Has the Ship Sailed for Earning Money Online as a Writer?
With a 2016 Update
Since the spring of 2014, the landscape of the internet has changed drastically for those who earn money online writing articles on various platforms. Here is a timeline of the events:
May 14, 2014
Helium Network emailed it’s authors that is will be shutting down the Helium 360 sites. Authors have to move their content by December 15th.
Photo from freedigitalphotos.net/stockimages
July 2, 2014
Yahoo Voices announces that it will shut down on July 31st, followed by the closing of the Yahoo Contributor Network in August.
August 15, 2014
It was announced that Hubpages had acquired Squidoo’s content and many feathers were ruffled about the content transfer.
Squidoo authors who chose to transfer had four months to get their articles aligned with Hubpages Terms of Service or else they would be unfeatured. What many authors found is that their traffic dropped like a rock and so did their earnings. Others had their accounts closed after the four month grace period had ended.
October 9, 2014
While Bubblews can hardly be considered a writing site, many people, including myself, wrote there because it was fun, interactive, and easy to make payout. Once the payment threshold changed from $25 to $50, payout became harder to achieve in a timely manner. Many writers became discouraged because it was one thing not to receive a $25 payout, but $50? That is a lot of money.
In October, international users were told that they would have to wait 60-90 days before they would be paid. This population of authors is one that really needs the money, as the fifty dollars goes a lot farther in their countries than in ours.
The site was buggy, had lots of spam and internal issues with users abusing the system, and honest writers were not receiving their deserved payout. I received all of mine, but not without a fight. I closed my account in November 2014.
February 22, 2015
Tyler, the administrator of Seekyt, shared with writers that due to the illnesses of both of his parents, he was selling the site. While it sold quickly and is still viable, the sale shook up writers because they had no control over who owns a site that houses their content.
April 29, 2015
Bill Nihill, the owner of Zujava, informed both readers and writers in a blog post that the site will be shutting down on July 1, 2015. There are numerous reasons cited for the site’s demise (including the loss of their Amazon account), and none came as a surprise to those who wrote there.
One year earlier, in the spring of 2014, many of Zujava’s most prolific authors and supporters started moving their content elsewhere, myself included. Bill had seemingly disappeared and rarely made contact with the site. This, to me, was a red flag.
UPDATE: August 2015
In July 2015, Seekyt was sold again and the new owners have made writers upset with new rules that they did not sign up for.
Overwhelmed and Depressed
Should I just give up and leave?
If all of this news sounds very depressing, it was. I have always preached about the need to diversify your online portfolio, and even though I followed this advice, these changes had an effect on my bottom line. I know of many online writers whose work appeared on all of the above mentioned sites and have literally hundreds and hundreds of articles to save and repurpose for new homes. I know of others who left writing altogether and found jobs in the real world.
I spent the vast majority of the past year moving content again and again to new sites. Some articles have been on three sites in one year! Cutting, pasting, saving and moving content was pretty much all I did for the past twelve months.
In fact, I became so discouraged that I seriously contemplated giving up this line of work. Never before had it bothered me to be at home all day and write. But this was not writing…this was busywork! I was bored out of my mind and frustrated that all of the time and effort I put into my work was now moot.
In March I was offered a job with “full time plus” hours at my synagogue. I was being wooed by all of the Senior Staff and high level volunteers to take the position. The interview would just be a formality…the job was pretty much mine for the taking if I wanted it.
For days, my husband and I sat down and had serious discussions about taking the job. The pros and cons were listed and talked about at length. We came to the conclusion that while it was flattering to be a first round draft pick and so highly sought after, the job and the hours were not a good fit for our family at this time in our lives.
The silver lining from this situation was that the desire to write again was relit. While I do work outside the home, substitute teaching is on my terms. My Hebrew School teaching job has hours that do not interfere with my family life. I work at home so I can be available to everyone that needs me. Somehow I had to still make this work.
I took a break from moving and editing content and created a new Girl Scout website. Writing, researching and helping other leaders brought back a joy that had been lost in the non-stop editing process.
What Can You Do Now to Protect Your Online Income?
This timeline of events should have online writers looking long and hard at what they do-especially if you need this income to pay your bills. Content sites shut down or lost traffic for many reasons, among them all of Google's changes and updates that were supposedly for the benefit of the reader.
The truth is if you write for others, you have no control over the site and what others place on it.
