People per hour – worth a look or another way to devalue writing?

May 23, 2011 § 1 Comment

Hi. My name is Sam and I am a writer.

You wouldn’t think that would be so hard a thing to say, but, despite the fact that more and more of us are writing through the explosion of blogs, many people have a mental block considering themselves a writer.

I am fortunate in that I genuinely do earn a living from writing, both as a copywriter under Clarity, but I also write articles for various websites and magazines. Not quite brave enough to call myself a journalist yet mind. However, when I started out as a writer a few years ago, I signed up for all these freelance bidding sites hoping to get some work.

Back then, they were all US based, and being competitive against the exchange rate would have been hard enough, but with the number of bidders flooding these sites from places like India, where a $1 would actually be reasonable money for them, it was impossible.

Now, the UK site People Per Hour has grown to become a genuinely useful resource for those looking to supplement their income by doing some freelance writing (amongst other specialisms), is UK based, and many of the buyers are looking specifically for UK writers. You can join for free, and make up to 10 bids for work per calendar month. If you want to upgrade, prices start from £7.95 a month which allows you up to 40 bids. So far so good.

However, my problem with the site, as with all sites of this nature, is that it perpetuates the myth that writing isn’t worth much.

When you start out, you probably don’t know how much to charge. If you look on these sites you will get a distorted view of what writing is worth. Obviously, if you are just starting out, you will command a lower price than an experienced specialist, but according to People Per Hour, writing is not even worth minimum wage.

A number of job postings pay less than £5 per hour, and some even state this in the job description. While this is probably legal, the minimum wage regulations covering employment, rather than freelance work, I do not think it is fair or right.

Being as I am of a journalistic bent, and have developed a taste for asking questions over at Bitterwallet I thought I would ask PPH what they thought. I asked them if having such pitifully paid jobs devalued the site as a jobs board. They said “not at all”.

I asked if they offered guidance to job posters on what a reasonable rate might be. They said

The fact is that many clients are uneducated about what certain services cost. We’re not in a position to set prices for the hundreds of jobs posted on our site everyday. That’s not our expertise – it’s the expertise of the freelancer who knows his or her industry, and the value of his or her service offering.

Hmm. So I asked them whether they thought it was right that jobs paying under what is, let’s be honest, a pretty measly rate anyway, should be listed*. They responded that

“Clients are terrible at guessing what most things cost unless they’ve bought it before. Our marketplace in fact educates people about that, if anything.”

So. People Per Hour educate people about how much things should cost. I see. Obviously writing is not worth minimum wage then-  take a look at this listing for a People Per Hour blogger, paying £5 an hour.

But there is some good news. On some jobs, more seasoned writers will tell the person looking for a whole book to be ghost written for £100 (for example) that their budget is unreasonable, and that they need to pay more for time and expertise. But the problem remains, while writers still bid at such low rates, people will still post jobs at that rate.

So my aim for this blog post? Whether you choose to go with PPH or not, I want to empower** you as a writer to seriously think before you agree to write 10 blog posts for £10. Without wanting to sound like Cheryl Cole (as that would be pants) you are worth it, so start believing it!

*that was my verbatim question. Including the word measly.

** I don’t usually use words like empower. That’s how strongly I feel about this.

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§ One Response to People per hour – worth a look or another way to devalue writing?

  • Nicki Cawood says:

    What an absolutely fantastic post. I have been on PPH but have never bid, one because it looked so damn complicated (though suspect that might be me), and the rates didn’t seem “right”. I’m fairly new to the freelance writing world, but am damn sure less than minimum wage per hour is not a fair valuation of anyone’s time. I have done paid work but it is so very hard to put a price label on yourself. I don’t want to come across as presumptuous or charge above my ability… no-one tells you what you should be charging. I couldn’t agree more with you Sam, we really need to consider whether accepting such low paid work will be doing ourselves and others a disservice!

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