The Ugly and Often Hilarious Reality of Content Writing

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So I'll just preface this by saying that starting from zero always kind of sucks. I'm sure we can all agree on that point.

Years ago, all I knew was that I wanted to find a way to make some money online and my strongest talent was writing. So I figured that's what I'd offer clients --- writing services as a freelancer, right?

Well...I didn't really understand just how awful (and hilarious) it would be working as a "content writer" for people who needed it on just about every topic imaginable.

I've heard many people over the years claim that a decent writer with real talent can literally write well about "anything" regardless of whether they have an intimate knowledge of the subject matter...

I guess now I look back and know why that is!

I figured I'd share some of the actual topics I wrote about for clients in my earliest days, to give others who are just starting out an idea of what they can expect and everyone else a good, hard laughing fit.

First, there was a large volume of stuff related to Internet Marketing, which everyone would expect, with topics such as:
  • Pay Per Click Advertising
  • Domain Brokerage
  • Facebook Tips/Tutorials
  • Twitter Tips/Tutorials
  • Social Media Tips/Tutorials
  • LinkedIn Tips/Tutorials
  • Business Blogging
  • Video Marketing
  • Wordpress Plugins
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Copywriting Tips
  • Graphic Design
  • Web Hosting
  • Advertising
  • Making Money Online

No big surprises there or anything...

Next, there were the popular Evergreen Niches like Health, Weight Loss, Fitness, etc.
  • Tips for OCD
  • Eating Disorders
  • Acne
  • Asperger's Syndrome
  • Hypertension
  • Social Phobia
  • Asthma
  • Contact Lenses
  • Laser Tattoo Removal

Although the outer fringes of what would fall into that category started to get comical at times...
  • Online Dating for Gay Men
  • Feminization Hypnosis
  • Summer Fitness/6 Pack Abs
  • Yellow Diarrhea Causes

And NO, I'm not joking.

Yes, someone DID actually have me write a 700 word article about what causes yellow diarrhea.

Then I'd get some clients who just had a batch of keywords already in a spreadsheet and I had to create a certain volume of content around them.

For example, one client had an e-commerce site that sold various types of cookware.

And for that project, I was simply told to write stories about cooking or food that were "enjoyable to read" and which featured the following keywords:
  • Woks
  • Chef's Knives
  • Saucepans
  • Induction Cooking
  • Silicone Bakeware

Some had already chosen the titles of the articles they needed me to write:
  • Gemstone Classification
  • Gemstone Values
  • The 6 Ages of Antique Jewelry

Those are pretty boring, so here are a few of the more "unexpected" topics (and yes, every one of these is an actual topic I was paid to write about).
  • Handling Objections
  • Hostile Work Environments
  • How to Sell Products in Walmarts
  • Hiring an Architecture Firm in UK

And if you think it sounds boring as hell to write about these things, we're just getting started!

Even worse than writing original content on a boring topic is being paid to REWRITE existing articles about things like:
  • Optimized Closet Systems
  • Windmill Electricity
  • Floor Rugs

And just when you thought it couldn't get worse (it can, trust me) someone approaches you with already written articles about FLOOR RUGS and asks you if you can rewrite them to "pass Copyscape" FOUR TIMES.

Oh, and it's on FIVERR.

Yes, this happened.

And yes, I did it.

Sentence. By. Sentence. Four. Times. Each.

Just to show you what that might look like:

"Floor rugs can be seen from the most lavish palaces to the more common and humble homes."
Needed to be rewritten FOUR UNIQUE WAYS...like this:

1. Floor rugs are commonly found in dwellings both grand and quaint.

2. Floor rugs are universally featured in homes of different class and grandeur.

3. No matter how fancy or simple a home is, floor rugs are found in all different types.

4. Floor rugs can be found in the extravagant mansions of the rich, as well as the more modest homes of the world.
Needless to say, that was pretty much awful to get through.

I was more than a little anxious to find some longer-term clients with bigger, more serious projects to work on.

So I was pretty excited when someone hired me to write an entire YEAR worth of autoresponder emails for them!

Except for...

They all had to be about "How to Invest in Penny Stocks" and he wanted at least half of them to be active promotions for Clickbank products that quite frankly looked like total scams.

