The argument goes like this: ‘If you really want to be a writer, you’ll focus all of your time and energy building up your business. You won’t have to sell yourself short, if you work hard and do it right.’
It sounds a little
sanctimonious judgy to me. If there isn’t a one-size-fits-all for life, why on earth should there be one for writing?
Writing for online job platforms is one possibility.
People get into writing for many reasons, none of which have guaranteed results. Both Fitzgerald and Rushdie worked as copywriters for money- while they wrote creatively- so it can’t be all bad for your writing craft.
I’ve worked on platforms. In fact, I still use several for gaining new skills and meeting new clients outside of my niches. I enjoy the challenge.
Online job platforms are just one of the many, many options available. They might not be right for you. But if you are interested, the best place to start is by going through a sort checklist:
What Are the Pros & Cons of Using Online Job Platforms?
I know writers who have tried and hated job platforms; writers who just use them as part of their monthly income; and writers who swear by working on one platform, full-time. Here are the pros and cons for writers:
Freelance platforms are a fantastic way of starting out in the online writing world, for a couple of reasons:
- You can begin building up your writing reputation, and with a middle-man format, you won’t get screwed…as much.
- It forces you to figure out how much your time is worth.
- You can get experience in a variety of writing styles, formats and tones, which carries into your future writing. In other words, you get paid to learn as you go.
- Bylines are possible for some of the work, which helps you continue to build up your portfolio.
- You can keep the wolf away from the door- without earning the pennies content mills are famed for.
- It saves you the time of beating the street, cold emailing leads or going door-to-door, begging for a writing chance.
- You can make invaluable contacts outside of your small circles of knowns.
And in the other corner, we have why online platforms aren’t great:
- Many of the sites ask you to pay a ‘finder’s fee,’ or percentage taken out, for finding you the job. They don’t ask the same of the clients or people buying your service.
- The competition can be ridiculous in 2 extremes: either people who’ve been working on the platform for ages, and know the system like a childhood friend; or people with barely-there skills who low-ball prices.
- The money you make is rarely as much as you’d make on your own.
- You’re wasting time that you could otherwise be spending looking for better paying gigs, real leads or finding clients who value your work.
- You can get screwed by the platform system, that tends to side with the client, not the seller. No matter what.
- Not all clients are good clients, and some of the platforms are worse than others. Whether it’s scope-creeping (extending the job endlessly), to nitpicking over miniscule details to simply not paying, you’ve a higher chance of dealing with unpleasant expectations.
What Types of Jobs Do Platforms Offer Online Writers?
If you’re an absolute newbie, first things first: what type of online writing job do you want? Have you got experience in helping friends with web pages, or have you written a short story? What’s your writing preference?
A lot of online writing jobs crossover: creative writing into marketing and editing into blogging, as examples. You can find and hone jobs that play to your writing strengths.
Take a look at what types of writing jobs typical platforms offer (and what they mean):
Content Writing. This is almost a catch-all phrase for writing now, but it should be more professional and website-centric.*
It can include SEO writing; maximizing landing, web or ‘About’ pages; white papers; blogging regularly; product descriptions; FAQs; and can cross over into marketing with brochures or campaigns.
*Many people use it as a term for general writing, though.
Article & Blog Writing. The client or company has a topic or even a title, and you research to the title and keywords, (ghost, not normally bylined) writing an article or blog post.
Note: Articles are more formal and well-researched than blogs. Blogs tend to be casual and less detailed, though the lines are becoming more blurred.
Copywriting. If you’re good at taking every day topics and adding some zest, this might be for you. Think: great headlines and taglines.
It’s sales and advertising/marketing, focused on selling a brand, or its services, through engaging writing. Copywriting is also sales letters or emails; cleaning up and making existing content pop; and helping with promotional material.
Creative Writing. Another extremely broad spectrum of online writing, it involves anything from ghost writing short stories or ebooks; script writing; personal correspondence; to brand name or tagline creation… just like the title, the possibilities are pretty creative.
Editing, Proofreading & Copyediting. For people who are quick to pick up inconsistencies or grammatical errors.
Note: In case you’ve always wondered, editors go for a streamlining (cutting out dry monologues, for example) and overall consistency in a piece. Proofreaders do the technical (punctuation, etc.). And copy editors are those rare creatures that can do both.
Social Media Management. Anything from creating a social media account, writing profiles and posting blurbs, to maintaining and writing organic (original) posts for the social media platform of choice.
Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter management all fall in this area of expertise, which is perfect for social online writers.
Specialized Writing. If you’re highly knowledgeable in a niche area, you can find gigs writing about it. APA or MLA writing, medical, essay, science, legal and tech all fall into this category.
What If I Don’t Have the Skills Yet for the Online Writing Jobs I Want?
This is where technology steps in to help. If there’s a skill you’d like to brush up on- or learn- it’s super easy to find free online training courses or materials.
Depending on the program, you can work at your own pace and complete the course as you go. Here are a few for each of the broad categories I’ve listed above:
Writing for the Web: The course goes through the differences between writing offline compared to online and discusses SEO, structure and style.
SEO for Beginners: Moz is a must and offers a fully comprehensive course with materials to explain SEO, how it works and methods to use it.
White Paper Tips & Template: Via the Content Marketing Forum, if you’re looking for a guide on writing a white paper, this helps.
Articles & Blogs:
Writing a Blog for Others (Article): These tips from Catherine Zhang are handy when you’re writing a blog for a business.
Copywriting Resources: The Kopywriting Kourse Resources start with copywriting for beginners, guides and organizers.
Copyhackers Blog: Their blog is chock-full of good information, tips and how-tos for writing ‘killer copy.’
Warrior Forum: Copywriting: A forum dedicated to copywriting, from just beginning to experienced copywriters. Resources, tips and loads of discussions.
Creative Writing: The Crafty Writer offers an online self-study course that’s meant to challenge and enliven your writing.
How to Write an E-book: This is sort of a step-by-step guide, but since some online platforms offer a lot of e-book writing under ‘creative,’ it might come in useful.
Writing an Explainer Script for Youtube (Post): A good guide with a free template.
How to Write a Short Script (Video): Youtube and business videos are exploding across the marketing world, so knowing how to write a script may help you get jobs.
Social Media Writing:
Facebook Marketing: Facebook’s ‘Blueprint’ is a free course designed to help you understand what works and what doesn’t. You can do the program at your own pace.
Social Media Basics: Constant Contact offers a free course on social media basics, and you can choose from the social platforms which to learn.
Social Media Diploma: Alison offers a diploma after you complete this free course in social media. It looks like a good basics-building program.
Traffic Generation Cafe: Blog: Anything that has to do with social media or marketing you’ll usually hear about on Ana Hoffman’s blog.
Journalistic Writing: If you’ve always wanted to bolster your journalistic skills, Annenberg Learner has a video series on journalism as a course.*
Purdue Online Writing Lab: Proofreading materials and MLA & APA guides are all available for free from Purdue University.
Essay and Report Writing: Open University has a refresher course for essay and report writing.
*Online only until June 2016.
I’ve started this series with the very basic beginnings: what are the pros and cons of platforms; what type of jobs do they offer; and how can you brush up on your skills- if you want to. I hope you’ve found some helpful tidbits. Grin.
Let me know if you’ve tried online job platforms as a writer (and what you think) or if I’ve missed anything in my lists in the comments below!
Part 2 of Writing for Online Job Platforms: Creating a Perfect Profile