"Web Content Writing" Is Not a Dirty Word

Yikes. Can you believe there are still people out there who think "Web content writing" is nothing more than the garbage $5 and under gigs involving poor English and rehashed articles? I guess I thought we were beyond that, but I came across a post somewhere earlier today (can't remember what it was I was reading) which lumped "Web content writing" in with things like writing essays to help students cheat. I'm partly a Web content writer. So, ouch!

Writing Web content may not be the primary work I do, but it's enjoyable. It also pays reasonably well at up to $200 per 500 words for pieces written from my own experience or with minimal research needed. Is the pay as good as when I write features? No. Is it as good as when I write white papers? Nope. Is it as good as writing a pitch letter, press release, or anything else I write more often? Occasionally, but generally not. Still, being able to write in my specialty area at one to two articles per hour in many cases, it's not exactly chump change either. So it shocks me to see people saying they'd never take a "Web writing gig."

What's really amusing is that while writers still seem to frown on writing Web content, while at the same time, I've found more and more clients gaining respect for Web writers, and they're willing to dish out the dough for decent work.

What exactly is "web content" anyway? It's simply content published on any website or blog that wouldn't fall under the headings of marketing copy or features, such as with an online version of a magazine. I don't know who decided "Web content writing" had to involve crap pay or lousy work. I guess I missed the memo.

I can't help but think the writers who still poo-poo the idea are just the ones who haven't been able to make it work for them, because they spend their time trolling the job ads at ridiculously low rates instead of building a platform to attract a different level of client in that area. If that's all they open themselves up to, I suppose it's not surprising.

What do you think? Why do some writers still act like writing content for the Web is something writers should be ashamed to do, even though better and higher-paying markets are opening their doors online every day? It's no wonder the crappy version of Web content writing is still so prevalent when the professional writers out there remove themselves from the game. I mean really, then what's left?

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, consultant, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

Jenn has 25 years' experience as a professional writer and editor and over 20 years' experience in marketing and PR (working heavily in digital PR, online marketing, social media, SEO, new media, and thought leadership publication). She also has 19 years' professional blogging and web publishing experience (including web development) and around 18 years of experience as an indie author / publisher.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names and is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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4 thoughts on “"Web Content Writing" Is Not a Dirty Word”

  1. The problem is “Web content writing” is too amorphous, covering respectable online publications as well as cheap rewrites and seo trickery. The more specific the gig (“I write articles for an online business publication”) the better chance you won’t be lumped in with those less desirable “Web content” providers. “Web content writing” should be shelved, along with “freelance writer.” There is a psychological basis for the change. People often gather all their fears and misgivings about a specific title (say ‘lawyer’ or ‘car salesman’) despite your being a lawyer for nonprofits with 50 percent of your work probono, or a car salesman of high repute. Being a generalist may work in some situations, but if you care what other people think, you want to adopt a more specific title.

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  2. You have some good points, but here’s the problem. If your prospective clients are looking for you as a “Web content writer,” then you’d better be calling yourself a Web content writer. You’ll not only help them find you in the search engines that way, but you’ll make it very clear as to what you offer. Coming up with other titles for yourself isn’t always a good thing for marketing (and if a writer is bashing what those clients are openly looking for – in this case Web content writers), they’ll gladly take their few hundred bucks a pop and give it to someone else. In this case, the fault is on the writers. By trying to separate themselves from the negative side of the label, they also alienate a great, and growing, client base.

    And being a specialist (which I always advocate here) still isn’t a good excuse. You can qualify what you do with that area. For instance, I’m a “business Web content writer”–I focus on business-oriented content (such as small business and marketing). You could be a personal finance Web content writer. Or a parenting Web content writer. Or a health and fitness Web content writer. If there’s a demand on the professional end of the spectrum, there’s absolutely no reason to shy away from a title if it accurately describes what you do.

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  3. I think there is a stigma attached to web content writing that is largely due to the proliferation of horrid writers that gravitate towards the field due to low pay. Writers who have a solid reputation may fear they will get lumped into the same category as those for which English is obviously a second language by even accepting such projects.

    I take what I can get in this economy and do not frown on anything as long as I know I am capable of providing quality work and the pay is decent.

    Sadly, I recall admitting that I often took on web content writing assignments to an acquaintance, after which the person disdainfully replied, “Oh, I wondered who wrote that crap.”

    So, until we get rid of idiots who want to pay less than a penny per for 500 worders ( had a guy who wanted me to prostitute myself at a dollar per 500), then there will always be a dark cloud hanging over the web copy landscape.

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  4. I have no personal issues with web content writing…have done some myself and hope to do more in the future..but I think Alicia makes a good point about the stigma. I think the stigma still exists for a reason. There are lots of job ads out there that advertise the pennies-for-articles phenomenon, and that’s what many people associate with the term “web content writer.” They think of stuff that’s literally been cranked out with little regard for quality–because what kind of good writer is going to subject himself or herself to that? (That’s the perception, not necessarily the reality.) But I do think that the stigma is going to lessen over time as more excellent websites proliferate…and as more print publications move to web-only.

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