After writing 36 emails for him, I had to freakin' quit before I lost my mind and all my self-respect.

Another one of my earlier experiences with a "bulkier" project was when one of my clients who did SEO work for clients of his own approached me and asked if I could pump out a bunch of 150 word blurbs on a list of keywords he would provide.

Sure I could! 150 words is almost NOTHING, right? That should be a breeze, go ahead and send me the list!

Here it was:
  • Asics Trainers
  • Barbour Jackets
  • Dental Implants Cost
  • Botox Leeds
  • Exercise Mats
  • Find a Bookkeeper in London
  • Fred Perry
  • Jack Jones
  • Kids Swimwear
  • Maximise Stag Do
  • Military Clothing
  • NHS Dentist Finder
  • Solid Oak Kitchens
  • Stand Out Designer Clothing
  • Trail Running Shoes
  • Underfloor Heating Cost
  • Wooden French Doors
  • Yoga Clothes
  • Mens Hats

Well...so much for that theory. LOL ;-)
#beginner #content #freelance #hilarious #humor #reality #ugly #writing
  • Profile picture of the author award46
    I enjoyed this whilst also feeling a deep unknown emotion of sadness for your poor soul.

    Oh, while I'm here... can you write me an 1500 word article on small talk?
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  • Profile picture of the author TheGMa
    LAUGHING, LAUGHING!

    Yeah, I've done some pretty strange writing, too. For Ag students. Learned more than I ever want to about what's in chicken feed and how to castrate a calf. Shudder. There are things to be said for old age - I can't remember one word of the content.

    - Annie
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  • Profile picture of the author godinu
    Someone -- on here, no less -- once hired me to rewrite an ad 25 different ways for craigslist. Then didn't pay me. Yes, the joys of copy writing

    The one nice thing though is that if you diversify, you'll never get bored with your subject matter.

    I write articles more than I write web content and it's much like you say. And I wouldn't change it for anything
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  • Profile picture of the author Jason Streby
    Is it weird that after reading the OP I became curious of the cause of yellow diarrhea.

    This was a fun read, thank you for sharing your experience and hopefully it hasn't squashed your spark for writing. It doesn't seem like it has though, which is great
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    • Profile picture of the author ashloren
      Originally Posted by Jason Streby View Post

      Is it weird that after reading the OP I became curious of the cause of yellow diarrhea.

      This was a fun read, thank you for sharing your experience and hopefully it hasn't squashed your spark for writing. It doesn't seem like it has though, which is great
      LOL!

      It's been years since I had to Google and write that, but as I recall the most common cause was an irregular amount of fat in the stool.

      Fun stuff, isn't it? ;-)
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      • Profile picture of the author Jason Streby
        Originally Posted by ashloren View Post

        LOL!

        It's been years since I had to Google and write that, but as I recall the most common cause was an irregular amount of fat in the stool.

        Fun stuff, isn't it? ;-)
        That sounds about right to me. Apparently if someone starts pooping rainbows after eating colorful foods like frosting or basically anything with a lot of dye in it, could mean they have intestinal problems.
        *a little pro tip for anyone out there pooping rainbows, see a Dr. if it happens often*

        The stuff you learn as a writer... sometimes totally pointless, but very freaking interesting!
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        • Profile picture of the author John Coutts
          I've had my fair share of the bad ones too, but then there are the good ones that make up for it.

          I was once asked if I could write several thousand articles from a list of topics, all about cars, and the price per article was high. I was given full free rein to write at my own speed, as many as I liked, or as few as I liked, per week. I was never asked to rewrite or amend any of the articles, and I was paid weekly without question on submission of an invoice. The subject matter was technical and not very exciting, but I was in complete control of my earnings. That gig lasted over a year and paid me very handsomely indeed!

          John.
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          • Profile picture of the author ashloren
            Originally Posted by John Coutts View Post

            I've had my fair share of the bad ones too, but then there are the good ones that make up for it.

            I was once asked if I could write several thousand articles from a list of topics, all about cars, and the price per article was high. I was given full free rein to write at my own speed, as many as I liked, or as few as I liked, per week. I was never asked to rewrite or amend any of the articles, and I was paid weekly without question on submission of an invoice. The subject matter was technical and not very exciting, but I was in complete control of my earnings. That gig lasted over a year and paid me very handsomely indeed!

