Software engineers make a lot of money. And yet, blogging, for most tech writers, pays very little. How do we reconcile these two truths?
To make the numbers more concrete, let's imagine a software engineer makes $100,000 per year. If they work 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year, that comes out to roughly $48.08 per hour.
A salary of $150,000 would be $72.12 per hour, and a $200,000 salary would be $96.15 per hour.
That's a lot of money. And yet, most paid tech writing opportunities advertise payments of anywhere from $100 to $350 per article. That sounds decent until you consider how many hours go into writing an in-depth technical blog post.
Let's go with the higher number and say that a publication will pay you $350 to write an article for their blog. In order to match a $100,000 salary, you'd want to spend no more than 7 hours writing the article.
If you make $150,000 per year, you'd want to spend just under 5 hours writing the article. And for $200,000 per year, your target would be about 3 and a half hours.
In reality, I find myself spending about 10 hours when working on any freelance piece of writing. It takes time to put together a working demo app and an easy-to-follow tutorial, not to mention any back and forth or editing with the client.
So taking those 10 hours as a baseline, writing an article for $100 would amount to $10 per hour. Writing an article for $350 would equate to $35 per hour.
Looking strictly at the compensation, this isn't a very good deal.
So why do we do this? Or, even more astonishing, why do we write for free?
For me, writing is a form of teaching. It's a way for me to solidify my own thoughts while simultaneously giving back to the community and sharing what I've learned. Writing is great for sharpening your communication skills. It's also a way to establish yourself as an expert in your field. Writing might make it easier for you to land your next job, and it may even open up opportunities for paid speaking engagements.
Ultimately, writing is intrinsically rewarding - as long as you're passionate about the subject matter.
When it comes to paid writing gigs though, often the topics are pre-selected or require you to promote a specific product or technology. In those instances, you may not be as intrinsically motivated. To compensate, the external rewards need to be greater.
In other words, publications advertising paid writing opportunities need to increase the financial incentives. The consequence of failing to do so is losing out on top engineers passing up writing engagements because they're simply not worth their time.