But what if you already know how to write...
But what if you already know how to write…
Searching the web for writing jobs is quite similar to the efforts of Sisyphus to reach the summit of a mountain only to have the boulder slip from your grasp and fall back to the base of the hill. There are many obstacles to achieving a career as a writer and they are called Legion.
I originally planned to do some freelance writing to supplement or replace my income while I worked on getting the books I’ve written published. Freelance writing is a wall that many slam into in the pursuit of a writing career. The competition, the low pay, and the time spent in attaining that income is frustrating, irritating, and downright infuriating.
Having a substantial amount of life experience and some skill at the written word does not necessarily equate to a living wage. The entire concept of a “living wage” has been redefined where it comes to writers. Everybody wants you to be some kind of SEO guru and write not from a creative point of view, but in a way that will get them on the first page of a search engine query. This is a labyrinth which offers small reward for much hard work.
As many new or “aspiring” writers, I started with a search on Google and proceeded to sign up for as many writing sites that I could find offering remuneration. Most of these were content mills that usually pay a fraction of a penny per word. There are many testimonials given by these sites by people who claim thousands of dollars of income yet, breaking into the “thousands of dollars” bracket is a gargantuan feat.
There is a pernicious undercurrent in the business of freelance content sites that many have yet to discover. The first deception I encountered is with a couple of the more well-known sites. They have sections within their structure for writers and employers. I found, or more accurately, was duped into bidding on jobs that paid approximately $.0052 a word. The employers kept stating that it would only pay that much because it would take only a few minutes to write the piece. What I ultimately discovered was the “thousands of dollars” clique were mostly non-English writers from other countries who have somehow gotten recognized and receive many bids which they turn around and hire struggling newcomers to write for a fraction of the original bid.
Notwithstanding the $.0052/word, and the unrealistic time constraints, there is no value for the time it takes to write quality work. About 18 years ago I spent time as an HIV/AIDS counselor. I know of the danger of the disease, the transmission of the disease, and protection from the disease. Those are pretty standard practices. What I do not have right off the top of my head is relevant information on the treatment of the disease. Treatment has taken enormous leaps in the past 18 years from a point of seeming hopelessness to a place where AIDS is now a manageable long term chronic condition. The specifics of how this field has evolved are ever changing and to accurately write on the subject requires some reasonable amount of time in research.
The time needed to research the topic, write it, edit it, and deliver it for a, say, 1600 word article is somewhere around an hour to an hour and a half. For my time, effort, and talent I was offered $7.00USD. That is less then minimum wage for any position in America let alone for a University Graduate level writer with 25 years of experience. Once more Sisyphus has to walk back down the hill.
I realized at this point what it was that irked me. Sure, the work can be completed as the “employer” states, but it usually ends up reading like an adult literacy primer, similar to how most of the prose on the internet exists.
Admittedly, I have been writing for near a quarter century, but until recently I have always thought of writing as something I would love to do while I maintained employment at something my education and experience qualified me for. I started with a blog (see my profile) and was fine with the occasional ramblings I put out and never worried about who liked it or even read it. I sent out emails to my friends when I posted and went about my life. I began to receive serious comments that I should write for a living. Life has taken many turns for me and it has come to a point that I am not able to go out into the workforce due to physical limitations. It seemed the perfect answer. I have been published a few times for short stories and essays, and have completed three novels with two more in the works. I know how to write. Getting paid is the boulder.
I have signed up for some sites that have required tests to be taken in order to write for them. Not a problem you might say, until they score the test. Providing a writing sample is not an issue and it makes sense to let a potential client check out your ability. That is why I maintain both a blog and a profile with examples of my writing in fiction, non-fiction, academic, and informational matters. The sites requiring tests have another slant on the proper way to do business. I signed up for a site that wanted a test piece of 120 words in the form of a movie review.
I gave these folks one of them, a review of “Driving Miss Daisy” and they scored it 0% due to plagiarism. I know I wrote it, and this assemblage of geniuses is accusing me of plagiarizing my own work. I double checked my submission/acceptance/rejection files and found that I had submitted the same review to another company who also had rejected me. The other site specifically explained that they would discard any rejected material so that it could be used by the author, who would retain the rights to the piece. I searched the other site and found my review. What I did not find was any recognition for the review in my name (there was another name assigned to it) and no payment for the piece. I am considering taking legal action but do not know if the time is worth it for a $20.00 story. The lawyer needed would cost ten times that just to look into it. The boulder slips again.
On a social networking site for writers I happened on a publisher who was “pumped up and excited to work with new and aspiring authors.” I bit the apple, only to find a worm. He had a specific submission requirement and what seemed like a reasonable process. The submission took me two hours to complete and it took him 6 minutes to send me a rejection. The book I was attempting to query is a novel that consists of short stories that the characters in the novel write as a path to the attainment of enlightenment. It does not fit any specific genre and that is what I put in the query with a note stating that I needed help choosing a genre, a service this guy advertised, and was told that if I didn’t know what genre it was then how was the reader was supposed to.
HELLO!!! Readers do not care about genre; they just want a good story. Publishers, ad agencies, marketers and the rest of the writing cabal in the world are stuck on genre. There is a principle that Herbert Spencer wrote of once about people who make snap judgments. It is called “Contempt Prior to Investigation.” He did not look at the synopsis; he did not look past the dollar signs he had in his eyes when he advertised his services. He just saw a way to maybe make some money off of some “aspiring” writer and was not willing to put any effort into his advertised side of the story. The boulder once again.
To sum it all up it is near impossible to make a living at writing unless you put on the clown clothes and jump through the hoops put in front of you. There are so many people out there who want to “be a writer” that the market is flooded and byzantine in structure. What this creates is an environment full of vultures looking to feed on the carrion of some unknown scribe who is just trying to put the dream in their head into the real world. Where I live, people shoot vultures or run them over in their trucks as they feast on road kill. I am not road kill!
So what is the answer? Any true writer is going to write regardless of recompense. There is a need in the writer to put the words dashing around in their head down on paper. Most definitely do so! Robert Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” received 121 rejections by different publishers, (more than any other bestselling book, according to the Guinness Book of Records) before being accepted by William Morrow Publishers. Today, this book is universally accepted as the primer for any freshman university study of philosophy. I leave you with the best advice that can be given:
“Never give in. Never, never, never, never- in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”- Winston Churchill