Ethics in Job Postings and Hiring
I'm a freelance writer. This means that I do different writing jobs for a variety of different clients. Some jobs are big and some jobs are small. Most freelancers keep their eyes open for more jobs or higher paying jobs or more interesting jobs. If I like the work and the client, then I try to do more work for that client. If I don't like the work or the client, then I look for other work with other clients.
One way to find jobs is through one of several sites where the freelancer has an account, and "bids" on jobs. Examples of these types of websites are Upwork, Freelancer, and Guru. Each of these sites has slightly different rules, but basically the idea is the same. The sites take a percentage of the amount you are paid AND you have to conduct the work through the site. No moonlighting with the client on the outside.
The advantage of using sites like those I've mentioned is there is always lots of work available. New gigs are posted constantly. The disadvantage is that A) you have to give a percentage to the site, and it can be a substantial percentage, B) you are bidding against hundreds or thousands of other people, and C) it can be difficult to get established because "employers" rate the "employees" and if you don't have a certain number of good ratings, you can be shut out of the bidding process. So, it's hard to get off the ground.
What I find most dismaying about these sites is the paltry amount employers want to pay. There are definitely exceptions to this rule, but in general these sites are flooded with job offers paying US$1-3 per hour or writing jobs paying a half a penny a word.
Let me put that in perspective. For a writer, here are some published rates for professional writers. Here and here. For the sake of discussion, let's say that one page of double-spaced writing is 250 words; so, four pages is 1000 words. A glossy magazine might pay $1 per word. That's $1000 for a 1000 word article. But not every writer writes for glossy magazines. So, let's say $0.10 a word is a reasonable price. That's $100 for 1000 words. If the article is heavily researched and a complex topic, the writer might spend two or three hours writing it. That's between $30 and $50 per hour. Not unreasonable for a professional writer or at least one that's starting out.
A half a penny per word, means that some employers want to pay $5 for that 1000 word article. The same article that took two to three hours to write. That's $2 per hour.
Now maybe in some third-world countries $2 per hour is a handsome wage. It is not a handsome wage in North America. So, I have to wonder: who are these people willing to work for that wage? And more importantly, who are the employers that think that's a fair wage?
Do employers not care the least about what they pay their employees? Am I that naive?
So, I guess the people that take those jobs are either not from North America or they are desperate enough to work for any wage or their writing is sufficiently poor that they are not able to command a higher wage.
I'm wondering do employers think that they will get brilliant writing for that price? Do they think they will get lucky and find a winner the same way I feel when I buy a lottery ticket?
I had a profile on Upwork for two weeks, and then I closed it out. I won't work for that wage, and I don't have the stamina or whatever is required to slog it out competing against thousands who will work for that wage.
Bait and Switch
Some employers advertising gigs say they are paying a reasonable rate, but before you are going to get that reasonable rate, the employer wants you to write a "test" piece for--guess how much--half a penny a word. I'm not writing a "test" piece for that price only to learn that, nah, maybe I wasn't right for the job, or whatever, and the employer gets to keep a perfectly good sample.
Just yesterday, in response to an ad I answered, somebody asked me for this type of "test" piece. I told him to forget it. I said I don't get out of bed for half a penny per word.
When I was younger and had babysitters and nannies, I didn't try to pay them the absolute minimum I could get away with. I paid them fairly and generously, because I wanted great work out of them. I wanted them to love their job. I didn't want them starving and taking it out on my kids.
Other Job Boards
There are many other job boards for freelance or piecemeal work, where you apply and are not bidding against anyone. However, I notice that these types of sub-survival rates are creeping in. I complained to Hubstaff Talent over jobs advertised for $2 per hour, and I never heard back from them. They don't see that as a problem, apparently.
Sometimes you get what you pay for. An experienced professional writer understands search engine optimization. That means that the articles written will be formatted and designed to optimize how they function on the internet and how they are perceived by readers and crawled by search engines.
In addition, the professional, experienced writer is going to write in the style you want and is going to create relevant, engaging, shareable content. Furthermore, this content is going to be delivered in perfect condition and on time--or early.
High quality content is significantly cheaper than other forms of traditional outbound marketing, you know, the in-your-face type of marketing. But high-quality content doesn't grow on trees. You have to pay a professional to create it, and those professionals don't work for $2 an hour.
Several years ago, I set up, in another city, a new process-serving business (an essential service for law firms that is always farmed out). When looking around for business, I found every law firm already had a process server--that they didn't like. Recently I talked to several internet marketing agencies and found that they, too, all had writers they relied on--that they weren't happy with.
In order to find and hire a writer that will give you exactly what you want, you have to first understand the difference between the cost of something and the value of something. Professional writers add a lot of value to the business. And we don't work for $2 per hour.
I understand the importance of keeping costs down in a business. The US Small Business Administration recommends spending about 7-8 percent of gross revenue on marketing. Younger companies often spend more to gain traction. How you spend that money is up to you. But hiring cheap writers is not the answer, and you'll find that out quickly with your ROI on content marketing.