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Do People Really Do This?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
So, comes an ad on Craig's List seeking "Food Writers for Webpage." Sounds like it could be interesting.

Then I get into the text of the ad. What they're looking for is somebody who can do combinations of food reviews and recipes. The specifics are that you write a 300-500 word "review" of the food type, and provide three original recipes using that foodstuff.

For instance, you might choose Penne pasta as the product. You have to discuss Penne (which might include doing research), then develop and test recipes using it.

For which they're willing to fork over the munificient sum of five bucks.

Oh, yeah, if you're found acceptible (which, I'm guessing, simply means you have the ability to string 300 words together), they expect you to do three of these reviews weekly.

Now, don't get me wrong. There are many reasons why somebody would be willing to write at little to no money. There's the ego involvement of calling yourself a food writer, for instance. And, for beginners, it can be a way to help learn the trade---just like staging at a restaurant. And I can see it, short term, as a way of rounding out your resume and building credentials.

But, really. Five bucks for that kind of work on a steady basis? You can make more money than that panhandling on the streets.

Does anyone actually pursue such jobs?
 
If you ever have, or even think you'd consider it, I'd like to hear your reasons, because it escapes me what the appeal would be.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #2 of 17
I know it sounds a little crazy but I can compare that with a career in music.  Early in their careers musicians are willing to pay for a pittance, there are lots of conductors who exploit young college students for little to no money.  They take the work because the industry is based entirely on your ability to network.  Taking these jobs provides the opportunity to:

1. Perform
2. Learn on the job
3. Practice great music in a low key setting
4. Meet colleagues
5. Play solos or get leadership responsibilities
6. Internet exposure
7. Be seen

I can clearly see why somebody would take a writing job for little or no money.  Exposure exposure exposure.  It is priceless to be published.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #3 of 17
Sounds to me like a cheap, easy way for a webpage/blog developer to get content to build a subscriber base for whatever future plans they may have for it. Not terribly unlike websites that have you submit a poem for a contest and then tell you that you have been chosen for their book and they will send you a copy of their book for only $79.95 or whatever so that the vain people will buy the book to show everyone they've been published
Sort of.....
My latest musical venture!
http://myspace.com/nikandtheniceguys
 
Also
http://www.myspace.com/popshowband "I'm at the age when food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact I've just had a mirror put over my kitchen table." Rodney Dangerfield RIP
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My latest musical venture!
http://myspace.com/nikandtheniceguys
 
Also
http://www.myspace.com/popshowband "I'm at the age when food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact I've just had a mirror put over my kitchen table." Rodney Dangerfield RIP
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post #4 of 17
Thread Starter 
Not a crazy comparison at all, KK. In fact there are numerous parallels between the culinary and music worlds. For instance, compare the workmanlike performances of a club player and a line cook, then jump to a higher level and compare a top rated chef and a composer.

I think most fields, especially those involving creativity, have a version of, for lack of a better term, mini-appreticeships. And for all the reasons you tick off. You've got to start somewhere and you've got to pay your dues.

One difference between your example and the Craigslist ad, however, is that the conductor isn't asking the young musician to create original music. These folks, on the other hand, are asking for the equivilent of three new sonatas and a libreto.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #5 of 17
In a word, yes. This isn't isolated to the culinary world either. So many different websites from all different fields employ this exact same tactic. It's basically the main reason that freelance writing is dying out, and as you can imagine it often yields very mediocre work.
post #6 of 17
A gaming comic I used to subscribe to had an open offer of 5 cents a word for any work (gaming related) of 500-1000 words (i think that was the number) if selected  they would publish it in the freelance section. I think it's about the fairest deal I ever heard of for a beginning writer.
"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 
Especially since much of that could be written off the top of the submitter's head. We're talking 25-50 bucks for something that could be written in a couple of hours at most.

