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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Good "timings" is everything...A rant...

The site is ostensibly about parenting in India. It covers everything from internet safety for kids to easily recited Shlokas (which are prayers to specific Indian deities, according to the site). For some reason, however, it contains an article (there's no link to this that I can find anywhere on the site) entitled "Freelance Writing Jobs." The page has a bit of Adsense, but no other apparent justification for existence on the site.

That's odd, perhaps, but certainly not unprecedented. The site owner wants to try to score a few Google nickels with an article about freelance writing. So be it. Interestingly, the article appears to have been written by (or for) the site owner. The author's name and a copyright notice are affixed to it. I don't find it published elsewhere around the web.

So, why does this warrant a post here? It's just another article about freelance writing, floating around out in cyberspace in hopes of inducing a few ad clicks, after all. Well, the actual content of the article rubbed me the wrong way. Let me show you. Here's an excerpt:

"But did you know that Freelance writing could be done by almost anyone. It does not require any set of so called specialized skills in writing. The word writing is in this case highly misleading. It conjures up in the unsuspecting innocent mind images of serious writers poring over pages in a trancelike state scribbling away in an inspired moment. But freelance writing is simply like making conversation to a friend, only also penning it down and sending it to someone who can use it. It is yet another tool of marketing used by the people who will pay you for the writing.

In a career as a freelance writer, one can find a lot of flexibility in terms of timings and also the place of work. You could be anywhere and doing anything else and yet make money with a freelancing job.

...train your amateur eye to focus on opportunities on Freelance writing. This is where the stable and guaranteed money is."

Apparently, freelance content writing is a great source of "stable and guaranteed money" that "could be done by almost anyone," even those who are not "serious" and merely strive to write down something akin to a "coversation to a friend." It also offers great flexibility in terms of "timings."

All I can say (well, all I can say without dipping into the profanity bucket, anyway) is "wow."

Every time I take on a writing job I approach it professionally. I bring my college and graduate education to work with me. I bring the experience of countless hours wearing out keyboards and trying to match client needs with me. I tote along decades of work experience in a variety of professional fields other than freelance writing. I work on every Content Done Better project with my customer and his or her specific needs in mind. I take pride in offering a quality product. I back my efforts with a tight guarantee policy. I don't approach my writing with the cavalier attitude I might have when discussing a ballgame or dinner plans with a friend.

However, this individual seems to think that just about anyone with some basic command of language and internet access can do the job just fine. Hey, anyone can generate a stable income without having to know a damned thing and without having to be a skilled and serious professional!

Of course, the article is crap. That's obvious. The litany of errors in the piece flag it as a piece of junk. I am prone to occasional blog typos and errors of haste, so I don't like to mock or dissect others' errors. After reading this piece of anti-wisdom, however, I went ahead and put "timings" right in the post title.

Sure, I am offended by the article. It's not altogether unlike an electrician reading that "anyone with a Home Depot charge card can wire a house without being serious" or a brain surgeon reading that "performing brain surgery is no harder than chopping lunch meat and the earnings are great!"

The article is an insult to anyone who writes for a living.

Even more annoying, however, is the fact that "advice" like this floats about in a variety of places, polluting the writing waters.

It's true. You don't have to be Marcel Proust to write content. It's true. You don't have to resemble the long-held stereotype of the beard-stroking, fountain pen-toting "writer" to do the job. However, to maintain that anyone can write effectively is an outright lie. Articles like this encourage the underskilled to bite off projects they cannot chew. They're the reason people shop rewrite projects to me every day. They're the reason so many oft-burned webmasters begin to seek out alternatives to hired content.

You see, not everyone sees through the crap. Some underskilled person will read that article, create an Elance account and book work he or she cannot handle. Some poorly informed webmaster will read something like that and will question whether or not they need to deal with a real professional. An erudite webmaster will read something like that and be sickened by the quality and attitude and might just swear off freelancers altogether, believing that any one of them could be a not-so-serious wordsmith hoping to make a good living with flexible "timings."

If you can't resist reading the original article, it can be found here.

P.S. I'd like to be clear that although the article came from an Indian site I am NOT implying that this is an Indian problem. There are those in the freelance writing community who would like to demonize Indian writers, who they perceive as being a cause for lower rates. That's a different debate (and you can see what I think about that here). There are plenty of American, British and North American people who are spreading the same bunk about writing for the web (I mentioned one less egregious case here).