As some of you might know, Demand Media recently emailed their DMS writers about pending changes. Here's what it comes down to.
This business model was hit hard by Google recently -- a big source of both traffic and income for content mills, farms, networks, or whatever we're calling them this month.
Demand realized they have to change things. For example, you can't have repeat shallow content if you want to succeed in the search engine game anymore. Or at least you can't when your company is public, eyes are on you, and Google's playing Big Brother (which, for once, is a good thing).
That means Demand can't keep hiring writers to write on the same old evergreen topics like the seven articles we referenced here previously on how to teach a dog to sit. The "robotic organization" image where they're seemingly only interested in traffic stats and ad revenue (as opposed to readers) just won't fly anymore.
Where does that leave the writers? Well, there will be far fewer assignments available. If you hung your hopes on Demand's past stories about their super-successful business model, you might feel like you've been left a bit high and dry right now.
I've also seen writers' responses to this news. On one hand it's difficult for me to have sympathy when we've spent so much time and energy here helping writers improve their freelance businesses. The information is out there -- not only here, but from many great freelancers such as Lori Widmer, Anne Wayman, and Peter Bowerman, and the folks at Freelance Zone, Freelance Folder, and Freelance Switch. If you want to be a more successful freelance writer, you have seemingly endless information available to help you do that.
On the other hand, I can't help but sympathize with some of these writers. The news came somewhat suddenly and not long before the holidays. While it's true no one should have been relying too heavily on any single client, content mill or not, I know they'll have a tough road ahead as their own business models are forced into a period of transition.
Plenty of Demand's writers know how to run a more profitable and more stable freelance business. They choose to write for Demand for their own reasons. And that's fine. But many of the comments I'm seeing are from people who honestly do not know where to start. Mill work is the only freelance writing work some have taken on. They've never marketed their own business. Others don't know how to look beyond advertised gigs (and most of the best gigs are never publicly advertised).
It's no secret that I have no warm and gushy feelings for Demand as a company or for the top dogs working there. But I do feel for those writers who feel sideswiped right now, who realize there are better opportunities out there, and who are truly interested in learning how to land those better gigs. For those writers willing to work for it, I'm launching a week-long post series next week.
The series will run Monday-Friday and cover the following topics:
- Types of Freelance Writing Jobs You Can Pursue Today
- Freelance Marketing - Market Research and Planning
- Freelance Marketing - Moving Beyond Job Boards
- How to Develop Your Writer Platform and Make Jobs Come to You
- Building New Income Streams When Client Work is Slow
I was also contacted this week by a DMS writer who asked if I was available for coaching. Unfortunately with my pending move over the next few weeks and other schedule limitations, that isn't an option. However, I'd like to make an open offer to five freelancers working for Demand and looking for something better.
[Update: This offer has ended as all five spots have already been filled.]
If you email me about your situation -- your specialty area, the rates you would like to be able to earn, the type of clients you want to work for, past credits other than Demand (if any), etc. -- I'll publish a post on the blog with tips and advice customized to your situation. I can't do this for everyone which is why I'm limiting it to five people for now.
If you're interested but concerned about sharing your information publicly, I'm willing to let you remain anonymous or use only your first name if you prefer. I'll accept these requests Monday through Friday of next week (October 10 - 14), and will publish up to five responses during the following one or two weeks.
My hope is that this post series and writer-specific examples will serve as guidelines to help others. In the meantime, I strongly suggest reading the blogs linked above. And if you're looking for more reading material, check out these books:
- The Well-Fed Writer
- The Wealthy Freelancer
- The Renegade Writer
- The Wealthy Writer
They're all wonderful and comprehensive resources that can help you improve on the business side of being a freelance writer.