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NAQT Consistency Bonus Program

Posted: Fri Nov 03, 2017 4:31 pm
by setht
Hi all,

as Andrew noted over in this thread, in July NAQT began offering a "consistency bonus" to writers who reliably write questions each week. We're very pleased with the response to the program, so we plan to offer a similar program next year, and we thought we should let everyone know in hopes of attracting yet more consistent, high-quality writers. I want to caution that I will quote some numbers below that are specific to this year's iteration of the program; I hope we will be able to offer similar or even better terms next year, but it is possible we'll wind up needing to spend a bit less on these incentives next year.

There are two components to the consistency bonus program: an automatic bonus offered to every writer with no strings attached, which Andrew mentioned in the other thread; and a high-volume writing program that gives top writers a chance to earn job-level money writing questions (which comes with more of a commitment and a few [hopefully not too irritating] strings attached).

General consistency bonus

Writers who consistently write a certain number of questions each week earn a bonus on top of our usual writing rates, ranging up to an additional 40% per question. With our current pay rates, a writer can earn up to $10.15 per tossup. Note that this pay rate corresponds to a full 40% consistency bonus paid to a top-tier writer who writes a tossup at regular IS difficulty or higher (we pay a bit less for middle school and IS-A tossups, since they're shorter).

All NAQT writers are eligible for this bonus without having to do any additional work. No sign-up or other action is required—writers just write questions, and NAQT calculates the appropriate consistency bonus automatically. There's no commitment to write questions every week. Writers can not write anything for months, then start writing consistently and earn the bonus. I won't write out all the gory details of exactly how the consistency bonus is calculated, but a writer needs to write approximately X questions per week to earn a consistency bonus of X%. (Writers can peruse the gory details on NAQT's administrative site.)

High-volume writer bonus

In addition to the general consistency bonus offered to all our writers, we also implemented a souped-up program meant to give a few excellent writers the opportunity to make quizbowl writing a serious source of income. These high-volume writers, or HVWs, earn a consistency bonus of up to 70% in exchange for consistently writing (at least) about 50 questions per week*. This means the HVWs can earn up to $12.325 per tossup. There are some other perks and quirks of the program, but the broad-strokes picture is "write many questions, earn lots of money." Roughly speaking, we anticipate that HVWs can earn about $27,000 in a year, while writing about 3,000 questions. We assume writing this many questions would be roughly equivalent to a full-time job, but if someone wants to accept an HVW offer while also doing other work—and they can handle the workload without burning out—more power to them.

* We don't require 50 questions every week: a week with "too few questions" simply results in a smaller consistency bonus the next week; HVWs earn some "vacation passes" that can be used to avoid consistency bonus reductions; etc. The idea is that HVWs will write 50+ questions most weeks, but we understand there will be some gap weeks here and there. The main thing is that we do want HVWs to commit to producing 50+ questions most weeks; writers who want to aim for something more like 40 or fewer questions per week can earn the same consistency bonus through the general program.

Our HVWs this first year are Rob Carson, Mike Cheyne, Auroni Gupta, and Will Nediger. Danny Vopava recently accepted an offer to become our fifth HVW and will join us in a few weeks. If you have any questions about what it's like working as an HVW, please feel free to ask them—all four of our currently active HVWs have said they're happy to share their thoughts.

We don't anticipate taking on additional HVWs in the 2017-18 competition year, but we hope this information will be of interest to people in the 2018-19 season and beyond. If you are intrigued by the idea of writing quiz bowl questions full-time for a year (or longer!) after graduation, you may want to sign up as a (very part-time) writer at the next opportunity; we expect that most of our future HVWs will be chosen from existing writers who are familiar with NAQT's technical infrastructure, style, and difficulty guidelines, and who have demonstrated they can maintain high quality and consistency through the general program. If you're interested, we encourage you to: 1) let us know; 2) sign up to write for us (if you're not already signed up); 3) start writing questions so you can advance to the top writing tier (if you haven't already)—this will help signal to us that you're a good candidate, and it will help you hit the ground running with a higher pay rate if you are hired as an HVW.

If you have any questions or comments about the general program or the HVW program, please feel free to post here or email me.


Re: NAQT Consistency Bonus Program

Posted: Thu Nov 09, 2017 12:22 pm
by naan/steak-holding toll
Just popping in to say, once again, that writing for NAQT is an awesome experience, and this has only made it even better. NAQT continues to take major strides towards the professionalization of quizbowl production, and making quizbowl writing a feasible primary or secondary/supplementary source of income for more people is a huge one.

Re: NAQT Consistency Bonus Program

Posted: Tue Jan 23, 2018 4:07 pm
by Cheynem
I've worked in the HVW program for slightly less than a year. I want to walk through what I would describe as a "typical" week to give you an idea of what being in this program is like.

Each week, in order to qualify for the high consistency bonus, I have to write (or edit, but I only write at this time) $247.50 worth of questions. I typically like to go for about $300-$310 each week, though. If I do this every week, typically I'm going to be making around $2,000 to $2,500 a month give or take (payment sometimes is slightly less or more, depending on if your questions are getting edited--i.e., if you're writing for sets that are a ways off they might take a while). For someone such as me who has low cost of living (I'm living at home and saving money), this is a sufficiently fine income (taxes and health care aside, it's actually about the same or even more than I was making as an assistant professor). Obviously your mileage may vary. I also teach on a part-time basis to further add some income.

