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So you want to be a writer, huh?

I’ll be honest with you – it isn’t easy. It took me years of work and learning the hard way from multiple mistakes before I hit some semblance of a stride. Split infinitives and post-colon capitalization lurk in my peripheral vision, and spellcheck saves me a minimum of a dozen times an hour, even a decade after I first got the notion to do this for a living. I’m a good writer – an imperfect one, perhaps, but halfway decent if a bucketful of happy clients is any indication. You can be too, if you’re willing to work at it a little and keep persistence as a constant goal.

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Freelance Writing Site Info: Crowdsource.com Review

Freelance Writer Guide Asks: Is Crowdsource.com legit or Is Crowdsource.com a scam?

What is Crowdsource.com?

Crowdsource.com is a content mill-style freelance writing and microjobs portal site, as well as the latest incarnation of Write.com, which in turn “ate” the freelance writing site platform CloudCrowd last year. What does this mean for you? Several things, and they’re all pretty positive. You’ll recall I panned Write.com in a previous Write.com review, citing a bait-and-switch style setup that lured in writers and then promptly stuck them with microjobs and little hope of advancing. Not so, anymore. The proverbial path is much clearer, there’s ample opportunity for bonuses, and there’s little to no confusion about what you’re trying out for and how to start working online for money. Crowdsource has effectively unseated Textbroker.com as my ‘go to’ place to herd fledgling freelancers looking to make a quick buck through computer work.

How do I start at Crowdsource.com?

When you apply at Crowdsource.com, you will be able to choose one of two ‘paths’ – writing for money online or doing microjobs for money online. Each path has its own assessment, but you are not restricted to one or the other – go for both, if you’d like! As with most freelance writing sites, the writing path requires you to create a new, unique piece – the microjobs path just has you answering a series of multiple choice questions, with a handful of “find this thing online” sort of searches towards the end of the test.

Neither the microjobs test or the writing test on Crowdsource.com looks to be timed, so you have the ability to consider and research a little if you need to.

Entry page for applying to Crowdsource.com

The welcome/testing page.

Crowdsource.com Microjobs testing entry page.

Microjobs testing entry page.

Crowdsource.com Writing Test Page

Writing test entry page.

Info on the Microjobs Test: It’s pretty easy and straightforward, if you’re fluent in English with a mind towards basic logic, you’ll be fine. There are 20 or so multiple choice questions, and – for me, anyway – one where you need to count the number of pieces in a bedroom set being sold on a site, another where you need to determine the toe shape of a woman’s shoe being sold on a site, three questions where you need to isolate and cut-and-paste the employee page url of a given company’s site (pay attention to the instructions on this one), and a final one where you need to find the name of a certain employee of a company. These questions are all pretty indicative of the type of microjobs you’ll be doing, if accepted.

Crowdsource.com test answers for Microjobs.

Microjobs test page.

Info on the writing test: This is a standard test for content mill sites – creation of a unique piece of writing. Crowdsource.com and other sites like it generally don’t accept content that has already been created, and if they do, they usually won’t carry the same “weight” as a fresh piece of content. The reason for this is that with pre-written pieces, you’re likely to play to your strengths – whether consciously or unconsciously – by writing about subjects you’re familiar and comfortable with. In the ‘real’ freelance world, while we do have some control over what projects we take, chances are a lot of them are going to be on subjects we’re lukewarm about. In addition, there’s really no telling if you’ve had someone write a piece for you or, worse, if you’ve lifted it from somewhere on the web without a little in-the-moment control on the part of the writing site. Crowdsource accomplishes this by giving you a list of subjects and keywords to pick from:

Writing test answers on Crowdsource.com

Writing test subject selection.

They’ve made it fairly easy for you to block out your article, and in fact they follow my guidance on how to write a freelance article, a subject we’ve previously covered on the Freelance Writer Guide.

Once you’ve completed either the microjobs or writing test, you’ll receive an auto-email that looks like this:

Test Email from Crowdsource.com.

Test Email from Crowdsource.com.

How do I get paid with Crowdsource.com?

Crowdsource.com pays through two methods, and you’ll have to select one: Paypal or Amazon Payments. I do not have an accurate idea of what is ‘normal’ for pay method selection in terms of new incoming workers on Crowdsource.com, I’m basing this on what I see when I log into my Crowdsource.com account, which was transitioned from Cloudcrowd when the company was absorbed.

Amazon Payments is the only off-Amazon payment option offered on the Mturk platform, which Crowdsource.com still works through. It requires a connection to a bank account, much like Paypal, and users can request payouts from their Amazon Payment balance into that account, a process which takes 2-3 business days.

If you are given a choice of the two, I’d suggest Paypal for the convenience and the Paypal debit card option.

How is the overall experience at Crowdsource.com?

