I was going through some emails from various organizations and placement companies that are constantly looking for freelance content writers recently. I was going through them with customary nonchalance that has become the norm now when such emails hit my inbox.
Most of them want the same output at similar pathetic budgets. Let me put down here some of the ‘usual offers' that pour into the overstuffed inbox:
- Need 18 - 25 articles (in a month) if you are a fresher, in case of experienced writers, the demand can exceed 50 articles in a month. They can be from any sector or industry. Internet can be used for research. All articles should be rewritten and proof-checked.
- We will give you a wonderful platform to showcase your talent but, sorry we can't pay as publicity is a priority over content. We want great quality content with original images, if possible.
- Need articles for websites. Will be paid 30 paise per word (1 rupee is 100 paise). Length of article should be around 1000 words... etc. etc. etc.
Many learning and training organizations also seek the earth and the moon (read customized and quality training content) at ridiculous budgets and practically zero timeline.
After going through such emails for years now, I have decided not to raise to the bait ie. write back saying, "Sorry. You are being ridiculous." I just ignore or delete them in my attempt to keep my inbox clutter-free.
I know that consultants are not supposed to be negative about work of any kind because, hey they are ‘possible’ clients! And we depend on them for work. We are supposed to grin and be polite like some rag doll with a permanent smile painted on its face or a housewife forced to make laddoos like Sridevi in her comeback film, English Vinglish, to supplement her income. But, I choose to differ.
I have decided to completely ignore such summons. I have in the last few months even listened to many such pitches where the person-concerned tried to sell their wonderful concept to me soliciting my 'help' to put it on paper without discussing 'money' because, it's all between 'friends'.
But, wait a minute please! "You would not have suggested that I work for free if I was "really" your 'friend'!"
I don't mind a few friends here and there who go ahead and tell me upfront that they are stuck and need help for which they cannot pay. I am perfectly fine with that. I get stuck and often seek help too.
But, people in general need to understand that writing is a creative art. It takes time, patience and craftsmanship to be delivered. It is in no way a cup of Instant Coffee.
Also Read: How to Write a Story
I take pride in what I do. I do it well. I am a writer and I treat my talent as something precious.
I am sure that there a whole lot of people willing to work for a lot less or even for free but, the quality of their work shows that they don't know the first thing about writing.
I had done a piece on story writing earlier. I have also done workshops on creative content writing for teams of 'writers' on the same. I realized however, that though everyone loves a story and often has several to tell, most are unable to follow the basics even after they have gone through the program. It is not easy to write a coherent story or even article with proper flow if you are not willing to learn the basics.
The problem with most ‘aspiring’ writers being, “I know because I studied in school…” Sorry! You learnt only the basics of grammar and how to answer questions in school. That was definitely not content writing. It at best gives you basic communication skills through the written word. It would be great to accept the truth and learn how to write first before picking up jobs that helps you pay pocket money or maybe not even that going by the price of written words quoted by some of the advertisers.
I have also been told by many that people who often advertise such ridiculous sums often end up not paying at all. Well! I don’t blame them. You agreed on the ridiculous price in the first place, then delivered content lifted from the Internet and maybe they decided you have credibility or quality issues and refused to pay for shoddy work. It is perfectly understandable.
Most people don't understand that the Internet is at the best, two dimensional and at worst, a space where wrong information is teeming and crawling for attention.
Writing from the Net and for it is not writing because, it lacks the depth, feeling and understanding of the topic and that shows. The end result is shoddy and can easily be traced by the original writer because it is hastily slapped together with just about no care to even change the grammatical mistakes in the original story.
If you are lucky, you will not be caught but, if you are then, be ready to pay the price of such a transgression. It can be heavy.
Writing is a fine art and like most arts, it is not only something inbuilt (you are simply born with the talent) but, also something that comes with practice. You need to be critical of your own words and expressions, need to read extensively and with a keen eye for detail.
Anyone who says that they are professional writer but, don’t like reading or just read ‘airport / railway station literature’ needs to rethink their chosen profession.
If you don’t read, do not understand the nuances of dialogue writing, the power of words correctly used to convey a feeling and not to showcase your familiarity with the ‘lexicon’ or if you cannot write without being ‘inspired’ by other articles or stories need to take a rain-check. Maybe, it is really NOT your calling.
You may earn a living out of it but, it may not be enough because, you are not passionate about it.
If you still think you want to write. My suggestions would be start with the basics:
- Read. Read as much as you can in the language you want to write in.
- Then, learn to write short, well-crafted original sentences. Keep them simple.
- Write short paragraphs to capture real experiences you have had using short, succinct sentences and dialogues.
- Bring out the sentences and paragraphs after a week and check for possible improvements.
- Rewrite, craft, make others read them and seek active criticism.
- Rewrite again. Keep writing and rewriting till you feel it is good enough to be shown to someone from the fraternity or to be entered in a contest.
- Meanwhile, don’t stop reading.
Writing demands lifelong improvement just like any other skill especially if you want to pursue a career in it.
Styles change with the season, new words enter the vocabulary. Delivery of dialogues undergo changes as new words make entries. The society changes sometimes slowly and sometimes rapidly and a writer needs to capture all such changes in their craft.
Remember there are no shortcuts to this. If you want to be a professional writer you should be ready to be a lifelong student. Only then, will you be able to command the price for your skill.