Writers Worth Wednesday: This Job, Not That Job

What I’m listening to: Life by The Avett Brothers

It’s been a busy week after a hectic, travel-filled weekend. Friday was a maelstrom of stuff happening at once. I’ll go into that another time, but getting back to work on Monday was a bit of a relief. Who looks forward to work?

We freelancers do, don’t we? Well, unless the projects we’re facing suck, that is. Thanks to Paula Hendrickson, who sent over today’s nominee for Worst Job Ever, it’s time again for another episode of This Job, Not That Job.

While Paula sent two, this one in particular caused my blood pressure to jump:

We’re looking for writers to help create category descriptions for our Top 100 retailer clients. This is an ongoing opportunity for writers who can follow instructions and write quality English text. Your job as a writer is to create 250 – 300 word category descriptions for popular retail categories. Writers who apply early have the chance to establish themselves and consistent team players, gaining access to long-term work with exciting clients…
Payment: 4.5 cents – 6.0 cents USD per word

Here’s the first clue this job sucks — when you click on the Apply link, you have to first give your name, email, and create a password before you can see the details. Oh, but wait! You don’t see the details. No no. The next screen asks for your personal information. Why would you give all that to perfect strangers? Because they’re promising you’ll work with Best Buy and Bloomingdales, silly!

This is an ongoing opportunity for writers who can follow instructions and write quality English text.

Two (or three) things wrong with this sentence. They can’t possibly expect quality English text when they’re targeting foreign writers with these ridiculous rates. Maybe 4.5 cents per word is a fortune in a remote island nation, but here … well, you just try buying something with that. Go on. I’ll wait.

Then there’s the promise — the dangling carrot — of ongoing work. Right. So you can continue to underpay me for a longer period of time just because you can give me this “opportunity”? Do they not know that McDonald’s pays more? That minimum wage is actually worlds better? That paying for the electricity it takes to run the computer long enough to make less than twenty dollars a month would make this job more expensive than doing nothing?

Lastly, we have the insult:

…writers who can follow instructions…Writers who apply early have the chance to establish themselves and consistent team players, gaining access to long-term work with exciting clients…

Just watch how quickly those instructions become a moving target. You wrote category descriptions of 300 words each because that’s what was assigned? How could you not know we wanted 800 words? Or product descriptions? Why aren’t you psychic?

Oh, but you have the chance to “establish” yourself AS consistent team players (do we get to make the same typos?)… And you get to work with “exciting” clients…. No you don’t. You get to work with an a-hole who thinks so little of you they won’t pay you what your skills are really worth. Bastards.

Oh, and they’re promising you 4.5 cents to an earth-shaking 6 cents per word. Which begs the question: Why 4.5 cents? Why not 4? Or 5? Was it just too expensive to ask for that half-cent more? And what does one have to do in order to reach that dangling, albeit limp and rotting, carrot of 6 cents? Who warrants that?

The answer: No one. No one warrants that kind of abysmal payment. They think you don’t deserve an entire nickel. No matter what promises they’re making about you rubbing shoulders with household name companies, remember this – 4.5 cents. Per word. For category descriptions. So in essence, you could make about $11.25 a week if you bust your ass. Wait, no. You could make $13.50 a week. Gee, that sounds better?

Hell no it doesn’t. It sounds awful. It is awful.

We can do better. Like so:

Eating Well is a bimonthly national food magazine that focuses exclusively on eating healthfully. The magazine covers nutrition with a newsy, science-based approach. Recipes emphasize high-quality healthful ingredients, simple preparations and full flavor. The magazine welcomes ideas from new writers.

Pay rate: up to $1/word

Wow, at those rates, you might actually be able to afford to work!

Writers, what’s the worst job offers you’ve seen recently?

How low is too low for you? What’s your pain threshold?

About the author




  • Paula Hendrickson March 29, 2017 at 11:37 am

    Well, that was probably the worst ad I’ve seen in a long time. I think what made it stand out from other super-low payers is how they touted their (nameless) Top 100 Retailer clients.

    Any major retailer would be paying a LOT more than even 10¢ per word, so these bozos are probably keeping 99% of their fees and dividing the remaining 1% among their pool of consistent team players.

    Of course they’ll find writers willing to work for that, but only because they live in areas where cost-of-living rates are our sub-sub-sub-poverty rates.

    • lwidmer March 29, 2017 at 1:11 pm

      It was pretty bad, wasn’t it?

      They did name retailers — Best Buy and Bloomingdale’s. I would guess neither of those companies would want their name associated with this. And I would guess you’re right — IF they’re working for these companies, there’s no way that’s all they’re being paid.

      • Paula Hendrickson March 30, 2017 at 11:28 am

        I didn’t check it out beyond the initial listing.

        Maybe a Writer’s Worth month idea could be contacting the sites that publish these listings and encourage them to screen out anything that pays that little.

        • lwidmer March 30, 2017 at 1:11 pm

          This. This idea is amazing. We could certainly do that, Paula!

  • Agent Blackhat March 30, 2017 at 4:45 am

    This is exactly why I found freelance writing frustrating when I started out.

    As if trying to get work on Upwork and Freelancer.com wasn’t bad enough, I found a guy on ProBlogger who paid $70 to list the job for a new health website he was trying to get off of the ground.

    He wanted really high quality, well research posts at least 2,000 words and he wanted it for… $20 per article. Anything else was unacceptable. Good luck with that, especially in the health niche where the accuracy of the content is really important!

    Shameless plug; I wrote an article on how to get online article writings jobs for beginners . Maybe some users can find it useful.

    • lwidmer March 30, 2017 at 1:13 pm

      Hey, the shameless plug is welcome here, Agent! That’s the frustration I felt too, and many have echoed on countless forums and LinkedIn groups. The “Freelance writing is dead” pronouncement is so easy to make when all you see is crap like the ad above.

      Twenty bucks for a high-quality health article…right. That’s not happening! LOL

      I noticed in your post you were happy with 60 pounds for 1,000-1,500 words. Starting out, that’s not terrible, but only just. I’m hoping you’re doing much better these days — I get $1/word for my stuff (and I suspect you could get 85p per word quite easily given your SEO background). Always aim higher, I say.