Last week, I wrote about unanticipated successes. One of the stories I relayed involved an article I wrote while experimenting with a site that pays based on residuals. A few years ago, I wrote a brief no-brainer of an article for a revshare site that has subsequently generated several hundred dollars in earnings.
I mentioned my overall disdain for involvement with most revenue sharing sites in the front-end of my post and thought I’d go into a little more detail about why I feel the way I do. I’d hate to think that my story of an exception to the rule would encourage anyone to dive headfirst into the revshare waters.
Here are four reasons freelancers shouldn’t be contributing to revenue sharing sites–and why there are occasional exceptions to the anti-revshare rule.
Note: Just to be clear, I’m talking about sites that will accept your article submissions and will subsequently pay you based on a percentage of ad revenue the article generates, the number of page views it attracts or some other secret formula. That includes a massive number of sites including Associated Content, Bukisa, Infobarrel and others. While sites like Squidoo and Hubpages may have additional utility to some Internet marketers, many writers utilize them as “pure” revshare outlets, as well. Though some revshare sites (like Associated Content) may offer a nominal up-front payment, the criticisms still tend to stick.
If you’re writing for a hobby and aren’t actually worried about using the income you generate to pay the bills, revenue sharing sites may occasionally provide you with a little pocket money. If you feel an overwhelming urge to express yourself on a pet topic and think you might expand your audience via use of a revshare site, you might also make a little dough while standing on principle. Who knows?
Nobody knows. And that’s a problem.
Those of us who actually rely upon our earnings to pay the bills should be acutely aware of what we’re making and how much time/effort/etc. it requires. When you fire off an article to a revenue sharing site, you have absolutely no idea what you’ll make.
Sure, you can make predictions based on past experience. Overall, you may be able to project your like per article earnings over any given time. However, making safe assumptions requires a sufficiently large sample size and an adequate period to assess results. So, you’re going to be sinking a fair amount of time into a revshare experiment before you can even do that. And once you have done it, you’ll realize that those averages are just that–averages.
Some articles may perform admirably. Others will turn out to be nearly useless. In time, you’ll begin to think you’re developing a strong feel for what works and what doesn’t. You’ll improve your keyword analysis and selection skills. You’ll learn to write the “right” way for the sites. Then, you’ll discover that the highs and lows are still far removed from the average.
My lucky article may very well earn over a grand before it dies. Others in the same niche with superior keyword optimization (produced at the same time as the lucky one) have earned next to nothing by comparison.
Why do some kick ass while others lurk unseen in the back of the Internet’s junk drawer? It could be just about anything. Maybe someone more serious than your revshare mill of choice decided to go after the same keyword. Maybe your article caught a lucky backlinking break. Perhaps Google just hiccupped and the algo failed (or succeeded, I suppose) to your benefit. The list could go on and on for pages, but all of the potential explanations share one thing in common–they’re out of your control.
So, unless you’re planning on doing a lot of tracking, refining, and writing for the revshare sites, youR likely earnings for any individual piece of work is virtually impossible to predict.
Again, that’s fine if you don’t care about money. If you do, it’s an ugly state of affairs.
SITE CHANGE RISK
When you sell your work in a revenue sharing environment, you’re almost telling the buyer to pay you whatever they’d like, whenever they’d like. You’re also agreeing to trust them to present their site, themselves and your article in an effective manner. That’s a whopper of an agreement.
What happens when your favorite revshare site decides they need to keep more of the cash their content is earning and they opt to change their payout system? You’re at their mercy. Check the terms to which you agreed when making a submission. In a best case scenario, you may have the right to yank the material off the site. Whoopee. Where are you going to sell it now that it’s been out there for months or years and has been scraped by a million lousy sites operated by those who really don’t have a grasp on intellectual property right? Are you just going to try to dump it on another revshare site? Check their terms with respect to material being previously unpublished. Oh, and remember these five reasons why the whole strategy tends to stink in the first place, too.
What happens if the revshare site decides to make changes in their structure, promotion or design and Google isn’t happy with them? Tough luck, Bub. What if those changes result in inferior ad placement and fewer click? Sorry. What if the whole site shuts down or changes direction? You’re back to square one.
