Sunday, May 23, 2010

Freelancing Doesn't Mean Free by Rebecca Stigall

I'm a freelance writer. Now, that job title has never earned the respect that it deserves but, in this day and age of outsourcing and working virtually, being a freelance writer appears to signify to many buyers that one's services are to be had at a very low cost. One has to wonder why.

One of the biggest challenges facing freelance writers today, especially those of us who provide our services online, is outsourcing. Although a global economy is certainly down the road, for now, there are Western workers and non-Western workers. What I mean is that an economy is not competitive if the wages required to live in one economy are vastly different from those required to live in another.

Yes, I'm talking specifically about the outsourcing of jobs - writing jobs, customer service jobs, assembly jobs, whatever - to countries such as India, Pakistan, etc. Look, the reality is that making five dollars an hour in India is like making $50 an hour here in the U.S. We just can't compete. Not because we don't want to, but because we simply can't. I've been involved in many a debate about how American writers charge too much for their services as compared with offshore providers.

The reality is that American workers literally can't work for $5 an hour. That's less than minimum wage and will earn us a nice cardboard box under a bridge somewhere. It's not a realistic wage for this country. It is however, a realistic wage for someone living in a nation where the average annual wage is well under $2,000.00 a year! Heck, $2,000.00 a year won't even fill up the minivan let alone pay for food, clothing, housing, utilities, etc. What buyers should ask themselves is, can they live on less than $2,000.00 a year? Can they live on what they're paying us? If the answer is no, then we probably can't either.

And, even if a buyer's financial needs are met through outsourcing, their project needs rarely are. Look, I applaud anyone trying to make a living, but ya just can't write effectively to an American audience if your first language isn't English. As a matter of fact, quality (language or production) is one of the biggest barriers to outsourcing in any industry. Personally, as someone who pays dearly for the products and services I receive, I hate it when I have to contact customer service and deal with someone who doesn't understand what I'm saying. It's unpleasant and the entire experience leaves me feeling as if my business is not valued. After all, if I pay good money for something, shouldn't I receive a quality product with quality customer service - not just service and production that has been outsourced to the lowest bidder?

Buyers who don't think that their target audience notices their lack of dedication to their own project are simply kidding themselves. As I surf the web, I catch all of the spelling, grammar, and syntax errors made by writers who are either unprofessional or not English-speaking. It's noticeable, it's annoying, and buyers who think that the American public - the paying American public - doesn't just surf off to another site when we are insulted in this way need to think again. In essence, if you want to appear professional - an expert in your field (whatever service or product you sell or promote) - you need a professional writer to help you. If you don't invest in yourself and your image - it shows.

Another huge challenge facing American freelance writers are books and ebooks being marketed to a cash-strapped public making promises of earning millions from home and finding services for cheap. Several of these marketing manuals insist that virtual freelancers are to be had for pennies and that anyone can work as a writer. The only people getting rich are the ones selling these books/ebooks. The public is shelling out their hard-earned cash to be fed a pack of lies. Virtual freelancers are not cheap - at least quality ones (for all of the reasons detailed above) and you're not going to make a million dollars as a freelance writer.

Unfortunately, many people who have snagged one of these books/ebooks as a do-all-tell-all into the freelancing industry approach freelancing, freelance writers, and their own projects as if they've found the fountain of youth or something. The old adages, "nothing in life is free" and "you get what you pay for" hold true in freelancing as they do in any industry. The average professional freelancer is a bit insulted when we are approached to write for $5 a page. Since one page of good writing takes at least one hour to produce, such an offer makes our jaws drop and our hair stand on end. Yet, the authors of the books and ebooks that indicate that ALL freelancers work for such wages continue to pull the wool over the eyes of buyers worldwide.

Look, here's the way it is - freelancing isn't free. If you want to purchase work for way under market freelancing rates, be prepared to deal with the fallout, i.e., poor writing, work that is copied and pasted directly from another (copyrighted) source, writing that sounds like it's been written by a third grader, etc.

Writing that has to be rewritten or that is completely unusable is no bargain. Pay for quality work the first time around and you'll save money in the long run.

Rebecca J. Stigall is a full-time freelance writer, author, and editor with a background in psychology, education, and sales. She has written extensively in the areas of self-help, relationships, psychology, health, business, finance, real estate, fitness, academics, and much more! Rebecca is a highly sought after ghostwriter with clients worldwide, and offers her services through her website at

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