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Assessing Writing Projects – A Guest Article

success failure for writersA disturbing trend in today’s freelance market is writers who do not look beyond the first glance at a project. One of the hottest topics circulating at any given time is regarding rates, and how they are “too low”, according to some of the so-called professionals. Unfortunately, many of these individuals fail to take into consideration the overall picture as a whole.

The ability to look at a project and study it from all angles is a gift, and one that not all of us are blessed with naturally. Luckily, learning how to approach things analytically is a trained skill that simply requires a little bit of practice before it becomes a routine that will transform your earnings from mediocre to downright amazing.

At first glance, places like eHow, Pure Content, Demand Studios, and (insert random content mill here) might appear to be low-paying markets. Content sites often pay either residually or they pay up-front fees that many writers who have been in the industry for awhile tend to sneer down their noses at and label with terms such as “low paying”. But once you go beyond the surface scan the math proves there is a veritable gold-mine of wealth just waiting for you to claim.

I owned and operated a ceramic tile and natural stone company specializing in high-end residential projects in Colorado prior to becoming a freelance writer. I am a third generation craftsman and my family has literally done hundreds of millions of dollars of work across the United States over the past 70 years. One thing I was taught early on was to never, ever give a client a bid based purely upon the square footage of a project, because it is impossible to judge a project based upon the square footage alone. There are a wide variety of other factors that can become part of the equation. With remodels in particular it becomes even more critical to look at a project from every angle because it is impossible to judge at first glance what the project will entail. What’s beneath the old surface? Will you have to remove the carpet? Do you have to remove the appliances? Are the floorboards/studs rotten? Will you need to replace the sinks/baseboards/toilets/etc.? Do you have to transport trash off-site, or will the client take care of it? Can you only work at nights?

If I were to walk into a person’s house and give them a price based purely upon the square footage of the project I would be shooting myself in the foot, because it is impossible to know every aspect of the project from simply the “first glance”, regardless of your status as a veteran or newbie. In the same breath it is vitally important to look at content writing more closely, so that you can see the potential beneath it all. Things are never as simple as a “per word” or “per article” rate, as some of the so-called professionals would have you believe.

As you can see from articles like Is it possible to make $100,000 a year writing for a content site?, Driving a Porsche…from your eHow earnings, and Smart Passive Income’s eHow earnings sheet, simple mathematics that any grade school student can perform prove that places like eHow and Demand Studios can actually be extremely lucrative… if you are willing to look beyond the so-called low-paying labels attached to them by many of the “professionals” in the freelance community. No one in their right mind considers 100k a year to be a low-paying salary. In fact, many working professionals with specialized degrees don’t make that kind of money.

The art of making 100k+ a year writing content lies in understanding the market as a whole, and being able to see the entire picture laid out in front of you, rather than limiting yourself to a quick scan. Remember, the math doesn’t lie. If you stick to what you know and write within your niche, those 5/10/15 dollar articles can turn into 40/50/60 dollar per-hour jobs.   Rather than limit yourself to the first-glance viewpoint, start looking at projects through a wide-angle lens. I guarantee you will find yourself pleasantly surprised when those paychecks start coming in.

T.W. Anderson is the founder of Complete Writing Solutions. In addition to providing writing services, the organization also consults with freelance writers to help them find their place in the market.

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{ 42 comments… add one }
  • Chamalla:

    Sorry for taking so long to get back to you 🙂 The easiest answer to your question is to head on over to my website and read this article (http://www.completewritingsolutions.com/2009/12/what-is-success-and-how-do-i-achieve-it/)

    I write content for the paycheck. I write fiction for the art. I make a distinct separation between the two. I’ve actually been debating selling my fiction in 2010 under a pseudonym to further separate the two. I liken it to what Sir Laurence Olivier had to say about theater versus film. He did films for the paycheck and theater for his passion/art.

    I look forward to hearing more of your comments over at the main site!
    .-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..The niches you didn’t even know you had =-.

    • Also, Chamella…I forgot to add 🙂

      I’m proud of 100% of my work. That’s why I link everything I write on the website. I have absolutely nothing to hide. I urge you to head on over to the site and check out the testimonials section and contact any of my many clients (including the leads at the content sites I work for) to hear how happy they are with my work.

      At the end of the day everyone’s vision of what is “quality” is different. All that really matters is if I’m proud of my work, my clients are happy with my work, and I continue earning a paycheck for what I love doing. I’m accomplishing all of that and more, so as far as I’m concerned, I’m successful. But don’t take my word for it! Go ahead and contact some of my past clients and find out for yourself!
      .-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..The niches you didn’t even know you had =-.