When you start performing those incredibly imperfect revenue projections, they don’t account for these “risk of ruin” situations. Once again, unpredictability is a huge problem.
Revshare sites don’t pay much. If they paid a lot, they couldn’t make money for the people running them. That’s not an insult to site operators. It’s a fact. You’re getting a percentage of your contribution to a business that’s based on volume–and unless you’re a two-handed army, you probably aren’t a volume producer.
I know the idea of creating a passive income stream is enticing. The thought that you could eventually just sit back and watch the residuals pour into your bank account is the stuff of dreams. However, it just doesn’t happen absent insane volume.
Every day, I see people talking about how to maximize their revshare earnings. They provide tips for others who’d like to give it a shot. You could write a five-volume dissertation on revenue sharing strategy.
Do you know what I don’t see very often? Credible evidence that anyone is really making a living from revshare article money. That’s not because the big winners are keeping their success on the down low. It’s because the success stories are so few and far between.
Look at your flawed per article earnings projections. Now, do the math. How many of those revshare articles will you need to write to be in a position to develop a truly meaningful (and, we should remember, always at-risk) revenue stream? Big number, right?
Now, ask yourself how much you could make per article if you wrote them for a reasonable payment. Multiply that number by the total you’d need for your dream passive income stream? One last question: Would you rather have that amount of dough in your coffers months or years earlier or would you prefer to roll the dice on the value of your high volume output?
That shouldn’t be a hard question to answer.
The revshare hint-givers will tell you that you need to promote your articles in order to encourage the page views necessary to generate a reasonable income. When you’re playing the revshare game, you’re not just a writer. You’re an Internet marketer. Unfortunately, you’re marketing someone else’s product for a potential share of advertising revenue.
I don’t know about all of you, but my workload is heavy enough without becoming a backlink builder for a third party in hopes that it might make my little article slightly more valuable.
When I look at some of the strategies I see people using to promote their revenue sharing articles, I scratch my head in utter amazement. If those individuals built a simple landing page for a product with an affiliate program and promoted it with equal vigor, they’d make much more than they do helping the revshare mills.
Even if you put that alternative aside, anyone playing with revshare must account for the time and energy expended in the promotion of their content when determining whether process is anything other than silly. That means taking opportunity cost into consideration. What could you do instead of promoting your content and would it be more or less valuable than what you’re doing? Just about anything is going to be a better deal, by the way. That includes walking your neighbors dog for the change he found under his couch cushion.
EXCEPTIONS TO THE RULE
Sometimes there are moments where a revshare article may make sense. However, most of them don’t apply to folks who consider themselves to be writers exclusively.
In some cases, they can be used as a means of backlink development. They serve as a paying version of article directories like EzineArticles.com. Of course, that is limited only to those sites that don’t over-restrict your ability to successfully link out to the site(s) of your choice. One should also do that only if they can find a series of revshare sites that don’t insist on completely original content–those links, after all, aren’t that valuable considering the sites upon which they appear and the likely Google mojo of your article’s page. This exception would also include those who are experimenting with variations of “bum marketing” and other article-driven marketing strategies.
In other cases, one can use a series of revshare articles as a means of adding to an overall presence on the web. It’s not that valuable for a freelance writer, but some businesses may find it worthwhile to improve the number of search results featuring company names or non-competitive business-specific keywords. That would also apply to those who might use the revshare outposts as a means of pushing back other search results as part of an overall reputation management plan.
There are rare cases where one may have surplus content due to a client’s order cancellation or some other bit of weirdness where dumping the stuff on a revshare site or two would be a better option than letting it rot. However, there are usually better options available–even for those who aren’t interested in using the content to create their own sites.
There may be situations where the revshare component of providing an article to a website is secondary to the exposure it may provide. If a top-notch site that attracts the specific audience you’d like to reach is willing to toss a little coin at you, that wouldn’t be the end of the world. However, if it’s not the kind of place for which you’d write GRATIS anyway (i.e. a wonderful guest-posting opportunity at an authority site in your niche), the revshare probably won’t be enough to tip the scales.
