eHow: Down the eToilet

Droves of freelancers are flooding the Internet looking for online writing work. Why? Because eHow, a WAHM (and WAHD, I suppose) money train, has finally circled the drain and slipped into oblivion. Apparently the content mill is still commissioning content for some channels - and very little for plain ol' eHow.

Some are glad to see it go - like those that subscribe to the school of thought that Demand Media is killing freelance writing. There are others, though, who are pretty lost in the sauce right about now.

And now, if you're a Demand Media refugee, it's time to be realistic.

Freelance Writing is a Real Job

Freelance writing isn't just something you do - as a freelance writer, you are a business owner, marketing strategist, salesperson and finally, a writer. In the real freelance writing world, you may get a gig where you can select titles and then write them, but the majority of your work comes from the sweat you put into your business.

If you're a Demand Media refugee who believes in your heart that other content mills will become your primary income sources... well, blow the dust off your resume and hit the pavement. You're going to have to get a brick & mortar job eventually, so you might as well get it over with now.

You Cannot be Lazy

Are you truly cut out to be a freelance writer without the Demand Media life raft keeping your head above water? About 1/3 of what I do in a week is actually writing. The rest of my time is spent marketing, querying magazines and online publications, learning new things to give myself an edge, and working brand awareness campaigns - and I've been at this for a while. When I was new, about 1/8 of my week was spent actually writing.

If you do not do those things (marketing, querying, learning and creating brand awareness), you will not write. And then, you will not eat. Sure, you may land an occasional gig - but you're not going to be a six-figure freelancer.

Truth is, if you bust your butt and you can write, there's no reason you shouldn't pull in a reasonable amount of money. The problem often lies in the "you can write" area; sometimes, it's in the freelance writing rates you're willing to accept.

Admit What You Know (and Don't Fake What You Don't)

Be honest. Do you know SEO? Do you really know how to write a press release? Can you create web content that doesn't describe "How to Tie Your Shoes" or "How to Cure Anal Itch" - or is that all you know?

I occasionally read a forum for Demand Media freelancers, and one woman was talking about SEO: "It's not that hard.  All you do is put the words in." (Yes. All you do is put the words in. Anyone can do it... but the trick is making SEO invisible. Oh, and the surrounding words have to make sense.)

If you don't know what you're doing, learn. Period. There are no shortcuts, and running around writing $12 "press releases" isn't doing anyone any good (least of all, you).

Cheap is as Cheap Does

The nesting ground for the SEO comment above also provided a home for this gem (though I don't remember it word-for-word):
I write press releases for $25 to $50, and I charge less if it's easy.
Let me tell you this: the freelance writing community is a fairly tight-knit community. There are lowballers, like that dude, who will have a really hard time hitting it big. So will this guy:
I pitch myself to prospective clients by telling them I'll write for free.
I cannot fathom why anyone would offer free work. If you don't respect your work, how in the world do you expect a client to respect it? (I thought it was bad when a potential client asks for a freebie... but people are offering it, so why wouldn't they?)

Bad Advice Begets Bad Results

You have to know how to recognize good advice and terrible freelance writing advice. I don't mean to be Angie the Dream Crusher here, but if you can't distinguish between freelance writing pros and this guy, you might have a tough time in this field.

Freelance writing isn't for everyone. If, however, you feel it might be for you, you can make it work. You have to learn the trade, hone your writing so it's marketable, and bust your butt to find some clients.

Are you a Demand Media refugee? Are you going to build a freelance writing career, or are you getting an office job?


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© Angie Papple Johnston 2011.

Don't steal from me or I'll come getcha. Really... I've got that kind of time.

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