What I’m listening to: Sweet Jane by Lou Reed
Maybe it’s the new calendar that brings out the crazy freelance writing advice I’ve seen lately. I’m not talking about the usual weird advice, such as how you must do this or you never should do that, or my all-time biggest pet peeve: “Freelance writing is dead” or some equally ridiculous pronouncement. (The latest one I saw said “Investigative journalism is dead” — tell that to The Atlantic.)
I’m talking about bloggers, forum posters, you name it, who attempt to push us in one direction because “They say the old way is dead.” Who “they” are remains a mystery. That vague reference to a mythical “they” is reason enough for me to dismiss anyone’s advice. Give me facts or stop bothering me.
I won’t say the trends aren’t real — most of them are, and they have some basis in fact. That to me is the dangerous part. People tend to believe because it seems logical or it can be proven to be some sort of trend.
That doesn’t mean it fits with our writing or with our freelance clients’ needs. Trends don’t apply to everyone or every situation. I’m not going to stop writing the way my clients want me to write because of someone’s untested observation made on a blog or forum.
And they’re not going to stop spewing blanket advice, either.
So here are three I’ve seen lately that stand out as trends that, if adopted verbatim, could cause a sizable hit to the freelance writer’s bottom line:
Long-form blog posts. It’s funny how quickly minds change. Just a few years ago, freelance writers everywhere were touting the short-form blog post. Guess what? These same proponents are now going on about how long-form is the only way to drive real traffic (and you know me — I think absolutes are a clear sign of bandwagon jumpers). Blog posts should be as long as they need to be. If freelance writers start cramming content in just to meet some arbitrary length requirement (set by whom, exactly?), the message suffers.
Avoiding ghostwriting work. Oh, yes they said it. Freelance writers who think we’ll write ourselves into an empty corner believe ghostwriting doesn’t pay well and can’t be used as a clip. Wrong on both counts — ghostwriting has been some of my most lucrative work. Also, as long as you redact the client’s name/identifying, show a small part of the piece, and ask for permission to use it as a clip only, you’re able to claim the experience. It’s okay also to let the prospective writing client know you’re unable to share due to NDA concerns. I’ve done it, and it’s been fine.
Allowing yourself to be pushed into a niche. Do niche writers make more money? That depends on the writer, doesn’t it? I know plenty of generalists who absolute rock the freelance writing career. I know also a number of niche writers who simply can’t get their shit together. Ignore the “You must have a niche” or worse, the “You must have a micro-niche” pushers. Have one if you want one. You won’t succeed if you don’t like it.
Writers, what trends have you seen that have left you shaking your head?
What examples can you give of trends that are worth looking into?