IF YOU INSIST ON DOING REVSHARE WORK
If, for some unfathomable reason, you just can’t bring yourself to give up on the idea of writing articles for revenue sharing sites, at least try to participate in the most sensible way possible. That would mean:
- Spending very little time writing each article
- Streamlining your keyword analysis process
- Targeting the best revshare sites
- Looking for opportunities to use the content in multiple revshare settings
- Automating the bulk of your article promotion efforts
Even then, in the immortal words of WOPR, “The only way to win is not to play.” At least that’s the way I see it.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Writing for revenue sharing sites is not the road to riches. It’s not the road to a middle class existence. It’s not even the road off food stamps for most people. There are better ways to make more money.
This is coming from someone who has experimented with the option and who often finds himself on the opposite side of the “fair rate” debate with those who argue against the so-called exploitation of writers. In other words, if I’m telling you it’s a bad idea… Well, I really think it’s a bad idea.
I can’t wait to hear from those who do the revenue sharing thing to tell me how I’m wrong. I would love to find out if they’ve “cracked the code” and make a solid living from a revshare passive revenue stream. Really. All I can tell you is there are plenty of folks talking about how they’re working toward that goal and not too many who have reached it.
To me, it’s all a matter of making the smartest possible choices with the most important finite commodity you have–your time. On an hour-per-hour basis, it looks like there are much more lucrative things one could be doing.
So, am I wrong on this? Let me know. I can’t imagine that I’m too far off-base, but I’m more than willing to entertain arguments to the contrary.
FYI: Per commenter request, I’ve put together a list of alternatives to revenue sharing sites.
Denise Gabbard says
Think you hit the nail right on the head! It is tempting when you first get started writing to opt for rev share sites, because you hear the stories of people who wrote 100 articles five years ago that are still getting checks for $500 every month– but yet, no one has ever proved it– and I suspect they are largely internet legends, lol.
Building your own business is much more rewarding than building someone else’s… and that really is the bottom line.
Carson Brackney says
I think there are people who are making good money with these arrangements… I just doubt that they’re targeting the kind of sites that come to mind when most folks here “revshare”.
Obviously, we’re in agreement overall. I just don’t see how the “lesser” revshare sites can be a good deal.
MJ Logan says
I agree with you in principle for the most part. However, for a lot of people revenue share is a way to get their feet wet and get some experience. Once they get some experience, they need to move on.
Agreed that sites like AC are never going to make people much money on revenue share. There are sites however, if you qualify to write for them, that will make you a fare amount of money with revenue share. If you don’t qualify to write for them, maybe you should not be writing at all.
Writers need to be aware of what they are doing as well. If you see a title, grab it and fire off 400-500 words in 20 minutes and hit submit, I’d say chances are pretty good you’ll never see more than pennies a month from that article, unless you get very lucky.
On the other hand, if you pick a topic and research the best paying keywords for that topic and choose to write articles with those keywords in the title and use those keywords selectively throughout your article, you can make some money on those articles. I’ve got about 20 rev share articles on one site that earn me a total of 15-30 dollars a month and have long since exceeded what I would have gotten in an up front payment.
I do agree with you that the vast majority of articles written for rev share sites will never pay the author anything close to what the time they put into them is worth. I think partly that is because the sites they write on simply don’t encourage good writing and partly it is the writers themselves not understanding how the system works.
Carson Brackney says
I can completely understand that position, MJ.
However, I really think there are better ways for one to dip his or her feet in the water. Another commenter or two mentioned that it would be nice to hear about some alternatives. Maybe that should be my next post!
Oh, I also think you’re right about the site-targeting situation. Too many people are squandering too much time with revshare sites that really offer inferior opportunity.
Elizabeth West says
Alternatives would be a great post! I’m trying to find a way to get started and get some clips, and all the ads seem to be either offering revenue shares, or asking for samples I suspect will be used and not paid for. Since I don’t have a great deal of experience, I would love some advice.
MJ Logan says
I am often asked to supply samples, so I have some specific samples on my personal website that I can direct people towards. If I am including a sample with a proposal or other application, I include a copyright notice at the top.
I’ve never had a sample stolen and used, but I have been copied on occasion. I usually send the offenders an invoice for about triple what the article is worth, with a notice below that unless prompt payment is received, a DMCA takedown notice will be sent to their ISP.
If you need some help finding places to write for, email me – address is on my website.
