Writers Don’t Need to Eat

Journalist fed up with pathetic freelance offers takes out frustration with Craigslist post.

Any writer who has tried to earn a little extra money by freelancing knows that unless you have a solid connection, freelancing can be a cruel experience that can make you  give up hope on humanity.

Too often freelancing jobs are humiliating and make the prospect of asking customers if they want “fries with that” tempting.

When trolling Craigslist for NSA freelancing gigs, I can across a rather humorous post. The title reads: “Writers don’t need to eat (write for free).” This is obviously from a fellow wordsmith scorned by freelance posts that ask writers to basically work for free.

So, I thought I’d reach out and asked what exactly prompted the post.

This is what the author of the post had to say:

“I wrote the post in response to a string of ‘job’ offerings on the list. They all wanted significant time and skill, for no pay.

It’s annoying that I frequently see these ads for writers, only. Some people really seem to think writing should be done for free.

I’ve got a degree in Journalism, and find a lot of freelance work. …

It is tough… but, I am finding my way. It’s taken a long time. Not rich, by any means, lol.”

I’m sure this is a sentiment felt by most journalists who try to freelance on the side.  I know I have had freelance assignments where I was working for less than minimum wage. I once took a freelance assignment and couldn’t transfer the interview to my laptop and had to transcribe the entire conversation from my iPhone. I ended up making less than $3 an hour. Not the company’s fault, but still disheartening. The most soul-wrenching freelancing assignments are the ones for content farms like DemandStudios, where you take that college degree and apply it to write an articles on insurance requirements for the state of New Mexico and California laws regarding tips (both actual assignments) for sites like ehow.com.  Surely, this is the kind of work that goes into your clip file and onto your mother’s fridge.

And let’s not even get started on not getting compensated for re-edits and re-writes.

The worst though is dealing with companies that actually don’t pay you for the work. I had that happen with a local community paper and with AOL through its Seed program. Apparently they don’t call it free for nothing.

What are some of your freelance horror stories? Tips on companies to work and not work for?

Oh, if anyone is looking for a freelance writer, contact Jen, the author of the Craigslist post on Twitter – @Xrhea.


  1. Bill Lehane says:

    Nice post, I agree completely! As a former freelance writer based in Albuquerque, and a foreigner at that :-) , I can confirm there are no journalism jobs in New Mexico!

  2. JJ says:

    As a non-working journalist I can certainly relate. But judging by the several grammitcal and spelling errors in this article, perhaps the writer should seek a freelance editor. The lack of care in producing this content significantly diminishes the impact of the message that journalists deserve more respect and better compensation for their work. And so it goes.

  3. You’re forgetting a basic fact of biology and that is writers, like puppies, feed on love and attention. Money can buy neither, at least not the satisfying kind of love and attention.

    I write for free at the moment, but I count it as a hobby while I’m getting my degree plus it’s allowing me to amass a large amount of short stories in a relatively short time as I write/post 3 short stories a week.

    I would have thought that the free things were more for students/beginners looking to pad out their C.V./portfolio rather than established writers and at that I would have thought people would only take on a few of them just so they had examples of writing to show prospective clients/employers.

    • Shim Shimuzu says:

      > You’re forgetting a basic fact of biology and that is writers, like puppies, feed on love and attention. Money can buy neither, at least not the satisfying kind of love and attention.

      Must be great to have mommy and daddy to paying your bills.

    • bob says:

      Well done. You’re poisoning the well and making it much harder for professionals to get by.

      • How?
        I am not giving the work to anyone, I post it myself, on my own blog. If I was submitting work to websites or creating short stories specifically for them for free, I could understand your argument.

        As it is the only people getting the work for free are the public, and really, isn’t that what they get when they come to a website such as this? I am not paying the writer of this article to view it, are they not “poisoning the well” by your definition?

  4. Amy McNeal says:

    My favorite craigslist ads are the ones where they want someone with great qualifications and lots of experience to write 1000+ word articles or do news reporting for $20 or less an item. With quotes and photos! Or better yet, ” Get in on the ground floor, and you’ll get a share of the revenue when our start-up website about (bizarre and specialized subject) makes it big!”

  5. Trixie says:

    The paragon of undesratnindg these issues is right here!

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