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5 Lessons for Online Writers

Updated on November 7, 2016

Online Writing Tips

An important part about writing for the web is learning from your experience.  Otherwise, you'll continue to make the same mistakes over and over again.
An important part about writing for the web is learning from your experience. Otherwise, you'll continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. | Source

How I Learned These Lessons

I wrote over 900 articles for Bubblews, a site that paid writers per view, per like and per comment, before they shut down in November, 2015. I made several hundred dollars over the course of their run, but wasn’t very active towards the of 2015 as I began to see the writing on the wall.

Bubblews was the second online writing site to fold out from under me. The first was Yahoo Contributor Network (YCN!). I learned different things writing for each site, and, unfortunately, I’ve learned different things as they’ve both shut down. Hopefully the following reflection can help other writers learn these lessons without having to endure sad experience of their own.

Keep Copies of Your Writing

First, keep a copy of your work. You never know when you might be able to republish an article (assuming your agreements with the previous site allows it) or use the information for a new article. You’ll never know when you might want to refer to what you’ve previously written and you may not have notice before it disappears. Luckily for me, YCN! did a great job of contacting their writers and gave us time to download our articles. Unfortunately, Bubblews wasn’t so kind. They simply pulled their site from the web overnight, and took all the articles with it.

Network

Second, get contact information of people with whom you’d like to stay in touch, or find other ways you can continue to network with them, along the way. Don’t just assume that your platform will always be there to keep you in communication. Writing sites like bubblews, which encouraged writer interaction on shorter social media style posts, encourage friendships between writers. It’s sad waking up one day and realizing that you have no way to contact your friends as your writing site is gone and you don’t even remember more than their screen names. Not only could you be losing friends, but you’re losing networking potential as well.

Keep Your Own Copy of Your Agreements

Third, keep a copy of the writer’s agreement. If you’re writing for more than one site it can be hard to keep the details about what you can and can’t reuse in the event of the site shutting down. In addition, you’ll want to know what promises the site has or hasn’t made about future payments.

Keep Any Study Material Provided

Fourth, take printscreens of any educational material on the site that you might want for future reference. Most writing sites have their own style guide and suggestions for success. However, if you find something that you think might help you in the future, you might consider snagging it in case it disappears one day.

Get to Know the Admins

Fifth, get to know the admins of the site. Do they usually do a good job of keeping the writer’s informed? Do they have a plan for years to come? Are they showing signs of monetary distress? Changes aren’t uncommon to a writing platform. However, if you start to see a significant change in the way the platform communicates with their people, or you know the platform is hurting for money and doesn’t really have a sturdy plan for the future, it’s definitely time to start investing elsewhere.

Moving Forward

While I enjoyed the money I made writing for bubblews and I enjoyed the friendships I built, I’m not surprised to see them go. They lost many of their good writers when they made payments impossible to achieve and the lack of communication from the staff didn’t inspire confidence in the platform’s future. Hopefully the lessons I learned there will serve us well as we move forward in writing for the web.

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    • kbdressman profile image
      Author

      kbdressman 7 months ago from Harlem, New York

      Perspycacious, I'm glad you enjoyed it. I'll have to spruce it up soon. You might enjoy my hub entitled, "A Dozen Easy Ways to Fail at Writing for Hubpages" as well. I'd definitely be interested in your feedback on it.

    • kbdressman profile image
      Author

      kbdressman 7 months ago from Harlem, New York

      Thanks for stopping by, Steve! I hope you've backed your work up now. It's really painful to have hundreds of articles lost!

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 7 months ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      Sound advice and worth resurrecting for newbies.

    • steve-bc-ca profile image

      steve-bc-ca 7 months ago from West Kelowna, BC, Canada

      I didn’t even think to back up my writing. I just assumed the platform would always be here. Excellent tips Katie. Thnx

    • kbdressman profile image
      Author

      kbdressman 17 months ago from Harlem, New York

      Christwillman90, you're exactly right! Sometimes I wonder if I wouldn't be making a lot more money if I hired someone to handle all the non-writing elements of writing for hubpages! Or had a coach that read through my work occasionally and made suggestions. Not only is it important to keep track of the non-writing details, but I think it's important to put in a concentrated effort to continue learning about your platforms, changes to the web, current trends, etc. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Chriswillman90 profile image

      Krzysztof Willman 17 months ago from Parlin, New Jersey

      Great advice that all online writers need to know. My biggest fear is losing everything I've ever written, so now I make sure to keep copies of everything. Writing is the easiest part of being an online writer. The hardest part is all the problems you have to keep track of because if you don't learn then you're sure to fail.

    • kbdressman profile image
      Author

      kbdressman 17 months ago from Harlem, New York

      That's a very smart policy, tamarawilhite. I made the mistake of submitting dozens of pieces to YCN that just sat unapproved and untouched at the very beginning of my online writing career and the final days of YCN. It was disheartening, to say the least, to see no immediate fruit from any of that work!

    • tamarawilhite profile image

      Tamara Wilhite 17 months ago from Fort Worth, Texas

      One lesson I learned early on: track submissions, inform anyone of duplicate submissions, and don't send a submission to a publication when they haven't responded to the first one. You have to track the status of your work and inform anyone of anything that may cause a problem.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 18 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      You have some good points here. I was woth Squidoo and had about twenty 'lenses' but not much was happening so I wasn't paying much attention to it.

      About a year and a half ago I got an email that Squidoo had been taken over by HP and they'd approved about fifteen of my articles so I took a look and liked what I saw.

