How Free Will Some Freelancers Go? By Dawn Josephson

I am so tired of perusing freelance job boards and sites only to see listings that insult me and should insult every other professional writer out there. Just the other day I was on what is supposed to be a reputable site for freelance opportunities, only to see someone advertising that they’re seeking a freelancer to write their monthly newsletter. This is an ongoing assignment and they’d like 3-4 articles per newsletter, with each article being 4-5 paragraphs. And of course, they want “an experienced writer with a proven track record for results.”

The pay? $7 per newsletter. No, that’s not a typo. I didn’t mean to say “per article,” although that too would be insulting. And I didn’t forget a number or two. $7!

Let’s quickly do the math. If the average paragraph is 100 words, and one article has five paragraphs, that’s a 500 word article. Multiply that by four (the number of articles requested), and you’re talking 2,000 words. Now for the really fun part — $7 divided by 2,000 words is $0.0035 per word. That’s right, less than half a cent per word!

But I think what amazed me more was the fact that the posting had replies!!! People (supposedly professional writers) were offering to do the work for that amount, and some for less to be the lowest bidder.

Come on people! Wake up! What’s next…does the writer pay the company for the privilege of writing for them?

Yes, when I was first launching my career I wrote free articles for some trade magazines in order to get a few clips. I even do some pro bono work on occasion for organizations I want to help and support. I give free writing advice to my friends and family and sometimes to strangers at networking events. I know that you have to give in order to get…what goes around comes around…good karma…I get it. But it seems too many companies are crossing the line. Being a freelance writer does not mean we work for free on an ongoing or daily basis.

And as a business owner who uses newsletters to build my brand and attract new clients, I know how valuable well crafted newsletters are to companies. That 2,000 word newsletter the company only wants to pay $7 for, if well written by an experienced writer with a proven track record for results, could easily generate hundreds if not thousands of dollars worth of new business for the company. So to only pay someone $7 for this extremely valuable and potentially profitable marketing piece is insane.

People…listen up: If you do decide to write for free to gain clips, the work you produce should not be an income generator for the other person. The free piece should be informational and reader-focused, and should prominently showcase your abilities, not that of the company using the work.

The only way we’ll end this blatant abuse of the writing profession is if we unite and stop working for slave wages. Ignore those posts that want “experienced writers” to write for free or insulting pay. We need to remind those companies that you get what you pay for, and that experienced people don’t work for nothing.

If you want some clips or need some experience in a certain topic or industry, then write for your church bulletin, your industry or company newsletter, or some other publication that will give a boost to your reputation ñ something you can show others that has your name on it. But stop bidding on assignments that, in the end, only benefit the company paying beans and that leave you tired, overworked, and underpaid.

Who’s with me on this?

Dawn Josephson, The Master Writing Coach, has been a successful writer, ghostwriter, editor, and professional speaker since 1998. She has written over 2500 published magazine articles and 20 books for herself and her clients, including the ebooks So You Wanna Be a Ghostwriter: How to Make Money Writing without a Byline and The Better Writing Now Toolkit: Secrets and Strategies for Powerful Writing.