3 Terrific New Online Gigs for Freelance Writers — Courtesy of Google

3 Terrific New Online Gigs for Freelance Writers. Makealivingwriting.comAs most freelance writers know, Google recently changed its algorithm to give lower search-result rankings to content-mill sites such as Demand Studios (whose newly public stock has taken a beating as a result).

What you maybe didn’t know is that Google’s change is opening up a world of freelance writing opportunities. A recent Wall Street Journal article reveals that many legitimate ecommerce businesses have seen their rankings tank, too.

What are the businesses doing about it? They’re hiring freelance writers.

The story outlines three different types of writing ecommerce businesses are trying to boost their traffic now that Google is ranking them lower:

  1. Product descriptions. One business is having freelance writers create unique product descriptions so they can get rid of all the stock product-description lingo they copped from manufacturers, to eliminate duplicate copy. Imagine how many businesses need to do this! What an opportunity for writers who enjoy this type of work. And pretty easy prospecting, too — just go on a manufacturer site for the type of products you enjoy writing about, copy some product-description language, plug it into Google, and see all the business sites where it turns up. Then, make some calls and see who’s ready to remake their content and reclaim their high Google rankings.
  2. Marketing emails. Another business in the WSJ story decided to do more email marketing to drive traffic and make up for the lower traffic from Google. So there’s likely a growing opportunity to write marketing email copy.
  3. Video scripts. Yet a third business decided to counter the downturn in traffic to the company’s site from Google by creating more videos they could post on YouTube to draw visitors from that popular channel. I just took on a new writer in my mentoring program who told me writing video scripts is her most lucrative writing assignment type on an hourly basis, so this is definitely a niche to learn about. I believe it’ll see explosive growth in the next few years.

Uncertain times for mill writers

Finally, for anyone who’s reliant on Demand Studios for income, it may be time to think about a new earning strategy. Consider this analysis from the highly regarded financial blog Seeking Alpha:

…this attitude change of Google toward content farms creates questions on the viability of Demand Media’s business model itself.

If you don’t believe it, take a look at the Alexa charts in that Seeking Alpha story that show eHow and other Demand sites’ plummeting traffic since the Google change happened a few weeks back.

The story theorizes that per-article rates at mills may soon start to decline because of the lower ad revenue less traffic will bring (like the rates aren’t insulting already). That’s a pretty solid prediction in my view — just makes sense that less traffic = less ad revenue = lower rates. We learned from the IPO filing that Demand isn’t making a profit on what it pays writers at current rates, so that’s another compelling reason rates may sink.

It’s clearly time for mill writers to diversify — and when I say that, I don’t mean sign up with a couple other mills. They’re all taking the same kind of hit from Google’s new algorithm.

The good news is, Google’s change creates a lot of need for businesses to use more freelance writers. I’m betting rates will be better for these assignments than the mills paid, too.

UPDATE: In November 2011, Google announced more changes that make unique content more important than ever. So the opportunity to sell businesses on the need for your pro writer services is only getting bigger.

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19 comments on “3 Terrific New Online Gigs for Freelance Writers — Courtesy of Google
  1. IsisJ says:

    Honestly, as a business owner, you just can’t skip hiring someone to do the copy. Up until now I’ve worked a regular 9-5 while I let my online business evolve technically and visually. But now it’s time for the meat. My suppliers happily give what the manufactures give them for product descriptions and boy are the awful. I don’t understand how a product manufacturer who has substantially LESS products than the wholesaler and ultimately the retailer do not think it important to hire writers to create great product descriptions. It boggles my mind. But the next phase for my business is hiring freelance writers to write good but short product descriptions for all of the products we carry. Which right now is 10k but we are working on getting that number down and making sure we are only carrying what people want and the best of what they want.

    But if you take for example, American Science & Surplus, visiting their website and reading their product reviews is like an adventure! You don’t know what they’ll say and the descriptions are accurate and entertaining.

    I also noticed since I started hiring writers for copy for our web series the sites that pay the writers little of course really hurt what we were doing. I’ll go ahead and say it, textbroker is an awful site. Even the name is awful. And if you are doing well as a writer on there, then good for you but as someone looking to hire a writer, it really bothers me that when I go to hire for something like… Create Taglines for a show and I put in a word count of about 100 or so and the pay comes out to be less than $3! From my perspective, I feel like “who on earth would do that for $3 and why on earth should they?” But also, how darn insulting is that for the writer? Sometimes it shouldn’t just be about the word count.

    But I’m hiring on another site that has both word count and complexity options and it’s kinda addicting. It makes me happy when the writer comes back with some awesome creative work! And then I end up giving bonuses without thought in sheer appreciation. Especially when you know if you hadn’t hired out, it would have been you slaving over it on top of all the other stuff you have to do for the business.

    I think with many things, quality will ultimately have to rule because you can’t flood markets with junk and expect it to last forever. I’ve seen the same thing happen with music, book publishing and definitely the filmmaking world although they are more stubborn than any other group I’ve encountered. People are tired of wading through junk!

  2. Cindy says:

    As I said yesterday, thanks for this tip!

