How I Earn Good Money Writing for Revenue Share

Carol Tice

Cherry pie sliceOne of the first things I figured out when I started freelancing in 2005 and began exploring the online opportunites was that revenue-share sites weren’t worth my time.

Most paid you if ads got clicked, and you needed thousands of clicks to earn anything real. The feedback I got from most writers doing it was they were maybe making $100 a month tops writing dozens of articles.

That’s a pretty tiny slice of the pie, for a lotta work.

It didn’t sound like a way to make a living to me.

I’ve since learned more about what it takes to earn real money on Examiner and similar sites, which also did not make me want to jump in and do it.

In fact, when I interviewed one of Examiner’s top earners earlier this year at BlogWorld/NMX and told him how I earn off my blog, he said it sounded better than his own grueling schedule of posting nearly 100 articles per site monthly in order to drive enough traffic to earn well and feed his family.

Then, around 2008 or so, my opinion of revenue share started to change.

Where revshare is big business

I applied for and got a job blogging for BNET, a big business-news portal created by CNET and — at the time I joined up — owned by CBS Interactive. BNET ended up being folded into CBS MoneyWatch in 2009, so it isn’t around anymore.

But while it lasted, BNET served as my introduction to the other side of revenue share…the one that can be a lot of fun and pay real money.

BNET had great editors with daily-paper experience that I learned a lot from. It was also a chance to write fun, tabloidy headlines. I covered retail for them.

I learned a lot about how to compete on a busy blog with lots of contributors and stand out with snappy stories and headlines. The key words that got the best traffic for me, I quickly discovered, were “Crazy,” “Madman,” “Walmart,” and “American Apparel.”

I learned a ton about blogging here that helped me build this blog and write for other clients, too.

Enter a hybrid pay model

Most interesting of all was the pay structure. It’s been a while, so this is all from my recollection, but we were paid a low base amount for doing a minimum number of posts — as I recall, I was supposed to post at least once per business day. I could get paid at a higher per-post rate if I averaged 1.5 or 2 posts per day.

We were paid additional bonuses if we drove a certain number of pageviews.

In other words, it was partly a revenue share model. Not based on ad-clicks, but on traffic.

BNET also had the cachet of writing for a brand-name company with a great reputation (which allowed me to annoy my family members by pointing to myself and saying, “This is CBS!”).

I did fairly well some months with BNET, but burnout loomed fairly quickly. I couldn’t imagine how I was ever going to get a vacation if I had to crank 20 posts a month for them! Coming up with 20 unique angles on retail news and writing them up took a lot of news scanning and loads of time.

I lasted less than a year. But for a time, this was a steady, reliable, bread-and-butter account for me that could top $1,000 on a good month.

How revshare got better

After BNET, I left revenue share behind for a while, and went back to writing for per-post or per-article fees.

Until one day, when I got a call from an editor at Forbes.com. I thought they were like Huffington Post and didn’t pay anyone, but that turned out to be wrong. They do have a core of trained journalists that they pay to cover specific beats.

It was the call I’d been waiting for — I’d been blogging for a competing magazine with 1/30th Forbes’ traffic and considered Forbes the big leagues of highly regarded business blogs.

Turns out they needed someone to cover one of my expertise areas — franchising. I happily switched camps.

Besides the opportunity to get in front of a way bigger audience, Forbes offered a pay model similar to the one I’d had at BNET. I get a base pay amount if I do X number of posts, plus a bonus for X number of views, and additional bonusi for unique visitors and repeat visitors.

On a good month, I’ve made $1,200 writing four posts. So that pencils out well, eh? And I gather others with more experience on the platform, hotter topics, or a bigger built-in audience from their own blogs are earning way more per month than me.

There’s a lot of opportunity to go viral, drive huge traffic, and earn a nice hourly wage blogging on big sites, if you know how.

Why this is the future

I know — loads of writers want a sure thing. They’d rather get $50 or $100 a post guaranteed. And I used to be that way.

But I’ve become a fan of this revenue model, which is basically a mix of flat fee and revshare.

