Freelancer – Five Months In

Avoid Freelancer. It’s a race to the bottom.

That’s the first bit of advice I received when I assumed the role of ‘definitely a copywriter’.

Actually, that was the second piece of advice. You know, after, “What the fuck are you doing? You don’t even know how to use commas?!

It was a valuable lesson from a real life writer. That’s why I ignored it.

Now five months in, and still experiencing professional freefall, I’ll happily admit he was right.

Yes. Freelancer is a race to the bottom.

Not because the money’s dreadful. That’s a given.

No, it’s a race to the bottom because most employers don’t want words, they want tripe. Or they want writers who are happy to transform their tripe into andouillette.

I guess that’s great if you’re developing a haggis-shaped, entry-level portfolio. But maybe it’s not so great if you aren’t.

As I’m going for more of a century egg vibe, I’ve been forced to trash a lot of blue collar, gourmet work.

So I thought I’d post what I’ve learned about Freelancer here. It’s expert advice. Yes, all $291.48 and €17 of it.

How’s Freelancer Different From Other Platforms?

It’s not.

Freelancer isn’t really that different from other online freelance marketplaces. Whether you’re comparing to Upwork, Fiverr, or Worksome. Sure one’s got a blue logo, one has a light green logo, another’s more bile-tinged, but the principles are the same.

The setup’s simple. Employers post projects, then freelancers submit proposals to secure them. In the case of copy writing, employers review the proposals then select a worthy butcher.

When bidding for a project, success depends on a range of factors. How willing the writer is to work for below minimum wage, how many times they’ve already whored themselves out (ironically, the more the better), and whether the person still has enough savings to pay for their proposal to appear first. 

However, while the other sites are largely the same, my experiences on Freelancer have been strange.

Freelancer Employers Love Sex and Erotica

First, I noticed that a lot of employers on Freelancer are perverts.

The first project I won was to rewrite the SEO title, meta description and footer for a premier adult tube, let’s call it Sleaze Miners.

This job was legit and quite fun.

I thought my work was particularly creative too. Here’s a sample:

Sleaze Miners dig deep down the shaft of depravity to bring you the hottest, wettest, nastiest free porn videos online. Cum penetrate our latest hardcore quarry.

Henry’s First Freelance Writing Project

It’s good, isn’t it?! I bet you would have taken the easy option and misinterpreted the ‘Miners’ bit.

Anyway, great. That’s a realistic, manageable project. But it’s definitely about sex.

A lot of the listings just are.

Last week I stumbled on a job listing to write an op-ed for Ian Cox.

Haven’t heard of him?

He’s a sexual-explorer-cum-inventor who discovered how to extend the duration of the male orgasm 14-fold. How? By tying cords around his testacles.

He wanted someone to pitch an article about his life’s work to Men’s Health. I would have helped, but his blog made me realise my complete sexually inadequacy. Seven minutes? Surely not.

Seperately, back in August I wrote a wonderful listicle for rather ameuturish erotic sex shop, Heated Erotica

Unfortunately, my work wasn’t accepted. Apparently ‘Premature Ejaculation Needn’t Be The End’ didn’t satisfy.

Lesson 1: Freelancers full of deviants who need help peddling their perversions. More evidence that sex sells.

You Can Specialise In Writing Fake Reviews

You know Alibaba?

It’s the online marketplace where you can order industrial quantities of crap from China. Westerners buy goods by the container, then sell them to their gluttonous neighbours through Amazon’s Fulfillment service.

So yeah, Alibaba is the Amazon FBA Seller’s Mecca.

A lot of would be Amazon FBA Sellers commission work on the platform. So, it seems funny that a lot of Chinese manufacturers regularly post listings offering $40 for a fake review on the platform

I guess it’s hard to police.

Lesson 2: Freelancer is the reason your Amazon FBA Business failed.

Coders Prefer Upwork To Freelancer

Why is this relevant? Well, Freelancer taught me that coders prefer Upwork.

How?

Chinese coders regularly offer me $200 a month to use my Upwork Account and IP Address

Don’t worry, you won’t be caught in the middle of price fixing scandal if you just say no. 

Lesson 3: Freelancer and Upwork appear to be in cahoots.

Native English Speakers Can Charge A Premium

A lot of freelancers claim to be expert English writers, but don’t speak the language. 

That’s why it’s so easy to make a killing on Freelancer in the copywriting competitions.

However, it’s a double edged sword. A lot of employers can’t speak English either. 

This can make it quite the challenge when you’ve been commissioned to write a tagline or come up with a new brand name. 

As a tip, I’ve found that they often like fancy Latin words and portmanteau name suggestions.

For instance, if they have a fitness brand and their core values are love, you’d be onto a winner if you suggested a name like LoNess, or Squit (love squeeze fitremember, the ‘love’ is silent).

Practically, it means that a lot of the briefs are pretty shit. 

But that’s a new skill for your CV, right?

Lesson 4: If the future is Freelancer, the future is broken English.

Freelancer Forever

Perhaps I should stop staring into my screen, but scarily, I think Freelancer represents the future. 

How can you justify hiring, let’s say an illustrator full-time at £25k pa, when you can commission a logo that’s 80% there for £5?

Maybe the road towards meritocracy is acceptance that right now, employers might be overvaluing output and skills.

Lesson 5: Perhaps the future is writing about sex and letting other people use your IP address.

Inspired By Freelancer

On a less dour note, Freelancer has been a great inspiration for Secret Santa presents. 

If I get a job by December, I’m getting my secret santa these testicle tighteners.

COPYWRITING TRAINING: Men frozen in steel sperm tanks, two dollar dinners, and stains that we just can’t find

Or how Henry finally discovered that he didn’t need to learn how to write (by reading Strunk & White’s, The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition)

As part of my ongoing struggle to become the greatest copywriter EVER, today I picked up a copy of William Strunk Jr. & E. B. White’s, The Elements of Style from Homerton library.

