"Master Dayton" might be humorous, (I mean if Ph.Ds are called "Doctors," shouldn't MFAs be called "Masters?") but in all seriousness I have made a living freelance writing and after several years I have tons of information I want to share to help out my fellow writers, regardless of age, experience, goals, situation, or background. This blog isn't pretty-but it will help if real freelance writing information is what you want.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Make a Living as a Freelance Writer: How to Get Started from Scratch

How to make money writing online as a full time freelance writer

Freelance writing: a lucrative job offering great freedom, or a slave wage job with long thankless hours for chicken scratch? Well when you're looking to make a living as a freelance writer, especially with an emphasis of making a living as a freelance writer online, you're likely to have both. Being a full time freelance writer has great benefits, and I wouldn't trade it for a 9 to 5 office job ever, but there are lean times, too. So this brings me back to the e-mail I received (and sorry for the delay on this post – a hectic December of which I'll go into further later), which was basically along the lines of: 'I've been laid off, I only have a couple months of unemployment, help me!'

So instead of making an e-book to sell (besides, making a living as a freelance writer online is way too broad for one e-book), I'm going to write this post to answer the question of how to become a freelance writer. I made a full time living as a freelance writer for two years and change before getting a remote working assignment writing for a company, a dream job which has now come to an end as I was also laid off in the end of November.

This was the first time I've ever lost a job, and the "punch in the gut" feeling is one I'll never forget. So I'm back to freelance writing, and for anyone else in the same situation, I hope this post really helps teach you how to become a freelance writer, and to avoid many of the mistakes that I made when I was just starting out as a beginning writer.

So before I begin giving tips for becoming a full time freelance writer, there are several conditions and parameters that need to be addressed.

1) There are many different ways to make a living as a freelance writer, and many different routes to take. I'm not saying this is the best way or only way, it's the way I would start from nothing all over again considering my experiences writing and personal lessons learned.

2) This isn't the exact way I'm going back to writing full time now – but this post is for true beginners who might not understand the web or writing business the way I do now

3) This plan is aimed at people who are unemployed, or disabled, and want a side or full time income, though this could also work for work at home moms, college students, or anyone who wants to make a living writing online

4) This plan also assumes that sometimes it's more important to scrounge enough dollars together to pay rent than to always "work for high hourly wage."

With those out of the way, let's get on to making a living as a freelance writer, starting from scratch and I'm going to assume you need to get some income coming in relatively quickly, and that you have a limited budget. I'm also going to focus almost exclusively on writing online for money as opposed to print.

Starting an Online Freelance Writing Career from Scratch

On a limited budget, especially if you've just been laid off or are living off Social Security disability, knowing where you don't have to pay for a membership, but can still make some pretty decent money writing, is very important. There are several great places where writers can sign up for free and make money writing online.

#1 Constant Content: Constant Content is one of my favorite places to write online. CC is a place where you can write articles and set your own prices, offering different prices for usage rights, unique rights, and full rights. Full rights articles sell the most, and you can charge the most for them, but once a full rights article is sold, you never get to use that article again, so make sure you set your prices high enough. For 500 words, the lowest area I'd set full rights prices is between $27-37. If in doubt, set the price $15 higher than you think it's worth, and you can always check the "best offer" button.

If your article is about a highly specialized area or highly technical, then charge even more. For Constant Content, your articles need to be very high quality, completely free of grammar errors, repetition, etc. This site has tougher editorial standards, but that's what allows them to sell articles at much higher prices than most other sites. The other thing is that even though CC will sell articles' usage rights, meaning you can re-sell those articles, they will not accept articles previously published online. So only submit original articles.

To learn more about how to make money with Constant Content, take a look at my complete Constant Content review, which I wrote earlier on this blog.

#2 Ehow: Update: Ehow no longer has a writing program, although you can still write for Demand Studios on a pay per article basis.

Ehow is a great place to write, in part because it's one of the best places I know for online writers to build a passive or residual income. Ehow is really worth a look, especially to individuals who know how to write great "how to" articles, or to writers who like structure. Ehow designs itself so you make step by step articles, add some links, and your pay is based off advertising revenue that your articles generate. Some people are making literally over $1,000 a month in residual income from eHow – which means they're making over 12k a year for articles that they wrote once and never had to touch again.

Based on many different people talking, making several hundred dollars a month in passive income is pretty common, but it takes time to build up. In other words, if you write 100 good articles in a month, you probably won't see $100 your first month, but in a couple months your articles might very well be making that type of money, and continue to make that every month for infinity. This is more of a long term place to write, and these also need to be original articles, but because of the unique step by step style, it's very easy to write and rewrite articles to use at ehow and other places.

#3 Associated Content: Associated Content is another free place where writers can write and get paid. Up front payments in my experience generally range from $3-$6 an article, which isn't much at all, but when used in conjunction with CC and eHow, this can be an excellent website that not only gives you some up front payments for writing (along with actual name exposure for your writing that can lead to other writing jobs – I've made some good money via PayPal through jobs I landed because of an Associated Content article) but also allows for passive income through a pay per view (PPV) bonus. This starts at a bonus $1.50 per 1,000 page views for your articles, and as your all time views climbs, you can get up to $2.00 per 1,000 page views. It doesn't sound like much, but I make about $40/month on PPV, so that's $480 a year for articles I already wrote, and early on I did EVERYTHING wrong in writing articles that will keep getting traffic over time.

Used in conjunction with eHow and Constant Content, Associated Content can be a very valuable part of your online freelance writing portfolio.

These three places are good places for online freelance writers to get their start, and even more important for some, these are all free websites where writers get paid for their work. Another place worth mentioning is www.oDesk.com. This is an auction based site where employers put up jobs and allow writers to bid on providing the service. oDesk is a poor man's version of Guru or Elance, and if you are truly starting from nothing or worse, it might be a good place to get some work and some decent income into your checking account quickly.

That said, don't expect any high paying jobs from this site, and in my experience it is definitely worth the extra time, effort, and money to build your reputation at Elance or Guru. Which brings us to an interesting point here. After Constant Content, Associated Content, and eHow, there are several paid sites like Guru and Elance, which pay a lot more but require paid memberships, and then there is the Internet Marketing branch of writing, which also often crosses writing.

For right now, I'm going to make the Internet Marketing a topic for another time, but there is a lot more money in this than there is in writing, and the writing skills can really give you and edge if you're a quick learner with the marketing. Squidoo is an example of a place where you can make money by building websites, and if it's in the top 80,000 you get money based on a "tier" system, you can also get money through affiliate sales. Squidoo is a place I really enjoy, and if you get into Adsense and monetizing blogs, then it's definitely a place you should be, but it is probably 75% Internet Marketing and Affiliate work, and 25% writing.

It's also not an extremely fast way to make money online. That's why I mention it as something that's great for looking into the future, and for diversifying your streams of income. You never want all your income coming from only one source, because then if you lose that main source of income, you lose all your income instead of just one small part.

Guru and Elance are the two best online places to write for money. Both require membership fees, but the reason for this is to make sure the best writers are hooked up with the best employers. The minimum amount anyone can make from Guru is $25 a job, while the minimum for Elance is $50. Both auction websites give out tons of good or high paying work, and it is definitely possible to make a full time living off one of these sites alone. Guru allows you to buy a monthly, quarterly, or yearly subscription. I always buy a yearly because it gives you the best deal, and because I know from experience you can make a full time living off of Guru – and I've never been rated above #49 among their top providers. I would say that easily the top 100 providers make a full time income writing for Guru, and it would surprise me if that number was closer to three or four hundred.

Elance only allows a monthly subscription, and while the ceiling for how much you can make is even higher for Elance than it is for Guru. There are some individuals who make six figures writing only for Elance. I would also say that Guru is a little easier to get started with than Elance is, but for people who are serious about becoming full time online freelance writers I would strongly recommend building your reputation on both websites.

A year long subscription to Guru is in the $250 range, and Elance is $10 a month for individuals, or $20 a month for businesses as of this writing. If you can afford this, then you should work to really build a sparkling reputation on both sites, and it will take time. Look early on for lower paying jobs or jobs that specifically say they are open for beginning writers, just to get those early credentials to build off of. Once you begin building your reputation, your work load starts growing exponentially, and that even takes into consideration that you'll start charging a lot more as you get more work.

My first months at Guru, and I was working off a dial up Internet on a piece mail computer and this was three years ago when there wasn't nearly as much work on Guru as there is now, my income went as follows: Jan $50, Feb $200, Mar $650, Apr $1180, May $1675, Jun $1,899. There is far more work now, and I'm convinced that good writers who can write a decent query and who target lower paying jobs early on to build their reputation can climb the monthly income far more quickly.

The most I've ever made from one month on Guru was $2,500, and then I wrote a lot less because I was going to grad school and moving. My per hour income continued to climb, however, and if I was writing full time for Guru, I would expect to be able to make $30,000 a year or more. During that month, I also snagged two jobs that would net me $2,000 in future work, and eventually the remote location job that paid over $40,000 a year. There are often companies on both these sites who will hire impressive freelance writers full time, so there is a lot of opportunity.

