Several writers recently Tweeted a Reuters article that painted a dismal picture of online freelance journalism. The article made several valid points, the main being that companies don’t value online content as much as print content. You can see this in many online writing jobs in which the the pay is $5 an article. In the case of the Reuters piece, a journalist who had been offered $125,000 to write six articles for print, was asked to tweak and reprint another article for online media for free.
Many writers point to this type of situation to highlight the challenges writers are facing today. And I don’t disagree, traditional journalists are in a pickle the same way newspapers and publishers are. But this is the reality. The digital world is changing the way people get news and information in the same way it changed how they listen to music.
Some of the pay discrepancies between traditional print and digital media has to do with the difference in content. The journalist mentioned in the article normally writes 4,000 words for print magazines. The Reuters article is 1,500 words, which some might argue is too long for online media. Most online writing jobs ask for shorter articles; 400 to 1,000 words. Second, the “voice” used in many online media sources is more conversational and engaging compared to print. So writing for the Internet is very different than writing for print sources.
With that said, many online media undervalue writers, offering ad-revenue, a few bucks or even worse, exposure in return for content. You can’t pay the rent with exposure. This lower pay model does make it easier for new writers to break-in to writing, as companies know they can’t attract experienced journalists for so little money. And as new writers take advantage of these opportunities, it drives down the perceived value of writing, even as many companies begin to require more from it’s writers. Take Demand Media for example. During it’s early days as a content mill providing articles for sites like eHow, the quality of writing was sub-par. Today, Demand Media has stringent requirements for writers, particularly in it’s specialty areas. For example, LIVESTRONG writers need a background in nutrition or fitness. While the requirements have increased, the pay has gone up only a little. Specialty topics pay $20 to $35 per 400 word article. I’ve seen other online resources asking writers to take tests and write a piece on spec for the chance to earn $15 to $25 per article. It seems like a lot to ask. Yet, many writers today are writing for content mills, cranking out 5 to 10 articles a day, earning $1,000, $2,000 a month or more.
Freelance writing for online media usually pays more than content mills, but is still less than traditional print publications will pay. Getting work requires more effort and experience, and a higher level of writing. But I know many people who make a living writing articles for online media.
The changing world of journalism is discouraging and frustrating for writers. Print publications are going out of business or cutting salaries to stay afloat. But for new writers who embrace the changes in the digital world, it is possible to earn a living. My tips for writing online are:
1) Focus on topics you’re knowledgeable about to cut down on research time.
2) Write for media outlets that pay $20 or more per article.
3) Look for media that will offer regular writing for steady pay.
If you’d like to know what it takes to get started writing online, including tips for getting hired without a writing background, resources for applying for work and how to maximize your income, checkout Work-At-Home Success University’s new course Online Freelance Writing. This 4-week email course will take you step-by-step through the process to becoming a paid online writer. Like all WAHSU Courses, it’s a self-paced course delivered by email so you can work through it at your convenience. The course covers:
Week 1 – Introduction to Online Freelance Writing
– What is online freelance writing?
– Skills, education and experience needed to write freelance articles
– Mining your writing strengths and ideas
– How to create your writing sample (or what to do if you don’t have clips).
– Writing a bio
– The importance of social media to getting writing work.
– Tools of the trade
Week 2 – Getting Work
– Applying to writing Jobs
– How to write an online query
– Pitching online markets
– Lists of writing resources including writing content sites, freelance writing markets and resources for finding more writing work.
Week 3 – Managing the Work
– Research and Interviews
– Writing Fast to Maximize Your Income
– Managing your time so you can meet deadlines
Week 4 – Building Your Online Writing Career
– Getting paid more
– Creating a professional image through a website or blog
– Other freelance writing opportunities
You get all the information and resources to build an online writing career for only $19.95! That’s less than $5 per lesson! To get started on an online writing career, sign-up for the Online Freelance Writing Course here.
Leslie Truex is an ideaphoric writer, speaker, entrepreneur, social worker and mom trying to do it all from the comfort of her home. Since 1998, she's been helping others create careers they love by providing work-at-home information and resources through Work-At-Home Success.
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