freelance writing rates and outsourcing

Illustration by John Leech

Well look at what we have here. Un petit billet-doux which explains (partly) why freelance writers are treated like so many cattle on bid sites. A little fluttering of printed cambric of the finest denier called the Outsource Report.

Now what's this on page 6 - "How to take advantage of other people to DO ALL THE WORK FOR YOU" .. well yeah 'taking advantage of' can simply mean making use of their resources .. but wait ..  'also, how to pay them a fraction of what you'd normally pay for online projects.' (My emphasis).

See, bidders ( those people in business) will tell you (another person in business) that they have no money (so they want YOU to subsidise THEM) and play on your heart strings and try to make you feel sorry for them (playing the victim, in other words).

Look, if you want a really nice dress you see in the window, you do not go in and say to the salespeople 'Hey, I want that dress but I only have $5. It's not worth any more than that anyway so just hand it over and don't argue.'


'Hey that dress in the window is lovely. I'd really like it but I only have $5. I'm sorry, I just don't have any more money but you'd like to help make me look nice, wouldn't you?'


'Here's $5. I'd like $200 worth of dress please.'

No, none of that works. It doesn't work because if you want something good, you pay for it. You don't try to bully people into accepting less and no-one should be selling their writing for less than it's worth, or devaluing their own skill. Fair enough there are some people around saying they're writers but then you have to go and look at their portfolios and make up your own mind, and I dare them to demand professional rates.

I've even seen a freelance site saying you only need to be able to string a sentence together. And the rates they offer for different standards of work? One of the categories is "legible". I kid you not.

The sooner we can make sure that there are more sites where you can find decent writing, professional writers, and clients who respect the value of a job done professionally, the less chance there will be for these charlatan Scrooges to bully freelancers into working for tuppence a feature.
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freelance rates on Odesk

Image by Scarab

Rates on iFreelance have hit a new low today with one buyer offering $0.20 per 400 word article. Yes that's right. $0.20. They want 25 articles a week at that price, leaving a writer with the total massive sum of $5.

Per week.

Now, that might be acceptable in a country where living costs are so low as to make $5 look like a fortune. I get that. But this buyer isn't even apologising for the low rates and is dangling this $5 a week as though it's a prize: come on, bid if you're tough enough to handle the work.


But what's this? An urgent communication from Odesk who are keen to recruit more writers to the fold, and have recently made some big changes in the fee policies for buyers. What? Yes! A rise in the minimum rate for a complete project, and also a rise in the minimum for a max price!

Higher minimum rates? Great stuff! I love it when a site stands up for its writers and requests that buyers pay a fair wage. Makes you want to go and work with them, and  feel valu ....

Uhhhh .. wait.

We've made a few small tweaks to job posts. (A) The budget for fixed-price jobs must be at least $5, and (B) the max hourly rate can't be less than $3. 


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racial discrimination, ifreelance

Image: Karora

So there you are, sauntering through the offers being hung out of windows by buyers eager to attract the services of passing writers, and you find one buyer who is keen only to attract native speakers of English and refuses to entertain the idea of receiving bids from anyone from India or China.


Let me read that again. Oh, OK. He says he will not "except" people from India or China. Oh! That's alright then. He won't exclude them after all (but why bother saying it ... ). Anyhoo ..

But wait another second! In the public discussion that follows, when the subject is brought up, he justifies racial discrimination in the ad by saying that it was approved by the website before it was uploaded. Oh, so he did mean to exclude anyone from India and China. And it's not his fault but iFreelance's fault for letting it through.


So. We are now waiting for a reply to an email sent to iFreelance, asking when this breach of US, UK and Canadian legislation will be dealt with, either by the buyer removing the offending sentence, or removing the offer altogether.

You can see why the poor dear is so confused about who can and who cannot speak English proper, like, innit.  He can't even speak it himself.
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even white rabbits have good manners

When you're a freelance writer you want enough work coming in to keep you in water and gruel, but not so much that you end up working 30 hours a day, 9 days a week. That is no fun and defeats the object of going freelance in the first place - i.e. to enjoy life again.

So, there you are on these bid sites and you're bidding on projects, planning your schedule, hedging your bets, keeping time free for this - and that - juggling ... and then  - NOTHING. The buyers don't award the projects and don't even have the good manners to end the project.

Even an imaginary white rabbit has a sense of urgency in meeting deadlines and arriving somewhere on time.

Maybe buyers don't realise when we bid, that unless we're a team of writers, we're making sure that whatever we bid for is factored in to a draft schedule so that we're not ever going to be overloaded. The end dates of the bids are important because that's part of our draft schedule.

The buyer, however, might have scattered the project round several freelance sites and found a writer somewhere else, but they don't bother to come back and let people know it's been awarded. Not a peep. Not a single solitary sausage of a hint.

Writers just want  to know if the project has been awarded! So we can get on with our lives! And bid for other projects, knowing that the buyer isn't going to suddenly appear after one, or two, or even six weeks (this has actually happened) and say, "you know that project you bid on six weeks ago? You're hired."

It just ain't gonna work like that, because by then we have a different schedule in place, with new clients and new deadlines. We were ready six weeks ago to dive into your project, or find new clients, but you didn't show!

And if that white rabbit is hiring, I'm open.  I like his commitment to deadlines.

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