If you’re a copywriter, don’t use People Per Hour

Sites like People Per Hour are part of the problem when it comes to low wages amongst freelancers. They need to install a minimum hourly wage and bring the site in line with every other worker in the UK.

Who’s to blame for sites like PPH, the owners, the people looking for cheap labour or the freelancers themselves? By refusing to implement a minimum wage PPH have downgraded writers allowing the cheapest to prevail. In a race to the bottom PPH are going to be left with only the worst writers on their site and a badly damaged brand.

There will always be someone looking for cheap labour. People like a bargain. They like to think that they’re savvy, outwitting the man (even if they are the man); it’s pretty easy to become quite tight when you set up your own business.

Yes. There are people who send out jobs ads like this, “Need Sites to Publish Posts, Budget £15”, “A web content writer to rewrite 10 pages of content for £120”, “A 16 page booklet on home care options for £35”, “10,000 words for a website content writing for £60”, “400 well written articles for a website with a budget of $500” ($1.25 for each article).

Is it frustrating? Yes. Do you have to take them? No.

Yes, I’ve been told my £40 an hour writing fee is too expensive by some. I remain unmoved. I know what my writing is worth. I was once told by an Indian entrepreneur via a PPH message board that I was “greedy” because I wanted more than £4 an hour. Buy cheap, buy thrice as everyone’s mother has said.

But I don’t blame those people. They are merely responding to a culture endemic on the site. And you can hardly hold responsibility at the door of those posting low job offers when those pitching their rates come in much lower.

No. The people I’ve got a problem with and who I think PPH need to tackle are the freelancers themselves.

Every morning I get an email of the Hourlies on PPH. A couple of years ago the site began pushing these as a way to get paid for Hourlie jobs. This is from this morning;

“I can write a 500 word blog post on any topic with unlimited revisions for £8”

“I can write an engaging book or movie review for £20”

“I can create an eye-catching digital hand drawn video for £25”

“I can write you a travel article on any destination for £15”

“ I can translate Korean, Japanese, Russian, Arabic, Mandarin, Indonesian or Hindi to English for £6”.

“I can create an online marketing strategy plan and scheduling tool for £80”

Not one of those jobs a) takes just an hour orb) is priced accurately.

A minimum hourly wage would not only bring the site inline with UK employment regulations it would also bring a sense of professionalism to a site that really needs it. More and more talented copywriters are leaving PPH, so they tell me and my own profile is lying dormant. It’s just too damn frustrating, tiring and pointless to try to compete with people who place no value on their own work.

If you think your work is worth so little, why should anyone pay you more? PPH has long disavowed any sense of responsibility when it comes to low rates. In a lengthy blog post and infographic (I wonder how much they paid the designer), the site’s founder argues in both micro and macro viewpoints that PPH can’t be driving down rates because the UK minimum wage is £6.19 and the average of all of the cheapest proposals on PPH is £11. The average hourlie pay for a job is £28. Plus, he writes, 60% of PPH’s jobs don’t go to the lowest bidder.

In my honestly held opinion; Tosh.

By endorsing creatives who post vastly undervalued hourlie rates, PPH downgrades the whole industry. Suggesting that a skilled creative who has probably a swathe of qualifications, most likely a degree or professional qualification, not to mention sector experience and the savvy to manage their own time independently is worth only twice the minimum wage is insulting. The minimum wage is there to make sure workers don’t get ripped off. But it isn’t the benchmark of where every professional should start out. If you’ve invested in your career, if you’re a professional, you should probably be earning more than minimum wage. Minimum wage works out at just over £11k a year. The average wage in the UK is around £18k, rising to £26k for those with degrees.

It is impossible to run your own business if you’re hoping to operate purely on minimum wage. My survival budget when I was working from home was £9,000 a year. My office rent (an office space which has, unsurprisingly, made me more visible and brought in more work) is £1,600 a year; over a tenth of my income if I was content to earn minimum wage.

