Why Indian Writers Are Not Paid Enough

Written By: Anwesha Bandopadhyay

“Ask and thou shall get.” Is it true? The possible answer may be, “yes, if one knows the art of asking”. On the other side of the coin, to get what one asks for, one has to be deserving enough. This applies to the field of Freelance Writing as well. In India, Freelance Writing hasn't picked up that stature which alone can make a comfortable living. The reason is obvious,  in India, freelance writers are treated more like a wedge earner than an independent contributor in the intelligentsia.

In comparison to the Western countries, where Freelance writers are equally established as any other white collar job holders, Indian freelance writers have to struggle through a bitter journey, and success come to a very few, which isn't worth counting. If we delve deep inside, there may be some reasons which pop up on the surface level and some lurking behind the apparent scene.

Apparently, it has been found that Freelance Writers in India share a few common thoughts which might be one of the reasons behind the not so bright scenario:

1.       It is better to get less than nothing at all.
It has been a very common thought process which has been observed within most Indian Freelance Writers (leaving successful exceptional cases aside) that they think they would lose the chance of signing up an assignment, if they quote higher price. It is their low quote which will bring them opportunities. If they don't agree, they would return empty handed.
But that is the first wrong way of thinking. And once we step on this wrong stone, it will sweep us down the wrong path and a return journey will take away indefinite period of time with an unsure result. Once we set our value for less than we actually deserve, our customers take us for granted and we enter a low grade market by degrading our self-worth. On the contrary if we don’t get an assignment that pays us well, it will save us time and energy to upgrade ourselves and look for better opportunities.

2.      I can’t afford to say no.
In most of the cases, our economic condition forces us to accept an assignment at low pay rather than rejecting it. In reality, this way an author kills his scope to grow and finally keeps himself confined in the struggling state with little chance to improve his standard of living. On the other hand, refusing to an offer which does not feel lucrative has a manifold benefit.

i.                     The writer will save time and energy from working on a non-profit assignment and save himself from cascading losses. 
ii.                   It will be a good chance to establish one's rights and correct value.
iii.                  The one who is looking for exploiting intellectual property will not be encouraged.
iv.                 On the bargain, the writer can have a chance to win by getting his desired pay cheque.
v.                   It will be a satisfying deal for the author if he says “no” to the offered rate, as he isn’t turning down the assignment by doing so, but just establishing the fact that he can’t afford to say “yes” on the same.

But why do Indian writers have to think on these lines at all? There may be countless reasons, starting from the economic condition of our country, the social scenario, literacy rate, readership count and so on. These are known to all, but few things which I found worth mentioning here, are:

Reputation in the International Market:
In the international market, Indian labour is known for its low cost. We are sincerely following the grade of a “third world country” and are happy to sell ourselves that way. That is there in the attitude of every Indian and we freelance writers are no exception.

Lack of exposure

Writing is only a way of expression. Expression is the outcome of experiences. Experience evolves from exposure. We Indians have less opportunities to get exposed in the open world. When we compare our write-ups with those of Western Countries, what falls short in our court, is ample exposure and dynamic experiences. A common writer in India is associated with a small group of friends with a "jhola" on his shoulders, (some may carry a camera in it by chance), hanging out in a few known places and half known cafeterias. He has very less chances to have a world tour, explore the world and gain experience. And this lack of exposure gets caught up in his writing.

If we are talking about writing in English, as a second language, the expressions come out as a translation rather than an original writing. It may happen because we think in our vernacular language first and translate them before putting down on paper.

Credibility issues

If we search the internet, there are many pages which contain lengthy list of grievances against Indian writers for not following the terms and conditions of an agreement. Many of them have played foul with the punctuality, originality, authenticity and many other criteria that count behind building up a credible standing in the market. Unfortunately because of some unethical crap, the credibility has crushed down and the basic trust on Indians both in the domestic and International markets is under a doubtful condition.

Besides these, there may be even more vital issues which are causing this demoralizing circumstance for the Indian Freelance Writers, but the solution to the problem will come out only when we change our attitude towards ourselves and remember that now we are citizens of a Free India, and we are Free to choose our own value and contribute in the intellectual growth of mankind across the world. To bring that freedom in our profession, we have to have a freedom of thought.


  1. I totally get what you're saying, Shuchi. But I have to say that freelance writers in general are not paid well, be it in India or anywhere else. Lots of publications have slashed their rates. But for the prestige of appearing in a reputed publications, many writers put their pride in their pocket. I am sick and tired of 'competitions' where the prize is just publication. Would a doctor tolerate being asked to work for free if the work was up to standard and the hirer capable of paying? Of course not. I had a conflict with a writing group in Ireland, my own country, not long ago for not only soliciting entries for a contest with mere publication as a prize, but for having the gall to stipulate that 'reading fees' had to be paid along with the entry. That was really annoying. The good news? 'You may submit as many entries as you like.' No thanks. It's bad enough being expected to work for free, but to have to pay for the privilege too, well that in my opinion, is taking exploitation to a whole new level. I live in India, BTW.

  2. Hi Maria, I agree to what you say, but in this same site I have read articles where they say that the pay cheque received was quite satisfactory. As I live in India too, it is only through the words of mouth that we come to know about such facts. and yes, we get to know more about the grievances rather than appreciations. That's why I tried to put down in this article the analysis which was more a comparative study out of the experiences I got to know from our freelance writers.


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