How can a good writer establish a basic online writing career?
August 24, 2011 11:47 AM   Subscribe

What's the next step in online freelance writing beyond sites like A friend wants to quit his retail job in order to write about 20-30 hours a week while going to school.

He has been successful at, with an immediate and sustained 4 star rating (maybe 5 now?) and lots of private commissions through that site. He thinks he can make that work long term. I worry that it's too much of a grind for the amount of pay and am wondering what else is out there. Also, he's pretty dependent on that single source.

So what other sites are out there for similar work? Do any of them pay better for a competent writer? A lot of people seem to like Textbroker just because you can be a pretty bad writer and still make some money. I assume he could pass any normal online editing/proofreading test. He is also good at cranking out short 300-500 word articles quickly - he seems to actually be able to sustain the pace that this kind of writing requires without going crazy.

His better private commissions have been for ongoing longer blog entries on special interest topics. He has also had several for online political humor, of all things. He seems to be good at taking a topic and efficiently researching it, then distilling it into something readable. So it seems to me that he's well suited for all kinds of work, but I don't know where to point him. He doesn't have any kind of IRL professional network, either. Are there still steady blogging gigs out there, and if so, where are they posted?

For what it's worth, the job he needs to replace, income-wise, is 30 hours a week at $13 an hour.

I've seen this question and it's a similar situation. However, he really doesn't have a specific writing specialty, and no professional connections at all. Also, I thought perhaps things have changed in the last year since the Google algorithm changes.
posted by pekala to Work & Money (5 answers total) 61 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Demand Media Studios is where I do most of my content mill work. I can write a couple of $16 articles in an hour. Sometimes they have special projects on a temporary basis -- I was involved in one that paid more than that rate.

I know that some people don't like Demand, but over the time I've been with them they've been increasingly seeking to offer higher-quality content. Of course, this means that they are more picky than your average textbroker client. You have to cite your sources and find references for all articles. You really have to be a good researcher in addition to a good writer. You also have to be familiar with AP style. If they hire you and you aren't living up to their expectations, you get put into the Writer Evaluation Program and they try to coach you. They let many WEP writers go -- it's not for the easily stressed.

Check out the forum. Even though it's geared towards work-at-home-moms, there's a lot of useful information out there in the freelance writing sub-forum. is also good for networking.

Priceline is hiring writers now, too, but they want you to have an English or journalism degree. Not sure what they're paying.

Also, the Freelance Radio podcasts are great. There are two versions -- one that was produced under FreelanceSwitch and one that the contributors are doing themselves. It's good for strategy and inspiration.

Never, ever pay for a list of freelance writing jobs. There's plenty out there that you can find on your own.
posted by Ostara at 12:01 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]
posted by radioamy at 12:33 PM on August 24, 2011

He needs to consider that if he goes from being an employee to being a contractor, he'll likely have to pay more in taxes.
posted by Jahaza at 1:50 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm not going to go into how and why content mills suck for both writers and readers as I'm sure your friend has already run into those arguments.

So what other sites are out there for similar work? Do any of them pay better for a competent writer?

One of I've heard of is Contently, though I haven't tried it myself.

If your friend is at all interested in trying to freelance the old-fashioned query-based way, this is my favorite site for advice and how-tos. There is a world of writing opportunities out there that are less of a grind than content mills.
posted by Jess the Mess at 3:14 PM on August 24, 2011

Response by poster: The content mill crappiness is one reason I'm asking... it seems like there should be better things out there for someone who knows what they're doing and doesn't mind the general nature of the work. On the other hand, basic but regular work has its place for someone who also has college homework to do and papers to write for school. I think he's interested in the old fashioned freelance lifestyle long term but for right now, spending a lot of time chasing down work is lower down the list. This is a great time to start learning and developing contacts, though.

Thanks for the leads so far! It does seem like the general response to the Google changes has been increased demand for higher quality writing, which is good for everybody.
posted by pekala at 4:05 PM on August 24, 2011

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