Where’s the Meat?

| January 20, 2010

On two occasions I’ve used writing services to write articles for me. As part of my delegatory skills, I needed to outsource (I realize that I cannot do it all…no matter what they say on TV).

The first time I used online writing services, about 6 or 8 months ago, I found the articles to be okay. I did a lot of re-writing and I ended up only using one of the four I paid for. They seemed to be a bit stiff and lacked feeling.

Most recently, I used CyberHub. I was very impressed not only with their website, but the way in which I was able to track my project. The cost was cheap and they are a legitimate outfit.

My Nit Picky Displeasure

I ordered 4 articles on a particular topic. Two of the articles were to be written in the third person while the other two were to be a little less formal and could be written in the second person. All four articles were to use the same keywords.

I received 5 articles instead of four (a little perk). All of them were grammatically correct, they used the keywords the proper amount of times and they complied with my wishes of two in the third person and two not.

What Was Missing?

Well, I tried to explain to my hubby, a non writer, why I wasn’t thrilled with the work (I don’t think its CyberHub’s fault). Using a food analogy, which always works in my house, I was able to explain my disappointment. I looked at my hubby and said, “The articles were similar to me giving you a plate full of gravy for dinner. That’s all, nothing but gravy.” While my daughter, who is the gravy queen, would enjoy such a treat, my hubby and my son on the other hand would look at me and say, “Where’s the meat?”

The articles were missing the meat. I didn’t care whether or not the meat was seasoned  (meaning the personal flair), it was all fluff and no meat. There is no doubt that the articles were perfectly SEO’d and would probably be well received from an SEO standpoint, but I found that I was unwilling to put my name on the articles and claim them as my own (they are actually mine since I paid for them) without a hint of meat.

On to the Next

Okay, I’ve tried two types of online pay for writing services. I think the next step in my growing ability to delegate is to find writers who are willing to add a little meat to their gravy. Gravy is cheap, but meat costs…wait a minute…I think meat is the reason why I never delegated in the past.

Oh boy, I’m back to where I started. Oh man, the more things change; the more they stay the same. I guess I either have to loosen the purse strings or get back to the keyboard (I tried to get my son to write for me, but he claims he’s too busy with school work…likely story).

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Category: Hiring Writers, Writing

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.

Comments (24)

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  1. Crystal says:

    As promised, here is my CyberHub update detailing my experience with round two.

    I placed another batch of orders on 3/31. Taking my own advice, I stuck with a higher word count and requested source citation. On 4/21 the order status still showed as “Project Assigning – Appointing the best writers in your niche.” In response to an inquiry sent that day, I received an email the following day (4/22) indicating that a time-sensitive topic article would be delivered within 24-48 hours. On 4/27 (5 days later) I actually received the time-sensitive article with the rest of my orders following an hour or so later.

    The time-sensitive article was very well done. Sources were clearly cited at the end of the article and the content was top quality for the most part. I did check all sources and only made a slight change which was more based on my interpretation of the source material rather than any real problem with the author’s writing.

    At this point, I was quite pleased and anxiously anticipating the others. Well, now I know why TB clients use DOs when they find an author they like. (Not an option with CyberHub.) The rest of the articles were obviously written by someone else and did not contain source citation as requested. The content is ok but will need a lot of checking and editing – not a big time saver for me.

    So will I use CyberHub again? Maybe. Thus far I’ve placed orders when the site offered special pricing. The experience and entertainment value exceed what I’ve spent, even if I never use a single word. I may try paying the higher price for speed delivery next time around to see whether the quality is affected. Should I garner more information that might be of interest to others, I will be sure to share it here.
    .-= Crystal´s last blog ..New Writing Gig with Demand Studios =-.

  2. Crystal says:

    Finally got my CyberHub orders yesterday. Wow – did that take a long time or what? Ordered on 2/21 and 2/28, delivered on 3/22. Despite the email on 3/12 assuring me I’d have them within a week, it actually took 10 days. Anyway, for the results –

    First – none of the content received can be used as is. Some of it is actually pretty good but I have to check the facts. For the most part, what I got provides a place to start editing.

    Second – were I to do this again, I would include the requirement to cite sources in my instructions. It’s a little unnerving to get a bunch of facts thrown in with no idea where they came from. I don’t think they’re made up because the test orders I placed were on subjects about which I am familiar and the facts seem reasonable based on my prior knowledge and experience but it would be nice to know the source.

    Third – there was an interesting wrong word in one of the orders. Instead of polygenic, the word used was polyphonic. Hmm. Big difference.

    Fourth – if anyone is considering using the service, place longer orders. My 500-1,000 word orders were far superior to the 300 word orders. I actually got some meat with the higher word count. The short jewelry descriptions that were part of my Textbroker experiment were ok – better than the first round from TB but not as good as the second.

    In conclusion, the jury is still out. On the one hand, I have some fairly decent material to use as a starting point but have to spend time checking stated facts. Having the sources cited would have eliminated the bulk of that work but I didn’t think of it ahead of time. On the other hand, with the fact checking combined with editing required, I probably could have written these pieces myself in about the same amount of time.

