So You Want to Write for Pay?

Making a living as a writer is not easy. Financially, there are almost any other careers that would be a better choice, yet most of us dream of one day being paid solely to write.

Have you ever thought about writing for one of those Write-for-Pay websites? A member of my writing workshop, *Julie Downsbrough has, and she brought a piece to class in which she shared her thoughts on it.  I wanted to share it with the Inkpunks and our readers because I thought it was an insightful and entertaining take on the subject. Thanks, Julie, for allowing me to share it.

The 500 Word Essay

Now let us see about this. Here is a ‘writing company’ that requires its writers to be able to write 500 word essays and is only willing to pay $10 an essay. The company requires the writer to write about one essay within 30 minutes! This is not just any old nonsense which I am attempting to write here in 30 minutes, but requires the writer to have ‘proficient research skills’ and ‘a very high level of writing ability.’ Writers are expected to write at least five articles a day and priority will be given to those writers who can write full time. At that rate it would be 16 articles of 500 words each in an eight hour day, or in other words, thirty-two fully edited, organized, coherent, completed, researched pages per day. For this you would in theory earn $160 per day, a reasonable income I suppose if you could actually achieve this feat.

In order to do this, you would need an awful lot of coffee. It seems unrealistic, unless you are someone who is always naturally efficient. There would be no time to stop and think. So how could you write something good in this time? Well, maybe you could write the first draft quite easily and flowingly, sort of like I am doing now. But perhaps then you would want to take some time to remove such messy adverbs as ‘easily’ and ‘flowingly’ and then what about time to check your work perhaps, organize it in a more rational form, or check your facts?

Let’s see now, I have written just over 250 words so far. Nearly 20 minutes used up. I’d better get a move on. Oh, but let’s pause a minute while I just save this. Now then, as I was saying, (just filling in words here to fill up some space to try to reach my 500 words in half an hour goal), I am writing this essay ‘on the hoof’ so to speak. What a strange expression that is, ‘on the hoof’, and why did it come into my head, just then? I will have to look that up later, right now I don’t really have the time! Also I don’t have time to shape this essay, edit it, research it or make it publishable in the time allotted since I now have only about seven minutes left and I am at just over 400 words. I’d better get a move on!

I think in this last paragraph I had better try and wrap things up, since I only have five minutes left and I have to draw some sort of conclusion. Well, let’s see…. Hmm, I seem to be slowing down more now that time is running out, and my mind is wandering to that umpteenth cup of coffee for the day. I have about 25 words left now, so I will just say, it is undignified and unreasonable to treat writers like word slaves. Pseudo editors and publishers and other miscellaneous scam artists, STOP DOING IT!

There, just over 500 words and two minutes left, so I guess it is possible to write an essay in half an hour. We were, after all, required to do it in school tests though the teacher only expected one page (250 – 300 words) and not at a publishable level.

Time is up. Put down your pencils.

(564 words – Impressive!)


*Julie Downsbrough is a working writer. She is originally from Yorkshire, England and now lives in Burnaby, BC. with her Kiwi husband and one black cat. Her poems and articles have been published in various magazines, journals and newspapers including The Vancouver Sun, Cloverdale Reporter, Ariel (University of Calgary Press), Tickled By Thunder Literary Journal, Crow Toes Quarterly (Children’s Literary magazine), and The Yorkshire Journal.

She has received 1st Place in the Beacon Bards Poetry Competition, 2nd  Place in the West-End Writer’s Poetry Contest, Sakura Awards in the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Contests, and Honourable Mention in the Burnaby Writers’ Society Writing Contest.

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