I also think that REV Share might be an option for freelancing newbies. But at this point in the game, I’m certainly not wasting my time on them. Why would I spend time promoting a little revshare article when I can do the same thing for my blog and hopefully one day make money that way?
Lucinda Watrous says
Oh how I agree. I have spent time as an editor and a writer, and have my hands on over 1,000 articles at a certain site. Granted, many of them need SEO work, and the percentage is small, but I still only make $75-$100 per month in rev share. If it weren’t for the (rarely offered, decent) upfront compensation I was offered initially (and where I was most concerned, hence the need for SEO work) I’d never have vested the time to produce the content it took to earn that much. Other sites, I earn up to $10 a month on, just because I was giving it a try… totally worth it to me to take work at a higher rate on a regular basis and work my 40 hours.
Carson Brackney says
Thanks for sharing your story, Lucinda. I think you bring up one of the reasons some people hop into the revshare world at sites like AC–they want that easy up-front money and they keep their fingers crossed that the longer term residuals will make up for the fact they’re getting so little on the front end.
Thanks for this. Now I’m sure I wasn’t wrong when I stopped writing for AssociatedContents.
Derek Thompson says
It’s great to hear an informed opinion – thanks for this.
Dan Trodden says
Couldn’t agree more. Would add that I suspect the sites rely on the newbies to provide content and as long as there’s a willing supply of fresh meat there’s enough to keep the ball rolling.
Derek Thompson says
There’s a whole bunch of writers on Craigslist who work collectively, flagging up examples of exploitation. Perhaps what we need is a writers’ union with a recognized minimum rate?
Carson Brackney says
Personally, I am wildly opposed to the idea of recognized minimum rates and think that organizing is a long-shot at best.
I don’t want people to read this post as a call to demand $X, $Y or $Z. I’m not one of those who think the revshare sites or mills are plantations or sweatshops. I just think that most of the revshare sites are rotten deals and produce more disappointment that residuals.
Kim S says
What you say makes sense. What I would love to see, however, is a list of suggested alternatives on other writing outlets that would be more profitable. Especially for someone who is new to the industry and needs to continue to build a portfolio of work. I guess for me, that’s what the revenue sites are, a portfolio builder. If I’m not looking at it correctly, I am open to suggestions.
Carson Brackney says
That’s an awesome idea, Kim. I think I’ll take a stab at it in my next FWJ post. Others should feel free to chime in, too!
At last something we can agree on, Carson! GREAT post.
Carson Brackney says
Yeah, obviously we’re on the brink of the Apocalypse or something. Ha!
You know, it was your comment on my last post that got me moving to finally write this one. It seemed as if you read the “success story” post as a defense of revshare sites and I wanted to be sure that people understood my reservations.
So, anyone who hates this post should blame Carol Tice. Not me. 🙂
For me AC was an avenue to a few much more lucrative clients and a great way for a writer to build online clips before he has the big name clients. Not a thing to pay your rent from but if you look at it as an investment in your career, like a training class you do without pay or even one you pay to do because it will help you improve your craft–and with AC higher partner offers and featured contributor articles with higher pay do come if you consistently produce quality content written on a topic of broad interest.
Carson Brackney says
You’re right–practice does make us a little closer to perfect. However, I still wonder if sites like AC are really the best place to practice.
As I mentioned in another comment, these reactions make me think it might be fun/helpful/interesting to write a post about alternatives to the revshare sites.
Thanks for the comment!
I agree with Kim. I am trying to build my portfolio. I have submitted articles to Demand Studio and Suite 101. It is still too early to tell what the revenue will be with these.
Carson, you make a fair criticism and yes, there are a lot of reasons not to write for pennies a day. But there’s a whole other side to this very valid debate that you’re missing, and I’m concerned that your somewhat sarcastic invitation for people to share their “success stories” will have frightened off some of these alternative views. So at the risk of being taken to task by this club of clearly superior writers I’d humbly like to offer the following few points:
Content sites are excellent platforms for new writers to hone their craft in a supportive, competitive environment, and for many writers they are the gate-way to a professional career. It’s where writers can learn about SEO, social media marketing and the nuances of writing for the internet before they’re subjected to the specific demands of individual clients.
