Naturally, there's a lot of competition for these assignments, and you don't make the absurdly small bucks without getting your craft down to a science. You need a thorough understanding of how to get your client the most money. According to Jen, "There are three ways a piece of written content makes money: Someone is buying it directly, it's generating a lot of clicks and thus ad revenue, or it's helping them sell their own product. There's not a lot of money in that first category, so we mostly get hired to do the other two."
"We need you to rewrite our entire vitamin website so it doesn't raise any scam alarms. Here's $3.50 and a Burger King coupon."
Of course there's a mathematically precise strategy for both:
"The easiest way to get a lot of clicks on something and try to make it go viral is to spark outrage and incite hate-sharing. Y'know, doing things like nerd-baiting, or feminist-baiting, or conservative-baiting." Well that seems easy enough. Simply stroll into the internet, shout, "Deadpool sucks!" and let the money roll in? Alas, no. There are several key components to a successful hate-share.
Specifically, the words "Obama," "vaccinations," and "Ghostbusters remake."
"The trick is to figure out what buzzwords and stances will piss someone off, and exploit that to create a story that will feed into the fears and self-serving ideology of whatever group you're targeting," Jen says. "You make bold claims, because a moderate stance won't inspire anyone."
It works best if you outright lie: "You learn to write headlines like 'Is ISIS Secretly Running the White House?' because even of the bulk of your article is 'No, obviously not,' you know readers will glide right over that question mark and remember the headline. You've planted that seed."
As for the other tactic: "If you're trying to sell a product, what you do is tap into the fears and insecurities of your audience. There's a very specific type of page called a 'squeeze page,' which basically exists solely to get someone to sign up for your newsletter. Squeeze pages are written in a very, very specific manner. You start by identifying a problem that someone might have -- let's say a dirty kitchen. Then you make that problem sound really, really awful. You talk about all of the microorganisms living in that kitchen, and the number of pathogens your kids end up ingesting every single day from eating off your counter tops, discrediting all of the methods they might already be using to solve that problem."
"Congratulations, you've murdered your family."
"You make a personal connection with them, to empathize and make them feel better. They're not stupid. They're not bad housekeepers. You were once exactly where they were. In fact, you were worse off. You were sick and miserable all of the time. Your kids had autism and leukemia and progeria all at once, and you had no idea that it was all due to these war germs lurking in your silverware drawer. [But] you discovered a simple solution, and it's so important that you're going to share that solution with them, absolutely free. Then you talk about that solution in the vaguest way possible, using a lot of power words like 'innovative' and 'powerful" and 'results' and 'simple.' 'With one easy step,' 'best-kept secret,' etc."
Turns out the one weird trick is signing up for a questionable newsletter.
Finally, you tell them that "all they have to do in order to solve this debilitating, horrible problem that is destroying their life (even if they just learned about it five minutes ago) is put in their email address and receive your FREE report (or video, or e-book, or podcast, or whatever). Except that free report probably doesn't actually do shit to solve their problem, if the problem was real to begin with. Instead, it just lays a trail of breadcrumbs to get them to do the next step, and the next step, until eventually they end up forking over a whole lot of money for some service of yours. Meanwhile, even if they turn down that service, the site owner now has their email address, which they will use to send them promotional materials -- all of them written with clickbaity titles and promises of wonderful things if they just fork over a little bit of cash. Less than the cost of a cup of coffee! (If you buy the most expensive cup of coffee every single day for two years.)"
If all of this sounds incredibly evil, well, it is. But what can you possibly do to protect yourself from it? Luckily, we have a powerful and innovative -- yet simple - solution that guarantees results with one easy step. It's our best-kept secret, and all you have to do is sign up for ...
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