How hack jobs & bad projects can keep you in business.

I used to worry about the writing market being so saturated.

Everywhere you look, there’s a “writer” willing to pump out content for some ungodly-low fee. Some are talented, passionate folk. Others are hack jobs and hobby-writers with little talent and a lot of time on their hands.

When you look at platforms like oDesk or the Problogger Job Board and see jobs being paid out at $10/500 words, it’s bound to put a little fear in you.

Even Forbes only pays out $50/article (plus some tiny fraction of a cent based on impressions) – a woeful fee given how much research time goes into preparing something of that calibre.

It’s enough to make you wonder…

“Will I ever make any money at this?”

And that’s what I wondered, too.

But somewhere along the road I learned to love the fact that there’s so many people trying their hands at this game.

Because so many of them are bad at it.

And that leaves the smart businesses with a bad taste in their mouths and a desire to never get burned or humiliated again. All of the poor labour is creating a market for the top-tier jobs you want to be involved with.

It helps brands see the light when it comes to valuing talent and professionalism over word counts and bulk pricing.


“Good heavens! A writer who needs minimal editing, nails our tone of voice and sends periodic project updates? We’ve died and gone to heaven!”

Because while those sound like perfectly reasonable expectations, they’re rarely fulfilled. Don’t believe me? Ask anyone who has tried to hire a writer (but get a coffee first – you’re going to be awhile).

The door is WIDE open to show businesses you’re a professional.

Because the people you want to compete against for jobs aren’t the people taking on penny-work. It’s the people writing for agencies, brands, web developers – those are the folk you want to be in league with, not the guy who can churn out 200 posts a day for a four-figure yearly salary.

So the question isn’t “How many of these crappy jobs do I need to do to get by?”

It’s, “How can I step out and differentiate myself in a world where everyone with two hands can call themselves a writer?”

And when you start asking THAT, you start stumbling upon minor revelations like:

  • Pricing your services higher is a good thing. Perception is reality, and it weeds out those looking purely for price over talent.
  • You can’t just be a talented writer. You need to operate like a business, honouring deadlines, communicating like a businessman and seeing the ¬†big picture. Your skills outside of writing are what differentiate you and what businesses value (even if they don’t know it yet).
  • Your personal voice and tone matter. Gag if you want to, but “personal brand” is important. If people like you before they’ve even sent you a contact form, you’re already holding more power in that relationship.
  • Specialization makes a difference. If you can carve out a niche where you get known for crushing it every single time you put finger to keyboard, that reputation will warrant a higher payout.
  • Focus on valuable assets. More often than not, blogs are a low-value asset to the client. Your post is one of 15 being published that month. Web copy, eBooks, guides, infographics and so on have a more permanent feel attached, so they also warrant a more significant investment. Shoot for the work that matters most to the business.

…. among other things.

Don’t fear the market. Don’t be scared of the competition. They’re screwing things up in such a wonderfully convenient way that they create a market for what you offer.

All you have to do is prove you’re worth it.


One Response to “How hack jobs & bad projects can keep you in business.”

  1. Derek says:

    Applies to other industries as well. We used to refer to this as Learn and Burn in that we’d let the prospective client learn from and get burned by someone else, and we’d be waiting on the other side when the client leveled up.

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