I wish every worker was paid the same as I earn. We would be in a much happier place. I don’t believe the answer to inequality, however, is to pull everyone down. By refusing even to implement a minimum wage agreement, PPH doesn’t even do that, and its copywriters are complicit in that.

I don’t blame PPH per se. people like cheap labour and they want to make money. I am shruggingly aware of that and while I can work and campaign to get as many freelancers to get a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work I can’t make PPH do anything.

The creative freelancers and the copywriters on PPH are another thing, however. By downgrading and having so little value for their own industry rates they create a vastly unequal playing field. By undercutting their rivals and pitching themselves on low rates they make it even harder for serious creatives to illustrate and argue for a fair day’s pay. Good clients appreciate your work and know you’re worth a wage. They trust you. But not every client is good, and not everyone can afford to just work for good clients (would that we could).

If the pressure for PPH to implement a minimum hourlie wage came from freelancers themselves it would be much more effective. Without it they’re able to maintain the moral high ground and pretend they’re doing the best for freelancers.

Yes, as they say the majority of jobs might not go to the lowest bidder but when they endorse and rate hourlies like the ones above (and that’s just one email) it devalues the work everyone is doing. Plus, PPH never says how high over the lowest bid the others go, £1, £5, £10?

If more people are going to work independently and freelance then we need a site that will fight for us and encourage us to pay what we’re deserved for our work, not a couple of quid more than the cheapest offer.

 

14 comments

  1. Well said, Laura. I pitched on PPH just once and the rate was so pathetic I haven’t bothered since. But you hardly blame sites like this when a number of major publishing companies claim they have “no freelance budget” but then say they are willing to take your article for zero payment. In what other field of endeavour would these firms ask suppliers to give them stuff free?

    • Laura says:

      I know. Creatives are almost the only sector where it’s seen as being acceptable to ask people to work for free – or to tell someone with a career ten + years standing that it’s “good for their portfolio”.

  2. Adrien says:

    By pph applying the UK Minimum Wage rates it could cause many more problems. The people buying services could then offer much lower pay since the minimum wage is £6.50 (starting 1 Oct 2014) for people 21 and over. On the other hand you have freelancers from many other countries who have no minimum wage program, so they are more then happy to make £3.00 per se.

    • Laura says:

      I don’t buy that tbh. If you’re a UK company you should abide by UK law. The problem is that a lot of the people looking for freelance workers on PPH are in the UK and are actively looking for cheap labour. Using VPNs or IP filters could remove a lot of that issue. It’s a rampant capitalism that thinks freelancers working to much tighter margins should somehow be treated in the same way as an international corporation when it comes to globalisation. The damage it does to the UK economy is far more damaging. Do you really want the only people who can afford to write freelance to have a secure second income that covers their loss? Because the rates offered through PPH you can’t make a living out of that anymore (although you can via private means).

  3. Becki says:

    I totally agree with you. I’m a web developer/designer and work for my small business.
    We started out on PPH and had a good standing, Now, we can’t even keep up with the costs, seeing others build a website for£300 and less or a banner design for £8 is simply ridiculous.
    People are skilled not ‘shop floor workers’

    I even noticed one of my Responsive bespoke designs on another persons hourly.. I’m not even convinced any of this stuff is bespoke, people are using graphics off the web and modifying it for £10.

    What’s more worrying, people are happy with that.

    If i even tried to do a half ‘assed’ job my clients would make sure i worked for it and continuously have their comments for the small fee charged.

    It’s really ruining any professionals industry, We are finding it hard to explain why people should be paying for a good service.

  4. Maggie says:

    Absolutely correct Laura, and it makes me sad to see people who do have skills joining in the race to the bottom along with the scammers. They’re the bane of the profession. PPH are clever of course, they’ve created an odd little bubble where everthing is distorted and people seem to let themselves be manipulated to do things that are in PPH’s interests but not theirs – everybody is hung up on CERT scores and jumping through the next hoop, none of which has any place at all in the real freelancing world.
    Great blog, all we can do is keep trying to open people’s eyes.
    PS Laura – you forgot to mention the hourlies that say things like “I can give your business a 5 star review on Trustpilot for £5” – I reckon PPH just might have bought one or two of those 😉 but seriously, how low can you sink.

