|Sometimes things just don’t add up.|
I posted recently about the ways, in my experience, that freelancers can add value. It prompted a few responses and a lively dialogue with professional copywriter Alasdair Murray.
For the record, let me state that:
1. I enjoy being challenged, where it makes me think about what I’m communicating – and why.
2. It’s not about getting consensus, it’s about developing and presenting a reasoned argument with evidence and supporting information.
3. Alasdair has a point.
You can read the post and comments here, or I can sum it up in a few lines. Okay, I said one way of securing regular work was signing up with sites that advertise writing work. I mentioned that I’d signed up with Copify, enjoyed their blog and that the signs were good so far. (That’s all true. I wrote one piece for £12 and it took less than an hour, although I didn’t state that in the piece.) Alasdair countered that the site offered work for 2p per word, which is low when compared with the professional rate and undermines the profession.
The dialogue throws up some interesting questions:
– What distinguishes a professional from a beginner or an intermediate practitioner?
– If the rate you want / deserve is not available, what do you do?
– How long ought one to write at a lower rate in order to build a portfolio?
– What if it were a magazine offering a lower rate or a publisher slashing a royalty percentage?
In short: When does a professional become a professional?
And what about the pic ‘n’ mix writers like me? How much experience is enough experience?
After the discussion, I went back to Copify to ask about their average rate per word.
Now, in the interests of balance, it must be said there are jobs posted there that could equate to £6 per hour. Would I write for that amount? No. In fact, the last writing gig I really fancied doing was advertising that rate, for an hour’s work, and I bumped them up to £16 on the basis of my background, experience and promised turnaround. I got the job.
It’s a conundrum. When I had a piece commissioned by and published in The Guardian, I expected it would open doors and lead to further newspaper work. Thus far, that hasn’t been the case – although I have written for several magazines (different rates and regular work). So what’s a writer to do if the work stream dries up, as it can do from time to time? Do we hold the line and say that if no one is paying the rate we’ll go and shell peas instead for a bit?
Come to that, should we, for the good of the profession, maintain standards even when they have a potentially detrimental impact upon us? Alasdair’s point, in part, was that not everyone has the skill and talent to be a copywriter.
Writing – of any kind – takes practice and discipline to develop. If there are more writers than highly paid work, what’s the solution? Is undercutting the industry rate akin to strike breaking? Is it any different from a plumber (yeah, I know – writers and plumbers…) competing on price to the detriment of those who can’t afford to work that cheaply? Isn’t that the reason the UK manufacturing base has diminished?
(Tangentially, on the subject of loss leaders, look at the milk industry at the moment.)
Some would argue that businesses seeking a low rate per word have already decided that they can’t or won’t pay the industry rate. So one way or another a writer was never going to get, say, 10p per word from them.
I encourage you to share your views in the comments field. I think Social media can be more than just an opportunity to say I wuv you or Buy my book you bastards or even Social media is the work of Satan. It can be a platform for dialogue and meaningful conversation. It can be a tool for education and change. It can even be a way of challenging ourselves.
Bottom line. I was happy to take on a quick writing gig for £12. Should I have? And would you?
The floor is yours!
Addendum: Copify advises that its highest rate is 4p per word. I also asked for their views about its rate versus a higher industry rate.
Our intention has never been to undermine anybody. The rates we charge and the rates we pay reflect the state of the copywriting market, and in my experience what people are willing to pay. The site is intended for those who are starting out and also established copywriters who maybe need extra work to see them through quiet periods.