Whenever I have something on my mind regarding content sites, I struggle with whether or not to discuss it here. I’m sort of tiring of the discussions mostly because at this point it’s the same people (on both sides) beating their same tired arguments to death. It’s resulting in a lot of name calling and finger pointing and it gives me a headache.
On the other hand, I really want to address some of what I’ve been reading lately.
I won’t be insulted if you skip this post in favor of one not geared towards web content sites. I’m pretty sure you’re tired of reading about this as well and while I promise to try not to continue to dwell on this topic too often. I’m not going to steer clear of honest discussions regarding rates, opportunities and putting some myths to rest. Love them or hate them, it’s important to have a dialogue regarding content sites (and all forms of writing) in order to clear up misconceptions and allow writers to make informed decisions.
After reading Carson Brackney’s post about clips yesterday, I realized I’m in a unique position. You see, unlike most of the bloggers discussing web content, I have actually worked for these sites. Not only have I worked for web content sites, but I worked for other (much) higher paying places. Plus, I hire writers. It allows me to look at the web content issue from all angles, instead of making judgments based on other people’s judgments.
What really bothers me most about the web content debate is how a large number of the detractors have no idea of what it’s like to work for these sites and take rumblings from some disgruntled writers as Gospel. I’m not saying web content models don’t need improvement, or that all are a positive experience, but there are so many misconceptions floating around it’s easy to see why writers are confused.
Today I thought I’d explore some of the arguments and discuss whether they’re true, false or somewhere in the middle.
Web Content Sites are Low Payers
True: They don’t pay top dollar, that’s for sure. Some of the wages are downright insulting. I’ve even seen blog networks paying $1 or less a post. There are some other content sites offering a revenue model, which can work well but not for everyone. The pay for all of these sites won’t even come close to the dollar worders most anti-web content freelance writing bloggers like to use as an example of good pay. There are also flat fee sites paying anywhere from $10 to $30. None of these are high wages in the traditional sense.
It depends on what you’re writing and who you’re writing it for. For example, if you’re an automotive engineer and you write two to three automotive how to type articles per hour, off the top of your head, you now earned $30 – $45 per hour. $45 per hour doesn’t suck. If you’re a brand new writer with no expertise in a particular area, taking three hours to write a $15 article makes bad business sense. Yes, you can earn a good rate of pay with web content, but you have to choose the right kind of content. Keep in mind we’re not talking about heavily researched writing. For that a writer should be paid more money and put time and effort into doing it right.
Web Content Site Clips Won’t Help You Land Good Opportunities
Mostly False: I do know there are some editors who won’t look at a resume listing only Associated Content as a client. However, I also know there are plenty of people who hire writers and they don’t care where clips come from as long as they are well written. Not everyone who hires a writer is an editor and not everyone who hires writers cares about content sites one way or another. It depends on your market and the content-snobbiness of the editor. Any editor who makes it more about a content site than a very good piece of writing probably is in the wrong line of work.
Experience matters. Probably anyone who hires writers will take a clip from the Ladies Home Journal over a clip from Joe Blow’s Cheap Content Emporium. That’s common sense. Can content sample clips land you a lucrative writing gig. Absolutely. However, it’s also a good idea to diversify so your clips come from a variety of sources.
Web Content Sites Flood the Web with Poor Content
False: Poor writers and lack of proofreading flood the web with bad content. The problem is many content sites are hobby sites and the writers aren’t as skilled or diligent with their writing and proofreading. Why wouldn’t someone with an opinion want to receive payment for his desire to pontificate? If he can spout off about politics or NASCAR and a website wants to offer him a little change in the process, he’d be a fool not to take them up on on their offer.
Some content sites have editors and fact checkers on staff and won’t allow writers that are unqualified for particular topics. Even if certain content sites become more choosy about the people they hire, there will still be poor writing because everyone can be a published on the web. Citizen Journalists who have something to say will say it whether it’s on a blog, website or free article directory. Even if there were no content sites, we would still see an overabundance of poor and mediocre talent.If you police the content sites, you’ll have to go after everyone who puts amateur content on the web.
Web Content Site Writers are Inexperienced Newbies Who Don’t Know Any Better
False: The prejudice regarding content sites is creating some strong opinions towards writers for these sites. They don’t deserve that type of treatment. I know of one writer who used the term “hack” to describe web content writers. I know content site writers who are journalists, lawyers, pharmacists, educators and copywriters. They write for content sites for any number of reasons but they’re clearly not hacks. They’re not stupid either. They know exactly what they’re getting in to. Some will stay with web content sites and many will move on. That doesn’t mean they’re hacks. Most content site writers are well aware of their options and take pride in what they do.
