Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

Musings on webscabbery

Fresh when it gets here from Julie Barrett
Sunday, April 15, 2007

See the previous post for more background.)

All the talk of the last few days about the web driving down rates for working writers has got me to thinking. It is happening on some levels, and I have mixed feelings about it.

I make the bulk of my living writing copy. That's been darned difficult lately. During the heady, early days of the netboom, I was turning down work and making decent money. Today, my rates are generally a bit higher, but I'm getting less work.

There are a variety of factors that go into that. I've noticed more companies are hiring people to do in-house what they used to farm out. This is cyclical. The other is the trend of places like Craigslist and other sites offering up a couple of bucks for 500 words of copy. Do the math. That's less than a penny a word. If you can crank out 500 words and do all the research needed to produce those words in say, ten or fifteen minutes, well, you have my undying admiration.

I get the impression that a fair number of companies offering this type of work are not looking for good writing - they want a ton of keywords for splogs or ad sites. Wonder how much they'll make off of the two bucks they pay for the copy? Perhaps they get what they pay for.

On the other hand, that couple of bucks is quite possibly a good wage for someone in an overseas market. This is part of the price we pay for globalization.

I also see a lot of writers just starting out who have no problem doing this kind of work for experience or portfolio work. Is that driving down income for the rest of us? Possibly. Of course, I was just starting out once and took much lower rates than I should have (and did a few things for free) just to get a byline and portfolio material. I can't really whine.

What's evident is that this old dog is going to have to learn some new tricks.

On one hand I'm right where I always wanted to be at this time of life: working for myself and working in a creative field. I'm happy in that respect. I'm just not making the kind of money I should be.

I'm going to take some time to reassess my professional life and see what I can do to find more streams of income. Yeah, I knew the job was dangerous when I took it, but I can't sit back and get hope that things will change.

I'm open to suggestions. ;-)

One option that's certainly on the table for short-term is getting a part-time job. I hate to do that unless it's something I can do from home. One thing I've found is that a considerable amount of income is eaten up with commuting and wardrobe costs. Most part-time jobs don't pay terribly well, so I don't think I'd be clearing a lot once I factor in those costs. However, I could put all of the "profits" into paying the electric bill. (We're paying 40% higher rates than people in neighboring states. They went up with the hurricanes and never dropped. Don't get me started.)

So I need to rethink things. A lot. I've never been afraid of change, fortunately. And this is a good time to rethink a lot of things. I'm reaching a milestone age. Kid will be 18 very soon. It is truly a transitional point both from a professional and personal view.

Anyone got a good recipe for lemonade?

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