This is going to look like something of a rant, but bear with me…

Over the years as a freelancer working predominantly online, I’ve come across a bewildering array of low paying websites. Just a few moments ago a gig offering $1.25 for 500 words popped up in my feed.

My jaw no longer hits the desk in shock and disgust; I simply click the next button. However it is clear that as people are paying these prices that there must be writers out there who are happy to work for this sweatshop-esque pittance.

Without sounding pretentious, being a writer is a calling. In many ways it can be vocational, although that largely depends on who you’re writing for. Like musicians and artists, writers write because they have thoughts and opinions and a voice that has to be heard.

No One Is Going to Hear You at $0.0025 per Word.

Even if they can faintly detect your tiny, minute voice, the reader won’t care what you have to say.

Now I’ve been in a position of having to accept low-paid jobs during my career (although none as low as the example above) and there is an entry-level expectation that you won’t be charging 25c per word. However there should also be an expectation that you yourself don’t take less than you can afford for the amount of time it takes to complete the job.

For instance don’t take on a project that cannot be completed in less than a week if the contractor isn’t offering what you would expect per week. In fact, you should be negotiating with them to pay more in case rewrites are required. Similarly, a job that should take a day shouldn’t be paying $10.

Obviously there might be some flexibility on this; it might be a fallow period, for instance, or you might be particularly interested in that type of project. On the whole, however, if the rate isn’t reasonable, don’t take the work.

Understanding Writing Job Ads

Previously I posted a few thoughts and experiences on the best places to find freelance writing jobs. On the list you might have seen Problogger listed, along with mention of Craigslist.

Both of these places are guilty of committing a major crime against freelancers. The open aspect of posting jobs on Craigslist partially excuses the service, but given that Problogger listings cost $30 a time, it is disappointing that more isn’t made of the fact that not all of these jobs will list the price they are willing to pay.

As a rule of thumb, if there is no price, don’t apply.

(Similarly, Problogger lists jobs from companies who won’t pay if you’re not based in the USA, without advising of this in the advert, so keep your eyes peeled.)

My own tactic on this is simple. If I spot an advert with no price listed, I don’t apply; I also don’t share it. I’ve gone beyond complaining, however, as few people seem interested in listening.

Read the Ads Carefully

While we’re on the subject, it is also worth mentioning that you should keep a copy (perhaps print it out) of each job listing you apply for and read it through several times before applying. Make sure you’re completely clear about what is expected of your application – there are many common mistakes:

  • You might be required to submit up to five links to work you have had published online; don’t list six.
  • Similarly don’t forget to include your resume/CV if requested.
  • If you’re required to send a sample of text within the body of the email rather than an attachment, do so.
  • Some hiring managers will ask you to do something unusual like alter the subject line slightly, just to make sure you have read the rest of the advert correctly.

Therefore you should spend time monitoring the requirements before replying.

Don’t Apply For Everything

I usually find that I open 8-10 job listings per day. Typically I have these open in tabs in my browser and return to them after the initial reading to see exactly what the job entails.

Often I will close the tab and forget about it; being based in the UK can be a drawback in some cases. Other times, the job isn’t suitable, pays too little, requires people of a specific age or interest, or just isn’t as interesting as I initially thought.

Let me know if you have any thoughts or questions!