way; that’s too bad.

November 20th, 2009 | 12:37 AM
Mitch:

You’re so goofy, Dennis! lol Anyway, you make a good point about starting out as a writer, but people who want to take advantage of others by looking for things such as 100 articles for $10 get what they deserve, and it’s scary that people will jump on projects like that because the buyers feel it’s a good amount to ask for. That indeed does bring things down for everyone else, but hey, what can you do?

November 20th, 2009 | 12:48 PM

I have actually been published in a Syracuse family magazine several times.

It’s a hard living for very little. And, you can be a contributor every month but be out in the cold if a new editor happens along….

Mitch Reply:

Not only that, but people look for so much free stuff that’s just hard to keep up with. It’s okay when you’re doing guest posting, but I’ve learned at this point that being published in magazines rarely does much for me.

August 24th, 2010 | 7:43 PM

Hi Mitch, I think writers are taken for granted. When it comes to online writing, I don’t go below $25. I used to write for a few health related sites, along with three or four Mac related sites, and that’s the least they paid. With one of the tech sites, that was the minimum, depending on traffic, comments, etc., you could be paid a lot more. I loved working there, I simply didn’t like working on a schedule. :)

I’m new to Demand Studios, so I really can’t comment about the process yet. I have seen some people voice some concern about editors though. Thankfully all the editors aren’t like that, but it only takes a few who are to make it annoying.
I like the About articles, I’ve done one “How To” and picked up a few more two or three days ago, I think I’ll dump those since the titles are ambiguous, and I don’t feel like dealing with a rewrite if I’m interpreting it incorrectly.

Initially, the hardest aspect (for myself) was writing in third person while using the active voice. My first article was sent back because of that, however, the editor was thorough and pointed out exactly what I needed to do to improve. Once the article was approved, the editor included additional comments that were helpful. You can go and look to see whether they’ve added additional comments if the article has been approved, not sure if you can do that if it’s been rejected.

If I do get a rejection, I most likely will sell it on ConstantContent. Since I know I could possibly get a lot more selling it. I already write and sell articles there.

I only write for Livestrong which pays a little bit better, their articles start at $25.

Mitch Reply:

Opal, I’ve been hesitant to write for any of those types of services since I had problems with both Demand Studios and Helium, both of whom I wrote about on this blog; you can search for them easily enough to see my complaints. I’ve been raising my rates over time, but you still have a lot of people who want to pay you less than even a penny a word; that’s just not happening. Researching a topic alone can cost you a couple of hours sometimes.

I think what I want is a little appreciation and not only the money; I think that proves the studies which show that money isn’t always the main motivator.

September 20th, 2010 | 10:08 AM

Hey Mitch, with Constant Content I definitely wouldn’t write the majority of the articles available. Not because they aren’t good topics (some are) but the buyers are looking for people to write articles for pennies. I’m talking about 500 word documents for 2 – $5!

However, CC does have a section where you can sell your own articles, CC do take 35%, so I just price, accordingly. I don’t put too many on the site. I have thought about placing a freelance writing on my site. I’d link to samples, and listing my prices. It did well on my older sites.

Re: Demand Studios, if I can’t write it in an hour, I won’t do it. I’ve been picking topics I know so the only thing I need to research is finding an appropriate link. Admittedly the first ones took longer since I had to make sure I was following the correct format. I can see how sites like DS can be a godsend for those who are strapped for cash. reading the forums, and seeing the situation that some of the people are facing. It really makes me appreciate the things I do have.

Re: Writers

When it comes to writers, I’ve noticed that some buyers have the “try them out” mentality. A few years ago, I remember a popular blogger said he wouldn’t pay someone more than $8 to write a 500 word article. I questioned his low fee. He thought they should prove themselves first. I remember telling him politely that’s what writing samples are for. You get a good idea looking at their samples.

A few years ago, I noted that a few probloggers suggesting that bloggers should pay writers to write on their site. What was their suggested price about $10 for writing a 400 – 500 word article? Naturally that doesn’t help the situation, since it makes people think this is a perfectly acceptable fee.

Sites like Fiverr bother me for that same reason. People looking for services for $5, or worse offering their services like writing, programming, graphic arts, etc., for a ridiculously low price.

Mitch Reply:

Opal, I offer blow writing services and I do charge more than that to do it. I will admit that I have written for some people for around $15 an article, but those are folks who I started with. I think I did start kind of low and worked my way up because I wanted to see what the business had to offer. Still, I have pulled away from the really cheap writing services, and I throw Demand Studios in there, because there just weren’t many topics on which I could write at a certain point, and I didn’t like how they’d tell you to change that one time and then give you the scarlet letter.

This is why I follow a few freelance writing sites, because they only post gigs that pay pretty well.

September 20th, 2010 | 3:48 PM