Job Searching and the Concept of "Love at First Site"

 (Hubby and I at our wedding many years ago.)

Like human relationships, freelancing relationships can blossom from a chance encounter.  Whether it be a job site, Craigslist, or a referral from an editor, it can be tempting to immediately assign potential to a job.  It may be love at first sight (or in the case of online content: site), or it may not be.

What's the difference?  What are the consequences of making that determination?

I have just about given up trying to determine what a "good" paying job is these days.  Upon a quick first glance, many job postings are offering to pay very low -- an insulting rate.  When digging a bit deeper into these opportunities, however, I've found some of them to be surprisingly high paying!

We all know a rockstar job when we see it.  You know, the article that is less than 1,000 words, can be written off the top of your head with no regard to SEO or Chicago Manual of Style guidelines, and has you grinning from ear-to-ear while you write it.  That same article pays big bucks -- $200 or more -- for something that takes you a half hour and feels more like a carnival ride than a root canal.

We wish our freelance life was full of these opportunities; 4 a day would make us rich, full of free-time, and the least stressed-out people we know.  But this rarely happens.  These little gems come and go, are usually project-based, and leave us hungry for better pay and more enjoyment in our writing.

So we scour the job ads, network with our editors, and find some "low-paying" gigs to fill the gap.  Or do we?  So many I talk to avoid low-paying jobs like some kind of mucus, assuring the writing community that we'd all be better off if NO ONE took them -- even though someone always will.

I recently went ahead and pursued a few of these jobs, knowing that I would most likely turn them down once I got the full backstory on each of them.  One turned out to be exactly what it sounded like: a crap job with less than a-penny-a-word payment.  One was for a blogging gig that offered just $12 a post.  (Way below my asking price.)  I went ahead anyway... it was for a company I'd worked with before, had high visibility in the industry, and always paid on time. 

I went ahead with negotiations, and told them that it was outside of my pay-range, but that I wanted to make something work.  They offered me slightly MORE money per post, and informed me that the post length would be roughtly 100 words.

One hundred words. 

That really changes things.

I work with blogs that expect no less than 650 words for a blog post, so this was a pleasant surprise.  With the level of research I'd need to perform for 100 words, the increase in pay from the original quote, and the guarantee of a full bio and photo with each post, this was turning out to be more profitable than I had previously thought.  I took the job.

It's not the cream of my business, but it's exciting nonetheless.  I know a few writers that would write on carefree topics for 10-12 cents per word.  But none that I know would have looked twice at the original job posting.

The moral of the story is this:  all things are NOT constant.  Blogs range in levels of research, style preferences, SEO requirements, and word count.  To avoid a low-paying gig based on such a lack of information may cause you to miss out on something that can sustain you through a dry spell.  I recommend you always do the following before passing over an especially interesting job or one that will put you in contact with a great firm:
  • Ask questions.
  • Ask for more money.
  • Ask for details of the job.
All of these things can be done up front, and while they may not get you a reply (some companies will NOT budge on their budget), the reputable companies will give you the time of day and may work with you, anway.

What has been your experience with job postings and first impressions?  Are you willing to dig a little deeper, or are you guilty of only pursuing "Love at First Site?"


find freelancer | July 12, 2010 at 1:40 PM
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FinEngr | July 21, 2010 at 7:18 AM

For someone who has both looked into freelance opportunities and looked into hiring freelance writers, this provided an interesting write up from 2 perspectives.

As the writer, I'd almost always sold myself short in an effort to "gain exposure".

As the hirer, I'm willing to pay reasonable rates, but would think all buyers are looking to maximize their money and get the best words for their budget.

And finally, you can never go wrong with asking. You don't know what someone will give you until you ask for it...

Editor | July 21, 2010 at 9:17 AM

I think that's the ultimate moral to the story: Asking is the only way you'll receive. It's not like companies will counteroffer for you!

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