Why?

The reasons were twofold:

  1. There isn’t a great selection of instructional books about writing in Hackney, and
  2. My sister, an English grad, keeps telling me that my blog posts are complete hokum (she uses big words because she’s super smart).

At 85 pages, the book’s small, but appearances are deceiving as it’s jammed with loads of life lessons that are meant to make you better at writing.

The edition I borrowed was really old, published in 1979, but the English language is ancient and definitely hasn’t changed since then, so it probably didn’t matter.

Having now finished the book, I can confirm six things:

  • My writing will forever be hokum (whatever that means).
  • I was always right to tell everyone that they should never use exclamation marks!!!! (thanks Fitzgerald).
  • Business words are been purposefully designed to help people feel better about their life choices.
  • Some of the most common words in advertising are portentous and should never be used.
  • SEO, search engine optimisation, is ruining the written word for everyone.
  • Copywriters are the lowest, seediest, and most despicable people in the world.

All six of those lessons came as a bit of shock.

I’ll explain exactly why they are definitely true below.

Epiphanies happen in the garden. Especially when you’re a twat with an instagram account.

1. Why my writing will always suck

The book’s first four chapters are dedicated to lessons about proper grammar and punctuation.

After reading them, I decided to ignore them. That’s because:

  • I didn’t really understand any of concepts (what the hell is present participle?)
  • None of the lessons seem to apply to writing on the internet.

The book also emphasised that Copywriting, apparently, is about writing improperly; aka, in a way that the plebs understand, which I understood as an instruction to ignore everything it said.

If you, the reader, don’t think I made the right decision, get ready to be surprised.

You’d think I was an idiot if I started doing anything of these things (adhering to proper grammar):

  • Omit the s after apostrophes that follow conscience. The correct vernacular being, “for conscience’ sake
  • You can’t use a colon to sunder a sentence in two like a garden worm, instead that a full sentence must proceed it, for instance “A shrink needs: a degree, psychotic patients and a lot of patience.” is incorrect. It should instead be, “A shrink needs three things: a degree, psychotic patients and parents to blame.

2. No one should ever use exclamation marks, ever! (except sometimes)

The book agreed with me and said no one should ever use exclamation marks.

Between the lines it also said we should murder anyone who does, unless they’re being dramatic!

I’ve adapted this lesson for 2019 and now confirm that you can also use them when you’re being ironic too.

But that’s it.

You can only ever use an exclamation mark if you’re being dramatic or ironic!

Have you guessed what I’m being?

3. Corporate language is designed to make business sound like it’s about slaying dragons rather than counting paper clips

Here’s what the book said about business chat:

Portentous nouns and verbs [like deprioritise, action those reports, relations with the secretary] invest ordinary events with high adventure; executives walk among toner cartridges, caparisoned like knights.”

p.82, The Elements of Style

The book goes to length about how these words are about expressing the user’s dreams, rather than the explicit meaning of what they’re doing.

So, I learned that when writing for business people, you need to make the banality of their lives seem more like jumping the shark; full of exciting cliches that they think are new, definitely not overused, and completely non-applicable to their lives.

4. Words that I now know you should never use

There are a load of words you should never use. Here’s a few of them and why:

  • Meaningful is a bankrupt adjective. In place of meaningful you should shoot yourself.
  • Chaired is not a verb (or even a word). You should instead write, “the iguana acted as chair of the meeting.”
  • Personalise,“A pretentious word, often carrying bad advice.” Which means it’s still applicable for your mobile data plan.
  • Pistons thrust, restructuring programmes do not. (You’re not allowed to use the word thrust in business, even when you’re, you know, talking about sex)
  • Unique means ‘without like or equal’, so you can’t have a unique coffee machine. Looks like William Strunk Jr. & E. B. White’s were the forerunners of introducing the modern term, snowflake generation. So, um, Chuck Palahniuk, maybe you should publicly admit that coining the term wasn’t that special an achievement?

5. SEO is ruining writing for everyone

Ok, so the book didn’t come up with this one, I figured it out by reading it instead.

We all know what SEO is, right?

It means optimising your written, online content so that search engine algorithms will list it higher on their results pages.

It’s pretty simple. Here’s how to do it:

  • Consider what you’re writing about and how you can make it relevant to what people search for on the internet.
  • While thinking, write down a list of keywords (both long and short) that are related to your content and people are likely to type into google (sexy, porn, why my mother won’t stop crying every time I call her).
  • Delete your previous article or other written content and write some monstrosity indiscriminately littered with your new keywords.

In doing this, I’m confident that everyone is probably just inserting phrases that do not belong in the articles they’re writing. Which, I learned from The Elements of Style, is how you write badly.

Great one Google. You made writing shit for everyone.

6. Copywriters are soulless

Deep down, I knew this one already.

I can’t express why Copywriters are the scum of the earth without it sounding really pretentious though, so I just copied the quote below:

“Your whole duty as a writer is to please and satisfy yourself. The true writer always plays to an audience of one. Start sniffing the air, or glancing at the Trend Machine, and you are as good as dead, although you may make a nice living.” (p. 84)

p. 84, The Elements of Style

Evidently, proper writers hate copywriters.

Damn.

Conclusion

So, now I’d finally read something about writing, I’d learned that what I was trying to do by becoming the greatest copywriter EVER, was completely selling myself out.

I also noticed that nice living was pretty much guaranteed.

Well, at least it was a better choice than working in a corporate environment.

If you think I’ve completely misinterpreted the lessons of the book, please let me know.

Then I can tell you exactly why you’re wrong (now I know that I don’t need to write adequately to communicate).