Marketing Rant: Cheapening the Craft

Yes, gentle readers, there was a lost day this week. No posting occurred on QRW yesterday, but for good reason. Tales of that momentous occasion involving Chicago, exorbitant fees, and glorious new property, will be saved for another time.

But a lack of posting yesterday means a double whammy today. You get a two-for-one post, combining a bit of marketing maven discussion along with ranting goodness! And what is the topic that incurs this double trouble? Freelance writing ads, I’m looking at you.

In my two years of freelancing full time, I’ve experienced the ebbs and flows of the business. High times, low times, rich times, poor times. In the time of plenty, I’ve had clients coming at me left and right, the majority of which I turn into continual clients. In the time of not enough, I check with all my current clients, boost up my organic marketing efforts, and generally make myself as attractive as possible. But it doesn’t always cut it. And where does an erstwhile freelancer go then? Where anyone seeking a job goes: the want ads.

Freelancers and writers have the same options when it comes to those seeking full-time employment: Craig’s List, CareerBuilder, local publication ads, etc. And occasionally you can find some gems. But the majority of the time, when casting a hopeful eye through these sites, along with sites like Elance, Guru, and other bid sites, you find prices that are painfully low, and buyers that believe we’re getting what we deserve. Here’s a typical gem:

Content development firm hiring writers to write articles. The pay is $5.00 to $7.00 per 500 word article. This should be an easy gig for someone who knows what they’re doing.

Sucky pay, and patronizing tone? Sign me up!

This is nothing new, of course. It’s a trend that continues years and centuries of devaluing the written word, continuing the notion that anyone can write, that good writing is merely stringing some words together without spelling errors (or maybe with, who knows?), that writing as a profession is suspect and not worthy of respect. It encourages the egregious misuse of language, the mind-numbingly bad emails that require more time to decipher than to act on, the examples of piss-poor writing that you see everywhere.

One writer isn’t able to do much about this greater devaluating of writing, but by sticking to his or her principles and hourly rate he or she can slowly buck the trend. But that still leaves a quandary: what are our options when seeking some extra work? Is it worth the effort to sift through the penny-poor and belittling ads to find the few worthy options?

Occasionally, yes. I’ve actually found at least five clients through Craigslist, clients that were respectable, established, well-known companies, and clients that went on to give me scads of repeat work. They do exist, they’re out there, and they’re willing to pay proper rates for quality work.

They can be found by diligence, by maintaining your normal rates when quoting work, and by vetting the ads. Ignore the denigrators. Bypass the tiny pay rates, or the vague “work for exposure” offers. And of course – present yourself as someone worthy of the respect and pay. Write personal, tailored emails, and eye-grabbing subject lines. In short, persuade them by example, with a stellar, well-organized, well-written, and marketing-oriented message.

What do you think? Ever find success with writing ads? Think they’re a waste of time? Comment!