I thought I’d spend some time today talking about freelance writing, and what does and doesn’t work for me.
Some background: Ten years ago I was a single mom. I saw an ad for a newspaper reporter in an obscure little town in Northern Nevada. I answered, and somehow I was hired. I suspect this was because there are very few people willing to live in Battle Mountain, NV and work 50 hour/$400 weeks. Result: I got a crash course in journalism, and all the clips (writing samples) I could want. As the only reporter and photographer, I provided all the content except the editorial for that biweekly paper. I also laid it out by hand with a wax machine.
I ended up back in Vegas, did an internship at a large newspaper, got a job at another large paper as an editorial assistant—and after a while quit. My son’s autism was hitting it’s stride and I needed something more flexible and less stressful.
Off and on over the years I earned money as a freelance writer. I wrote for magazines mostly. About five years ago I decided I wanted to write fiction, and I haven’t done much freelance since then. School and other careers have taken up that time.
Last month some things happened at my job that made me decide to dust off my old skills and try to build up a business again. Just in case. The world of freelance writing has changed in the last five years. Online content has become a viable business model.
I’ve applied to and been accepted as a writer at Demand Studios and Suite 101. Both required me to send in clips. Just a note: I tried to half-ass the applications and was denied. I tried again with good clips and taking the process seriously, and was accepted. So they definitely don’t accept every writer who applies. I also signed up at Associated Content. Associated Content does allow anyone to write for them, so this is a good place to get a couple of clips. I have heard about seed.com which is AOL’s foray into online conent, and on the surface it looks fantastic. I’ve only written one article for them. More about that in a minute.
Here are my thoughts on all four, and my experiences:
Demand Studios provides content for their own sites, such as ehow.com. When you log on, there is a list of literally 1000s of available stories. When you ‘claim’ one, no one else can have it. It’s yours. Some of the stories are really interesting, some are very technical and require knowledge of things like how to rebuild a transmission. Some of the topics are just–insane. How to Make Purple Oil, for instance.
Demand Studios doesn’t give any details about exactly what they want, just the title. There is a content area–but that is iffy at best. The purple oil sample is listed in food. I still wouldn’t know where to start with that. Also, when I clicked on nutrition, I got a bunch of articles about “rebuilding carbs” and “how to oil a carb,” which are clearly automotive in nature. This makes me think that they are somehow getting ahold of people’s Google searches and some automated program is putting them in the categories. I have no idea if that is right or not, just my impression.
Still, it’s not hard to find assignments that fit me. I can search a keyword, which is nice.
Even nicer? The articles pay $15.00 for 400 words, or $7.50 for 200. I’ve seen online where some people complain about that. But considering that I can write two 400 word articles in an hour, that’s a $30 an hour job. And that’s considerably more than my day job pays. If Demand Studios offered me a 9-5 for $30, I’d take it in a heart beat. So I wouldn’t complain about getting that for contract work. This isn’t rocket science–these are easy-do articles that, to this writer anyway, are worth doing for $15.
It’s a guaranteed income, too. They pay a flat fee, rather than a per view fee as you’ll see others do. And once you’re accepted as a DS writer, you don’t have to pitch stories. You aren’t competeing with other writers for the same work. An editor reads your story, sends it back once if you have any problems in it, and then accpets it. You’re paid in Paypal twice a week. As you can see under my $3000 Freedom tag, I made more than $250 in two weeks in December. I have $75 more coming on Tuesday.
Demand Studios does have an editorial process. They are mostly looking to make sure that your story fits in whatever guidelines you’re writing under for that article. Your article will be sent back to you once with revisions, and if the second time it still has problems it will be rejected. My experience has been good feedback and communication with the editors. I’ve had a handful of stories that I had to revise, and one that was rejected (the revision had a competitors link as a reference.)
I like Demand Studios because I can work extra to make extra money if something is coming up. They pay regularly, and twice a week is really nice. The articles are sometimes weird, but they’re plentiful and there is something in there for everyone.
Suite 101 is an online magazine. They publish conent on a wide variety of subjects on their own site. Suite 101 lets writers write on anything that interests them. There are no assignments. You write, you hit publish, and you’re published.
