Freelance Writers, Just Say No

With my fairly lax stay-at-home schedule these days, and the guarantee of ninety minutes (or more) of uninterrupted time every afternoon (not to mention three mornings a week) I have more than once thought about boosting my presence in the world of freelance writing. Almost by accident, two writing jobs have found me in the past three years which, although certainly cannot count as a second income, are steady, and provide me an opportunity to exercise my academic writing muscles with regularity. The extra cash is like a little bonus, which gets taxed down to dimes on the dollar, but also allows me to continue legally contributing to my IRA every year.

So about a year ago I discovered a website (Elance dot com) which is basically a global database for freelance anything. Writers, legal minds, web-developers, international redundancy bloggers, knockoff Wikipedia hopefuls, professional spammers, you name it, they all converge in this one place online, that is highly organized and provides a higher payment guarantee than say, Craigslist.

Aside from creating a profile and browsing a few job offers, I really hadn’t logged back in to this site until last week. I recently recommended it to a Spanish speaking friend who has been looking for some extra income. For someone like her, this website is actually a gold mine. To the best of my browsing, it seems, the more specialized your language or computer expertise, the more likely you are to find jobs that will pay you a fair price for your work, experience, and educational degrees.

People like me, however, are another story. Ex-teachers, English degree holders, bloggers, and once professionals-turned-stay-at-home-parents are not only a dime a dozen, but many, apparently, are selling themselves out to what appears to be the equivalent of American writing sweat-shops. Hundreds of people are essentially selling their time and brain in an online red light district, at Taiwanese-hooker prices.

It is a little appalling.

Yesterday I received a personal message from a job I had bid on. This message was sent to everyone who had made a proposal. The highlights are as follows:

The quotes I’ve received so far seem a little high for what I was asking. Let me clarify so that everyone is clear…This project will only take about forty hours, tops. Some of you could probably do it in as few as twenty. I was really looking to spend one hundred to three-hundred dollars tops.

Let me clarify so that everyone is clear? (No wonder the gentleman is sub-contracting the written part of his book project. Holy hell.) I guess maybe he also believes that because this is a writing project, none of the bidders would be able to do some mental number crunching. What this guy is essentially asking for, is twenty to forty hours of editing, plus some original content that he will sell under his name, and he wants to spend a maximum of fifteen dollars an hour. Of course, he’s clearly going to go with the lowest bidder, for whom the bar has been set at $2.25 an hour.

And here is the saddest part: he will get his asking price. (Somebody needs to go occupy Elance.)

Note to those of you who have never been self-employed. Social security tax is split in half and paid by the employer and the employee. Therefore, when you are both the employer and the employee, you pay both. So $2.25 an hour, even if you are in the lowest tax bracket and have two children, is really more like $1.71 an hour after you pay social security.

But wait, it gets better.

Want to know the subject of the books this guy wants to publish?

Self-Help.

As I will not be furthering my opportunity to work on this job by lowering my bid, I’m offering this little self-help nugget, free of charge:

“If you have a college education and are willing to work for as little as $2.50 an hour, doing anything, it would be less shameful, and probably more beneficial, for you to move back in with your parents.”

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2 comments on “Freelance Writers, Just Say No
  1. You find the neatest stuff on the internet. Honetly I may be using elance to find myself a composer for the musical I just finished. Though I will most def. be taking advantage of the Taiwanese-hooker prices. 🙂

  2. hannahkarena says:

    Elance is the worst–I’ve gotten messages like that a lot. I’ve actually found guru.com to be better–they have a minimum amount of money you can bid, which pretty much eliminates slave labor price bidding wars–and people are so happy to find others with decent credentials, they don’t bicker over your quote.

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