Pretty darn smooth. I was anxious to write an “updated” Crowdsource.com review because they’ve worked on their interface quite a bit and brought some of those slick, user-friendly graphics from Write.com into the fold. When you log in as a worker, you’re presented with a grid that lists all the jobs that are available to your current positions (Writer I & Writer II, Editor I & II, etc).

Available work grid  at Crowdsource.com.

Available work grid at Crowdsource.com.

Clicking these links will pop you over to their requisite listing over on Mturk.com, unless you’ve selected Paypal as your payment method, in which case you can work straight off the Crowdsource site.

Crowdsource.com HIT on Mturk.com.

Crowdsource.com HIT on Mturk.com.

Eagle-eyed readers likely noticed that little green moneybag shown on one of the available work squares on the grid. This denotes a bonus – what used to be a confusing and frantic scramble for freelance writing pay bonuses on the former Cloudcrowd platform has been streamlined and made user-friendly. A little in-job interface keeps track of how many tasks you’ve completed towards the bonus, how many you have to go, how many are pending, and so on.

Crowdsource.com Bonus Structure.

Crowdsource.com Bonus Structure.

Crowdsource.com Bonus Tracking Header.

Crowdsource.com Bonus Tracking Header.

 

Helpful Hints for Crowdsource.com

  • Crowdsource.com editors (aka fellow freelancers) take awhile to grade/approve/reject tasks after you’ve done them. If you’re working on HITs/Microjobs or writing tasks on Mturk, expect a 7 day delay before an editor gets to them. If it happens earlier, great, but if it doesn’t this buffer will keep you from counting your chickens before they’re hatched.
  • Keep an eye on the countdown timer for bonuses. You don’t want to end up with half of your work in one week and half in another, causing you to miss the bonus despite completing the tasks. Generally, the earlier in the bonus period you hit your ‘milestones’ of 15, 45, etc tasks, the better you’ll be – that gives editors time to get at your work.
  • Some editors are…questionable at best. Get a thick skin and learn to just roll your eyes a little when they feel compelled to dissect your work for a personal grammar preference. It’s a pass/fail system of advancing into slightly higher pay grades, so don’t sweat the small stuff as long as you’re passing.
  • UPDATE 7/10/14 - I would caution potential writers against the higher-paying ($5+) jobs here. My adage encouraging you to wave off work with instructions longer than the project itself holds very true on this site, which is notorious for posting page after page of must-read documents for jobs under 500 words. The editing team (other freelancers) is often not inclined to assist or support your writing growth, and I found out the hard way recently that just stating “Instructions weren’t followed” and rejecting a piece apparently passes as editing.

Thanks for reading my Crowdsource.com review, and be sure to take a look at my other freelance writing site reviews through the navigation tab above!

Free Freelance Writing Guide – Just a Reminder!

For those of you that have just started visiting FreelanceWriterGuide.com, I’m so happy you could join us here! I started this site to help people that are curious about writing for money online with a guide to freelance writing, links to freelance writing sites, and a list of freelance writing scams to avoid to maximize their efficiency and earning potential. I wrote a little e-book about the process that I’ve posted for free: Free Freelance Writing Guide so that everyone has a fair glimpse ‘behind the scenes.’

A picture of a logo banner that reads freelance writer guide.com write your own destiny.

Here’s the lowdown, if you wanted a Cliffs Notes version:

  • What is Freelance Writing?

Articles, product descriptions, press releases, blogs, you name it. It generally will not be stories, poems and other things of an overt creative nature, although sometimes freelancers will take a creative tone at a client’s urging. The stuff I talk about on this blog is generally all done online, and generally all paid through Paypal.

  • How Do I Write For Money?

In a nutshell? Be fast, be accurate, and create something worth reading. If you can’t produce more than 300-400 decently-constructed words in an hour and don’t think you’ll ever work up to (and beyond) that number, you probably won’t be able to sustain writing as a viable income or side income.

Good Freelance Writing: Cats are beautiful creatures that have a wide array of talents that work well for survival, communication and adaption.

Bad Freelance Writing: Cats are good animals because they can do a lot of really cool stuff.

To start with, you need to find a site to write for, as just writing something and trying to sell it is really hard, and will likely cost you far more time and energy than just accepting a job from a client will. You’ll find my list of freelance writing websites in the navigation bar above – those that I’ve done in-depth reviews for are also noted and linked.

Then, you need to work, be patient, and be willing to devote time and energy into checking for new jobs and staying on top of deadlines for the job(s) you’re currently working on. Essentially, if you’ve ever bid on something you really wanted on eBay, keep in mind that down-to-the-last-minutes type of refreshing/checking and you’ve got a good idea of the attitude you’ll need to really knock it out of the park, freelancing-wise.

