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The One Time I Settled To Work For Peanuts

My experiences for a client who couldn’t afford what I thought I was worth and yet I took them in.

Looking at my writing career, the biggest leap in my progress as a writer has been finding work through freelance sites. With the gig economy growing more and more, it’s clear many people want to be living the dream of working from home.

It’s a luxury that is available to every person, but only a few can ever make it.

Why is that?

Because the whole gig economy has a lot of dark undertones to it.

The biggest being people or companies unwilling to pay the workers for what they are actually worth. Letting them work gruelling hours for mere peanuts.

I’ve seen this with my own brothers work where he was stuck as an animator for years as people wanted him to work for cheaper or promise payment based on the product performance (which the games he’s worked on by the way never got off the ground.) However, I’ve also seen it for me where at one point I described the work and my pay to one of my relatives and she said it sounded pretty much like child labour.

Even my work today is admittedly not the greatest as I’m currently getting paid a little over a penny per word. Though this is markedly better than the first writing gig I ever took.

Why I Took It

It was about one year ago when I started to work on Upwork, a freelance site that I signed up for in the past but didn’t quite use it that much. In one of my attempts early in my career, I tried to gather writing clients only to fail miserably at it.

This time around it was different. I was writing on Medium for a handful of months, had my work posted in publications, and I grew significantly as a writer over the few years since then.

I had the skills necessary to make a writing career actually viable.

All I needed was the clients.

So I frantically applied to a number of jobs, playing up my skills in the hope that I could find some great clients. Explaining the value that I can bring and the years of writing experience that I’ve built up as well.

All in all, it was an impressive resume. The only issue was that I was throwing my darts at the wrong board.

From this experience, I know why many people tend to take these jobs. From low self esteem to people like me who need the money. But it’s these types of emotions that drive us to do this type of work. The work that we don’t deserve.

I was at a point where I was writing about 25 500-word articles a week and getting paid $2 per article.

It lulls us into a false sense of security and maybe that things will get better if we work hard enough. As I worked harder at these assignments I was given I was offered more work. I started with 3 articles a day and that quickly grew to writing 5 per day.

Thankfully I was offered “time off” where I could take an entire day off and not work. But there was still more work to be done.

In the end, I was at a point where I was writing about 25 500-word articles a week and getting paid $2 per article. And almost every day was a day that I dreaded.

I wouldn’t say that I was losing my passion for writing, after all, I’m still writing today. But I learned just how emotional I get in the work that I do.

I Took Matters Into My Own Hands

I started to become a little more assertive. Not in the sense that I accepted or refused jobs or anything. It was more of me following up and start talking to my client.

Over time I realized just how terrible of a position I was in.

I found out that my client was paying me $1.50 per article rather than the agreed-upon $2.00. Furthermore, my client was very reluctant in paying me more despite the fact that in the advertisement they said that they would.

I had to push them a lot to even get paid $2.00 an article.

I was getting paid a fifth of a cent per word for the work that I put my effort into.

This provided some relief as the days leading up to that meagre raise felt like a drag. I felt like I was working a lot, devoting long nights to work that was hardly fulfilling and on pay that was hardly worth the effort.

The quality of my work was slipping and I felt drained after every day. I felt relief when I was able to call a day off. It was a day I didn’t have to do the work.

And it wasn’t like I was being entitled, the average pay per word for a writer even with 0 experience ranges between 0.01 to 0.10 per word. The variance depending on the length of the project and the work involved. I was getting paid a fifth of a cent per word for the work that I put my effort into.

The amount of money I was getting paid would make sense if what I was writing was something smaller like a social media post.

But still, my employer refused to pay more or even get close to that level. I didn’t press them that much on it but the conversation always came back to them saying they wish they could pay me more.

It felt rather odd. Here my client was advertising for a large number of writers to tackle the mountain of client work that they had available. It leads me to believe that my client had several clients already to the point that they couldn’t handle all the work themselves.

And if they were a good writer or doing their own outreach, surely they would be charging a lot more for their services, especially if they planned to dump the work over to someone else to do.

It’s not that delegation was a bad idea. But it’s delegating and expecting people to work for less than what they truly deserve.

And if my client was truly wishing to pay the freelancers — or me — more, they would probably be working on making some changes to their business model. Raising prices for the work they charge.

And it’s not like this particular client I had was a fresh new startup with little resources. Other freelancers in the past have talked about this company and the fact the pay was absolutely terrible.

Lessons Learned

But what often those comments come paired with is for this particular client there are other perks to it. For me, the low pay experience I gained boosted my confidence in my work and how much money I deserve to get out of this.

I’ve learned how to better handle negotiations and even confronting my clients and talking to them about my needs, goals, and what I hope to get from them. I’ve also learned to be impartial and understanding. Because even after hearing that client struggling to pay me, I worked for them for a little bit longer, eventually stopping entirely by September, a few months after I felt the relationship I had with them run its course.

We shouldn’t need to work for peanuts to realize that we are worth more than peanuts.

I wouldn’t recommend this sort of path for anyone. It often leaves a lot of mental scarring. For me, I was at a point where I grew restless of the work and it affected me a lot. I was actually pretty fortunate I had a client who was understanding and at least wasn’t an outright asshole when I had those conversations with them.

But the fact still remains that poor pay while doing work that eats up a lot of a persons time is not worth it.

Sure there are life lessons in there and we all grow from negative experiences. However it’s better for us to understand and look at ourselves.

We shouldn’t need to work for peanuts to realize that we are worth more than peanuts.

Entrepreneur, positive-minded. I used to say a lot, now I do a lot. Documenting my growth. Support me on Patreon:

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