Each week, I also get a "weekly assignment" of around 23 questions (something around 10 bonuses and 13 tossups, usually). These assignments are for specific topics and sets (like "American Literature, MSNCT"). Doing the whole assignment usually takes up around $150 to $180 of the weekly sum I need to achieve. The rest I fill with questions I just write for stockpiling purposes (frequently I allot around 6/6 a week for this purpose or if I get an idea for something), and questions that fill specific needs in other sets (so, for instance if we have a MS set that needs to be completed in a few weeks, I'll just claim 5/5 of that).

By writing around 6/6 a day, a little more on occasion (particularly in the final push), I can usually get to around $300 by the end of Thursday or put in a very short work day on Friday. Now that I'm teaching, that's helpful because I can use Friday and the weekend to get caught up in course plans and grading. But having a three-day weekend every week is pretty cool. Obviously, you can set your own schedule. If you want to space things out even more or if you have a second job during the week and want to use more of your weekends, the beauty is that it's pretty flexible.

What are some things that are difficult? Well, the job certainly values care, being a "team player," and production more than keeping yourself amused or academically stimulated. I've written very few ICT-level questions (there just aren't that much and a lot of freelancers seem to jump towards those). In contrast, I've written a LOT of middle school, MSNCT, and A-set questions. The challenge sometimes is to think about "what's a good way of doing another tossup on Ernest Hemingway without being too hard or too stupid?" It's not always the easiest thing to do--I think I've unintentionally written the same question a few times and had to go back and delete it. You lose track of what you've written on when. Keeping lists of question topics and ideas is probably imperative. The basic point here is that you're not going to create a symphony of CO-level brilliance in this job--I can say the skill of "can you produce a good question on Edgar Allan Poe in 10 minutes?" is more valuable here, than "can you figure out how to ask about Charles Brockden Brown in a middle school set?").

You also don't have total freedom to write whatever you want. Some questions (such as American history) are easy to stockpile and thus NAQT can rack up a surplus pretty quickly. There are topics definitely not in my forte (like science) that I've had to try my hand on (unclutch your pearls, Eric Mukherjee, I'm talking about middle school science here). I've had to work on too many current events questions to name. I like this in a way, though, as you get to broaden your horizons.

People in NAQT are pretty easy to work with. I've gotten nice feedback from some editors about the quality of my work. The system is pretty easy to figure out, even for me, a notorious moron with this sort of thing.

So, to sum up:

Key Strengths: Flexibility, good workload, reasonable income (relative to work put in), supportive company and system
Potential Flaws: not a great sole income course, requires high patience and timeliness, not necessarily the most creatively fulfilling work (at times)

Re: NAQT Consistency Bonus Program

Posted: Tue Jan 23, 2018 7:16 pm
by theMoMA
Thanks for the post, Mike. I've been in charge of supervising the HVW program this year, and from my perspective, it's gone very well. I've really appreciated your (and Rob's, and Will's, and Auroni's) willingness to kick in questions and provide helpful feedback to shape the future of the program.

One minor clarification to Mike's post above: our writers at tiers 1 and 2 (all of the HVWs are tier 1) are paid for questions upon submission (i.e. all tier 1 and 2 writers, not just HVWs, do not need to wait for the editor to accept and edit the question before being credited for payment, which is sent at the end of the month). The only exception is when a question is marked for rewrite and sent back to the writer for revision. In this case, the initial up-front payment is deducted, and the writer (no matter what tier) is not credited for (re)payment upon resubmission, but upon acceptance of the question by the subject editor. (We do it this way so that questions already marked as problematic are not seesawing between paid and unpaid after the first rewrite.) It can sometimes be confusing to know what you've been paid for, and when--NAQT sends lump-sum checks and the payments page isn't always the most intuitive thing to sift through--but any NAQT writer can certainly email me with questions about that sort of thing.

Also, in case you weren't following Mike's math, the reason that writing $300+ worth of questions a week adds up to $2,000-$2,500 worth of questions a month is because of the bonus (up to 70%, depending on consistency) that HVWs earn on top of their raw payments. So in a month of about 4.5 weeks, $300 per week will add up to $1,350 in raw payments with a bonus of about $950 on top. (This bonus is also paid to our consistent non-HVW writers, who can earn up to 40%; a tier-1 writer producing about $200 a week (this is roughly the 40% threshold for a tier 1 writer) will earn about $900 in raw payments and an additional ~$630 in bonus payments each month.)

Regarding the program itself, I think Mike is dead on about the positives and drawbacks. As a high-volume writer, you will write a lot of lower-level questions, and some of them might be outside of your typical wheelhouse. For people who, as Mike said, want to broaden their horizons, this can be interesting, but it can also be hard. As someone who's tried to write 10+ questions a day for several months at a time, I can say that the amount of writing is both a lot and a little. It's a little when, on a good day, you cheerfully sit down and write your target number of questions with little resistance, and are done in a couple of hours (and then marvel that, if you do this every day, you'll make a considerable amount of money). It's a lot when, on a bad day, you have trouble bringing yourself to do any work at all, and you don't have anyone yelling at you to make sure it gets done like at a typical job. That said, I think there are really strong benefits to being an HVW (or a writer earning a high consistency bonus for regular work), if your schedule and living expenses allow you the flexibility to do so; you can turn your extra time into a solid income with a much higher per-hour wage than almost any other piecemeal job can offer, and you can learn things and perpetuate quizbowl while doing it.

Re: NAQT Consistency Bonus Program

Posted: Tue Jan 23, 2018 7:28 pm
by Cheynem
Yes, I stand corrected on the payment thing; I was misinterpreting something I read on the NAQT page. I will say because of the nature of the work, the paychecks are not going to be an exact beast, so they are rather variable by month (not to an extreme, but 2,000 to 2,500 is something of a range).