Freelance Isn’t Free.

This all brings us to the underlying message: you cannot expect top tier work from a native English speaker and pay them the same low wage you would if you were to outsource. Freelance marketplaces with workers from Pakistan, India, and other poorer countries have rock-bottom pricing.

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From Merriam-Webster:

Free (\ˈfrē\):

: not costing or charging anything

Lance (\ˈlan(t)s\):

:  a steel-tipped spear carried by mounted knights or light cavalry

…okay, so maybe it doesn’t do the whole artsy Tarantino thing, but you get the picture. Ask any freelancer what their biggest pet peeve is, and they will more than likely all respond with clients wanting you to work for free.

This in and of itself is not altogether shocking; people with money and in a position of some degree of authority, i.e. some form of manager, is going to price shop. If they spend too much, they get yelled out by their superiors for going over budget.

The other factor at play is turnaround; most people who hire freelance workers seem to wait until the 11th hour, needing their project completed yesterday.

One of the few ways I have managed to carve a niche for myself is being able to meet tight deadlines. Not to sound haughty, but on more than one occasions I have been able to exceed expectations by providing at least a rough draft within a 24 hour window. Time is money, and when you can save them time, they perceive you as being of a higher value over other freelance options.

Unfortunately, short windows are becoming standard. Okay, not so bad, right? Just hunker down and bang out projects. No big deal; not a huge change from any other Monday morning.

Until you consider what they are willing to pay, and that becomes the bane of your professional existence. Case in point, a main client of mine who I partner with on a frequent basis had to turn down a job recently that would have included me, and it had to do with the perfect storm of what would have led us to hating life.

A company inquired about using us to craft entire packets of copy. Each order would be in bulk, nearing the 5,000 word mark. This would steady work, too; the company was growing and was actively seeking solid workers.

Sounds good so far. The best jobs are big jobs; yes, it usually requires me to work two weeks solid without a day off, but then you get downtime afterwards and a decent paycheck at the end.

Another requirement was native English speakers, which believe it or not, is a strong selling point for anyone looking to enter into freelance employment. The reason for this is everyone east of the UK claims to be fluent in conversational English, only to have an entire article written using Google Translate.

So what’s the deal? We have the skills, the have the work. Should be a done deal. But whenever things seem too good to be true, they always are. The company was netting $300 for these website packages. The writers, as can be assumed, would be getting fairly compensated, right?

One of the hardest things for me to communicate to potential clients is payment. Everyone wants me to charge by the page, but that simply does not work. A single page that is written in size 12 Times New Roman font and double spaced will have fewer words than a single space, font 11 Calibri page.

Simply put, I cannot compare apples to oranges on your project when you want me to complete it by the page. This is especially true if your instructions read “You’re the creative one; I’ll let you decide what’s best.

Another problem is that the Average Joe can’t picture how long a certain number of words is going to be. That is fair, and I get it. For reference, when I’m working on content pages for service trades, home pages generally take 1,000 words, and that gives a rundown of available services, their summaries, short histories about the company, and what sets them apart. You would actually be surprised just how hefty a 1,000 word home page is.

Back to the new client. As they receive $300 for doing little more than getting a new assignment into the To Do Stack, their writers are paid less than one cent per word. Multiply that times the amount of words, which I believe was around the 4,750 mark, and it is literally pennies on the dollar.

Now, it may seem like it’s still a good idea, but that amount would be for labor only. The amount of research that a freelance writer such as myself has to do can be borderline overwhelming at times. To go from knowing next to nothing about, say, poured concrete, and then to create a series of pages that sounds like I’ve been installing it for 20 years, takes a certain degree of Google skills and pure, and tapping into my natural B.S. creating glands.

Depending on how specific of a niche the job is, I may spend hours just researching a topic. This is time that can’t really be billed, either; freelance work is often for the completed project, and I can only really charge by the word.

Another client that recently had to be shot down was someone looking for a package that would essentially require advanced SEO techniques; the kind that one would hone via an advanced marketing degree. Again, the offer was for peanuts, and the niche was too specific. It was more adult-themed in nature; this isn’t immediately a deal breaker, but as is the case with many things in life, attitude is everything.

