Sunday, November 21, 2010

A penny (per word) for my thoughts? I don’t think so

Meandering Mouse is my blog for personal thoughts. As of now, I don’t get paid for writing it. I do, however, search for paying writing jobs each week. A few days ago, I received this reply from a blog post company:

Dear ********* applicant (not Dear Jennie or Ms. Hakim),

Thank you for your interest in writing for *********. Before we move forward and hire you as a freelance writer we need to confirm with you a few things.

As a new writer you will typically be assigned campaigns that will be on a payment level of 1-2 cents per word. You will have the possible opportunity to receive higher paying campaigns as time progresses and after your work has shown quality and consistency. The campaign pay levels can vary from .01 to about .05, this is never a permanent amount We also ask our writers to be able to commit to writing 3,000 words per week. This does not guarantee that all writers will be provided at least 3,000 words a week as assignments are dependent on campaign availability, but we feel that a writer should have the capacity to contribute at least this much when situation demands it. Overdue work is unacceptable and we ask that you only commit to writing for us if you can provide your work on time and consistently meet your deadlines. Please keep this information in mind when responding to this email & committing to working for us.

If you are still interested in writing for ********* (under the above terms), please respond to this email message at your earliest convenience. Please note this is the next step in the process and does not necessarily mean you will be selected. However, we need to receive your personal acceptance of these terms in order to move forward in this process.

Please let me know if you have questions.

Thank you!

After reading this, I turned to my calculator. I found that as a beginning writer at ********* – at one to two cents a word, 3000 words a week – I would earn $30 to $60 per week. (Remember, there is no guarantee of any writer being allowed that many words per week.) At the maximum rate, five cents a word, I would earn $150 per week.

Now, $30 to $150 per week might be an acceptable pay rate for a ten-year-old. Or someone with a breadwinning partner who wants to earn some Christmas Club money. Or someone who has traveled back to fifty or more years ago.

It’s not acceptable for someone in 2010 who aims to bring in at least half of a two-person household’s income. And it is absolutely not acceptable for any professional writer who cares about art and craft, who will take the extra time to make sure the facts are right, who does sweat the stuff small and large.

A penny a word is an insulting wage. Period.

I can hear the blowback now: That’s the way the business is. We’re competing with Third World countries now. Beggars can’t be choosers. Shut up and take what you are given. Don’t be a job snob. Don’t act so entitled.

Excuse me?

Wanting to be able to pay my bills and live a modest but comfortable lifestyle makes me a “job snob”? Wanting to be paid like a professional adult (and by doing so, making it easier for all other pro writers to have good wages) makes me “entitled?”

So be it. People who just shut up and take what they are given don’t become heroes, or role models, or wisdom brokers.

People who say “no” to insult? As far as I’m concerned, they are all three.

As I say, act like a character you would want to read a book about.

(Thanks to Two Dogs for lending a hand to the photo above.)

1 comment:

  1. This seems like an attractive gig to me! I mean, as a hobby on the side that happens to earn money. Of course the lack of guarantee in a lot of work is a downer too, but it's a freelancer's lot in life I suppose.

    Too bad they didn't take the time to address you by name, plus this letter is so generic to boot.