Should I include this in my online freelance clips even if the editing is not up to my standards?
May 16, 2012 7:45 PM   Subscribe

I'm new to freelance writing online. What do I do if a website publishing my work (through a middle-man content network who pays me) edits/adds to my writing in a way that I feel detracts from the quality of the work? I only have 4 published clips so far; should I include a link to this website when clips are requested by potential employers?

I write for a gig I feel good about (I get paid by one group, they give my articles to clients in exchange for links or something?) but some of the websites my work ends up on are not the most well-made/slightly spammy. For example, they may add some text at the end of articles which are product plugs or cut sections for length in a way that hurts fluency of the article. I always get paid a fair amount right on schedule. I'm not really worried about this type of thing existing on the internet under my name; but should I send it to a potential employer who is asking for clips? Should I be alarmed by any aspect of this situation?
posted by dahliachewswell to Work & Money (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I would say you're not so much a writer who is published on the web as a content provider or copy writer who supplies raw material for the sites in question. Beyond that, I would re-read any agreements you have made for this relationship to see if they have anything to say on the matter.
posted by rhizome at 7:51 PM on May 16, 2012

True, yes, I'm a "content provider" in this scenario, but in this case it is under my byline and I'm curious about the appropriateness of using this clip to apply for jobs as a "writer," as you mean it.
posted by dahliachewswell at 8:00 PM on May 16, 2012

If your name is on it potential employers will find the spammy versions with a search of your name. So it's not helping you, and is probably hurting you. For example when I'm approached for an interview by someone I google them. If their content is obviously part of a content farm I won't give them an interview, it doesn't make me look good.

If you don't like it (and, despite what you say, you don't, otherwise you wouldn't ask) check your contract and see if you can do anything about it. But given the nature of the work – content for spam sites – and that you're not an established author I wouldn't really hold out any hope that you have any end editorial control.

If you want to keep getting paid, write under a pseudonym.
posted by Ookseer at 8:14 PM on May 16, 2012

If asked for clips, you should provide your own samples instead of sending them links to sites. I would explain that what gets posted on the web is determined by the site owner but that these are the articles that your originally wrote.
posted by shoesietart at 9:29 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm not an editor anymore, but when I was I would have been completely open to a writer sending a few choice clips, noting the existence of other content under her name, and explaining how that work was resold or heavily edited for SEO.

Plenty of editors understand that writers who are trying to be in business for themselves sometimes have to take gigs that aren't awesome. I might have been less picky because I needed people with specialized knowledge, but I also knew what it was like out there for freelancers.

As shoesietart notes, no matter what you do, you should provide your own samples or host a cleanly formatted copy somewhere, contract permitting. The last company I worked for allowed writers to host copies of their own work for use in a portfolio site (but some SEO-sensitive companies can get itchy about that). That gives you a chance to control the presentation and avoid the embarrassment of a site changing or breaking its own design or layout in such a way that your work looks amateurish. I've gone back and found things I wrote early on that look really awful because the site that published them didn't take care with older content during a redesign and it made the publisher look rinky-dink (which didn't reflect well on me).
posted by mph at 12:15 AM on May 17, 2012

I would recommend having a friend A/B the two versions of the piece in question. As a writer, I know I don't want anyone changing a word I write. But I'm sometimes able to admit that something reads cleaner -- or maybe is better in some way that is less important to me than some other way, which is why I wrote it the way I did -- after someone else's revisions. Trying to say that I've been in many situations where I was bummed something was changed -- and got compliments on the piece, whether in spite of or because of the editing. A friend can confirm your suspicion or allay your fears.
posted by troywestfield at 6:04 AM on May 17, 2012

You're in a world far outside my area of expertise (journalism), but when I accepted clips from job applicants I expected that most had been edited to some degree -- generally the better/stronger the publication, the more that editing improves a clip, whereas at amateur publications editors may add errors. Unless otherwise disclosed, I expect clips that I receive are written as published. But a bunch of clips submitted as written, instead of after edits, would be fine -- especially with a diplomatic disclosure that said something like, "My clients sometimes make substantial changes to my work once it is submitted, so I am including these unedited clips to highlight the quality and character of my original writing."
posted by croutonsupafreak at 6:22 AM on May 17, 2012

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