Also there’s no “whoring yourself out” to potential clients with endless query letters, cold-calls and other daily job-searching chores that other freelancers have to put up with – to me those activities are enough to take most of the joy out of working for yourself. Yes, the results can mean a bigger payday – but once again the element of risk rears its head. What if you send out ten querry letters one day and get no replies? Do you send out 20? Can you even find 20 leads? What about 50? What if the economy tanks? What if your client goes bankrupt? What if it’s a scam? All writing jobs carry an element of risk, no matter what the pay may be.
Finally, it’s not all about the money. You’re probably right in that there’s no sure-fire “get-rich-quick” scheme when it comes to revenue-sharing sites, but I don’t see my effort as a waste of time – I see it as an investment in the future. I can use that article (which I do own the rights to) to earn revenue in one form or another (who cares if the company goes bankrupt – I’ll just go to another or simply promote it myself) for the rest of my life.
I know you’re eagerly awaiting people’s stories of how they’ve made a respectable living from revshare sites. Mine is so unglamourous that it’s hardly worth telling, but I’ll share it anyway, because you seem so interested to know. I make just enough money in any given month to make a minor-but-meaningful contribution to my family’s income – it pays a bill this month, and there’s a reasonably good chance it will be able to pay another bill next month, maybe even two. It’s enough that I can work from home, tend a garden, raise some livestock and put a hot meal on the table every night, all without going broke or going insane.
That’s it. No outrageous dollar figure claims. No days spent lazing around the house while the money magically roles in. No secret formula. I just do my work and get paid for it, just like every other writer.
Yes, I probably make less money than you do. But I probably have more fun.
Carson Brackney says
I think you misread me. That request for other perspectives was 100% sincere. I have opinions, but I’m not above having them questioned. In fact, I love it. And when I’m wrong, I’m more than happy to concede it and to move on as a smarter person.
For the reasons outlined in this post and others that are more tangentially related to revshare, I just don’t think that most folks are getting adequate $ for their efforts with these sites. I also think there are better ways to develop meaningful, helpful experience.
And don’t bet on the having more fun part. I have a lot of fun. Probably too much. This post wasn’t meant as a “looking down my nose” exercise. It’s just a statement of my opinion re: the bulk of revshare sites.
You bring up some good points re: the inevitability of risk. I do think that the risk of low yield is higher with revshare, but your observation is valid.
Take care and thanks for a great comment.
Simon Hill says
Great post but I’m going to jump in and disagree with you. It definitely is possible to make a decent amount of money from rev share, my rev share payment last month was close to $2,000. That’s a monthly cheque rolling in for work which was done days, weeks and months ago. Assuming you mix and match writing for rev share sites with other paid work you can do very nicely. The main problem with it is that you need time to build up a body of work and you can only maximise that traffic by learning your SEO inside out but then this will benefit you as a freelance writer anyway.
The point about putting the same time and effort into your own websites or creating a landing page for a product with an affiliate code isn’t really valid. Most rev share sites have major juice with Google. There’s a difference between posting the same article on a big site or on your personal blog or website. You will find that you rank much higher in Google on a big website with an SEO strategy and loads of content. A slice of a giant pie is better than a whole tiny pie and the people running the site should be working on your behalf to pull in advertisers and make more potential cash for everyone (not something I’d want to spend my time on). I make modest income from a number of websites I own but to compare numbers with revenue the rev share works out better because they are able to attract bigger advertisers and greater site wide traffic.
I do agree with some of your points, you are effectively marketing someone else’s business and you do need to make sure the terms are fair. I wouldn’t work for a site with no upfront payment at all, it should be a mix. I also wouldn’t spend loads of time marketing articles, a quick tweet or fb post should suffice. If you do your SEO right and choose the right topics and keywords you don’t have to spend ages promoting it.
For writers starting out I think a mix of low upfront payment and rev share is ideal. They’ll learn to hone their craft if they want to maximise earnings and it will help them find new jobs. Even after two years doing it, and starting out very sceptical, it is still worthwhile for me to write some articles every month for the rev share site.
