Thursday, October 23, 2008

Freelance Writing Courses

I have a few words about freelance writing courses, not all of which are complimentary. I have a few opinions that not everyone will agree with, but they are nonetheless right.

Ok, I was kidding about that, but I do think that there are a lot of people who don't understand that writing and marketing are two different things. I am seeing more and more Web writers who are trying to sell their own writing courses, and to put it mildly, not all of them should. The way it is now, just because someone is successful does not mean they can write well. It also is no indication of their ability to teach anyone to do anything.

I have a glaring example in mind, but I'm not going to mention it specifically. Let's just say that there is a writing blog out there that doesn't really say much, but that it tries hard to offer insightful information about writing and the freelancing biz. Then let's say that it's always poorly written but that the blog is promoted relentlessly and has way more readers than I could ever dream of having.

Great! The blogger hasn't had to hone that pesky writing because he is a master of marketing. This blogger apparently does very well and is now running a writing course. Should you take a writing course from this person? Of course not. Should you take a marketing course from him? If he had one, I might take it, but I might not. Being able to teach things online depends a lot on how clearly you write, and let's hypothetically say that this blogger writes mainly to fill up a page rather than to actually communicate anything.

This is not the first time I've seen this. I've actually seen a number of freelancers over the past year who have decided to start teaching writing online as a sideline. I have only seen one who had any business doing so. Some of them don't have degrees and have poor writing samples, yet people seem to be interested in paying to be told how to write like these people. One in particular had a horrifying mix of steep course fees, bad writing and zero credentials of any kind. Were people interested? Apparently.

So, why are people falling for this? Besides poor nutritional choices, most of these people probably think that taking a writing course from someone who is monetarily successful means that they will be too. They won't. Learning to write badly is a waste of time and money. Now, learning Internet marketing is a whole different story. You don't have to have any particular talent for anything if you know how to market yourself. Heck, you don't even need to sell anything.

I know of at least three incredibly bad writers who are wildly successful because of this. That's what they should be teaching and that's what new freelancers need to learn. Heck, that's what I need to learn.

If a person wants to learn marketing, make sure that the "writing course" you're signing up for is about how to sell your writing. If you actually want a writing course to learn how to write, don't go through some dude's blog. There is a blog I can recommend going through, but that's because the teachers of the courses are actually qualified to teach writing.

The Renegade Writer has several fascinating-looking courses that hit on specific writing types. A real writing course will do that. A bad writing course teaches "writing" in general. The particularly bad course I mentioned earlier taught "writing" and had no other information. The blogger was pushing the course among my writers' group, despite not having any information about what type of writing she was going to teach.

Speaking as someone who took four years of specialized writing courses and did two internships, I can tell you that there is no one course that can teach you everything about writing. Anyone who says that this is possible is a marketer rather than a writer.

I've actually found that some of the most successful, visible writers are often the worst ones. Why? Because writing isn't their focus. Their focus is on promoting themselves. If you are serious about writing, I would suggest going back to school or taking online courses from either a highly-qualified writer or taking a college course online.

Here is a list of some of the colleges that teach them online as well as a few websites with credible courses. Some of these courses are free, so there's no excuse to instead seek out some blogger who promises that though he doesn't write well, he can quickly teach you to do so. If, however, he can teach you how to write poorly but become ridiculously successful by doing so, have at it.


articlepass said...
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Anonymous said...

If you don't believe that proper marketing can get you where you want to go regardless of experience, check out whose in the white house.

L. Shepherd said...

Actually, that was my point. Marketing gets a lot of bad writers pretty far.