    I’ve been noticing all of the gigs for product description rewrites coming up on the bidding sites…while I would like to eventually cold call some places, I don’t have experience doing this sort of writing, so I thought someone already looking for a freelancer would be the way to go, this first time out. I took one of their product descriptions and rewrote it as a sample, per thier specs, to show them what I can do. Then it came to the bid…and I was clueless as what to charge. I consulted Writer’s Market (and while that was some help, not entirely). I ended up bidding 6.50 per product description of ~100 words. A friend suggests that was too low. But I am clueless! I tried to think how long it would take me to write one and multiplied that per hour for a decent wage…

    Thoughts? Advice? I’m not looking for an exact ‘fee’ amount here, not at all…just….am I going about this the wrong way??? Is there a formula I’m missing?

    Thanks!

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Cindy —

      I haven’t done product descriptions…maybe another reader can help out with this. But in general…think about your hourly rate. If you can write that description in 10 minutes, maybe that rate works. You want $50-$100/hr as a freelancer to end up with a livable wage after downtime, unbillable hours, and all the expenses you have to pay on your own.

  3. Wendy says:

    Hi Carol:

    I’m interested in taking your webinar on May 24, but I have other commitments. Will there be a podcast of the program for me to download? If so, how do I register for the podcast? THanks!
    Wendy recently posted…Summer-TimeA Time for ReflectionMy Profile

  4. Erin Hill says:

    I’ve been doing product descriptions almost since I started writing for money. I started out doing other things but started writing for a retailer which is apparently well known by other retailers…and therefore, when they find out I’ve written for them, they want me to do nothing but catalog copy. It’s a blessing and a curse. I like doing it, but I think I’m better suited for other forms of copy.

    The point of my rambling is that I can say firsthand that there ARE a lot of retailers who want this stuff done…

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Erin —

      Thanks for sharing your experience. I think the new development is now a million sites that resell products also need unique copy, where they’ve been content to just reproduce manufacturer blurbs in the past. So lots of new opportunity in this niche opening up, I think.

    • Definitely! I fell into writing product descriptions a few months into my freelance career, and I enjoy the challenge of capturing a product’s essence in just a few characters, sort of like writing a haiku (that skill also serves me well in crafting email subject lines). Companies who need product descriptions often have a high volume of products to write about, so that can bring in steady work. That said, in every case, I’ve been asked to write the description based on photos and a few product specs, which often surprises people. Given the volume of products, it’s often not realistic to have the copywriter try out each product, but it certainly would add an extra layer of authenticity.

    • Kate says:

      Can I ask what you charge for this? Have some website I’m going to connect to suggest description rewrites, but not sure how to bid the job. Thanks!

  5. Carol Tice says:

    All: It’s been brought to my attention that the discount code for the Webinar wasn’t working. It’s always something, isn’t it?

    Fixed now!

  6. Freelance Laura says:

    I had spent 2 years freelancing for a Fortune 500 company, writing product descriptions, before the market tanked. When the economy turned, the company decided to just stick with the horrid stock descriptions put out by the manufacturers. I was really sad to see that work go. It can be a lot of fun, but it also involves a LOT of repetition and you have to be able to do accurate research on your own, FAST. It’s definitely not for everyone. Still, as a writer AND as a consumer, I’m glad to see Google forcing the hands of companies to provide original content for their sites.

  7. Anne Wayman says:

    Diversification has always been a good idea. Thanks for the reminder Carol. It’s so easy to get stuck, at least until something shakes us up… better to try something new before that happens.
    Anne Wayman recently posted…Anne Guest Posts at JonathanFieldscomMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Anne —

      I was thinking of you at SOBCon…when I met Jonathan Fields! He was terrific. The conference was so high-powered that he wasn’t one of the presenters…just an attendee. That sort of blew my mind.

  8. Corinna says:

    Perhaps the cream is (finally!) rising to the top!

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Corinna —

      I think so. I’ve seen rates rising at a lot of my markets. I think the era of mass, cheap, junk content is drawing to a close. It was sort of a fad. And now Google has brought an end to it, and is going to help drive an era of quality content that markets have to pay real rates for. Should have happened 2 years ago, I say…but glad it’s finally happening.

      • Robert Feinberg - Sterling, VA says:

        Just because the demand for Demand is tanking
        doesn’t mean opportunities will open up. That’s
        what people want to think, but it doesn’t necessarily
        follow.

        • Carol Tice says:

          Robert, in the 18 months or so since I wrote this post, demand for quality online writing has really exploded, pretty much as predicted.

          Every survey I’ve seen shows more and more business owners are forecasting they will spend more for online marketing. More want to start blogs. There’s a ton of opportunity out there, for anyone willing to proactively market their writing.

          For people who’re only willing to look on bid sites or Craigslist, the pay continues to be rock-bottom. But it’s your choice whether to accept that or to go out and find quality clients.

  9. Cindy says:

    Thanks for this article! Especially the tip about product descriptions and cold-calling businesses who may need copy rewritten.

    I’ve been wondering what will happen once google weeds out the content farms….if the farms should tank…one of the things I wonder is: what will happen to all of those writers who *do* rely on DS?…will they go get jobs at the local coffee shop? Find better-paying writing gigs? Or will their entry into the ‘real’ world of writing drive rates down in that arena…a sudden influx of writers more than willing to write for peanuts.

    It’s interesting times. I’m curious to see what will happen. I’m pretty sure the folks at DS are scrambling to figure out ways to drive the traffic up again…

  10. Carol Tice says:

    My prediction would be a lot of mill writers will do something else. As the economy goes up I think many will go back to day jobs. When you look at the quality of a typical mill post, let’s say I’m not up nights worrying that mill writers are going to drive my rates down or take my clients.

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