As for the free freelance writing sites mentioned earlier, learning to reuse the same research and resell articles is critical to making a really good living as a freelance writer. For example, suppose you write an article for Constant Content and only offer usage rights. Once that article is on CC (and it's critical to know that CC does not allow their articles to be indexed by Google, since they are selling content to other websites), as long as only usage rights only are on sale, go ahead and sell it to Associated Content as original content since it hasn't been published anywhere, but only sell them non-exclusive rights. Pick up any up front payment they will offer ($3-5 usually), and you'll also enjoy the PPV bonus from those articles month after month as long as the website is around.

If the article you wrote as a freelancer is a how-to article, you can rewrite it and put it on eHow and further enjoy the benefits of passive income from article views! If you can write 3-5 articles a day, then at the end of the month you have 100 articles are more. If you received up front payment for all of them, then you have $3-500. Sell even 10 Constant Content articles (and that is a low amount if you have 100 posted) and you could be looking at anywhere from another $150-$300. Add in the page per view bonus and whatever you earned from eHow, it's not much, but it's possible to be close to a grand in your first month.

And when you're unemployed that's far better than zero. Writing income also grows exponentially. Suppose you make $1,000 your first month because of the work you do, then you do twice as much the next month. You probably won't make $2,000 in that insanely busy month. You'll make more. The freelance writing income continues to grow, and the larger a body of freelance writing work you do, the more it tends to build on itself.

Guru and Elance are nice because when you get a job, you are going to be paid, and at respectable rates for writers because the employers know the value of good writing and are often willing to pay very good money for it.

I would use all of these freelance writing sites, as they allow me to get my name out there, earn up front money, set up the beginnings of decent passive income from more than one source, and build my reputation on two websites that can help you build a full time writing income.

This has already been a very long post, and the basics of what you need to know have already been mentioned, so for a short aside: if you want to make a really good living online, especially if you are interested in writing for passive income, then look at Hubpages and Google Adsense.

Also: Avoid Craigslist and Helium.com like the plague. There are legitimate writing jobs on Craigslist, but there are also tons of scams. Helium.com might not be a scam, but it is a site to avoid. Read my complete Helium Writers Website Review to find out why Helium.com is a total rip off.

There are more ways to make money writing online, and I'll go into more later, but this post is how I would tell someone starting over to make a living writing online. And I STRONGLY recommend signing up for Elance and Guru if you can afford to take a few months to really establish yourself as an online writer.

Use all of these resources at your disposal, and follow the advice here, and you will be on your way to becoming a successful online freelance writer. There is always more advice and other ways to get there, but there's enough information here for you to start making a reasonable living easily in 6 months, if not far sooner. Now you have to do it. If you want to know all about passive income online and the long term, then take a look at this Keyword Academy Review I wrote as I truly believe in their program!

So good luck, feel free to ask for advice in the comments section, and happy writing until next time!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Freelance Writers: Versatile vs. Niche Expert, Which Is the Way to Go?

Freelance Writing: Should I Be an Expert or a Jack of All Trades?

One of the major questions that comes up immediately when you begin freelance writing, or even before you make that jump, is what strategy should you take in what type of writing you do? Should you go for a versatile, "jack-of-all-trades" mentality where you're willing to adjust and learn new styles, or should you become a niche expert, someone who takes the time to build an absolute "expert" status so your name becomes synonymous with a certain type of writing?

This is a difficult question, and it's one where there's not necessarily a right or wrong answer. There are also many individual factors that can affect your decision on this. How good are you at multi-tasking? Do you already have a specialty? Are you capable of all writing styles (example: great copywriting is highly profitable, but only a select few excel at this style of writing)? All these should be taken into consideration.

The good news is that both directions can be correct. I did very well as a "jack of all trades" before landing a full time writing job (courtesy of some freelance gigs that led to this job), and others have done far better than me going that route. Meanwhile, other writers absolutely thrive off being known for one topic or one type of writing.

While I pride myself on being a jack of all trades type of writer, early on I did have an advantage because I was also an amateur poker player. The poker craze hit full force around 2003-2004, and so my position as a professional writer and poker player definitely gave me an edge in landing a lot of poker writing jobs, and having an "expert" status did allow me to generally charge more per article than with other assignments.

Another consideration can be your background. Did you do business writing while you were in the corporate world? This could give you a natural lead in to the type of freelance writing that could be profitable. Press releases earn a good amount of money per release, and as the Internet continues to grow, there is always demand for more content on about everything you can imagine.

In the end, you're the only one who can make a decision about going the expert route, the jack of all trades route, or somewhere in the middle. Both can lead to very profitable, and more importantly, very fulfilling, writing careers. Figure out which direction suits you the best, and go for it!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Freelance Writing in Recession

Freelance Writing in Recession: Part I, A Quick Note

One truth good freelance writers know: recessions are often a boon for independent contractors like freelance writers. This economy is so bad, however, that at times even that work is becoming hard to find. That being said, it is still the best way I know of to make money during a recession. Good writers are always going to be in demand. Okay writers great at marketing will always be in demand, as well. While times might even be thin for freelance writers, that still makes this market for writers better than most others.

This Thanksgiving post is going to be very quick, as it is the holidays and I'm doing a lot of to and fro traveling, not to mention a lot of freelance work and probably a little bit too much beer and wine :)

Basically, I received an e-mail from someone who stumbled onto this blog from finding it via a long tail keyword, and while I can't share the full text yet (I want the person's permission to print it, sans the name), the gist of it is something I'm sure a lot of people are going through. In very brief summary: Hello, I know this might sound weird, but I want to know if you can please help! I was laid off and there are no jobs anywhere. I have only a few months of unemployment, and I'm desperate. If you were in my position, what would you do to start from nothing and get making money writing to make your bills?

This is something I'm sure a lot of people are asking right now, and it's heart breaking. I've been a full time freelance writer, and I was actually working an exceptional full time writing job and freelancing on the side the past 15 months when I was just let go in November, as well. First thing I did was cancel my lease and turn back to the Midwest - the cheapest place I have to live, and now it's time to get the freelancing income back to full force.

I am lucky - I have a good reputation established, I've been writing for years so I know how the markets work, and I have 6-7 months of time with frugal living to get back to being fully self sufficient as a freelancer again. A lot of people only have 3-4 months. So my strategy will be different now than someone starting from nothing.

So my next post, which will be up sometime mid to late next week, will be something I was planning to save for an e-book, but hey, here's my chance to help out and I'm not going to miss it. My next post will be a step by step guide of how I would start from nothing to making a solid to full time living as a freelance writer. This is based on my knowledge, my experience, my successes, and most importantly, my mistakes and failures.

If you are a good writer and have four to six months, we can get you up to a stable (although maybe low middle class area depending on where you live) income and set the foundation for a lucrative freelance writing career.

That post comes next week, and until then, here's some reading I highly reccomend not only for the here and now, but information you need for the future to go from getting by to lucrative. I'm also including some links of places where you can get started, but check in next week for a very long post that will walk the beginner through how to get started.

And all you beginning freelance writers, or everybody struggling out there, hang in there, and try to enjoy the holidays. Times will get better.

For further reading:

My Constant Content Review

My Other Constant Content Review

10 Places to Sell Your Freelance Writing

*There will be more links coming over the holiday weekend.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Freelance Writing: Helium.com Review

Beginning Freelance Writers: Helium.com Website Review

One of the websites that many beginning online freelance writers run into is Helium.com. Helium is an unusual writing website in that they really emphasize community and a ratings system. There are several ways to make money here, as there is a market place, weekly contests, as well as the normal revenue sharing streams that online freelance writers might be aware of from writing on other websites online like Associated Content, which pay a PPV (pay per view) bonus, or from sites like Xomba, where you share in the AdSense revenue your articles help to produce. Just recently (and the one thing that is preventing me from absolutely putting Helium's head on a chopping block) is they have recently introduced up front payments, although there is a catch to this, as well.

Helium's mottos range from "A Place for Knowledge" to "A Place for Writers." While many people talk about how good the community is, and there are always people trolling blogs with comments defending Helium every time a bad Helium website review is posted online. In fact I have an account with Helium from checking it out and giving it a fair shake. It won't surprise me at all if I never see my first $25 payment. If I'm wrong and I do, fine. Great. I'll write an apology if it's warranted, but even with the new system of upfront payments for freelance writers, for the beginning freelance writer I simply would not recommend Helium.com. It might have its place for certain freelance writers, but for most writers and all beginners I would say not to waste your time, but I'll go into that more in the main review.

First of all, the terms of service. All the rights that Helium.com buys are non-exclusive, meaning you are allowed to re-publish and re-sell your articles wherever you can find a buyer. But, Helium also ALWAYS has the right to use your article for any further purpose they see fit without further reimbursement. So if you write an amazing article they sell to a magazine, tough luck. You don't see any of that. How often (if ever) this happens, in all fairness, is debatable.

Second, you can get paid for your work...but you're never going to find out how exactly since the terms on payment are vague and nebulous at best. Also, you absolutely must have one rating star to get paid. Period. If you don't have a rating star from having at least 50 articles rated in the past month, then you will not receive a single penny of the money your articles make. So despite advertisements about Helium being a place that will earn you income "in perpetuity," the fact is if you ignore this site for more than a month, you won't receive any money.

