The Dark Side of Freelance Writing

The Dark Side of Freelance WritingLast week we talked about changing your world, and about how it’s so important to freelance with integrity.

Today, I want to explore that idea a little further and talk about one of the most challenging situations freelance writers can face.

Let me say, from the start, that I believe in what I do. I am a freelance writer by choice. There are plenty of other careers I could be pursuing, but this is the one I love.

Let me also say that I believe in profit. There’s nothing wrong with getting paid, and getting paid well, for a job well done. In fact, if you aren’t getting paid what you’re worth, then it may be time to consider a career change.

Still, there are some freelance gigs that can be very alluring, but that can ultimately cause some problems with integrity.

Danger Zone 1: Questionable Products

If you’ve been freelancing for any amount of time, you’ve probably been approached by someone who wanted you to promote a product that was less than stellar. I recall an email from a blog reader who wanted me to write some website content for her. She offered quite a substantial sum of money for relatively little work.

Her product was a “gifting” program. Now, I don’t want to get into the legalities or details of the program, but let me just say that it looked an awful lot like a Ponzi scheme to me. Needless to say, I refused the gig. I checked out her website a few weeks later, and could see that she did indeed find someone to write her content.

Now, I’m in no position to judge another writer. I can only say that, for me, taking that gig would have damaged my own sense of integrity.

Danger Zone 2: Sales Over Quality

The Internet, while it has been an amazing boon for writers, has also had a detrimental effect on writing. In the quest to get search engine hits, clients sometimes prefer poorly-written but well-optimized work over work that’s well-written but not quite as well-optimized.

One of the ways that a writer can maintain her integrity is by stressing quality over other factors. When I bid on SEO jobs, I tell clients up front that my main focus is quality, authoritative writing, and that sometimes SEO takes a back seat. If the client doesn’t like it, they hire someone else.

Here’s a dirty little secret about SEO: More often than not, though, quality writing converts much better than poorly-written SEO writing. Yes, you have to be able to rank well in search engines, but if you don’t know the difference between “your” and “you’re,” not many people are going to buy from you.

The good news on this front is that the search engine algorithms have changed over time to be much more friendly to well-written content. Limits on keyword density are an important part of that equation, and the days of poorly-written SEO content may well be over.

Danger Zone 3: Greed

I mentioned at the beginning that I believe in profit, and I do. I’m not one to suggest that there should be a limit on what a writer charges his clients for a given gig. However, integrity does play a role in how you set your rates.

Let’s take, for example, an ebook aimed at work-at-home moms. Often, women who want to work at home are single mothers who just want to have the flexibility they need in order to be there with their kids. In some cases, they may be trying to escape a low-paying job outside of the home, and trying to improve their own lifestyle.

Now, how do you price that ebook? The usual answer is this: you price a given product based on what the market will bear. And I don’t disagree with that entirely.

However, when I set the price for an ebook like this, I’m also thinking about something else: will my ebook help the reader enough to make it worth what I’m charging? If so, then the price is fine. If not, then I need to either add value to the ebook, or I need to lower the price.

So, what do you think? How do you avoid selling out and still manage to make a killing?


About the author: Bob Younce is a full-time Internet writer and writing mentor living in Linwood, Michigan. He is dedicated to helping Internet writers to achieve their dreams. Visit Bob at The Writing Journey or follow him on Twitter.

Photo by Lacie Babenco