We’ve all seen it at least once in our life. A down-on-his-luck person standing on a street corner holding a sign that reads “Will work for food.” Since finding employment in the past has been difficult, that phrase has jovially translated to us wordsmiths in the freelance industry as “Will write for food.”
Many years ago writing was considered a hobby, a pastime, that only the lucky and elite authors actually made a living from. While alluding to the fact that we’d actually give up our time and talents to create content simply to feed ourselves is an ongoing joke among writers, it was no laughing matter trying to find work.
That was until the invention of the Internet. Because of the overwhelming online presence and the myriad websites on the world wide web, the need for article, company description, press release, technology data sheet, and other company PR and marketing material content skyrocketed. Throw in the more recent popularity explosion in Web 2.0 and social networking to promote a certain person, company, product, or cause on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., and even more freelance writing opportunities have emerged.
And while one would think this is reason for all writers to pop the champagne and celebrate – it’s not. Mostly because many still can’t afford champagne. While it’s nice to see the advancement in technology open these new doors, when a writer steps through to receive his or her paycheck it is but a pittance of what it should be.
Perhaps it’s the fact that there is a flood of new jobs out there that leads employers to believe they can charge near nothing. Maybe the overflow of employment has brought with it a deluge of writers, which in turn drown perspective employers with resumes and responses.
Whatever the case – it’s time for writers to stand up and say no more. It’s time to get up on that table – Norma Rae style – grab that bullhorn, and shout out to each and every writer that it’s time to unite! Unite against the tyranny of unfair wages and comical compensation thrusted our way.
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.