Web Content Writing is Tedious
It depends: Web content CAN be tedious, it depends on who you’re working for. For blogging sites, the sky is the limit. Writers have carte blanche to discuss nearly any thing they like. For some article sites writers can choose from a list of titles. The tedious stuff comes mostly from the places that require you to write 30 articles on a given topic each month. I like to use what I call the “pallet rack example.” I once took on a client who paid me to write 30 articles about pallet racks. My friends, that was tedious and I was happy when it was over.
However: Not everyone who writes web content is doing so all day. They have more than one client and takes breaks as needed. Web content can be tedious, but each writer has a different experience. Generally, they break it up with different clients and different types of projects.
Web Content Writing is Driving Down the Rates
False: Conde Nast isn’t going to stop paying $1 per word because Associate Content pays $3 per article. Web markets and print markets are different. There are different revenue models and different types of writing. In fact, I’ve been noticing an increase in pay for content and blogging gigs. Five years ago, most regular blog gigs paid $5 per post. I’m seeing $20 per post as the low rate right now, with $35 to $50 per blog post as an average.
Also, I haven’t heard of a single case of a high earning writer being contacted by a client telling her he’s lowering her rates from $500 to $20. There were low payers 50 years ago and they didn’t drive down the rates, the low payers now won’t either. It’s just a matter of picking the kind of writing you want to do.
Content Writers are Robotically Churning Out Web Content All Day
False: Not all content writers write only content site stuff. Not all content writers work for one site only. Most like a little variety or use web content as a means of supplementing their income. They’re people not machines. Moreover, content sites aren’t sweatshops. Writers are able to set their own limits. They can write as much or as little as they like. No one is forcing them to work day and night writing evil, substandard web content.
All Web Content Sites Are the Same
False: Comparing web content sites is like comparing apples to brussel sprouts. They don’t look the same, the don’t have the same rules and they don’t pay the same. Some web contents sites are blogging sites while others require articles. Some web content sites pay $25 for an article while others pay $1. Some web content sites have a strict hiring policy while others don’t care who comes on board. Some web content sites have editors checking articles and rejecting bad content, while others don’t edit at all. Some require sources and references, others don’t check for factual information. To say they’re all the same is absolutely false.
Web Content Writing is Lazy
False: Web content writers aren’t lazy. They’re simply exploring a different avenue of writing. Because content site writers might not follow one writer’s tried and true format doesn’t indicate laziness, it means the writer is trying a different type of writing. It’s not lazy to enjoy an easy form of writing. Moreover, many web content writers also query, market and search for opportunities. From my observations, many web content writers work hard and give each job their all in order to dispel the content site myths. Taking one form of writing over another isn’t lazy. It’s a new kind of writing. Writers don’t have to take as many steps to reach the published and paid end result. That in itself doesn’t indicate laziness.
You’re Better off Starting Your Own Blog
Perhaps: It could be more lucrative to start your own blog and live off the residual income each month, this blog network is certainly proof of that. However, it takes time to build a blog. What are writers to do in the mean time? It took several years for this blog to break even, and even longer to bring in a profit. Blogging isn’t for the instant gratification crowd. Blogs are excellent sources of income when they hit, but it’s getting to that “hitting” point. This blog probably would have earned sooner if I didn’t have to do client work at the same time. So yes, blogs are good, but remember they take time to grow and time to earn.
Web Content Writers Only Write Web Content
False: Said it over and over above – nope. Not even close to being true. Web content writers enjoy a diverse portfolio of opportunities.
Web Content Writers Have No Aspirations to Seek Higher Pay
Wrong again: Most web content writers do aspire to higher pay as well as better opportunities. Many are using web content to start or supplement their income between queries or gigs. Some are earning Christmas money. Many just enjoy writing for web content sites and don’t understand why that’s so hard to understand. Show me one person who doesn’t wish to earn more money, and I’ll show you a big, fat, Pinocchio-nosed, liar.
With that said: Because web content is so easy, writers can get spoiled and not wish to break out of their comfort zones, but that isn’t because they don’t aspire to do better. It’s the lure of weekly pay, flexibility and quick projects that keep most content site writers doing what they do.
Web Content Is Not News
True: Web content isn’t news and doesn’t claim to be. Most of it is simple “how to” stuff or informational articles. It’s not in-depth reporting or journalism.
You Can Do Better
True: This is true with any job, though. Of course writers can do better than writing for web content sites, and, again, they know their options. Web content writers aren’t dummies. They know their options.
What are some of your questions regarding web content sites? Any rumors you’d like to address?