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The Best Advice for New Online Writers

Updated on February 18, 2012

Would You Still Lie at Gunpoint?

WAIT! Okay, I admit it!  I write at article mills!
WAIT! Okay, I admit it! I write at article mills! | Source

Who's Zooming Who?

With hundreds of thousands of writers submitting articles for your viewing pleasure (and, in most cases, displeasure) at online writing sites, there has to be a few who don't "write for the love of it" as they almost all say in their Profiles. Just take a look around some of the more popular social networking sites; there are a LOT of writers, proclaiming themselves to be "professional writers" who would never stoop so low as to write for an article mill. Funny thing is that, with my being a steward at one of the more frequently bashed article mills, the name of which I will not give out here ( for security reasons.

What is honesty in writing? Is it to write the facts, just the facts and nothing but the facts? Is it to be true to yourself, or is it to be true to your audience? Could you do both; being true to yourself and to your audience at the same time?

So, who's fooling who? Do these people who claim that they are "professional writers", or whom many are to be found at the online article mills think that they are fooling anyone when they say that to write for these article mills is to be a sell-out? They claim that anyone who goes so low as to write at these sites that pay writers real money (maybe not hordes of it, but some is better than none) are scum, that they give writers a bad name.

Wouldn't writers calling other writers scum for trying to earn some money as opposed to writing for free be the ones who are the sellouts? They are selling out other writers, and taking any hopes that they may have of improving their craft away from them, solely for the purpose of making a few dollars more.

If you are accosted by a professional writer who is telling you to stay away from any writing site that you belong to, just agree and move on. It's so much easier than any of the alternatives.

Writers write, professional writers complain about writers

Another day, another dollar! Unfortunately, that's a literal statement...
Another day, another dollar! Unfortunately, that's a literal statement...

I have chatted with some of the self-professed "professional writers", otherwise known as article mill writers who deny writing at article mills, on a couple of social networking sites that shall remain nameless (LinkedIn and Facebook), telling them that I was a published writer with over 250 sales to publishers, e-zines and websites (Car and Driver, Field & Stream, RV Monthly, etc etc - all true, by the way). Once accepting me as one of their own, a couple of them told me that I should go everywhere and anywhere telling people to stay away from these "article mills" because they dirty your name when you submit articles to their sites, that your "Internet presence is ruined by writing for them".

Why, you ask?

They told me that if enough "professional writers" were to scare away enough "hobbyist writers" and "bloggers" from these sites, we would have much less competition for the upfront payments that they offer, as little as those upfront payments are. They think that if enough people stay away, their articles will do much better with revenue stream (RS) income. How very sad. At least have the gumption to face competition in the face and say "I'm a better writer than you are" by selling more articles, by earning more money through revenue share. Okay, maybe $1.25 to $2.00 per 1,000 page views isn't very much, but it's rather similar throughout the online writing market.

Great expectations

I've written my first blog!  Let the money flow!
I've written my first blog! Let the money flow!

The best advice for new writers?

The best advice that a new writer can receive is to buck up, write quality content and lots of it. Join as many sites as you can and submit articles and reviews, comparisons and poetry on a daily basis to each site. Put aside at least 3 to 5 hours a day for writing, and at least a half of an hour for social networking.

Now, that may seem like a lot of time to spend on your computer, writing articles that mostly will be lucky to earn a few pennies each per month. However, as long as you follow traditional writing patterns (short paragraphs, opening and closing paragraphs that define and outline what the article is about, short sentences, good grammar and no spelling mistakes) and write mainly to subjects that you don't need to research, you should be able to submit two or three articles per day at each site that you want to be a steady contributor to.

How long will it take to earn a living wage writing online?

Admittedly, it is a time-patient job being an online writer, as you will need at least a few thousand articles posted to each of your sites before you can expect to earn a living wage. If you consider a living wage to be enough to pay the rent and bills for your living situation, your groceries, gas and insurance, plus a couple of hundred dollars a month on top, then you'll need at least a few thousand articles in 2 or 3 sites.