    I can see that buying some content may have its place but I’m not sure exactly what that place is! I so like the idea of delegating but am unsure how to make it work to my advantage. If I go another round with this experiment, I will report back.
    .-= Crystal´s last blog ..Hypertension Basics – Who, Why and What? =-.

    • Felicia says:

      Wow. Thanks for the in depth review Crystal.

      I haven’t tried outsourcing articles since my last experience, but I think I’m going to give Textbroker a try next.

  3. Crystal says:

    Got an email from CyberHub this morning letting me know that they are “. . . having a database/ipn bug. Your orders will be included in the list of projects to be prioritized. It should be completed anytime within a week.” They also apologized for any inconvenience.

    I opted not to go with the expedited service for two reasons – 1)they had special pricing during Feb, and 2)I wanted to know how long the regular service takes. If I’m happy with the results and I ever do this again, I’m thinking I’ll go the expedited route next time!

    I’ll report in again when I finally receive my content.
    .-= Crystal´s last blog ..Refocusing My Freelance Writing Efforts =-.

  4. Crystal says:

    Just wanted to share a little about my “paying for writing rather than writing for pay” experiment.

    As posted in my first comment on 2/20/10 under Earn Money Writing for Textbroker.com, my results there were mixed. Rather than repeat, please just refer to that comment if you’re interested.

    I then submitted 5 orders to CyberHub on 2/21/10 and another single order on 2/28/10. So far my results there have been zip. When tracking the orders, all show as “Payment Completed – Project in queue.” So I emailed them early yesterday and promptly got a response that I’d receive a response in 24-48 hours. It’s been 24 but not 48 so I guess I’ll just wait patiently.

    I’m anxious to see what kind of results I get compared with Textbroker. One of the orders submitted to CyberHub was the same as those submitted to Textbroker except I asked for the 6 descriptions in one order rather than submitting 6 separate orders for 50-75 words each. With Textbroker, I had my results within hours. With CyberHub? Almost 3 weeks later, still nothing:(
    .-= Crystal´s last blog ..Refocusing My Freelance Writing Efforts =-.

    • Felicia says:

      Wow! 3 weeks and no response. That’s crazy.

      When I used CyberHub I didn’t get an immediate response as you did with Textbroker, but it didn’t take 3 weeks. I paid for the “expedited” service which means I would receive my articles in 3 days or so.

      I’m interested to see how this all pans out.

  5. Lainie says:

    Why not try constant-content.com for quality content?

  6. Mokibobolink says:

    It’s always good hearing from the other side on a topic like this. I’ve written for sites like Textbroker but as a blogger with two sites now, I’ve also considered what the future will be like when I might need writing help myself.

    Great to hear your point of view on this. Thanks.

  7. Eve says:

    I was in the same boat as you are last summer. I’d set up a new site, and needed content, fast. I wrote about 10 articles, got burnt out and went to Textbroker for the remaining 10.

    Only one that I received was publishable as-is. The rest needed a LOT of reworking. Not enough to reject the articles, but enough so that I had to spend a few hours rewriting and editing.

    We are, as writers, totally picky. Especially when it’s our name attached!

    Haven’t bought any content since. But since I am launching a new website soon, and a lot of the information I want to provide is stuff I’m no expert on, I think I may have to.

    I just don’t know where to go where the content is cheap and there’s meat with the gravy.

    Don’t know – maybe I’ll end up researching and writing all the articles myself.

    • Felicia says:

      Eve, that’s exactly where I am. I’d prefer not to write all of the content. That’s why my last blog experiment only had 27 posts for the year. I wrote about 2 posts per month but at least they had meat.

      I’ve got quite a bit to ponder. Everyone shared great info so I’ve got much to think about.

  8. Ignatius says:

    Felicia,
    Thank you for the kind words. I have learned a great deal on this site. I think we are all on kind of a journey together sharing what we learn along the way.

  9. Grandma says:

    It probably depends upon what you want from your websites. As a writer, you most likely are a bit of a control freak and want to put your stamp on the website. If you are just going after a website to make money and content doesn’t matter that much, you could get away with hiring the writing and the technical and just collect the profits.

    I am guessing that a good writer would have a bit of difficulty turning any writing over to someone else. If a lot of rewriting is needed the whole idea is wasted along with your money. Maybe a partner would be more in line for this?

  10. DeAnna says:

    Hi Felicia,
    This is an intersting topic. I’ve never paid someone to write for me before, but have thought of it. The one thing that stops me though is, as a writer, I will probably be too picky and not like any of the articles I buy. If I’m going to rewrite them, then I may as well have written them to begin with. You are a good writer – do you think anyone will ever write an article for you that you will be 100% satisfied with? Just a thought. 🙂

    • Felicia says:

      DeAnna, I think you hit the nail on the head. The only problem with my being so picky is that I’m standing in my own way. I’d really like to get some content on my new sites, but it will take quite a bit of time for me to write it all myself. I finally made a list of all of my writing venues and I have way too many to write consistently on all of them.