All of this brings me to my main point – you suggest that if you are going to do it you should write fast and I have to disagree. The real secret of making money here is to choose the right article topic and then write a seriously quality article. It is more beneficial in the long run to write one really good article than to churn out three quickly and it promotes your brand. For all the trickery surrounding SEO it is still generally good content that floats to the top and in my experience the reason most people don’t make money from rev share is because they don’t write quality articles – they churn.
Anyway sorry for the ridiculously long post, just thought I’d offer an alternative point of view. To sum up, you don’t want rev share sites to be your sole income and you should always expect at least some upfront payment in addition but they’re great for new writers to build up some experience and cash and you can definitely make good money.
Carson Brackney says
Fantastic comment, Simon.
I’d love to go into greater detail with you about a lot of what you raised. I’m not sure the comments are the place to do it, though. I think you raise some points and questions that deserve more attention.
I still don’t agree with you, lol, but I think you do remind us that there’s a lot of gray lurking between black and white.
Drop me a line (my website, etc. is in the “About” box at the bottom of this post) if you’d like. Maybe we can engage in a little “crossfire” action in a bigger space!
@Simon. Your reply/post is very informative. Will you allow me to reprint it for future reference?
Derek Thompson says
Just a quick note to say how much I’m enjoying all the different opinions and experiences. It’s great to get the perspective of different writers on this. I’m in the UK and sites like AC have restrictions for people outside the US so there are sometimes other considerations. But if anyone wants to share more targeted revshare strategies, that would be very welcome!
I would certainly be interested in hearing your alternative suggestions for a new writer.
I’m an OLD writer, and have many, many articles, books, curricula, marketing materials and websites to my credit. But when I started out (before the web was a reality), my options were to write for nothing for a tiny local paper, write for nothing but royalties for a small publisher, or write for nothing for a local non-profit. That was the way you built up enough clips to then go out and actually market yourself as a “real” freelance writer.
Today, the clips are just as important. Content Mills offer brand new writers a combination of credibility (you’re the Dog Breeds Examiner, working for a large and recognized institution), a little bit of income (always better than nothing) and a healthy collection of clips that relate directly to your personal area of interest. Even better, you can leap into the writing world AS, for instance, a travel writer – rather than waiting for the guy at the local paper to die or or retire and then hope it’s your turn.
Bottom line, I agree that content mills are no way to make a reliable living. But as a way to jump into freelancing, I think they have a lot to offer. I certainly would have preferred writing about my area of interest (even for pennies an article) than clawing my way up through writing freebies tossed my way by a bored editor!
Pinar Tarhan says
Well, I did like your post and although I agree that revshare doesn’t pay the pills, I still need to hear about those other alternatives from you. But please, no landing pages for affiliate products as an option because to be honest, trying to promote my articles individually is a lot more fun than triyng to be an actual internet marketer who spends money&time on hosting and research and pages and all that,. At least for me:)
Now, I have to admit, some revenue sharing sites are addictive- not because of the awesome paycheck of course, but because they come with some benefits. I use Triond for one- sure the pay is lousy but they give you freedom to promote whatever you want so it is not bad for trying to score affiliate commissions through your writing, while getting paid some extra on the site. It is also fun for linkbuilding and I do a lot of linking in my articles- both for my articles on revshare sites and for my articles on my blog- which is the eventual place I want people to go. Factoidz is not bad either, especially when you just want to scatter some good facts together and get paid while waiting from that editor you submitted your work to ages ago. The freedom and instant acceptance sometimes go along way to put a smile on your face. AC was lovely until they did that revshare policy change and stopped paying non-US writers. That was the end of our relationship.
Sorry, that was a bit long. You certainly hit a nerve and you are right. But there are somethings those sites can be good for. I just can’t let go off them yet;)
I agree with KIM! I am new to the world of writing, and recently joined Suite 101. My ultimate goal is to write stories for children, not spend a lot of time writing articles. However, my motivation was to build a portfolio of work (articles), and share some of my interests with the public, not to crank out thousands of articles per year for a revshare site, hoping that it would lead to the end of my day job. If the money follows, then great!
Carson Brackney says
FYI: Here’s a post I wrote after seeing some of the comments here… It lists some alternatives to contributing to revenue sharing sites.
