Sorry about the derailment yesterday from what was supposed to be the original topic, but sometimes you just have to say things when they need to be said. I appreciate the outpouring of support in the comments here, my Facebook page and through Twitter. It was wonderful to see that many agreed with my stance.
Now, back to the topic at hand: Why are we paid such crummy wages? Well, I’ve mentioned it here, but that was really just one side of the coin. I’m going to break it down completely now.
Reason #1: We let others devalue our work. With the proliferation of computers, word processing software with spell and grammar checkers and websites that publish anything, becoming a “writer” is as easy as throwing some words in a template and clicking “Send.” Technically, if the only thing I ever wrote was this blog, in many circles, I could call myself a writer. And since “anyone can do it,” the value of writing suffers as a result.
Reason #2: Writers don’t know the value of their craft. Now, this I can really understand, because there are times when I really struggle with determining what I should charge. When you can write a 400-word article in 15 minutes, you might feel like an heel charging $25 for it. But let’s look at the reasoning: You weren’t always capable of writing that article in 15 minutes. At one point in time, you had to do the research on the topic or you took a class; you had to learn how to string words together coherently, you purchased software to use to write articles, and a computer on which to install the software. So, it’s not that you only need 15 minutes to write it, it’s WHY you only need 15 minutes to write it that makes the article worthy of $25.
Reason #3: Writing for low-pay is better than writing for no-pay. Three words: No, it’s not. Accepting low pay gigs as the norm (check out my YMBOC page for some examples), sets a dangerous precedent. Sometimes it is unintentional — a client might not have any idea what to charge, and so he puts out a bid for the smallest amount he thinks he can get away with. Lo and behold, someone responds to his bid. So now, this client thinks, well if Writer A. will work for this rate, then surely Writers B-Z will as well. Sometimes, this client will come up against a writer who knows his worth and refuses to work for such a low wage. It might be Writer B or it might take til Writer W before this happens.
We all need to be Writer Bs and nip these low wages in the bud. Clients wouldn’t offer these wages if they knew writers weren’t willing to work for them. There are always going to be Writer As in the world — we just have to make sure they are outnumbered.
And if you need further proof as to why you want to strive for better pay, consider this: If you had could choose to either write for 15 clients and make $300, or write for 5 clients and make $300, which would you choose? Remember the mantra: Work Smart, Not Hard. Which one seems smarter to you?
As for Writing for free — that’s what hobbyists do. Professional writers don’t write for free, unless it’s as a favor to a friend or some other worthy cause. In other words, it doesn’t count.
Reason #4: The Global Marketplace. This is the one reason that is pretty much out of our control. If you’re competing with someone for whom $50 is enough to live on for a month, your $350 bid is going to seem high. But that is NO REASON to lower the amount you need or devalue your work. There will always be clients who go for the lowest price. But in many cases, it’s a “you get what you pay for” situation. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve lost a job to the lowest bidder, just for the client to approach me later to “fix things.” Your mother was right — the cream rises to the top. Stick to your guns.
So those are my reasons for why we aren’t paid what we’re worth. What do you think? Do you agree? Do you have your own reasons? Let me know in the comments — I’d love to know what you think.