            John.
            John, you're lucky that you got such an opportunity! I was fortunate enough to get MUCH better writing gigs down the road for a topic that I had lots of firsthand knowledge of and which is DIFFICULT to find writers for...

            I quickly moved on to becoming a regular paid contributor to sites like Slixa.com and SkipTheGames.com, writing about my experiences with professional escorting.

            Now THOSE paid well!
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          • Profile picture of the author Elvis Michael
            Originally Posted by John Coutts View Post

            I've had my fair share of the bad ones too, but then there are the good ones that make up for it.

            I was once asked if I could write several thousand articles from a list of topics, all about cars, and the price per article was high. I was given full free rein to write at my own speed, as many as I liked, or as few as I liked, per week. I was never asked to rewrite or amend any of the articles, and I was paid weekly without question on submission of an invoice. The subject matter was technical and not very exciting, but I was in complete control of my earnings. That gig lasted over a year and paid me very handsomely indeed!

            John.
            Very impressive and inspirational, John.
            In my honest opinion, more people would have the same success if they purchased your old guide on being a well-paid content writer. Correction: If they took action once they read it.

            Cheers!
            Elvis
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  • Profile picture of the author kimanierick
    I can honestly associate with you. I cant say i have written for a long time but i have had such experiences. somebody telling you to write a 1000 word article about something that does not even exist. But i try my best. some are good and appreciate others will pay you less claiming that your writing was not creative enough. what do we say. I need the money so i struggle more. But I have a goal and I am not giving up. Thank you for that. at least I know many people have passed through this path.
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  • Profile picture of the author jazbo
    Yep, been there, sort of, in the beginning. 50 x 500 word articles on using Twitter. All had to be from a different angle. by the end I didn't care if I lived or died...
    Signature
    CONTENT WRITER. Reliable, UK-Based, 6 Years Experience - ANY NICHE
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    • Profile picture of the author discrat
      Nice Thread. Very entertaining and thanks for giving some really good insight

      Writing for a Living is definitely not for the impatient


      - Robert Andrew
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  • Profile picture of the author FUBSZ
    LOL! I can imagine the psychological trauma you got from researching yellow diarrhea and stumbling on unexpected images that will scar you for life.
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  • Profile picture of the author Elvis Michael
    The best ones are the clients that try to justify paying half a cent per word because "they have a lot of work available for you. So it all adds up to decent money."

    I never even reply back to those. They have already insulted me enough by emailing me with such bullsht.
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    • Profile picture of the author ashloren
      Originally Posted by Epic Passive Income View Post

      The best ones are the clients that try to justify paying half a cent per word because "they have a lot of work available for you. So it all adds up to decent money."

      I never even reply back to those. They have already insulted me enough by emailing me with such bullsht.
      Yeah, screw those clients! I know just the ones you refer to, and I refused to even bother responding to those as well.

      If you want quality writing, you better be ready to pay for it.
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      • Gonna write about yellow diarrhea, it's real sensible to be paid by the word.

        1000 words at 1c per word? Sure, I'll have it ready for you by tomorrow.

        [super brief pause]

        Actually, no -- it's on its way right now. Figure I'll prolly have it for you in the next few minutes.

        [super loud gushing sound]

        Hey, listen, we can figure the fee further down the line when you've fixed up some swimming lessons. For now, would you prefer the article in Word format, or should I just mail you my pants?
        Signature

        Lightin' fuses blows stuff togethah. Stiflin' heart keeps evrywan apart.

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        • Profile picture of the author ashloren
          Originally Posted by Princess Balestra View Post

          Gonna write about yellow diarrhea, it's real sensible to be paid by the word.

          1000 words at 1c per word? Sure, I'll have it ready for you by tomorrow.

          [super brief pause]

          Actually, no -- it's on its way right now. Figure I'll prolly have it for you in the next few minutes.

