Getting Paid to Write Essays and Term Papers
Essays for Cash: Intro, Info and Ethics
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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.