While we are undeniably living in the age of the self, with focus on the individual in every aspect of our social and professional lives, it seems that the business sector is slowly rediscovering the strength that lies in numbers. Inspired by the way grassroots efforts work, crowdsourcing is the name of the game across industries lately – but what could it mean for you as a freelance writer?
The content site discussion is getting old. Some freelance writing bloggers see the merits, others don’t, and neither the twain shall meet. What strikes me about the content site debate is that we focus on one or two evil sites as if they’re the only problem. If we’re going to be discussing the best places for freelance writers to work and caution them against certain other opportunities, I personally feel that there are worse places and those are the ones we should be discussing.
When we debate content, we generally focus on two main issues; pay and poorly written content. When it comes to both of these, I don’t necessarily feel web content sites are the worst offenders. There are other types of freelance writing sites that flood the web with crappy writing and the pay is a lot less or not at all. Yet, most of the time when we see blog posts or articles about these other types of sites they’re along the lines of “the benefits of…”
Today, I’d like to explore some of these sites and discuss why (I feel) they’re bad idea. I’m really interested in your thoughts as well.
1. Article Directory Sites
Article submission sites are sites that pretty much accept any old article. They’re not listed on freelance writing jobs sites and we don’t discuss them as being a gig, because they’re not. They don’t pay writers and they don’t pretend to be anything but a place to submit writing. However, if we’re going to gripe about content sites not having high standards and flooding the web with bad content, it would behoove us to discuss article directory sites as well.
I never wrote for an article directory site for several reasons, the first is that they didn’t pay and the second is because I’ve seen so much truly bad writing coming from article directory sites that I didn’t want my name associated with them.
Here’s the thing, we hear from many people, even some freelance writers we know well, saying article directory sites are terrific marketing opportunities.
I don’t know about that…
I don’t think an article directory submission is any more terrific than having a bio at the bottom of a guest blog post, personal blog or even a content mill article. Lately all the content I see coming from article directory are marketed to sell products or drive traffic to a blog or website, which makes it all rather spammy. Moreover, more than half the content is poorly written, SEO articles. So how come we don’t see enough folks calling for higher standards on these sites?
Another issue with article directories is the same marketers are submitting the same articles on multiple sites, so the web is being inundated with the same “article” over and over. If the article isn’t well written, then we’re seeing the same really bad piece of writing more than once. Again, I don’t hear too many arguments about this in the “cheap” or “free” web content arguments.
Most people who use article directories are doing so to create links to blogs or websites, build up name and brand recognition and drive readers to a particular product or service. So we can argue that the purpose of the articles submitted to these sites isn’t necessarily to educate. Some folks who use article directory sites also hire writers to create content for them. Since the article directories don’t pay, many times the cheapest possible writers are hired, again flooding the Internet with questionable content. Not all article directory writing is bad, but I’m willing to bet there’s more bad than good.
I personally write off any article found on an article directory site as a marketing tool and don’t use them as resources or tools because I can’t count on the validity of the discussion.
2. Bidding Sites
I used to believe that bidding sites would lower the rates for all writers. I no longer believe this. I feel there will always be high payers and there will always be low payers and neither has to worry about the other. However, if we’re going to throw out the argument that web content sites are low paying and promote poor writing, we have to go after the bidding sites too.
Disclaimer: Not all bidding site gigs pay .50 cents per article, nor are all bidding site writers of the amateur variety, but there are enough bad to overshadow the good. (Just like content sites)
Here’s the thing: I didn’t last long with bidding sites. The reason I didn’t stick with them is because I couldn’t get work at a decent rate of pay. When I quoted my usual rate I was told I had some nerve bidding so high when I wasn’t even rated. When I showed these potential clients my resume and long list of writing credits, they said it had no bearing. I had to be rated at that website which means I have to start very, very low and work my way up. I didn’t last long.
Another thing about the bidding sites is that they are a true global market place. A bidder in America might think $50 is a decent starting bid (and good luck getting that one), while a bidder in India or Romania might think $1 or $2 is a decent starting bid. No matter what you bid, there’s always someone willing to go lower. Granted, there are clients who are willing to go higher, but I don’t see clients paying over $10 or $15 as being the norm. Most bidding site clients are looking for the lowest bid possible. Moreover, there are plenty of unrealistic expectations. For example, 100 articles needed in a two week period. A person bidding $2 a pop on 100 articles about anti-freeze isn’t going to put in a best effort. I’d like to submit that bidding sites are a major contributor to poor content on the web, yet I don’t see many people raising torches or pitchforks in front of these castles.
(We”ll be exploring a popular bidding site a little later this week).
Crowdsourcing is another way of getting something for nothing. It’s sort of like a big hippie commune of everyone working together to produce a product because of the good vibes. You might see crowdsourcing in action on Twitter or Facebook without even knowing it. Rather than head to the library or even the closest search engine, someone might research by asking questions on the social network and gathering the answers. The problem with this is, many of the responses are long on opinion and not always factually correct. (Don’t come after me, I said, “not always” which is different from “never.)
Crowdsourcing is more than research. There are plenty of people who don’t want to spend money to hire freelancers for design or writing projects and crowdsource instead. The problem here is that the idea of crowdsourcing takes front and center over utilizing qualified people for campaigns and projects. Yeah, I’m all about the social media love, but sometimes I think we take it to the extreme. Not everything has to be so Up with People.
Crowdsourcing can be sort of an open audition. Big corporations are crowdsourcing projects where hundreds of people compete and maybe one person will land a paying (or non-paying) contract. It can also be a call for ideas. For example a business may ask for slogan or design ideas and open up a forum for discussion. They don’t have to hire a team for the creativity and brainstorming process, because folks from all over are offering thoughts for free. Eventually the winning idea will have cost nothing but a little time and web hosting space. With so many people willing to give away their ideas, why not do away with freelancing altogether?
PLR or Private Label Rights Articles
PLR or Private Label Rights articles are inexpensive article packages sold to webmasters and ebook compilers to use as often as they like. This means the same set of ten or twenty articles about dogs can be sold to 25 different people and spun as many ways as possible to produce completely new articles. PLR writers will tell you this is a lucrative package – selling the same ten articles to $25 people for $60 a package but that’s not always the case. Also, since the purchasers now own the rights to spin the content as often as they like, PLR articles are responsible for putting the same bad content out many times over.
Now, like all of the above, not everyone who writes for these sites are hacks producing poor work for little money. My biggest problem is with the article spinning. Even if it’s the greatest writing in the world, do I want to see the same article posted over and over again on the web? Some webmasters only require enough changes for the writing to pass a CopyScape test. They’re looking for inexpensive content, not originality. If we’re going to discuss bland web writing, then why aren’t we talking more about PLR and article spinning?
Why am I talking about this?
I’m tired of the web content site debate. (I know I’m just as guilty as everyone else, but go with me until the end, please. I swear there’s a point to all this.)
Web content sites aren’t the only reason the web is polluted with garbage. Web content sites aren’t the only places that take advantage of writers. I’d like to submit that web content sites are a convenient scapegoat. There are other types of freelance writing sites that we should also discussing with our readers. There are plenty of places that use cheap, poorly written and even plagiarized content. There are plenty of places that don’t pay writers well at all. If we’re going to show anger, let’s give it where it’s deserved.
Lots of places take advantage of writers and cheap content.
Why don’t we talk about them?