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Old 04-27-2012, 03:43 AM   #1
writeinsideme
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Can you explain something to me about content sites?

I'm extremely new to the idea of starting a freelance career. I honestly had no idea that content sites were the source of so many articles online. If you wouldn't mind, can you please explain a few things to me?

1. How are people writing 5, 10, 15, etc articles a day? Is it basically searching online for content to re-write an article that's already online somewhere? I cannot imagine it's possible to truly research these subjects in such a short period of time.

2. I have just started writing a few assignments on Helium. My particular writing style is one that I need to be somewhat connected to. I can't just write for the sake of writing. Well, I can, but I don't want to. Is that pretty much the limitations of writing for a content site?

3. The sites obtain rights to the works for a period of 1 year. Do you ever worry that you are wasting opportunities to write for other journals, magazines, publishers, by writing these articles? I mean, people who write 100 articles a week for these sites are basically losing the ability to use their research on 100 topics each week, should they decide to write for another source.

4. Are these articles clogging up the internet? Or are they really useful? Is it naive to want to be a freelancer who actually writes for an eager audience? I believe I have something to share with the world and I am a little concerned that writing for these sites will just feel like a "job." I'm not in it for the money. I am in it for sharing what I've learned over my lifetime so others can know they aren't alone. Stories/articles like that don't seem to be important or the norm for these sites.

5. I decided to start writing for Helium as a way to build up a portfolio. I haven't really written anything since I was in high school, so I thought this would be a good way to build up portfolio samples for future opportunities. Is this a respectable way to build a sample base?

6. Am I even on the right track? Am I missing something? Am I doing something wrong? How can I build an audience or following without cheapening the quality of my work? I've started a blog in the last week, so is that a better way to offer writing samples than articles I write for content sites?

I really appreciate any advice or guidance you can offer. I am dumbfounded by how many terms are used in the freelance industry! It's almost as if I'll need a textbook to understand it all! Thank you and look forward to reading your responses. If this is the wrong area, please feel free to move it. Thanks!

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Old 04-30-2012, 05:17 AM   #2
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Well, it depends what your goals are. I write full-time and earn a full-time income, so I don't have the luxury of only writing about topics I love. I've been doing this for a while, so I can focus on subjects I'm interested in (for example, the tribal article on my signature). However, I also write articles on topics like floor materials and real estate, which are not necessarily interesting to me.

I don't write for content sites anymore, but I used to when I was just starting and needed quick money. That's what content sites are for: to make quick money. If you're spending anything more than 30-60 minutes in an article for a content site, you're overwriting. Writing content or SEO articles is not about what interests you. It's about earnings, just like any other job: you write for the money, not for the love of the subject you're writing about.

If you write more for fun/personal satisfaction than money, then you can choose what to write about. Otherwise, you might need to write about topics you don't necessarily love while you're trying to build a portfolio.

By the way, having a blog could be a good thing, but I don't think it means much when it comes to impressing an editor. After all, it's your blog, so everything you write is "accepted." I think it's better to try and sell some pieces somewhere else. Are content sites good for clips? Well, yes and no. Actually, no, but if you have nothing else, you can try publishing a few really good-quality, well-researched pieces so you can refer editors to them. However, if your goal is not to make money, but to focus on writing what you love, content sites don't make a lot of sense.
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Old 05-01-2012, 10:48 PM   #3
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Thank you so much for answering my questions. I'm writing a few articles for a content site and will probably keep doing it as a way to keep myself learning new things. However, as you stated, I'm going to start working on branching out.
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Old 05-02-2012, 08:03 PM   #4
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Well, it depends what your goals are. I write full-time and earn a full-time income, so I don't have the luxury of only writing about topics I love. I've been doing this for a while, so I can focus on subjects I'm interested in (for example, the tribal article on my signature). However, I also write articles on topics like floor materials and real estate, which are not necessarily interesting to me.

I don't write for content sites anymore, but I used to when I was just starting and needed quick money. That's what content sites are for: to make quick money. If you're spending anything more than 30-60 minutes in an article for a content site, you're overwriting. Writing content or SEO articles is not about what interests you. It's about earnings, just like any other job: you write for the money, not for the love of the subject you're writing about.

If you write more for fun/personal satisfaction than money, then you can choose what to write about. Otherwise, you might need to write about topics you don't necessarily love while you're trying to build a portfolio.

By the way, having a blog could be a good thing, but I don't think it means much when it comes to impressing an editor. After all, it's your blog, so everything you write is "accepted." I think it's better to try and sell some pieces somewhere else. Are content sites good for clips? Well, yes and no. Actually, no, but if you have nothing else, you can try publishing a few really good-quality, well-researched pieces so you can refer editors to them. However, if your goal is not to make money, but to focus on writing what you love, content sites don't make a lot of sense.

My emphasis in blue: Exactly. I do have the luxury of writing about what interests me and what I have special expertise in, Law and DIY Home Improvement, but that's just because I was assigned to special projects. You really can't ever depend on any content site to have work for you tomorrow. It's a good way to make fast cash.

