The Gross National Debt

Sunday, May 3, 2015

A mild rant on the freelance world

The freelance writing world has seen three major changes in my life, all of which have made it so much easier to be a writer and even harder to make a living as a writer.

1) Word processors and then the computers which followed them. One of my journalism professors, Mawk Arnold, brought a KayPRO to school. Tiny screen, think original Mac computer for those who might be more familiar with that, a tiny amount of RAM and it ran on two 5.25 floppies. At the time the journalism department was running a MicroTEK system that ran off a central unit with a dozen VDTs. We also had the only and I do mean the only laser printer on campus.

Typewriters were a thing of the past. Revisions were simple. More writers saw the light. More writers joined the field.

Jim Joseph, another favorite prof of mine, said he was contacted by B.A.S.S. in Montgomery to work for them as an editor. He told us manuscripts were sometimes sent to the magazine written in pencil.

2) Email. Not the Internet, but email. All of a sudden people who only dreamed of freelance writing were suddenly connected to editors around the world like never before. Submissions to outlets that bought freelance material exploded. Prior to email, newspapers had a hard time find columnists. Really. I am not kidding. With email, the available pool of wanna-be columnists exploded.

Even more writers signed up. Many offered to write for free just to get published.

So. Wrong.

3) Freelance collator sites. Again, not the Internet, but this came about because of the Internet. These sites, and there are a lot, give people looking to hire freelancers a ginormous pool of talent to choose from. I have profiles on the top sites, except one which banned me (really, banned, not kidding) and get regular emails about job offers.

Now, the entire world appears to be an expert writer. Because the pool of writers is so large, it's a buyer's market. I see job offers where the buyer wants 1,000 words for $1. Lemme tell you, I write fast. I can crank more than 1,000 words an hour on topics I know about.

There are writers out there getting less than $1 an hour for writing. Some of these writers are, of course, in third world countries. The Phillipines and India also have a lot of these writers.

This is worse than writing for free. The authors of these $1 projects never get credit for writing. The work appears under someone else's name.

Some caveats: I ghost write a lot. That means someone else takes credit for my writing. I also get decent pay for that and it's stuff I don't care about. As noted, I have profiles on the top sites, except one. I also get frequent emails from collator sites announcing jobs to bid on. I do bid on jobs offered on those sites. I rarely get a job probably because of my pay demands.

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