How to Make $594 a Person by Making Misleading Claims in the Title of Your Free Webinar

I’m a skeptic, so take all of the following with a grain of salt, as I’m sure there are people who benefit from how-to seminars, but after writing about the state of freelance writing two weeks ago (and sifting through all the comments and links people brought to my attention), I decided it’d be interesting to sit through a webinar, and while I was impressed with the person running it (who will remain unnamed), it wasn’t because of what he was supposedly teaching. What I took away from the lesson was that writing isn’t nearly as valuable a skill as one’s ability to come up with popular content (quality be damned) . . . and that even these ideas are worth nothing if you don’t have a product to sell. The title of this seminar, “How to Make $500+ Per Post Writing for Popular Blogs, Even If You’re a Total Newbie,” is misleading–in fact, he stressed that the writing of guest posts did not come with a pay check, and his calculations were based not on words or hits but on your ability to monetize the 6% or so of the readers clicking through. So, here’s my answer:

How To Make $594 A Person:

  1. Offer a free service and then introduce an optional product (yourself, in this instance) for six payments of $99. Make sure that long before you introduce the fees, you allow people to connect to you (preferably with a touching personal narrative that makes people want to invest in you); when you talk about the costs, make sure you stretch them into smaller-looking payments. (Why stop at six payments? Why not twelve monthly payments of $49.50?) Stress that you can get by without this service, but make sure you stress even more how essential this service is, much in the same way that you can explain how it is theoretically possible to walk through the desert without bringing water along, though you certainly wouldn’t want to do so.

That’s it. That’s the only step. There’s other chicanery, and I suppose I’m willing to educate those readers who are interested in more, for a low, low fee of $20, payable to CASH. (One example: promote the thing you’re selling as a limited-time deal–only 100 spots remaining–and offer a bonus gift–to, say, the first 50 people to sign up. You don’t really want people thinking about the value of the service you’re offering, nor about the cost itself. You want them signing up, and if you have to make some money-back assurances to do so, that’s not a problem; when they attempt to do so, you’ll nail ’em with hidden costs, penalties, or objections on the way out.) More importantly, remember that the webinar is only guaranteeing that a guest blog of yours will be published–not that you’ll ever make any money off of it.

So let’s revisit the grizzly gristle of guest blogging for “exposure” and the contradictions inherent within this webinar’s claims. First, however much competition there may be to have your pitch/article accepted as a guest blog, there is no risk to those who are publishing it. They’re getting your content for nothing; under this webinar’s guidance, you would actually be the one paying (for access to editors) in order to get your piece written. Second, although your goal is ultimately to get people to sign up for your own website, the style in which you pitch a piece must be in the voice of the site you’re pitching to; in other words, those who click through to your site may be sorely disappointed by the content you’re actually providing. (Not to worry, though, as misdirection is a key in this sort of profiteering: turns out, you don’t want them to actually read your content, you want their e-mail addresses so that you can sell them your services or products–or, at worst, someone else’s services/products. Congratulations on earning your first paycheck through writing . . . ahem, I mean, selling people’s e-mail addresses.) This is worse than search-engine optimization, it’s salesgraphy. In that, at least, the webinar was actually showing you firsthand what to do; paradoxically, you failed that lesson if you understood it.

Again, I’m a skeptic, and the host of the seminar appeared sincere–even if his most sincere moments were related to the ways in which he was clearly trying to market his own product, one that allows him to profit off of your writing, even and especially if you are not. He opens by noting that to become successful, you must believe in yourself. What he left unsaid, and which I’ll make explicit even for those of you who don’t feel like paying me anything, is this: in order for me (a salesman, in this instance) to become successful, you (the person I am selling to) must believe in yourself . . . enough such that you believe the product I’m selling will help you. I can’t help but feel that this is a short-sighted Ponzi scheme, in which value is created off a rapidly dwindling pool of those who have not yet learned to create value for themselves, and while this may be great business for the popular blogs out there who now end up with free content (that allows them to get a straightforward check from advertisers), there is little chance that your site (which would theoretically have to compete with these others) will eventually do the same . . . at least, not without taking advantage of a whole batch of new writers who hope to one day do the same as you.

(By the way, though I’m largely a tongue-in-cheek writer, my obligatorily pitched services are totally for sale. Reasonable rates for proofreading and copy-editing; inquire by e-mail.)

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5 thoughts on “How to Make $594 a Person by Making Misleading Claims in the Title of Your Free Webinar

  1. If making money from a simple blog was as easy as some try to make it seem, we would all be rolling in mountains of money right about now. How does that saying go ‘if it seems too good to be true….’ If its possible to ‘flog’ a few books or otherwise through a blog then thats awesome and I applaud all who do. More power to the writers of the world.

    • Well said, and I don’t necessarily think that all blogs SHOULD be trying to make money. Allow us our hobbies, our passions, and our practice. But don’t try to profit *off* other people’s work unless you’re going to compensate them for it, right?

  2. We’re so passionate about getting our voices heard that we pay people to let us talk!! Ugh, that’s the feeling I got after reading this, anyway, especially when you said “I can’t help but feel that this is a short-sighted Ponzi scheme, in which value is created off a rapidly dwindling pool of those who have not yet learned to create value for themselves.” Reminds me of when I used to write poetry (unsure if that will come up again, and I certainly wouldn’t mind…) and somehow got myself signed up on Poetry.com…that was a mistake. I still get emails, and that was over 10 years ago! 🙂 They still love me! Hopefully as I keep offering my free service of blogging and reading/reviewing, I’ll get a chance to offer my books whenever they get published and then start hosting webinars of my own (or not? It’s a mystery for the future). Thanks for the post!

    • This is admittedly an extreme situation, but yeah, I don’t feel that it’s all that far from the norm. If you already have a product to sell (although the seminar leader acknowledged that fiction was the hardest type of product to sell), I can perhaps understand how a guest post model would work, in the sense that a book tour gives you free publicity and is a contractual obligation when working with certain publishing houses.

      The problem is that when we talk about ACTUAL freelance writers and ACTUAL bloggers (as opposed to opportunistic vultures and commercial hacks), the assumption is that the same can be applied to them, forgetting that if we conform to other styles, we’re no longer correctly advertising our “product” (i.e., ourselves), and that if we have nothing to sell beyond our actual posts/content, giving it away for free accomplishes very little.

      There’s also the fact that because exposure only converts a supposed 6% of passive subscribers toward being loyal/active users, there’s a need to inflate posts, to the point where you’ve diluted your quality just to rake in the numbers you’re looking for. I wish there were a way to simply write honestly, clearly, and passionately to gain a readership and the possibility of payment down the line.

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