Freelance writing is a tough nut. You can make a living doing nothing but that, but you’ve got to really want to, for a lot of reasons. One big reason is the large number people out there who believe they’re entitled to use your work without compensating you.
Those people range in straightforwardness and reputation from outright plagiarists to website operators and content farmers. Their intentions, and the consequences they may face, vary wildly, but at bottom they all have something in common: They expect to make a profit on value that you have created, without sharing any of that profit with you.
Plagiarists you can name, shame and/or sue. The guys at the other end of the respectability spectrum are a little different, as financial wise guy and blogger Barry Ritholtz observes:
You would not volunteer to work for free as a greeter at Wal-Mart, a Barista at Starbucks or a fry cook at McDonalds — so why should you do so for free at these content sites?
The short answer is The Dangle: A promise of rewards in the future for work performed now.
Ahhh, the dangle. In my career on Wall Street, I have discovered the dangle to be an effective way to get something for nothing from some sucker. It is a way for someone with the appearance of power and money to obtain goods and services for free, for a mere promise of future benefits. Early in my career, I fell for the dangle. No more.
In the present discussion, consider these various dangles made by content factories to me over the years:
1) You will get traffic back from the content site;
2) You’re building an audience;
3) You are enhancing your own personal brand;
4) You will raise your Google Page Rank
5) You are developing a reputation
In my experience, all of these were untrue.
Note that most of these promises are rather difficult to measure (except traffic) and all of these are even more difficult to attribute back to the content aggregator. In reality, these promise are illusory, the benefits IMHO never accrue to the blogger. …
If you currently “donate” your content to an aggregator, I suggest you should ask yourself the following questions:
1) Am I giving away content to a firm that received VC funding? What is their potential upside? What is mine?
2) Has the Dangle been met? Have the promises of benefits made to me occurred? I seeing substantial Traffic increase?
3) When I search for my own content on Google, is my site ranked below my own content republished by aggregators?
4) Is any enhancement to my brand or professional reputation coming from the aggregator’s site?
5) What benefits, if any, are accruing from republished content?
If you’re a freelancer, you are, in effect, a for-profit business. For-profit businesses do not give away the things of value they sell except for tax purposes, marketing purposes or other reasons that, when you get to the bottom line, are all about the bottom line. That’s neither inherently good nor inherently bad, but if whether you get to eat depends on how well your internal for-profit business is working, you need to make sure that compensation for the value you create is both tangible and as nearly immediate as possible.