3 Terrific New Online Gigs for Freelance Writers — Courtesy of Google

Carol Tice

3 Terrific New Online Gigs for Freelance Writers. Makealivingwriting.comAs most freelance writers know, Google recently changed its algorithm to give lower search-result rankings to content-mill sites such as Demand Studios (whose newly public stock has taken a beating as a result).

What you maybe didn’t know is that Google’s change is opening up a world of freelance writing opportunities. A recent Wall Street Journal article reveals that many legitimate ecommerce businesses have seen their rankings tank, too.

What are the businesses doing about it? They’re hiring freelance writers.

The story outlines three different types of writing ecommerce businesses are trying to boost their traffic now that Google is ranking them lower:

  1. Product descriptions. One business is having freelance writers create unique product descriptions so they can get rid of all the stock product-description lingo they copped from manufacturers, to eliminate duplicate copy. Imagine how many businesses need to do this! What an opportunity for writers who enjoy this type of work. And pretty easy prospecting, too — just go on a manufacturer site for the type of products you enjoy writing about, copy some product-description language, plug it into Google, and see all the business sites where it turns up. Then, make some calls and see who’s ready to remake their content and reclaim their high Google rankings.
  2. Marketing emails. Another business in the WSJ story decided to do more email marketing to drive traffic and make up for the lower traffic from Google. So there’s likely a growing opportunity to write marketing email copy.
  3. Video scripts. Yet a third business decided to counter the downturn in traffic to the company’s site from Google by creating more videos they could post on YouTube to draw visitors from that popular channel. I just took on a new writer in my mentoring program who told me writing video scripts is her most lucrative writing assignment type on an hourly basis, so this is definitely a niche to learn about. I believe it’ll see explosive growth in the next few years.

Uncertain times for mill writers

Finally, for anyone who’s reliant on Demand Studios for income, it may be time to think about a new earning strategy. Consider this analysis from the highly regarded financial blog Seeking Alpha:

…this attitude change of Google toward content farms creates questions on the viability of Demand Media’s business model itself.

If you don’t believe it, take a look at the Alexa charts in that Seeking Alpha story that show eHow and other Demand sites’ plummeting traffic since the Google change happened a few weeks back.

The story theorizes that per-article rates at mills may soon start to decline because of the lower ad revenue less traffic will bring (like the rates aren’t insulting already). That’s a pretty solid prediction in my view — just makes sense that less traffic = less ad revenue = lower rates. We learned from the IPO filing that Demand isn’t making a profit on what it pays writers at current rates, so that’s another compelling reason rates may sink.

It’s clearly time for mill writers to diversify — and when I say that, I don’t mean sign up with a couple other mills. They’re all taking the same kind of hit from Google’s new algorithm.

The good news is, Google’s change creates a lot of need for businesses to use more freelance writers. I’m betting rates will be better for these assignments than the mills paid, too.

UPDATE: In November 2011, Google announced more changes that make unique content more important than ever. So the opportunity to sell businesses on the need for your pro writer services is only getting bigger.


  1. IsisJ

    Honestly, as a business owner, you just can’t skip hiring someone to do the copy. Up until now I’ve worked a regular 9-5 while I let my online business evolve technically and visually. But now it’s time for the meat. My suppliers happily give what the manufactures give them for product descriptions and boy are the awful. I don’t understand how a product manufacturer who has substantially LESS products than the wholesaler and ultimately the retailer do not think it important to hire writers to create great product descriptions. It boggles my mind. But the next phase for my business is hiring freelance writers to write good but short product descriptions for all of the products we carry. Which right now is 10k but we are working on getting that number down and making sure we are only carrying what people want and the best of what they want.

    But if you take for example, American Science & Surplus, visiting their website and reading their product reviews is like an adventure! You don’t know what they’ll say and the descriptions are accurate and entertaining.

    I also noticed since I started hiring writers for copy for our web series the sites that pay the writers little of course really hurt what we were doing. I’ll go ahead and say it, textbroker is an awful site. Even the name is awful. And if you are doing well as a writer on there, then good for you but as someone looking to hire a writer, it really bothers me that when I go to hire for something like… Create Taglines for a show and I put in a word count of about 100 or so and the pay comes out to be less than $3! From my perspective, I feel like “who on earth would do that for $3 and why on earth should they?” But also, how darn insulting is that for the writer? Sometimes it shouldn’t just be about the word count.

    But I’m hiring on another site that has both word count and complexity options and it’s kinda addicting. It makes me happy when the writer comes back with some awesome creative work! And then I end up giving bonuses without thought in sheer appreciation. Especially when you know if you hadn’t hired out, it would have been you slaving over it on top of all the other stuff you have to do for the business.

    I think with many things, quality will ultimately have to rule because you can’t flood markets with junk and expect it to last forever. I’ve seen the same thing happen with music, book publishing and definitely the filmmaking world although they are more stubborn than any other group I’ve encountered. People are tired of wading through junk!

  2. Cindy

    As I said yesterday, thanks for this tip!

    I’ve been noticing all of the gigs for product description rewrites coming up on the bidding sites…while I would like to eventually cold call some places, I don’t have experience doing this sort of writing, so I thought someone already looking for a freelancer would be the way to go, this first time out. I took one of their product descriptions and rewrote it as a sample, per thier specs, to show them what I can do. Then it came to the bid…and I was clueless as what to charge. I consulted Writer’s Market (and while that was some help, not entirely). I ended up bidding 6.50 per product description of ~100 words. A friend suggests that was too low. But I am clueless! I tried to think how long it would take me to write one and multiplied that per hour for a decent wage…

    Thoughts? Advice? I’m not looking for an exact ‘fee’ amount here, not at all…just….am I going about this the wrong way??? Is there a formula I’m missing?


    • Carol Tice

      Hi Cindy —

      I haven’t done product descriptions…maybe another reader can help out with this. But in general…think about your hourly rate. If you can write that description in 10 minutes, maybe that rate works. You want $50-$100/hr as a freelancer to end up with a livable wage after downtime, unbillable hours, and all the expenses you have to pay on your own.

  3. Wendy

    Hi Carol:

    I’m interested in taking your webinar on May 24, but I have other commitments. Will there be a podcast of the program for me to download? If so, how do I register for the podcast? THanks!

  4. Cindy

    Thanks for this article! Especially the tip about product descriptions and cold-calling businesses who may need copy rewritten.

    I’ve been wondering what will happen once google weeds out the content farms….if the farms should tank…one of the things I wonder is: what will happen to all of those writers who *do* rely on DS?…will they go get jobs at the local coffee shop? Find better-paying writing gigs? Or will their entry into the ‘real’ world of writing drive rates down in that arena…a sudden influx of writers more than willing to write for peanuts.

    It’s interesting times. I’m curious to see what will happen. I’m pretty sure the folks at DS are scrambling to figure out ways to drive the traffic up again…

  5. Carol Tice

    My prediction would be a lot of mill writers will do something else. As the economy goes up I think many will go back to day jobs. When you look at the quality of a typical mill post, let’s say I’m not up nights worrying that mill writers are going to drive my rates down or take my clients.


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