As a professional writer who has found himself writing commercial sales and promotion content exclusively, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to please myself with my writing. Sure, personal satisfaction is expected to be farther down the ladder when it comes to creating commercial content that spreads and sells, but when you begin to lose interest in any of your work, you also begin to lose appreciation for it as well. This might seem hard to believe for some of you out there who are still in the “I’d run over an old lady with a garbage truck for a regular paying gig” stage, but it happens I assure you. Even the hungriest writer can become complacent after a year or two of writing sales copy over and over, and there is little you can do to make the process enjoyable once it becomes rote.
So how to keep the fire alive? That’s a question I’ve asked myself many times, and personally, I’ve found probably two things that really keep me going.
First of I occasionally cheat. Yep, you read right, I cheat like a desperate college student who spent half the semester partying instead of studying. To put it in context though, my cheating consists of finding ways to inject a little bit of my own personality and style into pieces wherever I can. Now, while this certainly isn’t practical or advisable when trying to put together an informative page of sales copy, it can be quite productive when performing link building or brand awareness.
As an example, I have a client who is heavily into link building strategy. They’ll want promotional copy produced and distributed every day, usually to sites of their choosing. Oftentimes however, I have been able to steer them towards specialized accounts with sites in related fields which allow the addition of content and a couple links purely in exchange for the addition of said content to their site. In these cases, since I am sole creator and manager of this content distribution setup, I get to produce my own voice, my own content, and work in my own style. While I am still constrained by my clients particular niche’ and the need to represent their brand, I still managed to find an avenue of free expression that allows me to touch on a variety of subjects which interest me as well as relate to my clients business focus.
Sure there are constraints, but if you know your client well and understand their business, the chances are good that providing them with self published content can produce a big payoff in the form of increased revenue and the ability to maintain some semblance of sanity. Even marketing or producing content about items such as lighting or airguns has for me proven to be fertile ground for such a strategy. I have had many times where although I was at a boredom and frustration spawned impasse with a regularly scheduled piece of commercial content, putting aside that piece in favor of throwing together an opinion-ed piece related to that client and publishing it on one of my own platforms literally broke me out of that impasse.
Of course, in order for such a plan to work you have to bring the client onboard with the idea. Clients are often leery of giving up most control over content, and even more so control over where it is published. I have found, however, that with most clients this is pretty easy to do, especially when I mention that not only will they be getting exposure, but linkbacks as well. Combine that with a reasonable cost, and most savvy business owners won’t hesitate to give it a shot.
As long as your work to date has served them well, selling them on the idea of giving you free reign to produce, distribute and manage publication of content can often be a viable way to augment your income while keeping your creative needs satisfied, and all while providing the client with good value.
So I’ve been extremely busy. It’s strange how it seems one minute you are scrambling for work and jobs as a freelancer, and the next minute you’re so loaded down you wonder if you’ll ever keep up or have time to enjoy all that nonexistent freedom and flexibility that freelancing was supposed to bring with it. No, I’m certainly not complaining, although rather than moving ahead with my plan to achieve world domination through writing, I’ve only gotten so far as providing some clients with SERP’s domination, but I do believe I’ve gotten myself sidetrack a bit.
I had hoped to have by now published a small collection of humorous short stories, and perhaps landed a simple gig writing a weekly column. Instead, I have written perhaps 50 websites, and over 70,000 words of marketing copy. I’ve even taken on several side projects as favors and trades for services, such as building simple websites for folks who normally wouldn’t have one. I am certainly no fan of site building and would much prefer to simply write, but the moment you mention having some ability with HTML and the related software, you inevitably end up making at least one or five websites.
Truth be told, it has helped round me out a bit and provided valuable experience, (Website developers have a very tough job, they earn their pay) but it has eaten a great deal of the time I would normally spend keeping myself up to date on the latest developments in SEO and Google algorithm updates. The latter has bitten me square in ass and left me red faced recently, so scramble to get myself back on the SEO horse as well it is! I suppose I should be extremely thankful for my current position considering the current economic climate, and I am. I’ve even found a little time for a new air gun hobby courtesy of a new client.
But I do believe it is time for another round of introspection and evaluation. I expect I’ll be revamping my entire blog and site here to reflect a more focused direction in the near future, and can say with some certainty it won’t be so much ABOUT freelance writing as just plain practicing freelance writing. I hope to see some of my past visitors coming back, and certainly look forward to bringing in a whole slew more. With any luck, I’ll find that balance between engagement/entertainment and revenue I’ve been looking for without getting dismissed as a sellout.
