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Insane Expectations and Lies

Insane Expectations and Lies

Express Writers’ current job post at expresses the complete and unrealistic expectations of every content mill, as well as the lie about pay. $20 to $30 an hour? Not a chance.

Express points to this page as a great writing example:

That guide is well done, however, it is also 3,222 words and involved researching 29 separate web pages. This would be exhausting work under deadline, with the quickest writer finishing a well polished guide like that in no less than 13 hours. That’s at 500 words every two hours.

Mind you, it’s not so much the writing but the reading and research one must do before any writing comes together. You need to understand something before you can write about it. You also need to figure out the right SEO tweaks. All of that takes time. Still, the example article represents an assignment with a potential of $390 based on $30 an hour.

Express later shifts gears in their job description, however, moving from their initial salary listing of $20 to $30 an hour to $20 to $25 for each 500 words. “This is not a salary position.” At $25 for each 500 words, that pay rate drops to $162.50. You’re working for $12.50 an hour if you’re the quickest writer out there. And if Express doesn’t kick back the piece to you for revising. Which will be on your dime.

Realistically, I’d expect a writer to take at least two days or 16 hours to complete the example given. You’re now at $10.00 an hour. Quite a distance from $30.00. And totally consistent with the false expectations and the lie about pay from every content mill.

Of course, the content mills know exactly how long quality writing takes, they just don’t want to pay for it. You can expect $25 or so from these employers for a 500 to 750 word article. That’s it. That’s common. If they’re paying less, they should advertise on a Philippine job board and you should not participate in their low rent hustle. No professional American writer deserves Philippine wages. And to think, you need years of writing experience to get hired at Express. Get lost.

I come to this post with a hard background. As a writer, I produced many 750 word articles for at a flat rate of $25 to $30. As an editor, I see our writers taking from two hours, exceedingly rare, to seven hours, also exceedingly rare, to complete a 650 to 1,000 word assignment.

If you want to dispute what I’ve written, tell me about your experience both as a writer and an editor. If you don’t have that experience, don’t tell me about how long it takes to complete online writing. You can stay in that alternate world the content mills occupy, with their insane expectations and lies.

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How To Make A Living As a Writer (Honestly)

How do you make a living as a writer? Get a full time job writing for a newspaper, magazine, or internet company. It’s impossible to make full time money stringing together part-time jobs. If you’re not regularly employed, view freelance gigs as supplemental income, not the way to pay your mortgage. There’s too much unpaid time looking for new work to prevent you from going broke. (internal link) Let me explain.

Query letters and book proposals take enormous amounts of time, only to have 90% or more of them rejected. A solid book proposal will take weeks, an article query (internal link) at least a day, if not more, to research and write. Travel may be required for both. A great deal of time is also spent investigating whom to send your proposal to, to see what title or publishing house you should approach. All queries must be well crafted and individually tailored to the person you are addressing. And all of this consistently rejected query work is unpaid. There’s more.

Right now I am waiting on a substantial check for the last magazine article I wrote. I submitted the article two weeks before last Thanksgiving. Yes, in 2017. The article has been published but I have still not been paid. While this situation is uncommon, you must be prepared for it to happen. You can only make a living at writing if you have money coming in to eat.

Aside from working for someone else on a regular basis, I have heard about another way. It demands that you have several book titles in print at once, and that each of these books needs revising every two years or so. Think computer books that go out of date when software comes out with revisions. Photoshop and Microsoft Word have undoubtedly provided many authors with regular income.

Writing as a profession is oversold, at least from a freelancer’s point of view. But there is no shame in writing for someone else. A guaranteed paycheck gives you the freedom to write in your spare time, without worrying if an article will be accepted, if it will only pay a hundred dollars, or if a check for it will come in soon.

Through my Vancouver employer I edit and post blogs and web pages for trial lawyers. I could see that kind of position being a full time job for someone who wanted it. Content creation jobs on the net are becoming more and more plentiful. Pick a profession that interests you and explore the possibilities if you want full time work. Otherwise, enjoy the tumult of writing part-time as a lower earning freelancer. Those hours and experience may eventually lead to the work you truly desire. Good luck.

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Poll: Would You Consider LinkedIn For Seeking Freelance Work?

LinkedIn starts at $24.95 a month. Would you consider it for seeking freelance work? If you are using it right now, and you’ve been successful, vote yes.

Thoughts on writing

The Rest of The Year

How have you been? I’ve been sick a week with a yet unidentified non-infectious virus. No writing done but lots of thoughts on same. As I struggle to get back to the keyboard, this timeline presents itself:

August 25, 2016: Submit anthology book proposal to either Chronicle Books or Heyday Books

September 2, 2016: Submit essay to the Bellevue Literary Review

January 5, 2017: Submit proposal for a different book to the University of Nevada Press

2017 may be the year of the book proposal for me, whereas 2016 was the year of writing newspaper and magazine articles.

This is a new writing world for me, something with far off deadlines and hope that must be sustained. Proposals take months to write as do any responses to them. Publisher after publisher must be contacted, with little expected. Still, I must write, and my brother’s experiences (internal link) gives me encouragement. All I  control is my writing and the quality of my research.

I’ll end with Kafka:

“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.”



Two directions for the internet. And freelancers.

Where are we going with the internet? Google says that it will rank sites higher which have mobile compatibility. Yet all things video continue to lead the internet. Low bandwidth versus higher bandwidth. For freelancers we will have to get used to both. We’ll have to write shorter sentences, shorter paragraphs, and we’ll have to start learning about video. Among other things.

