Saturday, June 9, 2012

Them Cheapo Jobs - 2

Your indulgence – this one elbowed in ahead of the "free association" post, and ran near 800 words before I could stop myself.

 There’s a superstition that bad news comes in threes. Check out these job listings I received all in the same week, and you’ll see why the idea persists.

From a recent post on one of the online job exchanges, looking for An Experienced Copywriter: Work is to include, among a list of other things, direct mail campaigns.  We’re advised that each piece of work should take no more than an hour to complete, and that “for an experienced copywriter it will take less.”  The listing then asks for the bidder’s hourly rate.

Maybe I’m misreading it, but if a direct mail campaign is one piece of work, a reasonable rate for completing it in an hour or less would have to be $1000. I’m more than reasonable, though; I’d discount that to $950 in view of the added note that I can hope for “an ongoing relationship.”

A second listing asks for An Experienced Blog/Articles Writer. The budget, $1,000 to $2,500, is pretty enticing, until you get to the end. The requirements are for “creative, compelling” 350-500 word articles and blogs. Plow though the cliché list of requirements -- native English, must-pass-Copyscape, and quick turnaround, plus a repeat of “compelling,” -- and you come to the payoff: budget is $10 per article. (It’s written $10.00; the extra zeroes make it look better.)

So, that good-looking budget is actually for 100 to 250 articles. If you were the Experienced Copywriter of listing #1 above, you could probably score the whole thing while holding down your day job, but for the rest of us it’s lousy pay.  Amusingly, at the end of the listing they invite you to tell them why you’d be a great fit. The temptation is to tell ‘em what might fit where, but it’s a family blog, so...

Listing #3 makes #2 look good. I’ll say this much in favor:  This one tells you in the first line how terrible the pay is going to be if you win the contract. Most listings hold that out for the end, so my hat’s off to the writer of this one for frankness.

After that, though – the successful bidder has to be willing to work 7 days a week, 6 to 10 articles every day, 400 words each. (Not to worry – we’re assured the buyer isflexible when you want to take a holiday.” One wonders: Is the article writer expected to be flexible as well -- maybe preparing a backlog, doubling production to 12 to 20 articles a day for the seven days preceding what would  then be a badly needed holiday?) 

The writing should be great, of course, but on the other hand, it will have to be adapted to the buyer’s style, which must be better than great, we have to assume.

The kicker is that the maximum budget is $3 per article which, he acknowledges, “Some people may find low,” but – I’m not making this up – “but, I am giving you a lot of volume.”

In case you miss the implications, and the deal momentarily sounds almost sane – it’s the serious version of the old joke, “I lose money on every sale but I make it up in volume.” In the present case, if you’re a facile writer and can turn out 400 great words in 20 minutes you can average $9 an hour. That’s better than minimum wage, but not by much. If you can keep up that pace, do it six or ten times a day every day of the week, you still make $9 an hour.  (If it takes you a little longer to write great  -- or you’re a cautious type who feels the need to research a subject before you start writing -- discount your rate from there.) What the offer really says is, “You can have all the bad-paying work you want.” As long as you write great.

The question that nags me is this: Since the buyer seems to have a high opinion of his own writing – remember, the writer he hires will have to adapt to his, the buyer’s, style – why doesn’t he write the stuff himself and save three bucks on every article? Volume-wise, what a saving that would be!

Oh, wow; I've just finished making a case for the "comes in threes" theory of bad news delivery when here comes a fourth that blows all the others out of the water:

 Writers for 350-400 word articles and reviews; the usual "quality” and “Copyscape” crap; 150 to 200 pieces per month; then – per-article rate $1. Payment on complete approval of all the articles. “Non-payment if any one article gets rejected or failed.”

Believed to be translated from a work order issued by Reichminister Josef Goebbels, circa 1942.