We are Unemployed Professors, and we've been writing the things other people don't want to write for 12 years. AUA.
We are Unemployed Professors.
We've been writing the stuff other people don't want to write since 2011. B-plans, resumes, cover letters, breakup letters, dating profiles, your wacky aunt's self-published book, and some essays, too.
In that time, we've witnessed some fascinating and rapid changes in education, tech, writing, and how much gray hair we have (just kidding, we're all bald).
We have superpowers in fast, effective writing, and good insight into things like ChatGPT/AI and its relationship to writing, assignment design, and why your class discussion post really made us think. Do, or don't, get us started on the many crises impacting education right now and this whole writing industry that, like it or not, definitely exists.
You don't have to love us. We know we've got haters out there. But we do have a unique perspective, so go ahead and ask us anything!
Proof: Here's my proof!
EDIT: I think we're done for now - we'll try to pop back in with some answers if more questions come up, and there are a couple questions that we're still working on thoughtful answers for, but thanks so much for the interesting questions. Please check out our site if you have writing problems you need solved. We have some other cool projects coming soon, so follow us on socials, too.
Absolutely! A lot depends on where you are as a writer and what you're looking to improve. In general, the best way to improve your writing is to read, so any book would help.
On Writing by Stephen King is a pretty accessible classic with some feel-good and encouraging advice. It's aimed at fiction writers, but there are important lessons there.
On Writing Well by William Zinsser can be really helpful if you're trying to improve at academic or college writing.
If you're a grad student as I once was, "Write Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day" by Joan Bolker has an annoying title, but it was helpful.
And of course, one of our very own professors has written a couple of books about how to crank out papers, so we'd be remiss if we didn't mention that.
Hope this helps!
What's the strangest thing you've been asked to write?
Just one? Hm... Once a client had me write text messages to their friends and family. I don't mean the tough stuff like "Dear mom, this is why I'm going NC..." I mean, like, birthday messages. With lots of obnoxious back and forth about specific emoji and the relative nuance of "Happy birthday buddy!" While I admired that particular client's apparent fascination with the specificity of language, it was definitely strange.
“ With lots of obnoxious back and forth about specific emoji and the relative nuance….”
“…apparent fascination with the specificity of language…”
You may have been working for Patrick Rothfuss.
🥇 Take my poor unemployed man's fake gold
I used you guys a few years ago lol. Graduated since but I was wondering do you guys actively have a process of deleting user data after a period of time so as to make sure your customers can’t ever be identified/leaked? Or something along those lines?
Great question. Yes, we generally delete user data after about a year.
If you were actually employed professors, would you have different opinions on services like yours that, no matter what rhetorical justifications you employ, inherently allow others to pay to pass off someone else's writing as their own?
Interesting question. At one point in the past, we might have, but the way higher ed has gone - especially in the last several years - perhaps not.
So, non-answer is answer?
Please give an honest reply. Whatever the state of the academy - sure, programs will admit many more students than they can place in jobs - how do you justify plagiarism, which you would prosecute if you were actually employed as professors?
You earn money helping people cheat. Please respond honestly.
When we were working as professors, most of us had experiences in which our attempts to "prosecute" students for plagiarism - regardless of evidence or the hours we spent preparing the paperwork and evidence - resulted in things like: being told we were wasting everyone's time, being screamed at by chairs and course supervisors who felt we should be less "rigid" or that any plagiarism at all was a reflection of our poor teaching, being asked if we needed therapy because "maybe you just need to accept that your students are learning from you," abhorrent behavior and / or statements from the accused student(s) that led to more institutional shrugging, non-renewed teaching contracts or other penalties if our "prosecution" of the students resulted in poor evaluations or a number of F's in the course above a certain threshold, and ultimately, few or no consequences for the students.
So, in a sense, working as a professor could also be described as "earning money helping people cheat." The difference, of course, being that adjuncts don't really earn any money.
What are your top 3 tips for clear, concise, effective communication?
- Use the rule of 3's. No more than 3 points / ideas overall (if possible), no more than 3 clauses per sentence, try to use 3 examples to support each claim.
- Write in a goal-oriented way. If you're not sure about what you have written, ask what the sentence, or page, or paragraph, etc., is doing. If you don' t have a good answer, cut it or revise it.
- Counterintuitive: Don't get so caught up in being "concise" that you sacrifice clarity or effectiveness (or so caught up in being "clear" that you sacrifice effectiveness and concision...etc.); don't forget that the best writing often violates prescriptive rules; don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Often, people are better writers than they give themselves credit for, and worrying about whether a piece of writing fits into the paradigm of "clear, concise, effective" (or any other) can keep you from evaluating whether it truly does - which you can generally learn best by letting it out into the wild.
Well they got concise down...
I started to respond but then I got a lot of other comments and forgot to finish up, apologies !