          [super loud gushing sound]

          Hey, listen, we can figure the fee further down the line when you've fixed up some swimming lessons. For now, would you prefer the article in Word format, or should I just mail you my pants?
          LMAO! That was hilarious...very nice.
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      • Profile picture of the author discrat
        Originally Posted by ashloren View Post


        writing about my experiences with professional escorting.
        Originally Posted by ashloren View Post

        Yeah, screw those clients! .

        No, no Iam not going to do it ...making a comment that I will regret that is !
        But it is tempting


        - Robert Andrew
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        • Profile picture of the author ashloren
          Originally Posted by discrat View Post

          No, no Iam not going to do it ...making a comment that I will regret that is !
          But it is tempting


          - Robert Andrew
          I don't recommend screwing people who pay 1 cent per word, that's for sure...

          Something tells me if they are cheap there, they will be cheap elsewhere.

          At this point, I don't write articles for less than 5 cents per word. Anything less is not worth my time and my writing is way better than 2 or 3 cents per word, honestly.

          When I specialized and wrote about my "adult" experience, I made as much as 40 cents per word.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jarratt
    Oh wow, those subjects are certainly interesting. Must have been really tricky for you to write about. You poor soul!
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  • Profile picture of the author Raydal
    Reading that post and all I can say is, "Thank God for copywriting!"

    -Ray Edwards
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  • Profile picture of the author trinity571
    That sounds tough. I do proofreading on Fiverr. I have been asked many times to do article writing, but I don't want to enter that pit of despair. At least with proofreading, it's very clear cut. If you don't agree with the correction, here's a link to the dictionary or the grammar rules site...............
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  • Profile picture of the author Kherk Roldan
    hahaha! This post made my afternoon
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    • Profile picture of the author Jason Streby
      Originally Posted by Kherk Roldan View Post

      hahaha! This post made my afternoon
      I know right.. lol
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  • Profile picture of the author Steve B
    Originally Posted by ashloren View Post

    Years ago, all I knew was that I wanted to find a way to make some money online and my strongest talent was writing. So I figured that's what I'd offer clients --- writing services as a freelancer, right?

    Ashloren,

    Have you ever explored the idea of writing for yourself instead of writing for clients?

    To me, writing for others is simply getting paid by the hour. You work so long, you get paid X amount but there's no leverage in that.

    Why not write a book? Or a series of reports? You own them and you get paid over and over when you sell them.

    Your talent as a writer is obvious and I'm sure you have a very interesting and colorful past. You should be able to monetize what you know and meet market demand that is surely present.

    Thanks for the informative thread.

    Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author Randall Magwood
    Content writing can cause you to learn about things than you could ever care to know about. But if it's profitable... it's writable.
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  • Profile picture of the author laurencewins
    OK. I will share a story with you all.
    I have been writing for six years. When I first started I didn't really know what I was doing, except that I knew how to write (or thought I knew).
    OK - DAY 1. I found odesk somehow and I browsed through to find work. I bid on a few jobs. One was to write 30 articles on type 2 diabetes.

    I have type 2 diabetes so I thought it would be ok. I won the bid and after some discussion, I started.
    I did achieve the 30 and sent them off. Then I waited!

    However, I didn't wait for long. This lady hired me, I finished those
    30 articles and she was very impressed.

    I did make contact privately because she worked odd hours and it was easier that way. She offered me more work. I asked how many she wanted this time and she said...however many you can write.

    Six years and 1200+ articles and several eBooks on the topic and I'm still going strong. That's loyalty and we have become friends as she lives interstate but at least she is here in Australia.

    Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that you have to open your mind to sources of content you may find anywhere.
    I get lots of ideas about diabetes and health in general through Facebook.
    I have been learning a lot about diabetes as I have written the articles.

    I have a few regular clients and some that are semi-regular, as well as lots of ad hoc work.

    My point here is that, unless it's a topic you definitely refuse to write about (my examples are adult content and the stock market), accept all jobs you believe you can handle. Get better as you write and you'll speed up and become a better researcher as well.
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    Cheers, Laurence. Writer/Editor/Proofreader.
    Website / Blog for more info.

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  • Profile picture of the author Alex The Lion
    It's amazing how far the impact of the Niche Site Craze spread over the past few years.
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  • Profile picture of the author sujit1717
    Hahaha...This is the truth...And they love what you do...
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