Freelance writers in the USA: Will work for coffee?

By Dianne Bayley

Every good freelance writer continues to look for writing opportunities on a variety of topics, from all around the globe. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been contacted (and commissioned) for work from companies in Switzerland, Australia, Ireland, the UK and, of course, my homeland, South Africa.

Each time I have delivered what was asked for and been paid promptly. Unless you count the UK connection, where the editor was dealing with a certain African country that shall remain nameless, but is notorious for getting work done and suddenly not having the money they said they had . . .

Given the number of times we read that “content is king” (and the spread of “infobesity” around the planet that requires words, words and more words to feed it) you’d think brand managers, marketers and publishers would want the very best word-weavers money can buy. They’d choose them for their experience, commitment to meeting deadlines and style of writing, while ensuring they meet budgetary parameters.

You’d think.

So I signed up to receive notifications about online writing jobs from the USA and suddenly realised why my American friends have to work three jobs to keep their rent paid and their PCs running . . . Seriously. I was just asked if I would write 30 articles of 500 words each, for $60.00. No, really – sixty dollars. Is my calculator broken, or does that work out to 0.004 US cents a word (or 0.032 South African cents per word)?

I was at JFK in New York recently where a coffee was selling for around $4.00. I would need to write 1 000 words to pay for that, you know . . . and probably another 2000 to get any kind of snack with it. If all the research and time that goes into putting together 15 000 words yields just $60.00 in the USA, where do you suppose writers live? And, HOW? In South African terms, I would need to write 171875 American words a month just to pay my rent . . . then there’s that little luxury, food . . .

From print to online, every expert agrees that “content is king”. Wouldn’t that mean that good content providers are worth their weight in gold? You’d think. Does it not go without saying that anyone who thinks they’re worth 0.004 cents a word isn’t really going to bring the WOW factor to your product or service? You’d think. And, if 0.004 cents a word is, indeed, the “going rate” in the USA, wouldn’t the people in sweatshops putting together electronic equipment for lousy wages and no time off be impressed to hear their western counterparts are writers? I reckon . . .

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2 thoughts on “Freelance writers in the USA: Will work for coffee?

  1. I agree. As a new freelance writer, I checked out dozens of sources for job postings and was dismayed at the pittance being offered by some for what amounted to significant research and effort. I decided not to compromise my “floor” rates by relying on these types of sources for work. I am finding that business networking via social media sites like LinkedIn and even Facebook yield more opportunities at higher rates.

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