  • chamalla

    TW – how much of the writing you do for content sites are you really, really proud of? If you can research, write, edit and proof 4 500wd articles in 60 minutes, how much effort do you put in to create something you think is worth reading? Do you write for an audience or do you write for a paycheck?

    I respect your choice, and you are certainly correct in your oft repeated statement “There are many paths to success!” but I think perhaps you define success differently than the Oldster Writers you seem to think so little of. To you, success is the money that adds up in your bank account; to them, it’s the satisfaction in knowing every piece of work they put out into the world is the very best they can create.

    When I get the impression you love words and language and the ART of writing as much as you love talking about churning out as much as you can as fast as you can, I think I can take your arguments a bit more seriously.

  • alex

    I find it really hilarious that people who claim to be making $100K a year on freelance writing flog their links on Linked-In and guest post on little-known blogs. Wouldn’t they be using their time to rake in more of that easy dough? Everyone is an “expert” on the Internet. Be careful who you listen to. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.

    • Hi, Alex, thanks for taking the time to comment 🙂

      If you take the time to read my post, you will notice I never said that I personally make 100k. I simply show it is possible to do so using purely content sites.

      I’m proud of the work I’ve done over the last two years. As you can see from the testimonials at my website, I excel at what I do. In fact, I would urge anyone who doubts my credibility to simply hop on over, check out the testimonials section, and contact any of the people referenced. You can also check out some of my published clips via the bio page.

      You will also notice that I split my time between fiction writing and content writing, and that I’ve only been doing this for two years. In those two years I have managed to accomplished an amazing amount of success doing things in a very non-traditional manner, simply based upon the quality of my work and my reliability to turn a deadline, write quality content, and give my clients exactly what they want…content sites or traditional clients alike.

      Sometimes things really are as simple as they sound. In fact, I’m more than happy to offer you a consultation, on the house, and show you exactly which steps you can make towards bettering your own career 🙂 Hope to talk to you soon!
      .-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..The niches you didn’t even know you had =-.

  • Who wants to do that? T.W., of course!

    Carol
    .-= Carol Tice´s last blog ..More on ‘The Day The Content Mills Died’ =-.

  • Joe

    The article made me roll my eyes. Sure, theoretically, if you grind out enough $5 articles, you can make $100,000 a year. But show me one actual person who is sitting down and writing an article every six every minutes, eight hours a day, five days a week, 50 weeks a year. And beyond that, even if someone had the ability to do that (which I doubt), how many people would want to turn themselves into content mills? Who wants to spend their days and lives grinding out an endless stream of crap as rapidly as they can, knowing if you take 8 minutes instead of 6 minutes your profit margin goes to hell? It sounds like a simply horrible life to me.

  • “Remember, the math doesn’t lie.”

    I’d comment on this at length, Anne, but my BS detector just bent its needle. It’s still on warranty, and if I hurry, I can get it to UPS before they close.
    .-= jorgekafkazar´s last blog ..Tenirax, Ch V =-.

  • AML

    Comment for Anne:
    TW’s efforts here are clearly a form of infomercial, and I have to express my disappointment with it. I’ve been a long-time subscriber to your newsletter (followed you from About.com) and have often benefited from your job lists. I truly appreciate how much work you put in to About Freelance Writing and I hate to say it, but this is where we will part company.

    Consider how much time all of these writers have invested in this conversation. What could we all have been doing to promote our businesses instead? TW is right about one thing (or maybe more, I don’t care to do the analysis): You are the only one who can create your success. Stop wasting your time sparring with the TWs of the world, and invest it in your own goals.

    Thanks for everything Anne.

    • Anne

      Oh my. Some like TW’s article… see comments, others hate it. I disagree it’s an infomercial for his services, and if it is, it’s in the wrong place. This is an unlikely place to sell writing services.

      As far as the time invested by others in this conversation, I agree. There are probably better ways to spend time. OTOH, I think the discussion here and elsewhere about so-called content mills is probably important. I’m going to blog about that.

      Sorry to lose you.

    • So because you don’t like or agree with what someone says, you assume it’s an infomercial and then leave a website of which you’re a long-time reader? These writers chose to invest their time in this conversation because they wanted to. This guy is not the reason they didn’t spend time marketing their businesses; no one forced them to debate. I just can’t believe some people get so up in arms about a subject simply because they disagree…
      .-= Autumn´s last blog ..Take Your Writing Destiny into Your Own Hands During Downtime =-.

