Last week I wrote a post critical of revenue sharing sites. I maintained that, generally speaking, writing for sites like Associated Content, Bukisa, ListMyFive, Infobarrel and the like yielded a poor return on a writer’s investment of time and energy.
Some commenters argued that revshare sites were a credible “first step” for new freelancers. A few maintained that it was possible to generate a sizeable passive revenue stream via revshare contributions. I’m still convinced that my position is correct in most cases and I may eventually get around to answering some elements of those objections in future posts.
This post, however, will address another set of comments. More than one reader remarked that it would be nice to hear about some alternatives to revshare operations. I thought that was a more than valid request. While a pure critique may have value, it’s almost always better to combine one’s attack on one option with a workable alternative.
So, if you think I might just be right about the limited utility of revenue sharing sites, here are a few things you might want to do instead. Consider these options the next time you’re about to tap out another article in hopes of capturing a percentage of someone else’s ad revenue.
Build and Improve Your Own Writing Property
If you don’t have your own website, you should. If you’re serious about establishing yourself as a credible freelancer, you should have some presence on the web. Obviously, the quality and scope of that presence will be even more important if you plan to focus on ‘Net-based markets. Your site is a means by which people can find you, learn more about you, discover your skills and contact you. It’s important.
Consider spending some of the time you’d otherwise dedicate to revshare contributions to building or improving your existing website and related elements of your online presence. Admittedly, these efforts don’t directly generate revenue. However, they do create the foundation you need to secure better gigs. In the longer term, it’s a much better investment than revshare work.
Build and Improve Your Own Other Properties
Instead of funneling your awesome articles to a non-appreciative revenue sharing site, keep ’em for yourself. Build a site or blog dedicated to whatever non-writing topic that happens to trip your trigger or in which you have expertise. If you’d love to be a subject matter writing specialist, hone in on that subject area.
You can buy a domain for under ten bucks. You can get hosting for under five bucks per month. It’s free to install and use WordPress if you’d like. It’s a teeny tiny investment that can really pay off. Even if you’re not interested in aggressively promoting and monetizing the site, you can still point potential clients to your work, making it a showcase for your writing skills and knowledge base. If you do put forth a little effort, you can probably start earning just as much from your posts to your own site as you can with your revshare submissions.
Spend the Time Marketing Yourself or Pursuing Paying Gigs
Tom Chandler, the head honcho at The Copywriter Underground, recently commented on a post at my site. The rant in question objected to the way people automatically tend to make assumptions about one’s position on all freelance writing issues based on one’s position with respect to a single topic. I illustrated my complaint by referencing some of the comments left at my anti-revshare post. In his comment, Tom made a point about the world of lower-paying gigs that certainly applies to writing for revenue sharing outlets:
I firmly believe that investing the same time spent writing $10 articles in new biz development (cold calls, client searches, etc) offers better ROI down the road.
He’s right, too. In most cases, the return on smart self-marketing has the potential swamp the value of revshare contributions other lower paying gigs. If you’re ready to give up on collecting fractions of Adsense clicks, you might want to spend your time working to secure more substantial opportunities.
Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I think lower-paying options are a mistake for all people under all circumstances. That will probably become clear as I keep moving through my list, but I just wanted to point that out.
Take a Crappy Writing Job or Two
The alternatives presented thus far don’t directly put cash in the coffers and I know that’s an issue for many people. If you’re ready to give up on the revshare game but aren’t ready to wait to bring in at least some cash, reach out and take a few gigs that don’t pay particularly well.
If you do, you’ll make some money. Not much, but it will be as much as you’d make with revenue sharing contributions in the short run (actually, it will actually be a little more). Plus, it will give you something you don’t get by writing for the revshare sites–a real human contact on the other end of the transaction.
If you’re completely new to the game, the process of working with an individual will help you get experience with client communication, invoicing and all of the other processes that will become a part of your freelance writing business. That low payer may be willing to spend more money with you when he or she sees how damn awesome you are. He or she may spread the word to others who could use a writer. He or she can certainly write a positive review or testimonial you can use in your own marketing efforts. The nickel and dime material you write will show up somewhere, and you’ll be able to point future prospective clients in its direction. And trust me–those articles will carry as much, if not more cache, with future potential clients than something tossed up at AC or Infobarrel.
A few el cheapo gigs can put a foot in the door while dropping a little change in your pocket. The gigs at the shallow end of the rate pool may not be what you want in the long run, but if you need a few quick bucks and something that passes for experience, they’re probably better than an article at Bukisa.
Those low-pay gigs aren’t hard to find. If anything, they might be too easy to find. The Internet marketing forums are crawling with potential clients and Craigslist is overflowing with “I need ten articles about _____”-style clients.
Work for a Slightly Better Mill
Instead of writing revshare articles, you could always write for a content mill that pays you a little more than the potential of future money. It will only take you about thirty seconds to find a year’s supply of articles and blog posts decrying sites like Demand Studios and other pay-per-piece content mills. I’m not interested in answering the complaints. I’m not interested in defending this option, either.
This option and snagging a few lower-paying gigs may not be great ideas for everyone. Some folks may benefit more from some of the other ideas. I’m just saying that it makes more sense than writing for most of the revenue sharing sites.
Volunteer Your Talents
If your goal is experience and an opportunity to create materials you can use to prove your competency to others, consider volunteering your writing talents to make the world a better place. Offer someone engaged in a charitable pursuit a little pro bono copy.
