Why Multitasking is Bad for Freelance Writers

Multitasking makes life difficult on freelancers in the writing field. I’m not speaking about those dynamos that can juggle ten assignments at once, or even those who also work in another freelance skill like graphic design. I’m talking about the ambitious writers who don’t fully grasp the worth of their words, who are willing to do anything for a buck, even if it means ignoring how much they’re really being paid for their effort ratio.
Here’s the deal. In my very strong opinion, writing is a specialized skill set that deserves – at the very least – to be pulling in minimum wage. That’s $7.25 USD to the uninitiated – it’s the lowest legal wage an employer can pay you per hour here in the US. A freelancer attempting to do bulk work, or to make a decent chunk of his or her income from writing, ought to clear a 400 word piece in about a half hour. At a penny a word, which is the lowest rate I coach my freelancers to accept, even as baby-baby beginners, that makes an hour’s work worth roughly $8.00 USD. The freelance writing pay for jobs can vary widely, but this scenario gives you a solid baseline to start from.

Sometimes you’ll see a job up that instructs you to not only write that 400 word article, but to do other things as well, such as:

  • HTML coding
  • Locating and inserting royalty-free pictures
  • Writing “intros”,  “bios” or a “synopsis” that goes over the stated word count
  • Distributing your article on certain sites
  • Promoting your article

My advice here is to turn it down. You know your writing speed after a few articles, and armed with this knowledge you can select tasks that are going to give you a fair pay rate for your work. When a client prices a piece at the bare minimum you’ll take and expects extras like the ones listed above, accepting the job sends the wrong message and can really knock your profit plans for a loop. If you were working a retail job and were scheduled to leave at 5, how would you react if your manager instructed you to clock out but remain working for another half hour with no pay? That’s the attitude I feel these clients are putting out there, and encouraging the behavior does a disservice to fellow freelancers.

Many beginners to the field have to explain to friends and family that freelancing is a “real” job, and letting clients act as if your writing skills alone aren’t enough to shell out for hamstrings that argument. If a client wants a coder, let them hire a coder. If they want someone to find pictures or market content, let them look for professionals in those fields. Most of the time, these “multi-layered” jobs are trouble, so if it’s a toss up between multitasking or picking up the digital pen, always go for pure writing.