  • Star

    ..Driving a Porsche…from your eHow earnings.

    So you flak for eHow, TW?

  • The bottom line for me is this – I choose to make much more for my work than you do. Period. You’re content with $15 an article. I get $1,500 for the same article. As long as we both sleep well, who cares?

    I simply sleep on Egyptian cotton. 😉
    .-= Lori´s last blog ..The Raw Deals Just Keep on Coming…. =-.

  • More on this topic at my site: More on “The Day The Content Mills Died.”

    http://caroltice.com/blog/30

    Carol
    .-= Carol Tice´s last blog ..What to Do About Low-Pay Writing Job Ads =-.

  • I think you mistake what I and other writers on here are trying to tell you, T.W. Your math does not add up. “Writing” 7 articles an hour isn’t an activity that can be discussed in the same sentence with building a solid, sustainable writing career. How many hours can you do that for, before you’re done with it?

    And now you seem to be talking from a place of great ignorance about the world of paid writing that existed prior to the 21st Century. Since you weren’t part of it, let me fill you in.

    We writers were never “the only writers on the block,” nor was work ever “funneled” to us. We went out and got assignments, just like we do today. And getting good rates was always a challenge.

    Though I have 12 years of staff writing and four years of freelance work on my resume, I’m nobody’s “yesterday” writer — my highest earning year ever was this year. And I’m sure other pros who’ve weighed in here would agree.

    There is absolutely no one in the Third World who can do what I do. Your premise that now that the Internet is everywhere, writing will all be for $1 an article is ridiculous, and belied by the many of us who continue to earn professional rates. Certainly, writing about how to feed your dog is never going to pay well again…but you seem to have a narrow lens on one tiny part of the writing universe. Most of what would have been considered professional writing in the past hasn’t changed much. Most corporations still need authoritative, well-researched content on their sites, and still pay well for it. Many magazines continue to pay $1 a word or more. Content sites have not abolished the rest of the freelance world, they’ve created a new underworld beneath it.

    All you’ve done with this thread is convince me more than ever that content mills are not a viable option for serious writers. As I recall you were on here bragging a week or so back that you make a $50K annual income, all from content mills…but on further examination you actually say hey, in fact that’s only one of your income streams. So how much DO you make from content mills alone?

    The idea that you’re consulting with writers on their careers, after a big year or two at it, is mind-blowing. Must be a short session, since all you seem to have to say is “write for content sites and you’ll make lots of money.”

    If only it were true, but the contact I’ve had with many writers now is that for most, content mills are not providing anything like a viable income. Few can write 4 articles or more an hour; even fewer want to.

    Your story doesn’t seem to add up. Maybe you can enlighten us. Simple mathematics show content mills CAN be a good source of income…on paper. The reality, we’re not so sure about.

    Carol Tice
    http://www.caroltice.com
    http://Twitter.com/TiceWrites
    .-= Carol Tice´s last blog ..What to Do About Low-Pay Writing Job Ads =-.

  • I don’t see anything wrong with having several venues to work with. Most of my clients pay me different rates, depending on the work. Some pay me $10 or $15 per article, and I can write anywhere from 2-4 per hour. Others pay me much more, but I enjoy them all equally. I have so many clients (a few of which are content sites) and subjects to write about, I never get bored, and I rarely run out of money. While I don’t expect to make $100,000 per year as a freelance writer right now, I do make enough to pay my bills, own a new house, and have some to save.

    I’ve realized it’s not necessarily up to other people to pay me a certain amount. It would be nice, but I can’t depend on that right now. It’s up to me to learn how to make my current projects work for me, so I’ve learned to simply work faster. I do refuse to work for revenue generated sites that offer no upfront pay since there is no guarantee that I will be paid for my time, but I have no problem working for sites that have unlimited articles available and that pay within days. I love that kind of flexibility.

    I really don’t see the debate here. If you don’t like content mills, don’t write for them. If something is below my pay rate, I just don’t apply. I don’t think those accepting $5 articles are driving down the market; I think if they do not produce quality, it will become obvious to site owners that they need to pay more to get what they want. On the other hand, if the people writing $5 articles are giving site owners what they want, more power to them. Maybe the writers working for a few dollars per word will have to step up their game and be more competitive rather than looking down at those who are just trying to do their job and pay the bills while working from home.
    .-= Autumn´s last blog ..Take Your Writing Destiny into Your Own Hands During Downtime =-.

    • Thanks for your comment, Autumn!

