A review of a few different writing websites.
In my recent articles “Jobs You Can Get Today” and “Jobs You Can do With Your Kids” I discussed the idea of freelance writing as a possible way to earn money. As a few of my readers pointed out, however, the market has certainly changed over the past five years for aspiring writers. Many publishers take e-mail submissions, and a number of websites have flourished promising authors a chance to quickly and easily get their work published.
Figuring out which sites are legitimate, as well as which sites will pay the most and allow an inexperienced author to get the most recognition for his or her work, however, can be difficult. Even legitimate sites can be slow to pay, have very few readers, or quite simply just not pay enough to make writing a worthwhile occupation. Thus, a few friends and I decided to start experimenting with various writing websites a few months ago. Below are our reviews, along with some tricks to get your writing more noticed, and you better paid.
This site represents itself as a library of articles that are waiting to be sold and published to other online and print sources. While they (and you) wait for those publishers to come along, however, they publish the articles onto their own site, and pay the authors a portion of the advertising revenue. Because of the size of the site, the traffic generated can easily earn a single article over $1 a month. Authors can only write to a list of approved “titles” but the list consists of thousands of titles in hundreds of subjects, making it easy to write and publish just about anything. Unfortunately, the site is plagued by an awkward “star rating” system. Every article published is supposedly rated by the other users of the site, then ranked against other articles with the same title. In order to be eligible for any topics specifically requested by an outside publisher, you must rate in the top 25% of the writers on the site. While this idea seems like a good one, having a random group of readers rank articles (not even in topics they request to read about) produces some rather sub-par work getting top billing. As part of our experiment, we took a sample of “best” versus “worst” articles to two English professors I’ve worked closely with in the past, and their rankings came nowhere close to the rankings on this site. One other small problem is that your work cannot be deleted once it has been submitted. One of our testers learned this the hard way when she published a piece that she later wanted to sell to another publisher. Final verdict: it can be a good site to look at for well-paying article ideas, as well as one for publishing work on niche topics that would not be sellable anywhere else.
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Ehow.com This site sounded like an excellent way to earn extra money for writers who just need to get paid. A recent blurb in Time Magazine stated that several of the writers for this site had managed to quit their full-time jobs in order to write solely for this site. The site has a lot of name recognition, guaranteeing that your articles will be seen by a large audience. Unfortunately, the site is riddled with technical problems. Immediately after joining, my team realized that we could never reserve topics to write about, any topic we picked from the “Most Requested” list invariably produced a message that the topic had just been picked seconds before we picked it. Since many of the topics stayed on the list for a few days, we had a hard time believing this. Writing articles of our own choosing went a little better, but the site has so many contributors now that we would spend several minutes re-wording our article topics in order to make them different from what had already been published. For example if an article entitled “How to Make Pickles” had already been written, no other articles with the same title could be published. Articles titled “How to Cook Pickles” or “How to Prepare Pickles’ were fine, however. This seemed to be a very clunky way to manage a website , but we published about ten articles anyway in the name of good research. We published about one per day, and the payout for them was fairly good. Three weeks after publishing our first article, we were about to hit the $10 payout minimum. The next day, however, one of us got an e-mail from the site saying that we had plagiarized one of our articles, and our account was being shut down. It took a week of e-mails (there is no other contact information given on this website) to determine that we had been accused of plagiarizing a recipe for oatmeal cookies. In truth, this recipe had been copied over from a handwritten sheet of paper in one of our cookbooks (written by the team member’s grandmother). When we asked to see a copy of the recipe we supposedly plagiarized from, none could be produced. This message was followed by one stating that our account would be reactivated immediately. We tried to get back in for a week, then e-mailed again. Three months later, we have yet to receive a response. According to several blog posts, other writers have had very similar situations happen to them. Final verdict: don’t even bother.
Triond.com This site is essentially a clearing house for articles to be published on a small collection of websites that are owned and/or operated by the website’s parent company. There is a very minimal application to get started, and most articles get published the next day. Payment is based on a share of the advertising revenue, meaning most creative writing pieces or articles on obscure topics will make less than $.10 a month. We had the most success publishing articles dealing with seasonal and holiday, how-to, and consumer guide categories. Payment for these types of subjects usually earned about $.50 a month, or $6 a year. The site does accept articles on almost any topic, however, so it can be a great place to keep articles that have been rejected by print magazines. Final verdict: A good place to get started and refine the topics you want to write about.
Factoidz.com This is a relatively new site, and we were drawn to it because it promised to republish any articles that we submitted. We submitted about ten articles, all of which we had published on other websites or in magazines. Our first moth, we made $1.81, not great money, but more than what we would have made on the already published articles. Unfortunately, after our first payment was received we got an e-mail telling us that the site would no longer accept previously published work. We wrote three original pieces and published them. According to the site, we have yet to have a single person read our work since we were paid last. Additionally, the site does very little to promote itself or its authors. There aren’t even suggestions about what to write, other than an occasional sidebar message with a few niche topics that they are supposedly willing to pay double the normal rate on. Final verdict: Try it, but don’t stay too long, and do not give them your best work.
Examiner.com This site supposedly tries to focus on region-specific information, but it will publish just about anything. The application process is long; we had to submit several samples of original work in the “topic area” we were applying for. We then had to agree to a background check and fill out tax forms (both of which were unheard of on the other sites we researched). This makes you an employee of the site, not a freelance contributor. Payout rates, however, are very high, with articles fetching about $2 a month in a relatively low population area. Examiners in large cities like Chicago claim they make about $100 a month by publishing around five articles on various blogs we checked out. The site is willing to accept previously published work, as long as it has a “local” element to it. Final verdict: Try it only if you have a few hours a week to dedicate to the job.
My team and I will continue to try out websites over the coming months. All of us have written professionally at some point in our lives, so we know how hard it is to find a good market for your work. If you have any experiences you would like to share or a website that you would like to know more about, please leave a note in the comments section below.