Nearly a year ago, David Huber wrote a piece about how to become a freelance poker writer. This piece was a great introduction to how to break into the industry but there were a few topics that he was unable to touch on for the sake of “brevity” (if you’ve read the piece you know why this is funny.)
Having been a poker writer since 2008 for major and minor players in the industry around the globe, I agree with David that the industry is somewhat easy to enter but not always the easiest to stay gainfully employed in. Below are seven things all poker writers should know in order to retain clients.
Be Willing to Learn New Things
Even if you consider yourself an “expert” in poker, there’s always something you can learn. An example that I often give is my own education in legal matters surrounding U.S. iPoker. Prior to Black Friday, I had very little experience in writing articles on legal matters.
However, a client approached me the day after Black Friday and asked me to write legal articles. After explaining my lack of experience, he still hired me based on my reporting on Black Friday. He figured that if I could research and report competently on that issue, the rest would come in time.
He was right and over time I educated myself on legal matters surrounding the game. If there are areas of poker where you’re lacking in knowledge, take the time to study up on those topics. You never know when that knowledge will land you work or a long-term client.
Inflexibility Leads to Unemployment
Immediately following the conclusion of my stint with PokerNews after the 2008 WSOP, I learned just how inflexible that some poker writers were. They were turning down selected gigs that in my opinion paid a reasonable rate but they were insistent on making a set rate.
For example, one particular writer told me that they would not work for less than 25 cents per words. That’s $125 for a 500 word article. Amazingly, there were some places that had paid insane rates like that in the past but by this point, they were few and far between.
Not surprisingly, this person was eventually priced out of the industry.
If you’re going to be an online poker writer, then you should be willing to be a bit flexible with your rate – at least within reason. For example, I have worked for certain clients that paid a bit less than others but their work was significantly easier and I wound up making more per hour than my standard clients. Consider the scope of work compared to the rate to see if it fits for you.
Nothing Should Be “Beneath You”
If you are going to be a poker writer, you need to be flexible and willing to do the various tasks that your job requires. A lot of what some of us do isn’t all that glamorous but it is part of the job. What surprises me are the number of writers that have told me over the years that they won’t work for a certain place or do certain work because it is “beneath them.”
A few years back, I was contacted by a well-known writer gauging my interest in a particular gig. He was actually offered the gig but turned it down because writing poker bios was “beneath him.” They aren’t beneath me and I contacted the client. That’s how I became the content manager for IveyPoker.com during their last year of existence.
Don’t Work For Free
One of the worst things you can do, in my opinion, is work for free. There are so many “poker sites” or blogs that try and get people to write for them in order to get “free exposure” for their writing. Much like Huffington Post, this is just a way to get content without paying for it.
If you want to write for “exposure,” then consider starting up your own blog. When I first started, I made my own blog and posted at least once a week to that site. Early on in my writing career, I would use specific snippets from that blog to show off my writing style. It eventually paid off as I not only received a couple of small clients based on my work but a couple of companies contacted me about advertising on my site and their ads ended up paying for my hosting and general expenses to keep the page going.
As I told one particular site owner about a year ago (and I know you’re reading this article, so HI), when someone uses free content they are taking advantage of their writers and it makes the site look bad. Even if the article pays less than you normally make, always get paid for your work.
Don’t Be Afraid to Be Niche
You will probably hear from some writers that it is a bad idea to specialize in one area as it limits your marketability. As some poker writers have learned in recent years, there’s nothing wrong with being niche. Steve Ruddock is one writer that is famous for his coverage of the regulated iPoker marketplace. I’ve known Steve for years and know he can write about most anything but he’s made quite the name for himself focusing on iGaming regulation.
When I first broke into the field, a lot of my clients hired me based on my extensive knowledge of mixed games. Back then, my skill set was a novelty. While that has changed over the years, my niche helped me retain clients pretty easily until Black Friday hit.
Jacks of All Trades Are Great Too
For those that of you that are “jacks of all trades but masters at none” as it comes to poker, don’t be afraid to market that fact. Online poker sites are not only looking for those that can competently write on particular niches but also writers that can do it all.
My longest tenured client is a great example of how being a jack of all trades can pay off. When I started with this client, my focus was on general poker news and op-eds. Then when that site started dropping in Google rankings (thanks Penguin), I was offered a chance to provide SEO articles for a different division to supplement my work.
In time, that work became my sole focus for nearly a year before the higher ups decided to revamp the site I initially provided content for. When they discovered I could write about U.S. regulation competently, they then offered me the chance to write content for those sites. Finally, the higher ups decided to add some mixed game content to certain sites that were lacking it, bringing me back full circle to how I started.
Being able to write on just about anything in the industry will pay off as much, sometimes better, than being a specialists so don’t be afraid to be a jack of all trades.
Don’t Forget to Play Poker When You Can
One question I don’t hear very often in interviews with clients is “how often do you play poker?” The funny thing is that a large number of poker writers either no longer play poker or they play very infrequently. I’ve been guilty of this in the past, sometimes for extended periods of time.
Life and our contracts get in the way and sometimes you just don’t find you have time to play poker. Other times, you just don’t want to see a deck of cards after writing for 20 to 40 hours in a week. You’ve had your fill of poker and it just doesn’t appeal to you as a game.
That’s a tragedy really. While we’ve chosen to write about the game for a living, it should never quell our desire to play at least on a recreational basis. There are also advantages to playing that some overlook.
Personally, I often come across situations that I end up using as part of a strategy article or even an op-ed on one of my sites. Even if you don’t come up with article ideas, playing some poker on occasion can help recharge your batteries and reignite your passion and focus for the game. Passionate and motivated writers produce quality content that many will enjoy.