      You know, rates are something I’ve touched on in previous topics over at my site (http://www.completewritingsolutions.com/2009/10/rates-what-determines-them/), and there are definitely a few things that writers need to factor into their equation when looking at how rates work.

      There is no such thing as standardized rates on a global basis. The main issue is that many of the traditional writers grew accustomed to being the only writers on the block during the years prior to the advent of global Internet. Clients were naturally funneled to them because of the way the system used to work. Now the Internet is found in almost every single country around the world, and the writers of yesterday are finding out that they are no longer kings of the hill, and that there are a great many people from all over the world who are capable of doing exactly what they do, and because they live in other countries or have different living expenses are able to do the work for much cheaper. You see it in every workplace, not just freelance writing. Many jobs in America are outsourced to other countries because the individuals there are just as qualified, just as educated, but can do the work for fractions of what it costs to hire an American/British writer. It’s natural for those people to be upset when they start seeing other people being successful in a market that they previously dominated by themselves.

      At the end of the day it comes back around again to “there are many paths to success.” Not all of them have my name on it. Not all of them have your name on it. Some of them work for people named Bob. Others work for that person over there, or this person sitting in the corner here. Content mills are another avenue that people can choose to pursue that can potentially be just as lucrative as traditional markets…if you have the niches, love writing about things, and have the gumption to go out there and take the bull by the horns 🙂

      Thanks again for your comment, and best of luck in your writing!
      .-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Driving a Porsche…from your eHow earnings. =-.

  • Amen, Jenn! I have many articles I write in an hour for $100. How’s that fit with the math, then, T.W.?

    Carol
    .-= Carol Tice´s last blog ..What to Do About Low-Pay Writing Job Ads =-.

    • It fits in great, Carol 🙂 Right in there with 100 dollars an hour that a person can make for Demand Studios when they can put out 7 articles in an hour (something I have personally done on more than one occasion when writing articles I am intimately familiar with).

      That’s the beauty of quick-and-easy articles at content sites, and exactly why they are so important for writers as a resource. When you can walk into a place and make 50+ dollars an hour without even batting an eye, without ever marketing, without ever querying, without ever doing anything remotely resembling work…well that’s just awesome 🙂

      It’s great to see your side of the story! The more options writers have, the better!
      .-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Driving a Porsche…from your eHow earnings. =-.

  • Hi, Carol 🙂

    Let me ask you a question. Do you only eat at one restaurant, and only one restaurant? Do you only take your kids to vacation to the same place every year, year after year? Do you only buy gas at the same gas station, every single time? Do you only shop at the same grocery store, every single time, regardless of what sales are going on? Do you only ever use the same travel agency when booking flights? Do you only ever use one single resource when looking at buying a house?

    The answer to that is simple: no. Everyone out there diversifies as much as possible 🙂 While I whole-heartedly believe in and support content sites, I also advocate all types of writing, not JUST content writing. There are a wide varieties for a writer to achieve success in the 21st century, and looking at the market as a WHOLE, rather than simply with tunnel-vision, is key to achieving the highest level of success possible.

    Absolutely head on over to my site 🙂 There are some fairly big plans in the work for 2010 as we continue to expand the brand that just launched in November of this year!
    .-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Driving a Porsche…from your eHow earnings. =-.

  • Assuming you’re a very fast writer with expertise in many hundreds of popular topics Web cruisers search on, your residuals model for content-site writing will work great. I just think the part you ignore, T.W., is that there aren’t many people who fit that description. Most of the people on content sites could earn more other ways, either from writing or something else entirely.

    I also invite everyone to visit T.W.’s site, “Complete Writing Solutions,” where despite his contant advocacy for an all-content-mill writing lifestyle, he is very actively prospecting for traditional clients. Wonder why that is, if this content-mill model works so well?

    Carol
    .-= Carol Tice´s last blog ..What to Do About Low-Pay Writing Job Ads =-.

  • “At the end of the day it simply boils down to each and every writer has a different method for success, and if at the end of the day two writers are achieving the same numbers, how they got there is irrelevant.”

    The problem is that you’re using the same faulty logic here that people constantly use: making an assumption that if an article pays more it must take a longer time to complete, so therefore you can easily make the same hourly rate. What you neglect is that there are plenty of gigs (for those who go out there and build their network and platform) paying far more than content mills per article for articles that still only take 20-60 minutes to write. Crunch those numbers again without the time assumption and basic business sense says you work a bit harder in the beginning to build the reputation and you’ll make far more in the long run. I’m just talking about basic Web content and blogging here… not even more detailed features. Another benefit of sticking to higher paying markets? You get to decide when to raise your rates to account for inflation, more experience, better credentials you’ve built, etc. A content mill isn’t going to start paying you more just because you deserve it a year down the road.
    .-= Jenn Mattern´s last blog ..Tough Mommies Work at Home =-.

