copywriting: the seedy underworld

October 12, 2009


You didn’t know it was like this, did you?

Since turning my attention to the freelance job boards a couple of months ago (having seen one prominently featured in the Times, I might add), I’ve been puzzled by what seems to be a bizarre subculture. There are apparently hordes of people looking for “Mother tongue English speakers” to write many, many 300-400-word “original articles” per week – for let’s say £1 an article.

This was confusing to me at first. Then I gradually realised that, by “article,” these people meant “post on a website.” They don’t mean “review of the latest show at the Tate” or “feature on some amusing aspect of job-hunting.” And I think that by “website” they mean “startup idea which is all about making some money, By Any Means Necessary.” (More on this below.)

But even then I remained confused – why the ridiculous fees? Then it came out. Many of the “jobs” are going to writers in India. Or somewhere. Somewhere where it doesn’t cost £100 a day just to get out of bed. Or have a bed. I queried this with one job poster, who was asking for bids in the region of £10 for a week’s “Articles.” (His ad said,” I only need six articles per week. You can take Sundays off.”) He wrote back: “I’ve been paying a high-quality graduate in India 25p an article, so I don’t see why I should pay anyone in England more than £1.50. Anyway, it only takes ten minutes to write 300 words.”

The minimum commission charged to freelancers by the site is £15. I pointed this out; he hadn’t thought of it.

Another wanted 30 web pages of 300-400 words each, plus a long (200) and a short (50)-word product description for each of 2,500 (yes!) products. That’s 300 web pages plus five thousand product descriptions. A patient writer posted a query, saying that even at the lowest fee she could knock it down to, her bid would come to around £4,000. Was this the kind of figure he had in mind? No. Of course it wasn’t. The thing was, any lower than this it would start working out under the minimum wage. Never MIND what the NUJ says a person should be able to charge for professional work!

And the thing is, he will get someone. He won’t get professional work, but that isn’t really what he wants anyway. As for the writer, I have no idea what they want. It can’t be money, job satisfaction or a sense of pride.

There are a surprising number of people bidding on jobs offering under £10 an hour for “expert high-quality copy writing plus original research.” By offering to do this work – by pretending that anyone could possibly do this in 15 minutes – and by bidding where the employer says, “I will only consider low bids, as there may be a lot more work for the right person” – these people are undervaluing not only themselves, but also the whole profession. The whole concept of professionalism. This is the underclass.

Even if you didn’t mind the prospect of “lots more” badly-paid work (oh goodie!) clear, excellent writing is far too important to treat this way. I’ve been finding this strange world more than a little depressing – especially as I only got involved in the first place on the advice of the BBC!

As if that wasn’t enough, there seems to be a “pro writing”subculture on the internet, where you supply “content” to websites and get a percentage of the money generated by ad clicks on your pages. These sites also advertise for “contributors,” as if this were a “job.” This is not professional writing! I would just like to say this right here. This is vanity publishing, where even the publisher is vanity publishing. It’s all fuelled by Google Ads.

But this exists far outside our orbit, so why am I even telling you? Because earlier today, this delightful thing plopped into my inbox, and brightened the whole afternoon! Happy reading.

There are bunch of Copywriting work today. In this article today, we look to the future Copywriting work, as well, where you can find more detailed information.

Number Copywriting work is enormous. As of February 10, 2007, if you do search keywords “copywriting”, were discovered 509 jobs. This is only a small part of the market, and you can find many other Copywriting Work on other sites as well. With the development of the Internet, more and more jobs, to write good web content among other things on the Internet. Often, many Copywriting work can be found, where you’ll find many of advertising agencies and a good example of this can be in New York. In your area, there will be a large number of smaller marketing agencies where you can find a job as a copywriter. A number of possibilities for the copywriter are very high, and this is a lot of work to feel in.

Copywriting salaries usually range from $ 41,000 per year to $ 56000 per year or more. From this site, 41000 represented that the 25 th percentile are making an average within the region while people earn 56000 were in the Top 75%. This is a rough gauge on what you can potentially do if you decide to use Copywriting work.

