Thursday, July 9, 2009

Pay-Per-Click Sites: Another View

I highly recommend C. Hope Clark's Funds for Writers newsletters. Not only are they filled with valuable paying markets, but Hope also provides great advice for those trying to make money freelancing. In a recent newsletter, she "got on a soapbox about pay-per-click sites." I agree with some of the points Hope makes, but not all, mainly because I've had some pleasant little surprises connected with the site I wrote for a couple of years ago.

I won't name the site, because, suffice it to say, if there weren't certain things I didn't like about that specific site, I'd still be there. However, there were also enough benefits that I wouldn't condemn all pay-per-clicks out of hand.

Writing on a topic you know and love
Say you love gardening or testing recipes in your kitchen, but you don't have the credentials that would open the door to a regular column. Maybe it's just a hobby and you never thought to make any money from it anyway. I loved the opportunity to write once a week on a topic I cared deeply about, and the 650 word limit was great discipline I've applied to my writing and editing ever since.

The value is in the eyes of the beholder
I agree with Hope that if you are looking toward a successful freelancing career, you should not see pay-per-click as the first rung on the ladder. As she noted, it really doesn't count for much on your resume and the pay is a pittance. On the other hand, if you already have a successful freelance career but don't get to write what you like or if, like me, most of your published work is short fiction for which you were paid two contributor copies, the $10 every couple of months can feel like an added bonus.


Okay, I'm a soft touch for feedback, which is why I like publishing online so much. From time to time I will have someone contact me about my articles, often asking for recommended reading. Since the topic is near and dear to my heart and I want readers to take an interest and learn more, this really provides me with that warm fuzzy feeling.

Maybe I've just been lucky but...

I have been approached twice for reprints for which I was paid more than I made from the site in a year. The second request was from a charter school publishing a textbook. They paid me $250 for a six hundred word article I wrote in less than two hours right off the top of my head. And I still get paid every time someone else clicks on it.

Still and all, writing for pay-per-clicks has its drawback or I'd still be doing it. The demands can be high for what you get. As noted, I could write articles off the top of my head and the research I did do, I enjoyed. Even with that, outside of those two pieces I sold, the hourly rate was ludicrous.

Before signing on you should also investigate the non-writing requirements. Often your page will need to conform to a particular format. In my case this meant finding non-copyrighted graphics to illustrate each article and then trimming it down to size. I'm all thumbs when it comes to graphics, and while I could find historical photos at the Library of Congress site, by the time I trimmed them to the required size, no one could tell what they were. You know I caught grief for that at review time.

Then there's the SEO (search engine optimization), which is one reason why these sites don't always make good clips. Titles, especially, need to be written with search engines in mind, and repetition is bigger than it should be in good writing.

It is also extremely important to know what rights the site claims. The site I wrote for asked for one year exclusive rights. That's more than a lot of print publications, but I thought it fair considering this was pay-per-click so they wouldn't want their articles showing up all over the web for free. Had the site claimed all rights, it would have been worthless since I made more from the reprints than I did from the site.

Some see pay-per-clicks as the sweat shops of the web, others see them as a fun hobby you get paid to do. It all depends on what you want and what you are willing to put into it.

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