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The New Age of Freelance Writing – A Guest Article

This article is by Barbara Whitlock, Community Development Manager at Helium.com. You can reach her at: bwhitlock@helium.com or with a comment here. Her bio is at: www.helium.com/users/13060.

Blasting Old (And New) Publishing Fortresses

The new age of freelance writing online frees writers. Freelance writers focused on print publishing spend too much time composing and waiting on query letters instead of writing articles. Too many well-educated and talented writers don’t get recognition because they haven’t been published. Yet, the demand for information in an Information Age offers more open frontiers than traditional publishing fortresses.  I’m on staff at Helium.com, and I’d like to share my insights about changes in the world of freelance writing.

The Internet has been the platform for change, but — even on the web — some writer websites remain behind the times: Their virtual fortresses hold writers back.    Some distinguishing features that make Helium unique provide guidelines to help a writer answer the question: Where should I publish my articles?

  1. Are the benefits advertised to new writers just inflated promotional rates or earnings you can rely on even after you’ve been a long-standing member? You should expect your earnings to increase as you contribute more, not to decrease when you are no longer the new writer to recruit. Many sites offer promotional teases, but these dwindle after you get roped in.
  2. Is the site an attractive platform to display your photo, bio and online portfolio, or is your image cheapened by association with lousy graphics and site organization? Just like dressing for success makes a difference with first impressions, so wearing a professional looking site can enhance your writer’s portfolio.
  3. Does the site offer a supportive writing community and model responsiveness in the staff, or are you left on your own to try and make it? A supportive writing community and responsive staff add to your chances for success. You want to join a writing community and not just a group of writers dumping their content in a cold Internet cubicle. “It takes a village”…or — at least — others can help.
  4. Is the site structured and vested in promoting your writing, or will it simply warehouse your work? Having your work stuck in an Internet warehouse is nearly worthless. Finding a site with a strong enough page rank and energetic staff focused on maximizing SEO is your ticket to success. And does the staff share this knowledge to help its writers succeed? Research suggests that focusing on one site for publishing (or two at most) is sufficient. Publishing your work on too many sites can undermine your search engine rank placement. Choose wisely and don’t spread yourself too thinly! 
  5. Does the site offer empowering opportunities to writers, or are you merely a servant to the “big house” editors? Look for a site where your expertise is valued, and where you can take ownership to develop content areas which match your knowledge/passion? Make sure you are not limited in the number of articles you can share, and that you do not have to suffer waiting periods.
  6. Does the site attract other publishers, partners and non-profit organizations so you have a broader set of choices for higher earnings and exposure?  For example, Helium’s Freelance Marketplace (http://www.helium.com/marketplace?placement=13060) attracts 100s of magazine, newspaper and web publishers who contract with their members for articles they need, paying $35 to $200 per article. Helium.com also has exclusive partnerships with the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting and One World, paying $125 per article. One World also features Yahoo exposure. Helium’s five star writers are the only citizen journalists who can apply for National Press Club membership. Members can also donate earnings to charities partnered with Helium.

As a writer, choosing a site as your publishing platform can be as confusing as choosing a cereal among the hundred brands lined up in a grocer’s aisle. Which one is best for you? Look for a site which heralds this new age — replete with complex carbohydrates and soluble fiber! Avoid quick sugar fixes that leave you depleted. Pick a writing site with lasting value.

Sites with heavy handed editors reduce your publishing freedom as a writer. Internally focused sites limit your exposure, whereas externally-focused sites with broader partnerships expand your exposure and earning opportunities. Sites with a vibrant and empowered writing community reflect well on the staff which supports it. A visually appealing site enhances your writer presentation. Make sure you earn more as you share more of your content, so you do not get stuck in a rut, leaving your valuable work on some isolated web island.

Choose the site which offers you a strong support to your writing and earning goals, one which does not erect fortresses to limit you.

If you’d like more information about joining Helium.com, email me directly: bwhitlock@helium.com.

Barbara Whitlock
Community Development Manager

{ 14 comments… add one }
  • Thanks for the chance to share. Those who know me at Helium know I’m pretty enthusiastic by nature — and especially about our writing community and the opportunities for writers here. Apologies if my enthusiasm floweth over!

  • admin

    thanks barbara for the clarifications and the peek into the future

  • Copyright has never changed at Helium: Writers own all copyright to all their content — and always have.

    But a lot has changed at Helium:

    * Writers now earn upfront payments for informative articles plus ad revenue share, with minimal participation. We also still accept previously published non-exclusive content for upfront payments — which means experienced web writers can earn a lot their first month just by sharing content already written. Our top earner last month pulled in $700. What’s great about our payment structure is this: Writers earn a higher proportion per article as they contribute more quality articles to the site.