    • Again, Jenn, you are certainly welcome to your opinion, but at the end of the day your way is not the only way to achieve success 🙂 In a global community where there are literally thousands of opportunities to choose from, content sites are one of many ways to achieve that success, when looked at with a wide-angle lens 🙂

      Thanks for your comment!
      .-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Driving a Porsche…from your eHow earnings. =-.

  • “Writer B writes 2 articles in 2 hours, and made 250 dollars per article. But in order to achieve the higher rate of pay he had to spend 3 hours marketing himself, researching a topic, and so on and so forth. By the time everything is said and done he still spent 5 hours “working” in order to achieve the 500 dollars for 5 hours.”

    This is incorrect. In the beginning you will have to spend some time marketing yourself–but if you work within a specialty area that you know well and you begin to have a presence in your industry you no longer need to market yourself and you don’t need to do much, if any, research. I have clients that have been with me over 9 months. Their weekly blog posts at $50 per pop take no more than 30 minutes to write because I know the content so well–in some cases they take 20 minutes. I average $100 an hour with them, I feel good about what I’ve done and I don’t have the pressure of cranking out 4 articles just to reach $60. Not to mention the aggravation of finding titles on the Demand list, dealing with CE’s, finding “sources” to reference that I don’t really need but they make me list, etc. Realistically, you could do the same amount of work you do with a content mill and get paid 3-4 times more and STILL crank out 4 articles an hour if you wanted to. It just doesn’t make sense that you would want to fight so hard to get paid so little. You have every right, obviously, it just doesn’t make any sense.

    Now, using your example above which does happen occasionally, let’s say that I do have to research something for 1 hour and write for another hour and end up making $60 per hour. During that time, you must write 8 articles. I have worked for each of the content mills and I have tried to write 4 articles per hour. It is more work–even when I’m writing about finance–than it is to research one simple piece and write it in a two hour time span. Not only does it get completely monotonous to attempt to throw down 4 articles an hour but there is no creative spark. No time taken to really think about all the different angles you can explore. No time to actually enjoy the process.

    As for your global economy, it’s unfortunate that you haven’t experienced the positive side of the global economy. My clients in India, Russia, Australia and China pay me the same rates I ask of my US clients (anywhere between .15 and ,35 per word)–and they often give me much more work. They want access to certain markets and they are willing to pay for an expert to deliver the quality content that opens those markets up for them.

    You keep mentioning “hobby” in your comments. If you are talking about hobby writing, then I do agree with you. If I were a hobbyist and not trying to support a family, I would choose the content mills because it’s relatively easy way to make a couple of extra bucks a week.

    In the end, the only thing that really upsets me about these discussions is the presentation of “facts” from one point of view that doesn’t seem to have and experience with the other side. I’ve done what you are doing T.W. and I’ve done what the content mill naysayers are doing. It’s better on the other side if you want a full time income. Does that mean they are all better writers than content mill writers? Absolutely not. But I’m going to have to say that it does mean they have better business sense than those who dig their heels into content mill promotion simply to protect their own pride.

    Oh, and yes, it is possible to make $100k a year in a content mill. I could probably do the same mowing lawns, digging ditches, working construction and doing all sorts of things that I don’t want to do. That doesn’t mean that working for content mills is a well thought out decision–and it doesn’t mean the content mill 100k took the same amount of effort and hours and offered the same satisfaction as the non content mill 100k.
    .-= Yo Prinzel´s last blog .. =-.

    • Thanks for your comment, Prinzel 🙂

      The crux of the idea is that, indeed, it is possible to make 100k a year doing a WIDE variety of different jobs, and using a wide variety of methods. The paths to success are multiple. What you consider the best for you is not always the best for the person down the street, and vice versa, and it’s important to look at ALL aspects of EVERY opportunity available to determine what is right for you. What is important is finding something that suits you as a writer, and for many people that is content writing.

      Best of luck in your writing!
      .-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Driving a Porsche…from your eHow earnings. =-.

      • Obviously people can make their own decisions, what I’m concerned about are those who try to present this as an apples to apples comparison.

