Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Writing For Hire: A Review of Textbroker

It's not easy, being a writer.

No, the gripefest doesn't begin here. (Cousin Joy would say, "Would you like some cheese with that whine?") I've made my living by the printed word for a long time, including hundreds of articles and six-plus books. Writing has given me a chance to inform about the subjects, people and things I believe are important, but it's also paid for doctor visits, school supplies and put many a sack of groceries on the table, as well.

The hardest part isn't in writing -- at least it shouldn't be, if you honestly have the desire to write. There are plenty of ways to do this, including blogs, letters to the editor, letters to your family and friends, and companies who would be happy to print whatever you say -- as long as it's free.

The hard part is getting paid for it. 

That's one of the nicest things about Textbroker. This is a write-for-hire company that brokers for companies needing everything from titles to short articles and reviews of everything from budgeting to the best airport lounges. Want to write about crocheted scarves? (I did, just recently.) Textbroker will set it up, and give you up to three days to do it. They'll include the number of words desired, plus instructions from the client. Usually those instructions use 'key words:' words or phrases that must be used a minimum number of times for the article to be a success. (The downside of this -- your article will be double-checked by a computer, and there's no arguing with it. If you use "water park" three times, instead of two the company requests, the computer won't leave you alone until you delete one. Do I honestly think the company would mind having its product mentioned more, rather than less? Of course not.)

The articles are short: generally 250-500 words. You choose the assignment from a wide variety of subjects. The more articles you write, the faster your rating is upgraded -- then choose from an even wider range of possibilities for better pay. Companies can even request your services specially.

The downside is, as you might have guessed, the price. Until you're upgraded, about the maximum you can earn for a 500-word article is $5.00...usually it's less than that. Most writers, yours truly included, seem to start at the 2 or 3 level. (The max is 5.) I found it more than a tad ironic to be assigned a '3,' considering I've been writing articles, books and marketing copy for more than three decades now. (Maybe they thought I got drunk every morning before I turned on the computer.) And I've been waiting for weeks to have at least eight articles 'graded,' which will hopefully be the catalyst to bump that grading number up.

    Also, the earlier you check in, the wider range of subjects you have to choose from. (Wait until nighttime, and you'll have options -- but only if you know how to write in 'Brit-speak,' something we Americans can struggle with.)

    Finally, even though you have up to three days to finish the assignment, you must complete one article before the computers that be will let you register for a second or third one. This often means that others have snapped up much of the interesting stuff before you can submit your current assignment.

That being said, Textbroker provides some helpful positives:

*You get paid for what you write. With practice, you'll be able to write enough articles to make at least minimum wage,. (Stop laughing. Wouldn't it be nice to earn minimum wage without leaving the comfort of your pajamas and coffee cup? Millions of Wal-Mart workers would agree.) This is to start -- with time and practice, you should be able to clear more.

*They pay you 100% of the price they agree on. Once your IRS form is in, they let you deal with things like taxes and withholdings. You get the money, generally via Paypal. (Ok, Paypal takes its small -- but definite -- share.)

*This is a wonderful way to practice and expand your craft. Stephen King, one of the best and most prolific authors out there, advocates writing something every day. (He also recommends reading every day. You may not like his style, but his success is hard to argue with. And his how-to book, On Writing, is one, if not the very best on the subject. I highly recommend it.)
    Taking on article assignments from Textbroker not only lets you "warm up" before proceeding to more important stuff -- it gives you a chance to see what subjects are near and dear to companies' hearts nowadays. True, I'm probably not going to write a novel about flight schools in Wichita, KS -- but what if I make the villain in my current short story a newly-registered pilot? (Hmmm....)

Is Textbroker the be-all and end-all in writing for a paycheck? Nahhh. I get much more in royalties and fees for the articles and books I write. But I also put in a lot more effort and research into those things. Generally, I can zip off a Textbroker article in a short time, thanks to the wonder of accessing any info needed via the Internet. God bless it -- a decade or two ago, I would have laughed like crazy to think of speaking to someone in Chile within a few hours of my initial request. Nowadays, it's not only easy, but standard. ( I know, because I just did it in the last week!)

As a short-term way to practice, Textbroker is a great place to start. You'll have to endure some odd questions and revisions at times; computers are not always sensible. (I'm not impressed with company staff's silly comments, either.)  But that is a small irritant, compared to the benefits. That article for Country Living magazine will pay ten,  twenty or thirty times as much -- but the Textbroker assignments fill in a gap now and then. And that's nothing to whine about.


Sandra said...

Hmmmmm Sounds interesting -- I do love words.

Cindy Brick said...

You should! It's not hard to sign up, and you only accept articles when YOU want to.
I wrote another one this morning, on titles for a Steel Guitar blog. One a day warms me up for the other writing, and contributes to a nice little nest egg in the process.
Let me know how it goes for you.

Sandra said...

are you still doing this writing - I'm seriously thinking about doing it now

Cindy Brick said...

Sandra, I haven't for some time...but that's mostly because I cannot get them to upgrade me.
In other words, I'm still considered one of the lesser writers. I tried protesting this by pointing out all the articles, books, blogposts, etc. I'd written, and was rebuked sharply by one of Textbroker's editors.
Who did it in a post that contained some typos.

Don't expect it to change your world, but it is a way to edge that door a tiny bit more open. Good luck to you.