Saturday, April 26, 2014

My Passive Income Earnings from Online Articles

Update (Aug. 24, 2014): Squidoo is shutting down! Roughly a week ago Squidoo's founder released a statement that the site is going the way of the dodo and will be selling it's content to rival HubPages. It's not a huge surprise if you were familiar with some of the things that were going on there (such as what's noted in my previous blog post), but I feel sorry for all the people who devoted hundreds or thousands of man-hours to the site - especially in the past year or so.

Update (Aug. 30, 2016): It appears that WebAnswers has gone the way of the dodo as well.  Don't know when exactly it happened (I haven't been on the site in ages), but it's gone.  That's sad, because it really was pretty easy to start earning there. Oh well...c'est la vie.

One of the great things about being an author, from a  pecuniary standpoint, is the fact that your writing has the potential to produce passive income. In essence, you do all of the work - the writing - on the front end, and then, with any luck, your efforts will go on to produce income indefinitely with little or no active involvement from you. I suppose it's kind of like recording a hit song, and then getting paid every time it's played on the radio.

Just about anyone who has been writing for a while (or contemplating the prospect of doing so) is well aware of the fact that there are a ton of online sites where you can post your work - usually in the form of articles - and, depending on various factors (like web traffic) earn some moolah. Prior to writing novels, I tried my hand at this, with mixed results. Here are a couple of the more prominent places where I was writing:

This is an article-writing site with 75% revenue sharing (authors get 75%), which isn't bad at all. I believe I wrote a couple of dozen articles, but I never earned more than a buck or two per month, maximum - and probably not more than $10 overall. (I checked just a few minutes ago, and I've got a few pennies in my account there so I'm still earning - go passive income!) Back when I was active, I think the top earner on the site made close to $3K per month.

HubPages is a 60% revenue-sharing site where you build web pages called "hubs" on whatever topic suits your fancy. I made scores of hubs (which are basically articles), and some of them even made decent money. At my peak, I was probably earning an average of $50 per month on the site.  (Top "hubbers" on HP made a couple of thousand per month, if I remember correctly.) These days, I'm earning about $5/month, which is great when you bear in mind that I do practically nothing to promote my writing there (or on any of the sites I note in this post).

As I recall, Squidoo is a 50% revenue-sharing site.  In my opinion, it's essentially another version of HubPages, except the web pages you build are called "lenses" on Squidoo (and I built dozens of them). That said, there are people who will swear that one of them - either Hubpages or Squidoo - is infinitely superior to the other, so be careful about getting sucked into those conversations/comparisons. At present, I'm probably earning something like $1/month on Squidoo, although my historical average is more akin to something like $5/month.  (In my prime, I think I was earning roughly $40/month.) Again, though, I seem to recall top earners on the site earning several thousand dollars per month.

Squidoo, however, is wickedly competitive in the sense that only the top 85,000 lenses earn anything from ads on the site.  The lenses are divided into 3 tiers, with the first being for lenses ranked 1-2000 (and the bulk of the money goes to these, naturally); 2nd Tier is lenses ranked 2001-10,000; and the third Tier consists of lenses ranked 10,001-85,000.  If your lens is one of the millions ranked below that, you can go pound sand with respect to getting a share of the ad dollars (although you can still make money from affiliate sales on places like Amazon and eBay). Moreover, there were ways to game the system to make your own lenses rank higher.  (I'm not saying that anyone did or that it's happening now - just that it was, and probably still is, possible.) Surprisingly, despite the fact that I only even visit Squidoo once every blue moon, I have a handful of lenses with decent rankings.  Go figure...

WebAnswers isn't really a passive income site. You essentially get paid to ask and answer questions. However, there's a participation component to the algorithm that determines how much you earn. In essence, WebAnswers requires that you remain active on the site - even if it's just asking/answering one question per day.  (FYI: you can skip a few days with noticing a drop in earnings.) In spite of all that, however, I thought it was a great place to earn money - not to mention being a lot of fun - and when I was active (which, in my book, means answering just a couple of questions per day), I earned around $50/month. In fact, WA is undoubtedly one of the quickest, easiest ways I found to make money online, since you start earning within days; I just had trouble participating at a level that would allow me to achieve scale (ie, make more $$$). These days, I rarely even visit the site.

There are probably a dozen other article-writing sites like these that I was active on, but I won't go through the trouble of listing them all. Frankly speaking, I didn't make a particularly large amount of money from my efforts, and some of those articles required extensive research. The truth of the matter is that, like a lot of things online, you generally needed traffic in order to generate earnings, so you had to devote time to those efforts and success wasn't likely to happen overnight.  

In addition, it seemed like every few months Google would tweak their search-engine algorithms so that just when you were building up steady traffic, it would get decimated. You'd go from a decent number of page views to almost nothing in a heartbeat. (It also didn't help that Squidoo sort of went on the warpath, declaring lenses to be unfit for publication almost at random it seemed. Squidoo's actions, which I wrote about here, were reportedly a response to a Google algorithm adjustment.)

At some point, it occurred to me that with all the writing I was doing for various sites, I could have written a book.  That wasn't the only reason for the shift in my focus from articles to novels, but it played a part.  Also, I like to think that all the article-writing I did helped me in terms of books.  For instance, writing articles taught me that volume - your level of output - matters.  Right now, of the sites I mentioned, I don't think it's a coincidence that Hubpages - where I wrote the most articles - is also the one that currently makes the most money, followed by Squidoo (where I have the second-most articles, I think) and then InfoBarrel, where I've posted the least. (WebAnswers is a different kind of beast, but I think I'm still earning a few bucks there every month.) Likewise, I've found that my earnings as a novelist seem to move up a notch with every new book that I publish.

In short, aside from simply writing novels, there are a number of venues that authors can take advantage of in order to generate income. These can be particularly appealing if you just need to take a break from writing your next book, or if you simply want to see if cranking out, say, an article a week can tack on a decent amount of income. (When I was hitting on all cylinders, I was earning $100-$150 per month from my article writing - a lot more than the $5-$10 I'm earning from it now, but I also had to constantly promote back then as well.) Personally, I've found writing novels to be far more rewarding financially.  But there's always a chance, of course, that you'll be one of those people who manages to hit a home run in terms of articles and become one of the top earners on one of those sites. Needless to say, there's nothing wrong with that.

*If I didn't state it already, earnings for the sites mentioned above typically are the result of Google AdSense and affiliate sales.  Also, I think I note it in my Disclosure statement but it bears mentioning again - particularly in light of this article - that several of the links on my blog are affiliate links.


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