…and why maybe you wouldn’t want to.
The one-word answer to both, of course, is “pay.” The work is a source of income… but it’s low income. So pay scale is the prime differentiator: you’re willing to work cheap, or you’re not. The reasons against are obvious (you have too much work already and you’re trying to hold your income tax liability down, etc.), so let’s explore the reasons for.
1. The law of supply and demand is still in operation. True, the Internet has created a huge amount of demand, but it looks like supply has outrun it. If you’re freelancing as a writer today, you’re competing against 238,675 fellow freelancers – and that’s only in India. So don’t look for prices on content to go up any time soon. If you’re going to play in this game, that’s the market.
2. But you love to write; it’s what you do, and here are rolling fields of unlimited work for you to frolic in. Content is purchased by the yard, and subject matter doesn’t matter. There’s probably nothing you can write about that someone with a website wouldn’t find some use for and buy (cheaply, but see 1 above).
3. However, the demands on quality are strict — with a notable exception here and there. You definitely don’t want to be writing “cheap” content that no one reads. And if you get a reputation for writing great content, your pay can even begin to look better.
4. As the saying goes, where you stand on an issue depends on where you sit.
If you’re new to the trade, just breaking in, it’s no different from most other fields: like it or not, you don’t have any bargaining power except what talent you can display in those early low-pay assignments. It’s “paying your dues.”
At the other end of the scale, if you’re experienced but been away for a while and you’re short on contacts, you’re pretty much in the same spot. The difference is that if you decide to write cheap, you do it with some mental pre-conditions.
You’ve probably done a job or two in your life on spec that didn’t pay off; so you look at this as one of those, except that this one actually buys you a meal at Burger King. You’re keeping your hand in and getting paid for practicing.
The other reservation is that you know you’re not going to do it for long; you assume your work will look good amongst a lot of not-as-good stuff, and you’ll be promoted up off the bottom pay rung. If not, you’ll go back to doing it the old-fashioned way: beating the bushes for clients of your own. Fact is, with all the ways you can connect to other people these days, that’s not as hard as it was years ago.
What you’re fighting is the reduction of the writing process – idea, research, writing, rewriting, reviewing, thinking — to (wait for it!) “content.” Content is the label that turns the thing writers do into a commodity – like bushels of soybeans, or in this case hundredweights of words. That’s advantageous for buyers, of course, and explains why prices are what they are.
But realistically — and all of us writers are practical people, right? — it looks like content is here to stay, at least until something else comes along (information? entertainment?). For most of us, then, the pros of working with content outweigh the cons, though the amateurs will sometimes outnumber the pros and the pros might not be taking any prizes, either.
This Content Launch blog post written by veteran copywriter, Len Diamond.