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Should I go into Content Writing?

Discussion in 'Copywriting' started by JudyJiaStyle, May 5, 2006.

  1. #1
    I don't know if I can hack it as a content writer. Can some content writers share with me on what they think is required and what kind of things to expect when it comes to dealing with clients who request content? It's new to me and I'm not sure if this is where I should head.
    SEMrush
    I have some content listed here:
    http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/9236/judyjiastyle.html

    and on my http://www.jiastyle.com/ website as well, but that's more of a mixed bag since it's my personal site.

    Should I wait until I am more polished? Or learn as I go along? Would appreciate any advice from fellow content writers. Thank you!
     
    JudyJiaStyle, May 5, 2006 IP
    SEMrush
  2. Smyrl

    Smyrl Tomato Republic Staff

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    #2
    My first thoughts is anyone's chance of making decent living as a content writer is about as likely as making an NBA team.

    I have two friends who have both published books. Can they earn a living as writers? - Not really! One runs owns and operates a security service and the other writes for a newspaper. Suffice it to say the newspaper writer earns less than a teacher.

    Most artists, regardless of the genre, ply their skills because they really love what they do.

    Good luck.
     
    Smyrl, May 5, 2006 IP
    ViciousSummer and Ajeet like this.
  3. mhdoc

    mhdoc Tauren

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    #3
    A couple of thoughts:

    1. This forum is filled with people with heavy technical skills who will do almost anything to avoid writing something themselves; look at the popularity of article sites :) Most "content" I see at article sites is extremely lightweight. If you can do better than that yourself I think their is a huge opportunity to publish your own sites.
    2. Unlike books, websites don't have to be polished to perfection before publication. You actually get points with Google (frequent updates) for polishing your work :)
    3. By tracking who reads what and collecting comments, you get almost instant feedback about what works and what doesn't.

    In your situation I would relabel my self from content writer to website publisher.

    Good luck.
     
    mhdoc, May 5, 2006 IP
  4. JudyJiaStyle

    JudyJiaStyle Well-Known Member

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    #4
    Thank you both for those insights. I'm still trying to feel everything out so I can find something I like to do and make money doing it. LOL, doesn't everyone?
     
    JudyJiaStyle, May 5, 2006 IP
  5. ishtar

    ishtar Well-Known Member

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    #5
    I don’t know how much content you want to add in your website, it would the best if you wrote it yourself. For my website, when I started it, everywhere I went to seek information on getting more traffic, I read: build a quality content website. Maybe it wasn’t that difficult in my case, I searched the WWW, almost all the articles I found was in English, I made a summary of all the articles and translated it into Dutch, ‘cause Dutch is the language of my website, and this way my content is unique :D
     
    ishtar, May 9, 2006 IP
  6. Japes

    Japes Peon

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    #6
    Hi Judy,
    I believe that I worked as closely as anyone can to being a full-time content writer. I'm at a company that's currently designing several new web sites on a number of various subjects, and they need someone with actual writing ability to fill in the space between the monitor sides. The content itself tends to be reasonably dreary depending upon the subject, and I get the feeling that everyone at the company who hasn't had to write before is always surprised at the amount of time that it takes to craft a fairly decent piece of work. I believe that most of them confuse the ability to dash off a quick note on a subject that they are already well versed in with the ability to write on subjects that need a considerable amount of research prior to publication.
    I'm now finding as well that I'm being asked to do more and more work outside the actual field of writing, in an effort to make the web sites more visible. While it is not terrible work, it is certainly outside my original concept of the position. Financially speaking, the money is only about two thirds of what I was making while teaching English overseas.
    All in all, I would have to say that if you're truly interested in becoming a serious writer, you might want to use a personal web page or blog to hone your skills, but I would recommend seeking more traditional journalism careers as a more fulfilling means of earning a living.
     
    Japes, May 10, 2006 IP
  7. JudyJiaStyle

    JudyJiaStyle Well-Known Member

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    #7
    LOL, ishtar. I can read Chinese so I have 'translated' some of the things I read as well.

    Thank you, Japes. Honestly, I haven't decided what I want to do yet so I'm dipping a toe into anything that looks interesting. But you're right...it's harder than it looks and the payout seems to be rather unstable.
     
