More Competition or Better Odds?

There’s plenty that ticks me off when it comes to retailer behavior these days. Customer service is nonexistent (in my area, anyway), companies make excuses, choose to ignore customers or worse, blame them for not doing something correctly. Instead of fixing an issue and retaining customer loyalty, they operate on the “gee, that’s just too bad” model. My recent order from Target is no exception.

I waited impatiently for the day when they sold Missoni – a specific day. September 13th. I was up at 7 am, order placed by 7:15 am. Four days passed when I got my first notice – the order was delayed. No problem. I expected they’d have too many orders to contend with. Last week, I got another “order delayed” email. Whatever.

Then yesterday, notice that my entire order had been canceled. To that I say WTF? Actually, I said it more than once, and I tweeted my discontent. I get that there are limited supplies sometimes, but a month’s delay to tell me I’m out those cute shoes and dress? I can’t type what I’m thinking right now. See above.

The Demand Media debacle-du-jour has the Internet and Twitter abuzz with musings on just how much competition the soon-to-be-unleashed writers will pose for the rest of the writing community. Some are concerned that competition for those one-off gigs will now be fierce, and that work that used to come to us readily will now be harder to locate.

Either way, I say there’s plenty of room. And I wish the former DM writers all the best as they find their footing. This blog and plenty others have the resources you’ll need to build a better business. Stick your neck out – say hello here, ask for help, show us what it was like. We’re here for you if you’re serious about doing it right this time around.

But I suspect many DM writers won’t survive the transition or be competition for veteran writers. Here’s why:

They’re brand new at it. First, many of the DM writers are new to marketing – as in wet-behind-the-ears squeaky new. That they’ll suddenly be vying for gigs at the veteran level seems unlikely. The smaller gigs are ripe for the picking, though.

Marketing is foreign. Here’s where I think we’ll see many DM writers give up. The DM model eliminated the need to market, to vie for the job. A good number of DM writers haven’t marketed before and don’t know where to start.

It’s now harder. Not all DM writers are interested in working harder in order to build a career. I’d bet a good portion were happy to be handed work without having to think about it. Add marketing, handling clients, and billing to the mix and you’ve now just increased the stress factor significantly.

The clips aren’t there. We’ve talked before about DM writers being turned away by editors and the like because their clips from DM were not welcome proof of ability. That will still hold true, and many DM writers will have to start from scratch or hope to find a sympathetic soul willing to take them on anyway.

Former DM writers, what was it like jumping into the career headfirst post-DM? Writers, are you concerned about the influx of writers into the community?

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  • Cathy Miller October 13, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    I think I sighed out loud when I read that some writers are concerned about the added competition from DM writers.

    If you are always seeing the glass as half empty or believe the sky is falling, how will you succeed in life?

    Control what you can control, which is your writing/your business and do your best to make it shine. Just think of the huge need for content in the world and go grab yourself some space. Believe in yourself.

    Write on.

  • Jake P October 13, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    Meh, 100% unconcerned, same as with all of the ex-journos who've been bounced from mags and papers in our town. In fact, I'm mentoring a couple of them—because they were there for me as clients for many years, and I'd really like to see them succeed. Anyway, I wish ex-DMers the best of luck, and hope they figure out the business end of things quickly. Otherwise…"Hellllooo, Darwin!"

    Sorry to hear your tale of shopping woe. Customer service follies drive me nuts.

  • Lori October 13, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    Great pep talk, Cathy! 🙂

    I understand why writers are concerned – there are a ton of new writers being dumped into the market by DM's move. Not all of those writers are beginners, so there's a modicum of concern. But honestly, if you're working a specialty, the chances are pretty slim you're going to be affected too much. Frankly, I know I won't – who wants to write about workers comp all day besides me? 🙂

  • Lori October 13, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Jake, I'm not concerned, either. There are plenty of gigs at all levels. If I'm competitn for low-paying gigs at this stage, I've got bigger issues!

  • Lori October 13, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Ack! I can't spell. That would be "competing."

  • Wendy October 13, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    I’m not concerned at all. A lot of the writers working there now seem to be using it for extra cash or see it as just a job (not any kind of writing career). I also guess that a good majority aren’t interested in marketing themselves as a business, so I could see them scouring the job board sites or bidding sites.

    There are just too many opportunities out there for us all. Like Jenn pointed out in one of her posts, there are many specialty areas to niche yourself into. Some are in the topic area and some are in the type of writing area. My clients are all local, so it’s not likely any of them would take over my projects. Even if they did, I have plenty of other options to fall back on.

