Writing to make money; writing as my duty

[Since many people will not be familiar with the references, the following: 1) One of the first ways of making money on the Internet to which you are exposed when you start investigating these things is so-called “affiliate marketing” where you convince people to buy certain products. How does it work? You provide people with a link (“Click here for more information!”); a piece of code is planted on the person’s computer; when the person pays for the product the company that processes the payment picks up that the transaction had followed a certain route; you get credit for the transaction; a few weeks later you get paid a commission for your efforts. One of the ways you get people to click on your special link is to place the link in an article dealing with a particular problem or covering some niche interest, or at the end of a product review. 2) Squidoo.com was a website where anyone could start a page on any topic they were interested in. The pages were called “lenses”. 3) “Private label” refers to text or any other digital content or media people produce which they sell to other people with permission to modify as they wish and to publish under their own names. 4) “Pay-per-click” refers to small text ads that appear above or next to Google’s search results (and those of some other search engines) and on some web pages; advertisers pay for these ads depending on how many times people click on them or on how many times they appear. 5) “PDF” is an electronic document format. 6) Article directories are sites with thousands of articles on hundreds of topics. In 2008 when this text was written, article directories were popular places where you could get free content for your website with the only conditions being that you could not change the article in any way and you had to include the author’s details when you published it on your own site. It was therefore also a good way to get exposure for yourself and for your own website.]



I have no desire to look for a reason why I do not yet have millions of dollars in cash to unpack on my apartment floor to stare at.

A question does come to mind: How many of the projects that are currently on my list require that I write something? The answer: everything except the sports and financial markets, and perhaps pay-per-click advertising.

The next question: How much writing have I produced in the past 26 months to market something? Answer: A few paragraphs here and there; a few product reviews; three articles; a few Squidoo lens introductions; and a PDF with an introduction, ten short pieces about different ways to make money, and an advertisement for the “private label” version. In short, not much.

Anyone who knows anything about Internet marketing will say a prerequisite for any one-person show to get anywhere is unique content, mostly text. Dozens of products are sold or provided at no cost to help people with something that many regard as daunting – software, templates, how-to products, all of which were developed to assist people through the process of writing articles. There are sites where people can find writers to produce content for them at the cost of a few dollars per item. There are private label sites where people can buy bundles of articles that they can change however they like and then publish under their own names. There are books that aim to teach you how to earn a regular full-time income by producing private label material for other people, because … people need content for their websites, and they do not always have the time or ability to create the content themselves.

The production of text is indeed an industry that has arisen because people want to make money on the Internet. And you learn quickly: No content for your web pages; no profit.

Fantastic, I thought right at the start. I don’t have money to throw in any project’s direction, but I can write. This is going to be easy! And I can write about anything. I can read what other people have written and then give my own spin on the topic. I can scan through dozens of PDFs and then write articles in which I can stick my affiliate links and – then I can sit back and wait for that first fat commission check!

Twenty-six months later. If I had to take everything that I have written so far to market something, throw it together in a document and call it a book, I would tear my clothes and grind my teeth (not too hard, though; my one tooth already has a crack in it). The three articles I submitted to the article directories last year were okay. I could still publish them under my real name. One woman even left a comment in which she said, “That was exactly what I needed to hear today!”

You can fool most people some of the time, but you should never try to deceive yourself. I try to write articles about horse racing betting systems and affiliate marketing, and in the pipeline is text on dog training, tattoos, and muscle-building. Imagine that. No wonder the real writer is on a go-slow.

The good news is that there are ways to make money on the Internet where you don’t need to write anything, such as sports trading, sports betting and trading on the financial markets.

Does that mean all money-making opportunities that require written text are forever lost to me because the writer inside me finds it psychologically unbearable to write about anything that is not a matter of life and death?

Fortunately not. There is after all private label content – and the writer does not have a problem with editing and rewriting, free articles you can publish on your own sites, material on which copyright has expired, and the possibility of outsourcing all essential text. The problem is, in actual fact, not a problem at all. As long as I do not expect myself to do anything more than editing text that has already been written.

Funny how I thought the big problem was with me not wanting to be a marketer …

So, it seems that contrary to my initial perception, I don’t have an existential problem with engaging in activities intended to market something. It is even less of a problem if I can do it under a pseudonym, or even better, anonymously. Internet marketing is after all not the same as selling hot dogs outside a sports stadium, or trying to pawn off “Win a Ford!” tickets to unsuspecting people who saunter into a shopping mall.

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“Break the deadlock, or stay broke,” I wrote the other day on a piece of paper on the kitchen wall. And in my notebook, I wrote on Tuesday, 25 March 2008: “If this is also too much for my sensitive character who never wants to compromise, I almost want to say, ‘That’s it! I am walking away from what I have become, as it is now clear that I’m doomed to a lifetime of teaching people to speak English! I’m going to find myself a new body to inhabit!’” At exactly eleven o’clock that night I wrote: “The new idea [something about which I was excited for a few weeks] have two comments written in pencil across it, ‘critical success’ and ‘typical failure’. The question is: Which one will be written in pen?”

What does this mean? My notes on the process of trying to make money on the Internet is useful here and there from a literary perspective. Anything more than that – or less literary than that, must simply come from another source.


I look at the notes from the last 26 months, and I say to myself: Look at it not as a story of developing success or as a series of failures, look at with a single question on your lips: Has the scribe done his duty and faithfully made notes about this latest period in the life of the human, “Brand Smit”?