Some folks go into it without any concern about the quality. That's ok as long as you use a pen name and don't plan to use any of it in a portfolio. I'm a slow writer, but my scores stay high so I can use a lot of it as clips when I pitch newspapers and whatnot. I got one gig based on my clips from eHow Home & Garden alone.

Sometimes, you'll find a higher quality gig through a content site, too. I've got credits from National Geographic Green Living, LegalZoom, Dremel and the San Francisco Chronicle. It's out there. If you're choosy about what you will and won't write, it won't be wasted time.

:-)
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Old 05-04-2012, 01:14 AM   #5
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1. I don't know how others are able to write so much, but for me, the secret is setting the timer. I trained myself to, at first, not spend more than 20 minutes on an article. I eventually trained myself to spend, on average, fifteen minutes per article (up to 500 words). I just keep setting the timer for 15 minutes until I write the number of articles I need.

2. Yes, that is a limitation. And, not just for content sites - ghost writing seo articles for clients falls into this mind numbing category. I've had some assignments with some boring topics. If I write late at night, sometimes I fall asleep while typing. I come out of the micro-sleep and edit what I wrote, only to find that I typed out my brief dream imagery. Embarrassing!

3. No, I don't worry about this. Research should only take a second. If the topic is meaningful enough, you can still publish your own articles about it. And, if you write fast enough, 100 articles should take 25 hours. If you work a 40 hour week, that is still 15 hours for doing writing that you really care about.

4. Yes, they are on the internet. I've googled topics before (mainly to research projects) only to click on articles that wind up feeling familiar. Yup, I don't remember. I've been doing this for so long, I don't even remember all the projects I've done.

5. I never liked Helium. When I started out writing for clients, I used Associated Content to build my portfolio. But, I do think this is a valuable way to build a portfolio depending on your goals. This is the best way if you want to ghost write.

6. These articles aren't quality articles and you won't build your reputation on them. You don't get a byline for them or anything unless you use a site like Helium or Associated Content. Most of the money to be made from this type of writing is anonymous. The client gets to put his or her name on your work.

It is unsatisfying work and I learned quickly that the faster I write, the faster I can get a project over with. Save your real writing mojo for projects you care about, and only use this type of writing to pay the bills.
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Old 05-04-2012, 01:25 AM   #6
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I wrote content articles for about 18 months and made about $22,000. Not bad. Then along came Google Panda, slashing and burning them to the ground. What's left is pitiful. I belong to three content groups now, and the highest pays about $4.50 for 400 to 600 words. That's tops for my bracket for each one, and I'm considered average--three-star.

I just ran into a packager (they solicited me) and offered me 10% on cover to write 20,000-word e-books. No advance. I'm considering telling them to take a flying leap.

I hate content sites now. I have a magazine that pays me 10 cents a word, up to 1,000 words for automotive articles. I'd like to have about six more of such clients.
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Old 05-04-2012, 04:50 AM   #7
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Don't ghostwrite ebooks without upfront payment. I've written several of them for a number of clients and always got paid a fee. A few times it was a flat fee; other clients pay by the word. 10% is a ridiculous offer anyway.
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Old 05-04-2012, 05:25 AM   #8
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Yeah, writing for a packager that offers an up-front advance is hard enough, due to the time constraints they nail you with. But a royalty packager? Hog wash. These people won't leave me alone, and I know it's because of my non-fiction credits and sales.

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Old 05-04-2012, 08:14 AM   #9
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Quote:
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Yeah, writing for a packager that offers an up-front advance is hard enough, due to the time constraints they nail you with. But a royalty packager? Hog wash. These people won't leave me alone, and I know it's because of my non-fiction credits and sales.

tri
If they really want you, you might be in a good position to negotiate. Ask for upfront payment instead of royalties and see what they said.
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Old 05-04-2012, 08:20 AM   #10
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I don't write for content sites anymore, but I used to when I was just starting and needed quick money. That's what content sites are for: to make quick money.
Which content sites offer quick money? I've worked for Examiner.com and they only pay once a month and only if you reached a certain dollar threshold.
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Old 05-04-2012, 08:25 AM   #11
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Which content sites offer quick money? I've worked for Examiner.com and they only pay once a month and only if you reached a certain dollar threshold.
Demand Studios pays $25 per 500 word article (at least in the sections I write for them), and they pay every Tuesday and every Friday through Paypal. Your name is on everything you write, although they own the content permanently. If you don't want that, you can use a pen name. There's no building up to a certain dollar threshold. If you write one $25 article in the pay period, they deposit $25 into your account. I spend about an hour, sometimes a bit more, on each article. I never choose a topic that I don't already know without any research. I only use research to meet the reference requirement. For example, I will not attempt an article about how to troubleshoot a pneumatic nailer or calculate the pitch of a roof. I will, however, write about setting tile, building a shower enclosure, installing a kitchen faucet and any of the 1,000s of other things I have actually done. One exception is the law articles I write. I always pull up the code or case law before I write, unless it's something simple like probate law.