  • Devon Ellington October 13, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    Not worried at all. Most of them worked for DM because they aren't good enough or motivated enough to land the jobs at fair rates on their own. They'll go for the lowest paying gigs again, because that's what they're used to, and natural selection will cull the herd.

    The few that have talent and motivation will learn, apply what they learn, and build a career.

    There can never be too many good writers. There are plenty of bad ones, and, eventually, they fade away.

  • Paula October 13, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    "Helllooo Darwin," indeed!

    I was a bit more concerned about added competition from a glut of former newspaper editors and writers than I'd ever be about even the most talented of DS writers.

    Why? Freelancers need more than talent. We also need tenacity, gumption, persistence – whatever you choose to call it. Newspaper pros have those qualities. If DS-ers had the combination of talent and tenacity needed to succeed, they would have done so by now, like some of the former mill writers who've shared their stories about using the mills while also building legitimate credits and a solid foundation for their now-thriving freelance careers.

    And Lori – what is Missoni?

    My biggest complaint with Target would be that it took them a month to let you know the items you'd purchased 15 MINUTES after they went on sale were somehow sold out.

    On a positive note, I had good customer service the other day from USBank. I have a credit card that earns points toward "free" groceries at Kroger-owned stores. USBank recently took over those accounts from the previous card issuer. No joke: the day I activated the new card, all of the Kroger-owned stores in town were sold to another grocery chain. There are no more Kroger-owned stores within a couple hundred miles. When my bill came, I saw I had 900+ points. (You get 1-3 points per item you purchase, and with groceries the points add up fast; 1000 points = $10 to use toward groceries). While the fine print on the card agreement said the points cannot be transfered and had no real cash value, I figured it wouldn't hurt to see if they could credit my account to compensate me for the points I'll never be able to use. The customer service guy checked, they couldn't do that. I asked for a lower interest rate, but I already had the lowest they offer. He put me on hold a few seconds then said, "What I can do is give you a $5 credit on your account." They didn't have to do a thing, but did. Sometimes it's the small gestures you remember most.

  • Lori October 13, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    Right here, Paula:

    Good insight, Wendy. I agree. The competition won't hit many of us because of where and how we conduct business.

    Right you are about there never being too many good writers, Devon. It seems wide open for those who are willing to put the time and effort into it.

    Paula, it is exactly that kind of service that makes people appreciate a company and remain loyal to it. It's why I've stayed with AT&T for my cell phone. Those people have given me more unasked-for credits because a kid sends too many texts, signs up for games without knowing, or because I forget to turn off roaming on my phone when I'm overseas…

  • Cathy Miller October 13, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    Didn't mean to sound unsympathetic, but really think about it. There is an endless need for content in our 24/7 connection. Someone has to write it. Why shouldn't it be you?

  • Lori October 13, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    Cathy, you don't. You sound like a writer too busy to worry about a few more writers in the world. 🙂

  • Paula October 13, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    Thanks for the link, Lori. All that fuss just to get items the first day they're available?

    Thank goodness I've always been of the "Wait for the sale, and even then don't get caught up in they hype of Black Friday type deals" ilk.

    Maybe I'm just lazy – nothing is worth the pandemonium of going to a store for something like that. You did the smart thing and went online – too bad it didn't work out. I'm sure they'll re-stock soon.

  • Anne Wayman October 14, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    Where have I been? Didn't know until yesterday Demand was cutting writers, however they frame it. There will be no way to prove it, but I suspect something like 10% of those let go will go on to shine and discover they can make real money – and I welcome them. The rest will do something that most likely will have nothing whatsoever to do with me.

    Lori, write target and tell them they were wrong.

  • Denise October 14, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    I'm a former Demand Studios writer. I'm actually quite excited about the prospect of freelancing. This year will be used to work towards writing clips and establishing my blog.

  • Lori October 14, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    Paula, I've never done a Black Friday, either. It's not worth it to me to lose sleep in order to save fifty bucks.

    Anne, I hope your numbers are conservative. I hope a ton of their writers find their footing on their own, then go on to show other writers how to do it. There's room for us all.

    Target had my letter before I wrote this post. 🙂 I highly doubt it will matter, but I told them bluntly how their move made me lose faith in their company.

  • Lori October 14, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    Denise, welcome! I'm so glad you've made the choice to build your career.

    Questions? Ask away! Feel free to email me or just post here. We're here for you.