I am unemployed; should I write full-time while looking for work?

Yes. Yes you should.

Will I earn enough money right away?

No. No, you won't.

Writing online is not a get-rich-quick type of job, and unless you can find other writing gigs, the first two or three years of writing will be fraught with debts and low self esteem. It is not something to just jump into as a first income job, it is more of a hobby at first and has to be considered as such. Otherwise you will fall into a pit of self-despair and disillusionment and most likely give up on writing. All writers start out at the bottom, it's how well you write and the amount of time you dedicate that determines your success or failure.

You should write as many articles to titles that have a lot of entries as you do for empty titles. Suggest your own titles that you feel you could write very well to. These should be popular titles that people looking for something to read or information on something they may want to buy, somewhere they may want to go, or something they may want to fix would look up, like "How to get rich writing online" or "Growing the perfect tomato/rose/pot plant".

If you write a lot of creative writing articles, that's fine, but it won't earn you money. If you spend the majority of your time writing to titles that will be popular in about three month's time, you should start to realize decent earnings within a year.

Is that all?

No. No, it's not. While your articles that you submit to the general pool earn their pennies per month (each) you are slowly improving your writing style and abilities. Articles that used to take an hour or two to write will flow off your fingertips in rapid succession. When I first started, I would pump out an article every 2 to 3 hours, being a bit of an over-writer, always ending up with at least 2 or 4 articles within one.

It doesn't make sense to write 1500 to 6000 word articles for basic revenue stream, as it's not a good use of your limited writing time, especially if you read and edit your work a few times over. Submit articles that are as close to the word limit as possible, that way your 1600 word article is now 4 articles, each earning just as much, if not more than the one large one would have.

Go away! There's no room for you at the inn!

Why promote boycotts for article mills?

It's funny that the people who promote boycotts against article mills can be found on those same article mills with many recent submissions. It's also rather funny that these people apply for writing gigs at these sites, and usually have over 1,000 articles on site. My being a Steward at one of the bigger, more prominent 'article mills' gives me an advantage in finding out who's who, even if they use a pen name to hide behind.

Why do they promote boycotts against article mills? So that the 'average writer', those who make up about 80 to 90 percent of the writer base at these sites, will be scared away from writing there. This leaves the self-processed 'professional writers' with much less competition for the revenue money available.

If there is only one article in a title, and a lot of readers and publishers want to read about what the title refers to, that lone article stands to make some good money. I have sold some articles many times over in Stock Content publisher sales, and I will admit freely that all of the multiple sales articles were the lone entries in their titles. That doesn't mean that you should engage in trying to stop others from writing to the site, it is a testament to the benefits of writing to empty titles.

New writers and those not so sure of themselves (which covers the majority of writers at the article mills) should not be scared away by people who refer to themselves as professional writers, who tell them that if they continue to write there they will never be considered a professional writer and never get real, paid writing gigs. Helium, where I write, Stew and mentor, offers a lot of paid gigs, many for upwards of $35 per post, with more than 2 or 3 posts a week, and some writers get hired for more than one gig.

Okay, now that still might not combine to represent a living wage,but when added to the other things that full-time online writers engage in daily, like social networking, blogging and writing at sites like Factoidz or Reviewstream, the 'average writer' cam easily earn a few hundred dollars a month writing a couple of hours a day.

Earning money as an online writer is not an easy task, and most assuredly not a get-rich-quick scheme. Statistically speaking, you would probably do better bumming change out in front of a major building, bank or ritzy store than you would writing articles at article mills these days. They have all done off with upfront payments of more than a buck or so per article, and now you have to go through editing before your article is accepted.

A sign of the times?

