Cheap, Quick, and Unhealthy for Business: When Online Content Becomes Fast Food

If you haven’t seen Morgan Spurlock’s film “Supersize Me,” here’s a quick recap: Spurlock decides to eat McDonald’s for every single meal—3 times a day—for an entire month. He gains more than 20 pounds and experiences a myriad of health issues like heart palpitations and increased cholesterol levels.

While the results may not be identical for everyone who indulges in a 30-day burger binge, they do show that fast food can be incredibly unhealthy in both the short and long term. The same goes for indulging in material produced by lowballed freelancers and content farms (also known as content mills, these are companies that hire loads of freelancers to pump out massive amounts of content at incredibly low rates)—these can poison your brand and marketing strategy.

Here’s the point where I come out and say that yes, I’m a freelance writer and content developer, and yes, I have an interest in promoting fair rates for writers. But my bank account isn’t my motivation for warning organizations and marketers to steer clear of ordering cheap, fast content. No, the real reason is that it is a waste of everyone’s time and money. Here’s why:

Warren Buffett said, “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” When companies pay $2 for a 500-word article, they’re hardly ordering a valuable product. What they receive is slosh on paper, the written equivalent of a lukewarm Big Mac slapped together under the gun.

And who can blame the freelancers who fulfill these projects? They can’t afford to worry about producing quality content or steadily improving their writing abilities. If they want to make enough money to eat, they don’t have time to research the company, get a feel for the brand and the audience, and produce their best work. They’re too concerned with writing something as quickly as possible so they can claim the next underpaid assignment before that other guy (I would know—I wrote for a few content farms when just starting my writing career in college, before I knew better).

The bottom line: poor quality content just doesn’t achieve positive results, for the writer or the client. The $2 that Company X spent on a blog article… it might as well go straight into the trash. What seems like a good deal at first actually ends up doing more harm than good, damaging the company’s brand, alienating readers, and harming SEO rankings. The organization is much better off spending $50 for one well-written 500-word article that engages readers than $10 for a fluffy 1000-word post.

The best companies know that hiring a freelance copywriter or content developer is an investment. According to Indeed, the average copywriter salary in the U.S. is $57,000 as of April 2016. Payscale reports that the average content writer salary hovers around $40,951 per year, with a pay range of $28,942 to $68,896.

This data shows that employers are willing to pay good money to have a practiced writer devoted to their company. They see a copywriter or content writer as an investment, someone whose work can result in a stronger brand, better audience engagement, more website traffic, and positive ROI. And like most investments, cutting corners when hiring a writer (either directly or through a content farm) doesn’t often pay off.

So, the question becomes: which would you rather “feed” your company—fast food content from online farms and grossly underpaid freelancers, or fresh material by practiced writers who have your best interest at heart? There’s no denying that McDonald’s is cheaper than a farm-to-table restaurant, but only one leaves you healthier.

About Morgan Chi

I am a freelance writer, content developer, and copywriter who crafts quality content for B2B and B2C organizations—from small, local businesses to national organizations. Since 2011 I’ve specialized in writing blog posts, white papers, web copy, e-newsletters, and more, to build clients’ online presences and boost SEO. You don’t just have to take my word for it… find my portfolio and client testimonials at http://morganchi.com. Email me at morgan@morganchi.com, connect with me on Twitter at @MorganJChi, and find me on Facebook at facebook.com/morganchipage. No cat videos, I promise.

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