        I have been freelancing for less than 2 years and I once believed the things that you are saying here–many people have made the same arguments and tried to discuss the global economy bringing rates down or tried to make this an old school/ new school argument. So when I worked for AC making $3 an article I thought, well, it’s the global economy and it’s the nature of content writing so I just have to get faster. Then I found Demand and thought–wow! I’m getting 5x as much for these articles! I’m going to be rich….then I branched out, found my own clients and found the real money. I realized how wrong it was for people who had no experience making decent money to present content mills as EQUAL to the effort, pay (hourly) and fulfillment of content writing for clients.

        Your argument leads me to believe that you have either never been paid more than content mill rates for your work or that you are purposely misrepresenting the differences in order to be right in your argument. I don’t think you are malevolent, so maybe you just haven’t had a good experience finding clients on your own. This is unfortunate and I can certainly see why you would then want to work only for content mills when you could be making more money in less time elsewhere. I mean, if you don’t have to do research to write about tile and natural stone care and you do 4 articles at Demand for $15 each every hour, why wouldn’t you want to take a month or two to build your platform in the industry (which doesn’t take long, believe me–within 48 hours of joining an industry forum I had decent clients) and charge private clients 2 or three times that amount during the same hour for the next 10 years? After having done both I can not understand your argument that it’s exactly the same.
        .-= Yolander Prinzel´s last blog .. =-.

        • Yolander:

          I would urge you to head on over to my site and take a look at the testimonials page. Believe me, I’m plenty busy with clients of my own between writing for content sites. While I can understand your incredulousness, I am definitely not misleading people. Everything I post is verifiable fact. (I hope you can see that I could very well say the same thing about YOUR post, and suggest that your “claims” are nothing more than lies, which is exactly what you are suggesting mine are.)

          In fact, my recent article on eHow was a direct result of a post made by Pat over at Smart Passive Income. The guy is 26 years old and cleared 203,000 USD last year…and eHow was one of his residuals. The link is up in the main article that these comments are a part of. It’s not just me who is showing how content writing is an absolutely valid method of earning a paycheck and in some cases can actually be more lucrative than traditional methods.

          Remember, there are many paths to success, and just because someone tells you that it’s impossible doesn’t mean it is 🙂 Thanks again for your comment!
          .-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Driving a Porsche…from your eHow earnings. =-.

          • It’s a shame you’ve decided to respond to my comment as though I was incredulous that you could make a living writing for content mills when I clearly stated not only that it was possible but that I had written for them myself. You aren’t exposing me to some brand new world that I refuse to see. I’m asking you to address the sensibility and practicality of doing so when writers can make more money for the same $15 posts they write at Demand in the same amount of time by writing for outside CM clients within their specialty.

            It is not the same to make $50 in 20-30 minutes with no marketing and no research as it is to make $15 in the same time frame. You continue to tell people that they must spend extra time marketing and researching every day if they decide not to work for content mills so they get the same hourly and, therefore, there is no difference. This is completely untrue.

            You are right on one point though, you certainly can say my “claims” are lies–of course, that would actually mean that you had not gotten paid more than content mill rates within your specialty–since if you had you would know that my claims are not lies…which I guess would actually prove me right since I can back up my claims…so that’s kinda weird.

            It would have been nice if you had taken this discussion in a direction that was different than all the other people who have already written about it. I guess I’m not surprised that the same old school/new school argument and “Global Economy” scare tactic just keep getting thrown around. It’s like Death Panels in the U.S. health care debate…and I think it has the same pointlessness. Good luck with your business TW. Thanks for at least trying to tackle the topic.
            .-= Yo Prinzel´s last blog .. =-.

  • You can insert whatever numbers you like, Lori 🙂 At the end of the day it simply boils down to each and every writer has a different method for success, and if at the end of the day two writers are achieving the same numbers, how they got there is irrelevant.

    If a writer is making 100 dollars per 500 word article and it takes him an hour to write it, he made 100 dollars.

    If another writer comes along and writes 5 articles @ 400 words each @ 20 dollars apiece in one hour, he still made 100 dollars in an hour.

    The amount of WORDS per hour is irrelevant. What is important is the end result, which is 100 dollars per hour. Each writer took an hour to get there. One wrote 2,000 words of content, while the other wrote 500 words of content, but each writer spent an hour doing so. Neither is different.

    That’s the beauty of content! In most cases it’s passion projects that people can do simply as an expression of their natural hobbies.
    .-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Driving a Porsche…from your eHow earnings. =-.

  • T.W., I spend an hour a week marketing. And I’m better rested. 😉

    Your math’s a bit askew. We don’t have two writers making $100 an article. We have one writer making that. The first writer is making $20 an article, requiring five times the output that the second writer is expending.