Thanks to all three of you for stopping in and reading. :)
After over twenty years, I’ve seen a firefly. Big deal you say. Well, for me it is indeed a big deal. The last time I recall seeing fireflies was around 1984 when an amiable old B movie actor was in the White House making Russians nervous, and Berkeley Breathed’s “Bloom County” was educating the masses as to the finer points of politics. Bill and Opus, Two For America!! The Beak and Saliva Ticket!!!
It was a rough time as well as a glorious time considering that during the eighties I was in the midst of full blown teen angst fueled by the high octane hormones that come with the appearance of puberty. While I sure as hell wouldn’t want to relive such a period of my life, and maturity has made certain such naïve but fun antics as jumping through campfires never happens again, advancing age has softened the blow by allowing me to fondly reminisce without having to recall all the bitter pieces.
What’s really strange, however, is how something so simple as a smell, a taste, words, or in this case a firefly, can trigger a complete change in our thought processes. It’s as if our minds are a record player and someone has come along and bumped the needle to another track in mid song. Whatever we were thinking, whatever we were feeling, is somehow pushed aside as a flood of feelings and memories wash over us, taking us on a ride we have little control over and little inclination to stop if we wanted to.
What this lone firefly managed to do, was instantly transport my mind to another time and place and invoke feelings and memories long forgotten simply by flashing his little light in the hopes of attracting a mate.
It occurs to me that this is something many good writers do to us and that what really makes them good, is that they can do it almost at will.
There’s no denying it. Love it or hate it, outsourcing is
here to stay. Technically speaking, if you’re a freelancer then you’re part of
the outsourcing trend and quite possibly the problem. No, no need to start
taking a mental inventory of your moral standards, outsourcing per se is not a
bad thing. A whole world of opportunity has been created with the increasing
demand for talent and affordable services that the growth of the global
marketplace has made available and it would be silly to ignore such an
opportunity. There are, however, some unfavorable facets of this outsourcing
trend that can leave a less than enjoyable aftertaste if you’re not fully
prepared for the challenges it represents.
First and foremost, let’s allow that yes, outsourcing has
resulted in the loss of jobs that were once the sole domain of the full time skilled
employee. The very real and reasonable reasons why this is include the fact
that employers are able to contract with individuals outside the company on an
as needed basis. Rather than carry staff fulltime who may only be utilized to
their full potential part time, employers can contract out work only when it is
needed. This has the added benefit of also allowing companies to expand their
range of services and offerings while keeping expenditures and outlays to a
minimum. As more and more companies do this, yearly revenues continue to show
sustained growth despite a reduction in the size of the overall workforce.
The downside of course is the drying up of positions and
more importantly, the adverse effect on wage scales and freelancing rates that
have occurred as a result of unregulated and unchecked competition for these
opportunities. With the advent of the world wide web, it has become possible
for employers to shop through a global marketplace of workers. While this is in
large part responsible for the wealth of opportunity that freelancing offers,
it also creates serious issues as workers from highly disparate economic
conditions compete for the same jobs. Without regulations of any meaningful
kind in place to regulate this global marketplace, the wildly differing economic
conditions among providers have acted to depress the value of all workers and
their products. When someone from India can subsist happily on the equivalent
of 10,000 dollars a year and his counterpart in America requires at least twice
that for the same living standards, a serious problem arises.
Although capitalism and free market principals are the
backbone of beneficial and healthy trade, they are not foolproof or perfect.
Without any means of control or moderation, the natural tendency to buy low and
sell high runs rampant in the freelancing marketplace. Providers from country’s
with weak economic conditions are able to bid on work at rates that would
quickly ruin their counterparts in countries with more expensive living
standards. Where market values for a skill may have run in a comfortable range
for the western worker, the sudden and unregulated introduction of workers from
the Philippines, India, China and other nations has worked to devalue these
skills as western employers find themselves unable to resist the lure of
extremely cheap labor. Despite the problems that have arisen with quality
control, worker integrity, communication, and the fact that many employers
are now retreating from the online labor marketplace as a result, the overall
trend towards depressed rates continues.
As much as I would like to offer an easy solution, this
simply is not possible. I will say, however, that if this trend towards poor rates
and unrealistic competition is to ever change, the solution will certainly have
to start with the providers and not the employers. For my part, I now refuse to
even consider rates less than ¾ of my chosen standards. I no longer travel the
diplomatic route and instead strongly encourage those interested to avoid
patronizing mills and work for hire sites that encourage unrealistic bidding. I’ve
even been preparing to launch a bidding site of my own geared towards
regionally specific employers and providers.
As a freelancer or online entrepreneur, the question here is, if you see this as a
problem, what are you going to do, if anything?