I have been a full-time freelancer and sole support of my family for 24 years. I try to cover the bases – and check both free job boards and those who accumulate specific job site listings for a small fee.
So, sometime around last spring, here I am reading. The heading is something like “Health writers wanted.” Great – I am a health writer.
Then, “Articles run 550 words.” Also great – that is typical.
“Must be familiar with Search Engine Optimization (SEO).” I take this to mean must contain several keywords over and over to attract search engine bots. OK – I am getting pretty good at that.
“No plagiarism, we check.” In my experience, professional writers don’t plagiarize – they think their stuff is better than anything they would copy. But now a little bell tings. Could it be people will be “paraphrasing” work from “real” writers. Why would plagiarizing be a worry?
Then I come to compensation: $1 – $4 an article for 550 words. Come again?
That would be one dollar to four dollars? American dollars? For finding this fresh idea, checking with you, presumably finding sources, using my time and theirs, using my equipment, my talent, you are offering four dollars?
Is your zero key broken? I would not type 550 words for four little ones, much less find sources and write a story and upload it to you, Mr. Cheeseball.
At first, I ignore these, then I start to send them little notes. How sad about your zero key. Are you new in the business? New to the planet? This is not market rate. Ten times this is not market rate. These fees are an insult. Shame! What is your problem?
The respondents, these Four-buck Wonders, are quite uncivilized. They call me the b-word, sometimes preceded by the f-word. One said he could tell by my email that I can’t write anyway, so he wouldn’t even give me two bucks. The funniest was the woman who asked why I was even reading her ad, that it was for losers.
Clue! So now I know they are trolling for losers.
I traced one email address back to China. Another person theorized that these fly-by-night twits were trying to get a site up to put on Google ads and make some money. Someone else suggested these ads were aimed at our colleagues from India, who would soon be devouring our lunch. “Welcome to the Global Village,” this person smirked (he has a pharmco writing job). Other have said these folks won’t be in business long.
I agree with that last. I will still be standing, when they go on to wearing the paper hat and discussing fries as a possible side dish.
But in the meantime, how many serious publishers will think, “Hey, these website startups aren’t too bad. We pay rent, electricity, buy a computer, and as for the writers – $100 should do it.”
I also have an issue with paid job lists that include these ads. Like throwing garbage to maggots, they are circulating these rates and encouraging this nonsense. These in no way can be considered genuine opportunities for writers, even complete beginners. I know of one Job Board owner who won’t even list 10-cent-a-word jobs. She calls those “no fee” jobs.
And speaking of ten cents a word, a magazine owner told me that writers like me were “lucky” to even get 10 cents a word. I replied that instead of gloating over our luck, we took our services to places that paid market rate – which is a minimum of 50 cents a word.
Let’s hope in a few years there will still be such places and that no reputable publishers will see these stupid new fees and think, “Whoa, silly me, I have been overpaying all these years.”
Star Lawrence is a medical journalist based in Phoenix. Her work appears monthly on WebMD.com and in various trades. She is also a columnist for the Arizona Republic and a screenwriter with two options to her name. Her website is: http://www.sunoasis.com/webjean.html