I Turned Down Work at the Peak of the Coronavirus, Here’s Why
At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, my husband and I were laid off from our jobs. We were 40, 000 dollars in credit debt due to a bad business venture the year before. We didn’t qualify for government assistance, aside from the meagre unemployment insurance my husband was collecting. The kids were officially at home full time because the world was rapidly shutting down. Job offers were slim to none. Things were getting scary.
There were many a late-night video chat with my girlfriends, crying into a wine bottle, wondering how we would keep our families afloat. I was sweating balls.
I found myself scouring freelancing job boards for hours a day. The thing is, up until this point, I didn’t have a strong resume for online work. It wasn’t even remotely strong. My writing history consisted of a self-published ebook of short stories — which did marginally well in the free book sale I ran the first week of its launch — and a bunch of social media work for a local diner. I wasn’t what one might call in the big leagues.
So I started at the bottom. Ghostwriting.
Let me clarify; I don’t think ghostwriting is the bottom of the barrel because some writers make bank writing books for others, and I commend that. However, what is the bottom of the barrel are ghostwriting companies who hire writers and pay them minuscule dollars for the work they do while making a pretty profit themselves.
I’m not going to out and out say the name of this company because I have the sneaking suspicion that they are the type who would try to sue me over writing about them. So instead, I shall call them GWcompany.Incorporated. GWcompany was the only call back I received from my weeks of job searching for online work. So, I bit. I scheduled a Zoom interview and was excited/nervous for what was to come. I knew it was a ghostwriting company and was mentally preparing my ego to do this sort of work. How hard could it be?
My interviewer liked the samples I sent in, and I managed to set aside my nerves and did well with answering her questions.
However, then the topic of compensation came up. I wasn’t expecting a lot. I wasn’t even expecting industry standards. But what they offered was quite frankly, offensively low. $13 per 1000 words written. I would be expected to write 15,000 words a week, and payment would not be settled until the project was complete, and the client was happy with the end product (as it should be). However, the client was allowed endless rewrites and could potentially keep writers on the hook for months without paying.
The Writers’ Union of Canada suggests this for ghostwriting fee’s:
For a book of 60,000 to 90,000 words, the Union recommends a total minimum fee of $40,000, payable as follows: 15% on signing; 10% on delivery of detailed outline; 25% on delivery of first draft of one chapter; 25% on delivery of first draft of entire manuscript; and 25% on delivery of revised manuscript. -Copied from The Writers Union of Canada on Ghostwriting
This was looking grim. But, I thought, maybe I’d be able to use the experience to build my pathetically abysmal resume. Nope, think again. When I asked my interviewer if I’d be able to use GWcompany’s name on my resume, the answer was a flat out no.
I understood that I obviously couldn’t take credit for any books I had written but requesting to use the ghostwriting company’s name on my resume didn’t seem like too much to ask.
It was. Because of the nature of ghostwriting, GWcompany could not go anywhere on my resume. Confusing, I know. I logged off the Zoom interview with agitation. I would hear if I got the job by days end, but now I didn’t think I even wanted it.
When it came down to it, this is what they were offering me:
- Low pay that certainly didn’t cover my living expenses.
- Deadlines that would take up a considerable chunk of my writing time.
- An experience that wouldn’t strengthen my resume.
GWcompany wasn’t chalking up to be a great gig.
Well, I got the job. And then I promptly turned it down.
Even though I didn’t have a lot of experience on my resume, I still valued my work enough not to go down a road like this. Ghostwriting companies such as these are not mutually beneficial. They take advantage of newbie writers, paying them well below industry standard and not helping them advance in their writing career.
Without using them as a resume builder, how can any writer possibly find this type of set-up useful? I suppose that the daily writing will help hone their craft, but as writers in this day and age, why wouldn’t you start a blog for writing practice?
Maybe businesses like this work for some writers, they must, considering they seem to have no problem finding writers, but I can’t imagine who would agree to these insane terms they lay on their artists. With word rates like that, it would be more beneficial to write your own ebook and self publish on Amazon, right?
Turning down the job felt terrible for about thirty seconds, and then I got on the computer and started looking up new ways to earn money with freelancing. I found websites like Medium and HubPages and worked hard to grow my author’s name. Within a few months, I was making triple the amount of money I was offered at GWcompany.
The publishing industry isn’t an easy one, but why wouldn’t you work towards your goals and growing your brand instead of growing someone else’s?
I learned from this experience that ghostwriting isn’t for me. I have goals in mind for my own author’s brand, and there is no way I would be able to fulfil them while working for a company such as GWcompany.
As writers, we must know our worth and our limits.
If you’re the type of writer who can bust out thousands of words per day, maybe ghostwriting would be a good fit. I, however, am not. I realized that spending the time I had, producing my own work would be more profitable to me than working on someone else’s for a small payout.
Although it sometimes feels that we should take any work we can in hard times, it often pays to hold out if an opportunity doesn’t feel quite right.
This was my only involvement in the ghostwriting field. I imagine that there are better opportunities out there. Have you ever ghostwritten? Did you find it a worthy endeavour? Drop your experiences in the comment section and let me know what you think. I’d love to hear about other writer’s encounters in this industry!