When did words become so cheap?
I’ve been looking for additional freelance writing and/or communications work and someone suggested I check out craigslist. I was surprised to learn there is actually a writing/editing section under jobs available so I’ve been checking it occasionally and sending off my credentials to appropriate listings. No response. Some listings directed me to their online writing “mills” and I was surprised to see how much copy is cranked out and what they pay. Man that’s some cheap writing.
Today I saw a craigslist job posting for a writer to provide 1000 words several times a week writing on personal finance – must have a degree in journalism, a proven track-record of published material, read the business news and write on the latest headlines - guess how much they pay (they announce proudly) $20 for 1000 words. That’s right TWO CENTS per word. And if it is a really well researched and exceptionally well written article (as opposed to?) you get $30 for a thousand words…all the way up to THREE CENTS per word.
Now who can make a living on churning out 1000 words for 20 bucks. I mean, I can’t even type fast enough to write 1000 words in an hour, much less think about what I’m writing. It takes me an hour to write most of my 500 word blogs and let’s face it, it’s mostly “stream of consciousness” writing.
I’m pretty sure my clients wouldn’t be happy with the kind of writing they would get for two cents a word, which begs the question – who is reading this writing? How effective is it or is it just about filling up space?
I know people starting out in business often buy canned websites, with copy by writers who have no idea of what they are talking about. I found one realtor website advertising vacation properties on an island I know and love well, here on the West Coast. A small island without roads or vehicles or retail services or amenities of any kind – the realtor’s website described the beautiful spas and beaches, the exciting restaurants and nightlife. None of which exist. I was so horrified I actually sent the realtor an email to point out his errors so he could correct them and not look like a complete idiot. You know what I got back? an automated email thanking me for my inquiry and asking me if I was still interested in buying property on the Island – I now get this same email once a month and every month I reply back that I wouldn’t buy anything from someone so patently ignorant.
Another realtor I know bought a canned website where, while at least most of the information is correct, it was clearly written by someone for whom English is not their first language. In addition to the obvious language mangling, the writer has confused the period with the exclamation mark, ending! Every! Sentence! With surprise! And excitement! Is this really how you want to present yourself?
It makes me feel sad to be a writer in a world that pays two cents per written word – not just for the poor (literally) writer, but also for the reader. How much thought, research and craftsmanship has gone into copy that has to be churned out by the yard rather than by the idea…or the facts.
I know other members of a professional writing association I belong to have been saying this for a long time - that writing doesn’t pay anymore. There are many reasons for this – the internet makes it easy to find writers, regardless of the quality and there are many aspiring writers willing to write for nothing, or next to nothing to get their name in print – Russell Smith (columnist with the Globe and Mail) wrote a piece on this topic in 2011 - http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/why-dont-creative-young-writers-care-if-they-get-paid/article1361281/.
Luckily, I have clients who value well-written and effective copy and are willing to pay a fair price – I mean, better to pay for something that’s going to work, than pay next to nothing for something that is nothing anyway.
I’m at 700 plus words for this post – over my usual length, making this more of a rant than a post.
All $14 worth.
Credit to Dire Straits for mangling their song lyrics for the title of this post.