Pinar Tarhan says
Thanks for the alternatives post, Carson. That one is bookmarked 😉
I also wrote an article in response to this one, it is called “Writing for Peanuts: Did All of Us Web Writers Go Mad?”. I linked to your article but I am afraid to give you the link because I posted on a revenue-sharing site. In my defense, it suits the message of my own article:)
I would like to respond to those who seem to feel that writing for rev hare sites somehow “builds a portfolio.”
As someone who has worked as a writer for almost 10 years, I will say that I have heard professional editors tell me that the moment they come upon a query or a resume that includes clips from a rev share site (or content mill) they immediately toss it. Believing that somehow clips from a rev share site are going open doors to high-paying, respectable gigs or will one day land you in the pages of a national magazine is unrealistic. These sites have a TERRIBLE reputation in the industry as being clogged with badly written pieces by amateurs who have no concept of basic grammar. Editors will laugh you (and your “clips”) out the door.
I know this sounds harsh, but I have heard this from multiple professional editors. Please don’t shoot the messenger.
If someone wants to write for a rev share site for fun or pocket change, or to interact with the site’s community, then they should have at it. But I would caution against going in with the belief that some day New York will come calling because they liked your piece on how to make holiday cupcakes.
Just my .02
That would be rev “share”. We all need editing sometimes 😉
Pinar Tarhan says
Well, I don’t think anyone writing for a revenue share site is all that naive but I see your point. Yes, The New Yorker won’t come crashing anyone’s door but then again, there some job ads you can send your online links to and it will help you land that gig. You can decide what to send according to the tone of the ad.
But then again, sometimes it is great to see your words out there instead waiting that call from the editor. I am just saying. Writing for well-paying publications and publishing stuff at your own convenience don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Erin – not sure why editors would turn their nose up at Rev Share articles if they’re looking at a brand new, just out of school freelancer’s portfolio . I mean, what the heck ELSE would that person have written, outside of papers for school and articles for the school paper? When I was starting out, the only way to get clips was through the neighborhood newspaper which paid simply nothing at all or by volunteering my time as a writer for a non-profit. Who would hire me as a writer when I had nothing to show?
At the very least, I would HOPE, a publisher open to beginning freelancers would take a look at the revshare writing to see whether the applicant can put words together effectively. After all, that’s really the point of clips at the early stages of building a career.
Today, of course, I can pull out my most impressive clips and say “look! I wrote for CNN.com!” or the Smithsonian or what have you. But those folks wouldn’t have looked at me if I hadn’t worked my way up to them through word of mouth and recommendations.
First of all, IJWTS that I’m excited to have found a site and a writer who knows what she’s talking about and approaches the freelance writer profession as just that: a profession — where one should and can earn a living, rather than flinging out one’s work for pennies. I am so sick of seeing job offers paying $2 a blog or other kinds of minimum wage work — or free, such as the revenue sharing sites.
About two years ago I posted one of my own blog posts on Hub. They censored what I wrote for being too “promotional.” It was a review of a Joni Mitchell record, and yes, it praised her quite a bit! As if Joni Mitchell needs me to “promote” her! Anyhow I was lucky this happened, since it turned me off revshare sites immediately. I’d already suspected it was a lousy way to make money, but I had/have so much stuff on my blog, I figured it wouldn’t take up too much time (formatting to suit their software actually did!).
Thank you for confirming what I believe, and for validating my quest to be paid as a professional. After all, I’ve only been doing this for three decades!
I have been traveling and away from this discussion.
Pinar wrote – “Writing for well-paying publications and publishing stuff at your own convenience don’t have to be mutually exclusive.”
I agree with you, Pinar. But said publishing platform is likewise important. Building a quality, well-written blog can open far more doors than rev share sites ever could. I know people who have gotten great mag gigs and even book deals thanks to their blogs. I know this isn’t typical, but if a blog is of professional quality with great content and images and a strong following, doors can (and do!) open.
Rev share sites just have such a terrible reputation among professional editors, largely due to both the amount of dreck published on them and the fact that there is no vetting process. Literally anyone can sign up and post whatever. And most of the time it is absolutely abysmal–poor grammar, poorly organized, typos, ranting and raving etc.
