Distancing myself from ‘free’ freelance writing work

For about a year I had been blogging at a sports website. That is coming to an end. The blogging pays nothing. Yes, it’s nice to sometimes hear from readers and receive kudos, but at this stage in my writing career I am narrowing things down to where I write for free only in certain circumstances. That blog was just too much time for no pay. The same goes for another blogging assignment that would take me an hour to write and to format and load–for $2.

Steve, a colleague and friend who writes for a famous magazine and wrote a book about Tiger Woods, once told me to avoid potential clients who say, “We can’t afford to pay you, but what we can do is give you a byline on our website.” I might add that, professionally, you should respond with: “Um, HE-LLO, McFly! [Knock on their noggin] Anybody home? Of course you will publish my name on writing work. But if you want me to take time out of my life to work for you, I expect to get paid.”

Conversely, I wonder what my landlord, internet provider, electric company, cell phone company and other monthly bills would say if I told them instead of paying my bill, I’d blog about them and make sure their name got out on the internet. Somehow, I think they’d threaten to cut off my services after laughing themselves silly.

A few years ago, I had a Christian information website called the Alpha Omega Chronicle (I say that name freely because if I ever do the site again, it’ll be under a different name). Every few weeks I’d pose a question and solicit responses from various Christians. I had people writing opinions on issues for me but I began to grow very convicted about not having the money to pay them for their services. I’ve come to this conclusion: if I ever re-launch the website, I will pay each person a fee for their opinion. No free writing. Likewise, I recommend to others who want to start a website requiring the services of writers and other professionals: don’t do so until you can afford to pay them.

Richard Zowie tries to stay busy in his writing life and believes it’s far better to be busy than unemployed. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.

Why writers like me require ‘day jobs’

Currently, I have two part-time jobs (totaling about 54 hours a week) and I do freelance on the side. With one PT job I work at a newspaper run by some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met. Professional, classy are great words to describe them. The other job is at a gasoline station. You learn to further develop your sense of humor and acquire a thick skin. With the freelance, I currently am waiting for some new assignments from a recreation magazine. This client’s been very good to me. Satisfying work and I get paid very well for it. On more than one occasion those assignments have helped to pay past-due bills or buy my wife, kids or myself much-needed items.

I tell my wife that I could ever get two or three more regular clients like the rec magazine, things would look up for us financially. Yes, I’d be very busy and would probably have to take naps more often (something I rarely do), but we could get done a lot of things that we need.

With that, I visit freelance websites frequently in hopes of picking up a few more clients. Out of every 25 or so lines I toss out, I catch a fish. Most of the time, the fish turns out to be far too small and must be cast back into the water.

And then there’s this one I received.

The company requires well-researched, well-written articles without any filler words. Rates are:

Tier 1 Flat Rates: 200 words for $1.40, going up to $5.60 for 800 words.

Tier 2 Flat Rates: 200 words for $2.00, going up to 900 words at $9.00.

Tier 3 Flat Rates: 200 words for $ 3.00, going up to 1,000 words for $15.00.

It’s something I may try out: the e-mail says these are the types of articles that can be written in 20 minutes. If indeed they can, then these pay rates could work. But if it actually takes about three hours to write a Tier 3 article at 1,000 words, then you’re looking at $5 per hour, which is even less than minimum wage.

We’ll see how it goes…

Richard Zowie runs several blogs. Post comments below or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.