INTERN has been off the wire for several days, and in that time she had the chance to collect her thoughts on internet write-for-hire operations and learn hands-on how to de-gut and process a goat.
Yes, both those things in one weekend. Multitasking rules.
The short version?
Goat: totally worth it. Internet write-for-hire: totally not.
The long version:
A few weeks ago, INTERN started lurking around writing and publishing job boards, and came across the same postings all around the web: something to the tune of "make money writing!" or "now hiring writers!". She visited a few sites, and lo and behold, here were promises of real money in exchange for writing informative articles on an infinite range of subjects.
INTERN's Boondoggle Bell started ringing, and she knew she had to investigate further. So INTERN regis—um, "applied" for several of these so-called writing jobs. A few days later, the e-mails began to flood in: INTERN had been hired! Huzzah!
Deciding she didn't have time to deal with all of them, INTERN chose one website out of the several and threw herself into it for a few days.
The website INTERN investigated work like this: the writer logs in and browses through a long list of "assignments" that are up for grabs. If she sees something she thinks she could write, she claims it, and then has about ten days to complete the article and hand it in. Then the website coughs up $15 for her trouble, and she loses all rights to her work. Easy as pie!
INTERN, in her hubris, immediately claimed five assignments in different categories. Some examples: "What Is Scheurmann's Kyphosis?" and "How to Write an Emo Song" and, cryptically, "About Harmoniums". INTERN figured she could crank out the articles in a reasonable amount of time, say, one per lunch break over a week.
Indeed, it only took about half an hour to research and write the first article, about a spinal deformity affecting 8% of the population. INTERN grinned, thinking she would use her first Article Writing Paycheck to buy herself some of that nice greek yogurt.
But when she went back to the website, she found that there were still a few steps left to complete. First, she had to read and absorb the website's gargantuan Style Guide. Then, find a few more Links and some Photographs (with hard-to-find photo credits) to attach to the article. Then, copy and paste the article paragraph by paragraph, subheading by subheading into the website's baroque Article Input Form.
By the time all this was done, an hour and a half had passed. INTERN, a little grumpy, submitted her article. A few days later, the site sent her $15 as promised.
Thinking she would become more efficient as she went along, INTERN started her second assignment, "How to Write an Emo Song." This one was tougher to write than the first. The website had rigid guidelines for how-to articles, and wanted photos and references to back them up. INTERN struggled for an hour to decide which items one needed to gather before starting to write an emo song (a mandatory field): a black hoodie? Some skinny jeans? A cigarette?
Finally, after two hours, INTERN finished the godforsaken article and sent it in. She consoled herself by thinking about all the yogurt she could buy with that $15.
At home in the evening, INTERN worked away on her third assignment. Techie Boyfriend, looking over shoulder, asked "Why are you writing about harmoniums instead of working on your novel?" to which INTERN growled, "Need the money."
By the time INTERN went to bed at 1 AM, she had spent almost six hours on two articles: doing extra unnecessary research, hammering them into the website's format, and wrangling the complicated style guide and input fields.
The following evening, INTERN got an e-mail from the website: one of her articles (About Harmoniums) needed revision. There was too much about the history of harmoniums. Furthermore, the harmonium article was now worth only $7.50. Not $15.
INTERN (not a frequent drinker) poured herself a shot of her roommate's whiskey. The situation was dire. She'd already spent almost three hours on that article at $5/hour. If she didn't revise, she would get nothing. If she did revise, she would be working for about $2.50/hour.
"Are you on that stupid website again?" said Techie Boyfriend.
"No," said INTERN, too ashamed to tell him about the predicament she now found herself in.
After two more hellish days of article-writing, INTERN deleted her account and vowed never to Write for Money! again. Total profit: $60. Total hours of labor: more than INTERN will ever admit to. Degree to which the experience effed with INTERN's head: huge.
To wash the experience out of her mind, INTERN spent this past weekend with some friends who are essentially homesteading out in the countryside. When she arrived, they'd just slaughtered a goat and (though a vegetarian) INTERN hung around and watched and learned for several hours as they took its organs and guts out, skinned it, and butchered the meat. The organ part was actually kind of neat, like watching airport security unpack someones suitcase.
They took approximately the same time to process the goat as INTERN had spent on those infernal articles, and at the end of it they had food for a week, a goat hide, and all sorts of useful bones and membranes for making tools and cordage.
INTERN is sure there are people out there who find joy and fulfillment and make decent livings off of internet write-for-hire schemes, and more power to them. But when gutting a goat seems more fun and satisfying to INTERN than writing, INTERN knows there is something wrong with the writing. As far as INTERN is concerned, these websites are boondoggles designed to force writers to write low-quality articles with maximum effort for what often works out to be less than minimum wage.