Compete with Writers Who Work Cheap (Ultra Cheap)
To win against writers who work cheap, writers must diversify, understand their strengths and weaknesses and realize their worth.
Unmasking the truth: you do not have to work for $5 a page
Can you and I succeed as professional writers and compete with writers who work cheap? Browse Upwork, Flexjobs, Google, Craigslist, or any other job board, and you might get depressed by the dozens of job offers that pay pennies and the writers who jump on those jobs. Yes, it's undoubtedly about free enterprise — supply and demand. But there will always be companies and publications that demand excellent quality writing and highly dependable writers and editors.
There are as many reasons Textbroker, PopSugar, Copify, and other pitifully paying content aggregators exist as there are writers. Plenty of sites still act as if writers will work without pay. Those sites are all about making money (for the site owner), but they offer writers "great publicity and a place to become known as a writer" while you starve or get your car repossessed. They perpetuate the idea of writers who work cheap.
I understand why writers take the bait, but only because I was once a beginner myself. You can't blame the writers. Unfortunately, the marketplace for writing has moved away from valuing all writing and all writers. The Internet has created a world in which greed often trumps skill. But still, writers are in demand and can make a good living.
Why do writers work cheap?
During the pandemic, people got axed or quit other jobs. Many of those folks decided to "become" writers, singers, and designers. Side hustle became the trend. Desperate to scratch up the dough, any dough, those new-breed homeworkers scrounged for gigs. Writing competition got tougher in a flooded market. Offshore companies peddled work from non-native English speakers. The average quality of work went down the toilet. And so, the web is jammed with wannabes who will work for peanuts.
If the established writer only targets overly-competitive online markets, that writer's income will be negligible. Supply and demand. Then, too, new writers – or would-be writers and unskilled writers are out in droves. They have no confidence. They are untrained. They’ve mastered buzz words and can hang 500 words together in the rough. They know how to spell S-E-O but don’t understand how that concept meshes with quality content and writing.
Additionally, AI-assisted or AI-generated writing has created a panic in the past year. A lot of people are ranting about how writers and creatives are going to be replaced by bots. This isn't a new panic. We've been hearing about robots taking over the world for decades. But the truth is, there will always be a need for educated, skilled researchers and writers. They will run the bots and edit or refine the work, even if most companies and publishers adopt AI technology.
What's to be done — winning against writers who work cheap
We could consider boycotting publishers on behalf of underpaid writers, but that would be ineffective. Believe it or not, you can find a few not-bad $5 sweatshop articles. Few care what the publisher paid for the content or to whom they paid it. Whoever wrote those few good articles never learned to market their work, and they don't believe they can compete against skilled writers. So those writers settle – for peanuts.
Writers who seek a career must diversify, understanding their strengths and weaknesses. They must realize their worth as writers in markets that suit their skills, experience, and marketing techniques. The established writer has to develop a plan and move forward, not settle in a panic for peanuts.
- It’s about targeting a market and an audience.
- It’s about writing the truth supported by facts and by good writing.
- If a writer is to become successful, they need education and experience.
- They have to build a portfolio to present to prospects.
- Successful writers see their career as a business and run it in an organized, persistent manner.
It's possible to build such a portfolio, even as a beginning writer, if you focus your attention for about three months on placing your work with organizations and legitimate publications. You may not get paid, but you will have a strong portfolio in a quarter of a year. Once that happens, there's no need to be a writer who works cheap. Here is the plan:
- Identify a niche you feel strong in, a topic you can write about confidently, even if you must research.
- Set a goal to write two to three 800-word articles a day — every day.
- Identify companies or organizations that fit the niche and could use your skills; local prospects are the easiest to sell.
- Write a killer pitch letter. It will include your background and education and one of the articles. Offer the prospect free use and ownership of the article if they will consider hiring you to do at least one additional paid piece. Set a competitive price for future work.
- Mail or email at least one pitch a day to your target prospects. These can be businesses, churches, social organizations, real estate agents, magazines, newspapers, or anyone who needs to interact with others.
- Keep a record of your mailings and follow up with a phone call or an email.
The bottom line: boosting YOUR bottom line
Every writer must decide to get paid what their work is worth. Writers must find markets that fit their specialty. They must snuggle into niches and produce quality. They must spend 75% of their time actively marketing by phone, mail, or email. Running a tightly organized business is the key to success. Some writers surf the web and bid against thousands of others, willing to settle for any job at any price. Some spend countless hours haunting gig boards and not making a living. Some, hoping to get lucky, send out poorly crafted resumes that will probably end up in the trash. There is a better way. Perfect your craft, polish your work, be organized, and don't be ok with becoming a writer who works cheap. Remember that all kinds of writing businesses — screenplays, podcasts, ebooks, and even advertising copywriting can come from using this system.
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