Now for the million-dollar question: What should excellent, creative, deadline-driven, ambitious, quick, detail-oriented, prolific, and skillful writers expect to be paid if this pain-in-the-ass content farm hires them? Why, “between .009 and .02 per word,” of course. Literally fractions of pennies. In Portland, where the living hourly wage is $9.42, according to MIT’s living wage calculator, that would mean low-end earners would need to write about 1,047 words per hour to keep their head above water. That’s easy, right, professional writers?
Gawker is getting all upset about this: but that isn’t, actually, all that appallingly bad.
Well, actually, it is, but not for the pay rate it isn’t.
The problem would be that they are trying to work to the incredibly anal US editing requirements while also paying those wages.
If you do want to make a living as a writer then it really should be possible for you to turn out 1,000 words an hour of publishable prose. But not if you’re having to research the matter at the same time. Either something you know about, or rewriting pieces from elsewhere (“cookie cutting” in the American parlance). And you need to have a large hopper full of whatever it is you’re supposed to be writing about right there and available.
It really isn’t that 1,000 words per hour which is the problem. Nor is it 2 cents a word. $20 an hour is regarded as pretty good money by a lot of those who actually need to work for a living. No, the problem is that they are asking for the research costs to be built into that price. You’ve got to find your own subject, come up with your own line, your own argument and check your own sources.
As an example, NUJ rate for a local newspaper (from memory) is 6.6 p a word, call it 0.10 in American. And for that you do indeed have to do all your own research etc.
Two further problems: the first being that you cannot really do this sort of work for 8 hours a day. Cranking out 1,000 an hour for that stretch of time is exhausting (I have indeed done it). The other is that in certain parts of the world that’s not just a good wage that’s an extremely good wage. They tend not to be the English speaking parts of the world, that’s true. But someone who was fluent in English (or American) and living in say, rural India but with broadband, would find $20 an hour a terribly tempting sum of money. Actually, the World Bank regards $20 a day of disposable income as being middle class.
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