Dear Writingfourmylife: I’m Cheap23
Sorry folks. Try as I might, I couldn’t find the humor in this one….
—-Thank you for submitting a proposal for: “Need someone for writing articles find online”. Unfortunately, the buyer has declined your proposal for the following reason:
Project Name: Need someone for writing articles find online
Buyer Reason: Bid is too high“—-
I get these pretty much every time I decide to give placing bids on popular write for hire sites another try. Back when I first started freelancing and didn’t know anything about these job marketplaces I thought that maybe I was being unrealistic. After all, there are tons of folks bidding left and right and getting the jobs. I took the time then to consider some of the portfolio’s of those I was bidding against and in some instances was shocked by what I found, and in some cases intimidated. The level of skill is certainly wide ranging, but I satisfied myself that I am well within a competitive scale. I had done more than a cursory amount of research into what constitutes acceptable rates, and once I managed to beat down my overly optimistic self assessment, had settled on a range I felt was honestly commensurate with my abilities.
I’ve done enough work since my first entrance into the freelancing marketplace to have received a fair amount of feedback, and to date have yet to be given anything resembling a poor evaluation. In several proposals I have made, my work and writing style is singled out as “really great” despite their decision to decline my offer. So what is the problem then? If I go the slow and difficult route of chasing down work, making direct contacts, and working on a wholly independent level I invariably find good reception and will eventually land a contract that pays somewhere within the range of my established rates. This is fine and in fact the real way to operate as a freelancer. However, until you are established and have mastered the art of self marketing, it’s a slow and painful process.
If I go to any of the jobs marketplaces however I find myself repeatedly told I am too expensive. This happens in spite the fact that when I frequent those places I often reduce my usual rates by half. Obviously there is something at work here I was overlooking. So I spent still more time researching rates, their fluctuations, and the averages. This led me to note some trends; most notably that of foreign workers consistently making offers far below those of their counterparts in my own country.
And so there it was, Outsourcing. To be more precise, the problem is the outsourcing of jobs and contracts to offshore providers. Although the mantra today is “Global Economy”, too much emphasis has been placed on the size of the global marketplace and not enough on the lack of market uniformity or regulation. While it may be true that expanding the marketplace beyond national borders increases the pool of available goods and talent, which is supposed to promote competition, it is also true that differences in economic and cultural characteristics can have a massive negative impact on the quality of the marketplace as a whole. Far from creating competition and a wide pool of resources, rates can become depressed, overall quality standards may suffer, and domestic workers can find themselves unable to compete at all as employers ignore them in favor of rates that are impossible to match in western countries.
The attractiveness of outsourcing lies in the greatly reduced costs associated with hiring offshore workers. In nations where the standard of living is well below that of their western counterparts, and economies far weaker, the value of western currency holds a great deal more power. India for instance has a third of the world’s poor and is classed a poor country by the World Bank. Over 80% of its population lives on under $5.00 U.S. dollars a day. To give some perspective, a U.S. Dollar is worth approximately twenty two times its Indian counterpart the Rupee. What this means is that western currency like the U.S. Dollar has immense buying power in the Indian economy. In the U.S. a dollar will buy you a soda, in India it will help feed you for a week. It is no coincidence then employers seeking to lower expenses through reduced production costs and decreased salaries have made India and its ultra cheap labor pool the biggest recipients of outsourcing from western countries. No coincidence at all.
Although India has made several inroads towards improving its economic situation through improved education and increased focus on improving infrastructure, its median income still lags far behind most economically developed nations. Even though India now has huge numbers of engineering and technical graduates, the quality of their education is below that of western graduates. In an attempt to shore up India’s lagging quality and production standards, the country increased the rate of graduations yet failed to significantly improve the quality of that education. This has led to Indian graduates still being unable to compete with their western counterparts on a skill to skill basis, and thus still being unable to command similar rates. The end result is an even greater influx of lower paid workers into their respective markets, further driving down labor values.