Demand Studios went through a radical change a few months ago. TONS of writers (and copy editors, too) were told there was no more work for them. Some were given a chance to go through a developmental program, but a lot of them just bailed. I can't blame them. If my scores had put me into the program, I would have bailed, too. Too much work for no guarantee of any future work. But I have kept my scores really high. That's the critical thing. Everything you write is scored on research and grammar, and they use a scale of 1-5. My scores stay around 4.5 for both. That's how you need to work Demand Studios. It's not like it used to be there. If my scores dropped, I just wouldn't have any work. There was a time a couple years ago when Demand Studios was kind of a "take the money and run" deal where quality didn't really determine whether you still had work. That has totally changed now.
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Old 05-04-2012, 06:47 PM   #12
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Thank you all for the insight. It's hard being a new freelance writer because there are so many different markets.
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Old 05-04-2012, 09:55 PM   #13
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It can be confusing, but you'll get it sorted out. It just takes some time. :-)
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Old 05-06-2012, 04:50 PM   #14
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My first writing "mentor" was a guy who (he later admitted) wrote smut for four or five of the men's mags. He said he had a couple of rules. One was they couldn't use his real name (nobody did, anyway). The next was that he wouldn't put in any more effort than that would get him $50 an hour.

He got something like $25 for a phony letter, $50 for a short experience, and $75 for a one-page fantasy. He claimed to have made about $200 a day, which meant he put out a lot of stuff, and it was hardly literary.
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Old 07-12-2012, 07:44 AM   #15
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Hi! I'm pretty new at this myself, but I've been working for a content site for a few months now. I'll answer some of your questions if I can...

Quote:
Originally Posted by writeinsideme View Post

1. How are people writing 5, 10, 15, etc articles a day? Is it basically searching online for content to re-write an article that's already online somewhere? I cannot imagine it's possible to truly research these subjects in such a short period of time.

I asked myself the same question when I was first getting started. My first article was about 300 words and it took me almost three hours to complete. I was terrified to hit the submit button and I rewrote it thousands of times. When I finally worked up the courage, not only was my article accepted almost immediately, but the client contacted me personally for a few direct orders after that. Moral of the story: I learned quick that content site clients are not very picky. This isn't to say that you shouldn't take the time to write and research well, but just that it isn't as hard as it seems at first. My need for quality still slows me down quite a bit, but I am now able to write 4-6 quality articles a day. I expect that as I learn more, that number will climb. I'm still being really cautious as to not lose my level 4 rating on my site.

2. I have just started writing a few assignments on Helium. My particular writing style is one that I need to be somewhat connected to. I can't just write for the sake of writing. Well, I can, but I don't want to. Is that pretty much the limitations of writing for a content site?

You can write about things you want to on a content site, if it is a good site with plenty of work available. I work at textbroker, and as long as I stay at a level 4, there seems to always be enough work available that I can choose whatever I want to write about. In this past week I've written about the new Katy Perry movie, the TV show Ghost Whisperer, yoga, and the health benefits of honey--all things that interest me.

3. The sites obtain rights to the works for a period of 1 year. Do you ever worry that you are wasting opportunities to write for other journals, magazines, publishers, by writing these articles? I mean, people who write 100 articles a week for these sites are basically losing the ability to use their research on 100 topics each week, should they decide to write for another source.

Like I said, I'm still really new, so I just consider this a learning process and a day job at this point. I am continuing to learn about other avenues to do freelance work. But my main passion in life is writing my novels, which I work on at night after finishing my content work. It's not really that different than any other day job, for me. I do it to get by, but I don't let if get in the way of my passions.

4. Are these articles clogging up the internet? Or are they really useful? Is it naive to want to be a freelancer who actually writes for an eager audience? I believe I have something to share with the world and I am a little concerned that writing for these sites will just feel like a "job." I'm not in it for the money. I am in it for sharing what I've learned over my lifetime so others can know they aren't alone. Stories/articles like that don't seem to be important or the norm for these sites.

LOL! It's so funny that you say that about it clogging the internet. I had that exact thought the other day. For me, writing for these sites IS a job, and I am most definitely in it for the money. So I can't comment on that one.

5. I decided to start writing for Helium as a way to build up a portfolio. I haven't really written anything since I was in high school, so I thought this would be a good way to build up portfolio samples for future opportunities. Is this a respectable way to build a sample base?

I'm slowly doing the same thing with my Yahoo Voices account. Posting articles and then linking them back to my blog. They are published under my real name so I don't see why I couldn't use them as samples. I haven't yet, really.

6. Am I even on the right track? Am I missing something? Am I doing something wrong? How can I build an audience or following without cheapening the quality of my work? I've started a blog in the last week, so is that a better way to offer writing samples than articles I write for content sites?

Good questions. I've started a blog too, but not really for my freelance career as much as that I just want to do the blog. What is your blog about? Mine is a "goddess blog" (a health, beauty and fitness sort of deal). I've been thinking about starting another blog to document my adventures in the freelance writing world as well, because I know reading those sort of blogs has helped me a lot so far, and I imagine they get a lot of hits.
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