Most People Hiring Writers Know Nothing About Writing

Last year I wrote an article titled Are Writers Taken For Granted? It addressed how horribly many people who are trying to write for living or to make extra income are paid, which is still a problem these days.

breakfast at B'ville Diner

The last paragraph explains this picture 🙂

At the time I said that I wasn’t going to be shilling myself out there trying to find writing gigs because it felt demeaning. Well, after as bad a last 12 months as I’ve had, I’m back to looking for some writing gigs as I try to reestablish my consulting business.

How did I get into this position? There were a few things that got in the way.

It took me about six months to get over the depression of my mother passing away. Then I started working on content for a health care revenue cycle training site, and I was doing pretty well with that until some of the technology parts of it shut me down. I was always pretty good creating websites and understanding word press, but things like auto responders and templates outside of WordPress templates, and many other things were way beyond my field of expertise.

This was something I actually started in late November, and because of the technology issues I didn’t launch the site until either the last week of June or the first week of July. To say that it’s been a bust so far would be under estimating just how bad it’s been.

In trying to resurrect my consulting business I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn, basically promoting myself, my business and my training site. The thing is, LinkedIn tells me that I’m reaching anywhere between 300 and 1500 people with the things I’m posting, but that doesn’t mean anything because they use the word “impressions“, which means it might show up in their feed because they’re connected to someone else, but it doesn’t mean that anybody has actually clicked on what I’ve posted. I have a plan for the next step I’m going to try there, but it turns out that over the last five years a lot of my previous connections have left the platform or aren’t doing that kind of work anymore.

So, I’ve been intentionally scrolling through and bidding on writing gigs. I set a minimum price for myself because it doesn’t do me any good to take on writing articles if they’re paying anything less than $35 an hour. What’s funny is that, overwhelmingly, people are paying way less than that. Since I’m only looking at potential writing gigs from people in the United States, it’s proving to me once again that those who really aren’t writers have no idea how to judge how much they should be paying writers.

Let me give you a couple of examples. There are some people who want to pay three cents a word for articles between 750 and 1,000 words. For someone like me, if it’s on a topic I already know I can hammer that out between 15 and 30 minutes. If it’s on a topic I have to research, it could take between two and three hours. At three cents a word and 750 words requested, that comes out to $22.50. For 30 minutes that’s not bad, but for three hours that comes to just under $7.25 an hour, and that’s not sustainable.

There are also a lot of requests for ghostwriters to write books for other people to take credit for, and I understand that’s kind of a thriving industry these days. However, most of the people who are looking for ghostwriters are looking for anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 word books, and have budgets of less than $300.

One of my books over there on the left comes in at around 56,000 words. It took me three months to put it together (actually 2 years, but that’s another story), and it was on a subject I already knew. I’m just imagining how bad a book on a subject I don’t know, such as vampire stories, lesbian love, or a lot of things that young people do these days that I don’t even know what these things are, would be, let alone whether I would write it quick enough to write a quality book where making $300 sounds like a good deal.

Still, I did find, apply and got one writing gig and that wasn’t bad, as I bid for $50 an hour and that’s what I got… kind of… The guy who hired me paid $50 an hour, but the site I got it through took 20% of that which means I got paid $40 an hour. That’s not bad because it took me two hours to compose each article, with most of the time spent researching the topic and then testing out what I was going to recommend for people who might see those articles. The person who requested that understood what writers go through, was specific on what he wanted, and gave me the leeway to have time to research it. The gig could have lasted five hours for each article, but I got them completed quicker than that and, being ethical, I only billed for the time it took me to complete each article.

If you take a quick look at the services link at the top right of this blog, you’ll see that I have pricing for either writing articles, editing articles, or editing books. I think those rates are fair, although I’m realizing I need to increase the amount for editing someone’s book, which I’ve done often enough over the years.

If you’re editing a book that’s enjoyable, that’s not a bad price; if you’re editing a book on a topic you don’t like, or there are so many errors that it takes you forever just to get through one page, you’re drastically under charging. Many people who hire editors want the editing done as quickly as possible, and if you’re going to devote yourself to something like that you deserve more money.

My overall thought takes me back to the biggest recommendation I’ve made for anyone who’s looking to start a blog. Sit down and write 10 articles, and see how long it takes you. If you can’t write 10 articles, then you don’t want to be a blogger. If it takes you three months to write 10 articles, you can still be a blogger, but it’s going to be harder than you thought it was going to be.

If you want an idea of how much time it will take someone who’s a professional writer to write on a subject they don’t already know, you should sit down and try to write just one article on a topic you know and see how hard or easy that is. If you find it easy, you should write your own content. If you find it hard, and you still want to hire someone else to do the writing for you, you have to be reasonable and pay writers at least a fair price because it’s not only about the writing, it’s about the research.

Those are my thoughts on the subject, and as someone who tips servers anywhere from 30% to 50% in restaurants, I think I’ve proven, at least to myself, that I’m willing to pay more for quality service. But that’s me; let me know your thoughts.
 

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10 thoughts on “Most People Hiring Writers Know Nothing About Writing”

  1. Hey there, Mitch! I totally agree with your points; however, you know I’m going to address something. What is “fair”?

    Let’s look at this coin from both sides and the edge. On the supply, desperate person is more willing to work for a lower rate. Workers outside of the US may be happy to earn 4.00/hour for any type of work. There are also people like us, who have placed a value on our service and–generally–refuse to be exploited. Essentially, the supply side is a spectrum of rates.