Compounding the problem of a weak middle class and a disproportionately large poor population are India’s serious problems with international trade disparity. Consider true free market trade for example. India has made huge gains in acquiring access to foreign markets like the U.S. However, India practices what in the U.S. would be derided as protectionism and places great restriction on foreign access to its own markets. Business.com cites an agricultural example of this and notes that India has one of the most protected markets in the world. In justifying this protectionism in India’s agricultural markets for example, India’s commerce secretary stated,
“For us, it is a livelihood issue of some of our poorest citizens….. We cannot allow the whole groundnut economy of Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat to be wiped out for some economic gains.”
In other words, they want access to foreign markets because of the huge profits they represent, despite the fact that their low economic standards have a severe detrimental effect on those markets, but they refuse to allow foreign access because they fear harming their own markets.
To me this says that far from wanting to participate in the “global economy”, these poor nations like India are in fact interested only in exploiting the weaknesses of global trade. There is no concern on India’s part, or other countries that enjoy widespread outsourcing from western nations, for the welfare of the national and international markets and those who operate within them. Because of their ability to flood international markets with rates up to 80% lower than their western counterparts, they are able to eliminate competition outright. This does a serious disservice to everyone, the offshore worker included.
As companies have as their most important criteria the reduction of costs, the rates held by these markets are then highly sensitive to fluctuations in perceived supply regardless of its quality. Rates drop unnaturally as companies insist on applying the lowest available rates regardless of their origin or viability, as the new normative state. This is an unnatural reduction in value however because these lowest rates do not represent an improvement in quality or production. They do not represent a reduction in demand and they are not a product of organic competition. These lower rates are produced only by the offshore worker’s ability to operate outside the market conditions of those they are competing against within that market.
Where a simple graphic design project once may have once commanded rates in the $250.00 – $500.00 dollar range, the influx of devalued labor from offshore providers kicks those rates down up to 80%, resulting in a huge net loss for all providers across the board. This is unfortunate considering that the highly underpaid offshore workers are those who stand to benefit the most if rates remained intact. But there is yet another problem that is preventing this and as unpopular as it may be, I’ll say it outright; the quality of offshore work is generally lower than that produced on-shore.
Were offshore workers truly more capable and producing results that exceeded those found in the U.S., they would have no problem commanding competitive rates. Rates which would go a long way towards improving their own economic standards. However, this would necessitate them actually having a competitive capability. Were they to try commanding rates commensurate with U.S. standards, they would overnight find themselves without any work. They get the work because they are dirt cheap, and that as any professional who is willing to honestly tell you, is the bottom line. Consider for example-
“American firms were beginning to move call centers and other back-office operations — or “in-sourcing” — back to the U.S. because costs in China, India and other top outsourcing countries had risen sharply and quality hasn’t been consistent.” –(La Times : U.S. jobs continue to flow overseas)
“Nearly 50% of outsourced projects fail outright, or fail to meet expectations.
51% reported that outsourcer was not performing to expectations.” -( Aberdeen Group. )
“Only one-third of those executives that have abandoned off-shoring would seriously reconsider it even “if both security and quality issues could be satisfactorily mitigated,” –(IT Today)
Perhaps the most disconcerting thing about all of this are the attempts by employers to apply the devalued rates off-shoring represents to market niche’s as a whole. As a writer, my work obviously involves holding a solid grasp of the necessary language for my region, which is of course the English language.
Employers state outright in their job postings that they will only consider fluent English speakers or those who have English as their native language. This is the tipoff that they are already well aware of the poor quality of outsourced written content. However, although they are willing to abandon the non native providers work, they are not so willing to abandon his rates. This is where I am finding most of my job marketplaces bidding problems are coming from. I have no doubt this is the same for other markets as well.
This is the true damage from outsourcing that western nations face and in fact ignore. If only it were possible for us, the workers who make up the bulk of the marketplace labor to also ignore it.