It’s a thrilling experience. You’re browsing job listings on Elance or Odesk and all of a sudden, you see the perfect job. It’s as if the job poster KNEW you would be looking at these listings today.
You not only have experience on that topic, you have been writing about it for YEARS and you can’t believe someone is offering to pay for content about it. Where do you signup?
I’ve had this feeling a few times – from articles about Japanese culture to video game leveling guides to “how to make beer” tutorials, I’ve felt the thrill of a “perfect match” job posting.
I’ve also landed a few of these jobs and quickly been taught lessons about why it’s not always good to get paid to do what you love.
An Example of Love Gone Bad
Here’s the thing. If I could sit at home and be paid money to paint model kits or read epic fantasy all day, no strings attached, I would do it. But that’s not how it ends up working. Instead, we see an amazing topic for a project online and then go blind to everything else. We don’t see the risks of a project or the warning signs of a problem client in advance because we are far too excited for what the project entails.
We sacrifice common sense and good judgment for what seems like a “fun at the office experience”. And it can ruin something you love.
Early in my career I would bid on ANYTHING that was even remotely interesting to me. I wrote book summaries for a Spark Notes style website. I watched and wrote reviews of Super Bowl commercials. I reviewed a few local restaurants in Seattle.
The projects were fun but time consuming and didn’t pay very well. So it was a love-hate relationship. I loved the topics, but I needed to be able to pay my bills.
Unfortunately, the only projects that paid the bills were those related to hair loss treatments, soy candles, and “how to build a windmill”. It was boring. So I jumped at the chance to write about online games. I loved video games. I played them often. So why not get paid to do it?
To start, let me say that I had one client in particular who was great. He sent me video game projects among others, he paid well, and he is a super nice guy. So this isn’t about him (he knows who he is).
It’s about one project in particular that practically ruined my love of gaming.
The gig looked amazing. Write 1-70 leveling guide for World of Warcraft. I hadn’t played much but I had enough to know I was halfway decent at it and that I would enjoy getting paid for it.
But a few things happened. First, the client added details after the fact (including a video requirement that nearly killed my computer). Second, I severely underestimated how long it would take to write the guide. Finally, when you are working against the clock and trying to get paid for something, it is not fun.
I spent a solid month doing that leveling guide and what I got paid then was a decent fee, but barely covered my bills. I survived that, but the project as a whole destroyed my love of online names. Of course, this made it easier for me to write about them, but I never again played them for the fun of it.
How to Avoid the Same Trap
There is absolutely nothing wrong with working on something you love. I still look for projects that fit my passions. To avoid this becoming an issue, however, make sure you evaluate every project you undertake with the same critical eye you would if the topic was dull as nails.
Don’t overlook things like low pay, short deadlines, or irritable clients just because you really want to write about that topic. If you want to write about it so badly, do it on your own time, and actually have fun doing it.