Content sites: are they worth it?

This is a hot topic in today’s freelance world. There are absolutely varying degrees of yes and no when it comes down to answering this question, but it largely falls into the area of “it depends on the content site, the content itself, and the personal skills and requirements of the writer in question”.

Now, the most common assumption is that people working for content sites aren’t real writers. The word “hack” gets thrown around a lot. A lot of the writing elite (see pompous) claim that content writers don’t really come up with anything original, they aren’t really writers, they aren’t skilled, or that they are bastardizing the industry by doing work for “too cheap”.There is also an assumption that content writers don’t have “real” editors, that they just throw out SEO-stacked articles to get the hits on Google, and so on and so forth.

There’s a lot of assumptions being made. And we all know the golden rule about making assumptions, don’t we?

First of all, there is no such thing as original these days. Everything is a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy. Encyclopedias of today are copies of encyclopedias  from the previous generation, which in turn were copied from the generation before them, and so on and so forth. Almost every movie coming out in the 21st century is “based” upon something else, or is a remake of another, older movie. Authors of novels credit other books and authors for their inspiration. Painters find inspiration in other people’s paintings, in other people’s architecture, in other people’s music, and so on and so forth. Everyone, at some point or another, is “copying” from someone else. So to claim that content writers are simply copying someone else’s work is a farce. We all copy, not just content writers.

Secondly, what is skilled/successful? The ability to form a coherent sentence? Personally, I’ve always subscribed to the Stephen King theory, which is simply this: if you wrote something, and got a paycheck for it, and the paycheck didn’t bounce, and you then went out and paid a bill with the money you made from writing, you are successful. If you are getting a paycheck for your work, does it really matter what another writer is saying about your work? Not really. (I’ll explain that in greater detail further on).

To say that all content sites are evil, demeaning, low-paying, or otherwise is not only naive, but extremely short-sited. Until you know all the details behind something you cannot realistically comment on whether or not it is good or bad, because you lack the information necessary to make such a judgment call.

I completely disagree that content writers and content sites are perpetuating low-paying systems and poor quality of writing. I think it’s a case-by-case basis. Yes, some sites are notoriously low paying and yes, some sites do allow exceptionally poor quality work to get pushed through simply to pad someone’s website with a lot of SEO wordage, but here’s the thing: if someone wants to do that work, good for them. Just like if someone wants to clean the sewers, be a janitor, or be the guy who scrapes dead animals off the road, the person who works at Wal Mart as a cashier, or the person who flips burgers at McDonalds, or a pilot for an airline, or the guy who drives the taxis I ride around in, or the people who run the ISP I use, or the people who make plasma TVs or….

You get the picture. Bottom line is, if it’s not directly related to you…it’s none of your business. If someone from the Philippines wants to work for a content site and get paid what is (to me) a scoffable wage, that’s entirely their prerogative. I’m not going to judge them, nor am I going to judge the site that’s letting them work for so cheap. It doesn’t affect me. It’s none of my concern. I make a living working for a different type of client, and I get paid an entirely different wage that is entirely up to me to determine.

Freelance writers need to pay less attention to what everyone else is doing and focus more on what is good for them and their own business. I certainly don’t make any money by going around telling other people how to think, what rates are/aren’t acceptable, and whether or not a certain company is worth working for. I keep my eyes peeled, I work hard, I love what I do, and I connect with people who want exactly what I can provide.

At the end of the day the only thing that matters is whether or not you have money in the bank and food on the table for your family with a roof over their heads. Not whether or not so-and-so is making such-and-such or anything else.

Now, another thing to look at is the pay.

Let’s say there are two people. Person A works for a content site. Person B works for various clients. Both work as a sub-contractor, or a freelancer.

Person A makes 25 dollars an hour and works 5 hours a day working on articles the content site sends to him. He writes 4 articles per hour. At the end of the day he has put in 5 hours of work and made 150 dollars.

Person B makes 75 dollars per article. He spends 3 hours a day browsing the Internet for leads because he doesn’t rely on a content site. At the end of his 3 hours he has found two clients, each of whom need him to write 1 article apiece for. He spends an hour per article, and charges 75 dollars for each article. At the end of the day he has put in 5 hours of work and made 150 dollars.

What is the difference between the two? There is none. Both of them spent 5 hours in front of their computer, “working”. Now, some people could argue that the time spent browsing for leads is not actually work, but that is an incorrect assumption. Any amount of time invested into a project counts as hours worked. If it takes you 3 hours per day to find 2 articles per day to work on, you still spent 3 hours a day looking for leads plus 2 hours of work for 5 hours a day. And if you spend 5 hours a day purely writing, you still spent 5 hours working.

In conclusion, while it’s true that some content sites have a bad reputation (and rightfully so), make sure you aren’t one of those people who goes around making assumptions about other writers, other websites, or the quality/quantity of work someone does. Until you are in their shoes you are not only unqualified to comment, but you lack the requisite knowledge to make a factual comment regarding the matter at hand.

T.W. Anderson is the founder of Complete Writing Solutions, and is a freelance writer specializing in travel writing, website content, interior design and home improvement, green-related topics, as well as anything else potential clients need him to be.

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