Writing Online: Is it Really Worth it?
The Holy Grail
This is online writing in a nutshell:
You sit at your computer for hours, reading, researching, writing, and rewriting. You publish a great piece that is unique, fresh, and interesting. Then you head over to another hub, blog or website and post comments, links, and likes, hoping that people will come by and read all your hard work for free, so that you might earn a few pennies through AdSense.
It can take a serious amount of time and work to earn a very small amount of money by writing online. Only a handful of people manage to make more than enough for a little extra pocket money each year.
So what is the point? Why bother? And the biggest question... why are so many people doing it?
Always Read the Fine Print
Most of us have explored our various options around the web. Before I started writing here, I was unemployed for a period of time, and through desperation I tried a few different options. This is what I found.
Can you earn money at Helium? Sure, but you have to maintain at least one rating star, and those are some tricky little devils to get and hang onto. You have to compare two articles against each other to help the high quality articles rank above the crappers. The hard part is that you have to do it constantly, because the rating stars "twinkle out" inexplicably, even if you don't slack off. And then there's the crazy, mysterious system they have to determine whether or not you get those precious little stars. Rate too many articles at a time, and the system considers that low quality rating. Choose the article that is not the popular favourite, and your percieved rating quality goes down again. Aint nobody got time for that.
There are other issues that make it difficult to earn at Helium, but there are also loads of other hubs that talk about them. Maybe I'll do a whole hub on it someday, although that might end up being a rant.
Don't get me wrong though, I did like the site, and I used it for a while. Why? Because it can be good practice and cure for writer's block. The titles are ready-made for you to choose from, there's clearly visible competition which is motivating, and there is potential to earn actual money in the Marketplace.
I don't have any experience here, but from what I gathered by browsing over the site, you have to be a pretty serious freelancer to bother with it. It's definitely for bloggers who want to write about whatever their hearts desire. From what I've read about it, it can be a hassle too between difficult clients and awkward payment situations.
Update: After writing this, I actually did get some experience at Elance. I worked with a few different clients and actually earned a decent amount of money. Most of the writing projects involve ghostwriting or "spinning" articles, and many of them are just looking for mass amounts of search engine friendly content for websites. There are also some transcribing, translating, proofreading, and editing opportunities as well.
Elance is project based, so you bid on jobs posted by clients, and if they like you they will hire you for the job. They pay Elance, and Elance will then pay you. It can be very difficult to get a job, however, as there is quite a lot of heavy competition from people who will work for almost nothing. I would say it's worth a try, but don't expect it to be easy cash.
I wrote a perfectly legitimate and helpful review of a brand new product I'd recently purchased and was slammed with a rejection message in all capital letters. It was something to the effect of: "WE ARE NOT INTERESTED IN YOUR REVIEW. IT IS NOT HELPFUL OR VALUABLE."
So that was the end of that.
Blog Sites in General:
Basically the same as this site; you certainly can make legitimate money from AdSense, however you need to be on the site for at least a year, and you need to write fresh, interesting, and useful articles for people who will only actually read 20% of what you've spent so much time on, and most times will only "view" your page for about four seconds.
The Holy Grail
I guess overall, making money online is kind of a Holy Grail. Many thousands of people see it happening to other people, therefore it must be possible, right? And technically it is. I've been at HubPages for a few years now, and after the first two years I started earning about $50 USD per year. It's not much, but it is a nice little treat, especially during busier times when I have gone months on end without touching my HubPages account. That's one really nice thing about online writing: even if you have long moved on to other things, those articles will continue to earn money as long as they are online and getting traffic.
But that's the big catch if you want to earn from this. You need to have a lot of traffic and it needs to be constant. Personally, I've only ever clicked on an AdSense ad once. (That ad was HubPages, believe it or not!). Each click earns so little that I need tens of thousands of people looking at my hubs in order to earn that $50 per year. Somehow though, it does happen.
We've all been told it's not easy; you have to stick with it, be patient, and work hard. It's true. Pay attention to what kind of topics and what kind of writing makes it to the top ranks on this site, and try to emulate what they are doing. Stick with it, write a lot, and write well, and you might earn a few dollars. Just don't quit your day job.