On September 15, 2015, Priceonomics announced its new Freelance Writing Program — which includes paying writers $1,000 for a blog post.
Sounds fantastic, right? Where do we sign up?
But before you get too excited, let’s take a quick look at exactly what’s required to earn that fat paycheck. I did some research and here’s what I found.
What Would You Do for a $1,000 Per Post Paycheck?
The first thing you should know is that the high fee comes with a high price in terms of time and effort. I’ll just cut to the chase: Priceonomics estimates that its average posts take 40 hours to research, write, and edit. (Here’s a reality check: that’s $25 per hour!)
Suffice to say, Priceonomics has very high standards (which I respect and think more companies should emulate).
In fact, its standards are so high that its acceptance rate for blog posts is about 10 percent (ouch!).
What’s more, getting to acceptance (and the paycheck) requires traversing a content writing gauntlet — from creating a great, original idea to jumping several levels of editing hurdles.
Here’s an overview of the Priceonomics blog post creation process.
1. Bring Brilliant Original Ideas to the Table.
Priceonomics is very (very) picky about its blog post topics. It expects them to be “exciting, interesting, and relevant” to the company’s business.
Regarding blog post ideas, Priceonomics says:
The only guideline is this: it should bring new information into the world. It can be an exploration of food truck economics, a long-form profile on a coffee device inventor, a data analysis of one-hit wonders, or a first-person narrative about what it’s like to fail. It can be about animals, falling in love, falling out of love, tiny houses, big houses — anything that is original and interesting. The Modern Love column in The New York Times? We love that! Dinovember? That was awesome! A study of rappers who have the most wide-ranging vocabularies? Sublime!”
Here are examples the company provided, which were presented by its first-ever full-time writer (and which helped him get the job):
- The Finances of Homeless Haight Street Kids
- The Supply and Demand of War: How Much Does an AK Cost Around the World?
- Should You Buy Booze from a Grocery Store or Liquor Store?
- Coachella or Electric Daisy Carnival? The Best Value Music Festivals
- Third Party Ticket Vendors: How to See the Game Without Getting Gouged
- What Should You (and What Should You Not) Buy at IKEA?
- Food Truckonomics
- What Should the “New Girl” Apartment Really Look Like?
2. Go Long or Go Home.
You’ve likely heard, ad nauseum, that blog posts must be between 250 and 400 words. This shorter-is-better myth rages on despite significant research showing that longer posts perform significantly better than short posts in every way.
Priceonomics gets it. Most of its blog posts are 2,000-plus words each. This allows plenty of room to deliver data-rich information, real insight, and actual value to its readers.
This is entirely unlike all of those anemic short posts clogging the internet. Too many companies are narrowly focused on posting SEO-laden posts, rather than quality writing, in a self-defeating attempt to game the system (a risky legacy tactic).
However, not every post on Priceonomics is a behemoth. Here’s what the company says about length:
Our typical articles are about 2,000 words, but yours can be longer or shorter. Usually, shorter pieces tend to be much more data-heavy, but feel free to use your discretion.”
3. Hit the Pavement!
My old curmudgeon journalism professor used to say that to do research reporters had to pound the “shoe leather express.” Today we can just hit the internet highway.
Either way, writing quality stories requires doing in-depth research — and Priceonomics expects a lot from its writers. So, expect to go both deep and wide to get the facts for your posts.
In Priceonomics’ own words about its full-time writers (which you can infer applies to freelance writers as well):
The writers at Priceonomics practically kill themselves to do good work. They routinely pull all nighters to finish stories, spend weeks tracking down interviews, and write and rewrite drafts until they are truly great. Story ideas are proposed, shot down, debated, and refined until we have really great topics.
We can’t understate how much effort the writers at Priceonomics put into their work. This is key to our success: talented people expend effort in a system that rewards that effort. In this case, the reward is reaching millions of people (as well as helping generate revenue for the company).”
4. Stiffen your back (and ego) for the grueling “constructive criticism” editing process.
Early in my career I had a monthly gig at a company that published medical newsletters. One thing I loved about the job was the multi-phase editing process, which was much like the editing process at professional newspapers.
All content went through a series of three editors. The first editor looked for syntax, spelling, and clarity. The second editor proofed the copy for typos. The final editor made sure the articles met the strategic mission of each newsletter.
While it was a bit grueling, I appreciated the professional detail. Sadly, I’ve never been in a work situation like it since — and I miss it (as many of you know, I struggle with typos thanks to my dyslexia, and I’d love a full-time editor watching my back).
Well, Priceonomics has created a similar rigorous editing process for its posts. Here’s what it says about it:
The Priceonomics editing process is pretty brutal, but it turns drafts into great articles that are factually accurate.
First drafts are never great … that story gets shared with the ‘editor,’ the person who will tear the first draft to shreds.
The editor needs to help improve the organization of the article, offer suggestions for making the writing clear, and, most importantly, aggressively push back on whether everything in the article is accurate.”
Priceonomics gave examples of its brutal editing process from a hypothetical example:
On our blog, we once ‘fake edited’ a famously erroneous Newsweek article that claimed to have identified the creator of Bitcoin, who has chosen to remain anonymous. In actuality, this journalist had not discovered the mysterious inventor of Bitcoin, and the article would never have made it through the Priceonomics editing process. Here’s (one example) how we would have edited it:
Newsweek: [He] has the thousandmile stare of someone who has gone weeks without sleep.
Priceonomics Editor: Seems unlikely that we would know if he’s been sleeping. Cut, even if this is just a metaphor.”
Does Writing for Priceonomics Still Sound Good to You?
If the Priceonomics’ process doesn’t sent you running away from the gauntlet — and you think you have a few stellar blog post ideas — then here’s how to drop your pen in the hat:
There are a lot of amazing writers, thinkers, and analysts out there who are capable of creating this type of content, and obviously not all of them work at Priceonomics. If you’re one of them, we want to find a way to work with you.
Our plan is still a bit rough, but here’s the gist of it: You submit to us your original article that you think would be a good fit for Priceonomics. If it’s accepted and published, we’ll pay you $1,000.”
Click here to proceed, you brave freelancer you!
So what do you think of Priceonomics’ blog post process? Is it crazy or genius?
Photo Credit: © jstaley4011