cheap as free

PeanutsThis morning I received an e-mail with the subject line “Job on Computer in July,” from an unfamiliar name. I’m used to receiving cold-call e-mails from prospective clients, so I opened it up and took a look:

Good Day,

We offer a part time job on your computer.

Job Description:

We will provide you with the texts and you will correct the texts as an english speaking person and send them back to us. Just correct grammar and spell mistakes, nothing else.

Ah, a work-at-home scam. Of course. I get plenty of those. Just out of curiosity, I kept reading to see how much they pay — assuming they do pay.

Oh, they pay, all right . . .

The e-mail continued:

Salary:

We don’t have a fixed salary for this vacancy. We will pay you $7.00 for every 1Kb of the corrected text. You will get paid at the END of each month. Every month your salary will be different as it depends on your activity.

Example: If you correct about 5Kb of texts per day you will get over $1000.00 at the end of the month.

That’s a new one on me — paying by the gross.

The company — “Dating Union,” whoever they are — require submissions in MS Word. Now, at first this might seem like a terrific deal, as the average MS Word document is so bloated with built-in code that a blank document weighs in at ~20kb. So it’s likely that they strip out the text and measure it as plain text, where it’s much, much lighter.

So I did a quick experiment and found that 1kb worth of plain-text ASCII text works out to about 500 words in Apple TextEdit. Now, a good rule of thumb for copyediting estimates is five pages (at 250 words per page) an hour, which works out to $17.50 an hour — for work in a field where $30-40 an hour is considered to be the low end of fair.

Sure it’s just a word-mill scam, but there’s no shortage of people out there who think writers and editors should work for next-to-nothing. And unfortunately there are too many writers out there who don’t know the value of their skills who are willing to do it.

Thanks, Dating Union, but I think I’ll stick with clients who understand the value of professionals.

Image: iStockPhoto.com

Author: Paul Lagasse

Paul Lagasse provides expert-to-expert communications services to nonprofit, business, and government clients in the metro Baltimore-DC area. Specialties include science and medical writing, technical report editing, and content marketing.

3 thoughts on “cheap as free”

  1. You need to check your math. 1kb of text is about 170 words not 500.

    1kb is exactly 1024 letters, if that was 500 words each word would be 1 letter in length (don’t forget the space).

    Assuming an average of 5 letter words, plus the space is: 1024/6 = 170

    You write that it takes about 1 hours to do 1250 words. So you could do about 7.3kB of text per hour. Which is $50 per hour.

  2. Hi, Ariel — Thanks for the math check. I calculated the size of a .txt file, not the character count, which I should have done. Mea culpa!

    I wonder why they didn’t simply say they pay by the character rather than by the kilobyte in that case. Not that I would expect scammers to be terribly up-front about their methods!

    Thanks also for forwarding the link. I encourage everyone reading this to take a look if you haven’t already.

    Cheers,
    Paul

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