When I first started writing online, I was earning more money than I am now. With a stable of 250 articles after my first year, I noticed that my earnings were starting to skyrocket! I had some articles earning over $15 per month each in revenue share income, and was selling 5 to 10 articles a month through the Stock Content programs. With the old Marketplace at Helium, there were regularly titles that paid $10 to over $200, and I was able to earn over $1750 in 2 weeks through the Marketplace program.

However, now you are lucky to find a title offering more than a buck, and when the good paying titles do show up, they only allow 4 or 5 entries to be submitted. You can easily spend a few hours writing a well-crafted article, just to try submitting it and having it not be accepted due to the number of articles already submitted. You could hold onto your article, and constantly keep checking the title to see if one or more of the submissions were rejected due to poor quality, but when this does happen, someone will jump on it right away, so you have to keep a constant vigil or lose out.

Just because they say that they are "professional writers", it doesn't make them professional writers. Sure, I am in no doubt that the publishing industry is a fight to the death, a knock-em-out fight to the end, to see which writer is better than the others, to see who can earn the most money. But, to try to scare other writers away from the RS earning sites just so that you can earn a few more pennies per month is just downright sad. Try encouraging a new writer, it feels so much better!

What can you do about it?

When you run into these self-professed professional writers, look their names up on those article mills that they espouse the failings of, and then leave them messages asking why they must put the site down in social networking sites while still earning money from them.

It's kind of like the Arab Spring Uprising (hey, "ASU" - maybe a new Law & Order show? "Law & Order, ASU" in today's episode, Ali fails to bomb the neighborhood cafe, and love looms for Mighhab and Ali's cousin) but for online article writers. Hey, we're being downtrodden upon too!

What can you do about it? Write. Avoid any negative discussions on social networking sites; no matter the writing site, there will be negative discussion threads going on, mostly driven by people who failed to make much money there (read; the professional writers).

Where do you write?

Which of these sites do you submit content to?

See results

What's the best way to earn money writing online?

Blogging; The Final Frontier?

Even if you write blogs, you are faced with similar obstacles in your path to earning a living wage. For bloggers, there is the need to build up a following of thousands of people who want to read your posts every day, and maybe click on a few of the advertisements that pepper your blogs. This "follower-ship" needs to grow on a regular basis, and once it passes a couple of hundred a day, the advertisers will start to take notice.

You will notice bigger names plopping ads down on your site, and then the ultimate goal of the blogger becomes more realistic; to be sponsored by a few advertisers, each paying a few hundred dollars per month for you to pump out daily blogs. It's not unheard of for bloggers to make thousands of dollars a month, but just like content mill writers, the money spigot doesn't open to full flow right off the start. You have to prove that you can write quality content every day, so that your followers want to come back every day.

Now, that's not as easy as it may seem. If you write the same thing over and over again, your followers will get bored and look elsewhere for the entertainment. If you go too far off center from what you were writing to bring them in, your followers could leave for that reason. You need to come up with interesting or funny enough content every single day, all year long, to keep your followers, and in turn the advertisers happy.

Now, that would be a lot easier to do if you were a young, athletic and beautiful temptress with an HD webcam and limited morals. Thousands and thousands of men line up nightly with credit card in one hand, the other well occupied, and pay whatever sweetie wants to show what sweetie has. Problem is that sweetie gets old, and even she ends up losing her audience's interest if she doesn't branch out, get kinky, test the borders.

Not that writing online should be compared to selling out. Quite the opposite; when you write, you're putting yourself out there for all to see, and you need to bare your soul every single day. You need to be honest with your followers, if you can't come up with a good blog, you have a little fun and explain why.

What's the best way to earn money writing online?

Well, you have to write a lot. You have to write at multiple sites, in multiple styles, and to multiple audiences. You have to write knowledge-based articles, reviews, comparisons and blog posts. You have to join social networking sites and make new friends and foster blog sharing, sort of like "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine".

And, most of all, you need to have patience, because you're not going to be an overnight success, unless of course you happen to live next door to a group of super models who like to bathe naked by the pool. In which case, get the best video camera money can buy and setup a pay-per-use website.


