My friend is a published book author/ex-reporter, who is talented at editing. But he has read warnings by editors, on old Metafilter threads
, that it is hard to break into their brutally competitive field.
So even though he'd rather sell editing services, and his official credentials are more writing-oriented, he's instead been going on Craigslist peddling his workmanlike competence at things like CSS, XHTML, Wordpress and Photoshop CS4, in the belief that these skills carry greater market value. He has been known to write a PHP script or two. He's no graphic designer or coding whiz, but he keeps up on design trends, and his years of experience messing with Unix have given him some flexibility. He's at least good enough to help people out with a variety of Web issues, and has landed a site-design job or two so far in his quest for a modest freelance income, though it has been difficult.
What he is trying to figure out is whether it's worth competing with all the excellent copywriting and editing services out there, or if it will be relatively easier to continue to try to do Web sites, read a few more O'Reilly books and pick up more technical Net skills, even though he's a relative n00b at it...good enough for government work, as they say, but not likely to bring home a Webby Award.
On E-lance you can see for yourself how many employers are asking for any one skill, and can compare that with the number of contract-hunters. But it's still hard to get a sense of the real value, in terms of meaningful and not chintzy offers. Is there a dramatic difference between the demands for editing and Web work, or are both these areas equally hard to crack? There are so many providers around the world promising to build sites for cheap that it can seem dizzying and bleak. Or maybe it depends on where you look, and is E-lance's outlook just markedly grimmer?