  • How Fast Can I Make Money Writing Online?

If you already have a Paypal account, build in at least two weeks to get accepted on almost any site. While you can turn around a good chunk of change in a hurry on the sites that pay weekly (Textbroker) or daily (Crowdsource), you’ll still need to go through the application process and get accepted before you can start getting at it. (If rent/electric/cellphone bills are due NOW, don’t worry – check out my suggestions for how to make money online right now.)

  • How Much Will I Make Freelance Writing?

My general guidelines are .01/word for new writers that are just starting out – this doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of work out there that will pay you less, it means that I strongly advise against accepting it. “Cheap” clients tend to bring a lot of problems along with their cut-rate wages, and, oddly enough, are often so demanding that they’ll send newbie freelancers running for the hills. You’ll take assignments as articles or blogs, writing anywhere from 150 words (or less) to 400-500+ words at a time for a set amount. Overall, it’s better to be over the given max word count than under, unless you’re on a platform/site like Zerys that restricts overcount or the client has specifically called out that s/he needs a certain number. Don’t blow past the max by 100+ words though, try to rein it in at 50ish or you’ll be giving away a lot of work for free and giving the client the wrong idea about what to expect for their money.

Over 40,000 people have started their freelance writing journey on this site by researching my free freelance writing guide and reading my freelance writing blogs – come nudge that count even higher by discovering the earning potential waiting to be unlocked in your mind. Write your own destiny with the Freelance Writer Guide!

 

Why Hourly Rates are Not a Freelancer’s Friend

Speed is one of your greatest assets as a freelancing writer – how quickly and accurately you produce an article is essentially how you determine what you’re bringing in. In some industries – graphic design, site construction, etc – it makes sense to work by the hour, because your tasks may not be straightforward in the overall scope of a project. In writing, though? Hourly pay can put a huge dent in your earning capability, because you’re likely shortchanging yourself by either betting against your efficiency or your talent. Hourly pay benefits the client the vast majority of the time – not you.

I produce about 800 words an hour, provided the subject isn’t overly detailed. Business landing pages, a series of product descriptions, an informative article: these are my typical targets. Just this morning I wrote 800 words between 10 and 11 am and pulled in $60 for my troubles. Later, I received an unexpected message from an Odesk client, inviting me to work on their project. This is the (admittedly, a bit snarky at the close from yours truly) exchange that followed when I submitted a bid of $16/hour. Bear in mind that my profile is also set to $20/hour as a default, specifically to prevent horrible clients like this one from interrupting my work day.

A screenshot of a conversation between ThatWordChick and a potential client.

Admittedly, I could have been a little more polite about brushing her off, but how would you feel if a corporate headhunter had invited you to an interview, assessed your skills, took up your time and then told you that you were being overconfident if you didn’t lower your salary expectations by at least 80%? This is why some unscrupulous clients choose to offer only hourly pay for what should be a task-based payment expectation. Mind you, I have no problem with ‘batch’ payments or set weekly paydays, but work should be ideally priced by the word, and at most by the piece – never by the hour in our industry, at least in my opinion.

Remember: a client that’s looking for good work should have the work itself as the focus – not how you produce it, so long as you check in at the specified times and your progress is to their standards. While there may be some honest hourly-preferring clients out there, by and large hourly ends up being a raw deal on this side of the pen. Set up guidelines for work-centric payments, not time-centric, and you’ll likely be a lot happier and more profitable.

Freelance Writing Site Info: Textbroker.com Review

What is Textbroker?

Textbroker.com is a content mill site for freelance writing jobs, which means that the site posts a variety of writing jobs from an array of clients that can be individually picked up by writers. Textbroker collects money from the client and, once the client approves submitted work, pays a portion of it to the writer.

How do I start at Textbroker?

To start at Textbroker.com, you’ll need 3 things – your filled-out W9 form , a scanned copy of your US identification (such as a Driver’s License), and a 200-word writing sample. Here’s some information obtained directly from Textbroker, exclusively for the Freelance Writer Guide:

Our internal processes are not generally made publicly available and are subject to regular changes as we update the site, but I can summarize the current one briefly for you:

  • Author registers on www.textbroker.com under the registration link on the “I Write Content” page. Authors fill out all information.
  • An automated email is sent that with a link to click to confirm the author’s email address.
  • Author must log in and submit a writing sample of about 200 words.
  • Textbroker will review the writing sample and request a US ID by email in most cases.
  • Once we receive a scanned, faxed or mailed copy of the ID, we will verify it and rate the sample.
    • Authors are rated from 2-4 stars with sound writing fundamentals (spelling, grammar, avoiding fluff content and repetition) being high priorities.
  • Textbroker sends an automated email requesting a W-9 form. The author can begin to write.
    • We require a signed faxed or mailed copy of the W-9 before the author requests their first payment, but the author can start writing right away and build up a credit.

