Essay Writing and Research: Adapting to Change
Like everything else that, at first, seems too good to be true, the academic writing industry is facing some obstacles. Some of these obstacles have been around for a few years now, and are part and parcel of the world of online business (such as the reality of outsourced labor to places like India and Pakistan); others of these obstacles are growing and will most likely appear, in all their “glory,” within a few years (such as the increased scrutiny of the IRS into how writers are treated by employers who hire them, how taxes are paid, and so forth). There are other looming obstacles as well, such as the changing nature of college and university-level curricula, that seem to threaten the example academic writing and research industry. However, just like everything else, obstacles can be viewed as positive challenges if seen from the right perspective. This article will discuss some of the changes that are occurring now, or will most likely be occurring, in the academic research industry, and what freelance academic writers can do in order to make these changes work for them.
For some time, many academic writing service providers – generally the large conglomerates with upwards of 50-60 individual sites – have made use of writing labor based in other countries (notably, Pakistan, Kenya, India, and so forth). They have done so for the same reason everyone else does so. Labor is much cheaper in these countries, and so freelance writers don’t need to be paid as much. Of course, the quality tends to suffer, given that most writers in these countries do not speak English as their native language, but given that the per-page price to clients tends to be cheaper as well, enough people find it worth their while to pay less and get the lower-quality goods. It is also the case that many clients are ESL individuals as well, and so they may not notice (or care) that they are getting model papers with errors or ESL markers in them.
This trend seems likely to continue. What can a high-quality native English speaking academic writer do to remain competitive in such a market? Simple! He or she can continue to market him/herself as a high-end, native English speaking writer – a writer who commands a higher rate of pay because the end result is of higher quality. As in every industry, there is a spectrum of budgets in the academic research industry. High-end writers need to position themselves at the high end of the spectrum, and over time, as their reputations become solidified, they will find high-end clients.
Another change that is underway is the deep scrutiny of online businesses, including academic writing businesses, by the IRS. Without going into a lot of complex accounting language, the bottom line is that the IRS wants to know that it’s getting all the money to which it is entitled. To respond to this change, legitimate academic writing companies need to either pay writers in W-2 fashion (which means the employer takes out the taxes), or they need to pay them via W-9 and then truly treat them as independent contractors (this is the method of choice for most companies). As long as no one is treated as an employee and then paid as a W-9/1099, this should be fine. And of course, folks need to pay their taxes!
It might also be the case that taxes for online businesses will increase beyond where they are now. If this happens, a typical per-page rates for writers may well go down as businesses seek to maintain their profit levels. One response that many professional writers might choose is to set up shop for themselves. These single-writer businesses will be responsible for taxes, that is true, but all other income that doesn’t have to go toward supporting the site will go into the writer’s pocket. That will definitely seem like a good thing if per-page rates drop.
Curricula are also changing as the world changes. While some students are still majoring in ancient Greek, the reality is that MBAs and other “practical” degrees like engineering and information technology are coming to dominate the collegiate market. Academic writers simply must be able to write in these and other subject areas (such as medicine) if they wish to remain in the field. No longer can a professional writer count upon projects in English literature to pay their bills. These changes also mean that writers who don’t necessarily specialize in text, per se, but who can handle programming projects and the like, will be in ever greater demand.
Finally, it seems that online learning is going to continue to grow as our world continues to immerse itself in the internet. Writers need to understand the structure of online classes, and be able to assist with the typical assignments that such classes ask of their students (such as discussion postings and responses). The pace of such classes is also different than that of traditional classes, mostly in that they are faster (five weeks as opposed to four months). At this point, academic writers are well aware that online classes are becoming more popular, but so far it has been possible to avoid projects from such classes; at present, it appears that avoiding such projects will become more difficult as online classes become more commonplace.
All in all, for every change, there is a response, and as long as academic writers remain nimble and flexible, we will be able to stay in business for a long time into the future.