Today I have retired my six year old iMac. It had 4 Gigs of RAM. My new machine has 16 Gigs, enough to do some pretty heavy duty video processing. But why am I doing this? Millennials call us authors “creatives.” That means we can’t just be about writing. Today, we have to be familiar with editing text, images, audio, and moving pictures. It’s called creating content. And it’s what every website owner expects of us. Soldier on.

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Content creation jobs from Craigslist and otherwise

I am always looking for part-time writing gigs that I can do from anywhere. What’s called working remotely. This is a short list of companies that have treated me fairly.

Ajax Union

This Bronx based company paid me for a writing test. They asked me to make changes to my submitted article, I did so, and I have not heard from them again. Sigh.

Demand Media Studios

A content creation company. They’ve just accepted me as a technology writer after I passed an unpaid writing test. They need short articles on a variety of topics. They give you a byline for every article you write as well as a modest amount of money. Nice.

December 13, 2015 update. I’m not sure Demand Media is still operating.


In a weak moment I applied here. Though accepted, I thought it over, and then turned them down. $1.00 for every hundred words.


This one is unusual, but they may have work for a freelancer. Stripe is a San Francisco company that processes internet credit card payments. I applied for a customer service job because it was work I could do remotely. I filled out their application and their recruiter called me up. They decided not to bring me in for an interview, but I thought they had been fair by at least talking to me.



Third time’s the charm?

Here’s my third try at an introductory video. I’ve added captions in case people with hearing problems can’t access the audio. And sometimes you just can’t hear well on a mobile device; so it makes sense to provide subtitles. Producing them in iMovie is fairly difficult, however, and I am not sure I could put them in a five minute long video. But I may figure out a way, perhaps with a different program. My one regret? I now see I should have made them bigger? Oh, well. Next try.


Throwback Thursday: An Acceptance Letter from the past

An acceptance letter from a national magazine that pays well is the goal of every freelancer. When I was last active in writing, back in 2005 through 2008, three of my articles sold for over $2,000 apiece. I’m trying to work back to that level again. But does that world still exist?

I’ve seen pay rates at freelance sites of less than a cent a word. And the last magazine article I sold barely covered my gasoline and the price of photograph release fees. Producing quality writing remains as difficult and time consuming as ever; I think most people would be staggered by how many hours it takes to produce a feature article. It does seem that, judging by the last few months, that the magazine wage floor may have collapsed and the market for good hard copy articles is shrinking.

I remain positive, however, to the world of work promised by producing on-line content.  And in my next post I will have some thoughts on another possibility for the freelancer: overseas publications.



Freelance sites continue to baffle

The three freelance sites I’m using continue to baffle me. Here’s what I’ve found out so far.

Jobs may be closed to bidding but they may not be awarded. Of the ten jobs I’ve bid in the last few weeks, only one seems to have been awarded. The rest? The job descriptions are still on-line, they are listed as closed to bidding, but there is nothing to indicate that anyone has received the assignment. I know people are notified because one job clearly states that it has been filled, with the winning bidder named.

Many assignments are impossible to bid accurately. Descriptions commonly state that they need writing help, they throw out a budget, say two or three thousand dollars, but they don’t say how many articles they want, the word count, the subject, or a deadline. How can one possibly bid this way? Query the employer? At you are not allowed to private message a job poster. There is a public message board, which some people use, but you must first have a favorable review before using the board. Which counts me out, as well as all others new to the site.

Accepting a bid can be risky and expensive. Freelance sites typically take a 10% arrangement fee. With, that money is due immediately upon accepting a job. If you are awarded a $3,000 contract you owe the site three hundred dollars. Now. Before any work has begun. You had best know, therefore, every detail about a job before you take it on. Mistakes are hard to correct. When I had to back out of a job I was given credit to apply to site charges, but not a reversal to my credit card.

Summing up? I still think freelancing sites are a good idea. The work is there, seemingly. Ever-the-optimist, I will keep submitting proposals a while longer. Another ten bids? Two things seem obvious. It will take as much effort getting work on-line as it does off-line. And, as with job hunting on the street, the hiring process, unfortunately, may remain hidden and mysterious.


Down the rabbit hole  — Amateur-Kunoichi

Making a movie part 2: Freelancing possibilities

What if you made a video proposal to accompany your written bid? Would it help get freelance work? I originally thought about video in limited terms. I saw it as a welcome to my website; it might engage people more than a standard written introduction. But perhaps video could do more, perhaps it could deliver a clip personalized to pursuing a specific job. I envision a one or two take video, no more than a minute, linked from a written proposal. I may post a model video after I’ve finished the present discussion. Speaking of which, here are a few more thoughts on producing a short film:

Vary the camera angle, especially if you are going to do something dull like read. Look to the center, look to the left or right. Move your camera. Get an uncluttered background.  Sudden thought: the cheap vinyl banner is everywhere. How about ordering one with your logo and having that as your background?

Should you be doing a video? I thought discussing one of my magazine articles would be interesting. But all I ended up in my video were a bunch of pictures, which I could have displayed in an on-line photo gallery, and some text, which I could have presented on a web page.

To be involved, get involved. Perk up. In my video I was slow and rarely animated. Who needs that? It’s no wonder that morning television people are over-caffeinated. To make your message compelling you have to keep your viewer’s interest. And you can’t do that by putting them to sleep.

Music is wonderful! Plenty of royalty-free music exists on the web. Properly credit and experiment. In my recent video I used soft jazz underneath my discussion of still photographs. It worked very well. In a job proposal I can imagine some punchy music in the introduction, as the opening credit rolls, and then again at the end.