Gum in My Hair

An embarrassingly honest blog

The Cost of Creativity March 10, 2011

Filed under: Shut Your Mouth! — dulcedementia @ 10:25 am
Tags: , ,

Yesterday I turned down a writing gig. Yes. I actually turned down a paying job. I turned the job down because the client wanted to pay me a per page rate that was vastly lower than my going hourly rate for writing. Of course, because I’ve only just started on this journey of self-employment, it feels really unnatural to be turning down any writing, but there comes a point where I have to stop and say, “No, my services are worth more than what you are willing to pay.”

I wasn’t a dick about it. I’ve worked with this client on other projects and I genuinely like them and I understand that they have a budget that they have to stick to. They are just going to have to settle for writing that is not on the same level that mine is.

That’s right, this bitch has confidence. At least I do when it comes to my writing.

Anyway, this job proposal got me thinking about the rates that people are willing to pay for different types of creativity. This can be writing, graphic design and web design.

I'm gonna write some content, bitches.

It seems that some clients don’t actually appreciate the services that a creative brings to the table. The rates they offer creatives says, “I could do this, I just don’t have time, but if you want to do it, I’ll throw a couple bucks your way. Anyone can do this really.”

In fact, just like neurosurgeons have a talent for digging in people’s brains, creatives have a latent gift for writing, design or any other creative endeavors. Also, like doctors, many of us have gone to school to hone our skills. Not as many years, certainly, but I promise I have a student loan bill that looks a little like a med student’s. If we haven’t gone to school, then we have spent a good deal of time practicing and getting better at our craft.

The problem with creative careers is that we’re responsible for making something that people come in contact with every single day of their lives. We’re all bombarded with images and words and when we spend so much of our time being inundated with this type of stimulation, it may appear that design or writing talent is something pretty commonplace. It’s actually not.

My particular area of talent is in the web writing arena. It’s a bit of a hot topic right now because of “content farms.” I won’t get too tech about this, but basically, one of the key ingredients to ranking highly in Google is unique, original content. However, the Google matrix (this amazing piece of code that ranks just about every page of content on the internet) factors nothing in about the quality of the content, so businesses like Demand Media ( and make a killing by paying either $7 or $15 per article and churning out over 4,000 pages a day. Think of it like one of those depressing images of overcrowded cattle farms that Peta is always using, but instead of low quality meat, content farms produce low quality writing.

eHow ranks on the top page of Google with thousands upon thousands of searches, yet how many of you have actually found pertinent advice on an eHow “how to” page? The content is just ridiculous. They exist simply to sell ad space.

But because these farms exist, many businesses think that a rate of $15 or $10 per page is acceptable pay for content. Sure it is, if the content doesn’t matter (as is the case with Demand Media), but if you’re trying to actually provide potential customers with valuable information, $15 is not going to get you well-written, optimized content.

Would you trust going to a mechanic who fixes cars correctly about 60 percent of the time? Absolutely not, but because very few of us actually understand how a car works and have spent a good chunk of our day staring at car parts, we’ll pay $100 an hour for a mechanic to run a diagnostic test.

As is the case with writing, very few people actually understand the mechanics of writing, even more so, the mechanics of web writing. But because we all look at it everyday, we all think it’s easy to do.

My favorite clients are SEO Managers and Marketing consultants. They understand the value of good writing and they’re willing to pay to get professional writing. They just have to convince their clients to pay for it (which can be a bit of a challenge sometimes).

I guess the point of my rant is to say that, just because creatives perform a service that seems everyday does not mean our talents are something that occurs in every person. I’m not saying you need to tell all your creative friends you appreciate the services they provide.

Just fucking pay us what we deserve.


5 Responses to “The Cost of Creativity”

  1. Sing it, sista!

    I think a lot of companies are finally coming around to the “You get what you pay for” mentality. I once had a client who wanted me to write like his favorite author (someone horrible, like J.A. Jance or something) but only wanted to pay me $10 an HOUR for it. I asked him if he would offer that same price to Jance?

    I know a lot of us are hurting for cash and are taking gigs at lower prices. But if more of us hold to a certain standard, then the market should bounce back. I propose a union.

  2. enyabiznass Says:

    I could write a book about how many people do not understand the mechanics of writing. I feel your pain.

    • Cassie Says:

      I was intrigued to find out that there was a new men’s magazine in Denver, so I sent off for their free (as of now) subscription to see if it was something I’d like writing for.

      From this little experience, I can tell you that it’s not just Web writing that is suffering from this “anyone can write!” philosophy. Not only is the mag a design nightmare (Arial for copy?! Justified alignment? Really!?) but the typos, bad grammar and just plain crap writing was astonishing. The girly pics weren’t even that great.

      The editor has been bugging me for pitches since I asked her for a copy of the magazine. I’m really almost afraid to ask the big “what will you pay me” question… because I’m pretty sure the entire thing is written by hobbyist writers who’ve never actually had to make a living doing this kind of thing.

  3. Naomi Mimi Says:

    Content farms have been absolutely awful for those of us trained in writing, knowledgeable about what it takes to produce good content. It lowers the standard everywhere – can’t wait for that cash cow to go to slaughter.

    Love your metaphor of the auto mechanic 🙂

  4. Kelly Noble Says:

    AMEN!I couldn’t agree more!

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