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How Not To Waste Your Writing Time

by Jennifer on November 17, 2009

By Jennifer Blanchard

I recently received an e-mail from what I thought was a legitimate freelance writing source. It said the site was looking for freelancers and that my resume fit the profile and they wanted to hire me.

I was psyched! I’ve been trying to get more freelance work for months now.

But then I checked out the company’s Web site and realized they were—yet another—cheap-labor writing site.

Sites like eHow, Helium and Demand Studios allow writers to choose from a list of topics or suggest their own topics and post articles to the sites. These articles can vary in length from 500 words to upwards of 1,000 words.

And then the site wants to pay you $3. Or $15. Or nothing at all unless your article is ranked number one or unless the ads tied to your article get clicked on.  

Sites like these exploit writers. They pay very little money, but require a lot of work.

I don’t know about you, but when I write something I’m going to publish online, I spend a few hours on it between researching, interviewing, writing it and editing it. And my time is worth a lot more than $15.

It’s not that these types of sites are all bad. For brand new writers, they do give you a place to start. You are able to write on the topics you choose and benefit by having people read what you wrote.

But there are much better options for writers who are just trying to get their names out there. Here are some ideas:

  • Start Your Own Blog—Although it will take you some time to build up enough content to get traffic, starting a blog of your own is a better option than selling your soul (or giving away your hard work) to an article site. And you can blog about any topic you choose and eventually make money from it. A lot more than you would spending hours of your time writing articles for article Web sites.
  • Write Guest Posts—By writing guest posts for other blogs (like this one) you are spotlighting your writing for an already-built-in audience, rather than taking the chance spending your time writing an article for an article Web site and hoping that a reader stumbles across it. Guest posts get your name out there and get you traffic much faster than any article site ever could. And with an average of 22,000 blogs being launched daily, there’s a good chance someone is already blogging on a topic you’re interested in writing about.
  • Write Fiction or Poetry—Although you don’t get an automatic audience by writing fiction or poetry, at least you’re spending your time writing something creative for you, rather than wasting your time trying to find someone to read all the articles you posted on an article Web site. And you can still share your fiction/poetry with the world on Web sites, such as AuthorNation.com, which is an online community for writers and their readers.

Don’t get me wrong here…there are several writers who write articles for article Web sites and actually make some money from it. But they are few and far between.

Most writers don’t benefit much from writing on those sites. Sure, they’re sharing their knowledge with others, which is always good. But they’re not doing much for themselves.

I just don’t agree with any site that pays writers a pathetic wage to give away their words. But that’s me.

Have you ever written for an article Web site? What are your thoughts? Any other suggestions for places writers can share their work?

About the Author: Jennifer Blanchard is founder of Procrastinating Writers. Be sure to follow her on Twitter.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 sefcug November 17, 2009 at 11:30 am

I always wondered about those kind of sites.

I am not trying to make a living, or extra cash from writing, but I am of the opinion, even before your post, that quality is better than quantity, and that the sites mentioned are the other way around.

I am quite satisfied to have my writings published in one of the two computer user group newsletters I edit, or on my blog.

Maybe, when I retire, I will want to get into writing for pay.

2 jblan November 17, 2009 at 11:33 am

@sefcug Yes, those sites are definitely all about quantity over quality, which works OK for something like writing your novel’s first draft (or NaNoWriMo), but not so good for writing articles that you want people to read and actually learn from.

3 S. Megan Payne November 17, 2009 at 3:19 pm

I’m definitely on the starting end of the spectrum, but I write what feeds me in a creative sense or else in a physical one. I’ve submitted and sold to Skipping Stones (no pay, but the credit is a major one), written heaps of stuff for simply pleasure, and am in process of editing the mess out of a good juvenile novel and writing an adult one. I have always and will always skip out on the content mill sites. Too much of my soul and nothing to feed me in return.

4 S. Megan Payne November 17, 2009 at 3:20 pm

Also doing a blog. No money, alas! But soul kept right inside me, where it belongs.

5 Laura Lee Bloor November 18, 2009 at 11:36 am

I remember being desperate for extra freelance work earlier this year when I was trying to scrape every extra penny together to go toward our wedding, so I signed up for Demand Studios. I was just about to do my first assignment when a little lightbulb went off in my head that said, “You don’t have to do this.” As you said, it’s a lot of work for very little pay. My time and my skills are worth more than that. And you know what? We still made our financial goals for the wedding even without those few $15 payments here and there!

I also agree that it’s a great place for new writers to start to build a portfolio, but not for writers with some years of experience behind them.

6 Diane Mettler November 18, 2009 at 2:22 pm

Thank you for this posting. I keep getting emails from these cheap labor sites and hoping that writers don’t get sucked in. They make minimum wage seem lucrative. Your $15.00 payment is much better spent finding clients that pay better.

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