But IGN’s freelancers aren’t getting paid by the hour. How much a writer could earn in a day, week, or month is up to the editors—and there’s likely never any promise of anything beyond the last $20 bill. No matter how quickly a writer turns pieces around, no matter how much quality they manage to squeeze into a couple-three hundred words, that dripping-faucet income stream could stop dripping any second.
Game Developer handles this
in a way that, to me, makes more sense: pay writers for their time, rather than their output. But this is tricky, too. If a site picks up a few full-time-equivalent permalance contractors (as opposed to actual W-2 employees), then the outlet can’t legally set the writers’ schedules.
How can you pay someone by the hour if you can’t set their hours?
This is the situation I found myself in when I launched Lions Wire with USA TODAY Sports Media Group
. I was paid a flat monthly rate and given suggestions for what (and how much) I should write. But my vision for the site—a little more quality, and necessarily less quantity—didn’t entirely jibe with corporate’s. And because I was never truly On The Clock, I was never really off it, either. At any waking minute, Adam Schefter could Tweet a thing and my boss would expect me to run to my laptop and get something up on the site.
For me, stressing like that 18 hours a day for not-that-much money was no way to live. Yet as Francis pointed out
, the stress of trying to grind out 16 super-quick articles a day, every day, is not anything most sufficiently skilled writers skilled would want to do for very long.
There’s no one right way to square this circle. People will always want timely content about stuff they care about, and corporations will always seek to pay writers as little as they can get away with. People will always be inspired by their favorite creators, and many of those aspirants will be willing to accept little (or nothing) in return for their labor.
And as Francis wrote, there are much bigger structural issues with labor, wages, and benefits in America that no individual editor or outlet can fix: