Creative Destruction

January 31, 2007

Does the Internet Push Down Wages for Freelance Writers?

Filed under: Economics,Navel Gazing — Robert @ 9:25 pm

Yes and no.

The freelance writing business is in both a boom and a bust. It’s in a boom because the bottomless mouth of the Internet means a lot of work out there wanting to get done – a joyous prospect for the impecunious freelancer. It’s in a bust because the wages offered for this work are pretty low. (And even with the very low rates, there are complaints of high costs by Web content buyers.)  Overseas competition has put a downward pressure on domestic wages.

On the other hand, the volumes available mean that the writer who can generate content quickly and competently in volume now has a major advantage over the finicky artist. (Even more of an advantage than they used to have.) Increasingly, it’s possible to make a decent living by just working hard at a keyboard. So while per-word rates might be lower, per-week paychecks go up. Some writers would rather work 50 hours and make $500 than work 10 hours and make $200. So the content boom is good for the production writers.

The artists, of course, suffer, but they enjoy that, so it’s all right.



  1. Are you talking about creative fiction and non-fiction or the news/opinion market?

    Comment by toysoldier — February 1, 2007 @ 10:13 am | Reply

  2. I was just commenting to a friend about the persistent tension between quality and market efficiency in finding what sells, which often enough isn’t quality. For writers willing to generate pablum, there is a large market, and indeed one can make a living at it. Of course, it’s mostly anonymous and quickly forgotten. For those who still hew to quality as an ideal worth some sacrifice (time, which is money in this context), there is a faint hope of an afterlife for their work. Pick your poison.

    Comment by Brutus — February 1, 2007 @ 11:47 am | Reply

  3. Mainly non-fiction, toysoldier.

    Comment by Robert — February 1, 2007 @ 1:05 pm | Reply

  4. I should have mentioned, Brutus, that the kind of copy my company writes is mainly sales copy, catalog text, etc. – the floor sweepings of the machinery of advertising. There is indeed a quality-time tradeoff, but immortality is pretty much off the table for our prose from the get-go.

    Comment by Robert — February 1, 2007 @ 7:18 pm | Reply

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