Failing at your own business–Freelance Test Writing

So the second online writing employment that I managed to snag was nothing like the disaster of Freelance Writing Essays. This job although based in China, just like the Essay Writing job, was run by an Irishman and I think that made all the difference. My assignment was to write articles for a TOEFL preparation course. Again, since I have quite a bit of experience working with English as a Second Language learners, I felt fully confident that I could handle this job.

The first requirement was to send a list of possible article topics for approval. I remembered the admonition, “write what you know”, so choose Mexican-related topics. My list was:

Monarch Butterfly Migration

Women in the Mexican Revolution

Environmental law in Mexico

NAFTA

Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System

Volcanism of Mexico

Merida Initiative

Yo Soy 132 social movement

The Irishman, my primary contact, approved the first 6 topics and asked for more information on the last two. I explained a little further but admitted that perhaps the Merida Initiative and Yo Soy 132 were too recent of topics to be included in a  collection of articles. And sure enough, The Irishman replied with “I’d be fascinated to read about contemporary Mexico; sadly we can’t allow contemporary social issues at all. For history and related topics, anything that might be controversial or too anachronistic, I’ve decided the most recent that we can go is the fifties, maybe sixties. The historical material tends to focus on subjects well out of the range of the majority of living persons, both to provide a challenge from unfamiliar information and to avoid controversy.”

The monarch butterfly migrates annually to central Mexico.

The monarch butterfly migrates annually to central Mexico.

Well, that’s ok, I had plenty to work with here. I wrote up an article on the Monarch Butterfly Migration and sent it out. The Irishman made some minor revisions and explained how the article should be formatted and named. I revised a little more and sent it back. On Tuesday morning, $30 was deposited into my Paypal account. I was a happy camper and immediately started in on the second topic.

Women were cooks, laundresses, nurses, soldiers, spies, and smugglers during the Mexican Revolution.

Women were cooks, laundresses, nurses, soldiers, spies, and smugglers during the Mexican Revolution.

I’ve done research before on Women in the Mexican Revolution (See Stories of the Revolution–Marcelina) and so was gung-ho about writing this one. I tried to be a little too creative and set it up as if it were an excerpt from a longer text. I also tried to rush the article and forgot to include my sources at the end. So the Irishman, out of concern that I had plagiarized the article, asked for some revisions and clarifications. I wrote back assuring him that the article was my own and that I had purposely written it in that manner and apologized for leaving off the sources. I made some adjustments, rewrote the beginning and ending paragraphs, added my sources and sent it again. On Tuesday morning, $30 was deposited into my Paypal account.

popo

I skipped down the topics list and spent the next week working on Volcanoes in Mexico. I sent the Irishman an email mid-week. “I have been working on the volcano topic and was wondering if I should include images, if not in the text then for the questions. The volcano topic would lend itself nicely to that sort of question.” To which he replied “Your suggestion is well meant but it makes me a bit worried; before you go on with this writing work you need to be aware that we are trying to emulate the tests that we’re targeting with as much authenticity as possible. We’re trying to get everyone to write in accordance with really precise criteria and alas, things that I might like or you might wish to include have to be discarded if they don’t resemble the tests. It’s not always an interesting process… though one does get to research and read about a nice and wide eclectic set of topics. So, no, no images.”

Okie dokie. No images. I wrote it up and sent it along. On Tuesday morning, $30 was deposited into my Paypal account. No revisions were necessary. The Irishman even sent me a rhyme that he remembered when he acted in the university as a mouth-warming exercise “Popocatepetl, Copper Plated Kettle.” I believe he was pleased with the article.

The reef system is home to more than 65 species of stony coral, 350 species of mollusk and more than 500 species of fish.

The reef system is home to more than 65 species of stony coral, 350 species of mollusk and more than 500 species of fish.

I decided to finish off the natural topics before I moved on to politics and researched and wrote an article on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. While doing the research on this topic, I ran into article after article about the preservation problems in Mexico. I bookmarked these articles for future use in Environmental Law in Mexico. I sent my article in. On Tuesday morning, $30 was deposited into my Paypal account.

The North American Free Trade Agreement has proven to be detrimental to Mexico.

The North American Free Trade Agreement has proven to be detrimental to Mexico.

