The shocking thing I discovered about the Philippines’ freelance writing scene

There are quite a number of forums, platforms, and websites you can go to online to search for freelance writing gigs. One of the last places you’ll probably consider is Craigslist. But that’s exactly what I did. I went to Craigslist, searched for my city, and browsed through the job listings there for the position of freelance writer. I found several potential clients. All of them are of course companies or businesses based in the city where I live. I sent each of them an application. Almost all of them got back to me informing me that they’re interested in me. They interviewed me online and a few of them made me answer a few writing tests.

I passed all of them. One company in particular struck me. They have an office here in Cebu, but their boss is based abroad. They asked me to write a 1,500-word review of a product in Amazon. I did it and submitted it to them the following day. They liked what I wrote so they scheduled a final interview for me with their boss.

I passed that interview and the crucial moment finally came for us to discuss what rate we were going to agree upon before I’ll start working for them.

But first, a little backgrounder: The rate I charge my clients is $0.13 per word. I kept this at the back of my mind during our conversation. I decided to settle for this rate after reading somewhere (here, here, and elsewhere) that you can actually categorize how much freelance writers are making per word according to their level of experience:

  1. Beginner (0-3 years of experience) = $0.03 to $0.11 per word
  2. Intermediate (3-5 years of experience) = $0.12 to $0.24 per word
  3. Professional (5-7 years of experience) = $0.24 to $0.82 per word
  4. Expert (7 years up) = $0.83 and up per word

Of course, the above is not a standard. I don’t think there really is a standard matrix for freelance writers’ rates per word.

I consider myself as belonging to the intermediate level. $0.13 sounds to me to be reasonable. It’s not very high within that particular bracket.

man laptop

Now, going back to the final interview, I was pleased because the potential client was satisfied with my answers. So I finally asked him what his budget was for the writing gig. I was shocked when he said it’s around $5 per 1,500 words! That’s only $0.0034 per word!

Appalling.

It didn’t even make it to the Beginner category. It’s way below that. It’s not only a rip off kind of a deal, it’s exploitation.

There are a number of other writers in that company’s team, and I feel very sorry for them. For the sheer hard work of churning out probably a couple or more 1,500-word articles a day (not to mention the hours it will take to research each of the topics), they only receive a pittance. Perhaps “pittance” is an understatement.

Needless to say, I declined their offer.

Let’s think about it. It usually takes me two hours to write a 500-word article. That means I write around 1,500 words in six hours. That means that if you were working for that company, you’ll probably be able to write only two 1,500-word articles in twelve hours. If you compute that, that’s only $9.9 or Php 495 per day. Shocking, right? For working on two articles for twelve hours each day, you’ll only earn that much.

That’s $49.5 or Php 2,475 a week. In a month, that’s $198 or Php 9,900!

It’s too low. Even if you take into consideration that the Philippines is a developing country and has a lower cost of living compared to Western countries, it’s still low. Php 9,900 is hardly enough if you’re single, unless if you live with your parents or are living independently but is absolutely frugal (to the point of being almost destitute). How much more if you have a family? If you have a family with two kids, Php 9,900 is probably only equivalent to a month’s worth of groceries and a couple of family dinners at inexpensive restaurants. What about education, health expenses, transportation costs, house rental, car loan, and so on?

In America, for example, I think one of their considerations is that your monthly earnings as a freelance writer ought of course to be more than enough to cover your monthly expenses. Otherwise, what’s the point of doing it? You’ll be broke sooner than you think. That’s the reason why the average rates for their writers are higher.

In the Philippines, Php 9,900 doesn’t even begin to cover your monthly expenses, especially if you’re married. I wonder if that amount gives us a hint of what the average salary is for freelance writers in the Philippines. Perhaps the average is not far from that. If so, then that is really a pity, because Filipino writers generally have a good, if not an excellent, command of the English language. Modesty aside, our English communication skills are probably better than those of our Asian neighbors. That’s one of the reasons why many Koreans and Japanese go here to study English as a second language. Filipino writers deserve more than this. It’s kind of an insult to be offered a measly rate for your skills.

Good thing our market is not confined to Philippine-based companies. As freelance writers, we can and should aim high. Ultimately, your freelance writing rate shouldn’t be based on where you live in the world and how much your cost of living is. It ought to be based instead on the quality of your work and your client’s ability and willingness to pay.

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “The shocking thing I discovered about the Philippines’ freelance writing scene

  1. Ah, yes. The classic American low-balling technique. It shows how the West has really commodified the art of writing, reducing it to their so-called “content”.

    Too much commodification has resulted in the word “content” being thrown around like a used rag. With prices that low, only Indians would sign up for those writing jobs…at the expense of quality. One should not expect the best quality when paying with peanuts.

    (On a side note, have you tried Essays.ph? I used to have an account there, but an editor policing me about my corrections on an American’s writing made me quit. To be fair to them, they did have a reliable payout system.)

    1. Hi, Monch.

      Yes, you can expect low quality writing if the low is pay.

      I haven’t tried Essays.ph yet. But I think their rates are also very low. Same with iWriter. That’s just the case with most of these platforms, I guess. Their upside for the freelance writer is not that high. I think it’s more profitable and worth your while to go directly to the clients. Platforms act as middlemen and they control how much you can earn. The challenge is finding these clients.

  2. I find economics and entrepreneurship interesting, though I have little knowledge in either- why wouldn’t these companies have someone who notices that desperately hacked out reviews are losing them more prestige with every customer that bothers to scroll beyond the item picture? Paying more for better writing would seem easier anything else (of course, as a amateur writer, I’m biased).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s