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Thoughts on Freelance Content Writing

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Here’s the current state of the world, at least as far as freelance content writing…

With the advent of the Internet, there rose a disturbing trend toward everyone and their brother growing to labour under the delusion that they were a writer. What began as the free and open sharing of information across the globe turned into something else where anyone could publish anything and call themselves a writer. The Internet is subject to the laws of publishing and once you put something out there, well, then you’re a published writer, right?

In recent years, affordable and free web hosting prices and blogware platforms have given many their need-fulfilled for fifteen minutes of fame and so adding to their mistaken impression of themselves while lending them the further illusion of legitimacy. At the same time, the behind-the-scenes working of web crawling technology itself used by the major search engines that targeted keyword-heavy web page content precipitated the rise of software that would rework existing published freelance content to avoid search engine penalties. Meaning? Anyone with a computer could steal anyone’s freelance content. And reshape it to sell elsewhere, passing it off as original content to capitalise on your research and time without any skill and without doing any of the work.

And they could do it fast.

The result? Even a fifth-grader could churn out thousands of content articles a month while under-bidding on what were once the bread-and-butter jobs of legitimate freelance content writers and making it impossible for the rest of us to make a living on writing content. This software often resulted in producing nothing but gibberish, heavy with targeted keywords.

In the midst of this, companies started to see the sub-par work contracted and paid for and the trust relationship in an outside professional was eroded. I’d even say beyond eroded and was just plain broken, so badly in fact, that these companies would no longer chance laying out more money to legitimate writers who could help them fix the mess or flesh out their website or social media content with good, solid copy.

In the past five years, I’ve seen the change in trend and if you’re a content writer I know you’ve seen it, too. Forget setting your price list while the preponderance of ads looking for freelance writers demanded free samples of work before even opening a dialogue with you or have bordered on downright rudeness or perpetuating the assumption that writing is not a real profession. You’ve seen those ads, the ones along the lines of “I don’t have time or I’d do it myself. Don’t bid high, because I won’t pay a lot for this job.”. I can’t blame them after seeing some of what’s been produced and what they’re now stuck with on their websites. But my time is worth money and so is my creativity.

If you’re a real writer and wondered what the heck has been going on the past few years where you’ve seen every project, even major ones, under-bid into pennies to the point you’ve had to go back to taking an outside job, because you can no longer make a living at your craft… This has been our reality.

The good news? This trend is dying out.

Sure, I have a lot of skills and can and have turned them toward a lot of things, but I’m a trained professional. I’ve studied and continue to study my craft, I work at it every day and have for a very long while. I also know I’m not alone. While my fellow writers and I might be in competition for jobs, at the same time, we’re also a brotherhood of artists working to make a living at what we love.

Companies who contracted out for content “experts” are now growing to understand that they got burned, badly, by fly-by-night, sub-par piece workers who couldn’t write their way out of a paper bag.

And now they’re looking to us again, with a bit of hesitation and scepticism, but looking again they are. There is hope.

Even the function of search engine web crawlers has evolved–they no longer crawl only for the key-word heavy blocks of text and now seek factual, actual content. This is huge and lends more momentum to the pendulum swinging back the other way.

What does this mean for us, the brotherhood of professional freelance writers? I wouldn’t say anything as ridiculous as you’re likely to become a millionaire now, but in time, you may be able to support yourself on your craft once more. And that’s all that matters, because that’s what it’s all about.

The upswing appears slow, but give it some time. If you’re out there every day, then I know you’ve seen it, too. Continue to be persistent, and continue to respond to ads with your valid and legitimate price list while leaving the uneducated to underbid each other into pennies. In time, when they realise the rest of us have an edge–experience and a true craft that they can’t compete with–they’ll fade away and leave the field clear for the professionals.

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