"Article writers wanted: I will pay $3.50 per article. Must be quality writing – no hobbyists!"
No, this isn't a joke. It's an actual job advert, posted on a website earlier this year. What’s more, there's nothing particularly unusual about this advert. It seems that more and more often these days, people expect writers to work for free – or as close to free as it's possible to get.
So what's the catch? Well, professional copywriters won't write for $3.50, which means that the only people who'll respond to an advert like this will be very people the employer says he doesn't want – hobbyists.
But what's wrong with that? Why not go with a hobbyist – a non-professional writer? What can a professional copywriter give you that an amateur can't?
Let's think for a minute about how many $3.50 articles a writer would need to produce in order to make anything like a decent amount of money from it. Quite a few. Quite a few hundred, in fact. In order for it to be worth their while, then, the cheap article writer has to be churning them out at the rate of at least a few an hour. They're not going to spend a lot of time on each article: what would be the point? Even if each article takes them an hour, they're still earning less than minimum wage, so the article you receive isn't going to be carefully researched and written: it’s going to be churned out in as little time as possible.
You may think quality doesn't matter too much. If you're commissioning articles for a website, you may be tempted to think that quantity is all that matters: the more pages of content and keywords you have, the better your chances of being ranked in the search engines, after all.
Think about why you want a good ranking though? Presumably you want your site to be well-ranked in order to receive more traffic and more sales. Your content, then, is there to lure in people, not search engines. And it's a fact that most people arriving at a website full of badly-written content will just hit that back button right away.
There's no doubt that good quality writing lends credibility to your website or articles, while sloppy writing creates the impression that even you didn't think your project was worth investing in, so no-one else should either.
4. Skill and Experience
Some people think that anyone who knows how to string a sentence together can call themselves a writer. Not so. A professional copywriter doesn't just put words on the page: they know the right words to use to gain the reaction you're looking for from your audience. It takes years of experience to know what works and what doesn't in terms of website copy. Do you really think someone who's spent years acquiring those skills will give them away for $3.50?
Of course, it's up to you. If your main concern is adding content to your site for very little cost, go with the $3 article writers. But if you want to create a high quality website, with content which will pull in visitors and keep them coming back, it could be worth bringing in the professionals.