Bad Deals for Writers


As you guys know I am no fan of those pay-per-click Web sites that get writers to provide content for peanuts. I’ve never been interested enough in them to have researched any in particular, in fact I don’t even know about more than a couple that I learned of in rather roundabout ways. I just learned about another.  

Angela Adair-Hoy of  Writers Weekly did an article a couple of weeks ago on another one of these PPC sites, Examiner.com. (I’m not linking to them, I don’t want to drive traffic to them). For those unfamiliar with Angela, she is a tireless writers’ advocate, exposing a lot of scams, going to bat for writers who have been stiffed by various shady publications, and giving out lots of good advice. You can subscribe to her newsletter for free, you can’t go wrong.

Anyway, as I said, she wrote about this Examiner.com site of which I had never previously heard. Sounds like another article mill. Her article on May 13 was a collection of responses from people who had written/are writing for this site, detailing their rates of pay, and some pretty shoddy treatment.

One writer, Barbie (not her real name), couldn’t even do the math for what she had been paid:

I’ve done a total of 229. I started with them on 12/23/08 and have received the following payments via Paypal:

February 19, $78.82
March 19, $238.55
April 19, $208.80

My ultimate goal is to get to posting one article a day and steadily earning $300 per month. At $10 per article, I figure it’s comparable to Demand Studios ($5 to $15 for DS flat rates).

WRITERSWEEKLY NOTE: $526.17 / 229 articles = $2.30 per article.

Maybe this partly explains why writers are willing to accept these rates of pay. I’m bad at math, but come on. This is just sad, and some of the writers who responded were paid less. One woman was even counting on residuals from several of these sites to help fund her retirement. NEWSFLASH: None of them are going to be around that long. One guy admitted to receiving the equivalent of $.07 per article. That’s right. Seven cents.

People! This is highway robbery.

One writer who requested her real name be used in the article declined their offer to write for them, even though they called her and tried to talk her into it. As Marianne Hammer put it:

I, for one, am tired of writers being exploited by companies who think we should be so happy to see our work in print that we don’t need compensation. What other profession is supposed to work for free or for (literally) pennies?

Right on, Marianne.

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14 thoughts on “Bad Deals for Writers

  1. Yikes! $2.30 is bad. $0.07 leaves me speechless. I agree with you and Marianne Hammer. It is one thing to say, “I will still be writing if I got paid or not because this is what I love” and quite another for people to take advantage of you. I would be and am furious.

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  2. Seriously, you can make more money than that just keeping your eyes on the ground and picking up loose change when you go for a walk. Write because you love words, because you have a story to tell, but why let someone else exploit your abilities for free? The stuff they write for those sites isn’t done out of any kind of passion for art. That’s just naivete. Or maybe ego.

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  3. On top of that, if you get ‘fired’ (for, say, not making your quota) by Examiner.com they apparently cease to pay residuals. So even if they keep making money on your articles, you don’t.

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  4. Glad I was able to surprise you, then. 🙂

    I’ve posted videos on my blog before, but didn’t expect it to show up on your comments like that. I thought it would just be the linky.

    On regards to Mr. Ellison, while I agree with what he says (and why *are* writers constantly treated like such crap?), he could really use some meditation or something.

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  5. Hahahahaha! Harlan is nothing if not belligerent 🙂 And vitriolic. And a few other words I’ve heard slung in his direction. I did laugh out loud at that interview, though, several times. I think he’s a riot. And he’s not wrong. 😉

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  6. I loved Harlan’s rant, but DD is right: he’s not wrong. It is the same deal in all the “creative” professions. I’ve been in the garment industry my whole career and worked with designers, copywriters, PR professionals, and they say the same thing: professionals get undercut by the amateurs who will do the work for nothing to get in the door. But you do get what you pay for ~ or not. And then the client is calling the professional back with a sheepish plea for a “rush job” to do the clean-up work on a project that is now late and over-budget. Penny-wise and pound foolish.

    All work has value. I say the same thing to young people who ask me about internships: never accept a “job” that requires your time and energy, but no compensation on the come-on that it gets you that intangible “invaluable experience.” It may not be a lot of $$, but they must cover your commuting expense and lunch for the days you work. It’s a pretty good indication of how a company values their human capital.

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    1. Excellent advice. I’m appalled at how many companies (really large international corporations) play the “invaluable experience” card to get free labor. Not all the kids who get these internships live at home, financed by mom and dad. Many of them are working their way through school on their own and can not afford to take an unpaid internship. Even my former boss, who I dearly love and is overall a peach of a guy, supports this idea. I begin to suspect he was born with some kind of silver spoon in his mouth and has never known what it means to struggle.

      I think Corporate America stopped seeing their employees as people a long time ago.

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  7. Harlan is hilarious! I was startled into laughing. He’s going to be personal hero in this regard and if anyone ever asks me to work for no pay now I am sending them that video!

    Aside from that, it’s not just amateurs who get taken though. I had a large company call me to do some work for them on a multi-national client proposal and they tried to say that they will pay if they get the final bid. It was BS because they were paying all their internal employees and this is a field where I have 15 years of experience. Corporate America is defined by greed. I don’t know if this was always the case but it seems to increasingly be so these days.

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  8. It’s hard to imagine the gall of them asking you to work for nothing like that! Wow. Again, brass cajones. They must think writers exist on photosynthesis. I would have laughed in their ear and told them to stick it where the sun don’t shine.

    I’m so glad Harlan is out there saying this stuff that most of us would be too timid to say, even if we ever had the platform to do it.

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