I Write Click Bait - A Freelance Writer's Confession

When I meet new people or mutual friends at pubs, bars and houses, I’m met with a dilemma that most people don’t hit when they’re engaging in small talk. It used to be that when people asked me what I do, I told them that I worked at an office part time while I finished my MA. Once that office bollocks fell through, I finished my Masters in and I turned to freelance writing as a way to make rent while still allowing myself time to pursue a career in creativity. This means I no longer know how to answer this question without one or both of us feeling uncomfortable.

“All of your articles require ‘click bait’ to get traffic”

Now when I tell people that I write for a living, one of two things happens. The other person either assumes I mean I’m unemployed and pursuing a hobby, or they ask me what kind of stuff I write. Once the former assumption is corrected, then inevitably the latter question follows, which brings with it a whole host of issues. This is because I have written and will write click bait articles in my writing career if it means I can eat food and pay bills that month. Despite the absolute hatred that this form of writing is met with throughout the general public, sometimes with good reason, I still feel the need to answer honestly, as if I’m making a confession about some horrendous sexual abuse rather than the simple choice between money and poverty.

“The Confederate flag has been under fire by the black commie president to distract from his own racist misdeeds."

Oddly enough, this usually social issue has now started to bleed into my private life. Over the course of around four months now, I have been receiving emails and Facebook messages from disgruntled readers who have seen my click bait work dotted throughout the internet. Unlike most good work that is written for the passion of it all, companies pay big money to get click bait articles sprinkled everywhere in the hope that people will get clicking, as the name would suggest, this bringing in major advertising money for them. Unsurprisingly, this will usually be exploited, meaning that writers get paid a pittance while the companies themselves are raking it in. If you’ve been doing it for a while, are carrying a decent portfolio and have some idea of the industry, click bait work can be the most lucrative work out there though. However, this means that with money, will often come infamy.

“Do you get a joy out of fat shaming a person on the internet?"

For the same reasons I am not ashamed to say that I’ve written click bait shit for money before, I can tell you now that the last four months of my life have been click bait free, which is probably why I have made anywhere between £0-300 per month, usually closer to the lower end. Thankfully I have a fantastic network of friends and family who have ensured that my life for nearly half a year now hasn’t been a boring mess. While my destitution has not been without its high level of guilt and insurmountable stress, I am relatively healthy with an acceptable level of happiness, something that alludes some people who struggle for their entire lives. While I have written before about the sad state the UK is in when it comes to helping those in the pursuit of creativity, this article isn’t about that, but I will say that the fact I can still choose where to live while enjoying at least a mildly active social life through nothing but luck is a statement that could fill a depressing article of dissertation length.

“Also, if you want to be a journalist, you should learn what an automatic weapon is if you are going to refer to one as such. Unless of course, the entire theme was written as a joke…"

For around 4-5 months I wrote for a company who needed regular articles on a weekly basis that paid more than I’d ever been paid before. Through this company and the usual smaller clients who came and went, sometimes on a weekly basis, I was able to make around £800 a month. For some people, this is nothing, but for me it’s an absolute goldmine that allowed me comfort and happiness. It literally felt as if I had won the lottery. My anxiety was low because my deadlines could be completed from home and I had enough money to stay afloat.

It was these articles that have grabbed the attention of the internet’s angriest human beings. They crawled out of the woodwork, annoyed that they had read something they didn’t like on an article they chose to click by someone who evidentially didn’t care too much about what they were writing. Rather than leave it there, they decided to track me down, getting in touch through social media and even managing to find my email account. Sadly, they weren’t offering constructive criticism.

While I understand that it can be wildly annoying and even offensive to read about someone fairly well off in the grander scheme of things complaining about their financial situation, I know that this will speak to many people who have been in a similar situation. Yes, I may write click bait, but I’ve also written a novel and numerous opinion pieces. If you want to judge me for my writing, why not base it on my art, rather than my click bait?

All artwork created by Stephanie Hamer. To see her other artwork click here and here.