So, you want to be a freelance writer?

Ime Morales
For freelance writers who have been unfairly paid or worse, not paid at all

FWGP EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEMBERS in a discussion with screenwriter and novelist Ricky Lee during an OpenBook event. FWGP holds an OpenBook event every month with a featured author to discuss his/her book with the audience. All photos by Raymond Dimayuga and Ronald Verzo

MANILA, Philippines – Horror stories about freelance writing in the Philippines abound.

Waiting for your payment could sometimes feel like waiting for the rain to fall in the desert. In the words of humorist Robert Benchley, “The freelance writer is a man who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps.”

And then there are publications that would require several interviews with expert resource persons, but whose fees would barely cover for the expenses related to producing the feature.

If these don’t scare you yet, take a look at what some freelance writers are paid:

  • As low as P22 per hour (online writing)
  • P45 to P90 per 400-500-word article (online writing)
  • P100 per 250-word article (academic writing and research)
  • P300 per 400-word article (online writing)
  • P0.50 to P2 per word (some local magazines, newspapers and news websites)

(These are actual figures cited by some members of the Freelance Writers’ Guild of the Philippines, based on their individual experiences working with local and international clients.)

AUTHOR NORMAN WILWAYCO TALKS about his latest book during OpenBook via Skype. Here seen with guest writers Lourd de Veyra, Jim Libiran and Jun Sabayton.

On the upside, there are high-paying clients in the international market that pay better at P22.50 to P45 per word. But usually, Filipino freelancers don’t get these deals possibly because “you can pay (Filipinos) literally pennies for a story… because they are not native (English) speakers.” This is a comment made by an American and cited by another Filipino freelance writer. 

Locally, if you can get corporate clients or can write good advertising copy, then you can make more because these markets pay better than most outsourcing websites. You may have to make compromises, though, since you will have to write what you’re told.

To put it bluntly, there is no room for the idealistic writer in the commercial writing industry.

The freelancers

Despite the economically grim picture, freelancers are a dime a dozen because there are writers who are moms (or dads) at the same time, some are single parents and therefore need more time to raise their children.

ANOTHER OPENBOOK EVENT WITH children’s book authors Heidi Emily Eusebio Abad and Augie Rivera.

Others enjoy the freedom that freelancing offers; some are working on their degrees; others do it to supplement a regular salary; and still there are those who think that writing is simple and that anyone with a pen can write!

Local scene

The fact is, writers’ fees in the Philippines have stagnated at a more or less 20-year-old level.

This, plus a host of other challenges that plague the freelance writing community have encouraged a bunch of freelance writers to organize themselves into the Freelance Writers’ Guild of the Philippines (FWGP).

The guild aims to protect the welfare of Filipino freelance scribes working in the country, as it tries to help members improve the quality of their work. 

FWGP PARTNERED WITH YUCHENGCO Museum to launch the blogging and SEO workshop. Jeannie Javelosa, museum curator, poses with the author (middle) and workshop participant.

The one thing that you need to do

After you have turned the thought over inside your head and have still come up with the decision to go freelance, you need to commit to doing one thing for the industry.

Industry would include your current/upcoming career, the careers of your fellow freelance writers and the professional future of the generations of writers who would choose this same path. 

You need to commit to not sell out, to not accept pennies for your work and to treat the writing profession with respect and act with dignity in the way you conduct your business. 

Remember that every time you sign a P0.50 per word contract, you are making sure that your child will get paid the same rate when it’s her turn to go freelance.

You’ll get the cash for the electric bill this month, but is it really worth the trade-off? –

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