Companies with "stables of writers" promise to turn 2.2 cents into $1.00 words

There's always someone on the world wide web who will sell something at a loss to get your business.

The "pay less online" movement has encroached on my territory – writing – and the only thing "at a loss" is me — I'm at a loss for words that writers will trade their precious, $1.00 words for mere pennies.

Companies on the net like Elance and Odesk keep a stable of writers, waiting to be assigned to your project — and waiting to be paid next to nothing to do it.

Mostly based in the United States or elsewhere, these companies seemed far removed from me. And then Crowd Content launched in Victoria, B.C. in 2012. And that hit close to home.

Because it's a local company, I looked into it; plus, someone I had done work for said it was a great opportunity for writers. If it was a good fit, I thought I might submit my name to join their stable.

It turns out, their stable is more of a barn. And it's haunted.

This article in the Victoria Times Colonist newspaper indicated to me that Crowd Content's lowest-tier writers (ranked according to experience and feedback) are paid 2.2 cents a word(I checked this stat on their website — it's true). Lest you think their top-tier writers must be around the $1.00/word mark (because they are expected to turn out a few one dollar words per project) you would be – as I was – mistaken.

Their top-ranked, best available writers are paid 12 cents per word (at the time of writing).

Let's do some math:

For a 600-word piece, which, based on my own experience, would take 4-6 hours to complete, not counting research, interviews, and transcriptions, a top writer with Crowd Content can expect to be paid $72.

On the lower end of the scale, a lower-ranked writer can expect $13.20.

I have no words. Not $1.00 ones, and not 2.2 cent ones.

A journalist acquaintance of mine who is out of work at the moment, looked into working for Crowd Content. But nothing has "worked out," he said. Every article that has come his way pays around the $3.00 mark — and the long distance phone calls he'd have to make to complete the assignment would cost more than his paycheck.

And yet, according to this article, Crowd Content has 400 writers in its stable (barn), with 350 on the waiting list.

I know what Charlotte would be spinning in her web if she were in that barn: WTF.

If the writers at Crowd Content, Elance, Odesk, and other such services are happy with the return on their output, I commend them and hope they continue to be motivated to write their very best, cent by cent.

On the other hand, if they are unhappy, here's some encouragement: there are companies and organizations who pay good writers a respectful and earnest wage. They are out there, and they will value what you bring to the table.

So come on out of the barn — you'll be eating roast beef before you know it.

Caribou Creative