An employer who has been facing backlash online over a controversial job listing has told AsiaOne why he's offering what many deem an egregiously low compensation for the work needed.
Sky Hoon's listing on job search sites that called out for content writers went viral on social media after he posted it earlier this week.
The founder of a startup blog called Vertical Template is currently looking for "passionate" Singaporeans who are willing to be paid $7.50 for each article they produce.
“For $7.50, you research and write about 1,000 words,” the employer wrote.
The job description is filled with other oddities, including how Hoon wants someone with neither writing experience nor qualifications because not having them "is an advantage in writing personal and great articles”.
He affirmed that applicants should not be expecting a full-time or part-time salary as Vertical Template is a “self hustle/project and not profitable yet”.
In fact, those who want to “get rich” shouldn’t be applying to the job at all, the description advised.
What applicants can expect is to write the 1,000-word articles for multiple blogs, including Vertical Template, HairQueenie, TorqueGuru and MartialBelt.
It’s a Singaporeans-only role too, especially those who have time flexibility and are able to work remotely. Aside from writing in English, other necessary skills include a passion for Italy and a passion for cars.
Incredulity on the internet
The job listing exploded on social media for all the wrong reasons, with screenshots of it shared widely, especially among those in the creative industry.
It was amplified by freelance journalist and activist Kirsten Han, who called the $7.50 remuneration “insulting and exploitative”.
Others couldn’t believe that someone would offer payment that low.
Writing for ‘hobby blogs’
Hoon told AsiaOne he really is serious about the $7.50 salary. There’s no typo in his ad.
An "office worker" in his 30s, Hoon owns VerticalTemplate.com and a slew of other sites that he calls “hobby blogs”. He bought the domain after its lease expired, he said, and it was originally a portal to create website templates for churches.
The content direction has since pivoted to be a resource for freelancers and startups who are new to the industry — thus why there are articles such as "Best places to go to get inspiration for writing in Singapore" and "Worst business decisions ever made (with examples)".
“Formal writing is best for a corporate and formal website,” he told AsiaOne in response to why he’s looking for writers with no writing experience. “I believe formal writing doesn't work very well for hobby blogs which I focus on.”
As for Hoon's offer of $7.50 per article, he’s basing the remuneration off his past hiring experience in freelance services marketplaces like Fiverr.
“Initially, I outsourced my ideas to Fiverr and Upwork writers who wrote really fast and cheaper at US$42 ($57) for eight articles — around US$5.25 per article,” he explained.
“After working with these writers for a year, I thought I should try posting locally and see if locals are even interested at a rate I can sustain.”
Personally, though, Hoon doesn’t believe that $7.50 is an inadequate payment for anyone to write a 1,000-word article, stating that people who need more money should look elsewhere.
“I am sorry to make someone feel insulted and exploitative [sic]”, he said when asked about Han’s post, stating that he’s not profiting from his websites.
Despite the controversial compensation, Hoon said that he has received 153 applicants so far, including some from India and Indonesia. But the foreign applicants have been rejected as he is only looking for locals for the role.
When asked about his future plans, the employer simply said that he would continue working on his hobby blogs.
On the Vertical Template site though, Hoon appears to have grand ambitions — he laid out plans for the blog to be completely independent by 2021 and be sufficiently funded by 2030.
“By 2050, we have to hand over the projects to the next generation of pioneers who will continue to grow this project and nurture the next generation,” he said.