Stop Giving it Away

What do various professionals make per hour? Would you expect your lawyer or doctor to offer their skills for free, or next to nothing? Of course not. Yet many clients think writers should give their work away.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hourly wage for lawyers in 2012 was $62.93. The lowest-paid 10 percent earned $26.11 per hour. At the 75th percentile level, the hourly rate was $80.77. The top-paid 10 percent earned at least $90 per hour. The BLS noted that self-employed lawyers typically earned less than law firm partners.

Perhaps making a comparison between lawyers and writers isn’t apt. How about considering what one group of writers makes–reporters and correspondents? Their mean average wage is $21.69 an hour.

If writing is a skill–and I believe that it is–then why do many think it’s ok to offer a writer pennies per word for their time and effort? Perhaps because too many writers accept a pittance for their work.

I’ve been amazed at how many crappy content mills there are offering work to “freelancers,” expecting them to write 500 to 1,000 words for $5 per article; some pay even less.

One of these, which rhymes with “freelance” is filled with job offers catering to clients offering writers crap for their talent and skills. I’d rather pick up bottles on the side of the road than write for one of these so-called freelance services. What’s ironic is that many of these jobs seeking proposals are poorly written and often riddled with typos. So much for knowing what it is you’re pricing.

Recently, I bid on a writing job with a national real estate firm; after thinking I had locked up a client and written my initial post, they suddenly decided that my rate for a blog post was too much and found someone else that would do it for next to nothing. Reconsidering, I should have bid higher.

I guess the next time I’m in the market for a new house, I’ll offer my broker $5,000 for their $250,000 house–I’m sure they won’t have any problem with my offer.

January and the first of February have been slower than I would have liked. Things have started picking up, however. I wonder if this has anything to do with my deciding to forgo the  freelance sites and Craigslist jobs and get back to doing things the old-fashioned way–cold-calling, querying, and looking for opportunities that value writers, rather than expecting them to work for free.


4 thoughts on “Stop Giving it Away

  1. Well said. Compensation doesn’t always have to come in the form of cash but should be equal to cash. I quit every paying gig I had last fall because they didn’t pay fairly and had no perks to make up for a lack of cash.

    • I agree, Robin. Some writing offers other benefits besides cash. However, when the cash isn’t there and there are no perks, what’s the point in writing for someone, right?

  2. Well said Jim and the same can be said for musicians. As you know I am both a writer and musician and the latter is frequently expected to play for nothing or just tips which amount to marginally more than nothing. I won’t say I will never do the work for nothing, but it will be on my terms, when it serves my interests.

  3. Bruce, great point about music and musicians being expected to play for a pittance. It’s interesting what gets valued in our market economy and what gets short shrift. I also find it interesting how both writing and playing/making music often get romanticized, yet those who don’t do either have no problem taking the capital of those two occupations and valuing it in such a way that you have to do three other things to keep your art and craft vibrant and alive.

    Thanks for contributing to the conversation.

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