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Revenue Share – Approach With Caution

Unlike many freelance writers I sometimes take revenue share jobs. I’m cautious though, and urge you to be careful when taking on a job that promises to share the money earned

What Revenue Share Means

Revenue share in a general sense means the author of a web site or other venture pays the author out of profits. More specifically, in this day and age, revenue share speaks to a percentage of the money the owner of a website earns through Google Ad Sense or some other advertising network.

Google and others have made it incredibly easy for website owners to earn at least small money from their sites and blogs, which in turn, makes it fairly easy for that owner to share the revenue earned.

Deb Ng did an article back in March of 2009 called Earning Money as a Blogger: The Truth About Rev Shares; there she also suggests caution.

Base Plus Share

I’ve had pretty good luck with such arrangements. It’s not dissimilar from royalties on books actually. Way back when at About.com, I made some decent money on a base plus revenue share. A similar arrangement at b5media worked for quite awhile. Both led to some additional opportunities and I’m glad I did both. Finding gigs that pay a base salary plus a share isn’t easy, however. My sense is there aren’t as many around as there once were.

However, I’m really careful. Just as I rarely will take on a book ghostwriting project for even part of the pay plus royalties, I want to be as sure as possible that my efforts will result in significant revenue. That means I have to be interested in the topic, and not only feel secure about the company, but reasonably certain they will market themselves and me well.

Marketing is always the key to making money on these deals. While I know I’ll have to do some, I want my efforts to be well and truly backed up.

Revenue share isn’t for everyone, and the good gigs offering revenue share are far and few between, but they can work.

Have you ever written for a share of the revenue? Tell us about it.


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{ 19 comments… add one }
  • I haven’t done any of those and I don’t want to. It sounds funny to me. I’m doing all right with my current content gig and they pay for each article as soon as it’s approved. It’s just a bit of extra money at this point.
    Elizabeth West recently posted..These Are a Few of My Favorite BooksMy Profile

  • TC

    I wrote an article on the 25th anniversary of the Challenger Disaster for distribution on Yahoo! last month. Adding my up-front payment and my revenue/performance based payments, I made about $80 for a 500 word article.

    • TC, it could be a whole lot worse… good for you, and thanks for reporting.

  • I used to write for Epinions. I’ve earned something like $25 for 30 item reviews in 4 years, and almost half of that income is from 1 review. They’ve removed the item that 5 my reviews apply to without alerting me (so I don’t know when that happened), and a few reviews have been reapplied to the wrong item. I can’t figure out how to contact them about it, either, except through the forums, where they aren’t answering me.

    That said, I know it’s possible to get a decent residual income from that sorta thing. I just don’t want to write a few thousand reviews to get there. If I’m going to write that much for free, it’s going to be for my own blog, where I don’t have to share the revenue. Or I’ll write one of those niche e-book ideas I have.

    I remember traffic going up for my song review blog after I tied my music album posts on Epinions, so I might do that, or if I need to somewhere to put a review I’ve written. (Like if I’m raving about something on a forum, I might as well compile all that and see if I can’t get a few cents for it.)

    Overall, though, I don’t think I’ll take another revenue sharing job unless there’s a base pay with it, too.

  • Hi Anne.

    I signed up with Suite101 a while back and wrote several articles for them before realizing that I’d be putting in a lot of work for the amount of pay I may or may not receive. I forgot the exact number, but they wanted at least 10 or so articles, basically on spec, which would then supposedly turn into big money makers with the revenue sharing program.

    I have yet to see a dime from them, which is why I don’t write for them anymore.

    Frankly, like many of you, I’m suspicious of how they report such revenues, and don’t recommend them.

    Thanks for your blog, Anne! I’m working to get my toe in the door of freelance writing (I do SEO content stuff right now, less commitment because I have other income streams starting up too!). It’s intimidating, sometimes, to apply for jobs when there are so many more experienced people out there!


  • Dan

    Hi, Anne:

    I do have my own blog that I use to advertise for one of my freelance businesses, providing ghost blogs to real estate agents. (Again, specializing in writing about residential real estate seemed like a really good idea a few years ago!)

    As far as starting my own blog that I can monetize with Adsense and other avenues? I’ve thought about it. Up until now, I’d been nice and busy with print work. But this might be a good time to think about the option a bit harder.

    Thanks again, Anne, for visiting my site.


    Dan’s last blog post..Examining Examiner.com

  • admin

    Good to see you here Dan… I asked on your site, your post, why you don’t just start your own blog?

  • For the suspicious folks on this thread, I’d love to suggest a new topic — freelance job boards. Have I got a conspiracy theory to tell you.


  • Dan

    I wonder about these revenue-sharing sites, too. Unfortunately, with so many of my regular print-magazine clients going out of business or not accepting pitches these days — I specialize in writing about residential real estate, which is suddenly not the topic to work in — I’ve been dipping my toe in the revenue-sharing sites, places like Suite 101 and Examiner.com. So far I’ve made very little. But we’ll see.

    If I can make a plug here, I’ve just started writing about my experiences with these sites — I just started this blog yesterday — at a blog I’ve so cleverly titled Content Writing Madness. I believe you can find a link to my latest post down below.

    Actually, Anne inspired a bit to write about my experiences. I enjoyed her posts a bit ago about her efforts to make money at the sites.

    Dan’s last blog post..Is life sweet at Suite 101?

  • admin

    Devon, I’ll follow up this week, promise. Thanks for the reminder.

  • PS Further to that topic, do you have an update on the articles you wrote for those three sites a few months back? I’m curious how you found your experience with them, and if you’ve continued writing for them.

    Devon Ellington’s last blog post..Friday, March 27, 2009

  • When the bills and the landlord accept “revenue share” as THEIR pay, I’ll accept revenue share as MY pay. Otherwise, in my opinion, it’s just a rip off.

    I am paid for my work; if it’s going to keep on paying, as the book sand plays do, it’s a royalty.

    Devon Ellington’s last blog post..Friday, March 27, 2009

  • I believe in what Reagan said (just the one thing): “Trust but verify.” 🙂

  • Revenue share is a ripoff. They want free labor. And they make it difficult to even understand their operation. Revenue share is the worst idea so far. There’s even a new site – can’t remember the name – that you listed in the job listings, that wants writers for revenue share, then 30 days later, writers have to pay them inorder to continue to post!

  • admin

    You’re welcome Greg. I hear you Michelle,
    Jonathan, you don’t, or not easily. Sometimes the contract will state you can examine the books annually or some such, but in practical terms, you don’t really have a good way to know. Revenue share isn’t for the suspicious, that’s for sure.

  • How do you know they’re reporting their revenue accurately? That would be a deal-breaker for me…

  • I have but I tend to stay away from those types now.

    Michelle Kafka’s last blog post..What Key Factors Can Inventors Teach Freelancers?

  • Great post, Anne. Thanks for the mention 🙂

    I think this was a great way of elucidating the subtleties in my original comment. They’re not all bad, of course. I think it’s good to take these ads with a healthy dose of skepticism — just as with all jobs, frankly.

    Greg’s last blog post..Getting Things Done: Someday/Maybe

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