    On the demand side are bottom feeders (splogs), content mills, spammers and scam artists. There are also people who want to produce a quality product, whether it is a book, article or blog content. Unlike the supply spectrum, which is arbitrary, the demand spectrum is influenced by many factors, including comparison shopping, low-balling and respect (or lack thereof) of the craft. Still, we wind up with unreasonable budgets and reasonable budgets.

    The edge of the coin is YOU. I don’t believe in the adage, “Charge what the market will bear”, because I know from experience that low-ballers will never pay that rate and reasonable people have other metrics by which they determine the value of an offer of services. Therefore, I assert that you have the freedom to set your rate as you see fit, and the responsibility to sell yourself to clients at that rate.

    All transactions are emotional. “Fair” is a mindset of scarcity. “Value” is a mindset of abundance. When I confidently tell a potential client that my expertise is available at 90.00/hour, it comes from the same place that made me confident at 75.00/hour, where I sat for 18 months; and at 50.00/hour, where I was for nearly three years.

    Along the way from 50 to 90, I learned new technical skills, along with negotiating skills. My value, rightfully, grew along with my new knowledge. In addition, I worked on my mindset. I stopped looking at the commentary of people who say you can’t make money doing xyz, because, not only was I making money doing xyz, clients were ASKING me to help them.

    Competition is another mindset trap. Freelancers are not big enough to take any meaningful slice of the demand pie. There is more than enough work available for competent service providers to carve out a niche and make a living.

    Cheers,

    Mitch
    Mitchell Allen recently posted..How to Close Freelancer.com AccountMy Profile

    1. First, you made me go through the article again to see when I mentioned “fair”, which I thought I’d said only once. I said it twice, but based on your comment I assume you mean the 2nd time I said it.

      Second, I think “fair” should be fair across the board. I dislike companies that move their production to other countries because those folks are willing to take a lower rate, then don’t pay them what would be considered a great rate where they are. Deciding to pay at an abysmal rate because people want jobs at any cost isn’t close to being fair or ethical and just takes advantage of others. It’s a major reason why I lament so much outsourcing of medical billing from inhouse staff to other countries. It’s not like they’re better than what’s in America; it’s that it costs less to medical facilities and workers get paid way less overseas for doing what should be considered skilled work, even if there’s not always properly trained in both areas.

      Third, I totally agree with you on “value”. In my consulting business, I haven’t come close to being paid my value, but when I get those gigs I’m paid well above average, so it’s hard to complain and feels disingenuous. Still, it’d be nice to be paid based on value; heck, if I could have been paid 1% of what I did for a hospital system years ago, I’d never have had to work again! 🙂

      1. It can work in the right situations. What’s funny is back in the day I could charge a nice rate for creating websites and blogs for people. Unfortunately, though I can still code, I’ve never been a “pretty” designer, and that’s what most people want these days.

  2. There’s a book called Value-Based Fees, by Alan Weiss, that would have made you a millionaire, had you known about the concepts when you were saving hospitals all that money.

    And, don’t get me started on capitalism. I love the idea of capitalism; however, corporate greed will destroy us all. I always strive to maintain a distinction between corporate practices and solo operator practices. My previous comment was framed by solo operator practices. If you’re fortunate enough to be a solo operator who interacts with corporations, you have a different set of rules and mindset shifts to master.

    Cheers,

    Mitch
    Mitchell Allen recently posted..How to Close Freelancer.com AccountMy Profile

    1. I have that book but I’ve never read it, though I can honestly say I’ve skimmed here and there. As for the concepts, it works in certain situations, but it’s never worked in health care. I’m hoping to get it to work in writing, but I still have to prove myself in certain places before I can move forward. That is, unless someone visits the blog and hires me; maybe my bonafides will be enough. 🙂

  3. I used to turn down multiple freelance jobs for pay that undervalued my services. People used to tell me I was asking for ridiculous money and countered by saying they could get people for less.

    “Go ahead sir/ma’am, there aren’t many people who can do what I do with the speed, precision and consistency that I offer.”

    That moved the needle for some but not as many as I would have liked.

    Funny how few of the people who didn’t want to pay took a different approach to their doctors or mechanics. They had no issue paying for quality.
    Josh recently posted..Didn’t Make 79My Profile

    1. Sometimes it takes perspective to realize that you end up paying for services you need that you can’t do and that sometimes it’s going to cost you more. It’s nice to be able to shop around for a better price, but sometimes the better price doesn’t mean the best service… sometimes that is. Whenever I bid on a project, I share my bonafides because they’re significant. I’m not one of those “I’ve written 100 blog articles of at least 500 words” to prove I’m a good article writer. I’m not one of those “I helped a 750 bed hospital increase their revenue by 1 million dollars in a year” guy. I have things I’ve accomplished that no one else can come close to. Yet… I’m looking at having someone come to the house tomorrow to get my heater working because that’s way beyond my field of expertise, and I’m calling a company from the… well… I guess I can’t say phone book anymore (lol), but someone who’s been to the house before, who works for a large company that I know I can trust. I don’t know if there’s cheaper service, but I do know they’ve done great work for me over the years, and if asked I’d give them a 5-star review, which is the best they could ask for (though I’ll admit that the last time I had to pay $400 for 15 minutes and I didn’t tip the guy… and I wasn’t ashamed lol).

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