Paula has been a great supporter and superb cheerleader for the writers worth concept. She's done everything from
push encourage me to expand Writers Worth to taking over when I landed in the hospital smack in the middle of the month of May (2013). When she first suggested a month of posts, I balked. At that point, I had been writing the majority of them, so the idea of 20 days' worth of posts on one topic didn't appeal. I didn't think I could bring a fresh perspective to it for that long.
Thankfully, Paula is not only tenacious, but willing to jump in and help. This year, she reminds us of why being like her is a hell of a lot better than sitting back and waiting for work to come to us.
The High Cost of Laziness
by Paula Hendrickson
About six months ago, someone I know asked if I’d like to contribute a few blog posts to her company’s consumer-facing website. She warned me the pay wouldn’t be great, but it was straightforward work. I thought it might be fun, and since no interviews were required it was light work I could easily fit into my schedule.
With an assignment letter in place, I wrote my first post and my friend sent the formal paperwork along with a note asking if I’d be open to joining Upwork to help streamline the process. Her bosses wanted to be able to pay by credit card, and Upwork would allow them to do so.
I hadn’t heard of Upwork, so I looked at the site. At the end of the FAQ, under “How Much Does Upwork Cost,” it says, “It’s free to join Upwork. Once you begin doing freelance work with a client on our platform, we deduct a 10% fee from each payment.”
This middleman website wants to take 10% of my hard-earned dollars? For what? It’s not as if they found the client for me, negotiated terms, or did anything an agent or manager would do to earn 10% of my fees.
Luckily it wasn’t a deal breaker, but I was told it would take longer to be paid by check. (It did.) Thankfully I wasn’t so hard up for cash to even consider forking over 10% of my earnings just to be paid faster — and frankly, if the company wanted to pay by credit card, they could do that via PayPal, which only charges the recipient 2.9% plus a 30¢ transaction fee.
But some writers are so desperate for quick cash or a clip that they’re easy prey for companies saying they’ll help connect them with potential clients, streamline the business side of things, or provide them with that fabled “exposure” — at a price.
Newsflash: exposure doesn’t pay the bills.
I don’t mean to pick on Upworks, which I later discovered is really just a shiny new brand name for what used to be called Elance and Odesk. Sure, technically speaking they provide a service, but is it a service you really need?
Not if you take charge of your career by putting forth a little effort to find your own clients.
Another lazy way people try to find clients? Contributor networks. Some writers swear by them, but I can’t see why—unless they’re so unsure of their talent and afraid of rejection that they’re terrified to directly approach editors.
Writers who are accepted into some of these networks get regular updates about topics editors are looking to cover, and without benefit of an actual assignment, each writer can spend hours writing an article, hoping it might be chosen for publication from countless other submissions. Some networks pay a flat fee, some pay per impression, and some offer a combination of the two.
Sorry, but that sounds more like a writing competition than a business model.
Worse yet, the editors probably have dozens of articles to choose from, which means your odds of getting paid are even lower than if you’d queried an editor with a story idea and were asked to write it on spec.
From what I’ve seen, most contributor networks are pretty vague about pay rates. Some won’t even divulge how much—or little—they pay.
A friend of mine freelances on the side for fun, not profit, because she has a full-time job that pays the bills. She writes a lot of articles for the online portal of a well-known publication, and it works for her. According to some online sources, just a couple years ago the print edition was paying well over $1/word. But for digital articles, the current stated pay rate is $1.50-$2 per every 1,000 ad impressions.
That means to get paid, the writers need to market and promote their posts, too. That may be a smart, cost-saving, content-generating business model for the publishers, but it’s not sustainable for writers. Not if they want to earn a living.
Instead of squandering time writing on spec—especially for major titles’ lower-paying online editions—why not pitch your original ideas to better-paying markets, or to a contributor network’s print edition?
Sure, maybe you can break into a market through a contributor’s network. But ask yourself: If the editor is used to paying a fraction of a penny per impression for my online articles, why would they pay me $1/ word to write for their actual magazine?
As usual, it all comes down to knowing your own worth.
Once you know your worth as a writer, you’ll see how costly the lazy approach to finding new markets and clients can be.
You don’t need a middleman, and you don’t need to devalue your talent by joining the feeding frenzy of a talent pool filled with people who think writing on spec is a productive use of time.
This blog’s archive is loaded of free, usable tips on finding good clients. Please take advantage of Lori’s sage advice. You’re worth it.
Paula Hendrickson is a freelance writer covering television, business, and the business of television for publications including Emmy, Variety, CableFax, and PromaxBDA Brief. She also provides copywriting, editing, and blogging services for a select group of clients. When her new puppy allows, Paula also enjoys writing about her cooking and crafty endeavors at CreateFromScratch.wordpress.com. Her Twitter handle is @P_Hendrickson
Writers, how have you seen laziness claim other writers' careers?
How do you overcome your own lack of motivation?
How do you overcome your own lack of motivation?