Sunday, March 4, 2012

How to screw an internet writer

A new industry utilizing home-bound freelance writers has made its way to the local employment landscape with clients overseas.  It’s not as big as call centers but it is part of the BPO trend in the Philippines and India. Clients like SEO marketers need tons of articles to bring high online visibility to a company’s web presence or create reputation management profiles online.  There are also many lazy students in the post graduate careers who prefer to just pay off writers to do their thesis and dissertations.  It’s a great alternative or additional source of income for the lowly paid employee or the unemployed. 

But because the profession is largely unregulated in the country, all sorts of labor injustices can be heard.  The people who perpetuate the injustice are mostly the middlemen who taken in the writing jobs from overseas clients like web developers, SEO marketers and students.  They are taken in bulk and spread to a stable of writers they recruit.  You won’t hear writers complain. Afterall, why bother when there are other middlemen offering the same income source online without the encumbrance of local taxes and other mandated deductions.

It’s bad enough to be underpaid (see post below), many times, you don’t even get paid.  That’s what Filipino middlemen in the internet writing profession does with their fellow Filipino writers.  Not all for sure.  But the bad eggs easily flourish because the trade is unregulated.  In general, work at home is unregulated. And writers don’t mind being screwed since they welcome the writing opportunity for additional funds from their equally low paying day jobs, regardless of the injustices.

So how are local internet writers screwed?  Here are some:
  • On the pretext that a client is not happy with the writing job, the writer loses his right to claim payment or is penalized.  I know of one who penalized an English UP professor for a reputation management article which according to the middleman, falls below client expectation.  That’s because the task is a 30-aritcle task and not paying the poor professor created a hefty savings on his part.   How will the poor writer know that his work has been rejected?  If he knows where the articles are headed, he can always check the site.  In my case, I checked a games review site where the articles are posted and the instances  when the middleman claimed my work was below par and cannot be paid, I visited the site and the article was there. Otherwise, the writer has little choice but to accept what the middleman said about his or her work, hook line and sinker.  
  • Many middlemen will impose penalties on wrong grammar, punctuation, diction or not following rules even when the articles you did were already accepted.  I found that out on an SEO fashion article I did when the site where the articles where uploaded still contained the errors I had corrected and for which I was penalized a hefty 30% of my due payment on the task. 
  • Then there’s the “Ooops excuse” where accounting records get fouled up so you end up not getting paid or missing a significant amount of what you had expected to be deposited in your bank.  That’s easy to do and you’ll never know if the middleman deliberated on the oversight or was an honest mistake.  When it happens more than once, it becomes a trademark and you need to look for another middleman.
  • There’s this one company I worked for which requires its writers to have an account with Copyscape to ensure that no three words in sequence appear on my article that appeared elsewhere. Did you get that, no three words in sequence.  Tell me since when is plagiarism based on three words?  That’s a $0.05 fee you pay every time you check your own work with Copyscape checker. The company claims they do not have the staff to check the article themselves. And yet, they will get back to the writer to revise the article because they found Copyscape 3-word duplicates. Gotcha.
  • One company even makes a 10% tax deductions on your pay each time.  But you won’t get any year-end W2 form or other documents proving such tax deductions were made.  that’s because they’re not even registered with the local SEC and it is doubtful they even have a business permit. 


  1. I copied one sentence from your article, placed it in quotation marks. Google rediscovered this article in seconds. Sadly, knowing an article I wrote is the easy part of my solution if I aam dealing with unscrupulous web publishers. You make this sound dismal, but as a simple blogger, I currently write for free.

    I enjoyed your post.

  2. Hi thanks Keith. It can be dismal indeed if writers allow themselves to be screwed. Sadly, I don't really see it improving.