How Hard Can It Be

With the holiday season looming, I decided the time was ripe to earn a bit of extra cash. And so the hunt began to pick up some freelance gigs. That’s the nice thing about being a writer — you have a marketable skill that’s perfect for one-off jobs. The not nice thing about being a writer — people don’t always want to compensate you for that marketable skill.

Have you checked any “Writers Wanted” postings recently? It’s Depressing. Yes, with a capital D. I mean, first there’s the obstacle of finding gigs that match your skill set. But the bigger problem I’ve found: finding gigs that are worth my time. There’s a fine balancing act between “I could totally do this job, it wouldn’t take me that long” and “This is so not worth my energy.” And so so often, the scale is tipped heavily towards, “You are kidding me, right?”

$20 for a 400-word article. $4 per “post” (whatever that means). And let’s not forget all the wonderful, “You’ll get exposure!” listings. I came across a job the other day that paid $2.70 for every 50 voice “bundle” that you transcribed. My first thought was, “Oh, that’d be easy, I could totally do that.” And then I stepped back and thought: $2.70. That is nothing. How many “bundles” would it take to make that worth my while?

Look, I get it. People posting “Writers Wanted” ads for one-off jobs on the Internetz probably don’t have a ton of cash to spend. I mean, I’m trolling Craigslist for Pete’s sake. I should give them a break.

But the straw that broke the camel’s back? I thought I’d found a good tutoring gig with a pretty big, reputable tutoring firm. I had been a writing consultant back in college, and was actually pretty excited to flex those muscles again. And then I found out this company expects tutors to provide substantive feedback on a 10-page paper — including thesis formulation, overall paper structure, and common grammatical errors — within 25-35 minutes.

A 10-page paper. In 25 minutes.

Look, I get it. A lot of people don’t understand the time and effort it takes to write well. They don’t understand that it’s more than just vomiting words onto a page — that it’s about thinking critically, articulating clearly, arguing your point well and succinctly. But I’m sick and tired of people devaluing my profession, which I have spent years studying and honing. I am sick of people saying, “It’s one line of copy, how hard can it be?”

And of course, writers aren’t the only ones to deal with this problem. Designers, illustrators, editors — they too all get to know the wonderful world of, “How hard can it be?” Well, listen, it can be hard. It is hard. These professions that we pursue, they require specific skills, just like any other. Would you ask an accountant to review your finances in 30 minutes? Would you expect a web developer to code your entire website for $5? Would you be surprised if an architect didn’t want to draw up blueprints “for exposure”? No? Then don’t ask a creative professional to do the same.

I’m a firm believer in “time is money,” and quite frankly? My time is better spent furthering my own creative pursuits than trying to cobble together enough $2.70 bundles to pay off a credit card bill.

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4 thoughts on “How Hard Can It Be

  1. Girl…I totally get this! When I actively did illustration the reason I left it was because of this issue. The crappy jobs bogged me down so much that I didn’t enjoy illustrating anymore. After being away from illustrating for a time and now having a kid that takes up all my time, I wish I had stuck to it harder. So keep that chin up and sieve through all those crap jobs until you find the fun ones! Hopefully someday when the kiddos are in school, I’ll join you in this pursuit again.

  2. So well said. I almost sold out to a job writing for a paleo diet website. As the author of a food blog called “Hooray! Food!”, I ALMOST WROTE FOR A DIET WEBSITE. That just ain’t right. But the writing job market is absurd and people really *don’t* understand what we do enough to fully value it.

    1. *And* there’s always the allure of making a quick buck (at least for me). It’s so easy to say, “Eh, this isn’t really my jam… but MAMA NEEDS A NEW PAIR OF SHOES!”

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