No, it doesn’t pay. Then again, revshare doesn’t usually pay much. You’ll be trading a little hunk of dough for a much heftier hunk of feeling good, I guess. Oh, and pointing others toward this material will undoubtedly work better than showing them your ListMyFive posts.
I was going to put “Try Your Hand at Affiliate Marketing” on the list, but decided it wasn’t a great fit. Even stripped down versions of so-called “bum” article marketing strategies require a great deal of non-writing work. It’s a credible option for those who want to learn how to make it work, but it just didn’t feel like it was part of the same world, so to speak. That applies to a few other online moneymaking plans that involve content production, as well.
Well, there you have ‘em–a few alternatives to writing for revshare sites for new writers. I think they’re all credible alternatives to using your professional skills to supply user-generated content to sites willing to pay you only a fraction of the ad revenue they generate and that have so many other shortcomings.
This is good advice. I have yet to land a real writing gig, but thinking on it I simply don’t have the experience. I can use this advice a great deal. Thank you very much.
Danielle McGaw says
Great advice as always Carson. I have never understood why some writers do not see the value in having their own site. Not just a site, but a blog, where they can express themselves, demonstrate knowledge and the ability to be professional, and of course, show off their skills.
I got my start with Demand Media Studios about 2 years ago. Technically I’m still a writer for them, even though I barely ever even log in anymore.
-You get paid to produce writing samples.
-When you apply for other gigs, you actually have a semi-reputable place to send potential “employers” to read your stuff.
-If I ever hit a dead spot in the month (which hasn’t happened in awhile, thankfully) I can fill it with Demand articles
-If you write enough for them, you can get discounted health insurance plans through them
-The editors there are seriously the most picky I’ve ever dealt with. And I write copy, press releases, and SEO articles for LOTS of companies. So yeah, it gets old when various editors have different expectations.
-$15 an article isn’t a ton of money. But it’s also better than $0 an article.
Wow, this comment is almost an entire blog post itself. Maybe I should have posted this on my blog instead, haha.
Another excellent post Carson. While I still think that rev-share sites have merit (and value) for new writers who are developing their skills these are some good “next step” options to consider.
I don’t know about “taking a crappy writing job or two”. Working for someone on Craigslist who wants to pay you $3 for 10 500-word articles (“which should only take about half an hour to write, max,” as they usually post) will probably not give you any experience with professional invoicing and client communication, and will probably not result in anything you want for your portfolio.
When I began branching into copywriting, I cut my rates (my own fault) to ensure a local partner would work with me. Yes, he swung me quite a few gigs and I ended up with clips for my website, but the reputation I ended up getting locally was as a fantastic copywriter who would work for peanuts. I am still trying to transition out of the rep I gave myself with that strategy.
Building your own website is a great idea. Instead of crap Craigslist jobs, however, I would volunteer to write for a charitable organization or friends or family who have small businesses. It definitely won’t pay or won’t pay much, but it’s more likely to result in something you’d be proud to put your name on. Plus, you can practice your admin skills — I did a walk through of all my accounting software and admin practices with charity/family/friend clients, giving them a heavy discount/promo price on the final line.
This is an excellent article. I’m already researching starting a website or blog using WordPress. I’m new at this — which is better, a website or blog?
Once again, your rev-share nay sayers don’t offer any PROOF as to why it doesn’t work. Do we have to harp on you guys every time you claim it doesn’t work? I make $80 per month on AC and write one, maybe TWO articles a month. This is actually a very common income on AC. Instead of just blowing off websites for sucking, why don’t you actually interview the people who actually do well on these websites to find out their tips and secrets for succeeding? That would be a such a helpful, insightful article…unlike your article which is more full of fluff and boring, long, passive paragraphs.
Oh, and I didn’t come here to read Carol Tice 2.0, I came here to read good content. It’s really, really sad that you’ve degraded Deb Ng’s wonderful website to this inane drivel. This article contained few facts, few statistics, but a lot of fluff I can’t imagine Ng in her prime would ever, ever publish. It’s really sad. But I’m sure you don’t care because you’re getting your pageviews anyway.
Radhika M says
Thanks for the alternatives list. There are some that can work for me, and some that can’t work for me.
Firstly, after reading the other article, I tried to think up some other ways than revshare sites. Luckily, the one possibility I thought of was first on this list. Though my website makes me no money (Blog.com puts advertisements on it), according to what you say, it’ll build my web presence, which is what I’m searching for in the early years of my career (basically until I’m 16~18).
About the low-paying jobs. I’ve been searching a bit, not on Craigslist, but after I post this comment, I suppose I’ll search there, for jobs that don’t necessarily require anything. All of the jobs that seem relevant to me, and things I can do (and pay quite low, by the way) still require 3+ samples + a resume, which is initially why I wanted to go to revshare sites. So, if you could clear this up with me, I’d be thankful.
Lastly, where can you find volunteer opportunities? I’d love to volunteer to get my name out, but there is an inability to find anything other than posting on my own website.
This was so unorganized, but I’m trying to put down everything I have to say without losing my thoughts, I apologize.
Tel Asiado says
Hi Carson, Great alternatives as deviation from rev share writing. I’ve not only been thinking about this seriously the recent past months, but slowly, trying to work on it… see how it goes. Thanks!