    JudyJiaStyle, May 10, 2006 IP
  8. Cobalt64

    Cobalt64 Peon

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    #8
    Content writing is a tricky business. Whereas it is easy to make *some* money, such as through site content, bespoke articles, reviews, blogs and so forth, it is very difficult to make a serious living from it.

    The majority of people you will see on forums such as these are more "hobbyist" writers than anything, and whilst a few are very highly qualified with strong portfolios, a large proportion aren't nearly as professional as they need to be in order to compete at the higher levels.

    I'm not saying you need qualifications, I know plenty of people with a natural talent, they just seem to be able to say anything elegantly. However, writing content for a medium-large business will require you to have a strong portfolio behind you and even a multitude of formal qualifications. Although you may be an excellent writer, you have to start at the bottom, and that is where there is a lot of competition. Although a reasonable percentage isn't that great, it's still competition.

    If you are just looking to make a bit extra on the side then content writing can be a rewarding option, though if you're looking to take your skills to the next level and write for well known sites and companies, then you are going to have to work very hard to get there.

    If you want to see the kind of thing I do, shoot me a PM. I'm not that good by any stretch of the imagination, but I started off with a few lowly articles and snippets and now have a small handful of complete business sites behind me, as well as advertising emails, articles, tutorials and so forth.

    Nothing special, but it's bought me a few beers and I enjoy it so I couldn't ask for much else really :)
     
    Cobalt64, May 12, 2006 IP
  9. mhdoc

    mhdoc Tauren

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    #9
    It seems to me that every English speaking business person on the planet thinks they need to buy products from China if they want to be competative. I would guess that most Chinese manufacturers and distributors dream of connecting with US/CA/GB buyers.

    Have you considered registering a domain like HowToBuyFromChina.com and publishing articles/translations that would facilitate the process?
     
    mhdoc, May 12, 2006 IP
  10. JudyJiaStyle

    JudyJiaStyle Well-Known Member

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    #10
    That's a pretty good idea, mhdoc. I'm going to do some research on that. Might as well use my strengths. :)
     
    JudyJiaStyle, May 12, 2006 IP
  11. YMC

    YMC Well-Known Member

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    #11
    Have you thought about being a technical writer?

    I've recently hung out my content writer shingle and am working on my Adsense empire (every journey begins with a single step), but I was previously a technical writer. People were willing to pay some big bucks for technical writers with Japanese and Chinese language skills! I saw the postings and hourly rates for those jobs and thought, wow, if only...

    With such a marketable skill, I think you can make a much better income focussing on translating materials for companies than writing web content. Also if your bag of tricks includes any engineering, computing, or gadget type expertise; as a tech writer I imagine you could almost name your price for translation services.
     
    YMC, May 12, 2006 IP
  12. JudyJiaStyle

    JudyJiaStyle Well-Known Member

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    #12
    How does one become a tech writer? Also, my Chinese is okay, I can read a newspaper, but I think it'd be hard for me if the text is indepth.

    Do you know of any examples of tech writing that I can take a look at?
     
    JudyJiaStyle, May 13, 2006 IP
  13. YMC

    YMC Well-Known Member

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    #13
    Tech writing is in some ways a strange field. To me tech writing is writing done about computer systems (user guides, program manuals, etc), engineering projects, and mechanical equipment. But many companies are hiring "tech writers" for any business writing (policy manuals, correspondence, and sometimes marketing materials).

    I think basically, a technical writer is someone who writes well and can explain things in clear language to others. The better tech writers are able to write differently depending upon the audience. I believe a technical writer has to be something of a teacher, researcher, and writer. Without any one of the three, it's not a good match.

    As to examples of tech writing, pick up any software manual (of course many of those are examples of poor technical writing), user's manual for a home appliance, or take a look around the net.

    Even if your Chinese is not perfect, I know at least for a while the demand was so great that a company might hire and be willing to train you more. Take a look around Monster or Dice to see if anyone is still looking for that. Being in CA, I would think there would be more opportunities than here on the east coast. Also consider looking in the opposite direction if you can write Chinese. I imagine English skills could be very important to a Chinese company doing business here.

    As for certifications, the field as such is on the newer side. I saw job announcements requiring degrees in 'technical writing' when there were only a handful of colleges offering one. I do believe a degree in English, communications, similar field or even a degree from a school with heavy general studies requirements would be acceptable to many employers and probably with good writing skills and the added language skills, the degree would become secondary.

