Are you a college graduate who loves to write? If so, you may be drawn to the many, many websites that offer ‘academic writing’ opportunities.
You’ve written scads of school papers in the past, in your academic career. You might wonder if there’s an opportunity in getting paid for that skill.
There is — though it doesn’t pay a lot. From what I’ve seen on the bigger sites, $15-$20 a page for college essay writing is typical.
If you’re fast and want to put in a lot of hours, you might earn a few thou a month.
There’s only one catch: Academic writing is unethical.
I want to be super-clear on that. It’s not a gray area. It’s not sort of mildly naughty. It’s wrong.
As a writer who’s on a mission to bust scams and help writers find good pay, I should have tackled this topic long ago. But let’s get to it now.
First, let’s visit some essay sites and see how writers get sucked in.
The bait-and-switch of paid essay sites
It’s easy to see how writers get confused about academic writing. There are a ton of essay sites out there that make this seem like a legitimate freelance writing niche.
Some of these sites have creative ways of describing what you’re doing. They’ll tell you it’s ‘tutoring’ work, or that your submitted essays provide ‘inspiration’ for students’ writing.
But they’re lying.
Read closely. As you’ll see in these screenshots, essay sites like to dress it up. But in the end, we all know what’s happening. Students are having you write their papers.
Check out how one essay site pitches writers:
Doesn’t sound so bad, right? (And yes, I noticed all the grammar errors in that.)
Read a little closer, though, and a little farther down the page, you get this:
Ho! All of a sudden, we’re ‘getting paid to write essays FOR students.’ Not editing their paper. Not giving them a little help or ideas.
Sounds fishier now, right?
Finally, if I stay on one of these sites long enough, inevitably, a box like this will pop up:
As a mom who’s paid for college, let me say I didn’t take out student loans so that someone else could write my son’s papers.
There’s a reason schools have ethics codes — to prevent exactly this sort of thing.
Writers’ experiences on essay sites
The feedback I get from teachers is that papers written by pros are pretty easily detected. I was having a chat about this on my Facebook page recently, and got some choice feedback.
Professors can sniff out the difference between a student who’s perhaps had a little light editing help with a dissertation — which IS legit — and one who’s farmed out an essay, wholesale:
Writers sucked into these gigs also usually figure out they’re in an ethical swamp pretty quickly:
Yes, you can earn some money at this. But it’s dirty money.
And that’s not the only reason doing this type of writing hurts you, the writer, and doesn’t lay the groundwork for building a successful freelance writing business.
Why academic writing is a road to nowhere
Here are the three things you need to build a great freelance writing portfolio and begin commanding professional rates:
- Portfolio samples
With academic writing, you get none of the above. You’re ghostwriting for someone who’s not going to give you a testimonial and risk getting themselves expelled.
Essay sites are never going to refer you a better client and cut themselves out of the deal.
Even if you could get permission to put ghosted essays in your portfolio — which would be unlikely — you can’t use these samples without outing yourself as a writer without scruples, who’s just in it for a quick buck, no matter who it hurts.
In other words, academic writing is a dead end. The only place it leads you is to getting more essay work from the same website you signed on with. If that site goes bust, have fun starting all over.
Meanwhile, the years are going by, and you’re stuck in a niche with a bad reputation.
The final problem? You’re spending your time doing academic writing — stiff, formal, footnote-filled writing that bears no resemblance to any of the good-paying types of writing in the rest of the marketplace. So you’re not even gaining helpful writing experience.
Stop the denial
Despite the obvious fact that ghosted essays get students expelled, I find academic writers often have a violent reaction to the suggestion that what they’re doing is unethical.
For instance, one writer recently blocked me on Twitter after I had the nerve to point out that academic writing is wrong. That means I can’t show you her original post, in which she blithely described how she writes essays for pay for students at levels from undergrad to PhD.
But here’s my reply:
If you’re a writer hoping to get some respect for all your hard work ghosting essays, I’m sorry to disappoint you. What you’re doing is wrong. Academic writing hurts your career, right along with the academic career of the students who pay you.
Ask yourself this: Do you really want your writing legacy to be: “At least I didn’t get caught?” Or are you here to light up the world with your writing talent? I’m betting it’s really the latter.
If you’ve been caught up in the academic writing treadmill, there’s no time like the present to leave this ethical swamp behind, and move into doing more legitimate gigs — articles, case studies, Web content. That’s how you end up finding better clients and earning more.
Ever done academic writing for pay?Share your experience in the comments.
Tagged with: academic writing, essay writing, scams, school papers
Getting Paid to Write Essays and Term Papers
Essays for Cash: Intro, Info and Ethics
Who can I pay to write an essay for me?
Where can I buy an essay?
Now hiring- get paid to write academic papers!
Write custom essays for pay!
The internet has certainly made it easy for writers and students to connect; the paid essay writing service has been around for years now. This service is one in which a student pays someone else to write their academic essays, research projects or other school/university work for them, anonymously.
As a writer, you may have encountered this via a paid, organized business/website looking to recruit more writers into its ranks, or you may have stumbled on an ad from a harried student on Craigslist. Maybe a student has contacted you directly. Either way, the exchange exists, and, as a writer, you should know about it.
Students Who Need Academic Essays Written
So, who exactly are these students? From my experience, they tend to be desperate procrastinators, as evidenced by their late-night, hurried emails and rapidly approaching deadlines. I've also heard from several who simply lacked the self-confidence to tackle a big assignment. These are the ones who tend to reach out ahead of time, with a little leeway on the due date. Lastly, I gather some are simply spoiled and able to afford the service—why put themselves out when the ease of a credit card means they can do something else, something they want to do?