Another red flag is when they come off having read an article about master-level SEO and now think that this is what they should be shopping for. Once they were asking for Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) Marketing, I was out. Not only do I not know how to do this, but 1) this isn’t even proven to be effective and 2) this dips into David Blaine’s territory of misdirection. Basically, it’s using words that most people like to trick them into being super into what you’re putting down.

I am always happy to offer a free revisions for free. After all, without developing the ability to read people’s minds, there is going to be some room for adjustment. However, it was obvious that they had a specific idea in mind. Whenever this happens, nothing produced by my side is going to be completely satisfactory.

Picture it like this; rather than having a physical model or picture of a home, you merely tell the blueprint guy what you’re looking for. They may get close, but it will never be the true dream home that you had envisioned, and it’s because two different people are trying to imagine an abstract concept.

This all brings us to the underlying message: you cannot expect top-tier work from a native English speaker and pay them the same low wage you would if you were to outsource. Freelance marketplaces with workers from Pakistan, India, and other poorer countries have rock-bottom pricing, and then still charge a cut from the worker; unfortunately, due to technological and language barriers, most of the work then has to be paid to be corrected by a true English speaker.

Because they have the knowledge of the English language, they will be charging more, and you have not only paid for the same project twice, but now you have wound up paying more than had you simply gone with them in the first place.

If your project is so complex that it requires advanced metrics and techniques, you may be better off finding a salaried marketing manager to take the reins. The average freelance worker is only going to offer copy and copy-related services.

Finally, if your project is important, don’t cheap out. I’m not saying that you have to spend a fortune; just don’t expect someone to work for free. I charge $0.05 per word; that’s five bucks for 100 words, which is probably somewhere in the ballpark of two to three paragraphs for a website. With that, I include a free revision, two if I’m completely off base.

That also includes the time that I have to spend researching the topic, editing my own work (which is surprisingly difficult because we are all blind to many of our mistakes), and ensuring that it is returned within your specified deadline window.

Even at that price, and what it entails, most would look to drop that number down. Some even argue that larger projects should come with a bulk discount; while that would make sense in the manufacturing word, giving me more work to complete faster should not be billed less as it puts me on the expressway to losing the rest of my mind.

Freelance is a great gig, and if you haven’t contracted out some of your tasks to a freelance laborer, I would highly recommend it. To contact me to discuss your project, use the field below or visit me at my website or Facebook page.

 

 

365 Days Later

All I can say is how amazed I am that the people in the community responded the way that they did. The way that they still are. It gives me hope that we don’t have to put our masks back on. That we’re going to continue in spite of this, and just maybe come out a little stronger. I think people seem a little kinder, or maybe it’s just wishful thinking.

Anyone who knows me knows that one of the things that I struggle with is never really having been from anywhere in particular. I was moved about all my life, usually halfway through the current school year. As a result, when people ask where I’m from, I have to prepare for a short 5 minute geography lesson and then try and come up with an explanation as to why, if I’m not an Army Brat, and if my parents didn’t work for a huge corporation, did I move so frequently?

Six years ago we literally had nowhere to live. My parents and I wound up in a motel room for the better part of a month, followed by living in a crappy apartment which wasn’t even safe for renting. I worked for the Mouse after failing to find a job for three months, and was quickly thrown in with a bunch of other weirdos and misfits.

Now that I’m halfway through my 30th year on this planet, I’m feeling old. I was born in ’86, I’ve lived through, at least in part, four different decades. I’ve seen countless atrocities on the news, begged for my mother to turn off the 5th day of coverage of 9/11, to which I was greeted with being “insensitive”. Of course, no one realized how prevalent anxiety and depression are in both sides of the family, and the constant footage of smoldering buildings was becoming too much for someone who had just recently began high school.

Even then, that awful attack was surreal, as if it had happened not just to a different country, but a different planet. The day of, typical high school children made jokes about the pilot being drunk, or  it was the Canadian Mafia or something stupid. Mind you, we didn’t know it was a true act of terror until later, to which everyone collectively felt as rotten as they should.

