Things that make me quit reading
First, let's get this out of the way: I'm a voracious reader. The whole e-book phenomenon has saved me countless thousands of dollars and spared an entire landfill of once-read-and-discarded books. I've become a bit choosier in my reading these last few years and find myself less willing to endure certain traits in books. Perhaps I'm just getting crotchety in my old age. Here's the rundown.
If you want to keep my attention as a reader, then write well, embue your protagonists with a bit of respect for themselves and others, and allow them a modicum of rational capability.
Response to recent editorials
The Springfield News-Sun's editor recently reported--briefly--on the drastically dwindling numbers of English majors in the country's universities. The editor expressed surprise: How could that be?
It's not rocket science, folks. When I graduated with a bright, shiny degree in English almost 30 years ago, the assumption by family, friends, fellow students in other majors, and strangers was that my degree was useless for anything but a career as an English teacher. Follow that with decades of cultural and institutional focus on science, math, and technology, and English, philosophy, history, and the fine arts have become devalued as impractical and worthless. Such emphases ignore that none of those other "more valuable" fields would even be possible without the facile use of language to understand and express them.
Why would any bright, young person who could so anything else pursue a career in an impractical and worthless field, unless he or she weren't capable of performing worthwhile and valuable work? Thus and to no surprise, such persons found themselves relegated to "unimportant" and poorly paid jobs.
If I'd had the hard wiring to lead me into another career, I would have pursued that. But, no, my passion encompassed writing and literature and history and philosopy. The only thing that would have disappointed my family more would have been a pursuit of fine arts.
Writing is a craft. Like cooking, woodworking, welding, or other trade, competence demands mastery of a complex skill set. A culture that devalues the trades will inevitably find itself lacking people who can build and repair things. A culture that devalues English majors will inevitably suffer from poorly written content.
On that note, the next time you pick up a magazine, read a news article, refer to a business report, peruse the the bounty of your local library's or bookstore's bookshelves, or watch a TV show or movie, remember that someone had to write that content and do so well enough to convey the information or story in such a manner that the majority of readers could understand it.
Benjamin Franklin was right
The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.
I came across the following buyer request today:
It's not the first time I've seen a buyer lament the lack of professionalism and competence on this platform; however, I suspect that the problem stems more from the buyers than the vendors. It all comes down to getting what one pays for. It's my guess that this buyer won't commit to paying more than the lowest bid for service.
I also came across the following solicitation earlier this week:
I doubt the quality of content that particular buyer receives will be worth the $85 he's willing to pay.
In writing for my "professional" blog, I came across Word Counter. This blog crunched some numbers to calculate the average time needed to write a 1,000-word essay. The result: 3 hours and 10 minutes. They factored in reading the reference material to understand the salient points for discussion, planning the order of content within the essay, how fast the writer can type, review, editing, and revising. Obviously, the variables can't be fixed in stone; we are talking about averages here.
As a freelancer, I've learned--and am still refining--how to calculate how long an assignment will take me. I may refer to Word Counter's average when calculating the fee for a particular project. If I want to make $50 per hour, then a 1,000-word blog article will command a fee of $150 to $160, regardless of whether the article actually takes me that long. That's what mechanics and other service professions do. They charge by "book value," a credible source that says the average job/project/gig of that type takes the average professional that particular amount of time.
Of course, each of us likes to think we're above average.
When reviewing buyer requests for writing and editing, I often find myself resisting temptation to respond to educate the potential client--because y'all know I'm not going to bid on a project like the fantasy novel above. (Eight-five dollars for almost 500 hours worth of work? Hardly.) Although I would like to educate clueless buyers, doing so wastes the money I spend to subscribe to the platform to get access to project opportunities. I don't begrudge the subscription fees: those platforms have to bring in an income in order to pay their employees. I do have decide whether the income earned through a platform sufficiently offsets the subscription fees in order to continue subscribing.
Here's another buyer request from yet another platform:
I'm qualified to write this novella and do not object to the requirements specified by this potential client--except for the per-word rate. If we go by Word Count's time allotment per 1,000 words, then this project at a full 15,000 words would take 50 hours. The $150 project budget then yields an hourly rate of $3, which I find unacceptable.
By the way, I did bid on that project, quoted a much higher fee (because I won't work for $3/hour), and explained the time commitment needed to produce a work of the quality expected. Not surprisingly, I never heard back. Also not surprisingly, that $1/1000 words seems to be a popular average rate on freelance platforms.
So, once again, I urge anyone who wants to hire a freelance writer: If you want professional quality work, then you're going to have to pay a professional wage for that work. The lowest bid doesn't necessarily deliver the best value, especially if the poor quality of work forces you to hire another vendor. You cannot expect that other vendor to reduce his or her fee because you were so unwise as to hire someone incompetent the first time.
Paying for incompetence is a bitter pill to swallow. Yeah, the real pros cost more, but the work will meet much higher standards. That's important if the work you purchase will represent your company or your professional reputation.