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.