To simply look at the capture area work as a copywriter, you could also consider doing some independent copywriting. If you are not satisfied with the amount of money that you could do with copywriting, you can look at supplementing this on the side of the tenders for the projects in either of these two following websites…

You hear that? And when you get tired of all those enthusiastic get-rich-quick carpet-copy-writers, you know where to find me.

Image: Opium smokers in the East End of London. From the Illustrated London News, 1 August 1874


11 Responses to “copywriting: the seedy underworld”

  1. Hoover said

    It’s all about search engine marketing, Katy.

    You dump a coupla hundred articles on your site about pharma, looking after pets, or media today, and this allows you to attract people searching for those topics on Google.

    Quality doesn’t matter.

    Writing a good sales page is something different though. Not one in a hundred of those people can do that at the rates they charge. Or providing useful information about a business, or a lively news story, or a guide to a government service, or whatever.

  2. I’m the lowest of the low, an SEO Copywriter. I need to write content that will rank highly.

    Done properly, it shouldn’t be reams of low quality guff. The problem is twofold.

    The first is, as you mentioned, you can get badly-written low quality guff from overseas. Of course Mr. Bloggs wants it. He paid £50 for a pisspoor web template. Why should he pay seventy times that to populate his products?

    The second is that search engines lie. Google claims that well optimised, well written content should rank and that keyword stuffing should be penalised. Google then lets the dross rise to the top because the algorythm isn’t as good as they claim.

    Sooner or later, search will improve and reward quality. Until then we’re all fighting a losing battle.

    • Michael said

      Your comment about Google is uncomfortably close to the bone. The search engines are complicit in the scam, when site scrapers and quasi-automatically filled websites do actually generate loads of ad revenue.

  3. kris said

    I quote Liam Gallagher…

    You pay peanuts, you get monkeys on crack

  4. Byrne said

    I got started in copywriting by doing these very articles (for a bit more). The Google algorithm is a little smarter than you’d give it credit for: the only article directories worth submitting to have at least reasonable standards for article quality. So these posts are probably soliciting articles to post in huge numbers on a huge number of extremely low-quality directories.

    Paying one intern $10/article to write something readable on is more lucrative than paying ten people $1/article to write stuff for no-name directories with mediocre SEO and low pagerank.

    But of course you’ll see more of the low-priced work — simply because they need to hire more people, more often, to get the same results!

    • msbaroque said

      Hi Byrne – ohhh okay, you are making it a little clearer! Each comment is bringing it more into focus. Very interesting it is, too. I’m very interested in how SEO works, which seems shrouded in mystery – and you guys are shining a light on bits I hadn’t seen. But I’m sure it must, like anything else, have less sinister elements too. I will continue my search for those.

      Andy, you don’t seem like the lowest of the low to me.

  5. Ben said

    The irony is that, if you put well-written and cleverly optimised copy on a site that’s badly constructed, it won’t rank anywhere as highly as it should. Still, the lads you’re talking about want quantity, not quality…

  6. My friend learned his publishing trade at a printer. As an apprentice, he spotted a mistake on a job that was almost on press, in the days when correcting errors was hideously expensive. Not yet having learned that the best approach in such situations is to pretend you haven’t seen the error, he alerted his superior, who instructed him (thick Norfolk accent): “You don’t want to worry about that bor. No-one’s gun to f***ing read it anyway.”

    Now his terrible prophecy has come true: acres of appalling content (malcontent?) produced in a near machine-like manner for machines, not humans to read. Deserted halls of text inspected only by automated drones, while the humans live deep underground. The only crumb of comfort is that Google’s continued success depends on it being able to beat all attempts to game its algorithms.

  7. Great post. Copify have certainly rekindled the whole issue of cheap and dirty content, but as you point out here people are procuring super-cheap content from all kinds of places already.

    The comforting thing is that good companies with brands worth protecting do not engage in filler-content shenanigans, but prefer to work with professional copywriters who can spend time getting to know them. So real work still exists.

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