I set to work on NAFTA. The Irishman seemed especially keen that I focus this one on the trade in South and Central America with North America with “plenty of detail on development over time and effect on Central American society.” Well, this one was a doozy. I had some vague ideas, mostly from seeing how the movement of factory jobs from the U.S. to Mexico affected U.S. small towns but hadn’t ever really examined the effect of those factories on Mexico. Again, I discovered issues with contamination and other environmental catastrophes that I bookmarked for the Environmental Law in Mexico article. This article took me more than a week to complete but complete it I did. I thought perhaps I was dancing on thin ice with the inclusion of the Zapatista movement since that might be considered “anachronistic” but on Tuesday morning, $30 was deposited into my Paypal account.

Activists of the environmental organization Greenpeace paddle their KAYAKS in front of Juanacatlan Falls in Mexico, one of the most polluted bodies of water in the country.

Activists of the environmental organization Greenpeace paddle their KAYAKS in front of Juanacatlan Falls in Mexico, one of the most polluted bodies of water in the country.

By far, the most complex piece was the article on Environmental Law in Mexico. I found, much to my surprise, that Mexico does indeed have excellent laws specifically geared for environmental preservation. The problem is the enforcement of those laws. Let me tell you, I was way over my head with this one. I wrote and rewrote and wrote again. I thought that perhaps again I was on the line about the time frame since I included situations that continued up to the 1990s in the article, but on Tuesday morning, $30 was deposited into my Paypal account.

However, now I had exhausted my topics list. So I sent a new one. And the Irishman responded “Amazing work. I’m totally humbled by how much-condensed reading you put into that last one. It’s clear that you want to pursue things related to Mexico. The interest and dedication that you have is a credit to us. That said, the highly contemporary nature of the trade agreement pieces puts them just a little bit at odds with the precedent given by the available body of previous pieces. Therefore, I’d love it if you could direct your energy at exploring older portions of the country’s history; I hope that’s okay. Therefore, of the topics below I think the architecture and the handicrafts might be the best direction to take, assuming you can bring the same expertise as you did with these latter economic/political ones.”

pyramid

The Pyramid of the Sun is the largest building in Teotihuacan and one of the largest in Mesoamerica.

Well, I guess those last two were a little too recent after all, but he liked them. I assured him that I would be more than happy to work on more historical pieces. I decided to go as far back as I could with Mexican history and researched Mayan hieroglyphics. On Tuesday morning, $30 was deposited into my Paypal account. Then I wrote about Mesoamerican Architecture, focusing on the ancient pyramids of Mexico. And on Tuesday morning, $30 was deposited into my Paypal account. And my final article was about The Florentine Codex written in the 16th century. On Tuesday morning, $30 was deposited into my Paypal account.

Sadly, the company that the Irishman worked for decided it had received enough submissions and my job ended the first week of February. It was fun while it lasted, though!

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3 Comments

Filed under Economics, Employment

3 responses to “Failing at your own business–Freelance Test Writing

  1. Well I differ with the Irishman and the TOEFL people. I try to find the most controversial articles in the recent newspaper that relates to the students lives in some way so that they will get all worked up and begin expressing opinions, thus getting the naturally shy Mexican students to speak in English. When they read TOEFL articles from their textbook about the wonders of movie stars or high tech utopia, I invert the subject to discuss why they would want to replace santos with movie stars or tech billionaires.

    But the important thing is not TOEFL politics. What you are doing with your writing of everyday life is more truthful than almost anything I read anywhere. Hardly anywhere these days is good mind ever set to the task of telling stories about what is really going on in most of the world. Thus most of reality is hidden under layers of abstract interpretation done by wizards who haven’t the time to become informed about the realities they attempt to control. For instance, your account of some of your ratero neighbors is more informative than any world-class economist’s analysis of 3rd World informal economies; or news reporting on such. Or your sister-in-law’s tortilla business and the nature of competition in Mexico. It happens all the time.

    In an era of superheros, you are among the few telling stories of what the world really looks like. keep up the good work…..and thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comments! I won’t go so far as to say that my accounts of the microcosm I live in are applicable to all of Mexico, much less the world, but they are true, every word. Truth is stranger (and more interesting) than fiction!

      Like

  2. Pingback: Trade Route Established | Surviving Mexico

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