Freelancer’s Fallback

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Freelancer's Friend

Any freelance writer will tell you that demand for writing and blogging services are by no means uniform, or even predictable. Sudden periods of frenetic activity are often punctuated by stretches of “quiet time”. But bills have to be paid. Luckily, there are several fee-per-article firms to whom freelancers can turn in a pinch.

With a distribution of 80 million viewers, perhaps the biggest and best known of the “content farms” is Demand Media Studios (DMS), the home of several ubiquitous publishing lines including eHow, AnswerBag and LiveStrong. Like just about all content publishers, DMS requires recruits to submit a resume and also a writing sample of approximately 400 words. Once accepted, you are given a shakedown period of a week to complete three articles. You select the articles from a library of some 140,000 titles that can be filtered  by category, format, and price. Let’s look at all three:

  • Categories: there are 16 major categories ranging from Animals to Weddings. Each category is composed of often dozens of subcategories that let you refine your search for articles. For instance, if you like weddings, you can write about brides, decorations, gifts etc. While most good freelance writers can go on about almost any common topic, it makes sense to pick categories that reflect your experience and interests. DMS encourages an authoritative voice and a well-rounded understanding of your topic, so make it easy on yourself and select topics you know.
  • Formats: you can choose from almost two dozen formats, from simple lists to full-blown “topic views” – well-rounded articles that examine a topic from several viewpoints. No need to worry about the different formats; DMS supplies a style guide for each one. In fact, DMS has assembled a fairly complete resource library that helps new writers get the feel of assignments quickly. Most of the formats call for an article with 350 to 450 words. (Confession: I pick business topics that require, I think, approximately 600 words. One time they dinged me for a 700-word article. So economical writing is definitely favored.). My advice is to try several of the formats, and you’ll soon gravitate to a few that fit naturally with your style.
  • Price: OK, you are not going to get rich working at DMS, but assuming your family has other income sources, the pin money you make at DMS can be, well, helpful. Prices per article range from $3 to $40, with pay rates of $15 or $17.50 predominating. You can also participate in a revenue-share arrangement in which you submit articles derived from your own topic list; these articles pay to the extent they help produce click-through revenue for advertisers. Payments are twice weekly through PayPal – the good PayPal that doesn’t charge a commission.

Once accepted, you can cherry-pick up to ten articles in advance (and even more over time), but remember you have only a week to finish the lot. I prefer choosing one a time, but either way there is a ton of stuff from which to pick. Each submitted article is reviewed by an editor who will think nothing of returning the work to you for any number of writing sins.You are marked on grammar and on research; it’s a cumulative one-through-five scale by month. Just hang in there, you’ll quickly learn how to please this demanding group.

Blogger alert! If DMS likes the cut of you jib, they will be happy to syndicate your blog on a revenue-sharing basis. I personally belong to this blog cult, but have yet to see a single copper penny. Well, there is hope…..

DMS also hires copy-editors, film makers, and topic experts – pay ranges vary by job. Other companies in the content-creation industry include Suite 101, Writer’s Access, and About.Com (which is owned by the New York Times). If you love to write and can spare a few hours, perhaps one of these content distributors would be right for you.

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Copyright 2011 Eric Bank, Freelance Writer

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