Guest post: Content is king

On February 11, 2015, in Writing for the web, by John Ellis
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Illustration by Fred Greiner. Yes, it’s an illustration. This guy is really good. www.fredgreiner.com

Today’s guest post is courtesy of Egan Louis, a former Sasquatch scholar and reporter who now earns a living writing online content. Below, he describes his familiar-sounding shift of occupation.

Writing Bad

There ought to be more guys like me. By that, I mean guys who manufacture high-quality product for a thirsty market of user who are accustomed to low-quality, street-level mediocrity. I mean an entire community of buyers accustomed to backroom brews and the underwhelming results of high-school-grade product, whipped up in makeshift labs. To be clear, I didn’t set out to sell this stuff. Economic necessity drove me into this life. I had a mortgage, car payments and a penchant for decent whisky. Time wasn’t on my side and I had nothing to leave behind as a legacy or inheritance. If I had children, they would have inherited gout and whatever happened to be in my chequing account that day. I had been self-diagnosed with a rare case of existential dyslexia as a child. By my best guess, I would be dead in about 43 years. There was no time to waste. I had to use my specialized knowledge in new and risky ways. Before long, I was in too deep. I couldn’t walk away. Last year I made twice as much as the average cop without breaking a sweat. I made more than a high-school principal working even fewer hours. My system was pure. I knew I’d never spend a day in jail and I’d pay less tax than a bus driver.

I have competitors but they aren’t out to kill me. I hook them up with deals when I can’t handle the volume so I’m more valuable alive. I started out as a naïve supplier, focusing on the product that I thought was sexy. I mostly sold H1s, H2s, sometimes H3s a ton of body copy. But that was gateway stuff. It simply wet my appetite for financial success. My best clients were web developers. As long as the quality was high, they didn’t care about the price. It was like they were spending someone else’s money. They would approach me all the time, saying “Hey man. I hear you’re the guy.” I didn’t care where they got my name. If they found me, they were legit. Those guys didn’t go looking for it unless they needed it bad. “I gotta go live man.” That’s what they all said. Like going live was going to solve their problems. I didn’t care what they did with my product as long as they came back for more. And they always did. “Go live and prosper.” I always said. They loved the Star Trek shtick and it made it seem like I was one of them.

I couldn’t believe that more guys weren’t doing what I was doing. It was like having a legal weed stand in the arrivals lounge at a Jamaican airport. Everyone wanted to buy and I was the guy with inventory. Sometimes I’d meet a rogue who would claim that his own, homegrown crop was just as good as my finest blend. I’d see him a few months later and ask “How’d it go man? Did you go live? How was the feeling?” He’d always admit that making his own was a colossal mistake that made him feel worse, not better. I loved those guys. They were converts. After messing up their first batch, they never questioned my prices or the results they got.

It didn’t take long to establish a reputation for quality product and I saw the chance to expand. I knew from experience that the best stuff had sexy names like Panama Red, Purple Mic (short for micro dot) and Acapulco Goldie (made famous by the members of Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show). I called my gift ARIAL.

“Like the girl in the movie? The Little Mermaid?” They asked.

“Sure.” I said. “Whatever turns your crank.” If they didn’t get the joke, it wasn’t my problem. I started doling out top-drawer coach marks, button labels, FAQs and error messages. I could even sell the same batch twice by calling it Alt. Text. Business boomed. Developers, project managers and web designers were lining up. As long as my product fit in the XML code and didn’t exceed the character counts, there was no limit to how much I could sell. They’d stand right beside me, with their hands out, expecting me to pull in out of my pocket and hand it over on the spot. “I don’t have it on me.” I would say. “But wait. Give me an hour, or a day, or a week. Then I’ll get you some great shit man.” That was my standard answer. The more I made them wait, the more they looked forward to the thrill of going live.

Every month, my operation became more efficient. I abandoned my Winnebago-sized office and disappeared into the wind, showing up here and there, hoteling, working out of coffee shops and virtual offices, sometimes even renting a meeting room at the local Board of Trade. When people asked about my occupation, I said I was an instructor of hatchet throwing at a hipster retreat in Orillia, Ontario. No one would make up a job like that, so everyone believed me.

Today, I’m at capacity. Expanding my operation would mean hiring staff and sharing my secret recipe. I prefer to live a simple life, serving a select clientele and writing the kind of online content that lets my clients go live and experience the exhilaration of success. I’m what they used to call comfortable. I’m what I call, content.