Sunday, October 17, 2010

Write For All You're Worth

On Twitter, I try to retweet links of value to writers. Since I know many writers are constantly on the lookout for paying gigs, I follow @writersjobs and frequently retweet the help wanted ads they post. Mind you, @writersjobs isn't actually placing any of these help wanted ads, they just post links to the ads on Twitter to provide an easy, centralized gig list for writers.

Today, I was disheartened and even a little sickened when this ad showed up:

Ghost writer needed to write 10 blog posts. Will pay $.01 per word for 200-250 word posts. You choose the topic. All 10 posts must be on the same topic. Topic must be legal and PG. Must be original posts - plagiarized posts will not be purchased. Looking for one writer. Long-term projects available for the right person.

Bring on the number crunching...

I think half an hour per post is a pretty realistic estimate of the time involved, if you count the time spent coming up with the concept, writing the rough draft, and editing and polishing. At a penny a word, the maximum-length blog post will net you---wait for it---two dollars and fifty cents. Write one more and you're rolling in five dollars an hour; that's about 40% less than minimum wage, and that's before taxes, too. You can't even argue that this is a resume builder, since it's a ghost writing job: someone else is going to take the credit for your work.

I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

Look, I know tough times call for desperate measures, beggars can't be choosers, in times of crisis we all wear different hats, and lots of other cliches. But writing is a skill, writing well is a hard won skill, and even people who mop floors and flip burgers for a living are entitled to a minimum wage that's mandated by law. Yet although this gig will obviously pay less than either of those jobs would, the person who's hiring intends to be picky about selecting the "right person" for "long term projects".

The "right person" in this case is a fool who's willing to be taken gross advantage of, but I have no doubt he or she is out there, writing an eager email to apply for the job this very moment. And it's because of that writer that ALL of us, and our work, are being devalued faster than Detroit real estate.

Take a gig that pays minimum wage if you must, but do it knowing you're earning no more than you would working fast food or retail at the entry level---less if you play by the rules and take self-employment taxes into account. If you're good, you can and should command better pay. And "command" is exactly the right word for it.


Unknown said...

I agree. If you are hungry to get a background, this might be attractive if you weigh the risk, but there are other ways

April L. Hamilton said...

Thanks for reading and commenting, Deborah. It's not a good thing when writers sell themselves and their skills short.

Unknown said...

I have entered the NANOWRIMO. I'm not sure what I'm getting myself into nor if will do anything for my writing career.

April L. Hamilton said...

Deborah -
NaNoWriMo is about personal growth as a writer and being part of a community of writers who are all creating a novel at the same time, not making money or even necessarily portfolio expansion.

Many writers take their NaNoWriMo first drafts and keep working with them to get to a publishable manuscript, but if so, that's something driven entirely by the writer.

Laurel L. Russwurm said...

There is no harm in writing for free when you're getting started because you're learning your craft and building your brand.

However this gig is worse; slave wages for no discernible return. I've heard in the book world ghost writers make good money precisely because they get no credit.

Much better giving this one a pass.

April L. Hamilton said...

Laurel -
Agreed. ='p