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Work for free or cheap: Job and freelance opportunities of a certain kind

Work for free or cheap: Job and freelance opportunities of a certain kind

Picture of Laurie  Udesky

It's common knowledge that newspapers and other news outlets have hemorrhaged jobs. Since 2007, about 30,000 jobs have been lost in the newspaper industry alone. 

Certainly there are good examples of highly competitive journalism jobs that offer decent salaries for trained, and experienced journalists. Although I have not researched the number of such listings, an anecdotal survey of colleagues, and my own browsing of job sites suggest there are fewer listings of jobs, and freelance opportunities that offer livable wages or decent rates. 

It's not really surprising. However here are a couple of examples of responses to queries that stood out. The first was a job listing on craigslist for an editor and writer for a women's health website. The name of the website was never revealed, but the person who responded had an email address at The second listing from Ode magazine was posted on the University of California, Berkeley J-School job website:

(I've removed the names of the people who sent the emails, since they may have nothing to do with setting rates.)

1: Thank you for your interest in the Women's Health online writer/editor position.

Here is a little background about us: we are a leading health and wellness website for baby boomer women.  We have been online since 1998 and now serve over 1,000,000 visitors each month through our website and 250,000 subscribers through our newsletters. Our site combines great original content and cutting-edge digital media marketing to engage visitors and increase site memberships.

We are looking for smart, passionate, and experienced writers to create articles for the website. Articles need to be well written and between 200 to 500 words. Articles will need to follow a strict format but the content itself will be completely original.

We will compensate $12 per article.

If this sounds appealing, we'd like you to submit a sample article from a list of topics we will provide so we can get a feeling for your writing style and see if you would be a good fit for our project.  We will compensate you $5 for the sample article. It is important to note that upon submission and payment we will acquire ownership of the content and have the exclusive and perpetual rights to use it in any way we choose. Please let us know if you are interested and we will send you instructions on how to proceed.

We look forward to hopefully hearing from you soon.

2: Greetings!

Thank you so much for taking interest in Ode! 

We've been overwhelmed by the number of applicants for this position. Before we start digging further into your application, we feel it only fair to be clear and upfront about our budget for this opening. As we start to see more traffic to our site, we fully intend to increase our rates, but this is all we have at the moment.

Rates are as follows:

- $25 per post (300-600 words)

- 15 posts per month max

- $20 bonus for articles that get 1,000 or more pageviews within the first 7 days

If you are still interested in this position, please be sure to reply back to this email to let us know. If we don't hear a response from you by Monday, February 8, we'll assume that you no longer wish proceed with your application.




Picture of Katherine Stone

I was just discussing this yesterday with some health writers I highly respect (whose names I won't share).  I've come upon websites owned by very large "health-on-the-web" corporations that want to offer people anywhere from $0 to $10 per post to help provide them the content that they then use to generate advertising dollars.  It's insulting!  Thankfully, most of the bloggers I know refuse them outright.

Picture of Carolyn Thomas

Good Grief!  I'm thinking that SOMEBODY is actually saying YES to these rates. This may be appealing to new writers looking to beef up their portfolios.  When I was just starting out back in the 70s, I did submit anything and everything for any community paper or garden club newsletter as long as it got me a byline.  But this policy does explain the really poor writing one sees in some surprisingly high-profile corporate sites.

Thanks for this!

Carolyn Thomas



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