I need a job.
The place I had been working for two years closed its doors and I'm not getting paid. The trouble is, I'm older and I don't want just any ole job. I see there are pet groomer positions available, dishwashing, sales, front desk, maintenance, door-to-door solar peddling, and et cetera. But my love is English. Words. AP style. Specifically, fixing up strings of words to make them stronger.
And, if I do say so myself, I'm pretty good.
So of course I've been looking for editing positions. On craigslist, there are an amazing amount of ... well, I don't want to call them scams because I'm sure they will pay, but ... yeah, scams. There is one particular type of ad that's really getting under my skin:
Wanted: Staff writer / editor
Sounds good at first glance, until you read what's in the ad. They want one person, not two. This person is expected to write and edit their own work.
Well, no shit.
Look, that's a writer's job—at least, any writer who gives a hoot about how their stuff looks. By the time it hits the editor, which is supposed to be a second person with an entirely different skill set, the work is normally expected to be as polished as the writer can get it, whether he or she is writing articles, stories, opinion pieces, recipes, jokes, or instruction manuals.
The point is that these companies are getting away with paying one offensively low price for one person who is expected to do the job of two. And a good editor isn't cheap (nor is a good writer, for that matter, or they shouldn't be) so these people really have a racket going.
The biggest issue? Well, besides the fact that this poor writer is getting the shaft and that the company is completely ripping them off, the content won't be as strong as it could be. Likely, not even close.
There's a reason editors exist. It's because, although we as writers may make 10, 12, 20 passes at our own work, we are too close to it and therefore won't see a lot of issues we'd otherwise catch.
I guarantee you Stephen King, top New York Times columnists, recipe book writers and instruction manual writers all get edited before they go to final print. OK, scratch the instruction manual writers; we've all seen how terrible most of those are.
But you get the point. The people placing these ads aren't looking for quality content. They aren't looking for stuff they can be proud of, and they aren't looking to pay a whole lot, trust me. They want a one-stop-shop where they can get wonderful research and great writing skills, and then they want to publish the piece directly because that writer also wears the editor's hat—and all for pennies on the word.
Oh, good grief no!
Don't do it. Don't even think about doing it. Please!
I know, I know, I can hear you saying that it'll look good on the resume, adds a notch to the ole writer's belt, gains you valuable experience.
No. It won't.
A future prospective employer is going to see all these content mills, these fly by night operations you've written for, and figure you just don't have the good sense to realize what the heck you are doing or what is going on.
Think of a mechanic who has a chest full of China tools from Harbor Freight and is willing to show them off to anyone and everyone. He'd say how shiny they are, how hard he'd worked to pick out just the right ones, and how he's all set to go.
But he isn't. He has what amounts to several hundred pounds of trash, and a good mechanic will know this and, furthermore, might even wonder what mental capacity issues the guy has.
It isn’t worth it.
We all have to start somewhere, I realize this. Did I ever write for content mills? Oh, you'd better believe I did. Am I proud of any of it? Not really.
And, by the way, my resume now says that I have had hundreds of articles in print online, mostly through now-defunct companies. I'm not trying to sticker my car windows with the fact I worked for Associated Content, Demand Studios, or Examiner. I'm just not.
If you are a writer, and you think you are a good one, skip these ads. Just move on and wait. You might need the money but honestly, is two or three cents per word worth your reputation?
Not even a little bit.