Why I Joined Textbroker, But Decided Not to Write
I admit it, I all but skipped the most basic step. I didn't thoroughly research the content site Textbroker.com before I applied. I read an encouraging article from someone who writes for the site, got all goosebumpy, and after only a bit of investigating, signed right up. Sometimes desperation makes a person barge in before conducting the stakeout. And sometimes, you just don't know until you give something a chance and decide it's not for you.
I was accepted as a writer at Textbroker, even given a four-star rating - five stars being the highest you can get - after submitting my first writing sample. I am sure this site has helped many a newbie freelance writer get her feet on solid ground, maybe even led to respectable, decent paying work. I'm sure it's an important service for businesses who need press releases, blog postings and the like at a ridiculously cheap rate.
But I can't stomach it. Here's why:
I've been ruined by my present occupation of news reporter. I simply cannot in good conscience write copy endorsing a product or service I know nothing about, or try to manipulate people to purchase something or visit a website, and this is largely what is requested on Textbroker and many sites like it.
One job required the writer-for-hire to visit various blogs and post comments, somehow subtly luring the reader to the poster's website. Ugh. Maybe most folks are savvy enough not to be fooled by this sort of thing nowadays, and hey, we're all responsible for ourselves and all. But there's something about this kind of thing that really makes me feel icky.
Another client wanted a press release that utilized certain key words multiple times throughout. The press release should, to paraphrase so as not to give away the identity of the client, establish the client as the best game in town, and include an informative and interesting description of a specific product, a picture of which the writer could view online, you know, for research. But that's not all - had I accepted this assignment, I had to agree that the client could use his name or pseudonym on my work. The good news is, the assignment was one of Textbroker's highest paying - at between $4.90 and $7.70.
So I'd be selling the services of a company I've never heard of, promoting a product I've never used, I wouldn't even get credit for my work and I'd get paid maybe enough to buy a pack of toilet paper? Call me highfalutin, but I'm insulted.
I don't think my work is the best out there. I know it's not. But I'm better than that. Reporters don't get paid nearly what folks think they do. Most of us make less than guy who helps you find the doorknobs at Home Depot, with a few notable exceptions. (Matt Lauer, call me!)
So I'm not saying I expect to get a month's living expenses for writing one press release. But again, that price range - $4.90 to $7.70 - is on the high end of the scale. There are assignments that pay little more than $2.
I know Textbroker isn't an agency for professional writers. But sites like it are driving down the price for all writers and would-be writers, making our very valuable services look rather worthless. I don't know if good writers are selling their skills and their bylines on these sites, but I'm willing to bet some are, and that's bad news. If clients become accustomed to obtaining professional work for the price of a value meal, then good writers simply won't be able to make a living. There are lots of sites like Textbroker, and more and more, companies will be turning to the writers on these sites to provide marketing and other services. Why not, for such a bargain? If they keep getting decent quality - meaning if people like me and you stay up way past our bedtimes to churn out nine articles so we can make $20 - they'll keep right on using these sites, and the writing community will suffer.
But if the quality they get isn't up to par, assuming quality writing still matters, and I really hope it does, then they'll seek help elsewhere, and be willing to pay a reasonable amount for it. I'm not saying don't write for Textbroker or one of it's cousins. I'm just saying value yourself and your skills. Are you really getting needed exposure and establishing yourself in the freelance writing world, or are you selling yourself short, writing copy that really doesn't matter? With the advent of SEO writing, blogs, social media, the rules are changing. People are just as apt to get their news from the comments section underneath a news story as from the story itself. (In fact, The New York Times recently conducted a study showing that such comments greatly influence readers' interpretations of news stories.) Bookstores, even newspapers, as we know them, are going the way of the dinosaur. I hope that writing that is valuable and valued isn't next.
© 2013 Crystal Tatum