I recently received an email from an online proofreading service asking me to use and review their website. They offered me a $20 Amazon card for my services. That’s not a lot, but it’s more than I usually get paid for my posts. I whipped up a brief story, then went to the site to see how it worked. Imagine my surprise when I had to first sign up for a subscription (the cheapest of which was $11.50). So … they want me to write a promo piece for them, and they want me to pay them to do it?
I’m not a financial genius, but I’m not an idiot either.
When starting out as a freelance writer, it’s tempting (and sometimes necessary) to take low paying or pro bono work. I’ve taken low paying jobs for publications that I enjoy and want to support. I don’t get paid for my blogs, but I love blogging – it’s an outlet for me, not a chore. Now that I have five years of experience and over 300 published articles, however, I can afford to be more selective. I need to be more selective.
It can be pretty depressing to look for writing jobs and see that people are only willing to pay $10-25 for 500-2000 word assignments. Depending on what you’re writing, that can work out to $10/hour or less. Considering all of the specialized skills and training required as a writer, you’re almost better off working at McDonald’s. Before you take any of these low paying jobs, take an honest look at your career, goals, and the publications. There are times when it’s a good idea to take the free job because it will put you on a national platform (one million readers seeing your by-line could be worth it). When you’re years into your career (as I am) and people want you to pay to write for them (as this particular website), the time isn’t worth the effort.
Be honest with yourself about what you can and can’t afford to do. Building a name for yourself is one thing. Being taken advantage of is something completely different. Don’t let anyone do the latter. You’re a writer. You’re a professional. You’re time is valuable. Make sure you know what you’re worth.