Those of us in the freelance business are well aware how on a time-invested basis shorts and fillers can be the most cost effective writing there is. Years back, Outdoor Life had the best of those deals in its Almanac section. They paid a C note for a hundred word short, and doubled that if they ran a pix of yours with it. Not bad: 200 bucks for about 20 minutes work. Amost any feature story I was working on, back then, could produce at least one of those shorts as well---a nice double-dip.

And look at the kind of dough Reader's Digest pays for all those shorts and fillers. Humor In Uniform doesn't just make us laugh, it pays well too.

When I was editing The Black Bass Journal I had a destinations section composed entirely of shorts. I paid $35 each for them---roughly a hundred words and an info box. The smart guys would file ten or a dozen at a time. As one of them noted, "I don't know how it is in other houses, but around here $350 for a day's work is a pretty good paycheck."

So, yeah, shorts and fillers can be lucrative. But not at $5 a throw when it involves all that original work and research. Ask yourself how long it takes you to develop and test even a single recipe. Now triple that. And add in the time it takes to research and write the ingredient review. At $5 you're probably working for about a dime an hour.

It's basically the main reason that freelance writing is dying out,

Say what? I haven't noticed, and I've been earning my living strictly as a freelancer since 1980.

and as you can imagine it often yields very mediocre work.

Now with that you get no argument. The level of writing, overall, on the net is pretty poor. But that's because we're talking about a media that talks the talk, re: being content based, but certainly doesn't walk the walk.

Another contributor to mediocrity is the ease, nowadays, of self-published and on-demand published materials. Millions of words being ground out by people who think they have ability, but often don't---as any editor could tell them.

I could go on and on, but that's taking us pretty far from our muttons.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #8 of 17
It's a scam. I receive a lot of those type of offers. Just yesterday, I received a "well paid job offer" to do English -> French translations. All they request is my resume, some references, and an (unpaid) trial sample of 400-500 words. Those guys spam millions of emails with this, out of 5 millions maybe they'll get 5,000 to answer, that's 2,500,000 words translated for free, a $50,000 value. Not bad for a single mass mailing.

I'm actually surprised they offer you $5.
post #9 of 17
Thread Starter 
I don't think this is quite the same thing, FF.

The net is full of sites that pay almost nothing but make it sound like a lot. We've all seen them; you perform certain tasks and get paid based on the number of pass-through hits it generates.

Let's see: They get paid 30 cents per click, of which they give you 10%. How many of those 3 centses does it take to make any kind of money?

The problem is, people can't, or won't, do the basic math. They envision millions of hits translating into thousands of dollars. And in the end they make about 2 bucks.

At least this ad was honest about its insultingly low pay rate.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #10 of 17

KY, I'm sure I don't have to tell you that one man's experience does not necessarily speak for the entire field. The NY Times recently ran an article on this topic and the basic idea (which I agree with) was that although the field is growing, the quality of the work is diminishing, and the freelance gig has become more of a supplementary income rather than a full-time job.

post #11 of 17
Thread Starter 

I didn't see that article, KitchenSink. But what I'd like to see is the raw material their conclusions were based on. Knowing the Times, they had a predisposed viewpoint, then selectively choose examples to prove it.

 

The fact is, however, that those of us who made a fulltime living from freelancing always represented a fraction of the people who did it on a part-time (or supplemental, if you prefer) basis. There's nothing new about that, and it has not suddenly become more of a supplementary income rather than a full-time job.

 

When I started serious freelancing in the '70s I was one of those part-timers, and knew dozens of others. As an editor, before and during those years, most of the people I bought freelance materials from were part-timers. So, for at least 50 years, I have first-hand knowledge of how it worked. And the evidence would indicate it was always that way.

 

Only thing new is that the Times suddenly realized it. 

 

And if you really care, I can outline for you how the Times has contributed to the mediocrity. Give you a clue: Given it's pay rates and restrictions not too many talented freelancers can afford to write for them, particularly in specialized fields.

 

I can also build a case that, overall, the mediocrity that dominates the field has at least as much (and probably more) to do with poor editing as with poor writing.