    * Helium’s shared title groups create keyword density which leads to high search engine listing for highly rated and SEO effective articles. That means higher ranking members earn more. Helium’s page rank has secured a high level — one it has taken other sites a decade to achieve — and we’re still only 2 plus years ol — so it’s only getting better.

    * Helium is developing programs (coming out very soon) to verify certified professionals, which will lead to special Marketplace opportunities and other benefits. We are also identifying subject matter experts in topic areas, which will add substantially to our writers’ portfolios.

    * Helium also has new zone pagings which will launch in the next month — these are attractive, SEO rich landing pages on topics. Members create them and earn a high proportion of web traffic revenue.

    * The quality at Helium continues to rise expontially, for several reasons. The rating process at Helium, with open opportunity for a writer to continually improve his articles (through leapfrog revisions), creates a platform which encourages improvement. We call it “coopitition” — writers share articles together under topic-specific (and SEO effective) title groups where they give many perspectives on the same topic for readers and where they compete for high rank. We also have a team of community leaders empowered to provide added editorial oversight (site stewards).

    * Helium is getting recognized as holding a unique content-providing capacity for the ailing magazine and newspaper industries as well — and our partnerships (and lucrative opportunities to our writers) continues to soar.

    Helium still has one of the most supportive writing communities on the web, complemented by a supportive staff. We work hard to help our writers succeed, by offering individual help, specific feedback and open-ended opportunities and incentives to improve articles.

    If you’d like to know more information about Helium, feel free to write to me directly too: bwhitlock@helium.com.

  • admin

    Perle and Veronica, maybe the rules have changed over time? Barbara, can you clarify the copyright ownership at Helium?


  • admin

    thanks everyone for your thoughts… keep ’em coming!

    • I’m impressed by your writing. Are you a professional or just very konwelgdaeble?

  • I just wanted to note: I’m a writer first and on staff at Helium second. The two go hand and hand, of course, but I am genuinely passionate about the advantages to writers at Helium.com. I’ve had the chance to get to know a significant number of the writers in our community, and the information I share is also intended to help guide writers in their choices.

    Writers are in the driver’s seat in the competitive world of freelance online writing. Choose where to publish your work closely, and look at all the opportunities offered rather than a quick sell promotion.

  • I began with Helium a year and hald ago. I have sold 11 marketplace articles in which one was over $100. I received author credit and it helped building up my portfolio. I also receive residuals on all my unpublished articles with them each month. I find Helium a great place to perfect my craft when the market is slow and I have no other pending gigs.

    For a beginner it is a wonderful place to start with mentors available to help and encourage you. As for the more experienced writer, it helps to practice and earn some money besides.

  • Hi Perle,

    That is not so. You still retain the rights to your article on Helium and can submit them elsewhere. They may not allow you to delete an article from the site but I have sold many to other publishers and have just re-written the one I have on Helium.

  • Helium wants ‘all rights’, as well as, the right to edit all or in part and use writer’s submissions anywhere, anytime, without attribution to the writer. NO THANKS.

  • admin

    Incidentally, I define advertising as when I get paid 😉 I didn’t for this nor did I pay.

  • Great points to ponder. I have read articles by Barbara Whitlock and find them to be very informative. I have her on my favs.

    I am a member of Helium but have not submitted in awhile.
    Should really get back to it.

    Advertising maybe. But writers need to know where they can submit their work and have feedback, support , the ability to learn from others, and where to find needed info. most importantly.

    Michelle Kafka’s last blog post..Writing Tool For The Writer/Virtual Office – Zoho

  • admin

    H Aysha, glad you commented. I’m hoping other will too. Yes, the article is a promo for Helium, which I tried to make clear in the way I identified it.

    When I was blogging at TheGoldenPencil (http://www.thegoldenpencil.com) we had some controversy about the site. I decided, after looking over the article it was worth publishing, both to give folks one view of the site and also to see what others had to say.


  • Aysha

    Hmm, a bit on the advertisment side, but as a member of Helium I thought I would chime in. I do feel my time at Helium allowed me the confidence and experience to land the bigger jobs I have now. Just the chance to bulk up my writing samples helped me have all sorts of samples ready for potential jobs.

    Though the site is not perfect, I have yet to find a site that is. By winning several of their writing competitions, which can sort of a throw of the dice, I decided I had the balls to go for the big contracts. Thank goodness I did, because I now have a long term writing job that I adore.

    Helium basically took me from being a curiouse person who wants to write to being a writer, according to my tax returns, with a bit of knowledge on how to work online.

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