Putting Value On Your Writing

I stumbled upon an ad the other day that absolutely sickened me. It wasn't cigarettes or an attempt to sell sex or something that will get the moral right's panties in a bunch. Instead, it was a writer who was promoting a deal where they'd write a 250 word article for $5.00. They promised they'd be able to write on any topic and that it would be of high quality.

After reading that ad, I was about to lose my lunch and have to lay down for a few minutes.

The part I was most bothered by was the fact this was an ad from an established writer. This was being promoted by a professional freelance writer that has been full time for several years now. Yet this writer felt the need to sell some work for 2 cents a word along with any necessary research (remember, they promised on any subject, which without a magic mirror or crystal ball would likely mean there would have to be some research involved).

Now, this is far from the first time that I've seen writing go for such a low rate. I'm on the online writing job boards a few times a week, and recognize they're the hub for cheapskate clients (the big money clients rarely send out job ads). I've seen offers for fifty 500 word articles for a womping $50.00 (for the entire package of articles). More often than not, I'll find companies or editors wanting work where essentially it's about 2-3 cents a word for articles. I even came across a job poster who was demanding top notch work from any applying writer, because he is offering the 'fantastic' rate of $30.00 for a 500 word article (which compared to all the previous mentioned jobs is far better).

I say that every single one of those jobs is a waste of my time and causes me to wrestle with keeping my grilled cheese sandwich down.

The more frustrating part is that there is always a writer willing to take that fifty 500 word articles for $50.00 offer. I've even read places where there is writers that say they will write anything for 3 cents a word. Or even worse, I've heard of writers willingly sell their work of fiction for a few cents a word along with all their copyrights. This means that they've essentially given away their chance to ever sell or make money on that story again (while the publisher can continually include that story in anthologies to sell over and over again).

There is a reason that many writer are surviving on Ramen noodles and barely able to make rent every month. They're stupid.

Okay, they're not stupid. Writers are probably some of the most talented and smartest people around. But it seems like many writers (along with other creative types) are not money smart. Or at least, they seem to lack the self esteem to put actual value on their writing.

Almost everyone is capable to of putting sentences down on a page and make some semblance of sense. In that case, most people can write. But if I have to, I can also cook dinner. I am capable of cooking a meal, and most people can likely make a passable grilled cheese sandwich or edible spaghetti. I can cook. But there is no way in hell that I'm ever going to open up a restaurant. This is because there isn't any way a person would be willing to pay for the concoction I'd cook up. I can cook fine, but I can't make any money off it. It takes skill to produce something that a person will pay for and then like enough to recommend it to friends and continue to return to pay for more dinners. It is a skill and a talent, especially if you want to start charging $50.00 for a single entree (and have people who feel that is worth spending money for).

I see writing the same way. Anyone can put together a sentence. Not everyone can spend 8-14 hours a day producing engaging and compelling copy. Not everyone can sit down every morning and instantly have ideas to write about. Not everyone is able to write in a way that is clear and concise. There is a skill involved in being able to effectively communicate through writing. There is defintiely a skill in being able to write in a variety of forms from ads to technical manuals to fiction to news stories to opinion pieces to business plans.

I know there is some people who aren't skilled writers but can still churn out a business plan or press release for their company. It probably takes up a huge amount of their time and they end up walking away fairly unsatisfied with it. Sort of like how I would feel after attempting a filet mignon.

Writing is a skill. It is skilled labour. It is something you need to have a talent in order to make money. It is something you have to practice. It is something that takes years of work to improve and grow. Most importantly, it is something that certain people are just better at than others.

You should be paid well for skilled labour. Its rates should not be comparable to working at McDonald's or mowing your aunt's lawn. It takes a talent and a talent that is worth a good amount of money.

$5.00 an article isn't going to rank in that kind of money. Taking a job for $50.00 for 50 articles, is definitely not going to be the road for a healthy bank account. Yet many writers are desperate for work and so they take really rotten deals.

Maybe I'm completely off, and unaware of my own lack of skill. Maybe there is writers who are the Flash of the industry and can consistently churn out an article in fifteen minute including research. Or maybe there is a writer who can throw out 50 articles in a day.

Now, I am not going to judge the quality here. I'll assume they are super talented and actually able to write a high quality and factual article (with legit sources) in 15 minutes or so. Let's look at the finances here. In the case of the writer offering $5.00 an article, they'd write 4 articles in an hour for $20.00. This is assuming they can jump right from one article to the next, and they're able to have a completely polished article in 15 minutes. If they can do it, then they've earned about $5.00 more than I did at a job that I did not need any discernible skill. Except in their job, they're self employed and now have to worry about all their own benefits and deductions. Plus there is the whole point that I can make $15.00 for a job lacking much need for a skill, but only make $5.00 more for a very skilled job (assuming you're a talented writer).

$5.00 an article isn't looking so appealing anymore, is it? Maybe it is nice if you're just writing on the side while holding down a full time job, but it isn't going to be your road to a full time wealthy writing career.

As for $50.00 for 50 articles. No matter how fast you are, I can't see how you can get this job done faster than a work day (even then, I can't see it being that possible, unless most of the articles are just rewrites of older material). Let's say you do get it done in a day. You've made $50.00 in a day's work for something that should be considered skilled labour. In my unskilled labour job, I would make over double that amount in a day. And again, since you're self employed, you have to use that same money to pay for any benefits and for taxes and such. It's looking like a pretty shitty deal, eh? Definitely not anyway you can make a living off it.

Yet these jobs exist and writers, who want a career in the business, will happily take them. For no other reason, than they apparently don't think their writing is worth more.

I don't get it. If you're a talented writer and you want to make a living off it, then you absolutely must put value on your writing. You need to believe it is good. You must trust that people will want to pay a decent rate for it. You at least need to believe you deserve to make more than the high school kid who pushes shopping carts at the grocery store. If writing is really skilled work, then you need to have the potential to make serious money.

When I say serious money, I am talking about eventually getting into six figures just like most other skilled jobs. If your writing freelance, then I realize you're likely not going to make anywhere near six figures your first few years. But you'll never even make as much as a high school student with a part time job, if you keep on going for jobs where your words are worth less than 5 cents.

It saddens me that there is so many talented individuals who devalue their hard work so much. It is probably a combination of being so desperate to find work in the field they love and just simply not wanting to make the effort to actually find the good jobs with acceptable rates. It is harder and you need to market yourself more, if you want to land jobs where you make skilled labour type money.

First, you need to realize your talents and writing is worth something. It is a skill.

Or you can just keep on writing for .08 cents a word. It at least means more high paying work for me.