I worked in higher ed for most of my career and agree with your assessment that it's become "capitalist credentialism." What would your top three changes be for overhauling our education system--k-12, college, or both?
I'm thinking - this is a great question and I don't want to rush an answer, nor do I want you to think I'm ignoring you.
Programs like ChatGPT have mesmerized a growing number of people, many of whom have taken to praising said programs for their abilities, their versatility, and their speed. While writers, editors, and people who read for enjoyment typically have no trouble detecting (and criticizing) details that make these machine-produced offerings utterly atrocious – the stark mismatches between concepts, word-choices, and emotional tones, for instance – the "magic trick" has nonetheless resulted in a lot of hype, especially amongst individuals who only pay attention to surface-level elements.
How do you, as professional ghostwriters, explain to writing-averse (or reading-averse) clients that your work – which is slower and comes with a monetary cost – will likely always be superior to what a glorified algorithm can offer?
I love this question.
I think of ChatGPT like a Faberge egg (or maybe at least like the original Mechanical Turk). It looks very fancy and valuable, but it's hollow. There is no internal reasoning within it. It is auto-correct on steroids and the things people say about it are frightening. It's not sitting there making algorithmic decisions based on questions like "What is the best way to write a five-paragraph essay on this topic?" or "As a large language model, what is my opinion?" or "What are the best resources to use to make this argument?" ChatGPT is just parsing through its memory of the corpus to which it's been exposed and making calculations based on what words or patterns it's seen previously.
ChatGPT can generate text and we can parse that text and think "Yes, these are definitely words, sentences, and paragraphs." It glitters with banal transitional phrases and its absolute adherence to rubric-driven writing. But if you tap on that facade of error-free, style-free sentences, it falls apart. It's all just filler, as I'm sure you know.
The problematic Venn Diagram is the intersection of expectations for algorithmic writing, under paid / apathetic / burned out educators or readers who just skim and look for writing with features that tick off boxes, and people who either cannot or who choose not to acknowledge the value of critical thinking and writing. That's where the real "magic" of ChatGPT lies: People who don't know good writing when they see it and perceive anything with written language as a horrible burden, who are producing content for an audience that is mostly only able or willing to identify superficial stylistic deficits, and an underlying structure (school, algorithm, whatever) that has created this, I don't know, golden calf of what "good" writing is: Something that can be crammed into five-interval rubrics and graded by AI and that keeps lowering the common denominator down to another level of hell.
So if ChatGPT is a Faberge egg, maybe we're the golden goose (or geese), because we write something that's more than just not incorrect. It isn't algorithmic because writing was never really supposed to be, because writing is supposed to be for humans: Messy, holistic, heuristic humans, not robots that are only capable of skimming for algorithms.
That's a great response. Thank you!
As a writer who has encountered similar challenges, I've taken to making comparisons between fast food and chef-prepared meals: Yes, you can get something from McDonald's in as much time as it takes you to groan out an order and swerve past the pickup window, and yes, the FDA has reluctantly classified the menu options there as "probably food," but you won't get nearly as much enjoyment, nourishment, or satisfaction out of the experience as you would from eating a dish that was prepared by a devoted and attentive professional.
If I feel the need to be less snarky, I just say that it's "bespoke" writing.
That brings me to my follow-up question: You mentioned that you specialize in "fast, effective writing," but "effective" can mean very different things in the contexts of different projects. How do you guarantee (or prioritize, at least) speed when effectiveness requires a slower pace, as with – to quote you once more – "your wacky aunt's self-published book," for example?
That's another great question. Pragmatically, as in, as a business, we guarantee effectiveness by offering revisions, refunds in certain cases, and we work hard to try and understand what our clients want and need on a general level. Most of the time, they have pretty specific, transaction-oriented goals in mind and that is where our domain expertise comes in handy.
From the writing perspective, a lot of effectiveness has to do with understanding goals and managing expectations. I don't do the wacky aunt crackpot ebooks anymore.
Apparently this post was deleted and we have no idea why :( so I'm not even sure this comment will go through, but I do appreciate your thoughtful questions.
How do you find clients? Do you take any project or do you have specific parameters? The education of all levels is so sad to see. It's been gutted and being shaped in ways that do not offer growth for the coming generations.
Most clients find us through Google or social media and come to our site. As a company, we take almost any project: Users can post their projects for free, so it's up to the market, as it were, to see if writers want to do it. But we do have some moderation in place, so some projects get flagged and taken down if they seem odd or "off."
As an individual writer, there are a few things I personally wouldn't do...there are some types of projects I really hate. I just absolutely cannot stand HR papers, and I have a few other boundaries and rules in place.
And yes, I agree with you about education. "Education" is just capitalist credentialism and training now. There's no opportunity to really learn or grow or explore or be curious. It has become a depressing charade for everyone, and that's why we exist, basically.