    Also, marketing is part of ALL writers’ business, or it certainly should be. So you can’t say that the writer charging $100 an article is doing any more than the writer who is charging $20 an article.

    Just so we’re clear:

    Writer A – $20 an article
    Writer B – $100 an article

    Raising the one writer’s pay to $250 per article defies your own logic, which states “those 5/10/15 dollar articles can turn into 40/50/60 dollar per-hour jobs. ”

    And if someone were making that much for an article ($250), we wouldn’t be having this discussion in the first place.
    .-= Lori´s last blog ..Healthcare for Freelancers =-.

  • Star

    I am one of the ones who decry these rates–because I know–not think, know–they are depressing all rates. Even $1 a word is a 1980 standard still being sought now. I agree with Carol…since we can compare notes on the internet, which was not really possible when many of us started out, let’s compare! Five bucks is not a good payment for anything!

    • Thanks for your reply, Star!

      I think a key note is looking at how many people focus on the “volume” of work. In other words, how many “words” do you have to put on paper to achieve X amount of dollars for the article.

      The amount of words is only a fraction of the equation. That is why it is vitally important to look at the broader picture. Will the article require research? Is it a fluff piece? Is it an article for the New York Times? Is it something for a newsletter? A guest blog post? A piece in your local non-profit’s quarterly publication?

      The volume of work is of importance, yes, but it is only one small part of the equation. It doesn’t matter if person A writes 5,000 words to achieve 500 dollars while person B writes 500 words to achieve that content if BOTH writers spent 5 hours “working” to achieve their results. At the end of the day they both put the same amount of effort in.
      .-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Driving a Porsche…from your eHow earnings. =-.

  • Thanks for your opinion, Carol!

    The best part about freelance writing is that there are MANY roads on the path to success. What works for one person might not work for another, and vice versa.

    It’s wonderful that you are having success on your own path, but remember, at the end of the day your way isn’t the only way, just as much as my way isn’t the only way. It’s up to the individuals in question as to which is the best route for them, and in the age of globalization where digital content is king, content sites are a great way (one of many) to make money doing something you love…your hobby!
    .-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Driving a Porsche…from your eHow earnings. =-.

  • T.W., one thing is true – things are never as simple as per-word or per-article.

    I’d be interested to hear your answer to this question – as someone who’s operated as a craftsman for a high-end residential services business, would you allow your client to say “I’m deciding what I’m paying you, but the more work you do, the more you can earn”? Suppose that rate were one-tenth what your company charges elsewhere? Would you take it?

    The issue isn’t that if I do my math correctly I can make big bucks. It’s the volume of work that’s required in order for me to make a decent rate. Let’s take an example of a writer who accepts $20 an article and wants to make $100 an hour. That’s five articles, right? Now let’s look at a writer who wants to earn that same $100 an hour, but starts with a base rate of – you guessed it – $100 an article. If that writer is writing the same five articles, I think the math is pretty clear.

    I’ve considered the overall picture. I’ve been doing this for long enough to know when a deal is a raw one. No matter how it’s justified, $5 or even $20 an article for quality articles is entirely too low. I’ve managed just fine without these types of offers, and I’ve demanded better rates for myself and have built a long list of clients who pay for the quality I deliver.

    • Hi, Lori!

      The easiest way to answer your question is using math 🙂

      Let’s say Writer A works for a content site and writes 1 article an hour for 100 dollars per article. Let’s say he writes for 5 hours a day. That’s 500 dollars for 5 hours worth of work.

      Writer B writes 2 articles in 2 hours, and made 250 dollars per article. But in order to achieve the higher rate of pay he had to spend 3 hours marketing himself, researching a topic, and so on and so forth. By the time everything is said and done he still spent 5 hours “working” in order to achieve the 500 dollars for 5 hours.

      At the end of the day BOTH writers made 500 dollars for 5 hours worth of “work”. Each made the same amount of money, even though one of them “wrote” for 5 hours while the other only “wrote” for 2 hours (but spent 3 hours researching/marketing/etc.)

      Remember, there are many paths to success 🙂
      .-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Driving a Porsche…from your eHow earnings. =-.

      • “Writer B writes 2 articles in 2 hours, and made 250 dollars per article. But in order to achieve the higher rate of pay he had to spend 3 hours marketing himself, researching a topic, and so on and so forth. By the time everything is said and done he still spent 5 hours “working” in order to achieve the 500 dollars for 5 hours.”

