5 Important Lessons on Successfully Writing For the Web
My Experience With Writing on the Web
Over the last year, I’ve learned several important lessons about writing for the web that I’d like to share.
I began my online writing career writing for Yahoo Contributor Network (YCN). Unfortunately, I joined the network a little more than a month before they closed down.
After YCN closed, I tried my hand at Squidoo, who was quickly bought out by Hubpages.
Shortly thereafter I also joined Bubblews. I made great money at Bubblews for several months, but, in a heartbeat, the pay structure changed and earnings dropped significantly. (To the point that I now make less than 1/1000 of what I had been previously making.)
Good Writing is both a Science and an Art
1. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
When YCN shut down, they were the only site I was writing for. All hopes of passive income was put on hold, and I was discouraged about having to find and learn a new platform. I didn’t make much of anything the next month.
Within a few weeks, of getting started at my second platform, Squidoo, they were bought by hubpages. While Squidoo didn’t completely fold out from under me, their purchase did require me to learn yet another new platform. Because it was one of only two platforms I was using, and I was new enough at the second platform that I wasn't making passive income yet, this slow down seriously impaired my earnings for a while and was really discouraging.
I procrastinated really learning Hubpages for a while and focused on Bubblews. It went well for a while, but they no longer pay what they used to. Their rates used to be a penny per click, like or comment. The pay structure is now based on the revenue Bubblews makes off the google ads. It's a smart business move, but it sure was unfortunate for the writers! Where one post used to make a few dollars, it takes twenty to thirty posts or more to make a dollar now. Unfortunately, I still hadn’t learned my lesson and joined multiple sites and I was once again looking for a new source of income. Luckily, this forced me to re-double my efforts in learning the Hubpages platform.
Between closures, buyouts, and policy and payment changes, it’s important to have several gigs going at once. Changes can happen without notice in the online writing business. Make sure a single change or gig doesn’t have the power to be completely devastating to your online income!
2. Keep copies of all your work
When YCN closed, I was given license to re-publish and re-use all my articles. Luckily, YCN facilitated downloading CSV files of all of our work. If they hadn’t, I would have lost all my work as I didn’t keep copies of them. I won’t make that mistake again! Even if you can’t re-use your article, you can use them as sources for similar articles on other sites. And, if there is any discrepancy about whether or not you violated terms of service or your content is removed from a site, you always have a copy of your work as reference.
While I recommend always keeping a copy of your work, be sure to double check the license agreement before re-publishing. Some sites require that you transfer the license of any published material to the site. Re-publishing this material constitutes theft of intellectual property, even if that site shuts down. Some sites allow authors to re-publish the work only if they remove it from their site first. Whatever the arrangement, make sure you know what the platforms’ policies are and follow them accordingly.
Good Online Writing is Dependent on Good Writing
3. Continue to Hone Your Skills
Because each platform is different, your writing style should be slightly altered for each platform. Take the time you need to read through the learning center or academy of each new platform before you begin to publish. Many beginners’ mistakes could be avoided, if a little reading had occurred first. Make sure you understand what content isn’t permitted, how to succeed, and what to avoid before publishing your first piece. Read a number of authors’ work on the site and ask any questions you have in the forum.
After you have a general concept of how the platform works, write your first few articles or pieces. Identify what methods of peer critique are available, including the forum, and utilize them. Identify which pieces of advice are platform specific, and which pieces of advice you could apply to other platforms. Consider revising other pieces to reflect the advice as you can. Consistently following this practice will help hone your skills as a writer and publisher.
One skill an accomplished online-writer must have is audience identification. Learn to picture your audience in your mind’s eye as you write your piece. Who is going to be reading what you are writing? Why are they reading it? Does your piece address their needs? If not, no one is going to read it or spend time on it and you won’t make money. Is your tone appropriate for your audience? Will they understand your vocabulary and references? Did you give the appropriate amount of background information? In addition to learning to write well and learning the ins and outs of each platform, don’t forget to learn the ins and outs of each audience!
Not only does each network provide you with a unique audience, they usually provide a forum feature. Learn to use this to your advantage. Read other people’s posts and respectfully give your input as you can. Establish yourself as an expert and use the forums to get help where appropriate. Learning to network with other writers can be very helpful. It was through the forums on YCN that I found Bubblews. Without that contributor’s encouragement, my writing career would have ended with YCN!
4. Change What You Can and Forget the Rest
Policies change. Unfair decisions are made. Feelings can be hurt and hopes disappointed. Unfortunately, these things can’t be avoided or changed by the lay-online-writer most of the time. Many people were upset that YCN didn’t notify their writers sooner and I can guarantee you there were a lot of angry bubblers when writing on Bubblews became much less lucrative. Lots of these people whined, said nasty things, and were generally unpleasant people to interact with online. And you know what? YCN still closed and Bubblews still changed their pay rate.
I’m not saying don’t voice your opinions. If the platform has a way to make suggestions, by all means, please do! However, once you’ve voiced your opinion, and it’s clear the platform’s not going to listen, don’t continue beating a dead horse. Each platform is a business too. Changes aren’t a personal attack, they’re business decisions. Keep that in mind and stay professional. You never know when things might change for the better down the road and doors may be closed to you if you reacted unprofessionally.
Along the same lines, don’t intentionally sever relationships out of anger. Many bubblers were angry and left when the pay rate changed. Some have never looked back. However, some have realized that the platform started to take off again and regret losing all their hard work. In that situation, leaving the articles up constituted one means of earning very, VERY slow passive income and there wasn’t much to be gained from leaving besides the initial thrill of “sticking it to the man.” Whatever your specific situation is, be sure you have given yourself sufficient time to get over the emotional reaction and make a logical business decision instead.
Whatever you chose to do, remember your reputation follows you. You aren’t the only writer that writes for more than one site! If you offend the writers on one site, they’ll likely recognize you and remember the incident when they meet you on another site. No matter how annoying or upsetting someone’s actions are online, remember, you never know when those relationships could come in handy in the future.
Writing on the Web is Not a Get Rich Quick Scheme
5. Writing Online is Not a Get Rich Quick Plan
Is it possible to make a few hundred dollars a month? Yes. Is it likely your first month writing online? No. It is possible to earn hundreds of dollars one month and merely pennies the month after? Yes. Is it likely that “passive view-based income” will truly be passive? No.
If you’re relatively new to online writing, don’t quit your day job. Start making a portfolio in your spare time. Learn a platform really well, publish a handful of articles and learn the next platform. Repeat until you have 5 or 6 platforms going strong and earning steady income. Remember, there is no guarantee that you’ll have a steady income with online writing, so it’s a good idea to either have enough savings to survive a month or two or to have another method of earning money quickly in case your portfolio has a hard month.
Writing online takes work, effort and time. I don’t tell you this to discourage you, but rather to encourage you. Temporary setbacks and failures do not define your online writing career unless you let them or give up. Temporary setbacks can be just that, temporary. Learn what you can, continue to work hard, and have patience and you will see the fruits of your labors.