  5. Maggie says:

    Just to pitch in on the minimum wage point – minimum wage is for employees, you can’t in any case expect freelancers to work for the same hourly rate because you have to take into account holiday pay and other staff perks on the one hand, versus overheads that freelancers have, buying their own gear, office space heating lighting etc. Big difference. Then, an EU freelancer can offer things that are potentially of high value, that employees from other countries can’t offer – familiarity with EU culture, better standard of English, better communication skills etc. If the client doesn’t care about those things, or can’t afford them, I have no issue at all with them choosing a freelance from India who charges less. What I do have an issue with, is UK freelancers throwing these advantages in as freebies, so that there is no differentiation to be made. That’s what does the damage.

  6. Bronwin says:

    Unfortunately a lot of the worst cases of exploitation come from UK employers – I had somebody ask me to justify why I should be paid more than 6 pounds for a 500 word article with academic references…please! What was worse, however, was that they’d had lots of applications! They can’t be getting good work for that. These sites are places to gather a few references that’s all – and yes, I do judge people by their exploitative choices. I’ve started leaving public reminders of the need to pay properly on their advertisements…good grief. Truly I think there is a need for some sort of regulation. I’m also flabbergasted by the site’s scandalously bad customer service – how does a business survive when it ignores customer correspondence?

    • Laura says:

      Hi Bronwin. I think you’re absolutely right. The problem with PPH, from what a lot of people seem to be saying is that it gets to the point where you don’t want to be associated with it, for the sake of your own personal brand – who wants to be seen as the copywriter that’s just cheap!

  7. Justin says:

    Hello Laura,

    I’ve just found this post and I agree entirely with it.

    I’m a highly-qualified journalist and editor and have been on PPH since 2009. It started well but now appears to be in a race to the bottom and I don’t think that it is sustainable to devote much of my time to it. On top of that, the arbitrary and relentless raising of site fees is really beginning to tick me off.

    You float an idea of copywriters themselves setting up a rival to the site with a minimum pricing structure. I have been thinking along the same lines – minimum fees, geographic restrictions, proper feedback and reputation management, lower site fees etc. I’m giving it some serious thought. All ideas gratefully received!

  8. Christian says:

    Hey great stuff here all of you. I feel you! Been on PPH for only about 2 months, and just about ready to throw in the towel. I’m a freelance Art Director with 14 years experience in the field. I believe in my quality of work and refuse to go to cheap. However am also finding i am having 0 proposals accepted. Amazing how any job poster/ client can feel confident in getting quality work for the price of a sandwich! I still believe you get what you pay for and thankfully there are still those out there who value quality work and dont mind paying for it, just not on PPH that is =) So what are the good creative job sites these day then? Are there any? =) I need to quit PPH like now!

    • Laura says:

      Hi Christian, I don’t really use any creative job sites at the moment. Always on the lookout for good ones though! Completely agree re PPH and pay. It makes you feel really down when people refuse to pay for your work. I wish they’d realise that but they don’t care that much, in my opinion

  9. Philip Owen says:

    So far I have bought rather than sold, although that might change. Most of my jobs are small, simple and tedious. I don’t need a graduate freelancer from the EU to do them. A South Asian with moderate language skills can usually cope. When I do have something complex I find that there are three groups: 1) Full fledged consulting fees such as I charge to my own direct clients whom I have expensively found through my own sales process. PPH is not the place for this with a 3.5% commission rate. The solutions offered are usually over engineered. 2) Specialist Freelancers charging something realistic. 3) Race to the bottom “We do anything” types. I am not sure that the person behind the name is always the same when it comes to India. I usually pick one of the more expensive in category 2. Quality varies. In particular, not everyone follows the job spec. I value PPH as a billing system for managing freelancers, particularly in Russia. It gives me a formal invoice. I have just dabbled with eLance. There is nothing on offer there better than PPH offer. I will stick with what I know.

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