I agree. I'm into debt with a BA in psychology and can't find anything that fits for pay or education. I should have just kept doing what I was doing, I'd have been better off financially. I can see how HR would be the worst to write for! Thank you for your response!
Good luck. We definitely feel that struggle. If you like writing, I've heard there are some OK freelance opportunities on sites like SimplyPsychology I am not sure how good their rates are or how true it is they are always seeking good writers, but if that sounds decent to you, it might be worth a shot.
How can you guys possibly write a dissertation on behalf of someone else (I assume we're talking doctoral dissertations)? I just don't understand the logistics, given that a dissertation is something that takes years of work, completely original research, direct work with your dissertation advisor (ostensibly), and enough expertise in the niche subject of the dissertation that you could generate novel research findings. Beyond that, your client needs to be able to defend it on their own.
The sheer effort required to do that on someone else's behalf seems crazy. Is it basically like hiring a ghostwriter for months and years on end? How does it work? How much would this even cost?
- First, although we've done all kinds including doctoral, in the UK a dissertation is generally more like a BA capstone.
- I will say that there are schools, particularly online, where doctoral dissertations are not, ah, held to the same standard as they are in many other institutions.
- In many cases, our role in a client's dissertation has been to work on writing (primarily editing) whereas the client did the primary research; we've also provided services like research coverage (writing summaries and evals of potential sources to use in lit reviews).
- In a lot of cases, we've worked on doctoral dissertations as proofreaders, so we generally just did a final round of polishing / formatting.
- But, yeah, for someone who wanted to hire a ghostwriter for a full, traditional dissertation, it would be a lot like hiring a ghostwriter or assistant for a long time.
do you miss being professors?
Ah... this is a great question.
As an individual (not speaking on behalf of the company here), I do miss some things about being a professor:
- Those rare moments when my classes got really interested in something and we had a fascinating, invigorating discussion. The times when I learned from my students were best of all.
- I'm an extrovert, so I kind of miss just having a workplace with IRL interactions. There are also some specific colleagues I really miss.
- Maybe this sounds cheesy, but the optimism and energy of The Youth™. There is something infectious (nope, not COVID) about being around a lot of people who still have dreams and ambition and are just getting started ( that includes the many wonderful non-trad students who were in school at some other point in their lives) and generally think they have the world all figured out .
The number of campus events with free food.
I really do not miss:
The athletics apparatus. The shit with which I had to put up in the name of that institution, don't even get me started. At least now the athletes can make money.
The surprising lack of autonomy I had as an instructor. Everything that went wrong was my fault (including the academic integrity reports I had to make, or the reports from a few scary incidents involving immature students); everything that went well was just the Department™ or the course design or the textbook.
The egos. It might be my experiences, and this may be very different at other institutions, but academia seems to be a permanent state of big fish / small pond syndrome.
The growth of the customer service mentality. At least at UP, we've stripped away the performance of an educational credential not being a transaction, so it sort of makes sense.
Simultaneously not having the resources or background skills to bring disadvantaged (non-athlete) students up to the level needed to succeed in my classes AND having to grade on intangibles like "professionalism" that seemed to stack their disadvantage and ultimately result in just weeding out the first-generation or otherwise culturally disadvantaged students.
The hassle:bucks ratio of the entire experience. Teaching was sub-minimum wage.
On my best days at UP, I interact with students in ways that resemble the ones I wanted to have when I made my terrible life choice to become a professor. My favorite UP clients are the ones who are trying to learn and use the service more like tutoring.
On my worst days, I just try to learn how to code.
Could you share some of the more whacky or hilarious dating profiles/breakup letters you guys have written over the years?
Haha... While I assure you we have written some hilarious and highly effective ones, we'd never share client info like that ("It's not you, it's us"). Maybe a happy former customer will weigh in on this thread.
I should have asked for anonymised but that probably removes all the "good" bits
Fair play to ye though!
I think the fact that our writers are either happily married or happily single by choice speaks very highly of our dating profile and / or breakup letter abilities!
Do you ever work on peer-reviewed scientific literature?
Occasionally. There are lots of junk "peer-reviewed" journals that are basically pay-to-play. Every so often we get requests for full-pipeline research for those journals (I do not personally bid on those so I don't know how they progress). Sometimes we get project requests for helping with edits / proofreading / finalizing formatting and similar for completed research that's about to be submitted, or that journals have asked authors to revise/resubmit. I haven't worked on those tasks personally, but I know we've got a lot of professors who can probably do that in their sleep.
Can you write U.S. patent applications? (Have you ever written one?) Or do you only tackle the things listed in your post?
I personally have revised and edited a handful, but it has been a while. They were all interesting and worthwhile projects, though - stuff I hope got patented or comes on the market.