 

I'm curious, too, as to why you now agree with the times that the field is expanding, when your original contention was that it is dying?

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #12 of 17

good job

post #13 of 17

Kind of a fun thread.  I don't think I'd want to bother to produce any kind of competent short report for five bucks. If I could fake it off the top of my head  though, a quick bunch of them might add up to pretty good beer money.

 

Maybe I should look into it.     I have in fact done a good deal of technical writing, and I'm pretty good at it. Like, I never use it's as a posessive, only a contraction of it is. (Well, there's more to it than that.) Including not using "like" as I just did.

 

"...you have been chosen for their book and they will send you a copy of their book for only $79.95 or whatever."

 

Well I'm such a celebrity I was sent the application forms for a listing in Who's Who in the Midwest.  I was selected   and I figure prominently   in  the 1994 edition if I remember correctly - it's been a while.

 

What I got immediately afterward was a tasteful catalog of Who's Who mementoes - the 1994 edition for about $80; wall plaques, desk placards... everything except for T-shirts.  (They probably offer those, now.)

 

I didn't bite, and have sunk into oblivion since then, at least as far as W'sW is concerned.

 

You will probably never hear of me again.

 

Unless I bite on the $5 food reviews.

 

Mike

 

 

 

travelling gourmand
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travelling gourmand
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post #14 of 17

Some folks just like to write.

$5 is a bonus.

 

I cook for people for the cost of ingredients. Done weddings, banquets, parties... I do it because I like it, on my own terms. If they wanna pay me, bonus.

 

Same deal, I figure. If you love what you do, you'll find a way to do it.

 

post #15 of 17
Thread Starter 

Well, that's one difference between professionals and amateurs.

 

There are reasons why I might sometimes write for "free." Usually it's as a self-promotion deal, or for other benefits. But to research and write a 500 word essay, then develop and test three recipes to go with it (which, btw, the publisher then owns) for five bucks when there are so many real markets out there is just lunacy---no matter how much you might like to write.

 

If I could fake it off the top of my head  though, a quick bunch of them might add up to pretty good beer money.

 

More than just beer money, Mike. Extrapolate out. Let's say, using your criteria, that it takes as much as 12 minutes to complete one. That's 25 bucks an hour; $200/day; $73K/year.

 

Sound outlandish? OK, let's say it takes you half an hour. That's $10/hour; $80/day; $29,200/year. Still an awful lot of beer.

 

I'm always amused at how people react when you put things in terms of unit labor cost. For instance, I used to ghost write a column that appeared in a trade magazine. Got paid $200 per.

 

I went more than 5 years without a raise, and many of my colleagues scoffed at it, with comments like "I bet the editor has gotten a raise or two in that time." Maybe so. But from the time I sat down until the time I typed -30- those columns took me all of an hour to write.

 

How many of those self-important scoffers do you think were earning 200 bucks an hour? Me, I wasn't going to rock that boat! Rock it? Hell, I'd have been more than happy to row two or three more just like it. Still would, for that matter.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #16 of 17

I apologize for the double post.  I can't figure out how to get rid of the second one.

 

Anyway... KYH - maybe we should get together to mass-produce  these mini-reviews.  You pick 'em out and sketch  the foodie part and I'll write 'em up.

 

As I claimed, I'm pretty good at that - I made a good living doing market studies in real estate development  and project feasibility studies and regional economic trends in the Pacific Northwest for a number of years. It should be easy to fake up some baloney (which is all a $5 fee should command) about some sort of food.

 

Let's go!  

 

Mike

travelling gourmand
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travelling gourmand
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post #17 of 17

"Well, that's one difference between professionals and amateurs."

 

???

 

I make my living cooking. Sometimes, I do it for sh*ts and giggles. I simply don't "demand" I get paid my hourly rate for everything I do.

 

Free market economy. Just because you won't bite on the offer, doesn't mean someone else won't. Can't blame them for trying.

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