Artificial intelligence tools, such as ChatGPT, have the writing world in a panic. Writers worry about how to compete with ChatGPT because this tool can write a coherent blog post in a matter of minutes — for free.
That, they say, will steal jobs from humans, who would need hours to do the same work. And when humans do manage to get writing jobs, the fact that their competition is an inanimate object that doesn’t need to eat or pay rent is likely to drive writing rates into the basement.
There’s already some evidence of the looming disaster. The latest Fast 50 report by Freelancer.com found that seven of the 25 jobs in fastest decline were writing positions. Demand for report writing fell more than 30%; job searches for technical writing fell 27.5%; research writing fell 24% as did ghostwriting jobs. Job posts for business writers, blog writers and article rewriters also fell by double-digits.
“I think you are going to see these jobs come back, but you are going to see them coming back a little differently,” says Matt Barrie, CEO of Freelancer.com, a site that connects freelancers and clients. “People are playing with ChatGPT, but at the end of the day, writing is more than just churning out words.”
The good news
Indeed, it’s not all bad news.
Writers can compete with ChatGPT, they just need to know how to use it; what it can and can’t do; and how to make their own work stand out.
In fact, the tool itself offered great advice. When asked how writers could compete with it, ChatGPT suggested that they be creative and original; develop deep knowledge in a niche subject; connect with their readers; and use the tool as an ally rather than a competitor.
This is sound advice. But we’d change the order and expound on it from the perspective of a human editor who hires human freelance writers. And I’d also like to throw in a few words of caution.
The bad news
I asked ChatGPT to write several stories that I would potentially assign to a freelancer. These ranged from comparisons of different online platforms that offer side hustles to the best side hustles for people who are time-constrained; stay-at-home moms; and just best side hustles for 2023.
This tool came up with well-written articles, devoid of typos, spelling and grammatical errors. By and large, the articles were succinct and clear. In many ways, they were better than many of the articles that have been turned into me by freelancers.
Use the tool as an ally
But they were neither detailed nor imaginative. Some elements in each story were inaccurate, out-of-date, or recommended side hustles that we consider poor options. They lacked humor, original thought and imagination. They never surprised me or made me think.
Even though some freelance copy that we’ve received was repetitive and poorly written, some element usually surprised me. Each story almost always included at least one snippet of information that I didn’t previously know or some perspective that I thought was worth highlighting.
That said, a freelancer could use the Chat GPT copy as a starting point and take it to the next level with original thought.
How do you do that? When you’re given an assignment, start by asking for an answer from ChatGPT. Also Google the topic and see what you come up with. Chances are good that what you see from a Google search and what you get from ChatGPT are going to be similar.
If that’s what you plan to turn in, you will be replaced by a bot.
To compete with ChatGPT, you need to be better.
Be creative and original
Realize that AI has logic. It has research skills. It can do math. But it lacks empathy and humor. It is unable to draw human connections from the data it collects. Here, humans have an edge.
For instance, the ChatGPT story about jobs for stay-at-home moms listed eight side hustles, ranging from babysitting and making crafts to online tutoring and virtual assisting as good options. Totally reasonable.
But, a human reporter can empathize with his/her audience. That can make your story more creative and original. How might you empathize here? Ask yourself: “What about being a stay-at-home mom makes it tough to have a side hustle?” Oh, I know. Kids.
They’re needy, unpredictable, funny and surprising. They take over your life in ways you could never imagine until you have one or two — or so many that you’re outnumbered. The challenges of juggling kids and a job — even a flexible job — will vary based on their ages and dispositions and sleep patterns. And, of course, your own talents, interests and skills will have an impact too.
A smart human writer can slice this topic a lot of different ways by using this empathetic approach.
You may decide to divide side hustles by the child’s age. For instance, when you’ve got a baby in diapers, two things are going on. You’re constantly doing laundry because babies tend to spit up on everything; and you’re up at all hours of the night.
So you might suggest that parents of infants consider Poplin, previously known as Sudshare. Poplin allows you to earn money by washing and delivering other people’s laundry. (After all, you’re doing laundry constantly anyway. And putting the baby in the car during your deliveries may be the best way to get it to take a nap.) You might also suggest virtual assisting or social media management positions that can be done at any time of the day or night for those parents who find it impossible to go back to bed after midnight feedings.
Parents of toddlers might babysit, since your child is likely to enjoy having friends around. Parents of tweens who participate in sports might make money selling action photos, coaching — or by tutoring topics that your own kids struggled with, forcing you to become an expert.
Naturally, there are 100 other equally valid ways to approach a story like this. Your own experience can suggest unique ways to cover a well-worn topic.
Connect with your readers
Another thing that a bot doesn’t have is friends.
It can’t walk out the door and meet other moms at the park. It reads. It doesn’t interview. You have the human advantage of being able to talk to people.
Ask your stay-at-home mom friends — or strangers you meet at the park — whether they’ve tried to make money with side hustles. If so, which ones? How did it go? What went right? What went wrong? Of course, tell them what you’re doing and why you ask. Do they have any funny stories to share? If you can relay those stories in your piece, you’ve personalized your copy and immediately differentiated your writing from the bot’s.
Telling real stories of real people also is a great way to connect with your readers. And it’s important to make it easy for your readers to connect with you, too.
If you write about a topic regularly, develop a social media following where you have a real back and forth with people you don’t see everyday. It can be time consuming to personally communicate with large audience, but it pays dividends in the richness of your reporting.
This is an area where ChatGPT can’t compete with you.
Develop deep knowledge in a niche
We asked ChatGPT to write on side hustles because that’s our niche. And our editors strive to keep on top of the market as it evolves and changes. Thus, when the tool recommended VIPKid, Chegg, and Tutor.com as sites to find tutoring jobs, we knew that ChatGPT had run amok.
VIPKid was a popular site to teach English to Chinese kids five years ago. But it’s now largely dormant because of legal changes in China. Chegg Study also revamped and is no longer hiring tutors. (SideHusl.com trashed our Chegg Study review because it’s no longer a viable side hustle.) Meanwhile, Tutor.com is poorly rated on our site because of policies that can cause tutors to earn far less than minimum wage.
There are a plethora of good tutoring platforms, including Wyzant, TutorOcean, Juni Learning and LessonFace. ChatGPT missed them all. But, anyone who develops a deep knowledge in this niche would know them and why they were worth recommending.
If you are an expert in your niche, you’ll know when ChatGPT is misguided or outright wrong. And, as a result, you’ll provide better advice and information — not a summarized version of what’s archived on the web.
That too, makes your writing worth paying for.
But there’s no easy path. To compete with ChatGPT, you need to be better, smarter and work harder. You need to create a better product than artificial intelligence.
“The days of being average are over,” says Barrie. “You have to bring something extra to the table. It may be creativity or critical thinking or something else entirely, but you have to bring something to the table that gives you an edge.”