A former professor wrote about the practice at the Chronicle of Higher Education several years ago, noting that he sees three specific kinds of essay-buyers: “From my experience, three demographic groups seek out my services: the English-as-second-language student; the hopelessly deficient student; and the lazy rich kid.” That observation dovetails well with what I've seen, too.
This service exists for several reasons. On the surface, it’s because the dawn of the internet brought with it a special kind of plagiarism. Once students were able to post—and pluck—completed essays directly off the Internet, professors had to compensate in some way to attempt to protect the academic integrity of the classroom. Plagiarism-checker services like TurnItIn and Copyscape can compare a student’s text to (almost) the entire internet to catch copied work. Also, professors may also assign highly structured and specific essays with detailed instructions of what is to be included in the piece. It not only shows application of the curriculum learned but also (hopefully) makes it that much harder to just copy from the Internet. However, unscrupulous students can now get around this by hiring a writer or a service and providing the specifics of the assignment directly to them.
The Writer Who Sells Term Papers
So what does the writer that may engage in this business look like, exactly? And what’s in it for the writer? To answer this question, let’s look at this without the ethical argument for a moment (more about that below).
I’ll begin at a very personal level. The first time that I was approached to write a term paper floored me.
I received an email shortly after going public as a freelance writer in which a female college student asked me to write an essay on "Sense and Sensibility" for an English class. She stated that she was willing to pay me $400, as that’s how much of her birthday money she had left. The essay was due in two days. As an English major who 1) loved "Sense and Sensibility and 2) very much missed writing about and discussing books, this seemed like a dream to me. I knew I could pound out such an essay in a couple of hours, tops. Not bad money, and not an activity I would dread. So, you can see how this kind of arrangement can come to be for both players, right?
Of course, with any working writer, the major consideration here (again, leaving ethics aside for a moment) is financial. In the case above, I had already read the book (not to mention the fact that I’d previously dissected it in my past as a student).
I could have made more than $100 per hour in that early time in my career. Depending on the arrangement, due date, subject matter and other factors, there is a real possibility of making bank here for writers. On their end, many of these students seem to have credit cards, padded bank accounts or family willing to support them in whatever way necessary.
Lastly, I will say that there is another potential perk for the writer in this arrangement. In my practice of supporting and editing theses and dissertation students (a completely ethical service that I offer), I've found that working with the ideas, topics, and processes that my education is based on gave me a bit of a boost in my writing practice—“greased the wheels” a bit, so to say. After weeks and months of writing about my client’s products, writing about politics, or writing about writing (as I do here, I’ve found that approaching more cerebral topics is a nice change of pace.
The Freelance Writer’s Work
The way this particular service works depends on how the writer and student arrange the contract. For example, if the deal is made via one of the many “term paper writing” website-based companies, the contract, work, and pay would all flow through said company. However, if the arrangement is private, it’s a good bet that you’re arranging payment through Paypal or paper check, and delivering essays via Microsoft Word and email.
For the writer, there are a few challenges in this line of work. First, let’s consider the fact that you may not be dealing with the most honest of customers. After all, they are technically cheating. It seems to me that payment should be due up front and in full. Secondly, there is the situation of matching a student’s tone and voice. You may be a talented writer, but it stands to reason that your customer is not. How polished, exactly, should this work be? This will depend on the topic and level and is an interesting question in its right. Another issue is the research inherent in college-level work. Many writers in this business tend to heavily use Google Scholar, Wikipedia citations and Amazon’s book samples.
Writing Term Papers for Pay: The Ethics
Of course, this is the main question that comes up when writers talk about this line of work. A writer who does this is helping another person to cheat. It’s that simple. Also, although the work isn't illegal, the freelance writer should understand that this doesn't mean it’s free of consequences, either. Consider your reputation as a writer. Consider the impact this work may have on any community groups or board positions that you work within. Ask yourself what your cost would be, were it known that you engage in this kind of work.
One way that I've seen service providers get around the ethics question is by insisting that the writing they sell to students is simply a unique "model" essay that the student is supposed to use to help them learn. I’m willing to bet that all parties involved understand this is simply a ruse.
To present a somewhat balanced take on the ethical side of this service, I’ll share some of the other justifications I've heard through the years on the part of writers who provide essays for pay. The only potential excuse that flies in my book is when you’re absolutely in desperate need of the money. I get it. If your heat or light bill is due, I’m certainly not about to judge you for the way that you get that payment together.
Other writers have reasoned that the student will simply choose another writer to provide the service, so why bother? Some point to the fact that the writer isn't the cause of this particular problem, and that if any finger-pointing should be done, we should look at the education system that perpetuates such a practice.
Alternatives to Writing Student Essays
Look, as a book-lover and English major, I get the draw. I excelled at academics of this nature. I was one of the rare students who enjoyed the research and writing process. That’s why I’m in this career now. However, there are other ways to earn money by doing what we love.
Book reviewing is easily one of my favorite services. To this day, after a decade in this business, I get a thrill out of finding free books in my mailbox and reviewing them for others.
Also, many colleges are fine with upper-level students being supported in their writing process by editors. I've provided editing, indexing and research support to several Masters and Doctoral students. Individual institutions often have some guidelines on editorial services posted on their websites. Some colleges even keep a list of freelance editors to whom they refer their students.
Last, there are several magazines and websites that accept long form articles that are well-researched, interesting and provocative. Check the "Writer’s Market," or do a search within your particular niche area.
Getting Paid to Write Essays
The bottom line is that this is a service that people are willing to pay for—and it’s probably not going away anytime in the near future. The freelance writer must carefully gather the facts, but also follow their conscience. Good luck.