We'll write almost anything - the way our site works is, users post a project and then the writers bid. So if any of our writers has the time & qualifications to do it and the client likes the price, then we'll take it on. I've personally worked on letters about traffic tickets, written copy for online stores, B-plans (business and birth), content for MOOCs, recommendation letters, and once, a sex diary.
What are your rates like?
Our rates vary - users post a project (posting is always free), then writers bid on it. Generally, our rates start at $30 per page (where a page is about 250-300 words). Crazy deadlines and very challenging content can push the prices up.
That's so cheap I don't even want it.
We'd happily charge you more.
If you're asking what I wish people asked, then here are some questions I'd love to answer:
- What assignment or assessment design features make our jobs hard to do? (I have read so, so many comments by ✨Employed Professors✨ who insist their assignments are "cheat-proof"...)
- What broad trends have we seen in students / our customers over the last 10+ years?
- What sets us apart in an industry that's otherwise a "wretched hive of scum and villainy" ?
Y'all didn't try copywriting?
You do know it's not making hyperbolic ads. Your talent could work in your favour for advertising industry.
We actually offer copywriting through our site! Several of our professors have done copywriting projects, mostly for solopreneurs. In our experience, most businesses either have a huge budget for big-name ad agencies or want Fiverr-level pricing (yet they also want champagne-level results, go figure). That's one reason why we haven't really marketed ourselves specifically as copywriters.
Will you ghost write my Novel? *I have such amazing ideas*
LOL only if I get residuals when it is inevitably picked up by a streaming service
Publish or perish?
Publish fast, perish young, leave a beautiful corpse.
So, what broad trends have you observed in your customers over the last ten years?
Great question, haha. We've seen a lot more non-traditional students, along with a lot of customers completing some kind of mandated ongoing professional education - particularly nursing and teaching. We get way more grad students using our service than we used to, or at least that's my perspective. We also get a lot more requests for entire courses.
What do you think about ChatGPT detectors that try to tell whether someone has used it to generate text or not? Can they be relied upon? What are your thoughts on whether/how organisations and institutions should try to combat its use?
So I have more to say about how to combat it, and I don't want to rush that response. But here's my answer to your first 2 questions:
Right now, those detectors are absolute trash. Only fools would rely on them and I cringe every time I see a post on Reddit claiming someone has been falsely accused of using them.
But they're getting better. I don't think TurnItIn (itself notable for a lot of false positives) is going to squander that profit opportunity, and as I posted in the r/unemployedprofs subreddit a few weeks ago, TurnItIn is already giving MVP demos of its AI detector to educators.
I also think that humans are becoming quick to recognize AI-generated content.
Especially the humans who care about words and writing and do a lot (or even just a little) reading - I think it was u/ramsesthepigeon who mentioned that its style has become recognizable.
ChatGPT has been out for what, 90 days? 100? By this point, its writing style (or lack thereof) is practically a meme. Like pornography, people know AI writing when they see it. So I think that very, very quickly, humans who have to assess a lot of written content will get better at identifying it, and the detectors will get better, before the AI generator game itself gets better and then we'll be in another round of this AI-vs-humans game for a little while....but even if the tech iterates before the detection tech, I think that people who've learned to identify ChatGPT writing will bring not just their skills in identifying it, but also their (potentially, by that point, reactionary) suspicion to what they read, which will make identifying it easier - even if it is also potentially a minefield of false accusations.
You mentioned some of your clients using your service as a tutorial. Can you say more about that? I really want to write research proposals but have never written one before! Does paying for one (or two!) make sense as a way of helping me learn how to put them together well?
The nice thing about our service (IMO) is that it can generally be whatever people want it to be. Ghostwriter, assistant, tutor, cheerleader, whatever.
Some of our clients are pretty hands-on. Some of them just want revisions...or proofreading...or advice / encouragement. Sometimes they come to us with drafts and outlines. Sometimes they just have hypothetical ideas, as in, "I really like this book we read in a class, this theory interests me, what about this argument?" and sometimes we go back and forth.
Although we've written lots of research proposals, I would suggest you first ask your school or department for examples. That would be free (or, "free" with your tuition, anyway) and presumably, those would have the benefit of really specific comments from your advisors, who would know the context of your eventual proposal really well.
Do you see AI completely replacing this soon?
Nope, not at all. I have a couple of comments in this post about that, and we have some blogs on our site about it specifically. But the main reasons are:
- Current AI detection tools suck and I'm sure there will continue to be an arms race between AI and TurnItIn / its ilk, but the rapid growth of AI detection is going to put a real damper on the AI writing services that claim to do what we're doing.
- Large language models can't really think or reason. They can generate text without errors. They can't make arguments. They can't easily use external sources. It will be a long time before they can do those things, and by that point, the AI detection will be much better and more ingrained.
- The actual humans who still assess writing are also very good at detecting AI-driven content.
Do you have any book recommendations. Specifically books that improved your writing?
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