Friday, March 28, 2014

Dear everyone looking for a freelance writer:

You need to figure out who the hell you want to hire.

Straight up. I've been monitoring job sources from here to the ends of the Internet for a long time. Way back when, here's what a typical (if slightly generic) call for writers might look like: 

Strong writer needed for (industry) blog covering (topics). Ability to hit deadlines and promptly respond to emails required. Knowledge of (industry) required. Please send a copy of your resume, a short cover letter, and three short clips to...

You get the point. A call expressing a need for a writer. 

Here's what that same post might say today: 

Strong writer needed for (industry) blog covering (topics). Knowledge of (industry) required. Gigantic social media following required. Klout score of approximately sixteen billion required. Ability to post the content you create on other, high-ranking sites required. Connections in several major industries required, but not for research... we just want more free marketing out of you. Oh, and we pay $2 for every 500 words and need 12 articles a day. 
I see this kind of garbage all the time. And not just on sites like Freelancer and so on, where greedy people with no understanding of the industry prey on people who don't know how much their work is worth, either: I'm talking on respected job sources professionals have been using to find gigs for ages.

Pardon my language, but it's straight-up, unadulterated, weapons-grade bullshit of the highest level.

Do you need that kind of work done for your product/service/seedy SEO-spam blog? Fine. Ask for online marketing managers or "brand visibility optimizers" or whatever else you want to call it.

But don't ask for writers.

Listen, I understand why people ask for this stuff. People are obsessed with content going viral -- a term so run into the ground you'd dig up the Oak Island Money Pit before you found it -- and they want to make sure they get the most value for their money. But asking me to handle your writing and your marketing and your business connections and to do it all on a one-off basis isn't just unrealistic, it's insulting.

I do all sorts of writing, for marketing firms and big companies and small-time, web-based startups. That's because I'm a writer.

What I am not is a shill. When you ask me to spam your product to my social media following -- a group of friends and other people who have chosen to follow my posts because they find my content interesting -- simply for the fact that I'm producing content for you, well, we have a problem.

If I find the project interesting I will probably share the completed product. I'm proud of what I do. Wanting to share the work when I'm finished is natural. But judging the quality of my work on the size of my social media following, my Klout score, or my ability to network with people in fields totally unrelated to mine isn't cool. It's -- again -- unrealistic and insulting.

Marketing writers produce the content, marketing managers figure out a way to spread it around the Internet. I'm certainly responsible for a large part of that, but not in the way these ads suggest. If my content is good, people will share it, and that's my part of the equation. This isn't a "that's not my job" thing, it's a "you're trying to get one person to handle ten different job functions" thing.

If you want crummy work from people who "spin" articles and post them to a social media following comprised mostly of spambots, take it to Freelancer or some other portal/bidding site. Don't fill up the ProBloggers and BloggingPros of the world with your tripe.

If you want a writer, on the other hand, fire away. I would love the opportunity to work for you, and so would all the other people I'm competing against/working with on a daily basis.

I understand the insane amount of so-called "backroom" stuff that goes on in the online content sphere, the importance of high visibility, and the lengths people will go to to get their stuff seen. I also understand that asking me to abuse all that stuff is a sure-fire way to put my mouse pointer on the Back button.

There's a reason so many of these posts hang around on the major sites, and it's definitely not because they're getting filled at such a fast rate people need more of them. It's because the jobs aren't getting filled, and thus the people posting them aren't taking them down.

Think about that the next time you need someone to craft words for your project. You'll get better responses from better writers, and that inevitably ends in better work.

You damn well better not ask my Klout score in the follow-up email, though. At least if you want a response back.

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