Why? It’s pay for performance. Which I respect.

If you learn how to get that blog attention and traffic and help that site make sales of its workshops or books or products or whatever, why shouldn’t you profit from your expertise? And if you don’t know how to make posts get eyeballs, why should you earn the same as the writer with huge traffic?

It doesn’t make simple business sense to pay a flat fee, which is why I’m betting you’ll see a lot more of these hybrid fee/revshare models in the future.

When to do revenue share

How can you tell if you’re looking at a great revshare opportunity or a time-waster that will earn you pennies? Here are a few important things to look for:

  • Big traffic. Find out what monthly viewers are. Check on Alexa or one of its competitors and benchmark your prospect against other, similar sites. There are loads of startups that claim they’ve got traffic, but don’t. I’ve had sites pitch me that writing for them would give me “huge” exposure, only to check and see that this blog gets more traffic than they do.
  • Engagement. Social shares and comments are a sign that people don’t just click to the site and then immediately realize they’ve made a mistake and leave (like I do every time I find myself on eHow).
  • Great reputation. As you can see above, my revshare deals were for solid-gold names. Ask around about the place in the writer community. Google “sitename sucks” and see what you get. If it’s somewhere with such a crummy rep that you couldn’t use the clips in your portfolio, think hard about whether you want to do this. It’s probably a gig writing for search robots to read instead of for people, and that’s not going to help your freelance writing career.
  • Flexibility. Revshare should include the ability to set your own schedule and post or not as you desire. This is one of the things I love versus my pay-per-post gigs, which all committed me to definitely post X number of times a week or month on a rigid schedule. Now, if I’m busy, I can make a decision to blow off my revshare gig in favor of other projects and earn less from Forbes that month. Per-post pay gigs usually don’t offer that freedom.
  • Pay for traffic, not ad clicks. These two metrics usually relate to each other, but you don’t want to be tied to ad clicks. Which ads they put up and products they decide to hawk are totally beyond your control, so you don’t want that to be a pay trigger.
  • Some base pay. The company should have a successful enough business model to be able to offer you some guaranteed money for your time.
  • Substantial upside. Watch out for caps on how much you can earn if your post goes viral. You want the potential to really cash in if you have a good month.

I’m fascinated to see where the world of revenue share goes next. But if what I’ve seen is any indication, business bloggers should work hard on learning how to drive traffic. Likely, the size of your future freelance paychecks will depend on it.

Have you written for revenue share? Share your experience in the comments.

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42 Comments

  1. Deborah Killion

    I have written for Forbes also—THREE TIMES! I have other big clients too but I did it on my own. I own a tech company but also make over $3000 per month writing.

  2. Robinsh

    I’m also creating such a site where people would get paid for their time, so wish me good luck and thanks for sharing this valuable information about the revenue share business model online.

    I’ll try my best to dominate this niche.

  3. Allen Taylor

    In January, I started writing for Career Addict. They paid $25 base + traffic incentives with a minimum payout bonus of $50. Since I knew I could write a quality blog post in half an hour or less, I could walk away with $50 easy, and if I got the bonuses, then that would be gravy. That’s on the low end of what I’d want to make, but January was my trial month. If it worked out, I thought I might try to write an article a day and see how it goes. Unfortunately, they changed the rules in February.

    After two articles, I cashed in and got my first $50 payout.

    I didn’t realize the rules changed until I posted another article. It published and my dashboard informed me I would be paid $20 + traffic incentives. Also, if two articles were rejected due to not following the rules, I’d be canned and wouldn’t receive any pay at all. I got a second article published and it went bonkers with traffic. I got 10 times more traffic in a couple of days than my previous articles did. Still, it registered at only $20 plus a few pennies for the traffic. Their rules state it takes 10,000 page views to earn a second 20-dollar bill for an article.

    So there I was stuck at $46 and some change. I wrote another article and it was rejected. Career Addict informed me that all How-to articles would be written by their staff writers. That sucked. I was forced to rack my brain to come up with non-How-to article ideas. Meanwhile, two more articles were rejected. I was relieved that I still able to submit articles after my second rejection.

