Writers frequently take jobs that pay little or nothing at all, simply for the love of writing. There are plenty of pay per click sites available on the internet for exposure. However, just as Adrienne Crezo wrote, “Exposure…reminds me of being left out in the cold,” most of these sites that offer exposure also leave the writer out in the cold.
Take my personal example. Reluctantly, I agreed to write for an online magazine after being persuaded by a fellow writer. He told me that this particular site was unlike pay per click sites. In fact, getting involved early with this site, he assured me, would mean not only getting my work read but also a steady income. Since one of my goals is to have a steady income from my writing, I felt that this was a worthwhile investment of my time.
You cannot simply write for this site, though. You first have to go through a rigorous training process. The training takes two weeks and culminates on a Sunday of writing where you produce a minimum of nine articles for the site. I made arrangements for a sitter for the training sessions, and focused on completing the two weeks of training so that I could make money from my writing finally after all these years.
When training was complete, the editors bragged about how much money I could make. I would have to be available for weekly meetings with the editors where we would discuss upcoming articles. My writing would have to stay above par. It shouldn’t be hard, though. Most of the articles I wrote for the site were ranked high in Google. In fac, one article received 20,000 visitors on one day. My friend that introduced me to the site told me that even his articles weren’t receiving that many readers. It shouldn’t be hard at all to make money, right?
One month turned into two, and I had yet to make even a dollar. I had over fifty articles published. They were being read and they had gone viral. But, there was no paycheck. So, I stopped writing and contacted the editor. The main editor who worked with me through training was unavailable. I would find out later she had quit. My friend also wouldn’t return my e-mails. Other editors couldn’t answer my questions, other than telling me to be patient…that payment would come eventually.
How long should a writer wait to get paid? Or, perhaps a better question would be how many articles would you write for free? In my case, it took just over fifty before I decided to stop and wait to see if there would ever be a paycheck. The editor who trained (the one who quit) filed a formal complaint with the Better Business Bureau and with the Attorney Generals’ office. Meanwhile, other editors and the founder of the site tried everything from bribery to outright threats to convince me that pursuing payment for my writing was pointless.
To this day, my articles are still on their site, published under my name, and receiving visitors as well as comments. Two years later and I have yet to receive any payment. Many of the editors, writers, and staff that started with me have quit, and told similar stories of writing multiple articles and never getting paid. The site is still up…and they are still recruiting writers.
How can novice writers avoid pitfalls such as the one I described above? Investigate the magazine or website BEFORE you submit your work, even before you spend time being tested or trained by them. Always use a trusted source for writing jobs and, remember, if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We have not named this website because the writer says they previously threatened her. The lesson to be learned is this: If you’ve already written one to three articles for a site (or for any firm), DON’T keep writing for them until you get paid in full for the work you’ve already done! This is happening to numerous writers from a variety of websites and firms across the globe. The way to protect yourself is to not allow yourself to get so far in the hole when working for one company. Writers should be vigilant about ALL firms hiring writers for multiple articles (especially content mills). Don’t be focused on the name of one firm because you need to extremely wary of ALL of them.
Rachel Woodruff is a freelance author and ghostwriter. She currently resides in Southwest Missouri with her husband and three children, she holds a degree in Writing from Drury University.