        Except that those who write this type of article for a lot more per article generally are hired for their authority status in a niche — they’re not people who have to invest more time into research, they can invest less. They’re also the writers who don’t have to actively market very much because their schedule tends to be consistently filled by regular clients and natural referrals without direct promotion on the writer’s part. Any way you cut it, specializing and building a reputation that leads to natural demand leads to more money more consistently. It’s fine to crunch the numbers. Just make sure you’re looking realistically at the factors rather than assuming you’re going to be the exception to the rule.
        .-= Jenn Mattern´s last blog ..Tough Mommies Work at Home =-.

        • Thanks for your reply, Jenn.

          It’s natural for traditional writers to feel threatened by the new wave of content writers who are showing up on the scene and making as much as (and in some cases, as we saw in the recent thread over at FWJ, more than) veteran writers who have been doing it one way and ONLY one way for years.

          The beauty of the 21st century is that there are MANY paths to success, and content sites offer one of those avenues. The other amazing opportunity that many people fail to appreciate when looking for work is that we are looking at a GLOBAL pool of employers these days, not just employers localized to a single, regional area.

          My clients are from all over the globe. Australia, the Netherlands, California, the UK, Taiwan, Bulgaria, just to name a few. That’s the amazing thing about the Internet. You can find work in all sorts of places, and there are content sites AND clients all over the world looking for talent to create content for their needs.

          Just make sure you are looking realistically at the global factors rather than assuming you are the exception to the rule 🙂
          .-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Driving a Porsche…from your eHow earnings. =-.

  • Your math leaves out a few key facts, T.W., including that it’s the rare writer who can create 150 useful articles on popular search topics each and every month, that will get enough clicks to add up to income. You need to have the right expertise and loads of it for this scheme to end up paying off. Also, these sites periodically go bust, and all the residual income evaporates. It’s happened before, and will again. I believe the number of writers on the sites making a decent income are few and far between — which is probably why none of them to date have been willing to state average annual revenue earned by their writers.

    I discourage my mentees from investing time in these sites. If you have no clips whatever and need a couple of quick links to send prospective clients to, they’re useful for that…but to me, that’s the limit of their usefulness.

    Because of the generally poor quality reputation of the content on these sites (see this: http://www.writersweekly.com/the_latest_from_angelahoycom/005741_12022009.html), even if your pieces are top-notch, it doesn’t enhance your writing career or credibility to pile hundreds of your articles onto the content sites.

    If writers want residual income from not doing anything, they can blog and build traffic on their own sites, monetize them with ads, and keep all the revenue. Can be a better strategy. Or just get off your duff, and prospect for good-paying clients. It’s not that hard, doesn’t really take “hours and hours,” and really pays off — I’m fully booked to the end of the year with mostly $1 a word work, and know others in a similar boat.

    Carol Tice
    http://www.caroltice.com
    http://Twitter.com/TiceWrites
    .-= Carol Tice´s last blog ..What to Do About Low-Pay Writing Job Ads =-.

    • Anne

      TW and Carol… I would say it depends on the length of the articles and how many can be done top of the head. I could generate 150 500 word articles on the writing business in a month – you guys watch me do it all the time. I could do something similar in a couple of other areas, and maybe will try it.

      Different strokes for different folks to use a cliche that works in this situation.

  • Thanks for the reply, Jane! And thanks doubly to Anne for letting me do a guest post here!

    I think that’s another aspect of content writing that I love so much. It can either be a fill-in for times when you are querying for work from other markets, OR it can be a completely reliable full-time job, if you want it to be.

    The best part about content writing is you get to choose the topics you work on, which means it’s never really work. Do you consider watching American Idol work? How about playing cards? A video game? Taking a trip to Rome, or Paris? None of those things are work.

    Guess what? All of those things are niches which YOU could be writing in, making a paycheck for a content site somewhere who needs you to talk about your passion for (insert your hobby here). And once you start writing about the things you really enjoy, you suddenly start getting paid for your hobbies, which is awesome 🙂
    .-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Driving a Porsche…from your eHow earnings. =-.

  • I have to admit that this is one of the best posts I’ve seen ever since this whole Rates Discussion started. So first of all: thank you for posting it and providing us with yet another POV.

    Personally,I don’t make a secret of the fact that I do write for those “content mills”. I do so,because it’s less stressful and with everything I have on my plate at the moment, I don’t want to spend hours upon hours on research. But at the same time, I’m not limiting myself to “content mills” (Helium’s my favourite, at the moment) because I want to try new things and find out what venue works best for me (I’m hoping it would be a mixture of active and passive income, to be honest).

    Once again, thanks for this article!
    .-= Jane´s last blog ..Recovering from November – update =-.

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