Spend just a little time out in the forums and message boards of Internet freelance writing, and you will begin to see common themes. “How do I earn a living writing from home?” is a recurring refrain. “Why doesn’t my blog get any traffic?” may be a close second. But no question seems to produce polarizing opinions quite like “Should I use TextBroker? Are they any good?”
What the heck are they talking about?
For those not already “in the know”, TextBroker is a service that connects lower-end writers up with clients wanting lower-end work. 500-word blog posts, multiple copies of product reviews, sometimes even 160-character Twitter posts – they all show up on TextBroker. It is commonly referred to as a “content mill”, and this is not a term of endearment. The pay is astonishingly low (about a penny a word) and the turnover is very fast, with most clients wanting smaller articles completed within 24 hours of accepting an assignment. Think day-labor, for writers instead of construction workers.
Many of the best-regarded writers out in the blogosphere will tell you to avoid TextBroker like the plague. It has been referred to as a waste of time, a scam, or a way to take advantage of new writers. One blogger went so far as to say that TextBroker “can sap your love of writing.” The general consensus is that you would be far better served by spending your time polishing your resume and sending out pitch letters instead of writing a 500-word biography on someone you have never heard of before.
With all due respect to those that have come before me in the freelance writing business, I must disagree. Where are my top 5 reasons why you should be using TextBroker.
1. TextBroker pays you to hone your craft.
A great resume, a stylish web page, and a perfected pitch letter are all necessities to become successful as a freelancer. But, at some point, you are going to have to learn to write – not just the blog posts that only your Mother and Aunt Edna read, but articles for clients who have their own ideas about what makes a great piece of writing. TB (because I am getting muscle fatigue from writing TextBroker) will give you a list of assignments that you can pick from, so you can choose the one(s) that you like best. You write it, submit it, and wait. Within 3 days you will have a response from your client, asking for revisions. Don’t be discouraged – this is great! You are learning how to tailor writing to the needs of a client – an absolute necessity for a freelance writer. If you don’t get a request for revisions, awesome – you just got paid to practice writing.
2. TextBroker teaches you to work under deadlines.
Those of us moving from blogging to freelancing are usually in for a rude shock. While we were working on our own blogs, we were able to meander around, putting up a post here and there – sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the evening, whenever the mood struck us. TB will teach you to throw that idea right out the window. When you evaluate an assignment, you have ten minutes to decide if you want to write it or not. Upon accepting the assignment, you have only a few days in which to get it done (usually only 24 hours for shorter pieces.) You will learn quickly, as I did, that it is time to start using a calendar app of some kind, and to force yourself to write during a specific time, every single day. Early in the morning, late at night, whatever – you will find out quickly that you are going to have to treat this professionally. And turning writing into your profession is the whole idea, isn’t it?
3. TextBroker forces you to embrace research.
If there is one common complaint about TB, it is that the subjects are so weird. I have written articles about record companies, about funeral homes, about the subject of “crowdfunding” real estate investments. One of my most memorable articles was 3,000+ words on Egyptian Cotton sheets. The common factor is that, in each of these cases, I knew nothing about the subject when I accepted the article. It forced me to go out hunting across the ‘Net, looking for reputable sources of information on these subjects. There is nothing that will trash your reputation as a writer quicker than the research method of “making stuff up.” As long as you are writing for other people, you will be performing research. TB gives you a great apprenticeship program for doing exactly that.
4. TextBroker fills in the gaps in your schedule.
Right this second, I have several pitch letters out, a couple of articles being reviewed for publication, and no actual writing assignments due. So, after I finish up my weekly blog post here, I am going to head over to TB. Why? Because spending time earning something is better than earning nothing. Being a freelance writer means leaping from assignment to assignment like a frog between lily pads, trying to keep your head above water. TB can create a series of smaller landing spaces between each of your “real” writing jobs.
5. TextBroker can springboard you to bigger and better things.
At the beginning of this month, I made about $200 writing 3 short blog posts for a TextBroker client. The client liked my writing well enough on a small project that he approached me about writing the first 3 posts for a new business website, with the promise of more work like this to come in the months ahead. TextBroker has built-in support for individual client/author relationships completely outside of the “pick an article and write it” model. I had a good looking profile with good writing samples, and the client liked them enough that he was willing to pay my “personal” rate of 25 cents a word to have me craft these pieces. This is not as uncommon as you think. TB can also invite you to “teams” where you will be collaborating with other authors and editors on steady streams of articles for regular clients. The opportunites are out there, if you are willing to invest a little time and effort to go find them.
Despite the many negative reports about TextBroker, I think it provides a powerful springboard for those of us getting started as freelance writers. Maybe we should be happy that there are so many writers out there working on “polish” instead of working on writing. That way, TextBroker can remain our little secret.