As a professional copywriter, I use a plethora of sites such as oDesk.com to find work, fill my schedule and maintain a workable budget. Each of these sites has its own advantages and disadvantages based on its functions and features, but one thing that I’ve noticed across the board is low posters and bidders.
A poster is someone who submits a project on which someone can bid. For example, the poster might be New Company A who needs someone to write the copy for the business website. A bidder is anyone who makes an offer to work on a poster’s project. When acting in this capacity, it’s pretty standard to submit sample work and, on some sites, a cover letter. Posters decide who gets the job after evaluating all the bids they receive.
The first problem I’ve noticed is that posters overwhelmingly undervalue the projects they propose. I see projects such as $1 for a 500 word article on a daily basis. For me, a well-researched article of that length requires no less than an hour, so I figure that, at the very least, I should get an hour’s worth of the current minimum wage. Now, I don’t know many people who can work for roughly a mere 1/8 of minimum wage. I know I can’t. Yet, this is what posters often are willing to pay.
Several problems I see perpetuate pervasive low project pay. First, many, many writers are just getting started in the business. These writers need a few projects that will provide good references, so they’re willing to work on the cheap in order to beef up their resumes and seem more professional. Secondly, other writers are out of work or don’t have enough projects to fill a full-time schedule, so they bid low to compete with the newbies and take the projects they can manage to get. Lastly, copywriting has the capacity for global applicants. Bidders from outside the United States can afford to bid low because $1 goes a ton further in other countries than it does in America. Subsequently, posters outsource their projects, putting in a pay rate that doesn’t support American writers because they know writers elsewhere will work for less. In fact, some posters specifically ask for applicants from particular countries, typically the Philippines or India. It’s all about the bottom line of reducing operation and production costs.
Let me emphasize that trying to embark on a new career or support oneself is always admirable. I’m also not suggesting that companies should accept defeat and fold instead of looking for the cheapest option that lets the business survive. Still, when writers accept jobs that pay far less than the content and time is worth in their current region, they end up devaluing not only their own work, but also the skill and profession of writing itself. They end up perpetuating the clearly rampant view posters have that writing services, although needed, aren’t something to choke up hard cold cash for. This has to stop, or writers always will find themselves under-respected and underpaid.
Does standing firm on a higher bid mean you might not get as much work? Yes. You WILL be underbid. A lot. But without a willingness to stand firm, others won’t get the idea that you and your art really matter. Efforts to reform education and put writing and reading funding at the forefront will fail, and nothing in society will change.
Do not give up. Value your words. Value yourself.