Return of the Demand(ing) Jobs

I have no idea why, but I spent the first part of yesterday absolutely exhausted. It was as though I woke up five minutes after going to sleep. Luckily by noon I was able to function better. Didn’t get much done beyond coordinating Anne’s and my next Webinar, but maybe it was smart to avoid too much thinking.

I was checking on my ads on Craig’s List and decided to scope out what offers are being bandied about on the Help Wanted side. This one had me rolling:
Install Me A Toilet

You can use a photo of the installed toilet in your portfolio or what ever you may need.

I Need A Toilet Installed For Free.. I Will Tell You Details If You Respond.

I Need A Fast One Made Please Respond Serious Inquires Only.

So Hurry Over ‘Cause I Have To Dump Another Shitty Post.

To Ask A Professional Artist To Work For Free Too!

I Need It Free And I Need It Fast, Is That So Wrong?

it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
Compensation: I’ll let you have a photo of the installation! Hooray! Yay!

Thank you, Craig’s List poster. It’s good to know that there are people out there who still get it – we’re professionals. We’re not a bunch of hacks.

When I heard the news about Demand Media cutting back on assignments for its “writers” I practically shouted “Ah HA!” Every smart writer I know has said it endlessly – this work that these writers claim is so fabulous isn’t going to last forever. A few of you actually put up posts a year or so ago urging DM writers to start looking elsewhere lest they find themselves without that $5 gig.

Jenn Mattern has a terrific series of posts going up this week about Demand Media’s pending changes and her subsequent post proving you have no reason whatsoever to work for content farms. They’re must-read material.

Economies being what they are, there are too many people jumping into writing without thinking or planning. This isn’t a get-me-by-for-the-moment hobby. It’s a career, a business. If you start out without direction, you’ll have no end of trouble trying to find the right one.

Why you don’t need to work for content farms or any article or SEO aggregator:

You can make money on your own. Why let someone take a cut of your earnings? They may not say they’re doing it, but they’re damn well earning ad revenue off your hard work and the work of others. You don’t need that.

You can set your own rates, thank you. Don’t work for people who tell you what you’re earning. Would you tell your plumber or mechanic his/her rates? Then don’t let someone else say “We pay $5 an article.” First, that’s crap wages. Second, that’s not their job. The exception – magazines do state their per-word rate, but you’re free to walk away from those that don’t fit your needs.

There’s plenty of work available. Jenn’s series of posts just scratched the surface of what’s out there. The reason you’ve not found work before – you got lazy. You camped out at these farms. You didn’t look and you sure didn’t put energy into finding better work.

Writers, have you ever worked for a content farm? What was the experience like? When did you jump ship? Why? What advice can you offer writers wanting to get off the content farm, er, wagon?

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  • Wendy October 11, 2011 at 11:53 am

    I would say that you should take advantage of the free material out there. It will help you decide if freelancing is for you or not. If it is, then you've got a lot of great stuff to use to get started.

    Since the assignments are dwindling at DS, now would be the best time to start searching. Don't wait until the last minute.

  • Lori October 11, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    Good morning, Wendy. 🙂

    You're right – there's so much free advice out there, and most of it good. If a writer is willing to take time to read and absorb the information, she'll increase her chances of building a strong career.

  • Paula October 11, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    A couple years ago, a librarian I know (the sister of one of my best friends) claimed she wasn't too worried about pending layoffs at the library. Why not? "I'll just be a writer, like Paula."

    Um, we were in the same creative writing class in high school, and all she did was write trite, boring retreads of her favorite romance novels. I remember she named one hero Mr. Carstairs. Sure. That should be enough to support you, your two kids and freeloading boyfriend. Luckily for her and readers everywhere, she was transfered to a smaller branch but kept her day job.

  • Kimberly Ben October 11, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    Back in the day, when I was first getting started, I worked with a California content farm (they paid better than DS, but a content mill is a content mill). Thankfully I was also actively marketing and building relationships with private clients too, but my logic at the time was that this mill would at least provide some steady income while I worked to get higher paying work. It was a means to an end for me – NOT a model for my business. The workload was sometimes intense and the deadlines more so (juggling mill work with client projects resulted in a few "all-nighters"). About 3 months or so later, the projects had all dried up. Some of the long-term writers (some had worked for this company for 3+ years) were caught unprepared and panicked. Thankfully I had enough clients that losing the mill didn't hurt too badly. It freed me up to find another client to take its place.

    If you've turn to mills because you want to earn a living writing without marketing yourself, I'm not really sure what to tell you. But if you want better paying work and just need to know what to do to get it, this blog and Jennifer's series are a really good place to start learning.

  • Lori October 11, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    She would have changed her tune the minute she had to make a living at it, Paula. We know that because we're doing it. She would have strugggled and failed with an attitude like that. "I'll just be a writer" is like my saying "I'll just solve global warming." It's just talk.

    Kim, I remember your being in that farm. It was a bit better paying – $20, wasn't it? I like that you had a plan. And like you say, without a plan, some writers are going to be stuck with no direction once the work disappears.

  • Lisa Cunningham October 12, 2011 at 3:37 am

    Kim, I agree with you. I wrote for Demand for a short time while I was getting my writing business off the ground. Finally, I realized that I had far more expertise than most of the writers on DS. I grew tired of trying to motivate myself to write for less than $15 an hour.

    Now I'd rather spend the time I used to waste on Demand marketing myself to businesses that have money to pay better. I also recommend selecting a niche. Mine is health care. Doctors and dentists can afford to pay good writers for their blogs, news releases and business letters.

    When Google changed its policy about not using the content mills' content for its top rankings, the tide began to turn. I'm thankful, actually, that DS has a lot less work for writers. That means that the professionals among us can shine.

  • Lori October 12, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    Lisa, thanks for offering your own experience. I think the appeal of the DS model for writers is it's "easy" work – meaning no marketing, no thinking, not much research. But it's not career-changing in the way many hope. It makes them complacent.

    I'm glad you made the switch. 🙂

  • Kimberly Ben October 13, 2011 at 2:40 am

    Yes, Lori, the mill I wrote for paid $20 and up, but I always earned so much better when I marketed my own services. I'd do a lot of things differently if I could do it all again, but I've learned a lot since then and I'm still learning. 🙂

    Lisa, having a specialty can make all the difference, and it sounds like you have a very good one. Some worry that this DS situation will mean more competition for clients, but I don't worry about that. Some writers unwilling to put in the work and effort will naturally fall away. Besides, there's more than enough out there to go around.