29. March 2012–
The life of a freelance writer may sound like one of gin-soaked glamour and free canapés, but anyone who has ever had to chase clients for payments in order to buy some bread, used the sniff test to determine the freshness of clothes, or started speaking to dogs just for a little bit of mammalian contact will know that this is off the mark.
Freelance writers work hard. Payment can be minimal, late or non-existent. So are text agencies our friend or foe? On the one had they are blamed for the driving down of freelance rates and the diminishing of quality of writing on the web. On the other, they provide a steady income for writers and a reliable bank of talent for clients.
Can e-lance services provide both a profit margin and fair payment? We caught up with new Berlin-based startup Great Content’s CEO Jasper Masemann to discuss...
Why do we need e-lancers?
“Great Content came about out of a need. My business partner and I already had a couple of web properties and we just couldn’t find the right people to write text for them. We had to work long-distance, with various freelancers of different levels and it took a long time to build up these contacts. We looked into the possibility of text services. These already existed of course, but we decided that we could do it with a much better model.”
This was the tall Bremer’s Heureka moment: “Our USP was support. From the beginning we had a large support team for writers and clients – something that we felt was really missing. Also – we thought it was important to have only native speakers working for clients in any given country. This isn’t about racism or intolerance, just that we know we can give our customers the most consistent service that way.”
A fair deal for writers?
Of course, this all sounds great in principle, but most text companies we've come across offer startlingly low rates for writing work, driving down the overall market value of writers’ work and devaluing our jobs – isn’t that true?
“We didn’t want was a bidding-style site,” says Masemann, whose clients include Wimdu and Mr Spex. “If the model was lowest price wins, then you have people in poorer countries underbidding. And ultimately that’s really bad for the writer AND the client.
“We set fixed, fair prices for different quality levels. So, if there’s a rally simple piece of linking text, then sure, we’ll pay a lower rate than a specialist eBook text (Great Content rates its projects on a scale of 2-5+, with payments starting off at a low €3.90 per 300w for the simplest texts, but up to €18.30 for writers with specialist subjects and more experience).
“In Germany we say ‘shit in, shit out’, so we make sure that there’s a detailed briefing, so that it’s as simple as it can be for the writers – so ultimately they can earn more... and it also saves the client time too.”
The future of freelancing?
“Right now, we’re seeing more and more demand as more companies launch internationally for this kind of work. We have 8,000 active writers on our books at the moment, and we’re already in talks with Paris and London to set up some local presence, as well as studying the US market and building bases in Spain and Brazil”, says Masemann.
“And we genuinely believe that our model can benefit everyone – clients get a solid base of experienced writers, and writers get regular payments, scaled according to skill.”
In the competitive world of freelance writing, this type of work may not win you any Pulitzers any time soon, but if you’re fast enough and well enough then e-lancing can provide a steady payment for uncertain times – and anything that stops us sniffing our own clothes has got to be a good thing, right?