Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Jan 14, 2009
Check out my Big RSS Subscriber Contest after reading this article.
You may remember that I wrote about my freelance writing woes when looking for websites that had legitimate possible writing projects. During some of the commentary, there were a number of responses from Barbara Whitlock, the community development manager for Helium.com, one of the sites I mentioned in the article. Because of those responses, I asked her to put together an article for this blog regarding any topic related to freelance writing, and she has graciously accepted. So, below is her article; enjoy!
The new age of freelance writing online frees writers. Freelance writers focused on print publishing spend too much time composing and waiting on query letters instead of writing articles. Too many well-educated and talented writers don’t get recognition because they haven’t been published. Yet, the demand for information in an Information Age offers more open frontiers than traditional publishing fortresses. I’m on staff at Helium.com, and I’d like to share my insights about changes in the world of freelance writing.
The Internet has been the platform for change, but — even on the web — some writer websites remain behind the times: Their virtual fortresses hold writers back. Some distinguishing features that make Helium unique provide guidelines to help a writer answer the question: Where should I publish my articles?
1. Are the benefits advertised to new writers just inflated promotional rates or earnings you can rely on even after you’ve been a long-standing member? You should expect your earnings to increase as you contribute more, not to decrease when you are no longer the new writer to recruit. Many sites offer promotional teases, but these dwindle after you get roped in.
2. Is the site an attractive platform to display your photo, bio and online portfolio, or is your image cheapened by association with lousy graphics and site organization? Just like dressing for success makes a difference with first impressions, so wearing a professional looking site can enhance your writer’s portfolio.
3. Does the site offer a supportive writing community and model responsiveness in the staff, or are you left on your own to try and make it? A supportive writing community and responsive staff add to your chances for success. You want to join a writing community and not just a group of writers dumping their content in a cold Internet cubicle. “It takes a village”…or — at least — others can help.
4. Is the site structured and vested in promoting your writing, or will it simply warehouse your work? Having your work stuck in an Internet warehouse is nearly worthless. Finding a site with a strong enough page rank and energetic staff focused on maximizing SEO is your ticket to success. And does the staff share this knowledge to help its writers succeed? Research suggests that focusing on one site for publishing (or two at most) is sufficient. Publishing your work on too many sites can undermine your search engine rank placement. Choose wisely and don’t spread yourself too thinly!
5. Does the site offer empowering opportunities to writers, or are you merely a servant to the “big house” editors? Look for a site where your expertise is valued, and where you can take ownership to develop content areas which match your knowledge/passion? Make sure you are not limited in the number of articles you can share, and that you do not have to suffer waiting periods.
6. Does the site attract other publishers, partners and non-profit organizations so you have a broader set of choices for higher earnings and exposure? For example, Helium’s Freelance Marketplace attracts 100s of magazine, newspaper and web publishers who contract with their members for articles they need, paying $35 to $200 per article. Helium.com also has exclusive partnerships with the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting and One World, paying $125 per article. One World also features Yahoo exposure. Helium’s five star writers are the only citizen journalists who can apply for National Press Club membership. Members can also donate earnings to charities partnered with Helium.
As a writer, choosing a site as your publishing platform can be as confusing as choosing a cereal among the hundred brands lined up in a grocer’s aisle. Which one is best for you? Look for a site which heralds this new age — replete with complex carbohydrates and soluble fiber! Avoid quick sugar fixes that leave you depleted. Pick a writing site with lasting value.
Sites with heavy handed editors reduce your publishing freedom as a writer. Internally focused sites limit your exposure, whereas externally-focused sites with broader partnerships expand your exposure and earning opportunities. Sites with a vibrant and empowered writing community reflect well on the staff which supports it. A visually appealing site enhances your writer presentation. Make sure you earn more as you share more of your content, so you do not get stuck in a rut, leaving your valuable work on some isolated web island.
Choose the site which offers you a strong support to your writing and earning goals, one which does not erect fortresses to limit you.
If you’d like more information about joining Helium.com, email me directly: email@example.com.
Community Development Manager
Thank you, Barbara, for this great article. I know everyone who reads it will learn a lot.