The convenience of the Web has made freelance writing more convenient. Jobs are easier to find, but rejection letters can arrive much more quickly! The Web also has opened up a new range of business practices, some good, some bad. Here are the types of freelance writing jobs that I steer away from, if possible, having tried most of them:
- Revenue sharing. The Web counterpart of straight commission sales, they’ll pay you, if they ever make any money from what you write. If not, they may not care. Usually these companies want you to promote their website in hopes of increasing the ad revenue you’re hoping to share.
- Subsidy publishing: a very old industry, where companies pretend to be regular publishing houses or literary agents, but want you to pay them to get published. If you’re willing to spend money to get a few copies of your book, you might do better with print on demand companies such as Lulu or Booklocker.
- Web content writing: The Web counterpart to water pollution (I was going to say counterfeiting). Often their goal is not to produce literature that people will want to read, but web pages designed to fool the search engines into thinking that people actually want to read them. Sometimes these articles are not much more than keywords artfully strung together. Software has been developed to do this work more cheaply than humans.
- Article directories: Usually a collection of web content for revenue sharing. They invite publishers to buy articles at very low prices. Writing for these directories is not something you should put on your resume.
- Academic writing: You get paid to write papers for students. They are advised not to pretend that they wrote these papers themselves, but to use them as “models.” But you know better.
- Freelance job banks: The Web counterpart to a slave auction: when you offer to write for two cents a word, someone in India offers to write for one cent. A common source for low-paying Web content writing jobs.
- Pay-per-comment: Junior high school students in India earn half a cent a word to write comments on neglected forums and discussion boards so that visitors will think they are active.
- Pay-per-post: Bloggers devote a post to review the company that’s paying them to do it. But it makes me wonder if anything they say is really from their hearts.
- Sample writing: Sometimes a company will advertise a job opening, insist that every applicant send a sample article on a particular subject, sell all the articles, and hire no one. On the other hand, the reputable companies will pay you for any articles they use.
- Contingency payment: Stay away from start-up businesses who apologize that they “can’t pay anything now, but just think of how rich you’ll be when we hit the big time.” If they don’t have money to pay their writers, what else don’t they have money for?
My advice: look for people you’d be proud to write for, more than for people who are willing to let you write for them. If you follow the money, you may find there isn’t any. But if you follow your sensibilities, you can look at yourself in the mirror and feel proud of what you’ve written.