But before you invest a lot of resources in your writing career - specifically, the resource of time, as most legit writing opportunities are free - you may be doubting this pipe dream can last. Well, I don't doubt it anymore. I think it's here to stay. And here's why I think so.
The World Needs Cost-Effective Online Content Produced En Masse
Internet City needs content. The Internet is growing faster than the offline economy is shrinking. While the rest of the economy worldwide is sinking deeper and deeper into an economic depression, writers are experiencing more opportunity than they've had since the pulp era of the 20th century.
That's because, as in the Golden Age of fiction, we're experiencing a new and cheaper mode of product manufacturing and distribution. The Internet is becoming the new road system, post office, paper mill, printing press, film studio, music studio, advertising venue, and retail store all rolled into one. All this advertising and e-manufacturing means that the written word is at a premium.
Not yet a premium in pay, mind you - that will come after this economic depression ends and writers have more leverage as a group. But in labor demand. The name "Demand Media," the company that owns Demand Studios, an online company that hires creative people to produce content, is no coincidence. There really is a demand for writers. And there's even a demand for writers who work only for themselves.
The Economy Supports a Growing Worldwide Team of Writers
The worldwide economic depression means there are a lot of people out of work and no jobs to be had. Many of these are writers or writer wannabes. New and experienced freelance writers both are clambering to find writing work online if not offline. Many of the people who want to write wish to do so, not because they love writing, but because that's where the opportunity is, just as people wanted to build the railroad and the roads because that was where the opportunities were in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
So the labor is there. Indeed, the very failure of the old economic model is what's providing cannon fodder for the new one.
The Rush to Write Hasn't Even Really Begun Yet Because "Real" Writers Doubt the Internet is Legit
You don't hear people talking about online writing as a legitimate opportunity very much. Perhaps people don't know what's going on - why the economy is collapsing in one sector while it's booming in the virtual sector - or perhaps it's so obvious it's not worth mentioning.
To me, though, it looks like folks seem unaware that the old ship is sinking and that hope lies on the new ship. They talk about content on the Internet as though it's worse than print content, when in reality, it's about the same - some is good, most of it is bad.
But then, it took us several decades to appreciate the value in the "pulp" of the Golden Age, too.
But that's okay. All that's important is that something's working. And as far as I'm concerned, writing online works, if you have time, talent, the desire to learn, an instinct for marketing, a solid work ethic and a flair for making decisions - all features of a self-employed writer. The problem is that many of us were trained to fit into the corporate employment model, and we have to learn or re-learn the entrepreneurial skills necessary for becoming paid writers.
If you get "into the paradigm," though, you have an edge over folks who don't yet have confidence in this impossibly vast publishing medium called the Internet.
Writers Can Afford to Break Into Writing
In so many other professions, you need degrees and credentials. Not for writing online. Writing online for money requires little or no investment for the writer. The main investment is an Internet connection and learning to write well for the Web and taking the time to do it. Many revenue share websites are free to sign up with and write for. You do need to be good at what you do - at least, to succeed in the longterm. But you have a fair chance.
Why do I say this? Well, even in print, new writers couldn't break easily into the print market, because it was saturated due to the problem of limited distribution. Publishers had limited print runs and only so many publishing spots. Competition occurred at the level of being published at all. Only a few were so honored.
Now it's easy to get published - you just do it yourself by throwing up a blog on Blogger - voila, here we are. The competition still occurs, and it's even fiercer than before. But the competition lies not in being published, but in being seen. This means everyone with Internet access has a pretty much equal opportunity. Theoretically.
Reasons Not to Work for Yourself as a Writer Are Going Away
Self-employment used to be a luxury requiring not just time and monetary investment, but the risk of your health and that of your family. With the new Healthcare Reform Bill in the U.S., American citizens now have the possibility of being self-employed without disastrous consequences to their health. Staying in a low-paying job and not trying to earn a living as a writer makes sense when employment is tied to health care. Not so much when health care is available for anyone who works.
Oh - Except for Fiction
When it comes to writing fiction, though, it's not all glory. Not yet. If you're a fiction writer like I am, you may need to hold off on publishing until an effective way to monetize fiction on the Internet shows up or you invent one yourself.
That's because the print market for fiction is going slowly bye-bye and self publishing by print-on-demand and eBook format has yet to become feasible for an individual writer to monetize.
But until then, there's writing work to be had, whether it's from earning by revenue sharing, writing articles for hire, or getting contract work.