Yesterday, I was offered a freelance job with a major website covering science fiction, comics, film, and television…
…at the incredible rate of $10 an article.
In the mid-1990s, I earned $25 per article for a local newspaper and considered that way too low… and that was almost 30 years ago. It’s worth noting that I only agreed to it because I was a new writer who needed to build up some bylines fast (I was about to start writing materials for Lucasfilm’s Star Wars licensed universe, and bylines were required for submission). Also, the editor was a friend of mine, which goes a long way with me.
$10 an article… in 2023.
That means my pay would have been between $2 and $3 per hour. I made more than that in high school, at a Burger King in a rural area, back in the mid-1980s.
A quality article requires research, (sometimes) interviews, writing, rewriting, fact-checking, editing, and (sometimes) locating photos. It could take three to five hours to complete. I’d be doing all that for $10. And the website that offered it is a major website with a large readership and a lot of high-paying ads. They should be able to pay a lot more than that.
So if I were to write 20 articles a day, then I could make $200. With 100 articles per five-day week, that would come out to 5,200 articles per year, and I’d make $52,000. If I upped it to 30 articles a day, I’d make $78,000. Not bad! And if I put in the overtime and wrote 40 articles a day, I’d clear six figures. So, hey, this could be very lucrative indeed… as long as I somehow changed the laws of physics, increased a day on Earth from 24 hours to 400 hours, and wrote 10,400 articles between now and next July.
That’s how devalued my field has become. Freelance editors and journalists are viewed as worth less than burger-flippers were during the Ronald Reagan era. This is the writing equivalent of clueless influencers asking artists to create art for “exposure.”
Ten… freakin’… dollars. Per article. Not 30 years ago. Today.
This past weekend, my wife helped to organize a local fundraiser. There was a food vendor there selling $10 lemonades. So this company was offering to pay me a lemonade for every article I spent hours writing. I am thirsty and I do love lemonade, but… no.
Pay your writers and editors what they are worth. This should, of course, go without saying, but it apparently needs to be said anyway.