Writing for content aggregators and rates that those companies pay are currently much-discussed, much disagreed upon subjects in the freelance writing world – and that’s putting it mildly.
Some novice freelancers see writing for Demand Studios, Examiner.com, Helium and other content aggregators as a legitimate way into the business. They’re willing to put up with working conditions that make more experienced writers cringe: fees of $10 to $20 or less per article that necessitate cranking out dozens, even hundreds, of pieces a month to make a decent living.
The site’s defenders counter that most contributors write only part-time, and don’t depend on it for their livelihood. They also argue it’s a great way to get a foot in the door and get writing work without going through the hassles and rejections of querying higher paying publications.
Detractors have questioned whether anybody can research and write a “story” in the amount of time it would take to produce enough copy to make much money. They also worry that writers for these sites are merely rewriting other people’s work. This snippet from an honest-to-goodness ad that appeared recently in Craigslist‘s Portland listings appears to prove their point (emphasis is mine):
Here’s the job:
1 – I send you a link to an article.
2 – You read the article.
3 – Then you rewrite/summarize the article, adding a few sentences that are specific to our business. In general, I will expect to get your writing back within 24 hours of my sending the article. If it doesn’t happen every time, that’s fine. You get to go on vacation once in a while! But the general expectation is speed.
4 – I edit the article and send you the finished version.
5 – You look at it, think about what I’ve changed, and what you could do differently next time to get it more like I want it.
6 – Repeat
7 – Once a month, I mail you a check. You get $3 for one sort of blog post (3-4 formulaic paragraphs) and $5 for another type (longer, more thoughtful, or a press release). It’s $3 unless I say otherwise.
I’ve called it the race to the bottom, and maintain there are better ways to break into the freelance business, and better business models for building a successful freelance writing career.
But why take my word for it? Here are examples of a few other blogs where this debate is taking place. Visit, read and come back here to comment.
- 10 reasons why old school freelance writers (including me) need to lighten up and stop whining – One of several posts Freelance Writing Jobs’ Deb Ng has written on the topic since announcing a partnership between her popular freelance blog and Demand Studios.
- Writer mills making big $: Demand Studios – Freelance business writer Erik Sherman represents an opposing viewpoint: caution, some language in this post is NSFW.
- Yolander, won’t you please shut up about the content mills? – Freelancewriterville blogger Yolander Prinzel’s account of writing for content aggregators, why she doesn’t anymore and why she doesn’t think anyone else should either.
- Was I wrong about Helium? – Tim Beyers, aka The Social Writer, explains how he made more selling reprints of a story he originally published on Helium than what he earned on the site.
- Writer mills: you can do better – Long-time freeleancer Jesaka Long riffs on posts from Sherman and others. Her conclusion: “…writers should stand for what they are worth every day. No exception.”
- Are content aggregators a freelancer’s friend or foe? A novice freelancer tries to figure it out for herself.
- I did it again – freelance writing and the great rate debate – Carson Brackney’s faced off with Deb Ng over this issue before, and apparently reading my earlier post caused him to weigh in again. BTW, thanks to Carson for the inspiration for the title of this blog post.
Do you write for content aggregators sites? Has it helped your career? How much money do you make at it? Do you include those clips in your portfolio when going for higher-paying work?