The Internet is fraught with content sites looking for freelance writers. Some of them pay on a per page view basis and others pay on a revenue share basis. There are still others that use a combination of both. No matter what the payment plan is, there are a few things I check out before applying to become a writer.
First Phase of Online Writing Site Testing
The first things I look at are their numbers. When I say numbers, I’m talking about the Alexa rating and Google page rank. That being said, I need to add a disclaimer. Alexa is not an accurate depiction of the site’s popularity, and as far as I’m concerned neither is the Google page rank. Google gives and it takes away. I know first hand how that occurs so I don’t use it as a true reflection of a site’s popularity.
If I find that both the Google page rank and Alexa rating is pretty bad, I go to the Who Is database to find out how long the site has been in existence. If it’s a brand-new site, I usually wait until it’s had a chance to grow a little. Back when I first started writing, I didn’t care if the site was new or not, but as I gained experience, I realized that I preferred to write for more established sites.
Another thing I do before I sign up for an online writing site is I perform a quick search on the Internet to see if there are any current writers sharing their viewpoint. I look through forums, blogs and other online content. Again, a caveat; I understand that with any site there will be happy and unhappy writers. I read what’s being said calibrate their opinions and continue on. I tend to like doing my own experiments to get first-hand knowledge of a site before I judge.
Second Phase of Testing
If the site passes my preliminary test then I look at the terms and conditions. After all, why bother reading the fine print if the site doesn’t pass the initial test.
I look for things such as ownership rights to the article, whether not they accept reprints and if I can use the same content for off line publication. For residual articles, I like keeping ownership and full rights. As far as reprinting goes, I’m not a big fan of posting the same thing on several sites. I’ve done it in the past, but that was before I knew much about the internet.
I prefer to reword an article and place it elsewhere than copy and paste it verbatim. That being said, I did and will continue to copy and paste my ‘swept’ eHow articles .
As far as sites that allow previously printed articles, I feel it’s a refection of their standards and wonder if the site will reach the favorable Google heights it should. I always use Suite 101 as an example. They require original articles. That policy, I believe, is one of the factors that helped them to win such favor with Google. While it may be easier in the short run to copy and paste a previously written article to a site, it may not be the most financially lucrative option in the long run. I’m in this online writing stuff for the long run.
Third Phase of Testing
If the site passes phase one and two then comes phase three. I look at how they pay. Some pay via PayPal while others share revenue through Google AdSense and the writer gets paid directly from Google.
I’ve got to say, It took me quite some time to get on board with inserting my Google AdSense number on content sites. I protected my Google publisher code like I protect my social security number. I was slow to get on board with this type of revenue share, but I’ve since evolved and do participate on a few sites that pay via Google. I make sure, however, that the sites are reputable.
The Fourth and Final Gut Phase
After going through phases one, two and three I enter the gut phase. In the gut phase I browse around the site again. This time I’m looking at the site as a reader. I look to see what type articles are being posted to the site. I check grammar, punctuation and topics written about (we all make mistakes but too many in one article is a bit tough to stomach). I allow my gut to reign supreme. If my gut says no at this point, then I’m on to the next. I’ve learned never to ignore the gut (except when it wants to eat an entire Boston Crème Pie).
Anxious Newbie Mistakes
New freelance writers who are just cutting their teeth are sometimes so anxious to place their work on a site that they don’t take the time to see whether or not this site is worth their writing. That’s not a horrible mistake, but the more a person learns about this online writing world of search engine optimization and the ability to make money, writers soon find it is a waste of time to place their well-written content on a site that is not going to reward them adequately. This is especially painful if they don’t retain the rights to their work and cannot place the piece elsewhere.
I often see new sites and appreciate their design, ease of navigation and their intention, but at this point in my career, I choose not to write for sites with good intentions. I tend to go for sites with more of a proven track record.
Signing up for sites that are just getting off the ground means I will have to work harder in order to gain the amount of traffic necessary to earn a decent residual income. At this point in the game, I’d rather not do that. I’d rather work smarter by placing my articles on an established site or three (or four or five or…) and let the site’s reputation do the hard work in generating traffic to my articles. Any social networking or backlinking I do will only be the icing on the cake.
Compare the Established against the Established
There are also established sites that have been around for quite some time but when I compare their pay schedule to other sites, even though they have a proven track record, it’s just not financially worth it to build a base of articles there. I want to work smarter, not harder.
This is just one person’s opinion. I have only been at this for about 2 1/2 years and I know I have a lot more to learn, but if I can save you the time of making the mistakes I made, it’s worth it.
Oh…One More Thing
I also checked to see whether or not the site accepts international writers. Although living in the US it seems I have more writing opportunities available to me than my overseas brothers and sisters do, I still feel their pain. So, when I come across a viable opportunity that accepts international writers, I like to share.
(EGADS! I was a blabber mouth today. Sorry for the long post.)
About the Author: Felicia A. Williams is a freelance writer and blogger. She spends the majority of her time with her family and writing. If she's not writing or commenting on NJFM, she's either outside smelling the roses or writing articles for one of her other sites which include Tidbits and Stuff, BLULOW, A Dose of Health and a few other sites/blogs scattered around the internet.