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A Dollar an Hour? – A Guest Article

Don’t laugh, it could be offered to you.

Walk into a room and mention that you’re a writer and everyone thinks your rich, spend your time in cafes during the day and at parties at night while the cat sits at home belting out chapter after chapter.

I don’t have a cat. I do have a possum that lives in the wall and five goannas that wander by now and again, would you believe it, none of the little buggers help with the writing at all.

Everyday thousands of people decide that they are going to be writers. Half of them quit after the first half dozen rejection letters. A third of those that are left are slowly starved into anonymity or oblivion, not necessarily in that order.

So, you’re looking for work as a freelance writer on the net and you come across an ad that offers three cents a word for a couple thousand words. The important question is: Is it worth it to you? I mean, if you’re in business, will that $60 cover your costs and time or would you be better off with a job at the local hardware shop?

Let’s say you are looking at a job offer to ghost write a children’s book. The employer has an idea and some disjointed notes and you are expected to produce a work of art from this idea for $200. Would you be surprised to know that the going rate for such a job would be between $50 and $100 an hour? Can you write a quality children’s book in four hours? Let’s be perfectly honest. The person who wants this job done is expecting to make money from your writing. Usually they expect to make a lot of money.

What about a manuscript evaluation for a theses or dissertation? In this case the employer is expecting you to insure that he/she gets a good reputation that will lead to future financial rewards. All for the princely sum of a hundred dollars. Now, depending on the subject and word count you may spend a couple of days or a week or more on the job. That hundred dollars is looking pretty insipid. Oh yeah, the going rate would be $15 – $100 an hour.

From a more personal point of view; I write occasionally (on spec) for a sporting magazine. They pay twenty cents a word (articles of 2000 – 2500 words), this is closer to the low end for a magazine feature article ($.14 -$3.00/word) but then they also pay $20 per picture and $200 if they use one of my pictures on the cover. My last submission made me around $650.00 for four days work (roughly $165/day).

I have worked for low end amounts, fun or interesting jobs or jobs that can lead to better paying work, but $.03 a word is insulting. I won’t even answer such an ad.

In the end, you have to decide for yourself whether or not a job is worth the effort. But don’t cheat yourself. You can download a fairly complete list of writing fees at: http://freelanceright.wordpress.com/2008/04/25/freelance-writing-wont-come-for-free/ in the .pdfs on the right side menu. The prices in this download aren’t set in stone but they sure help when faced with a job offer. I keep this list on my computer for reference.

Sometimes when I’ve had a bad day and want to take a bit of agro out on someone, I send the list to the snollygosters who make such thrimmelling offers.

George L Ghio is a freelance writer from Australia. His website states “I am a writer, a structural editor and professional reader.” That was a new term to me too, so go look his site. It’s worth knowing and contemplating.

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • I love this post!! Whenever I feel inadequate or under-confident about my abilities as a writer and start to think about taking some lowball work, I read it, have a good laugh, and get back to looking for worthwhile gigs. George L Ghio, you are awesome!!!!

    • wow… a truly ever green post… thanks!

  • One good way to get a decent job writing online is to establish yourself as somewhat of an “expert” in some area.

    What do you know well? Sit down and try to write 15 solid articles about that – about 600 words each. Can you do it? That will tell you a lot.

    After that, try submitting an article or two to a related blog. See if they will post you as a guest writer. Little by little, work up to having about 20 published items online, all in the same general area (computers, making candles, selling widgets, whatever).

    After that, you can go to paying sites and apply as a writer. I would say to avoid those “write 50 articles” advertisements. Look for something real. See if a blog needs an assistant writer.

    The key is establishing yourself (and convincing yourself) as/that you are competent to write consistently well.

    Hope this helps!

  • Tiffany

    When I first started out I worked quite a few low paying gigs until I realized what I was doing! This is a very good reminder. Though I DO wish I could leave the writing up to my cat at times. 🙂 Also, thank you for the words “snollygosters” and “thrimmelling!” lol. What unique and eye-catching words….living in the U.S you just never know what you’re missing! 🙂

  • Thanks for a great post, George.

    I think far too many writers sell themselves short. And as tough as the economy is right now, I do not think anyone should be writing on spec or taking jobs for pennies. In addition to hurting the pocketbook, if you take on such low-paying gigs you just give the bozos who offer them more incentive to keep lowballing writers.

    I take on the occasional low-paying gig to fill in the gaps between better-paying assignments. And I also occasionally take a low-paying assignment if I think it might lead to something better-paying down the road. But I’m in agreement—you have to draw the line somewhere. If you’re writing for .03 cents a word, you’re just donating your time and your work. And donated time doesn’t pay the mortgage or the utility bill.

    Jenny Cromie

    Jenny Cromie’s last blog post..Extra! Extra! Hope After a Media Layoff or Buyout

  • I am so glad to see this. Sometimes I get so frustrated when I see ads that want to $10 for ten 1000 word articles per day and they must be perfect, and then the client has the nerve to complain that they have been getting substandard work. I want to tell them……”NO KIDDING! You get what you pay for!! DUH!” Thank you for reminding me that I am a professional and I deserve to paid a reasonable wage. Writing is not all that easy, or everybody would do it.

  • Thanks for this article – I’ve just been scouting a LOT of new job possibilities and though I’ve held my payment standards to a reasonable level thus far, I was starting to question if that was smart. There are so many insulting offers that I was beginning to think maybe that was normal, after all. I appreciate the reminder.

  • George L Ghio

    Manuscript critiquer? Yeah, could be. It’s one of the things I like about English. Many people thing that English is a language when it is in fact a collection of dialects of English. It also has the advantage that spelling and punctuation is optional.

  • Good article to keep in mind/in favs.
    A possum… awwww.
    A “professional reader?” Cool term, but isn’t it also known as manuscript critiquer?

    Michelle Kafka’s last blog post..Blog Action Day 2008 – Poverty, Island Whispers Blog

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