Lisa – I still feel that one is better off starting off writing at community papers, local or regional magazines, and even well-respected non-profits to build clips. No, the pay is not great, but clips from even a local paper confer greater status than clips from a rev share site. Even small town papers have a vetting process i.e. one still has to pitch an idea, approach an editor etc. Some of my first clips came from a smaller paper. It was also a great introduction to dealing with an editor, the copy desk etc. I understand that there are less small papers these days, but clips from a respected online mag or ‘zine can also open doors.
Basically, from what editors have told me, rev share writing screams “amateur” and indicates someone who does not value their work enough to be sufficiently compensated for it. There are plenty of ways to get decent clips, even for beginners. Again, I would caution anyone against writing for rev share sites with the the hopes of “building a portfolio.” It could really hurt your career in the long run.
Good discussion going on here; I have enjoyed reading everyone’s comments.
I ran across this interesting article this month entitled, “Demand Studios’ IPO Reveals More Reasons Writers Should be Wary.”
Very interesting, Carson! I will have to say I 100% disagree with your conclusions about the potential to earn a decent return on time investment with rev share writing. I make a really nice part-time income from a part-time time committment. Like anything else, I’ve found that you get from it what you put into it, and it’s not going to be for everyone. The fact that some bloggers make tons and others make none doesn’t mean that blogging isn’t a valid way to earn a living either. This could be said about all kinds of professions, but that doesn’t mean that we should discount all of the ones where this dichotomy exists. I think it just means people should be realistic.
I can tell you that top earners on various sites do in fact keep their identities secret because of the fear of copycats. These rev share writers do exist; you will just never know their identies because it’s better for them that you don’t. I experienced a rude awakening when Suite101 announced my earnings a couple years ago. I don’t mind discussing this topic myself because the cat’s already out of the bag. LOL
I believe your analysis about backlinking is incorrect. Although it is a valid stategy, I don’t engage in one bit of promotion to earn my rev share. It’s just not my personality. I rely on the rank of the sites I write for to do that heavy lifting, and beyond that I aim for page 1 organic Google ranking based on my SEO efforts to get page views.
Keep the interesting posts coming! 😀
Radhika M says
I’m probably extremely late to come onto this topic, but I was part of a revshare site once, and was even considering restarting to get my portfolio up. Thank goodness I came to this article and read what everyone had been saying.
When you first look at revenue sites, they start to promise you lots of money to come in. Luckily, I didn’t spend much time there and didn’t get into the community. But, let me tell you something. From being there for a little while – (I was on Triond) the community is horrible. The most viewed article of a “successful” writer was a prank/humor of Johnny Depp’s death. The entire plot is to get the other writers to read your stuff and they’ll read/click yours. It’s horrible.
Luckily, I have no quality articles on there. My first blog post is of much higher quality than any of the articles on there, and in total, I’ve made 11 cents.
Thanks for posting the alternatives, otherwise my first chance at getting ahead of the game and getting started as a freelancer would be gone.
Deborah O'Banion says
I have been writing for revenue share for a couple of years. I do not have to earn a living from it but I work another full time job and don’t have much time to write. Despite that, with articles at eHow and Suite 101, I do earn enough to pay utilities each month. That may not seem like a lot but it is really helpful. Additionally, when I have to take a break from writing, the money is still there for me each month. I love that aspect of it, but everyone has their own preferences. It is not for everyone, but it is great for some of us. I tried writing for up front pay and hated that after I got paid it was done -nothing else coming in.
Nicky LaMarco says
Thanks for the interesting read! Although I do write for a couple of revenue sharing sites I do agree with nearly everything you have to say in this article. One site I write for is worth it, the other…not so much. It’s time to clean out the lower paying clients!
valerie reese says
Yet, here you are, writing articles in hopes of earning pennies from page view and Google. LOL
BTW Nice article!
S.S. Medley says
I mainly used the revenue sites for a short..very short portfolio. It as a stepping stone for paid online work. Another issue that made me upset was that one site refused to pay for my in depth poetry analysis…but now it’s the most viewed article that I have. I felt very unappreciated. They are taking advantage of many writers. So I decided I’m just not suited for revenue sites since they are more for lesser quality articles that are primarily for popularity. I just wanted to give good content. Hopefully I can move away from online to offline print. Nice article!