So let's also get to money. It stinks. There's no other way to put it than that. There are several ways to make money, and some might not seem so bad a pay rate, but there's a reason that I can say freelance writing for Helium does not pay off. Let's go over how the money works:

1) Contests. There are weekly contests for channels where the writers who get the most points, through a combination of total articles written and overall rankings, get some decent pay outs by the end of the week.

Problem w/ Helium Contests: I use the word "decent" in the most liberal and loosest, sense of the word. The second problem: they say they 'discourage' the practice of uploading all 20-25 articles at once at the end of the week, since early articles tend to naturally rise. By having all these articles uploaded right before deadline, the combination of scores is likely to put that person into first place because there isn't enough voting time for the quality of these articles to be judged. Despite 'discouraging' this practice, it happens all the time and those who complain are often banned, or at least claim to be at which point new articles under that pen name cease to appear on Helium. This might not happen with every contest every time, but it has happened on several Helium writing contests.

2) Helium Marketplace. Many people claiming to make any amount of money writing for Helium mention the marketplace as where it can be done. The competition in marketplaces is huge, and it's not unusual to see over 200 articles per request. There has also been rumblings online (disclaimer: these are alleged and while this has been repeated by several individuals the evidence offered is scant) that many of the markets looking for content are actually fictional or owned by Helium, so they're being used to generate content without picking someone to pay.

Additionally, even if these are all completely legitimate, here's the thing: if you're good enough to consistently beat out 300+ people in the marketplace, then spend $75 on a Writer's Market with a one year online subscription and make the big bucks writing for legitimate print markets. If you're that good, there's absolutely no reason why you should settle for peanuts when you should be eating caviar.

3) Residual Income from profit sharing at Helium. The Helium writing site spends a lot of time enticing writers with this promise, but is it a really good deal? With over one hundred articles that have been uploaded since February, over 3/4 of which are #1 in their category, including several "front page features," I have acquired a whopping $17.71. Other people talk about $300 a month for 500 articles...I find that incredibly unlikely.

Slight writing tangent: Before I get ten comments talking about how amazing Helium is (wait for them - it's only a matter of time) and how I must be a (insert explicative) who doesn't know how to write, I'll repeat: over 100 articles, nearly 75% that are #1 ((or at least in that range as of this writing)), and including several articles that were featured front page. If anyone wants to get into an economical "whip it out" contest, fine. By the end of this year I'll clear close to $50,000 from writing. Apologies to everyone else as I usually keep my calm, but the comments I've received before from questionable "Helium rocks" sources have pissed me off before, so if you aren't clearing 50k from Helium (and if you are, you're an idiot for not writing elsewhere) then bite me. This is an honest review from my experiences, deal with it. End of slight freelance writing tangent.

And if you're that good at promotion, why not write online for some place that pays a lot more per view, like Associated Content, which also more easily ranks near the top of Google, giving you more traffic for real passive income. Which doesn't disappear the moment you're under one rating star. Since you don't have to waste your valuable time rating what is often times really really bad writing.

If you don't have a rating star, Helium isn't going to pay you a penny. So the "completely hands off income" idea with the Helium writing site is crap, and still would be even if they paid more. At worst at AC you get $1.50 per 1,000 views. It's not a lot, but it is truly passive income, and if you get ranked at the top, it's $2.00 per 1,000 views. Far better than the 7 cents a month Helium has paid for my best articles (and yes, I use Stat Counter, so I can confirm that I've had high traffic articles that received pennies).

4) Upfront payments from Helium for freelance writers. Yes, they now offer up front payments. But these up front payments are also conditional. You have to have one writing star for the entire month, including when rankings and earnings are figured at the end of the month. Upfront payments are also dependant on your writing stars and range from $0.50 to $2.50 per article. AC still has them beat here with $3-5 an article for upfront payments (and their bonus for page views is far better than Helium's - the two aren't even comparable).

But you don't get upfront payments as a true beginner. You need a minimum of one writing star in order to qualify for upfront payments. In theory, if your articles are in qualified topics and rank on average in the top quarter, you can get a writing star with 4 articles. You can get three at 100 articles, and 5 isn't in reach until the 500 article mark. So some early articles you won't get paid for. And if your rankings mysteriously fall right before payday (something that happens quite often if you're on the edge) then you might lose out quite a bit by getting knocked down.

And there's the fact that it is still a ridiculously small amount of money and that there are far better sites to put your money up on.

So what's the cash difference between Helium & AC?

A ton. Let's hypothetically say you upload 100 articles from scratch to Helium vs. AC. We'll also assume that you get the maximum payment for every Helium article, and the lowest end of average for AC ($3 each, and you're losing a ton of change if you go by this average, if not outright dollar bills - and I'm not saying AC is the best, but it is compared to Helium, IMO). And we're even assuming only 3/4 of AC articles are approved for upfront payment, so you don't get any upfront money for your writing for a quarter of the articles. Assuming this:

Upfront payment from Associated Content: $225 (and in reality it would probably be much higher).

Upfront payment from Helium: $83.50 (and remember, this is the absolute maximum possible starting from 0 to 100)

That's a $131.50 difference right off the bat for the EXACT SAME AMOUNT OF WORK! Based on my experience, in a good month you can expect about $3.60 from Helium in residual income. That's it. So $87.10 for 100 articles of work assuming everything breaks right.

For 100 articles with Associated Content, I'm even going to estimate low. You usually get the most views right off the bat, but I'll going to figure average page views for 100 articles that are a year old, and we're figuring you don't have a single breakout article on AC out of those 100. Also not likely, but hey, that's what we're figuring. Shame on you for not doing better ;)

For those 100, on a bad month, expect $15 if you don't do any promotion at all. So what does this lead to? $240 worst case scenario for AC as opposed to $87.10 for a best case scenario. It wouldn't be unrealistic to think the actual numbers far closer to $330 to $80 or even bigger. So defend Helium if you want, but why as a freelance writer would you do the same amount of work for $150 less or worse?

So How Could Helium Be Good for Freelance Writers?

First of all, beginning freelance writers simply should not waste their time here if money is the only concern. The monetary rewards aren't nearly enough, and anyone who can make a respectable residual income here can do far better for the same or less work elsewhere. But Helium does offer a really good online community if that's what you're looking for, as long as you don't bring up criticisms or issues you have with the site.

In addition, Helium does allow links in articles now. There are two issues with this. One: if you know about Internet Marketing, AdSense, and how search engine rankings work, then this is potentially an obvious bonus. If you want to only be a writer and that's it, then this isn't much of an advantage at all. The one caveat: I don't spend much time there anymore, so I don't know if the links are "Do Follow" or not. If they're not, then there's no advantage here. If they are, then this could be an okay place to dump article directory type articles marketing your other sites. You get some keyword anchored back links, and maybe a few pennies for each article. Maybe.

Also, if you've been writing online for years and literally have hundreds upon hundreds of articles you've already written that :

  1. You still own the rights to
  2. You will never use or re-sell for higher amounts again

Then writing for Helium can work for you as an article dumping ground. But keep in mind you will have to continue ranking articles in order to receive your upfront payments, as well as residual income. Otherwise you get absolutely zilch for your effort.

I hate recommending a site as an article dumping ground, but that's about the high end of what I can recommend here. It could get you a few hundred dollars extra on the side, and maybe a pittance of monthly residual income. If you are working with Squidoo, AdSense, Hubpages, then those keyword anchored links (if they are do follow - and if anyone knows for sure please leave some information in the comments section) could be helpful if you use them right.

Otherwise new writers should look at Associated Content, or check out my review of Constant Content if you're more of a dabbler. I've sold single articles there where my take home is more than I would make in residual income in a decade of writing for Helium.

For writers with a lot of articles already, there might be something here. If it wasn't for the upfront payments at least offering something, I would say this site is a complete waste of time.

I've heard Helium.com for writers is really a scam

There are a lot of blog posts, forum discussions, and other pages relating to this thought process online. There also ALWAYS manages to be several people ravenously defending Helium, usually lobbing accusations of people not following the TOS, or not understanding how online writing works. The sheer consistency of this is suspicious enough to me personally, but that's neither here nor there.

I am a believer in the "where there's smoke, there's fire" thesis. And no matter how much you argue, among the "big name" online content sites that pay for freelance writing, Helium by far and away has the most complaints involve the words "scam," "rip off," or "they never paid me." I haven't qualified for the first $25 in residual income, but I did dump a ton of old articles for their early year Reward-a-thon, and they did pay me the $150 owed, so I can't speak to rip offs personally, because I've kept my mouth shut and I got paid.

That said, it is online. Do your research and make up your own mind about it. Is Helium a complete scam? I'd say no. Is it a major rip-off? Yeah, it could definitely be considered that. I've experimented with a lot of writing sites, and Squidoo, Hubpages, Constant-Content, Associated Content, and even my 5 new articles on eHow absolutely trump Helium. Even Xomba, which pays by splitting AdSense clicks, does better for me on an article to article basis.

I would say that beginning writers who are trying to learn how to start freelance writing careers should not spend a lot of time at Helium, but should work on other online sites that pay for freelance writing and develop your careers through those much higher paying websites.

