If you love writing and get paid to do it, I count it as a win—even if you have to write some weird stuff to make enough money to call it a career.
When I first started, I wrote reviews comparing multiple pet beds and ghostwrote opinion pieces for people I didn’t know. Those jobs felt a little uncomfortable at the time, but the ghostwriting has become old-hat, and I leave pet product reviews to the people who can crank out that kind of copy fast enough to make the job lucrative.
As you establish your career, you’ll find your niche. It just may not be writing about what you originally pictured.
Weird is in the eye of the beholder, and if you enjoy what you write, that’s all that matters.
For those of you picturing the spooky old lady in The Others automatic writing at the seance table—sorry to break it to you—ghostwriting isn’t as cool as it sounds. Ghostwriting basically means you create a lot of great content and can never take credit for the work. The reason people still do the job is that it pays well and the work can be enjoyable.
Publishers use a ghostwriter when they have a concept and a name that will sell a lot of book copies, but the name they’re printing under either doesn’t have the time or skill to write the book themselves. Corporations frequently have their content writers create thought-leadership pieces, product updates, or in-depth articles from their executive team. People ask for ghostwriters when they’re trying to build an online reputation and don’t have the time or skill to write themselves. I’ve even seen a few freelance site requests for a writer to write a novel based on a book idea the person doesn’t want to take the time to write themself.
Ghostwriting is a common practice and wouldn’t be considered weird by people who have been writing for very long. People not familiar with the practice are often shocked that many nonfiction authors don’t actually write the book their name is on or think up the quotes they’re credited for in articles, books, blogs, or elsewhere (we usually ghostwrite those and then ask for approval).
However, Ghostwriting can get weird if you don’t research your “author” before you kick off a project. Before you agree to a contract, make sure you’re being paid a fair amount for your time and not writing about some lonely guy’s snail collection that was stolen by his ex thirty years ago, only to be put up for auction on eBay fifteen years later.
No, thank you.
Create Dating Profiles
Most of us know what it’s like to have writer’s block and stare at a blank screen, hoping something pithy will come to mind. Now imagine that happens every time you think about creating a dating profile, and you’ve run out of other dating options because #pandemic.
If you see can find the best in anyone, this job is for you. Ask for a few photos and pull a few details from your uneloquent client to create interest in their profile. The only downside is that the people who hire you probably won’t volunteer a testimonial under their real name. Still, a few screenshots of interested people replying to their profile should do the trick.
The interesting part will be learning whether they live up to the new reputation you created for them. I personally don’t see the difference between this line of writing and professional resume writers or LinkedIn profile specialists. You’ll only be honest as your clients.
Pen Breakup Letters
Some people are terrible at saying goodbye. So they have someone else do it for them.
I’m not here to debate the morality of dumping someone with a letter propped up against salt and pepper shakers. I am here to let you know that people pay good money to have someone else do the dirty job of breaking up with someone for them. If a client has never met their beau face-to-face in the first place (#PandemicRomance or #OnlineRelationship) or is terrible at navigating conflict, I can see the attraction.
Should you take on this job, you can reminisce about times lost or succinctly tear apart any hopes for reconciliation, whichever the client prefers.
Write for the Adult Industry
Artificial intelligence is still a way away from taking over the copywriting industry. As long as people buy products, companies will need product descriptions, website copy, and more. This means that paid writers create the product descriptions for sexual lubricants, reviews for dildos, movie teasers, and summaries for the many, many pornographic films produced every year.
If you’ve dreamed of making your way to Hollywood, this may be a close second. With over-the-top plot lines and creative screen names, your work is practically written for you.
Compose Property Descriptions
If you have a knack for describing sub-par items in a flattering light, the real estate market is searching for your talent.
We all know what “cozy,” “quaint,” and “rustic” is code for in property listings. It’s time for an infusion of creativity in the industry. You may even find a market for a doomsday prepper twist on traditional properties, extolling the virtues of the amount of sun a particular patch on the property gets and the ability to hide large quantities of canned goods in the wall space.
Agents may want to take a more typical approach, but creativity will be needed to make your listings stand out from the norm and attract viewers.
Submit Product Reviews
Freelance websites abound with requests for reviews. There is an ethical array associated with these requests, which we will review in brief.
Paid reviews listed on eCommerce sites are frowned upon (to say the least). Many people do game the system and purchase positive reviews, which leads to many of us reading through negative reviews before we commit to purchasing a product (I no longer shop according to the star rating for this reason).
Other manufacturers will send free products to reviewers in exchange for an honest review and product comparison. These writers get to keep their products but are not paid for the writing itself. If you’re a social media influencer and have a vlog or blog popular enough to attract advertisers, you may not need to be paid for your article.
The third flavor I’ve seen for paid reviews is a promise of free product and payment for the article. This doesn’t seem terribly unethical if the content is posted on the manufacturer’s website, as we assume these articles will be biased. If they pay for the article and want you to post it on your own website, the ethics are a little more questionable.
Draft Podcast Recaps
Podcasts require a surprising amount of copy. The podcast's official website will often post a summary article for the podcast, outlining the key points made during the discussion. They always require a catchy title and short description for podcast providers like Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, iHeart Radio, Spotify, or where ever else they list their production. Writers can get regular gigs with several podcast producers.
If you decide to work with podcasters, I highly recommend you also look for an automatic transcription website to save you a ton of time. Rev.com is an example, and their automatic transcription is not always 100% accurate, but it is dirt cheap and a great start to pulling out quotes to support an article.
Miscellaneous Freelance Website Writer Requests
Freelance websites like Fiverr and Upwork can introduce people to some bizarre opportunities. Product descriptions for varieties of marijuana and CBD products, the aforementioned positive product reviews, and weird novel requests make appearances on these websites.
Among the weirder requests I've seen were gravesite quotes, blessings, curses, a press release for a land dispute, an erotica novella (not so much the genre as the disturbing character profiles), and articles on telepathic communication with pets. More sketchy requests include editing phone bills, writing school assignments (including one on business ethics, ironically), and writing defense papers in response to an advisor's claim that the student was plagiarizing all of their work.
The array of job opportunities are broad, and it isn't a bad way to supplement your income between jobs, but be suitably cautious. Fortunately, most platforms are very diligent about policing odd job requests and are very responsive if you need to report a problem.
In my experience, some of the more mundane requests are lucrative. If you have a background in finance, law, home improvement, parenting, or just about any other common topic, you can easily find legitimate work.
Broadening Your Horizons
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