Saturday, October 16, 2010

I'm trying to make a living, people!

Oh for pete's sake! Any readers remember my post weeks ago, being so excited about all the companies I was about to be doing freelance work for? Well, seems like there's a little catch...

One company pays 1 cent a word. OK, I thought at the time. I'm sure it'll be light stuff that I can just crank out in no time at all... WRONG. All the stuff I've gotten so far has been densely written AND riddled with errors. I've been keeping track of the time I spend doing each assignment, and it turns out that I'm making between $7 and $10 an hour!

The above company's a small one, so I thought: Fine, they're small-time. I'll just do the random assignment here and there, just for some pocket change, and concentrate instead on doing more work for the bigger national companies...

One of the "biggies" gave me a project that paid $1 per page. OK, I thought at the time. I'm sure it'll be light stuff that I can just crank out in no time at all... WRONG. A typical page has around 500 words. And I'm not just straight copy editing, but also proofing against another text, and checking design elements, and making sure definitions in boxes appear properly in the text, and looking up constantly-misspelled pop-culture names, and checking folios, footers, endnote numbers, etc. I just finished doing 80 pages. Time spent? 16 hours. That's a whopping $5 an hour!!!!!!!

The US MINIMUM wage (for, like, kids and high-school drop-outs working at McDonald's) is $7.25 an hour!

When I started copy editing back in '98, I made $17 or $18 an hour. The highest I ever earned was in NYC in 2007/early 2008, before the recession hit: starting for one company at $25 an hour and within weeks getting a raise to $28 an hour. After the recession took hold (and the above company closed), I was getting around $20 an hour doing various temp legal proofing jobs, and on one job for a newspaper (before it, too, closed). My boss at the latter actually apologized to me for the "low" wage he was able to offer!

Now, recession or no recession, outsourcing or no outsourcing... I KNOW that my time is worth more than $5 an hour! (Even the US government doesn't allow less than $7.25, for pete's sake!)

Conclusion: These "per word" and "per page" ideas are financial scams, pure and simple. For a little, obscure company to operate that way? OK, I can see it. But for a major national company to do so? That's just preying on people who are desperate for work. Though, RE the latter, I did inform my contact person about what the hourly wage was working out to be; she didn't express that the pay outcome could/would be amended, but did say that she'd let her supervisor know about the situation... I really want to work for this company -- among other reasons, they have a branch in NYC -- but, though I signed a contract with them, I'm going to bow out after doing one more chapter if the pay situation doesn't improve drastically.

In more positive news: There is one company I've been doing work for that does pay a fair wage for the field! ($26 an hour) They've been light on work the past couple of weeks, but I just got word that they're gearing up for a new project and want me to be a part of it... YES, PLEASE!

Damn. I'm just trying to make a living!

1 comment:

Beth Austin said...

RE the "little company" I mentioned above: I actually got a job tonight for 1 cent a page (11,000 words) that I finished in 6 hours -- turned out to be $18 an hour, which is darn close to the actual going rate for copy editors! I'm enthused!