Freelance Writers: Content Mills and Sweat Shops Everywhere Oh My

Photo of author circa 2012
For those who want to be freelance writers working on the Internet it can be a tad depressing. There are content mills and sweat shops everywhere. After writing for at least one; the Guardian Liberty Voice (which qualified as both sweat shop and content mill) and cruising the net looking for other sites that advertise for writers it appears that publishers all want a plethora of poorly written articles cribbed from other more reputable sites. There are, of course, sites which pay nothing for the privilege of “working” for their site.

The sites that do pay, want to fork out damned little for your hard work. (If you don’t believe that cranking out 100 plus articles per month is hard work, the door is that way. Don’t let it hit you on the way out.) I hasten to add that a lot of sites appear to use article spinners in order to fill up their pages with poorly written rubbish that Facebook promotes.

Most sites also hide their intent to pay peanuts by quoting annual income figures. Sure 48,000 sounds great as a top figure. 24,000 less so when the 100 per month limit is factored in. This particular site, The Inquistr does not go into any “requirements” for the articles.

To explain, let’s look at the Guardian Liberty Voice. Each article was required to be a minimum of 500 words. For “breaking news” articles a minimum of 120, at last count, was needed with a follow up story to follow with a minimum of, you guessed it, 500 words. Since GLV does not, or did not, pay per article this meant a whole lot of writing for very little return for a lot of writers. Consider also that the initial contractual amount of articles per month was 128. I should point out that at my peak I was writing over 300 articles per month for ridiculously low pay.

The Inquisitr does advertise that their writers make good money and that they reach over 50 million viewers every day. Reading a rough sample of the site’s output reveals that in Entertainment at least, the quality falls pretty squarely in the “okay,” category. Granted, this particular area of “news” is not the most journalistic in appearance or nature. While it seems that most new writers in this category all want to be the next Perez Hilton, there are a few who are trying to put their own proper spin on reporting the “fluff.”

Just out of interest, I have submitted their employment “form.” They also ask, if you want to expedite the process, that you take a 20 minute test on grammar and rules. There are apparently 20 questions and the time limit, obviously, matches the questions. Interesting. I will not be taking the test, I really can not be bothered to prove that I have at least a rudimentary knowledge of Journalism via the 101 class taken in 1976.

Yes, it was that long ago.

I am still in the process of trying to learn how to get advertisers on my site. WordPress have, rather snootily, explained that my 4,000 to 6,000 views per month is not worthy of inclusion in their Adwords program. It is worth mentioning that whenever one inquires about the lack of response to their advert, they give a stock answer of, “Your site needs monthly traffic in the thousands. Get your family, friends, loved ones, etc to follow your blog to increase visibility.” When I pointed out that my blog already had “thousands” of views per month, and volunteered that perhaps he meant tens-of-thousands, the WordPress staffer grabbed that lifeline and said, “Yes, that is what I meant.”

However, if you look at other blogger’s experiences with “Adwords” you’ll find the same stock answer given to each applicant.

I’ve gotten offers before. One enthusiastic advertiser thought my site would be perfect and made an offer that I could not stop laughing at. The money was $100 per year. This was quite some time ago and the latest offer from a company has never gone past the “we think your site is perfect,” stage. Another low payment advertiser I am sure will eventually get back to me. They really should not waste their or my time.

The point behind the poorly paid advertiser anecdote is that no one really wants to pay you for your work. Whether it be a publication or a company wanting to purchase advertising space, the money offered is laughable.

I started out blogging regularly back in November 2011. I never intended to use this particular platform as a source of income. It was a way to work on my skills and build up a body of work. All practice for when I would begin writing my first book. I stumbled onto the GLV, and began an odyssey of learning that not all is as it seems and that I was a much better writer than I’d thought.

Working for that publication did result in things learned that helped me out. There were also things that burned me out. Writing up to 10 stories a day at 500 words a whack seven days a week is madness. It is also a good way to exhaust yourself. I struggle now to get out three to four articles a day.

At this moment in time, I am not being paid for anything I write. The new publication I’ve been writing for has not resulted in payment of any type. While I enjoy getting more views…sometimes…I do not enjoy grafting for naught. Perhaps a change of venue is in order here. I will keep you all posted as I continue my search for paid employment that does not require sweat shop or content mill environments. Working as a Freelance writer has been interesting, and fun at times, but it has not put a lot of money in my pocket.

The original boast of the publication I used to write for was good pay for good work. That never happened and it now feels like an uphill battle finding somewhere else to hang my hat. I’ve taken the first step in shifting my hosting to another site, not WordPress, but that is proving to be confusing and in some instances annoying.

