Why Do Web Content Writers Get the Rub in the Gig Economy

So here’s something I always have found interesting. When I tell people what I do for a job, they suspect since I don’t write for glossy magazines or have my name on a paperback–yet–that I’m not a real authentic writer with a serious salary.

Back up with the question, what is a professional writer? Is it someone who gets paid to write something professionally? Well, in that case a web content writer like muah is a freelancer who gets paid to write for businesses. Now, let’s have Exhibit A.

The Article

In Exhibit A, I came across an article titled “Down and Out in the Gig Economy” about a writer who was unable to make more than $20,000 at their craft. Let me go ahead and identify that elephant over there. A journalist is not a web content writer. Yes, I agree. Neither is a copywriter, scriptwriter, screenplay writer, or novelist a web content writer. But they all write. Right?

I know a ton of different writer types who write web content in some capacity to support themselves as a working writer. I have met etymologists, attorneys, sailors, and video game developers who are also freelance writers making a living.

The Issues

Because in this article the writer is struggling with a couple of things. They have been unable to find paid work as a journalist in today’s online content universe. Please know that I was going to avoid pointing out the writer was also, “Raised in privilege (son of lawyers, private schools, no college debt),” but I feel this has context.

As a single mom with a nearly six-foot-tall fifth grade son with shoulders as wide as a linebacker, I have a far different stance on these following issues. I have to make money to make food appear for this sweet bottomless pit of mine. I don’t have the privilege you might say of having the same opinions about these writer things. Now, here is how the writer’s journey began in the professional world:

  • They wrote book reviews, “the journalistic entry point for many young writers,” which is something I also did as my first paid writing job. I read and reviewed books for a client for $10 a book. Yes, ten dollars a book. I read five books and it took a month and then I quit for something better and less ridiculously poorly paid. I was using a now defunct freelancer platform where I sourced dozens of clients right alongside the book reviewer. So jobs are out there if you just keep searching and aren’t too above them.
  • Got a job offer that ended in sweaty palms, no cross-country move, and not even an emailed rejection, after which they “still haven’t gotten a job in journalism” beyond temporary gigs. Again, jobs for freelance writers are all over the place as long as you are willing to get outside of your writer’s mindset of must-see-my-name-in-print.

Freelancers Grrrr

Then I came to this:

“…few writers actually support themselves with full-time freelancing. A lucky handful churn out features for the New York Times Magazine and GQ for $2 a word and then deliver half-apologetic aw-shucks accounts of their success on the Longform podcast, which dispenses romantic tales of literary striving to a mass of naive supplicants.”

Well. Let me correct you there. There are plenty of freelance writers out here who are making a real income. It is all a matter of mindset, putting in the effort, and stepping outside of your comfort zone.

And then here is an interesting phrase from the writer here in regard to freelance journalists who turn to what I’m assuming to be freelance content work:

“The ideal relationship for a freelance journalist to their work becomes a kind of excited amateurism. They should hope for professional success and acceptance but always keep a backup plan or three in mind. They will likely not be welcomed past the gates of full-time employment. By year five or six, they might be rebranding themselves as “editorial consultants” or “content strategists,” realizing that any genuine fiscal opportunity lies in shepherding corporate content to life.”

I always thought that having a fiscal opportunity was the point of a paying job, but then again I also shepherd corporate content aka business blogs and web pages to life.

The Reality for This Real Writer

As a writer I make more than three times this writer’s $20,000 in a year. And I have consistently with minimal marketing efforts on my own behalf thanks to WriterAccess. No writing degrees here although I would have loved to have taken that route.

Instead I have two applied and clinical sociology degrees, albeit a bachelor and a master’s, that I’m still paying for. Minimal journalism experience—and zero magazine articles to my credit. Definitely won’t see my name in GQ or The New York Times Magazine, yet, as No Option is ever off my freelancer desk.

I’m not saying writing web content works for every writer, but as a writer who needs to pay the bills it does. You remain a freelancer and ramen is something you eat by choice now and not out of necessity.

Writing content is a job, it is an income.

*Addressed to all writers who need to make some money and get off their parent’s couch.

It’s time.

 

“Welcome. I’m the Whispering Wordsmith of the Woods, An Old Man Willow type cunning the lit forest, Disrupting textbookish writers with grammar snaps and cracks.” As a professional web content writer for small-to-medium businesses, Miranda B understands how to effectively balance technical jargon and personal brand messaging. Her content is sticky, evergreen when expected to be, and always creative. Keep ’em coming back for more, that’s Miranda’s motto!


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