The online market for freelance writers has peaked as more companies are outsourcing their copy writing to contractors.
Originally published in Black Betty Blog on November 3, 2014.
The lure of working remotely has its advantages for some. Others have found a new economic niche that they fit into on the Internet. Alongside the new industry comes a host of blogs dedicated to the business of writing in the digital age. Copyblogger, Hub Pages, Writer’s Digest and hundreds more traffic in advice on how to make money by blogging online.
There is a famous piece of advice accredited to Mark Twain that originated during the American Gold Rush.
When everyone is looking for gold, it’s a good time to be in the pick and shovel business.
He supposedly said that about Samuel Brannan (pictured above), who became California’s first millionaire by selling supplies to miners during the Gold Rush of 1848. But did you know that Brannan eventually succumbed to alcoholism, lost his fortune and was buried in a pauper’s grave in San Diego during 1889?¹
My point is that things are not always what they seem if you consider the larger picture. I have read some singularly terrible advice about blogging. Most of it was intended to attract gullible readers in order to profit from the business of writing online. They do say you should write what you know.
Knowing the difference between a good or a bad tip makes all the difference when producing truly high quality web content. This distinguishes your work in a sea of spam and filler, in a way that is more likely to stand the test of time. The keyword is evergreen blogs.
1. There is one universally correct way to speak and write English.
Historical linguistics is a fascinating science that studies the evolution of language over time. All languages evolve but for the purposes of this exposition we will stick to English. Before mass printing and book binding existed, the English language was more fluid. People wrote however they pleased, and often misspelled words. Canterbury Tales by Geoffry Chaucer is a classic example of Middle English, which is very different from how we speak today.
When somebody corrects your grammar, they are mostly just being disagreeable, because there is no universally correct way to speak and write. There are formats such as Chicago, AP or MLA style that we use to look professional, and keep everything from flying into utter chaos. But you can write or talk however you want to as long as other people understand you. That is how language changes over time, and the reason we have so many types of accents, dialects and creoles.
2. The audience only understands short, easily graspable concepts.
We are constantly bombarded by advertising from the mass media. Many of the most popular types of blogs are indeed easy-to-read. And people tend to scan websites. At the same time, it is not always a good idea to assume your audience is a hopeless idiot. The reader usually sees through attempts to get them to click on a link, or buy something they do not really need. In fact why would I want to read the same terrible blog ninety different times?
Most of the great classics in the history of literature were written at a very advanced reading level, and published during a time when the literacy rate in the general population was much lower. If Shakespeare had written like today’s Hollywood producers we would be missing some of the greatest stories ever told.
3. Bloggers must write web content as fast as humanly possible.
Clearly if the blogger writes as fast as possible then they can write more blogs. But forcing underpaid English majors to write at lightning speeds will not yield the best possible copy writing. A real writer needs time to digest material, compose and edit. If the subject is particularly daunting or significant, they may want to put it in a drawer and review again after sleeping on it.
A writer that writes a 500-1000 word blog in half-an-hour did not work as hard as they could on the project at hand. They are spitting out words like a content mill. To produce top quality blogs, you have to find a balance between staying focused, and researching a genuinely informative and engaging article.
Professionals throw around the term ‘evergreen content.’ But in order to be long lasting a reference needs to be composed of credible material. Otherwise future generations will look back and think that we were complete idiots that over simplified life into a series of inane lists and how-to articles.
I realize the irony in writing an article about how writers should not take advice. Nevertheless the true writer must find their own voice and think for themselves, in addition to cleaning up their copy and editing according to a prescribed format.