The Reality of Freelance Writing
A recent Craigslist job posting invites readers to apply to write twenty or more 1,000-word online-marketing articles per week. The pay rate? Twenty dollars per article to start, thirty dollars each after the first ten articles, and forty or fifty dollars apiece after a couple of weeks.
The compensation for this work, after the initial fifty articles are written, is more than a thousand dollars a month — about fifty thousand dollars a year, a fair income for a freelance writer. But back up a bit: The writer is being asked to produce 20,000 words per week. At that rate, one could churn out a good-sized novel or nonfiction book each month — if not for the fact that writers are human beings who need to eat and sleep and would like to indulge in luxuries like recreation and socialization.
Assuming that a 1,000-word article can be written in around two hours, that’s a full-time workweek. The problem? Salaried writers don’t write for forty hours a week. They attend meetings and confer with colleagues, and perhaps do some editing and proofreading as well as writing. It’s unrealistic to expect someone to put in that many hours churning out content, even if one finds writing about widgets an exhilarating prospect. It’s unsustainable for a writer to do so, and disingenuous for an employer to expect that the writer can do so.
What’s most disheartening about this job posting — even more than the fact that it would be more reasonable for the client to hire more writers to produce fewer articles each — is that it’s one of the more generous offers I’ve seen online lately.
There’s no writing tip buried among these observations. There’s simply a plea to any readers who might be posting job listings such as the one I’ve described to ask themselves whether they could actually sustain this workload, whether they could live on the meager compensation usually offered for such assignments. Do they want to attract writers, or are they content with typists? (No offense intended against transcribers, of course.)
If there’s any tip to be shared, it’s to my fellow freelance writers out there: Yes, projects may generally be scarce and poorly compensated, and it’s tempting to take grueling assignments such as the one described in this job listing. (I’ve done so — for a while.) But never forget that unless you’re a novice, or you’re a merely competent writer, you deserve better than this — and novices and competent writers will get better and deserve better — and you must be diligent about finding the best offers. And, once you’re hired and have proven your value, be diligent about assertively requesting periodic boosts in pay as a reward for your increasingly valuable contributions to the success of the enterprise.