    My fear was that after my second rejection, Career Addict would send me an e-mail and tell me I was being let go and I wouldn’t receive any compensation for the unpaid articles that were published. That didn’t happen. I guess articles being rejected for not adhering to content guidelines is different than articles being rejected for breaking other types of rules. One of the articles was rejected because its audience was too narrow.

    Finally, after three previous attempts, I got another article published. Now my balance is at $66.98. Interestingly, I’m being paid less for articles with thousands of page views than I was paid for articles with hundreds. Another interesting tidbit – my earnings for an article with 1614 page views and 13 shares is less than the article with 204 views and 4 shares even though the base pay was the same.

    I’m going to wait a few days and see how many more views and shares I get on my latest article, then I’ll cash out. I probably won’t write for them again.

    The Forbes gig, however, does sound like a good deal.

    • Carol Tice

      Allen, thanks for sharing another cautionary tale…and reminding writers of another key point to know about revshare sites: They change their rules.

      When I talked to Chandler about having to drop ads to stay in Google News, he told me he wouldn’t change the payout formula, even though he couldn’t serve as many ads anymore…and that he was hoping to switch out of ad networks to individual paid ads. To which I replied…”Then you’d have to change the payout rules, right?” And he admitted he would.

      These businesses are always in flux as they struggle to stay ahead of Google and to win on ad clicks, because people don’t like ads and don’t click on them much anymore! Every time I meet a writer who tells me they’re building retirement income on a revshare site, I just want to rip my hair.

    • Ashley Clarkson

      This sound similar to Bubblews. Evidently, they paid quite well in the beginning, had a massive growth spurt and now barely pay anything at all.

      They also changed their model from quality content to anything goes. I suspect powers that be at Bubblews are seeing excellent profits as they have cut the part they share to nearly nil.

    • Carol Tice

      It’s one of the problems of all these sites that rules may change without notice.

  4. Margaret

    Hi carol, I am your great admirer but in this post things seem to be ‘larger than life’. There are not many websites that follow this hybrid model where they pay the base rate plus the rev share. Except yahoo( only for US), I don’t find any other reliable site following this model. It is important to find a reliable site because the day the website will close you will lose all your valuable content.
    The sites I have found pay a lot less that what I would expect to earn from 1000 good quality and original articles in one or two years.

    Can you suggest me some reliable websites that follow pay per view model? I am desperately looking for some.

    • Carol Tice

      I wish I knew more…my real point of this article is that the vast majority of revshare isn’t worth your time. You want to find markets that pay you a guaranteed fee. It’s such a moonshot and not reliable that you’ll end up earning a living writing for revshare.

  5. Suhas Jogdeo

    Have been patiently waiting for an opportunity to work as a freelancer web writer. A couple of my attempts proved to be futile, as I lost money in the so called registration, training, etc.

    I now wonder, if any such authentic opportunity exists in the world. Shall be happy to pay, once I start earning !

    – Suhas

    • Carol Tice

      Suhas, I think maybe there’s some confusion here — you shouldn’t have to pay to get freelance writing jobs. You go out and market to prospects and land clients on your own. If you’re paying some service or platform and they’re not giving you good leads, stop.

      That said, I do offer an exclusive, better-quality job board (only $50 a blog post and up/$100 an article) inside my Freelance Writers Den community. But it’s sort of a side benefit to all the trainings, events, and support forums we have — people generally don’t join just to get access to the job board, and I don’t recommend people join for the board. Our main service is teaching writers how to find their own good-paying clients and stay away from online ads.

      There is plenty of opportunity to earn as a freelance writer, and the market is only growing. Every forecast is that companies are increasingly outsourcing creative tasks such as writing, and will do more of it in years to come.

      But “patiently waiting” isn’t how you build a freelance business. It’s taking action.

      And you shouldn’t have to pay anyone if you get a gig. Sounds like you’re being victimized by online scams.

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