Demand-ing Writing Quality

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Maybe it’s just a one-and-done issue, or maybe it’s a sign of things to come. When Demand Studios (a writer’s favorite nemesis) announced a few weeks ago that CEO Richard Rosenblatt had resigned, there came shortly thereafter layoffs of 15 Demand-ers from the research and development side, including the chief innovation officer.

Once considered a terrific business model by those who remain clueless, Demand appears to have been found out. An article in Variety explains the company’s rapid rise and eventual fall once everyone realized the emperor wasn’t clothed.

The downfall came well after publications took the bait. USA Today farmed out its Travel Tips website section to Demand. As far back as 2009, Rosenblatt’s opinion was being held in high regard by people unaware (or unconcerned) with a business model that paid pennies on the dollar for writing talent, questionable talent, and downright bad writing. And yet that widely varied talent pool? That’s what seemed to sink the company in the long run.

Blame Google (or thank them — profusely) for why Demand is now circling the drain. When Google revamped its search algorithms to ferret out those mostly useless links to Demand-originated content, it did what many of us writers who knew a raw deal when seeing one couldn’t do — it hit Demand in its jugular. Since that time, Demand’s, er, demand in the market has been lacking. Content has been creeping into the Internet, once polluted by Demand’s unchecked writing teams, that’s actually good.

How long that will last depends on one thing — how quickly HuffPo sees the same decline as Demand. Alas, not all dreams come true.

I know there are writers out there, even reading this blog, who have done time at Demand. For better or worse, there was work when it was needed. However, that kind of work from that disreputable a place usually has the opposite effect on the career. You don’t know it at the time, or maybe you do and don’t believe it, but it hurts your reputation. Those clips that seemed easy to get that could showcase some actual talent are rendered useless because of the reputation of the company you were keeping.

Not fair. But neither is life.

For those of you who are still trying to break free of Demand and content farms in general, I offer you hope. You can get to a better place. It’s going to require that you forget those clips — they’re not going to impress anyone — and start fresh. Get proactive in your career. Good chum Wendy Johnson did, and she told us how just a few years ago. Here are some ways to get new clients:

Search for “writers guidelines.” That will net you any number of magazines with which you could work. Study the ones that interest you, then send off a query.

Learn to write a great letter of introduction. Consider this your gateway to the big bucks. A letter of introduction (LOI) is your personal query to the company you’d like to work with. That’s the way to reach out to potential clients — find them, send them your LOI, and tell them how you can help.

Use social media to your advantage. Instead of talking with your writer friends, talk with potential clients. Start conversations, share stories or news items, and get to know them. When it’s appropriate, ask if they need your help.

Attend trade shows. I’m not talking about trade shows where writers go to get in front of publishers (too much competition). I’m talking about choosing an industry you’d like to work in, then explore how to become part of the trade-show circle. Often it’s as simple as asking the organizers for a press pass. Sometimes, though, you may need to demonstrate that you’ve written in that area before. Start with those shows that don’t have such stringent requirements.

Attend company webinars. Companies have free webinars all the time. Becoming part of the press is merely a matter of signing up and asking the PR person to put you on future mailing lists. You get to make friends with the company reps, and you get great story ideas.

Know your value. I can’t preach it often enough or loudly enough — know what you’re worth (it’s more than you think). Hold out for those clients and jobs that fit with what you need to be making in order to earn a living.

Writers, how do you find clients?
What’s your best advice for building a proactive career?

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Comments

  • Kristen Fischer October 30, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    My BEST tactic is to target companies you want to write for. So check out chamber of commerce directories for local businesses and look at those "top ## companies to work for" lists.

    Reply
  • Paula October 30, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    I've always been a big proponent of LOIs because they're more proactive than replying to job ads. But the key is to follow up – sometimes more than once.

    I landed an assignment due this week solely because I followed up on a follow up to a follow up of a LOI.

    Whichever methods work for you, persistence is always important.

    Reply
  • Jake Poinier October 30, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    Funniest thing written on the internet today: "Once considered a terrific business model to those who remain clueless…"

    My single best source for clients has always been graphic designers and web designers. The ones who know the value of professional content are an endless source of work and referrals–plus, they are a key resource when a client needs design work.

    Reply
  • Gabriella F. October 30, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    Hi Lori.

    I don't have any deep thoughts on this topic (I feel much the same way you do). But I must say the news in this post made my day. And I totally agree, a girl can dream that HuffPo is right behind.

    Reply
  • Cathy Miller October 30, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    What worked well for me was focusing my efforts on LinkedIn in the beginning of my freelancing career. I still receive projects from both my profile and through my connections (referrals, their own requests).

    I think if you pick something that works for you and put some effort into your networking, you'll reap the rewards.

    P.S. I applied at Demand Studio when I 1st started. When I saw what they had to offer, I walked (okay, more like ran) the other way.

    Reply
  • Lori October 30, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    Kristen, I love having you here. 🙂 Thanks for your comment. Totally agree — the best way to improve your business is by seeking out those with whom you'd like to work.

    Paula, amen, amen, AMEN. I can count at least two current clients that I started contacting a year or better before they hired me.

    Jake, that's a brilliant strategy, too. You've already found people who understand your value, and you can act as their source of referrals, too. Great match!

    Gabriella, HuffPo has a lot of backing by too many media outlets to fold right away. But I do think their days are numbered if they believe writers will work for free on a constant basis.

    Cathy, terrific advice. One thing works just as well as trying to keep up with several things. I agree — with the right amount of effort, it will work.

    Never did the Demand thing, though I did have a stint at Guru.com (can't remember what it was before that). I was dumb enough to pay for the three-month "premium" job listings. What a joke. The same garbage that was at the lower level was right there at the higher level. I canceled, complained, and moved to a different way of finding work.

    Reply
  • Anne Wayman October 30, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    My best source of business is still my website… amazes me, but it keeps pulling… annewayman.com

    Reply
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