      I haven't 'made payout' as I don't really have a lot of time for writing, but I've found a niche I like writing about and even when I don't publish for a few weeks I still seem to get twenty or thirty visitors a week (with about sixty hubs but only ten getting regular visitors) it doesn't sound a lot but with the amount of time I have it's all I can do.

      I think the key is to have a plan and what you share fits in with the plan as keeping those things yourself enables you to be flexible and make changes if you need to.

      Thank you

      Lawrence

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 19 months ago from Long Island, NY

      Katie, Yes there are indeed lessons to be learned, especially from the sites that went out of business or warning that they don't have money. I already wrote about it in one of my hubs. Since you're asking, you may want to check it out. :-)

    • kbdressman profile image
      Author

      kbdressman 19 months ago from Harlem, New York

      Glenn, you make a good point. I think you're exactly right. Hopefully Hubpages is able to break the trend and stick around a while! I've been thinking about whether or not there are lessons to be learned in which sites are sticking around that can be applied to how I write for hubpages. :) That's what spurred my question. Thanks for humoring me!

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 19 months ago from Long Island, NY

      Katie, In reply to your prior question, HubPages is the answer in my opinion. You ask what changes I'd make. The changes HP is making are the changes necessary to stay in business as a site that contains various articles on different subjects.

      Every change HP makes is related to things I read in Google's recommendations for webmasters. Google is struggling to give people what they want and HP is proactive with keeping up with it.

    • kbdressman profile image
      Author

      kbdressman 19 months ago from Harlem, New York

      Glenn, you make a good point about Google. If you were going to try to change the content mill business model into something with a potential future, what kinds of changes would you make to your platform?

      It's sad to see some of these sites go, but I'm excited to see what replaces them!

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 19 months ago from Long Island, NY

      Katie, In response to your prior comment above (your reply to mine), I wouldn't exactly recommend Persona Paper at this point. I expect they will disappear the same way with a sudden shut down. I wrote a hub about my experience with that too. It's run as a Mom and Pop business with no other people on board and they already admit that they have no time for it.

      As for starting a content mill, that's not a good business plan anymore. Google hates content mills. That's why HubPages is working so hard at being different - not just milling out content so to say, but providing truly useful quality content that people search for.

    • kbdressman profile image
      Author

      kbdressman 19 months ago from Harlem, New York

      Ron, You're right about the contrast, but I don't think it was just the way the two sites shut down that was a stark contrast. I think it was the way both sites were run in general! I remember being frustrated about YCN staff members not being open or straight with writers about what was going on over the last few months, but it was nothing like what Bubblews put us through. I checked last week. Arvind hadn't posted in 4 months. That's a long time to not bother to say anything to your writers! Not to mention, the YCN layout was classier and the site was more professional. Sure I made more on Bubblews, but that was just due to luck of timing, not due to pros or cons of one or the other.

      Have you written any hubs on applying helpful tips learned from Yahoo's Academy (or other site's) that could be applied to improving performance on hubpages? I'd definitely be interested in reading them if you have!

    • kbdressman profile image
      Author

      kbdressman 19 months ago from Harlem, New York

      Glen, I was fairly new to YCN when it went down. I learned a lot from their material, but hadn't really had time to digest it. I wish I had a copy of it to review. I'm facebook friends with one of their former staff members, I wonder if she'd have access to any of it? I'll have to ask her!

      I wish I had saved all my bubblews as thoroughly as I thought I had. I had planned on saving them all and organizing them well over Christmas break. Looks like I'm a dollar short and a day late there! I'm a little sad about losing a couple of my contacts from bubblews. It's really only 3 or 4 people, but if Bubblews had given us a week's notice, I'd've been a much happier camper as I watched them go down. I knew it was soon. But, I sure didn't think it was "Shut down shop without 20 minutes warning" soon!

      I'm not familiar with Persona Paper. However, if the managers are out of money, can't find time and don't have a plan for the future...I definitely would be looking for another basket to put my eggs in. Makes me wonder...maybe a couple of us who have watched several sites tank should start our own "content mill!" (with a grammar test required for other people to be able to see your content!?! please?!)

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E. Franklin 19 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      I'm also an alumnus of both YCN and Bubblews. I think what you share here is sound advice. One of the saddest parts of the Bubblews shutdown is the number of people who lost all their posts because the site gave no warning or time for people to retrieve their work. So, backing up is key. I also like that you recommend keeping study material. I found the YCN Academy material so helpful, I made sure to make a copy when that shutdown was announced. BTW, the contrast between how YCN shut down, having given plenty of notice, and how Bubblews did it (no notice at all) is stark.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 19 months ago from Long Island, NY

      I also was on the Yahoo Contributor Network when they closed down. I'm glad I completed the Yahoo Academy since I learned a lot from them. I only wish I had saved the study material before they shut down. You are so right about that.

      I also made money from Bubblews until they refused to pay a year ago and I removed all my posts at that time. I saw the demise coming too and didn't want to waste any more time writing anything new there. I even wrote a hub about all that too.

      I was lucky to react quickly many months ago when Arvind admitted in a post that they had no money. That's when I deleted and saved my posts. As you said, they can be used to write other articles.

      Your suggestion to save contacts is important too. I find that my followers still have contact with me via my tweets. And I follow the ones I know on their Twitter feeds as well. Google Plus is another method to stay in touch, although I don't use it much.

      Another to go soon: You mentioned to recognize when admins are showing signs of monetary distress. I see that happening with Persona Paper now. They already posted saying that they gave out more coins than they have money to pay. So to me that means they can't make future payments, and I expect to see their demise soon too. Persona Paper definitely doesn't have a "sturdy plan for the future", as you warned to watch out for. They already posted saying that they don't have time to run the site.

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