Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Nov 18, 2009
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?