The evolution of the industry, especially as it relates to the advent of global Internet, has led to an expanding pool of prospective employees that companies can choose from. This doesn’t relate to only freelancers, but to people in any position. By this point in time, I’m sure we all know someone personally who has seen their position at their traditional salary- or wage-based workplace declared redundant so that the company can hire a foreigner in another country to do the same job for a fraction of the price, thus retaining profitability for the share holders. You probably also know someone whose company simply folded under the impact of the economic crisis, or found their position threatened or were asked to take time off, a cut in pay, stop working overtime or some other job-threatening prospect. The simple fact of the matter is that there is no such thing as job security in this day and age, which leads me to my next point.
In the last few years of doing this, I have come up against several opponents of freelance writing for content mills who use the excuse, “Well, content mills aren’t a sustainable market. There’s no job security in them.” as an argument for why freelance writers should not be working for content mills. They (the opponents of content mills) make a lot of wild claims as to how traditional routes into the industry are the only real path to success, and that you should be following the same route they took in order to achieve your own success.
I think it’s far more educated to say that there is no such thing as job security in any market in the 21st century, regardless of where you live in the world, and if there was ever any truth behind the saying “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”, it is here and now when there are literally hundreds of opportunities available through the Internet.
Personally, I don’t think freelance writing for content mills is a sustainable way of making a living…at least in the long term scheme of things. And by long term I mean 5+ years. I think that right now, and for the past couple of years, it has been a very lucrative form of income for certain individuals, myself included, and more and more we see it becoming the standard norm as companies like Associated Content was taken over by Yahoo, Demand Studios has formed partnerships with USA Today, Tyra Banks and Rachael Ray, and AOL Seed was formed. However, the sheer amount of content being put out on a daily basis is part of the reason why the prices for writing the content are lower in comparison to traditional markets/clients, and just like any other market, supply is driven by demand, and once the demand for such content dwindles, the market will likely fade away, or evolve into something different.
However, just because it might not be a long-term solution does not mean you should be ignoring freelance writing for content mills as one of your multiple revenue streams. I’m sure the employees at Enron thought their lives and futures were wrapped in a protective shell of eternal security, yet the failure of that global giant only proved what the intelligent people of the world today consider a daily reality: job security is a myth. And as the ongoing scandals of the world show, such as with Madoff last year and the billion-dollar pyramid scheme that shafted who knows how many innocents out of their hard-earned money, the only sure-fire way of ensuring your future is protected is to take matters into your own hands.
The cold, hard truth is that no company in the world can guarantee you job security. Even if you work for Microsoft (for example), there are dozens of things that could go wrong which could force the company belly-up, and while it might give you a warm, fuzzy feeling in your stomach every night having a steady paycheck at a salary- or wage-based position, the reality is that having a wage-based job is no more secure than being a freelancer who is always on the lookout for the next opportunity. Which is why it is so important to have a variety of income streams to help balance against any uncertainties that could crop up over the years.
Residuals are one way, while writing for traditional print publications is another (although the print industry is gradually fading out of existence; a topic for another blog post), with copywriting and blogging as yet another option. And right up there with all the other options is writing for content mills.
At the end of the day a paycheck is a paycheck, regardless of who it comes from. As a freelancer, you are a mercenary, wielding words like a weapon, taking out the goals of a project like an enemy target. And like a mercenary you cannot afford to be idealistic about the opportunities that exist in the modern era. You have to be realistic, and understand that job security is nothing more than a fancy way of describing a cozy little feeling in the pit of your stomach that helps you sleep at night, an illusionary image that acts as a buffer against the reality that on any given day you could be labeled redundant, and your job given away to someone else who is willing to do the work for pennies in comparison.
Don’t get caught up in the illusion. Keep your options open, and keep multiple streams of revenue coming in to ensure your future is in your hands.
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