So my final grades? If you are an absolute beginner writer who is a competent writer and only interested in the money, Helium gets an F. If you have hundreds of articles to dump that you know beyond a shadow of a doubt you'll never use again, and don't mind spending a few hours a week rating, Helium gets a C-. If you're into the Internet marketing and building websites, then the grade is incomplete, but has potential to become a solid C.

The writer who can get the most value from writing for helium is the one who has hundreds of articles collecting dust, who is into Internet Marketing and collecting anchored back links for websites (assuming they are "do follow links") and can stretch one article into a ton of online sales. For this person, Helium might get as high as a B-, but that person might even be the first to tell you there are better ways to spend the time, and Helium is better as diversification rather than a main strategy for making money writing online.

And if it's all about being read for you, you'll get more readers on other websites. So if you're a beginner, my posts have listed a lot of websites where you can get started for free. Your time is far more valuable working for these other sites than it is working for Helium.

That's my review of Helium.com. Now all we have to do is wait and see if I get booted off the site or ever get paid that $25. I'll add an update when I find out either way. Until then, keep on writing, and I'm always happy to answer any questions I can in the comments section.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Making Money with Adsense: Freelance Writers Beware the Smart Pricing Mark!

Passive Income for Writers: Some AdSense Warnings

Freelance writing takes some time and effort to break into, and for most of the last three years and change the majority of writing for money that I've done has been the "normal" type where you write, get paid, and that's more or less it. A lot of this has been online writing and ghost writing because there's an extremely high demand for both, and anyone who knows my story, from near bankruptcy to the car accident that busted both my legs to some periods of homelessness (or near to it) can see why sometimes I worked for less because I needed cash now. Somewhere in the middle of all that mess I figured out how to become a great freelance writer (enough to make a living writing) and returned to and finished grad school despite a really negative environment, considering my situation.

There is another type of freelance writing that online writers can do to make money, and that's earning passive income. While writers can make passive income with some more traditional writing at websites like ehow and Associated Content, but this doesn't offer the same level of passive income that more Internet marketing based writing can make. The one program that is almost the definition of passive income is Google AdSense.

The early disclaimer: I've been getting into AdSense part time for only a few months. So I'm nowhere near a Guru or Expert level, but I've followed the advice of some of the AdSense/SEO experts who share their secrets and make a full time living with AdSense (I'll include their links later in this post) and even with the relatively little time I've been at it, I've seen their strategies work first hand and the percentages for me shooting up like crazy.

Many people give up on AdSense after a few months, and online forums are littered with "I only made $1 in a month" or "I made only $5 in four months," stories of people quitting, thinking there was some magic bullet to passive income. AdSense, and most of what it takes to build actual automated income, is going to fall more under Internet Marketing as opposed to Freelance Writing. Part of the reason is people have unrealistic expectations early on. Check out this great blog post about quick easy ways to make money to really get a good sense of how the beginning process of making money online takes place.

Does a freelance writer have an advantage? I think yes, if he/she knows who to learn from and can adapt quickly to the style needed to maximize writing earnings. If a person refuses to learn how online search engines, traffic, and Internet Marketing works, then $1 a month only, or $5 a year might be all that a person can make from AdSense.

As part of the agreement to be part of Google AdSense, there are a lot of stats I can't reveal, but I can give you a look at monthly earnings:

  • May - $0.00 (didn't even have traffic every day - I was a total noob)
  • June - $1.21
  • July - $3.99 (pathetic, but sadly more than many make)
  • Aug- $12.40
  • Sept- $22.95
  • Oct- $28.52

Now before anyone starts scoffing: I did virtually no gathering of back links until recently, until September it was all from one blog I barely wrote any posts for, and a lot of the later stuff was from joining Hub Pages, which splits impressions and clicks. How much time do I spend on this passive income? Not nearly enough. Maybe 1-3 hours a week, and after doing a lot of reading, I realize most of what I've done the past few months is wrong. But this is encouraging, because I'm just short of averaging a dollar a day, and that's if I don't do anything.

Unless I Get Smart Priced.

"Smart Pricing" is when you fall below a certain percentage of clicks per impressions. Based on conversations I've had with friends and other online sources, the general consensus seems to be that the smart price line is probably around 2.00%. This is the point where instead of being worth 25, 58, or 70 cents (and yes, I was a newbie starting out, so I chose areas where the pay outs aren't as good as they could be) a click, they're suddenly worth 3, 4, or 7 cents a click. Not good.

Smart priced, I'd only be looking at $6-12 a month if I never did anything and never improved my stats. Without smart pricing, I should be able to earn $35 or more in automated income. For never doing any work, and having yet to come close to dominating a niche, this isn't bad. Knowing what Justin, Vic, and Grizz teach, I know how to go about doing this.

The problem is, let's say hypothetically Mr. MD has sites that are getting more and more traffic, but for some reason the click numbers are declining at the same time. Even though Mr. MD's total history with Google he is still above that hypothetical 2% line to get the better compensated clicks, there are a lot of people noticing, like Mr. MD, that if at the beginning of a month there are a few bad days to pull you down below 2%, then you get smart priced.

That means a really bad start to the month can badly dent the earnings numbers.

As far as I can tell, aside from a few very out of the way forums, no one has talked about smart pricing as a monthly thing. This is something to keep in mind, especially when trying to start from the beginning. This is the quick note to new freelance writers looking for passive income: be aware of this stumbling block, and don't let it get you down, and don't let it scare you off.

If anyone knows of other "hypothetical experiences" detailing this same finding for the month, let me know in the comments about other things you've "heard." As far as my hypothetical friend Mr. MD, he's going to keep plugging away and applying the lessons learned from the experts to figure out what he's doing wrong and fix it. Hundreds or even thousands of people make a full time living out of AdSense, so he knows he can, too!

That's an update on another potential nugget of knowledge that could help you if you decide to go into the Google AdSense program. Best of luck, and here are the links to these guys' blogs:

Grizz's Make Money with AdSense Blog

Vic's Make Money with Niche Stores

Justin's Make Money Online Site

If you want to learn how to make money online with AdSense, blogs, affiliate marketing, and niche stores, these are the guys you need to learn from.

Next time: Helium.com review, and a possible stay of execution. I'll get more into their recent announcements and why that might barely be enough to keep me from blasting their site to the netherworld of the Internet...maybe.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Constant Content Review | More on Freelance Writing for Constant Content

More Thoughts on Constant Content Freelance Writing Review

In a recent freelance writing post I went over my full review of Constant Content. If you haven't read my Constant Content review yet, go ahead and click on the link to have a look. I tried to answer as many questions freelance writers would have about the site there. Learning how to become a freelance writer can be hard and intimidating, and I kept that in mind with my Constant Content review, hoping to help you all avoid the mistakes I've made and to give you enough information to make you confident in signing up and getting started.

I'm happy with the first Constant Content review, and it gives enough information to be more than enough for freelance writers just starting out to take advantage and start writing with confidence. That said, there are a few more thoughts and experiences I'd like to share, since my original Constant Content review was pretty long, and a shorter post that's more of a several points summary might be really helpful for some writers.

10 Tips to Succeed at Constant Content

Constant Content Writing Tip #1: Proof read. Writers can charge a lot more for their articles on Constant Content because buyers know to expect really high quality articles when they make a purchase from CC.

Constant Content Writing Tip #2: Don't under charge for your work. This is a classic mistake, and one I made early on. Don't charge $7 for usage on a 400 word article. Even charging $14 is on the very low side of acceptable. In fact, don't be surprised if you sell more articles once you mark up your prices to more competitive levels.

Constant Content Writing Tip #3: Think evergreen. "Evergreen Content" when referring to freelance writing is content that could be desired over and over. Top 10 lists are good evergreen content, as are how to articles. An article about the 2008 election, on the other hand, might get you a sale in 2008, but that's probably it. A Top 10 list of the best vampire movies, however, is a freelance article that could sell over and over again, especially near Halloween every year.

Constant Content Writing Tip #4: Know your strategy. Selling only usage rights does make it easier to set up a passive income stream, but full rights articles sell for a lot more money and are in much higher demand. Depending on your immediate and long term goals, this can affect the prices you set and even what type of rights you're wiling (or not) to sell.

Constant Content Writing Tip #5: Don't be afraid to experiment with high prices. Does charging $59 for full rights for a good 450 word article that required 45 minutes of your time sound like too much? Not every article is worth that, but many are, especially if you're writing on a topic that requires special knowledge (like a solid poker player talking about poker, or a mechanic writing about automotive how to). Experiment to see what works. I thought $150 full rights for a "Worst Video Games" ever list I wrote was a ridiculous amount to charge, until someone bought it the very next day.

Constant Content Writing Tip #6: Write for requests that interest you. Not only are these articles already in demand, but if one person wants them, most likely others do, too. Many of my best sales were requested articles that the original requester didn't buy, but someone else did later.

Constant Content Writing Tip #7: Add the commission into your sales prices. If you want to bring home $20 for an article, don't place a price tag of $20 on the article and concede the 35% to Constant Content. As I said earlier in my Constant Content review, figure the % into your price. If you want to bring home $20, charge $30. Your work is worth it, and you might be surprised how often buyers are willing to pay extra.