Beware the marketplace sellers. Having stupidly purchased a template for my site which, I assumed, would allow me to download the format and set up my blog in the fashion advertised, I found that it did not. A further $100 was expected in order to format the style purchased. Asking for a refund was refused and I was told to act like a professional, which, pardon me for thinking so, I am.

Still, this journey is interesting and it is challenging. For those that are interested in where this ends up, stay tuned.

3 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Eric Lawson Marlboro Man Joins Legacy of Death

Eric Lawson Marlboro Man Joins Legacy of Death

Eric Lawson, who portrayed the Marlboro Man on advertisements from 1972 through to 1981 joins the legacy of death which has already claimed several lives. The actor died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which resulted in respiratory failure on January 10; he was 72. Lawson’s wife, Susan, relayed that he died in their California home.

Eric Lawson Marlboro Man Joins Legacy of Death

Eric Lawson Marlboro Man Joins Legacy of Death

Eric Lawson, who portrayed the Marlboro Man on advertisements from 1972 through to 1981 joins the legacy of death which has already claimed several lives. The actor died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which resulted in respiratory failure on January 10; he was 72. Lawson’s wife, Susan, relayed that he died in their California home.

Blogging for Dough, Does it pay?

Writing something!
Hard at work at my new job!

I first started blogging back in 2010. One tiny blogpost and then nothing for an entire year. I restarted in ernest in 2011 but never got any colossal views on the Blogger site. I added Tumblr to my little blog verse and, again, didn’t really set the world on fire. It wasn’t until I made the move in April last year to WordPress.com  that my views, readership (aka followers) and interest picked up.

I have been doing this for roughly a year and three months and I’m only now getting a solid blog set up, with a lot of help from my “real job” working for the Las Vegas Guardian Express.

I had written an earlier blog about the likelihood of gaining employment from writing your blog. It is possible to make money from it. If you’re an author, it is an excellent springboard for advertising your wares and increasing your fan base, which in turn, will increase book sales.  There are ways to advertise on your blog, but my trips down that particular avenue have not been very profitable.

In truth, they’ve been practically non-existent.

I was approached by a company when my views started going up. I was pleased to think that my ramblings could earn me cash. Then reality hit. The money that they offered me was laughably low. It amounted to around $100 for a year of letting them advertise on my blog.  I also took so long to respond that I missed that particular window of, limited, opportunity.

I then tried the “Adsense” route, or the WordPress version of it anyway. I never heard back. Presumably my little blog is too little to count. I then attempted to branch out and go the freelance route. While my first attempt got positive feedback, the finished product didn’t meet their “expectations” and I was left penniless at the end of the day.

The only income from my writing has been as an entertainment journalist/editor for the Guardian.

I would like to say that my blog was instrumental in getting me this nicely paid job.

It wasn’t.

I got the job almost by accident. I had gone to another newspaper, owned by the same organisation, with the idea of posting some of my short stories on the site. While I busily built my profile, I noticed another advert on the site that was looking for writers. It was the Guardian Express.

I applied.Thumbs up!

To cut a long story short, I received training and tips from the owner/founder of the paper, DiMarkco Chandler. I already knew how to write, so that part was easy. What I didn’t know was how to write for the internet world of news. I’d had journalism a million years ago and remembered all the things you must do in an article.

What I didn’t know was how to utilise those rules in an internet format to ensure that people read my articles.

But it was more than the training that got me swept up in the excitement of writing for a newspaper at my advanced age. It was the chance to work for an organisation  that, not only paid handsomely for my work, but one that believed in dreams. Everyones dreams. That, plus a group of likeminded folks, make this a “dream” job!

So, if I was asked by anyone, does blogging for money, pay? I’d have to answer, “Yes and no.” I’ve not earned one red cent from my blog. But writing it and posting several articles a day, brushed the cobwebs out of my very rusty writing skills and helped me to start to develop a singular style.

It was blogging for fun that got me started on this venture and while it never reached the “blogging for dough” stage (well not very much dough was offered at any rate) it hasn’t paid me one thin dime.

But it was blogging that inadvertently and in a very roundabout way led me to my current position. I still think that blogging is an excellent way to polish your writing and a great way to meet likeminded folks who also enjoy writing their creative, and sometimes personal, thoughts and sharing them with the amazing blogging community.

I’ve made some real friends via WordPress and at least one helped realise that I could still act and was instrumental in making me realise that no dream, even one that had been given up on years ago, was beyond my reach.

So blogging for dough, does it pay? Not really. Not for me, at least. But the recompense in making friends, building a following, and interacting with a wonderful community is much more satisfying than making money. Although you can’t pay bills with that sort of recompense.  But I’ve only been doing this for a short time, I may yet make some “real dough” for my labours!

Michael SmithIMG_0229

United Kingdom

23 July 2013