In my last post I wrote about my thinking process. Well, one important issue that has been on my mind a lot is abundance and supply. Bear with me, I know this diverges from creative writing. But this sort of thing can also block creativity. I know it frustrates me at times.
As you all know by now, as well as being a novelist, I also have my own company, which was set up to facilitate companies who have an increasing need for professional bilingual correspondence and publications. Although I have a couple of regular clients I still scour the net for ad hoc projects and/or new openings. What I come across disappoints me.
I am having difficulty getting my head around the state of the freelance writers market at the moment.
From what I can ascertain the market must be completely saturated. It´s as though all of us who have, for whatever reason, stopped working for someone else, and have created some romantic notion of what it would be like to be our own boss, are offering our services on the freelance writers’ market. Oh, I am not saying we´re not talented, or efficient, or creative, but we are flooding the market and this is having significant consequences.
Before I was a writer, I was (and of course I still am) a business graduate. I studied macro and micro economics, accounting and business policy. Naturally I am familiar with the concepts of Supply and Demand. This concept has a significant influence on market conditions and pricing. It is supply and demand that I will be looking at in this article. Supply and demand in relation to the freelance writing market, and how this effects remuneration. When demand exceeds supply then conditions are favourable for the supplier and vice versa.
Looking at it from my own point of view: I have signed up for several freelance sites, hoping that way to spread the word about my writing and translating abilities. However, for every project I bid on, I am but one on an enormous list of possible candidates. So, supply is abundant. There is a flux of supply. There we all are, offering our services, and the demand is scarce relative to the supply. So it becomes a buyers’ market. And what happens then? Prices fall, and we as freelancers are almost the underdog. I have been stunned at the number of writing projects offering no more than $1,00 for a 350 – 400 word article. I am stunned too, that this is the criterion used by the ‘demandor’ rather than quality of writing when choosing their freelancer. I am stunned too, at the number of writers who bid on such projects, allowing the value of their labours to sink so low. In one case a contract was for 5 articles per day, at the royal rate of $3,00 per article. Come on people, that’s $15,00 a day! You can’t tell me that’s the dream job you had in mind when you became a freelancer. Come on companies, do you honestly believe that quality, professional texts will cost so little?
In an ideal situation, quantity of supply should be critically measured against the quality of this excess. Or is the quality still relatively high but the freelancer’s purse so empty he is prepared to work for a pittance? Perhaps the economic crisis and a general lack of funds has caused everyone to lower their quality standards and look at everything in purely financial terms. The potential client has limited funds, the freelancer is willing to take ridiculous cuts in earnings just to win the client over. I used to work for a company that had as its slogan “Price-quality ratio”, which to me was a good business motto to live by. However, we seem to have replaced it with “always the cheapest” and I wonder if this is the right trend to follow.
Then there’s the translation market. For years the going rate for translations was on average $0,10 per word, sometimes more. On occasion when the project was large a project price would be negotiated, usually based on the estimated number of hours to be spent on the project and at an hourly rate of $ 40,00 or thereabouts. These days you´re lucky to be offered half of that!!! And who says the translators who use CAT systems will deliver better work than those who don´t?
And what can we do about it? As long as there are enough freelancers out there prepared to work for sub-standard earnings, those of us who put value on our services are going to suffer. Quality writers and translators should want their earnings to reflect their level of expertise and those who are prepared to work for ‘a dollar a day’ are lowering the standards of the writing and translation industry. It seems only writers and translators who marry their services to web design and/or content are reaping the benefits right now. Anyone who can put ‘web’ into his/her profile can apparently create his own demand. Demand for high remuneration. Designers are the elite of the freelance world at the moment and I take my hat off to everyone who earns his real market value. But that shouldn’t automatically decrease the value of the other professionals such as writers and translators.
We read The Secret and are told that we live in a universe of abundance. That does not mean we become victim to the apparent abundance and that we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the seemingly endless supply of freelancers such as ourselves. The Secret also reminds us that out of that abundance we should receive our fair share. And a ‘dollar a day’ is only our fair share if we don’t believe we are worth more.
So, going back to the law of Supply and Demand. If enough of us refuse to respond to requests that are little above an insult to our professionalism, then supply will become more scarce and the clients will have more difficulty fulfilling their demands. We as a professional group need to create some demand of our own. Demand for a respectful remuneration for quality services rendered. We have to remove ourselves from the websites and forums where these rates are the norm. Boycott the ‘dollar a day’ clients.
We need to create an industry minimum and all of us need to stick to it. All other sectors have them. We have the minimum wage laws, minimum youth wage laws and other protective legislation. Why then, as freelancers, are we prepared to accept wage conditions that we would have refused to work for when in regular employment?
It is up to us to have some self respect, and to demand the same respect from prospective clients.
Writing, reading, authentic living. It's all here at The Writing Process
Welcome to my blog. Let me start by telling you that I love writing. I love the sense of vitality it gives me. I love that it helps me to make sense of the world and to the people in it. I love that it helps me become wiser, more intuitive, empathic, and most of all autonomous.
All aspects - reading, writing and observing - are what make the process complete. The essence is storytelling, and learning about
life and yourself.