Lessons From a Writer (That’s Me!): Dial-Up Internet and A Chump

I’m not really sure how it all happened but at the age of 31, and with very little effort, I became a freelance writer.

In 2006 I began writing 500-700 word articles that were keyword specific, Search Engine Optimized and rewrites. Each article required research, links, and unique content. I was working full-time as a poker dealer during the day but at night, I was living the glamorous life of a writer.

Dial-up Internet, the largest desktop known to man and street cred.

I WAS A WRITER, BABY!

Wide Open Spaces--the world was waiting for this writer
Wide Open Spaces–the world was waiting for this writer

Let me back up, I can’t remember if I ever consciously thought about, or wanted to be a writer. I kept a journal consistently during high school and early into my 20s. As the years went on, my journal became a place for vulnerability and a sort of poetry.

I wanted to write songs but didn’t know how to play an instrument so that seemed impossible. I wrote words instead.

journal and notes
The Infamous Composition Book — All the Tortured Poetry Lives Here

Sometimes I cut words out of magazines and arranged them to create “tragic” poetry—would be lyrics–if I only knew three guitar chords.

When the world shifted from ink pens to keyboards, I was SCREWED!

How the hell could computers not be a passing fancy? In high school I laughed at the typing class students (because I was so cool, being in the F.F.A and all) and swore, I would never learn to type (or sew—two decisions I grew to regret).

I went a very long time defending my high school stance and upholding the anti-typing vow.

The Beginning of My Freelance Career

I had giant balls in January, 2006 when I decided to submit a personal essay about being a new mother to a writing site. Imagine my surprise when two weeks later I received this email,

“Robin, I’d love to feature this story on my website as it is creative, humorous, and a fun read. I did edit the text quite a bit to adhere to the guidelines of writing for the Web, and to correct grammar and punctuation errors. I look forward to future submissions and strongly recommend a refresher in grammar.”

Holy crap! I was going to be famous!

Naturally, This is What I Did Next

I applied for writing jobs. Literally, thought I was on my way to a feature in Vogue.

I got my first gig within no time.

My “editor” sent five orders at a time. I didn’t choose the topic or negotiate word count or any details. The instructions for each article were simple. I didn’t know then but I know now-I was being primed for sweat-shop labor in the content mill industry.

This is what I received:

  • Topic to research (ex: Summer vacation in Paris, France-Things to do, places to stay, etc.)
  • Required keywords and density (ex: 15%)
  • Required word count (MIN 500/Maximum 1,000)
  • Deadline (ex: 24 hours)
  • Rate of pay

I spent hours perfecting each piece. I researched hostels, sightseeing, foreign travel tips, and fun ideas for the International traveler. I was bored to death and frustrated easily and considered myself to be a tortured writer like all the most famous ones before me.

I wrote a paragraph and then hastily deleted it-called it junk-in obvious imitation of the writer’s I envisioned in my head. I cured writers block with mundane tasks like preparing dinner and worked furiously into the wee hours of the morning.

I thought I was Tolstoy.

I was writing website content.

As a ghostwriter.

For a ghostwriter.

 Outsourcing Writer Actually Taught Me How to Write

I had no concept that my “work”–expertly crafted with proper keyword density and links to destinations in Paris–would be credited to some chump writer who had perfectly executed the system of Capitalism.

I knew right away that I was doing something right when after the first 5-10 articles; I received no revision requests or notes about editing. I sucked at punctuation (still do) and was honest about appreciating constructive feedback. I was inundated with requests to write more and was on cloud nine every time she commented on my skill as a writer.

BAM! I was in….

I landed this gig after to replying to a job posting  and WAS THRILLED to have “finally” made it into the world of writers.

I was being paid $1-$3 per article. HAHAHAHA…..

I didn’t know enough to bitch about it.

It didn’t take me long to see I was being “scammed” by another writer. I was so new and naive but extremely arrogant as well.

I refused to read articles that offered advice to new writers. I wanted to figure it all out myself. I didn’t want to spend hours researching the industry of writing.

I just wanted to write….and, meet Oprah.

After all, I was published online after my very FIRST submission. DUH! I was a natural.

Today, I am writing full-time, learning about punctuation, and developing a career that I’m proud of.

I’ve had to put the creative writing on-hold for the moment, but I’m not going to give up. I’ve still got some junk in the trunk that’s gonna need some editing, and a place to live.

16 thoughts on “Lessons From a Writer (That’s Me!): Dial-Up Internet and A Chump”

  1. Classic beginning writer scars. The article mills scour the Internet like locusts looking for fresh meat. Now that you’ve escaped that trap (thank God) you can concentrate on going somewhere.

    Since you’re interested in magazine article writing, concentrate on that. There’s lots of good books on Amazon you can buy. Look for “Dollars and Deadlines,” by Kelly James-Enger. It’s cheap, a valuable resource and a great place to start.

    Also, I suggest using Grammarly.com to quickly turn you into a grammar pro. The $35 per month is well worth the cost and cheaper than blowing hundreds on writing courses.

    Magazine article writing pays big once you break into it ($1-$2 per-word.)

    Good luck!

    Like

    1. Hi Joseph,

      No doubt about Grammarly, writing scars, and magazine submissions! Thanks for the friendly reminder to reactivate my Grammarly account. :) I decided to write full-time about three months ago (after a 2-3 year break), and am currently working on reestablishing myself. I’m generating income to survive from content mills at the moment and I’m extremely happy with my progress in a short amount of time.

      I’ve got the Writer’s Market and look at magazine submission guidelines all the time. I’ll get some time to devote directly to chasing that dream shortly. Thanks for dropping by, reading, and leaving such useful information.

      Like

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