As a young child I watched coverage of the Oklahoma City Bombing, but I was far too young to understand. I just remember pictures of men being flashed on screen, juxtaposed with burning buildings and crying mothers.

Columbine left me numb. Being in school and seeing what is possible by your school mates, the bad kids, the ones always blasting angry music and kicking puppies. It felt more like a nightmare. To see something similar happen at Sandy Hook, and then to hear that it was all a conspiracy, it didn’t happen, while grieving mothers and fathers trembled with pictures of their lost children; it didn’t feel real.

But the one tragedy that felt all too real happened a little more than a year ago. I tried formulating some feeling, some reaction yesterday on its anniversary proper. And yet, the words would not come. The thoughts would not form beyond a general feeling of malaise. I tried distracting myself with Facebook, which was all too eager to remind me of what had happened in the same feature that shows me dumb photos I posted ages ago.

My sister lived just a few miles away at the time. And I was reminded how easily it could have been her. I have many people who identify as having several different sexualities, friends of friends being active in the community, former coworkers, etc. And I was one of the lucky ones, having to sit back and see the posts wash in about how no one had heard from X and guys, I have just been told that I lost another.

And I found myself feeling just as numb as I did that day. The same feelings of hopelessness, of still not belonging anywhere. John Stewart had once said during the Bush/Gore election that the nation’s stupidity drains down into Florida, and a quick follow of the #FloridaMan tag all but proves this true. Orlando is more or less the Island of Misfit Toys, and to think that if you can’t be yourself here, where can you?

Then the quote kept rolling in. “Love is love is love,” a beautiful sentiment that I just can’t adopt because of an abusive ex who wore it long before as a battle cry, a way to earn carte blanc to do as she pleased. It was at this point it became obvious to me that as people, we are always quick to balance Love and Hate as polar opposites, when in actuality, they are more like twins. Two sides to the same coin, a different ends to a mean. The road to a happy ending, or a living hell. Just as many people do horrendous things in the name of Love, as they do in the name of Hate.

I refuse to remember the name of the man who felt enough hatred towards himself that he felt the need to lash out and end the lives of so many. But that’s exactly where the driving force came from; a feeling of not only being unable to be himself, but a deep seated loathing of his true self. I am not justifying this travesty at all, and my only regret is he was not able to stand trial for his crimes, to look the survivors and their families in their eyes and try and come up with a reason as to why this was okay.

Things didn’t go better as I had found an old photo booklet she had given me, to which I deposited directly into the trash (“Where she belongs,” I muttered). I had hoped going to my favorite class at the gym would cheer me up, but Ty, my instructor, was struggling as well. He had told us just a week ago that he had lost a few friends, and another member of our very gym. He had frequented the place himself, and the pain was still raw.

Despite all of the terrible things that I have seen, Pulse hit the hardest. It truly felt close to home, not just because it was in my own backyard, but that it could happen somewhere that, at least on the surface, feels a bit more accepting. Far enough away from the Deep South, and enough of an old hippie influence from the constant influx of old New Englanders, Orlando felt safe. Sure, you still had homeless addicts eating people and alligators living in swimming pools. But you could at least not worry about what others thought because if they live here, chances are they’re as weird as you are.

To see someone not being able to accept themselves to the point where they felt the need to do what they did hurt. It hurt the community, it hurt everyone who lost someone, and it hurt those just trying to find their place in the world. So yeah, it was difficult to form my thoughts. It still is, as is evident by my rambling. I guess I’m just shaken that this truly could have happened to anyone in the area.

All I can say is how amazed I am that the people in the community responded the way that they did. The way that they still are. It gives me hope that we don’t have to put our masks back on. That we’re going to continue in spite of this, and just maybe come out a little stronger. I think people seem a little kinder, or maybe it’s just wishful thinking.

Ghandi has always been falsely attributed to saying “Be the change you want to see in the world”. And although he didn’t actually say this, it’s still something I try to abide by. What I do know is that when you don’t seem to fit in anywhere else, Central Florida is the closest thing to home. If it’s your home, just try to keep it that way; lend a hand, lend a smile, lend a hug. Just try to leave it a little better place than how you found it.