While I was browsing Odesk.com the other day, I came across a job ad that goes like this:
Given an 8-hour workday, that wouldn’t even earn a fifth of the minimum daily wage in my country! (In the interest of full disclosure, I’m from the Philippines.) Also, I’m pretty sure that things like “quality,” “good attitude,” “excellent communication skills,” and “web research knowledge,” are worth much, much more than $0.15 per 60 minutes of my precious time.
Unfortunately, the ad is just an extreme example of a rampant trend on sites like Odesk.com, Elance.com, and Freelancer.com. I can only sigh in exasperation as I read through jobs that pay less than $5 per hour. What really irks me, though, are phrases like “Only Filipino/Indian writers may bid.”
Why are we treated like this?
Apparently, many clients are under the impression that writers from Third-World or developing countries are article-spewing robots who run on gasoline, rather than living, breathing human beings who need to shell out money every day to survive.
The writers have themselves to blame, too. In their desperate bid to make a quick buck and beef up their portfolio, they lower their rates to attract clients. They don’t realize that constantly doing this will undermine their careers as freelance writers in the long run.
If you’re one of these writers, know that there are better ways to earn your keep than overworking and starving yourself just to have a few measly dollars. For example, you can:
Hone and sharpen your skills
In the Internet Age, it’s no longer enough to have formidable wordsmithing abilities. You also have to know about online marketing, blogging, SEO, HTML, etc. If you don’t have the money yet for a full-blown course on any of these skills, you can always take time to read the countless articles on the Internet about freelancing and related subjects.
Start your own blog
Worried about putting yourself out there because you don’t have a portfolio? Then make one! A blog is a quick, relatively inexpensive way to show off the best of your professional writing abilities. Should your potential clients ask for writing samples, you can always refer them to your blog.
Look for quality websites that pay
There are benefits to writing for other bloggers or online publications, especially the well-respected ones. First, there’s the exposure and the opportunity to establish yourself as an authority in your niche. Second, getting great content published on a high-quality site is a surefire way to strengthen your portfolio and leverage your rates. Third, you get good compensation for your trouble!
Not that writing for free is always bad. If you believe in the cause of a nonprofit organization in your area, for instance, then it’s okay to use your writing skills to help them even if you’re not paid. The copies you make for them are still portfolio boosters, after all.
Set a fair rate, and stick to it
By “fair,” I mean your rate should reflect your skills and experience, as well as your standard of living. For example, you can’t charge $20/hr right off the bat if you’ve only been writing for a few weeks (unless you’re really, really talented). Likewise, you’re doing yourself a great disservice if your writing skills have moved way past the novice level and you’re still charging $5/hour.
Also, never allow a client to intimidate you into lowering your rates. If your client really values you as a writer, then he/she will be willing to pay you what you’re worth.
Select gigs that appeal to you
In general, the more detailed the job ad, the better. Based on the information from the ad, as well as the company website (if applicable), ask yourself if you feel comfortable with the job, the compensation and the company. If your answer is a resounding “No,” move on to another potential writing gig.
Be polite and professional
Good clients are exceedingly hard to get, so if you’re fortunate enough to find one, do your best to keep that client. Doing things like being polite in your communications, rarely missing a deadline, and consistently turning in quality work can go a long way. Even if you’re the best writer in the world, your client has a good reason to drop you like a hot potato if you’re difficult to work with.
Regardless of your country of origin, always know your worth as a freelance writer. If you think you’re worth more than $5 per hour or per article, don’t be afraid to let your clients know. Just make sure you can back up your rates with skills, quality work and a professional attitude.
About the author:
Issa Mirandilla is a freelance writer based in the Philippines. She believes that no knowledge is ever truly wasted, and that a good cup of coffee always helps. You can read her work on Clippings.me.
Also by Issa Mirandilla:
1. How to Consistently Write Good Copy Under Tight Deadlines (article)