My brother sent me a text last week asking if I’d heard of Elance and whether I’d ever sign up as a writer there.

I have absolutely heard of Elance, and Guru, and Scripted, and Freelanced, and Upwork, and many of the other content marketplace websites out there. But here’s why I avoid them like the plague, and why anyone in need of a writer should do the same.

the content marketplace is no place for a writer

Five or six years ago, when I started to really ramp up this little writing business, I looked at a few of these content marketplace sites and thought it would be great way to reach a broader audience of people in desperate need of a good writer.

Clearly, I fell for the marketing ploy hook, line and sinker.

There were hundreds of job postings, but the vast majority seemed sketchy at best. I was cautiously optimistic about a few of them, and so I set up my portfolios and uploaded writing samples and listed my rates. And then I started applying for projects.

That’s when one thing immediately became clear. Across every platform, the competition for the work was insane, and these people were fighting tooth and nail for the privilege of writing 500 words for $7 – and that’s before the marketplace took its cut.

You know that old adage, you get what you pay for? Poor grammar aside, it’s true in so many instances. And this is one of them. Don’t you have to wonder, what kind of writer puts up with this? And do I want them writing for me?

It’s upsetting, really, because as more and more content marketplaces pop up – dominating the search engine results, grrrr – the entire industry is undermined. When you, as a small business owner, see these incredibly low price tags for projects, what’s your reaction to someone asking a respectable and professional wage? I’m guessing sticker shock, at the very least.

The real trouble is in these content marketplaces becoming the norm, and potential clients losing the ability to parse the good writing from the really terrible stuff. And that takes us to…

the devaluation of content

We all know, regardless of who gets the original credit, that content is king. But what does that really mean? The short answer is that between its impact on SEO and traffic, and its ability to create value, engagement and new leads, content matters.

That’s why cheapening content is so troublesome. It’s bad for the writers who really know their stuff, but it’s just as bad for the small business owner.

The boutique owner, the chiropractor, the personal trainer all understand that they need to be online, but their lack of understanding about the nitty-gritty details makes them easy targets for these kinds of content marketplaces. Maybe money is tight, and any writer will work, and any content is better than no content, right? Then they’re dumping money into this blog, and a year down the line, it doesn’t seem to be making any difference at all, so they pull the plug on the whole idea and the blog dies.

And that’s bad for us all.

Full disclosure: I still have accounts on a few of those content marketplaces, but only for the inbound links. If you’re looking for a writer, do it the old-fashioned way. Word of mouth is always a good bet, and so is looking online for a writer’s own site.

 

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