Constant Content Writing Tip #8: Decide how you feel about "Best Offer." You have the option of also allowing buyers to make a best offer price. I have mixed feelings. On one hand, you might get to make more sales, especially with "use rights" articles that you have sold several times before. On the other hand, you might get bid down a lot more, which kind of somewhat dulls the point of authors being able to set their own prices.

Constant Content Writing Tip #9: Pay attention to trends and news. With the current economic downturn it's a safe bet that economics, mortgage, budgeting, and other similar financial articles will probably be in demand. Holiday articles may only be good for one part of the year, but if you sell the usage rights then you can re-sell the same articles to new people every year.

Constant Content Writing Tip #10: I've found that movie reviews of recent movies (as in just released in theatres) do very well, and so do movie list articles. Book reviews have done okay for me, as well, but not nearly the same level as the movies.

Those are 10 tips to writing for Constant Content and I hope this secondary Constant Content review has helped answer any remaining questions. So sign up and get cracking!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Make Money Online: Writing & Other Money Making Ideas

Many ways to use writing to make money online

This will be a really quick post. Based on some e-mails and comments I've received, I wanted to make a quick post on ways to make money on the Internet. Writing is what I will concentrate on the most, since this is a very easy way to break into making money online, but there are many money making ideas that can work to make a great second (or first) income that don't involve writing, or not in the traditional sense.

Amazon Associates is a free associate program you can join, and every affiliate can set up 100 "Astores" for free. eBay has a similar program that has done well for many individuals, as well. Many of these programs you need to learn about affiliates, back links, SEO, etc.

So if you're looking to make money online but aren't an overly great writer, there are still many ways to go online and make some extra money even with minimal writing. This post is to confirm that there are a lot of ways to go about this. In other posts I've listed some of the best blogs and sources to learn this information, but I'm going to spend most of my time on the purely writing to make money online sites.

If you'd like more information, feel free to look at my other posts or visit this site on money making ideas to get a real sense of someone who actually is working to get a full time online income and the other ways to go about it.

Next post: a further Constant Content review.

Update: If you want to know what I now consider (2011+) the best program for making money online, then check out my Keyword Academy review.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Freelance Writing | Constant Content Review

Constant Content Review

UPDATE: A lot has changed at Constant-Content since I first posted this website review, as Jade Dragon was kind enough to point out in the comments (by the way, I strongly recommend his blog: it's a good one). The new pay out level is $5, making it extremely easy to make pay out each and every month. Also, your affiliate commission has been moved down to 5% from 10% - although they make even more sales then when this review was written, so I've seen minimal drop off in affiliate income. That's it for now, and I still strongly recommend Constant-Content as a great place for beginning or part time writers.


So here's the first major review of an online freelance writing website where writers can work and earn income. I choose to write this constant content website review because it is one of my favorite websites to sell work freelance writing online. This site hasn't been my biggest money maker as far as making money on the Internet, but it is a freelance writing website that offers a lot of opportunity for writers who are looking to make a little extra money online. In fact, there are several writers who make a full time living writing for Constant Content alone, but so far I've used this place as somewhere to put articles that I want to write or don't have a market for, or articles I plan on writing and re-selling several times (so obviously for these freelance writing articles I would offer only usage rights).

The first thing you'll need to know right off the bat is that Constant-Content.com pays only through PayPal, so if you don't have a PayPal account, roll up a newspaper and hit yourself in the head. Bad writer! Then go ahead and read this post on why online writers need PayPal.

All payments from Constant Content are done through PayPal, so that's a must. Signing up for an author account is completely free, and this site isn't restricted to just American writers. Australian and British authors are welcome to make money writing here, as well, and authors from any country that has PayPal. The major caveat to writers who speak English as a second language is that the editorial guidelines for CC are very clear: they expect solid grammar and English. If it doesn't read like native English, it's not good enough to be accepted on this site.

There's a small but very efficient team of editors on this site. Ed and Celeste are two names you'll become familiar with in learning to submit articles and read on topics on the Constant Content Forum. Obviously no Constant Content Review would be complete without a look at the editors, right? In my experiences Ed is a very professional editor. By professional, I mean just that. He is very good at his job, he takes care in his work, and he will be very direct and to the point on what problems you need to address if your article isn't up to snuff.

That doesn't mean he will hold your hand or be your best buddy. That's not his job. His job is to edit to make sure everything accepted into the Constant Content data base meets the editorial standards they put forth. Some people have complained of Ed being rude, but I've never found that to be the case (and a couple of times I made some bone headed mistakes before submitting articles that were rejected on the first run). He's old school professional: to the point and very direct. As a writer, that should be the type of editor you would hope for.

Write good articles for this website. This isn't an article dumping ground.

When you sign up, you can begin uploading articles immediately. This is a pretty easy process, and very self-explanatory as long as you read the directions and follow accordingly. The easiest mistake to make is to forget to upload the article after filling out all the information. Make sure to avoid this time consuming error.

One of the best parts of Constant-Content is being able to set your own prices for your freelance writing. So often taking advantage of freelance writing opportunities, especially for the beginning writer, means that you often are told how much you're getting paid, and as any starting freelance writer can tell you, way too often it's not very much. Any article you write for Constant Content you get to set your own prices for.

You also get to decide what type of rights you're willing to sell for your work. So instead of putting all that effort into making money writing and coming out with minimum wage (or worse), for ghost writing articles, you can tell a prospective buyer exactly how much you think your work is worth. Or you can even go so far on Constant Content as to decide to only sell usage rights, meaning your hard work freelance writing will be awarded with your name always on the byline.

There are three major types of rights that you can sell to your work as a freelance writer for Constant Content:

Usage Rights: If you sell usage rights this means that the buyer can post your article, but can't change anything. Your name remains as the author on the article, and not a single word can be changed. You own the copyright and can re-sell this article as many times as you can find buyers. This is my favorite types of rights to sell on Constant Content because like many online freelance writers, I like to get passive income from my articles and I like seeing my name in print :) These are usually sold at the cheapest rate since the buyer can't change anything.

Unique Rights: Unique rights are a little bit different. If a buyer purchases unique rights to your freelance writing, this means that nothing is changed in the article. The words remain exactly the same and you are credited as the author, but the purchaser is buying the unique rights to publish your article, which means that although you get the credit, you can never re-sell this article anywhere else, so make sure you mark it up to an amount you can live with.

Full Rights: This is exactly what is sounds like and is why this price should always be far higher than the others. Full rights means you sell full rights. You can charge a lot more for this, or choose to never sell full rights at all, but if you do the buyer owns everything, and can change this article any way they want. They can re-write most of it, or keep everything the same but put their name as the author. Most of the time this means your name won't appear with the work, and it will be as if you ghost wrote the article. These articles are in the highest demand, and sell most often on Constant Content.

It's hard to put an exact price on how much you should charge for each article, but don't undervalue your freelance writing! Depending on the quality of work, and degree of expertise, for 400 words I'll charge anywhere from $21-36 for usage rights, $29-49 for unique rights, and $39 on up for full rights. The $39 is generally for a basic 400 word SEO article that doesn't take much thought, time or research. For larger articles, the price can go up quite a bit. I once sold an 1,100 word article that took me two hours for $150 full rights. That's a very nice hourly pay, and it was on a subject that I wasn't probably ever going to need to use again, so I didn't mind giving away all the rights for that price.

Actually I even wrote that article for a request, and then the requester never purchased the article. This actually happens frequently, and as opposed to being discouraging, should be encouraging. There is a "requests" section on Constant Content where buyers can request articles. Many of the writers who make a living full time on CC do it by writing to these requests. Many times the requester will buy a good article, and many times they request something and never buy anything.

The good news is that this has happened to me many times, so I slapped a high price on the article, put it up for sale, and sold it to someone else a couple weeks (or months) later. The more articles you have available, the more likely someone is going to be looking for what you have to offer.

The rest is writing and figuring out how to get the most out of Constant Content based on your skills. Yes, full rights articles are the most sought after, but can you write articles people will want every year? I wrote an article on "Top 10 Movie Sociopaths" and sold usage rights four times. That's four quality sales for an opinion article in which research, writing, spell checking, and proof reading combined to take about 80 minutes. Not bad at all. The price is lowered now to $15 usage, mostly because after four sales this article is around the Internet and when the sales stopped coming, I lowered the price accordingly.

Another nice thing about Constant Content is you keep building over time. The more articles you write, the more sales you make, the more money you make. If you have enough in demand articles with usage rights on sale, then eventually CC can even become passive income for the determined freelance writer trying to make money online. My best month on CC (and I could be making a LOT more money on this site, but between Guru, Elance, going to grad school, and a full time writing job, and trying out everything on the web to get first hand info for this blog, I haven't given Constant Content nearly enough effort) was over $200 take home on a month where I didn't write a single new article.

I make generally $50 take home a month. I also haven't written a new article on CC in three months, and until the holiday rush is over, I won't be able to give them the attention they deserve. If someone started out with some actual work effort and a steady plan to write for CC, answer requested articles (I also almost never do this - I just write what I want on Constant Content), then it's not out of the question that CC alone could become a full time source of income.