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    • Marc Babineau profile image

      Marc Babineau 5 years ago from Cornwall, Ontario, The Seaway City

      Thanks for the visit, Doreen! I am at about 1250 articles at Helium myself right now...

    • profile image

      DMartelonline 5 years ago

      Great points here Marc (Red, you're dead on!). I make NO apologies for writing at Helium, I enjoy it, I do fairly well (would love to do better) and I'll continue my push to 1500 articles ;)

    • Marc Babineau profile image

      Marc Babineau 5 years ago from Cornwall, Ontario, The Seaway City

      Thanks you very much! How "sweet" of you!

    • sweetguide profile image

      sweetguide 5 years ago from River side

      Very informative piece and well written too. Excellent.

    • Marc Babineau profile image

      Marc Babineau 6 years ago from Cornwall, Ontario, The Seaway City

      Thanks for the visit, and the great suggestions, Christy! I will try ti implement them as soon as possible!

    • Marc Babineau profile image

      Marc Babineau 6 years ago from Cornwall, Ontario, The Seaway City

      Thanks very much for the visit and the votes (of confidence!), Patti! There will be more added shortly...

    • Patti Riggs Hale profile image

      Patti Riggs Hale 6 years ago from Burdette, Arkansas

      You've made some good points here, Marc. Voted up and interesting.

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Marc, you have good advice here for new writers. I agree that it's not a get-rich-quick income but instead a process that involves hard work. We will keep plugging away! A suggestion for your poll that you allow readers to pick more than one item (if possible)and add 'Other Website' as another option. Good work.

    • Marc Babineau profile image

      Marc Babineau 6 years ago from Cornwall, Ontario, The Seaway City

      Tammy - thanks for the referrals, always much appreciated!

      Anytime you find your work copied online, send them a tersely termed email stressing legal action if they don't take it down - it has worked for me on many occasions!

    • Cagsil profile image

      Cagsil 6 years ago from USA or America

      I was referred to your hub through a friend of mine and I have to say one thing. I didn't take part in your poll. I have no need or desire to lie about anything you post in your poll. Interesting hub.

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 6 years ago from North Carolina

      I put this on Twitter and Facebook.. You have great hubs.

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 6 years ago from North Carolina

      This is a great article and VERY relevant. Just last week I was working on an article and I had to google some information. Low and behold, my article appeared twice. The second entry was a "copy" of my article. Someone with a hubscore of 32 recopied and even copied the score of my page. They took credit for the entire article. It really made me mad! Great work!

    • Marc Babineau profile image

      Marc Babineau 6 years ago from Cornwall, Ontario, The Seaway City

      No, Angela, you are building up your Internet cred, just as long as you are writing quality material. If you sell a lot of stock content, you are well on your way - after 1,200 to 2,000 articles, branch off and try other avenues, that income will always be there as long as you rate 30 times a month and post the odd article.

      Thanks for dropping in!

    • profile image

      Angela Young 6 years ago

      Good analogy Ann Marie. Awesome article Marc ;] I bet I know what sparked this one. Another thing I dislike about all the bashing going on is that those who do not write see this and it lowers credibility of the site and the writer. I guess my internet cred is blown because: I WRITE FOR HELIUM.COM!!!!!!

    • Marc Babineau profile image

      Marc Babineau 6 years ago from Cornwall, Ontario, The Seaway City

      Wow, Red! Quite the analogy there, it works on all levels with regard to this blog! The overlying issue that I see right now is that some of those who are presently badmouthing Helium are presently applying for a writing gig through them for wring blogs for CanPages twice-weekly. And, these are the ones who refer to themselves as "professional writers"... hmmm... guess I will stick with being a hobby writer if that's what being a professional writer is all about!

    • Ann Marie Dwyer profile image

      Ann Marie Dwyer 6 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      Bashing the site for no other purpose than to bad mouth the poor writers is the equivalent of badmouthing the one who graduates at the end of the class.