How to Make $2 per Hour Writing
By Steve Gillman - August 12, 2014
The pay scale indicator
started at $2 per hour. That should have been a clue. I had signed
up for Freelancer.com,
a popular freelance platform to look for writing jobs, and I
poked around to see what was currently available. One project
that caught my eye involved finance articles. I could do that.
But I noticed the rate was $3 per article, and the client required
that the writer have a Bachelor's degree from a U.S. university.
I laughed, thinking this was an anomaly. Then I started to get
emails like the following from the website:
Here are the latest projects and contests matching your
profile and skills.
Apparently I had a horrible profile and no skills, at least
if these "matches" were any indication.
In any case, my understanding of the economic expression "low
barriers to entry" became very clear. It is easier than
ever to write for money. The internet makes possible an almost
instant connection between writers and people who need things
written. This is wonderful... sort of.
On one hand, it's possible I wouldn't be writing for a living
if it had been more difficult to get started. I never sold a
book or an article before the internet came along, and then,
suddenly, my wife and I were making a good living writing for
our own websites and producing e-books. Now, as a freelance writer,
it is easier than ever for me to research and write articles,
and to find clients.
On the other hand, the result of these lower barriers to entry
is an influx of millions of writers who are competing to see
who can sell their work the cheapest.
I collected several of these emails before I started to hit
the delete button without opening them. I had previously suspected
that the biggest challenge would be getting chosen from among
the dozens of writers bidding on any given project. Being the
new guy with no ratings doesn't make it easy to convince a potential
client that you're the one he needs. But I discovered another
big challenge; wading through all the projects to find the small
percentage that actually offer more than a few dollars per hour.
This is no exaggeration. Here's one of the examples culled from
the first three emails I received:
Write Blog Articles (Longtem) - More than
one expert writers are needed with excellent English writing
skills. I offer a fixed rate of $2 USD for 500 words. If you
do not agree to rates, please do not bid. You will get a continous
work from this project.
The buyer obviously needs a writer (and a dictionary), but
he might not even know it if he got "excellent English writing
skills" once he received his $2 articles. The budget indicator
showed $2 to $8 per hour. To achieve the upper end of that range
would require writing four "expert" articles per hour.
And he was generous compared to other potential clients, like
Submit articles for me - Need a writer who
is interested in doing job on regular basis. Pay rate is $1 for
500 words. I'm looking for a long term writer, and would like
to work with you for awhile if you are good.
Yes, I better be a good writer and send my best work in order
to keep making that dollar per article. I would hate to lose
a job like that. And then there was this:
Hi writers, I have had a big increase in
the amount me and my team have to write, i can only afford 1
dollar per article, however there is as much articles as you
wish, and if you work is good i will give a great review...
Hi client, if I understand your offer, I'll get crap pay but
make it up on volume. Let's see... If I can crank out two articles
per hour and I work 16 hours daily seven days per week for a
month, I might be able to afford eye drops for those throbbing
globes in my head and medical treatment for my carpal tunnel
syndrome. And then...
Creative Writing Work Needed - I need an
eBook written, creative writing fiction piece. 30,000 words.
Payment is $100.00. Deadline: 2 weeks, with it sent over daily
for review. If you do well, I can keep giving you stories like
this to do.
Hey, I get to be creative and pour my heart into a "creative
writing fiction piece." And the client is even offering
daily criticism to keep me motivated. But then who wouldn't be
motivated by the opportunity to make $100 for writing a
I couldn't invent listings like these because I wouldn't have
thought to make them this ridiculous. Many buyers wanted $1 articles,
and one even wanted 30 articles for $15 total, and said "Don't
bid if you don't agree to the price." One project that promised
something close to minimum wage was for "technical, legal
and scientific written materials." I tried to imagine the
person who had the skills to take on that one and needed the
money badly enough to do it. I would have felt bad except that
nobody would actually bid, right? Wrong.
I clicked the links in my email to get the full details on
a few projects -- just out of curiosity. I saw this posted: "ASAP!
20 articles of 800 words needed." There were a dozen bids,
and probably more to come before the deadline arrived. The average
was $52, which is $2.60 per article.
But I looked closer and realized that the client would probably
go with one of the several bids that were $20 to $25.
To research (yes he wanted that too), write, and deliver twenty
of these 800-word articles would take a fast writer twenty hours.
Did I mention that the freelance website takes a 10% fee? Welcome
to the world of 90-cent-per-hour writing jobs!
Setting Aside the Sarcasm...
Do you and I have to compete against all those cheap writers?
I don't think so. I hope not. I couldn't work for those wages
anyhow. I did sell a few $20 articles to get my freelance
writing career started, but when Writers Weekly bought an article from me for
$60, and a short "success story" for $40, I was motivated
to aim higher. I launched a new website to offer my services,
and started doing some basic marketing. I've since been paid
$65 to $100 for researched articles, and $169 to help with ideas
for a speech.
If my clients discover those $1 and $2 article sources, I
figure most will come back after the first batch they buy. There
are probably some decent writers selling their work cheap on
these sites, but even good writers can't deliver their usual
quality when working for five dollars or one dollar, because
they have to focus on speed above all else.
Fortunately several of my clients have retuned for more articles
and posts. I made $585 freelancing in March 2014, the month I
launched my new website. By summer I had my first month in which
I made over $1,000 from freelancing. If my luck holds (and yes,
there is some luck involved), by the end of the year I might
be making a decent income from freelancing.
I wonder if the folks at Freelancer.com will close my account
if they discover this article. It's possible, so I better work
hard to keep finding decent clients, since I might have ruined
my dollar-per-article backup plan. Sorry about that; I couldn't
set aside my sarcasm for long, because it feels so appropriate.
But really, just say no to writing for less than minimum wage.