Thursday, March 31, 2011

Why Haughty Established Freelancers Can Be Annoying

I periodically stuff the terms "freelance writing" and "content mill" into Google and Bing, partly because I am constantly looking for new streams of revenue. As mentioned before, I need to constantly diversify my income. However, there is an annoying tendency that usually occurs high in a lot of search results. It involves the usually vitriol and mudslinging between established freelancers and the people who write for content mills.

To the professional freelancers, SEO-based internet content providing is a source of information pollution. Many internet content providers, on the other hand, make the same mistake self-published novelists make. Since they do it, the believe it is new, revolutionary, and they are out to upend the old guard. Meanwhile, they can be a little tone deaf and egotistical, believing that their content mill writing is of much more cultural significance that it actually is. I have long since grown tired of this debate, so I usually skip it altogether. (Although, it does make for good point-and-laugh material once the mud and insults start flying).

As in any argument, there are valid points on both sides. Typically, the older freelancers try to point out how compensated SEO content cheapens the written labor pool. This is true. Content providers retort with, "that's just the way the professional world is changing." Unfortunately, this is also true. However, there is one thing that really annoys me about the older professionals.

Due to cloudsourcing and technological advances, there is now a glut of writers online. You cannot argue that these people need to live and work by outdated views of what freelancing actually is. Some seasoned professional can make $800 an article writing magazine features. Unfortunately, because they do it, tapping into a decade or more of professional contacts, many mistakenly that other people can do the same. Only, it doesn't work that way anymore, especially if you are entering the freelance market right now, in the middle of a cultural paradigm shift.

It is a lot like a newspaper reporter from the Woodward and Bernstein era getting bitchy about the current state of journalism jobs, while complaining that new writers need to do exactly what they did in the 1970s. Only, print journalism, and print media as a whole, is dying an agonizingly slow death, and it has been hemmoraging full time positions every year. (I know, because I can't find a job).

This is not a simply reduced argument of "SEO writing is great!" It is not -- try writing twenty 200 word articles that uses the word "Botox happy" four times each. It's enough to make you want to ram your face into a wall, repeatedly. Yet, it pays -- and in this shitty economy, many newer freelancers have no choice but to accept it, smile, write it, and then take the money to go buy groceries. That reality, however, is what a lot of older, established freelance writers fail to realize.

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