An Open Letter to Clients Who Lowball Freelancers

V.R. Craft
Oct 12 · 5 min read

I’ve been freelancing on Upwork for more than five years now, and only recently have I started seeing a huge glut of freelance writing jobs that look a lot like this one:

We are interested in paying $1 per 100 words. You can write up to 5,000 words a day, so you can make a nice income on a regular basis.

The articles must be written in fluent English, without any grammar, spelling, or syntactic errors. All the articles should be written by you. Your English should be excellent and you should have good writing skills. We can’t compromise on the quality of writing. All the articles will be checked by our expert editors.

All the articles must be unique — NO plagiarism allowed.

Looking for long term writers.

Wow. They want 1,000 original words with no grammar, spelling, or syntactic errors, and “can’t compromise on the quality of the writing.” That means I’m going to have to spend at least an hour, possibly two, researching the topic, developing an angle, filtering out the important points, writing the article, and editing it for typos, etc. Which is, in fact, something I am trained to do. I have two degrees, one in Journalism and one in Advertising/Public Relations, both writing-intensive majors. I have spent years doing various kinds of business writing, from journalistic articles to blog posts to social media content. I’m a skilled and experienced writer who can absolutely do this job.

So, you want to pay me $10 for 1,000 words. Oh, but I don’t actually get the full $10, Upwork takes 20 percent off the top. So I get $8. For now. In April, I get to pay taxes on that $8, so in the long run I’ll probably get about $7. So you want an experienced, skilled writer to work for $3.50–7.00 an hour before tax.

And why wouldn’t you? You don’t really need someone with my experience, do you? The general public is full of people who know how to spell and use grammar correctly. Everyone knows how to carefully research a topic, how to determine if a source is credible, how to tell from looking at a headline if it was likely to have been written by a real journalist or not. That’s why no one ever shares info that isn’t true on social media!

In fact, you shouldn’t even bother trying to hire someone on Upwork, your five-year-old could probably do this job for free. Don’t have a kid? Borrow one from a friend. For $3.50 you can just buy them an ice cream cone and be done with it.

Does this sound like an unprofessional way to get work done at your office? Maybe, but so is trying to hire a skilled worker for the equivalent of $3.50–7.00 an hour, with no benefits or job security.

For contrast, the last writing job I accepted paid $60, and took me about an hour and fifteen minutes.

But lately I’ve been getting a lot of lowball offers, and I’d really like to know what people think they’re getting for $10. Do you honestly believe you’re going to entice someone to take a job that promises “lots of money” because they can make $50 doing, let’s say, an average of 7.5 hours of work? Oh wait, that’s $40, because fees.

Remember that you’re already actually saving a lot of money by hiring freelancers vs. an employee. No benefits! No hourly pay for employees to just hang around by the water cooler! No worries about unemployment if you terminate them! No paid sick days! You are already saving so much money for the company, do you really want to be the cheapskate who demands top-quality writing for $3.50/hour?

Because when qualified writers like myself see these sorts of job postings, the first thing we think is that you’re a cheapskate — the very worst kind. And those kinds of cheapskates have patterns. They take forever to release the milestone. They want dozens of revisions. They want you to answer questions about their marketing strategy and do more stuff for them before they release it. And the pay sucks.

The second thing we do is laugh as we imagine the kind of work you’re going to end up getting for your money, because no one good is going to take that job.

The third thing we do is message our friends and fellow freelancers so they can laugh at you too.

But wait, it gets better. Sometimes I see gems like these:

“You’ll be assigned various topics to create ebooks formatted for Kindle. They will be non-fiction of the self-help genre. Topics covered will include body positivity, weight loss, keto diet, etc. I’m looking for someone who can create a short creative ebook with a minimum of 10,000 words and be able to format it for kindle, fully edited, and include photos. I would need you to create one ebook per week.

This is a ghostwriting position, so I will be retaining all writes to finished products. This project offers $25 per ebook.”

So, let’s review: This person wants TEN THOUSAND WORDS for $25.00, which is an even worse rate than $10/1,000 words. At least with that job you’d make $100 for 10,000 words, the rights of which you will give up forever. (Meaning the job poster can collect royalties on your work in perpetuity, and pay you nothing more than $25.) So this person who can’t even tell the difference between writes and rights (no wonder they can’t just write their own book) wants you to work for somewhere in the neighborhood of a $1–2 an hour, for a sum total of $25, to create an ebook they can collect royalties on forever.

Wow, what a great deal! Let me drop everything to apply for the shittiest job ever posted on Upwork!

Said no freelancer ever.

But hey, good luck getting what you paid for.

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V.R. Craft

Written by

Scifi & satire with a side of sarcasm. Author of Stupid Humans & Fail to the Chief.

The Startup

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