E-envy

A common theme you will see discussed on this site (and a common theme from my old blog, for those of you who followed from there) is global awareness. That is, understanding how global access to the Internet has changed the way we live, how we communicate, and how we do business. As you have seen in previous articles discussing research in the 21st century, rates and what affects them, and so on and so forth, one of the things I am keenly interested in is how the market has evolved.

Someone recently suggested that I was lying to my readers about the numbers you can generate doing content writing from content mills. These are the types of writers who believe that the only way to do things is the old way, the way they’ve been done in the past. As you can see in my previous articles, I touch on this subject quite frequently, looking at why exactly it is that the writers of yesterday are in such a panic over people like me who are showing up on the scene and making money using methods and techniques which (according to them) are either impossible or “questionable”.

I would like to reference an article written by Carson Brackney, because it incorporates many of the themes I’ve discussed in the past, and things which we will talk about in the future. I would like to note, however, that I’m going to selectively quote a section of his article, because while some of it is relevant, there are some sections which I don’t feel pertain to this particular thread. In any case, the full article can be found here, and it’s well worth taking the time to read in its entirety because it explains a lot.

Specifically, I’m going to focus on this section of his entry.

I recently commented on a blog post at FreelanceWritingGigs.com about the ongoing drama spurred by Hoy and others who frequently attack content mills and other sites that they feel somehow cheapen the art of writing. I said that I couldn’t imagine Bobby Flay staying up at night, tossing and turning, upset because some jackass was applying for a grill job at Denny’s.

Why isn’t Flay concerned? Because he’s Bobby Flay and the other guy is looking to make a living for awhile with a spatula in his hand.

Those who are good don’t worry about those who aren’t. It’s a waste of time and energy.

They realize that a plate of “Moons Over My Ham-y” isn’t going to destroy the desire for salmon glazed in honey and ancho chiles with a spicy sauce made from black beans.

Bobby also understands that some people are satisfied with a Grand Slam breakfast. I doubt he thinks it’s quality dining, but he realizes that it’s good enough for some folk. That’s their loss. It doesn’t destroy his value.

So, why do articles like “Are Content Mills Lowering the Quality of ‘News’ on the Internet?” keep popping up? I don’t think it is a genuine concern for those poor fools who are incapable of distinguishing a lousy eHow article from Pultizer winner Lane DeGregory’s feature work. I don’t think these folks are genuinely upset that the great unwashed masses are ignorantly exposing themselves to AllVoices instead of the voices of Woodward and Bernstein.

I think it stems from insecurity and fear.

They worry that their ability to avoid using “loosing” in place of “losing” isn’t enough to justify a continued workload. They’re afraid that those “Moons over My Ham-my” will squeeze their breakfast dishes out of the marketplace—or that they’ll need to take a pay cut to compensate for the difference, which others may perceive as being slighter than they do.

They don’t hate the content mills for screwing writers. They don’t hate the content mills for contributing to an unsubstantiated overall decline in the quality of writing.

They hate the fact that the veil worn by members of the priesthood of writing might be slipping. They don’t like the idea of working harder, of working for less or for dealing with more competition.

I can’t blame them for feeling that way.

I don’t like them pretending that they’re worried about the greater good. These arguments against content mills aren’t acts of benevolence. They’re attempts at self-preservation.

Carson discusses several major points in this section, but I think the poignant part is that he’s right: we can’t blame the writers of yesterday for being insecure and fearful of writers like me who have come onto the scene and are making money doing things that are nontraditional and “new”. As I’ve discussed before, people fear change. They especially fear change when it affects their jobs. Remember that article about the threshing machine and the farmers? Point in case.

It’s not that traditional writers are upset about people like me getting screwed by content sites (in fact, if you read some of the comments pointed at myself and others who support content writing you will see that the exact opposite is the case; most of them want us to get screwed). Rather, they are upset because writers like you and me have upset the status quo. Global communication has allowed people from every corner of the world to compete for jobs that previously these precious few had directly funneled towards them. But now that the employers of the world have access to the Internet, jobs are being shopped out to people from all corners of the globe who can do the work for far cheaper than the traditional rates that the elite have always traditionally commanded for being “the only ones who can”.

Ironically enough, as you can see from people like Pat over at Smart Passive Income, writing in the 21st century using content sites and completely digital, nontraditional methods can be actually quite lucrative. There are quite a few people making 6 figure incomes (I’m not! But I’m only in my second year of freelancing, with 2010 as my third year, so we’ll see!) from writing 100% digital content (published online rather than in print).

I think the most important part of Carson’s post was the last part of the quoted section. “These arguments against content mills aren’t acts of benevolence. They are attempts at self-preservation.”

Why, indeed, do these supposedly-elite and supposedly-comfortable in their supposedly-high-income-bracket writers continually complain about content sites? After all, aren’t they successful? They continually tout their 100 dollar-per-hour rates and claim that they are “superior” in every way to us “lowly” content writers, but we (the content writers) aren’t the ones complaining about a lack of work or a lack of pay. In fact, as you can see from the article that sparked my making 100k a year writing for content sites post, there are quite a few people out there working for content sites who are making more than their traditional print peers.

If these writers are so successful, why do they care? After all, as Carson put it, Bobby Flay doesn’t care whether or not the cook down at Denny’s is making 12 bucks an hour making flapjacks at 2 in the morning. Bill Gates doesn’t worry about what little old independent programmer is doing. If they are so busy making their high rates, why do they care what the “little guys” are doing?

Insecurity and fear. E-envy.

Great post, Carson. Keep it up!

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.

Posted in Freelance Writing 101 Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
2 comments on “E-envy
  1. Thanks for the thumbs up, TW. Glad you found my post, as it allowed me to find your blog.

    I look forward to your future posts on these topics.

  2. Not a problem, Carson. Your post is something I’ve discussed quite passionately over the past few months, so it was a breath of fresh air to see another enlightened mind :) I’ll definitely be staying tuned for more!

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