Posts Tagged ‘writing gigs’

Right now I write for a few different content mills – enterprises whose main purpose is to produce content for the web. One was pretty good for a while, but it recently slashed compensation rates by more than 50%, and so what used to be a nice comfortable gig is now essentially a minimum wage job. It’s disappointing – they must have made the conscious decision to get worse, both in the relationship they had with their freelance writers and editors, and also with respect to the quality of the content they delivered to clients. Plus they hired so many writers, it’s hard to find any work at all!

One of the mills often has small tasks on an on-demand basis – if you’ve got a few minutes free, literally, you can knock off a few quick tasks. The pay isn’t great, but I’d rather earn a few bucks and practice my writing than sit for half an hour waiting for a job to come my way.

There’s quite a good post on a blog I visited recently.  It’s one of the first times I’ve seen honest appraisal of content mills, in many cases from the perspective of writers who have made their living at their craft, and can recognize the content mills for what they are. See, that’s where I was behind the 8-ball. Before getting these online gigs, I was really unaware that there were such things as content mills, or that I had any shot at writing more substantive pieces for websites and magazines, for significantly more substantial pay. Here’s a link to the post. Reading it, and the many replies, opened my eyes to two main facts:

1. Compared to other content mills, I didn’t know how good I had it, both at the beginning, when I was earning 7 cents per word, and later, when the pay was a flat rate of $20 per 300-word biography.

2. Compared to other gigs – magazines, websites, white papers for corporations, and other technical and professional-level writing – I had no idea how short I was selling myself, both at the beginning, when I was earning only 7 cents per word, and later, when I was paid just $20 per 300-word biography.

Now, there’s little real difference from other content mills, except for the fact that I’ve already passed the tests and gotten my foot in the door. I looked into signing up for some others, but the list of things I had to do to get on the list of approved writers – before being permitted to bid on any jobs – was ridiculous. Plus I’m not giving anyone any “writing samples” on a topic of their choosing. If you want to see how I write, visit the Georgia Yankee blog or visit WiseGEEK, where there are over 200 articles under my byline. (You can see a clickable list of those articles here!)

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This is the second or third blog I’ve started. As you can see, instead of starting a new one, I went back to the most recent one and I’m going to try to pick up from there.

My absence is excusable, somewhat. I’ve been busy working all this time. Actually, I’ve been writing. Short, snappy pieces, 250 – 400 words each. The big PR outfit I was working for said “Anyone can write 800, 900 words or more. The trick is to write about half that much and still include all the same information, and keep it interesting.”

They were paying a decent rate for the work, too, which is somewhat surprising. The Internet is a huge place, and apparently it needs a lot of content. When you visit sites maintained by real companies, you see generally professionally written content. Big companies aren’t the only outfits maintaining websites, though, and there are scores of sites whose content is, shall we say, less than professional.

The fact that they can’t cobble together a simple sentence doesn’t dissuade many of these people from trying, however, and when they’re finally convinced to hire someone else to do their writing for them, they seem to have the attitude that good writing doesn’t justify even minimum wage. Who knows? Maybe it’s frustration over not being able to do it themselves. Most of these people are content to let someone else design the actual website – why do they seem to think that it takes no skill to write the content?

So it was gratifying to find an outfit that needed plenty of content, was willing to pay for it, and has plenty of work to do! Not only did it help pay the bills, it helped me develop my own skills. Every piece I wrote was professionally edited, and the editors gave me valuable feedback when they let me know my final wordcount. I came to grips with my penchants for overly long sentences and for semicolons as well.

So why am I back today? Has this great outfit gone bellyup? No – in fact, from all I can see, it’s doing great. It also just cut our writing rates dramatically. It’s actually the second time they cut rates on us, or third, if you want to be nitpicky about it. But this time really hurts.

Here’s what happened: This big PR firm spun off its creative arm into another company, which right away ended the practice of paying per word in favor of a flatrate of $20 per piece. This was a bit disappointing, but honestly speaking, I think we were all beginning to take advantage of the per-word rate. Instead of staying within the range of 250 – 400 words, it was obvious we were all beginning to turn in larger and larger pieces. I turned in a couple of nearly 600 words, for instance, and I saw others in the 800-word neighborhood.

The next thing that happened came pretty much on the heels of ending the per-word rate: they identified two different kinds of pieces we did, and cut one in half – said they’d only pay $10 apiece for them. They seemed really surprised when we protested, and said “Okay, the minimum wordcount for the $10 piece will be 150 words instead of 250 words.” Remember, these are pieces we write to spec, researched and everything. Whoever’s done this kind of work knows it’s not the wordcount that takes the time and effort, it’s the research and planning.

Anyway, we went maybe 15, 16 months or so at the flat rate, and last week they dropped another bombshell – all pieces are cut to $7.50, wordcount in the range of 150 – 350 words. So for those of us who were doing mostly the $20 jobs, that was a cut of more than 50% (62.5%, for the detail oriented).

Which is why I’m back at it. Blogging away to perfect a broader range of skills and let you know not only what I’m capable of, but also that I’m available.