The drawbacks to Constant Content?

Constant-Content does charge a pretty high 35% commission. That is a lot, but it is in range of professional referrals, and you should figure that into your pricing. If you want $15 for that article that took you 45 minutes to write, then charge $21. That easy. Even with that large commission, you also need to consider that this still pays you far more per article than with the far majority of other online freelance writing sites. It certainly beats pennies per month from Helium.com

So the Pros of Constant Content:

  1. You can choose your own topics
  2. You set your own prices
  3. Full time income potential
  4. Some passive income potential
  5. A perfect part time freelance writing site
  6. Freedom of schedule - less stress when life gets too busy

The negatives of Constant Content:

  1. No guaranteed sales
  2. 35% commission
  3. Must live in PayPal country
  4. Must be very solid in grammar and English usage
  5. You can't get your name out or build a reputation outside of Constant Content
  6. $50 minimum balance before you get paid

In my experience, the pros far outweigh the cons, and I look forward to getting a little bit of time next year and shooting for my goal of $5,000 from CC while still keeping up with all my other irons in the fire. I know this is a very doable goal, and for freelance writers looking for more freelance writing opportunities to make money writing online, you need to check out this site.

As a side note: if any of you writers are college freshmen, this is the perfect site. Over four years you have so much time to build up a wide array of articles that you might be able to make a full time living off passive income off CC by graduation, if you're willing to do the work.

One last thing: there is an affiliate program. For every author you refer, you get 10% of their sales, taken completely from Constant Content's 35% cut. This means if you sell an article only 25% goes to CC, while 10% goes to the grateful author who referred you. As a warning: don't get too excited when people sign up. The majority of people in life never put up the effort to get ahead. Out of 61 referrals (and counting) that I have, none have written over five articles, and over 2/3 haven't written a single one. Three have wrote at least one article, as I have three "cuts" for a whopping $3.25 or so. But you keep up the referrals because every penny counts, and because you hope one day a full time Constant Content writer who'll go on to make 30k a year will sign up through your referral link to show their appreciation

So come on, be that writer. I dare you, sign up and make a small fortune and make us both happier :)

I hope this Constant Content review has been helpful. If there are any further questions that any of you have, please feel free to leave your question in the comments section. For all those writers out there looking for freelance writing opportunities and other great ways to make money online, keep up the hard work, good luck, and hopeful this Constant-Content.com review will help you on your way to a full time writing income.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Freelance Writing: 10 Places to Sell Your Freelance Writing Online

10 Places to Sell Your Freelance Writing Online
There are many different places to sell your writing online. Some of these sites are excellent markets for the beginning freelance writer, and places that even give the opportunity to make a full time living if you are good enough. The hardest part for many beginning freelance writers is working up the courage to get writing and selling.

This is true whether you are a person looking to make money writing for the first time, a part timer looking for a work at home opportunity, or a college student looking to make some extra money. By knowing where you can send your writing to make money, that makes it much easier to get started. You don't have to start from scratch to look for freelance writing markets online, because you already did your research and know where they are.

#1 Constant Content. This is one of my favorite freelance writing websites to submit articles to. You can join for free and write on anything you want, then set your own prices. There is a requests section you can answer, which gives you a better chance of writing articles that will get bought right away, or you can just write about whatever you want. Don't undersell your articles: people will pay for value.

What's the main downside of Constant Content for new freelance writers? You don't know when someone is going to buy your work, so there's no guarantee of a paycheck. But the more you write the better off you are. This site is also free for sign up.

#2 Guru. Guru is an auction based site that you must buy a monthly, quarterly, or yearly subscription to. While you need to get into the top 50 to make a full time living off of Guru, this is possible. It takes some time to build up your reputation, but not as much as you'd think. Without any help or guidance I was making over $1,000 a month within three months, and I was making twice that in five months. This was when I started at Guru three years ago, and there are a lot more jobs on there, and more high paying ones, as well.

Basically as a freelance writer on Guru you bid on jobs and then get to work on the ones awarded to you. This site is growing about 50% a year, making it possible for more and more individuals to make a full time living even writing for Guru alone. If you're serious about making really good money writing online, this is a must work site.

#3 Elance. Elance is the other big auction site for writers and also requires you to pay for a membership. Like Guru there's more value in buying a one year subscription up front. It takes some time to build a reputation, and for early jobs you may have to write for less than you'd like to begin building your reputation. But the minimum pay at Elance is higher than at Guru, and the ceiling is higher income wise for writers online than maybe any other website. Some long time writers ranked at the top have even been said to make six digits just writing for Elance. If you want to write and you don't know a lot about Internet Marketing, this and Guru are your best shots at a gold mine.

#4 Hubpages. At Hubpages you don't get paid directly for your writing, but you can demonstrate your writing skills by making web pages in which you can make money from affiliate sales from eBay and Amazon, as well as Google Adsense. Signing up for all three is easy, and diversifies how you can make money online, which is always a good idea.

You can get a lot of publicity for your writing, ideas, interests, and/or business here, which can often be valuable in snagging new jobs. You get to easily design web pages (even without any technical skills at all) that can give great backlinks if you build your own blog network. This area has a great community and fun "change of pace" place. If you're interested in learning more about Internet marketing, this is also a great place to go for that.

#5 Associated Content. AC pays up front for a lot of their work, and you also get passive income based on page views that continues to add up over time. AC isn't great for money straight out, as most pay falls in the $3-10 range (as a side note: there's a lot of demand for short how to videos, so if you have a video camera this can be a great way to make some good income here) but it will get you some steady income both directly and passively.

This is also a site where you could receive enough attention to get more and better work elsewhere (this has happened to me before). You earn passive incomes for views, so your freelance writing continues to earn money well after when you wrote it. My first article was from nearly two years ago, and it doesn't make much, but it gets enough traffic for about an extra $2 a month. This means I get paid $24 a year for an article that I haven't even glanced at in two years, and which still occasionally sells for usage rights off of CC, as well. That's a good deal.

One major caveat: Associated Content, even though they pay through PayPal, does not pay up front for articles from writers based outside of the U.S. This really sucks, even though they still pay the bonus for page views. So if you're in the United Kingdom or Australia, go ahead and knock this down to the bottom of the list (though even if in Australia I'd prefer this over Helium from my experience).

#6 Squidoo. Squidoo allows users to design one page websites on whatever interests them and get paid on a tiered system. Affiliate sales are also an option, as you can sell related products and get a cut, which you split half and half with Squidoo. Squidoo doesn't pay a lot, although some of the top earners do make over a thousand a month here. This is a good way, though, to learn about Internet Marketing, something all online writers should learn to improve their value and if you want the really big bucks, you need to understand this kind of stuff. It also has a great community and is a good change of pace place to write and get more exposure.

#7 eHow. I've only recently joined here, so I haven't been able to fully take advantage of everything eHow has to offer yet (so there's a good chance that it can move up this list and pass some of my other favorites), but I like the potential and other writers I trust have made good income here, especially passive income.

eHow is designed to write a tips based article that tells how to do something step by step. The format makes it easy to write a well organized and good article in a relatively short time. Pay is a combination of page views, score, and "usefulness." The writers get paid monthly, so an article that you write today can still be making you money over a year from now. This is a great place for new writers to get started, with a very friendly community.

#8 oDesk. This website is similar to Guru and Elance, but is free instead of asking for a monthly or yearly subscription fee. There are many jobs on here you can bid on, and some of them pay all right. One downside is that the pay does tend to be lower, and the variety of decent paying jobs here isn't nearly as high as on Guru or Elance, but it is free to sign up and skim through listings and if you have a good command of the English language and your ability to write, then you can trump the competition pretty easily.

#9 Triond. Triond and Helium aren't anywhere as close to being as good as the other sites on this list, but some writers have done well here. Triond puts ads on your article, and you get a share of the revenue whenever someone clicks on an ad. Some writers have done very well here, while others have had a harder time of it. It's not a bad place to "recycle" articles that you have sold and re-sold at other places before.

#10 Helium. Helium's best value comes from the Marketplace and contest section if you can make much progress in either. Some writers love this site, others hate it. The pay can be very low, and the payment method is kept secretive and unclear.

While some writers have done well, and you'll hear a lot of people market this site, my general thought is that it doesn't pay nearly enough and if you're good enough to make serious money here, then you should be making a full time living writing for someone else. There have been several reports of writers not getting paid or getting booted off for complaining about plagiarism. I can't verify any of these stories, but where there's smoke, there's usually fire. I don't recommend this site for new writers, or experienced ones for that matter, but caveat emptor. It's still your choice.

I hope this list helps you get started in the rewarding work at home career of freelance writing.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Writing Allegory: The Beetle and the Acorn

This is a real short post that is (despite initial appearances) still related to freelance writing before going back to more website reviews and ways to maximize your earnings early on, in the lean months, when it can be hardest to get you going with some decent paying jobs.

The other day I was enjoying one of the advantages of being a full time writer: which is being able to shift my schedule around any way I want. Since the really oppressive heat of the Texas summer (complete with drought this year) was finally gone, at noon I decided to go for a four hour hike on one of the great trails here in Austin. I would do all my freelance writing work when I got back.

