2 writers who get paid to produce assignments to let lazy students cheat suspect ChatGPT is stealing their customers

2 writers who get paid to produce assignments to let lazy students cheat suspect ChatGPT is stealing their customers
One writer for hire said demand for her services had "cratered quite a bit" since ChatGPT's launch in November.Getty Images
  • ChatGPT can produce pretty decent-sounding essays — though it sometimes makes up facts.
  • Colleges are afraid ChatGPT will lead to a surge in cheap and easy cheating.

ChatGPT, the artificial-intelligence chatbot developed by OpenAI, can write pretty decent-sounding essays and even pass some exams. While professors fear it'll facilitate cheating, some of those who make money by writing other people's assignments say they're already losing business.

Insider spoke with Austin and Taylor, who both get paid to help college students cheat. They asked to remain anonymous and use pseudonyms because of the nature of their work, but Insider has verified their identities, academic credentials, and work histories using documentation.

They're both well qualified. Austin, 26, majored in computer science at the University of California, Berkeley. Taylor, 46, holds a doctorate from a prestigious US university, which she asked Insider not to name to protect her identity.

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"I think ChatGPT has the potential to completely disrupt what I do," Austin said. Taylor added that demand had "dropped considerably."

Contract cheating is a secretive but potentially lucrative industry

Taylor, who's been writing students' assignments full time for almost nine years, told Insider that the work — at least before the rise of ChatGPT — was far less precarious than her previous work as a college lecturer, where she faced contracts and low pay.


She first found out about the so-called essay-for-hire industry in 2014. "I began my professorial career as a one-year lecturer at a flagship state university," Taylor said. "I had some students who were barely literate, judging by the content in their in-class written exams, and then they would turn in out-of-class essays that were just brilliant."

She said these essays weren't flagged by plagiarism-detection software. After she shared her confusion, colleagues told Taylor about the bespoke essay-writing business and she decided to try it out herself.

Taylor said she charges $20 to $50 per page depending on difficulty but mainly works through third-party companies that often take a cut.

She said demand had "cratered quite a bit" since ChatGPT was launched in November. She said that while she used to consistently find at least 50 hours of work a week, over the past two months she's struggled to find half that amount.

"I'm currently looking for other types of writing work, because there's really no way to see where this is going to go," Taylor said.


Austin charges about $35 per page, plus additional fees for research, and estimates he can write a page in about 15 minutes. He said business had been "really slow" since "ChatGPT went mainstream."

Austin, who advertises his services on Reddit, said he completed 26 assignments in December and January, compared with 58 in October and November, a 55% decline. While many college students are on winter break in December and January, Austin said he didn't have a similar dip in the 2021-22 academic year, as post-vacation deadlines and long-term assignments piled up for students.

These essay writers aren't using ChatGPT themselves

Taylor said she'd played around with ChatGPT but ultimately found it to be more labor-intensive than writing the essay herself. "I think it takes more work to fix what ChatGPT produces," she said.

Austin agreed. If you want ChatGPT to produce a high-quality assignment, he said, you have to do lots of research yourself, feed in lots of sources, carefully structure your prompts, and proofread the output intensively — because ChatGPT may make up facts.

Taylor said she's hoping some of her former clients might return once they realize they're getting a worse product from ChatGPT or when software can reliably detect artificially generated text. But those hopes haven't done much to assuage her nerves. "ChatGPT learns over time, so it could improve itself," she said.


Some people think it'd be a good thing if ChatGPT were to permanently disrupt the essay-for-hire industry.

Christopher Bartel, a professor of philosophy at Appalachian State University, previously told Insider: "I've actually had some colleagues suggest that the nice thing about our artificially generated text is that it democratizes cheating. It used to be that only rich kids could pay somebody else to cheat, but now everybody can do it."

OpenAI did not respond to a request for comment from Insider.

Have you used ChatGPT to write your assignments? Get in touch with this reporter at sstacey@insider.com