      That’s the good and the bad about online writing… too many opportunities.

  11. Ignatius says:

    While the sites that sell content do offer multiple types of writing, they are really set up for the SEO guys who need massive amounts of keyworded copy. These folks are only interested in attracting search engine traffic. I think you are interested in attracting readers who will really learn something worthwhile from your websites. And, you have a reputation for writing to maintain.

    So, using a content producing site in the sort of default way may not work for you. You could try putting an order or two on Textbroker with a goal of finding someone you could connect with for private orders. If you tell the writers that is your goal I suspect you will see their best writing, not just their SEO chops.

    I also think the suggestion of soliciting guest posts has merit. People go to all sorts of effort to get links to their less established web sites. I don’t think it is exploitation to take free or modestly compensated posts in exchange for good exposure.

    You have at least two sites that have decent page ranks. If you are getting guest posts for newer sites, you could consider including a promotional link on one of your better ranked sites. The link is likely to drive at least as much traffic to someone’s site as an ad would. Instead of paying for advertising, they could swap writing for promotion of their sites.

    I suspect you may feel awkward about using your writing community to make that kind of connections and I understand that. You have a very different kind of heart than a lot of the folks who are just out to make a quick buck on the Web. So, if it feels too uncomfortable, just don’t do it. However, I do think it could work for both you and your guest writers.

    You also might take a look at whether it would make more sense to outsource the technical side of your sites and do the writing yourself. There is an extremely competitive market for visual and technical website design. It includes competent high school and college kids and very capable people from lower wage countries. You can look online or make some connections through a local community college. There are lots of people out there looking to build their web design portfolios.

    Best of luck with whatever choices you make.

    • Felicia says:

      Ignatius, as always, you bring so much to the table.

      You’ve given me much to think about.

      The reason I was looking to hire writers is because I had the bright idea of creating a few more blogs. The blogs are on topics that aren’t necessarily near and dear to my heart so I thought I could hire writers to populate them. Unfortunately, even though I’m not thrilled about the subject matter, I still want to provide useful information.

      In essence, I was “washing, rinsing and repeating” my last year’s experiment. I just wanted to speed up the process a bit by delegating some of the writing.

      I think I’ve got to spend a little more time figuring this one out.

  12. Mandy Harris says:

    The nice thing about Textbroker is that if you find a writer you like, you can direct order to them.

  13. Crystal says:

    Thanks for the delegation update, Felicia. As usual, I’m learning from your experiences. And I love your food analogy! Those work at my house, too.

    I haven’t paid for writing yet but have considered it a time or two. I’ll keep the lack of meat in mind. Writers delegating writing may just not work that well, do you think?

    Any particular reason you chose CyberHub over TB?
    .-= Crystal´s last blog ..Declutter Your Clothes =-.

    • Felicia says:

      You have a point, Crystal, about writers writing for writers.

      I’m going to give Textbroker a try. I signed up with them but I found their client interface a bit more confusing than some of the other sites I tried. I especially liked CyberHub’s interface and ease of use.

      Guess I’ll just muddle through the Textbroker interface to give it a shot.

  14. Mandy Harris says:

    As a writer working for Textbroker for a few months now, I appreciate hearing your perspective from the other side. My articles have gotten quite a few “excellent” reviews from the client. But now that I have an earning goal (to pay for my daughter’s school trip) I’ve been paying closer attention to my actual hourly rate.

    With research and writing, I spend about two hours per article. That equates to less than $4 per hour. My first focus has been to learn how to research more efficiently, and to try to turn the research into eHow articles as well.

    I’ll be happy if I can write a good quality article in 1-1/2 hours and absorb the research for it into other articles. After all, Textbroker is temporary and I am learning a lot working for them. The way I see it, writing well now helps me write even better when the projects start paying more.

    It’s difficult to make the pay these sites offer worth the time if a writer only thinks in short-term goals.

    I’d suggest paying for the level four writer at TB, and also making yourself personal in both the ad and your feedback. And if you want a revision, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Also, if you want flair, say so in the ad. Many clients want professional and stiff so that is just default for the writers.

    • Felicia says:

      Thanks for the input Mandy.

      I realized that after I got through writing my specifications, I could have written the articles myself. I thought they were rather specific, but I guess I didn’t convey what I wanted well enough.

      I’ll give it another shot.

  15. prerna says:

    Hi Felicia..

    I do hope you find someone who can write **meaty** articles for you real soon.. If not, you can probably try some of us here (wink, wink!)
    No seriously, I haven’t ever tried a content writing firm, so can’t refer you to someone.. but here’s hoping you do find someone you can actually delegate work to.. Otherwise, guest posts can be an option..
    Blessings and best wishes.
    .-= prerna´s last blog ..Being a Writer: Earn Upfront While Writing for Quality Gal =-.