While taking a break, I saw a beetle moving to try and push an acorn up what, for him, was a very steep rock face. It failed several times, but tried again with renewed vigor and a new tactic every time. Watching him wasn't only a great way for me to practice living in the moment (a practice I strongly reccomend), but his struggles with getting the acorn to the top was an extremely apt parable for all of the following: freelance writing, Internet marketing, & making money online.

You can view the page where I wrote about the specifics here:

It's worth a read to get the point of what to expect from a career in freelance writing, and the dedication and ability to adapt that you'll need to really succeed. I hope this little story helps, and the next post will be a long list of places you can write to make money online with very brief reviews, and then I'll start going into some really in depth and comparative reviews shortly after that.

Keep writing, and I'm pulling for you.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Writing Online for Money: Active Income Vs. Passive Income

Different Beasts: Active Income Vs. Passive Income

This freelance writing/making money online post is going to be a long one, because the subject of making active income online versus making passive income online is something entire books could be written on. In fact, there has been. When you're looking to make money online, there are many different ways to go about it, and this is even true of a niche like freelance writing.

First, some basic definitions: active income is the regular way most freelance writers get paid. You writer an article, you get paid, and then that's it. You might sell articles on Constant-Content or Associated Content and get paid once (although if you have usage rights you can ((and should)) recycle and re-sell these articles), or a few times if you re-sell these, but that's not the same as passive income.

Passive income is income that keeps coming in consistently from work you may have done a week, a month, or even years ago. Adsesne is easily the number one example of how to make money with passive income. A good niche blog that you write, rank well in the SERPs for, and then put Adsense on could be completely "finished" in say October, then continue to earn you Adsense money daily even though you don't have to put in any more work.

The idea of passive income is very appealing for obvious reasons. It is easier to make active income while freelance writing, at least if you need money immediately. If passive income was easy, everyone would be going that route. The thing about passive income is that you have to go into not only writing, but into Internet Marketing, if you want to master the art and science of passive income, and you're going to have to learn a lot and work your butt off to see any tangible results at all, much less start getting to the point where it is a consistent steady full time level of income.

As far as making an annual income, it is easier to write online for active income: following the old trend of writing articles, getting paid, then repeat. This is the model of work most people are familiar with since being a full time freelance writer means you probably planned on working every week, building the portfolio of clips, and treating writing as you would any other home business.

And if that wasn't what you were thinking when the idea of becoming a freelance writer started to sound appealing, be careful. It's not an easy job. Being a writer requires extremely hard work, long hours, a lot of work on your craft, tight deadlines, and the occasional four day weekend you can take on a whim is balanced out by the 18-20 hour days as you close in on a deadline.

And before I get angry e-mails, let me make one thing clear: passive income doesn't mean three months of work and then you're done forever. If you get big enough with enough sites, then your work load is certainly diminished, but it's still not the end all be all of everything going on. You will still need to collect back links, especially if you are in a competitive niche, you will definitely need to make sure to re-purchase your domain names every single year, and you will need monthly hosting to make sure your websites are up and making you income.

Aside from Adsense blogs, other common forms of passive income that are more common include affiliate sales (often Amazon, eBay, or other affiliate sites), BANS (Build A Niche Store) websites, and there is even some passive income with sites like Associated Content, where you still get paid for page views (traffic). While this won't ever be the same level of passive income as these other sites, and should never be assumed that it will become a full time income. I have about 200 articles on AC, and aside from the money paid in the past, I tend to get $20-25 a month even if I don't log on at all for months at a time.

Yeah, that's not a lot by any stretch, but I'm still getting a few hundred dollars a year for articles that were written up to three years ago. That's not a bad deal, especially since 90%+ of my articles on there have been recycled multiple times, and yet they still earn me money instead of staying completely unused in a file cabinet or long deleted Word file.

Websites like HubPages and Squidoo can also help build a good passive income. These sites tend to blur the line between Internet marketing and online writing for money, and both have some great advantages. If you're a beginner, I recommend both these sites heavily because they have great forums and communities where you can get help and support, and they allow you to learn your craft. It is much easier to get a Squidoo "lens" or Hubpage "hub" (both are basically one page websites) ranking higher in the search engine rankings than a blog or start from scratch website, and Squidoo will record every long tail keyword phrase that someone types into a search engine to find your website (VERY useful in learning how keywords and Internet search rankings work). Both let you design pages for free, and both give opportunities to make income.

While the income from both sites are generally modest, the top "Lensmasters" at Squidoo, like the very top "Hubbers" from Hubpages, make in excess of over $1,000 a month. Squidoo requires a lot more updating and maintenance than Hubpages, but both give you a chance to make money online writing, establish web pages you can use for backlinks, and learning the basics of getting traffic, making sales, and becoming comfortable doing so.

As someone who tends to be severely technologically challenged, I can attest to how helpful these two sites have been in helping me to learn how online commerce works and to get far better at online marketing than I ever was before.

Right now, I will openly admit that I am far better at normal freelance writing for money online than passive income with Adsense. Why? Because I didn't discover Griz's blog and the possibility of Adsense online until June. What has been encouraging to me is how quickly I have to learn on the fly from reading these blog posts, and yet without being able to put in the full amount of time I've wanted, I'm seeing consistent and amazing growth in my monthly Adsense income.

Does it take a whole lot of work? Absolutely. Are more people who want to become a freelance writer thinking about "active income" and writing job by job? Absolutely. That doesn't mean you shouldn't do both. Diversify. Write for rent and paying off debt and date money job by job now...and read the blogs of make money online experts and look at setting yourself up for the long term. If you want to learn how to be a successful freelance writer, then it makes sense to learn both

If you're a freshman in college reading this, you should be drooling. You have four years to write and save money (or have extra spending money or both) and you have four of the best years to work on setting up the passive income. If you're far better than me at computers and online stuff (and if you're a freshman at college it's almost a certainty you are) then who knows? Follow the advice of the experts and you might not have to find a job after college, because you might be set with your own business.

And just to help you avoid scammers at all costs, here's a list of make money online experts, the guys I'm learning passive income techniques from, and the guys all of you should be learning from:

The Keyword Academy Program

Internet Marketing with Courtney Tuttle

Blogging Zombie (Justin seems as nice a guy you could ever ask for advice)

Lissie's Internet Marketing Blog

That's it. There are groups of bloggers who argue back and forth about what's scamming and what's legit, and it's pretty easy to get taken in. But what these four guys teach is invaluable, and these are the best of the best who (amazingly) share tons of knowledge for free, so eat it up!

If you are learning how to become a writer and how to get paid for writing online, the active writing isn't hard. If you want huge money writing, learn about passive income from these guys. I'm seeing enough results from my own work to know I'm catching on and the consistent growth in earnings tells me all I need to know: these guys are for real. Even if you're a writer not interested in marketing, it's good to learn from what these guys have to teach.

Earning active income online is easy, and I'm not going to go into it nearly as much for that reason. The other reason is that I've already mentioned making money on Associated Content & Constant Content in another post, and more posts will be aimed specifically at the people looking to become online freelance writers for sites like Guru & Elance, Constant-Content, and Associated Content. There's a lot of money to be made online, and I want this blog to be especially focused at helping brand new freelance writers get going. Those first dollars mean the world to the writer who makes them for the first time, and I hope this blog can contribute to many future success stories.

Good writing, and keep up the hard work!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Top 3 Most Lucrative Fields of Freelance Writing

Three Most Lucrative Types of Writing for Freelance Writers

Making a living as a freelance writer can be difficult. Especially for the beginner, where online content and article writing is the easiest place to break in, but as such they also tend to pay peanuts until you can establish yourself.

Assuming you're in for the long haul and are serious about becoming a full freelance writer and not just part timer, then one of the early things you need to do is figure out which direction you want to go. There are some very lucrative freelance writing gigs as a professional ghost writer (especially for celebs) or as a feature writer for popular magazines, but you need a very extensive portfolio and some very good connections to consistently land that level of gigs.

Those areas also have fierce levels of competition for a limited amount of work, and if the field has several professional experts, then you're just out of luck. For the rest of us, there are three specific types of writing that are the most consistently lucrative and accessible:

  1. Business Writing
  2. Copy Writing (also known as Sales Page/Sales Writing)
  3. Technical Writing

These three areas consistently pay more money to rank and file writers than any other area of freelance writing. This makes sense because all three of these types of writing have you working for businesses and/or corporations, meaning you're writing for clients with large amounts of money who need a job done, and are willing to pay to get it done right. But now more about each:

Business Writing: This can be for press releases, white papers, business reports, prepared speeches, articles, pamphlets, advertising, or any other type of needed writing. Business writers can plan on making a very good hourly rate, and even entry level freelance business writers can often charge $15-$20 an hour while building a business relationship.

Copy Writing: This is perhaps the most lucrative writing if you're good at it. Copy writing is writing sales pages for web sites, e-books, or other products. Even moderate level copy writers can make $60,000 or more a year, and the best in the business make millions because they not only charge huge for jobs, but they also get a percentage of everything that sells.

