April 11, 2011
I had a fairly unpleasant experience this week (and a lot of cool things, too). Unfortunately, it's an experience I've been having a bit too much lately.
Earlier in the year I did an editing job on a memoir. The writer's son contacted me this weekend. He does a lot of website work and he was doing work for a neurosurgeon and wanted me to write about 30 articles in the doc's voice that would be used for search engine optimization (SEO) and posted at various placed around the 'net. They would be between 500 and 1000 words. What did I charge?
I essentially put a mid-range bid down, while explaining that I typically charged per word for magazine articles and was more likely to work hourly or per project rate for website content, but I laid things out for him and the gist of it was the entire project would probably cost him $9000, in other words, about $300 per article. Which, trust me, is a very modest rate for 30 articles of that length, but I was offering a "package deal" sort of thing, too.
Here is part of his response:
Unfortunately, it seems like we're in completely different universes with regards to the pricing - Being an SEO guy who's used to working with India and paying $4 per article, I was thinking that I could have paid you about $10.
Well. I'm sure he is paying that much and I'm sure he gets what he pays for, and if I was a neurosurgeon (presumably a person with a very high income, pretty much no matter where in the world he's working), I'd really want these expertly done.
I was annoyed, but not angry, because there's a lot of this going on these days. And it's ridiculous. It may also be why I'm seeing more and more Craigslist and elance.com and other postings that have a line in the ad that says "Must be Native English speaker." I suspect those folks got burned.
But the gist of his response was he wanted me, a professional writer, to do anywhere from 150 to 450 hours of work for about $300. It's almost so bizarre I can't be insulted. I'm not amused, but I'm not really insulted either. I'm trying to envision someone going to a neurosurgeon and asking that they be paid 85 cents an hour. Or hell, going to a website developer and suggesting they be paid 85 cents an hour.
Professional writing has value. The people who are willing to do this work at that price are either living and working where the exchange rate is pathetic, or they don't value the services they're offering. I suspect it's both. Once upon a time web-based project bidding sites like www.elance.com and www.guru.com were the sites of decent gigs, but now they're ridiculous. This job will get filled at that rate by someone somewhere in the world. And I hope the neurosurgeon chokes on the results, frankly.
I remind myself that I'm an expert content provider. Not only am I an expert on certain types of content (medical writing, clinical diagnostics, business of healthcare, medical practice management), but I'm an expert at providing content on other areas as well. And that, as an expert, I can charge "expert" rates. And the client will get their money's worth.
But ultimately these sorts of rates make me mad because they cheapen the value of expert content providers. And I don't think it's necessarily a byproduct of a global economy, although that's part of it. I was reading a blog by a very experience travel writer (and celebrity news person) who was asked by a rock band's promotional people to come to the festival and write about it. They would pay for her ticket. When she asked for money for the writing, they turned her down. Which is bullshit, because they're making money, but they're not willing to spend it to have something done by one of the best in the business.
My only concluding thought is that expert content providers need to insist that their work and expertise has value. That's the only way that potential clients will value the work and realize they get what they pay for.