This site has a really excellent editorial side, which might be the best thing about them. The first article you write is held until it’s been edited. It gets ‘flagged,’ unlike Demand Studios, Suite 101 editors will work with you until your story is right. They’re super helpful with things like getting the keywords right, and formatting.
Suite 101 does not pay anything up front. Your article is published with Google Adsense ads, and you’re paid a percentage of the click throughs to the ads. At first, I thought that this would make Suite 101 the least profitable of all my current gigs. And it might still. I haven’t figured it out.
The thing is, some sites will pay you per page view. But you have to get up to 1000 before you get a buck and a half. Where as I can have an article on Suite 101 with only 100 views, but if I get 12 cents a click, only fifteen percent have to click through for me to make the same amount.
Doing research about Suite 101, I’ve found that there are some writers who have consistantly written for them–and who are making decent money. The key, obviously, is to build up your list of stories. And the thing is, even the many writers who moved on to more profitable venues are still making money on those Suite 101 stories, sometimes years later.
Suite 101 is a long-term thing. You have to be prepared to write and write, and hope that at some point you build up a readership.
Associated Content is kind of in the middle. They also post their conent on their own site, like Suite 101. They have a list of assignments, like Demand Studios. But you can post just about any conent at all on Associated Content. Research papers, blog posts, book reviews–anything you write.
You choose whether you want just to be paid for page views or if you want to be considered for an upfront payment. As far as I can tell, that means three or four dollars upfront. You get $1.50 per 1000 page views regardless. If you submit for upfront payment, it takes a week or so for an editor to read your article and make an offer. If you go for page views only, it’s published nearly instantly.
That article that was not accepted by Demand Studios? I submitted it to Associated Content. It took a good week for them to say that they already had a similar article, and so would not be able to offer me anything up front. I submitted it for page views.
I’ve accepted three of their assignments that had small upfront payments. All three were ‘how to’ craft articles that I was able to write without any research. I was paid a total of $8.00 upfront for three 350 word articles. Not great. It took me an hour or so to write all three. More than minimum wage at least. But, the views to those articles are added to my page view total. I don’t have to get 1000 views on one article to make the $1.50, it’s 1000 on all my pages period.
I was paid the day after the three upfront payment stories were approved. The money went into my Paypal account. The page view money has to be built up to $10 for payout.
Seed.com looks really interesting. It has a list of articles, like Demand Studios. But there are differences that make me weary. For one thing, I’ve heard that many writers can claim the same article. So there is far more competition. The articles pay more, sometimes 100s of dollars. But only if they choose yours out of all the articles submitted. If they do, they own the rights and will publish it all over th net.
If they don’t choose yours for the upfront payment, they can publish it on a limited basis, one website only, and pay you per page view.
The problem is that you have to write the article to find out. And you can’t choose not to give them the limited rights and publish somewhere more profitable. They own the rights, unless they reject your story completely.
Their article assignments are really well written titles, with lots of feedback about what they’re looking for. I wrote one, just to see what happens. 750 words on five pairs of shoes every woman should own. If it’s accepted for upfront payment, I’ll get $55. If not, I’ll get page views only.
It will be interesting to see how many page views it gets. AOL is a pretty gargantuan presence on the internet.
You can also send in your own articles, and they’ll either make an offer or they won’t. I’ve heard that the feedback from the editors is pretty good.
It’s a brand new enterprise, so I’m sure there will be growing pains. Stay tuned.
All in all, I’m happy with Demand Studios, Associated Content, and Suite 101. I wouldn’t mind adding seed.com if they pan out. I think I could easily make a decent wage right now at Demand Studios. Associated Content and Suite 101 are more long-term ventures. There are writers who earn good incomes at both, but it doesn’t happen as quickly as Demand Studios with their upfront payout.
I’ve been trying to figure out a way to let you guys know about my articles at all three without flooding my blog with links to them everyday. I think I’m going to open a Freelance page, and just mention here when it’s been updated. See how that goes.
ETA: I couldn’t figure out how to link to my Demand Studios articles, since they are at lots of different sites. I opened a links category My Freelance Writing that has links to my Associated Content and Suite 101 pages. You can check out my writing there.