Technical Writing: This is another area that can end up paying $20 an hour, and when you prove yourself, the hourly wage can even jump as high as $40-50 an hour. Technical writing is often working closely with a corporation. Ever have a 90 page instruction booklet on an entertainment system that didn't seem to make sense? That's a technical writing job opportunity. It's not fun writing, and there's a lot of long hours and revising, but you get paid what you're worth.

These three areas continue to look for new talent, and wages for good freelance writers will go up. Freelancers have an advantage in that companies don't have to pay half of their Social Security tax, provide insurance and benefits, or feed into a 401-K, meaning that freelance writers can often charge more because of the savings that the companies get off the top.

So start training and jump in! Companies are always looking for good freelance writers, and some are even willing to hire freelance writers on full time to ensure good work. I know, that's how I became lucky enough to land my full time gig!Best of luck in writing, and if you're looking for the accessible lucrative writing areas, these types of your writing are your best bets.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Freelance Writing: Getting Started & Reviews Coming Soon!

Beginning Freelance Writer Advice

I thought about making this post about how I became a freelance writer, but that can wait. I want this blog to be about you, the readers, and not about myself. So although this post will be brief about how to get started as a freelance writer, and I'll go into more detail on all this information later, the following should help you get going immediately if your goal is to write for money online.

These are some of the original websites I've found, and while they're not going to make you rich, they welcome new freelance writers and will give you the opportunity to get started writing for free. There are definitely good auction based writing websites like Guru & Elance, but since those require monthly fees, I'm going to wait until later to review those.

This post is all about getting started writing right away without having to put any money up. This can be great for college students making money, disabled individuals who need side income, or part time writers, and is a good way just to get moving and started. Even a little extra spending money here and there is nothing to complain about.

I'm also going to mention some popular online writing websites that I generally would encourage beginning writers to avoid. Some of these are highly thought of by many online freelance writers, but I'm not sure why. Avoiding websites that require a disproportionate amount of effort to pay off is just as important as finding the good websites.

First of all, if you haven't read the post on why every starting writer needs Paypal, click on that link and read the post. The rest of this is assuming you have already opened a Paypal account, and now you're ready to see it start filling up with some well earned money :)

Remember, these all are just very brief descriptions of these sites. I'll post more extensive reviews on these freelance writing websites in the future.


This is one of my personal favorite sites not because it makes me the most money, but because I have control over what I write and how much I charge for it. This doesn't mean that Constant-Content can't be a major money maker of a freelance writing website. It can be, and there are several authors who make a full time living off Constant-Content alone. And this isn't they live in a hut in Thailand for $80 a month full time living, some of the top authors here have shared that they've made over $30,000 in a year before.

Constant-Content is a place where you can sign up for free. Authors can choose to answer requests and write articles on those topics in hopes that the employer chooses their articles, or they can write on anything they want. Prices are set by the author, and you can set different prices for usage, unique, or full rights, and you can choose to not put the full or unique rights for sale.

The plus side to this is obvious: instead of getting a pittance of $3-8 for a 500 word article online, you can write an article and set the price at $25 for 500 words. If the article is well written and on a solid subject, there's a very good chance you can sell it for that. If the usage rights are on sale, some articles can be sold multiple times. I've had one "Top 10 Movies..." article sell four times for $30 a pop. Not bad for an article that took 75 minutes to research, write, and spell check.

The drawbacks? Constant-Content charges 35% commission. That is a lot, but you should be able to work that into pricing and still make far more per article than with most other online sites. The other is that there is no guarantee of sale, although I've been amazed of really micro niche articles of mine that have sold that I put up simply because I thought they were unsellable.

Pros of Constant Content: Choose your own topics, write at your own pace, set your prices, more per article, there is full time income potential, some passive income potential.

Cons of Constant Content: High commission, no guarantee of sale, must be very good with grammar and organization in writing (Ed's a tough ((but fair)) editor), only pays via PayPal, can't get your name out.

The more articles you right for CC, the more likely you will form a passive income, meaning that enough articles will keep getting bought for usage rights that even when you take a month off from this site, it can still earn you money. There is a referral system where you get 10% of the sales of anyone you refer, and it comes out of the website's 35% cut, which is why I approve of it (I'll never approve of, or use, affiliate links that penalize the person signing up).

Associated Content

This site was an early favorite of mine. I go between liking it and cooling on it, but I find this is a great site for new freelance writers to get started on. AC will pay anywhere from $3-10 an article up front, then also gives a "views" (PPV) bonus of $1.50 for every 1,000 page views. This works out to earning a penny for every 6 readers who visit your article. You also get a "distribution bonus" if an AC partner decides to use your article. AC has "calls to content" that you can answer, but that gives them exclusive rights. You can also sell them non-exclusive (usage) rights, or past articles published online can be put up as "display only," which means they won't pay you up front, but you can still get the PPV bonus and more exposure.

I like Associated Content for beginning writers because:

  1. Your writing is actually viewable online, which allows you to build a name and reputation.
  2. Even though it's not much, you can get paid up front.
  3. If you're good at getting traffic or marketing, you can make some pretty decent money on the PPV bonus.
  4. Some passive income because of the PPV system. (I love making money off articles I wrote 2 years ago)
  5. I've gotten much more lucrative freelance work because of articles employers saw here on AC.
  6. You can use it in conjunction with CC articles by writing an article for Constant Content, offering only usage rights, then selling the article to AC as non-exclusive.
  7. You can break into writing areas that you love, but aren't an expert at.

To explain #7 better, I make a couple thousand dollars a year sports writing for various websites, some under my own name and some under a pen name. These are fun assignments for me that I love, and most of them I received because I wrote sports articles for AC. I can't break into journalism because of no experience, I don't live in cities with pro teams, but my articles showed my writing ability and sports interest, while giving me clips on specific sports stories.

This allowed me to become a sports writer even without years of clips. This is the cool thing about getting your name out on Associated Content, and although the money isn't great, there are competitions and if you're looking for part time income, you can make some all right change each month here.

Associated Content also pays via PayPal (told you it was important :D)


I know some online writers like this freelance writing website, but I'm not completely sure why. For beginning freelance writers, I DON'T recommend this site. The money is an absolute pittance. Some writers say they make decent money here, but the weekly contests and market place offerings are so competitive that it likely is not worth your time. And if you are good enough to make decent money here, then you're good enough to make a LOT more money elsewhere.

I could suggest this site as a dumping ground for articles, but they don't even pay enough for it to be worth your time. It's not uncommon for good writers to have a hundred decent articles here and only make $3 a month. The payment set up isn't clear, and even some long time writers who have done well there are walking away.

I'm also a believer of "where there's smoke there's fire" theory. When they had a "Write-A-Thon" offering straight up payment for articles, I only loaded 100 because I already had a couple hundred laying around. I did receive payment (a paltry $150), but there are a lot of reports online of suspicious activity by Helium, as well as withholding payments and booting people off without cause.

These could all be suspect, but I am a where there's smoke there's fire kind of guy, so with a number of reports to that line, I would say be careful, and look for better paying markets. Since Helium doesn't pay, doesn't give backlinks, and doesn't build your reputation, don't fall for it.


Squidoo is where you blur the line between writing, web page building, and Internet marketing. This isn't pure writing, but it is free sign up, there is some money to be made here and the lessons you can learn about search engines, Internet traffic, and how online marketing works can be worth far more than what you can make on Squidoo.

Squidoo allows you to make one page websites on various interests by providing you with "modules" which allow you to write, sell things via eBay, Amazon, and literally hundreds of other stores to earn an affiliate commission, or you can add YouTube clips or do a lot of things. Making a web page is easy with this system, and can be a lot of fun.

The community on the forums is amazing, and you get paid for commissions on sales, in addition to getting paid on a tiered system based on what your "Lens rank" is. You can get paid monthly via PayPal or donate to charity. The "Stats" section here is incredible, allowing you to see how many visitors per day your pages get, how many per week, where they come from, and even the exact phrase typed in to find your web page on search engines. This, in my opinion, is one of the best ways to learn about "long term keywords," a critical aspect of Internet marketing and traffic.

Even though that's marketing, it's something beginning freelance writers should definitely learn. An average writer who is a brilliant marketer will easily make ten times the money of a brilliant writer who is a bad marketer.

A handful of people make about a thousand a month on Squidoo. I'm nowhere near that point, but if I do nothing, don't update, and ignore the site for two months because I get buried in work, I still make about $40 a month on passive income. Squidoo is a numbers game, and I recommend it for a change of pace and for great learning on how Internet traffic works.

Some people will love this set up, others won't. This really is a preference taste, although if you're looking for most money versus time spent, Constant-Content and Associated Content are better stops for the beginning freelance writer.

There are other places for beginning freelance writers to write at, but these mentioned are free: 3 I recommend and 1 that I don't. Hubpages and Xomba are other options that I'll cover later, in part because payment there comes from Adsense and affiliate sales and not pure writing. I'm particularly a fan of the potential Hubpages has, but this requires Internet marketing skills, as well.

Anyway, these are decent places to start, so even if I get bogged down in work for a week or two (very likely) or you want to start now but have $0.00 to start out, this can get you going on the right track. Getting to a full time income writing is a little harder, but it is possible, and if you are just starting out as a new writer, these sites can help you hone your skills and understand the freelancing side of things to really get going.