Does that mean you should stop writing for sites like InfoBarrel?
It means you should not only have your work on sites like this. You need to have your own websites and blogs that you control so your income is never at the mercy of others. In the new world of Google, diversifying your income no longer means having your work scattered on other sites that are not yours. It means, in my opinion, that your diversification plan has most of your work on your own sites, not those of others.
What is the Future of Online Writing?
I have not lost hope that writing online will continue to be a legitimate way to earn money. After over five years of doing this, I believe that the strong will survive and thrive-think Infobarrel 4.0. Quality controls have to be put in place from the beginning so that spam and badly written articles does not overtake the site.
One thing I have done to create more online income is to write at smaller, multi-author sites like Goody Guides and Spatial-Anamoly. These sites are run by administrators who carefully vet who is allowed to write there. The writers who own the sites have been through all of the changes I have been through, and they want to continue to do what they love. There are rules that, if broken, will cause your content to be removed.
Time is always a factor and I have to remember to write one page at a time in order to accomplish this goal. It just seems overwhelming at time to sit down and just do it!
I have two niche blogs in the works, one related to Girl Scouts (big surprise!) and one related to working at home. I have moved a few deleted Hubs to Wizzley and will see how that pans out. I am not going to invest a lot of time there, but I do want to test the waters more.
Of course, IB will continue to be a place where I put articles as well.
As you can see, most of my future plans involve writing that I control.
There is an expression that when a door closes, another is opened. Many doors have been shut down this past year, but I will be walking cautiously through the doors that are now open before me.
One Year Later May 2016
It has been a year since I wrote this article and when I reread it, I realize how much life has changed for me in real life and with my online work. Here is an update.
IBme Facebook page is launched. A series of webinars are offered in December to help those who belong to the group with branding, marketing, sales, productivity and more.
Hubpages tells its writers that they are creating new niche sites, which is clearly what Google has been favoring for at the past few years. Only certain articles will be moved to these new domains. Writers have mixed feelings about the whole process.
Persona Paper, created during the Bubblews era of writing sites, announces that it is shutting down. Only a handful of writing sites remain online.
Responding to writers' concerns about the future of InfoBarrel, the admins start the IB State of the Union forum thread. IB 4.0 is still being worked on, but the site is here to stay.
My Online Writing and Working in the Real World Again
Can the two mix?
In July 2015, I received a phone call from the soon to be retiring preschool director. The new director and she were wondering if I would be interested in teaching the four year old preschool class five mornings a week. After years of turning down job opportunities in the preschool, I went in to speak to them both, and after discussing it with my family, I decided to take the job. The hours fit my life, it is a family friendly atmosphere, and I would now have a steady paycheck to replace my declining online earnings.
Photo from Pixabay
In addition to my new preschool job, the Religious School principal offered me a job teaching in Hebrew High School one night a week, which I accepted.
That same month I also decided to take care of an ongoing health issue I had suffered with for eleven years. My carpal tunnel had progressively become worse, and with all of the cutting and pasting I had done moving articles around, the proverbial straw had broken the camel’s back. Pain and discomfort had become a way of life for me. My first surgery was scheduled for November, with the second one being done a month later in December.
I spent the rest of the summer creating posts for my two Girl Scout blogs so they could be on autopilot until the holiday season. I wrote as many articles on various sites as I could squeeze into my soon to be limited writing time. With a new job and two disabled hands, writing was going to be put on the back burner.
What Have I Learned? Have I Given Up on Writing Online?
The past year has been quite eye opening for me. I love my preschool job-seriously love it. After spending six years at home, I was ready to get back out in the world on a daily basis. Being greeted every day with hugs, smiles, and “I love you, Miss Hannah!” and looking forward to going to work each day tells me that I made the right decision. I also never thought I would enjoy teaching young teens, and while it has it’s moments, I do it with a smile on my face (and next year I get to teach my twins for the third time!). I work six days week, which can be draining. I am looking forward to my much needed and deserved summer break!
While I do love my multiple teaching jobs, I still enjoy writing. I have only had time to write a few pieces since January. Most of my time online has been spent updating older articles and my blogs. I recently finished my newest Girl Scout blog and started a second niche one, which will be finished by the summer.
Despite having my earnings decline, I have not given up on this line of income. There is still money to be made online in 2016. While it is no longer my primary way to earn a living, it remains a source of revenue that my family and I depend on.