By Carson Brackney
I just watched the news. The US economy shed nearly 400,000 jobs in July. The latest projections estimate that another 300,000 people lost jobs in August. Amazingly, that’s almost good news relative to the even higher numbers from previous months.
That’s just one of many proofs that our economy is struggling. GDP numbers, foreclosure statistics, bankruptcy forecasts and virtually every other indicator of overall economic well-being point to a single conclusion: Things suck.
You might think we’re standing on a ledge staring down at Great Depression v. 2.0. You might believe that the economy has bottomed out and has nowhere to go from here but up. No matter how you assess things or how your politics lean, things are ugly out there.
That’s bad news for the people staring at pink slips, empty cupboards and late notices. For those who do the freelance writing thing–especially those who focus on online markets–it may actually be good for business.
That’s because the economic squeeze is creating an army of people who type “how to make money online” and similar queries into Google. While some of them are going to get duped into HYIPs and cash gifting schemes that may end in criminal prosecutions, others will stumble into the world of Internet marketing.
There’s one thing you can count on the great majority of Internet marketing coaches, gurus and consultants to tell these new people: “Content is king.” All of those advocates of the “four hour work week” and the development of passive/residual income streams are also believers in the power of outsourcing. Those two messages pave a road that leads right to the doorstep of the freelance web writer.
While I’d still prefer a strong economy filled with happy people to a battalion of new desperation-inspired IMers, it’s become increasingly obvious that there’s a lot of new business out there for those who are willing, ready and able to take it. If you’re writing for the web and you know how to make the right connections, you don’t need to worry about where you’re going to get your bill money.
This influx of newbie content buyers does present a few challenges, however.
First, they’re extremely price sensitive. Many writers decry the penny-pinching ways of established marketers. When they see what the newbs expect to invest in homemade text, they start screaming bloody murder. This isn’t a market segment for those who demand a quarter per word. New entrants into the field haven’t yet learned the quality lesson first hand and are far too likely to be swayed by promises of bulk at prices lower than what you usually find from New Delhi writers.
Second, many of them have no idea what they’re doing. That can make the process of handling a transaction difficult. It can lead to unrealistic expectations of all sorts. It can also put you in a tough ethical position. When Bob Newby wants ten articles optimized for a keyword for which you know he doesn’t have a chance, you need to think about the best way to deal with the situation. New marketers will often give you a glimpse into their plans and if you’ve been around for awhile it’s not hard to spot the schemes that are doomed for failure.
It’s a mixed bag. There’s more business than ever but a lot of it is the kind of stuff many of us would prefer to avoid. Maybe we shouldn’t. I think a writer can deal with these new potential clients in a way that’s profitable, helpful and ethical. How?
Explain. Don’t just say you won’t take X cents per word and that you feel insulted by a lowball offer. Instead, explain why some people offer those rates, the risks associated with those providers and the likely return on investment generated by low-quality chop-shop content. Explain your process, what you can do that they can’t and why your work will help them more than a collection of spun, plagiarized or just plain crappy articles. Remember, these folks are new to the game. They don’t necessarily know better and they may not have been introduced to these considerations before.
Assist. When the project smells rotten or looks foolhardy, let the client know. Advise him or her as to why you think it may not be wisely planned. Share your knowledge and perspective in a sincere and helpful way. It’s easy for writers to overlook the fact that many new marketers are nervous about outsourcing. They don’t know the ropes and they may be worried about investing the cash they have in the work of a third party. It’s your job to put them at ease and to help them make the best possible decision.
Care. Don’t take advantage of the newb. Treat him or her right. Give them what they need to have the best possible chance for success. That’s good for generating repeat business. It’s good for referrals (even the new folks network, you know). And it’s good for your conscience. The waters of Internet business are shark-infested. Those just starting will encounter enough predators without having their content providers join in the feeding frenzy.
If you’re like me, you’re seeing more and more new people who are struggling to create a profitable online foothold in response to economic hardship or as a hedge against its possibility. If you haven’t encountered these potential clients yet, you probably will–the economy is still a long way from being strong.
While this crew of new customers can be challenging, there is potential in this market for the right writers. Those who are capable of providing high-quality, ethical guidance and assistance (along with top-notch deliverables, of course) can be part of one of the few groups who can live through the downturn without feeling squeezed by the economic vise.
Carson Brackney is a copywriter, consultant and content provider who works with clients ranging from the newest beginners to established experts. His latest project, Ad Astra Traffic, will launch in October, offering “one stop shopping” for content and other critical online business needs.