    I glanced at your website and it would seem you have fairly good computing skills. If I were you I would at least put out some feelers and spend a little time researching this. You might be able to get work translating materials and work from home.

    I remember talking to one company some years ago who was absolutely desperate for translator/writers and kept begging for people with even only minimal language skills to help them. They had purchased some high dollar equipment and no one in the place could figure out how to use it. They begged for someone who understood the words even if they didn't understand the meaning. They had engineers to figure out the meaning, they just needed someone to tell them what it said. Seems like that would be a way cool job! Like doing language puzzles for a living. Too bad for me that I only know English; it would have been a very well paying and fun position.
     
    YMC, May 13, 2006 IP
  14. JudyJiaStyle

    JudyJiaStyle Well-Known Member

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    #14
    WOW. Thanks for all the info, YMC. I'll definitely be looking into this.
     
    JudyJiaStyle, May 15, 2006 IP
  15. YMC

    YMC Well-Known Member

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    #15
    You are most welcome.
     
    YMC, May 15, 2006 IP
  16. Kyle K.

    Kyle K. Peon

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    #16
    Some of the greats can make it own their own though :p But you need skill and alot of luck.
     
    Kyle K., May 15, 2006 IP
  17. IceCold

    IceCold Peon

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    #17
    I have learned a lot from this thread. Thanks a lot for the info, YMC.

    I'm currently a web content writer and I am still writing a lot of English content for different websites up to this day. The topics I've written are widely varied, and will be too many to mention. Right now , I'm writing articles about SEO tools and ebooks (more like reviews). How I wish I'm proficient with another langauge aside from English (like spanish, chinese, or japanese) so i can cater another sub-industry.

    Keep the infos coming. More Power to DP members!:)
     
    IceCold, May 15, 2006 IP
  18. ltwo

    ltwo Peon

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    #18
    Indeed, this thread has help me. I'm doing research for a professor of mine. i'm trying to find the best way for her to get into the industry. whether for me to develop a site for her, or her write for others.
     
    ltwo, May 16, 2006 IP
  19. clancey

    clancey Peon

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    #19
    If I could add my two cents worth at this late stage. It is simply not true that you cannot make a living as a writer. I have done very well by creating a niche publication and converting that into a subscriber-based website in the mid-1990s. This has been my sole source of income for nearly 15 years.

    Making it as a professional writer is not easy. It requires persistence and a willingness to take criticism and rejection. The analogy to professional sports is a good one.

    I have always wanted to be a writer. I wrote constantly when I was a kid -- just as other kids played sports relentlessly. This continued through high school, where I managed to get involved with the school newspaper. In university, I managed to become the editor of the university paper. Realizing that selling fiction was near on impossible, I started freelance writing -- which is exactly what you are talking about. The money was very slow in coming. Unable to make a living at that, I was lucky enough to land a job as a reporter at an agricultural newspaper. I ended up becoming the editor and launched my own newsletter. That got me a job an export grain trader.

    However, my love of writing never diminished and I ended up launching an agairuclture commodity market newsletter in 1988. That evolvbed into my current website.

    This journey has consumed over 30 years of my life. I have managed to earn an above average income in all but the first 10 years of my writing career.

    My advice is to not limit yourself to writing copy for the web. If you have any talent, you will probably make more money selling to print and other media. The web is just another outlet.

    Also, your friends are not your best critics. You need to try to get something sold, paying close attention to the criticism. I would highly recommend trying to sell material to print media. They are the most criticial and that will help you develop your skills.

    Read, read, read. Read actual literature. Read serious publications like the Economist or the New Yorker and pay attention to the style. Always ask how they are getting their point across.

    Good writers communicate. Bad writers question the intelligence of the reader.
     
    clancey, May 17, 2006 IP
  20. waxingpoetic

    waxingpoetic Well-Known Member

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    #20
    Hmm...very interesting and informative. I am also looking at writing content to make a portion of my living. When one says it is difficult to be successful, is this success being measured by the amount of money one can make?

    I've seen A LOT of people looking for content in the short time I have been here...24 hours...is $5 an article not successful? It's $5 you didn't have yesterday. $5 articles today, $15 articles tomorrow. Am I being too optimistic because this is what I would LOVE to do and I don't have a problem getting paid peanuts to do it?
     
    waxingpoetic, May 21, 2006 IP