Jump on Craigslist or any other online freelance employment website and you'll see a whole job board full of both long-term and short-term projects. Bloggers needed - $2 per post. Website writer needed - $5 per page. Articles needed - $.01 per word (after editing). And the best: Daily articles needed, no pay, but we give you a byline.
Just today on Craigslist's SF Bay Area section there is this advertisement for a "Freelance Article Writer:"
"Web-based business seeks freelance writer to create high-quality, original articles of 500-700 words in length. Requirements: excellent writing skills, ability to rapidly assimilate information gathered from multiple sources then turn around into high-quality original content, ability to meet tight deadlines."
Sounds ideal - especially to former reporters and journalists. That is until one sees the compensation for such work: $15 per article. Researching, organizing, composing, editing, rewriting - all for just enough money to buy a nice lunch. By yourself. Oh, and the ad calls for high-quality content, so the business is hoping to land a "talented" writer.
While it is understandable to see low pay or even trade from folks that have little to no money - like students needing help with their thesis or someone starting up a blog - it's an outrage to see real-life, profit-making companies placing posts for near scraps in return.
Maybe they truly believe that it's easy to write - simple to sit down, slam a few keys on a computer, and put meaningful sentences together. Maybe they just don't understand that quality writing takes time, effort, talent, and passion. Whether it's a short blog entry, product description, or a lengthy newsworthy article - every piece of work is more than just a bunch of words linked together - it's artwork.
Until writers unite and start demanding to get paid accordingly, and employers respectively respond, we'll continue to be starving artists - working just to put food on the table.