For expedited processing, authors should start the process with their state-issued ID and W-9 form handy. Depending on registration volume, we process the US ID and rating within about one business day each. We only accept US writers over 18 as well.

 

 How do I get paid with Textbroker?

Like many content mill sites, Textbroker.com uses Paypal as a sole form of payment, so you’ll definitely need an account. Cutoff time for work (which must be accepted/approved) is Midnight Las Vegas time (PDT) each week, and the payout for those jobs will occur the following business day, though the time does vary. Payout minimum is $10, and your payout must be manually requested by clicking a button on your payout page.

How is the overall experience at Textbroker?

I have a special fondness for Textbroker.com – like a passionate affair that ended on a sour note, I still carry a lot of good memories from the site and will always be grateful to them for kickstarting my now-thriving freelance writing career. When I really began in earnest there, it was taking up a long-forgotten approval that I managed to garner when I was with my ex-fiance, who constantly told me that writing wasn’t going to amount to any real money and really discouraged my exploring freelancing.

I poked at the site listlessly and wrote $10 here, $20 here, never cracking double digits for a month because I constantly heard that negativity in my head. When my ex and I split and I took up with my now-husband, he encouraged me to pursue my writing and for a long while it was our sole source of income as I flourished. I was offered five star status to work on a very prominent client’s roster through Textbroker, and eventually I was pulling in pretty decent paydays towards late 2010/early 2011, clearing more than a grand a month. Then the other shoe dropped and myself – along with many other 5-star status holders – were informed we were in violation of offenses that had never even crossed the radar in the three years prior – split infinitives chief among them, for me. My writing style and skill hadn’t changed, and in fact more than a few clients remarked on my skill, but Textbroker continued to find strange issues more befitting a college thesis than a 300 word piece on plumbing repair in Chicago, IL.

Error after error showed up in my random reviews, until one day my status was knocked down to 4. I attempted to talk to the higher-ups there, only to be rebuffed and handed the same strangely elevated standards with the edict that three perfect reviews in a row would grant me my status again – a feat that was essentially impossible at the time, and probably still is. The 5-star list took a massive hit in those fateful months, and a very large group of formerly 5-star Textbroker writers decided to pursue options elsewhere rather than tangle with the odd new demands.  Later, when the mass of 5-star ex-pats conferred on public message boards, it was found that a too-large-for-coincidence group had the same experiences, right around the time when the previously-mentioned prominent client pulled their account. In addition, those that had passed the proofreading test (a requirement for moving up to 5-star) and moved onto the review portion of their upgrade application had all received the same entirely-subjective ‘awkward phrasing’ ding that kept them from advancing.

The takeaway? Textbroker is an excellent place for new writers to start, as they usually have a good deal of work at the lower levels and they do pay promptly every week. It’s a good place to get used to the ‘system’ behind most content mill sites, but once you’ve got your rhythm down, head off for greener pastures, because 5-star status is inexplicably difficult to obtain and even harder to keep.

Helpful Hints for Textbroker

You can only take one open order job and one ‘private’ job at a time, so choose wisely. Your rate of dropping/letting articles expire is recorded behind the scenes and it will prevent you from moving up a star level, so treat deadlines as firm.

Why Free Work is a Losing Proposition: Part 2

So, you say, there are a lot of downsides to writing free articles for exposure, but if I decide to do it anyway, there’s no real harm in it, right? I don’t mind writing about (x) subject, after all. Unfortunately, there are ripples that continue to disrupt the freelance market each time a writer takes on a task gratis:

The “just one more thing…” issue. If you think that a site is going to be happy with a single piece of free work, it might be time to guess again. Once many of the unscrupulous sites out there soliciting for free work realize that you’re willing to cough up quality pieces for nothing more than a vague promise of “exposure,” they’ll keep hitting you up like a font-filled piñata. Product descriptions, ads, articles, blogs, social media likes and comments – the list never ends, and your inbox never empties as wheedling plea after plea for free writing work floods in.

Devaluing your coworkers. If you’re willing to work for free, it doesn’t hurt anything but your own schedule, right? Wrong. Freelancers are already facing an uphill battle to be paid fairly and considered as legitimate workers; free writing work muddies the waters and convinces clients that writing isn’t a “real” job that requires fair pay. If you wouldn’t walk into a store and work an eight-hour shift for free, you shouldn’t be willing to devote your time to writing for free either.

Your work may not stay yours. Ghostwriting is a common practice in freelancing, in which writers give up claim or name on their work in exchange for being paid. If a client alters an article, uses it as spam, or engages in other nefarious purposes with your work, you don’t have to worry about it coming back on your reputation because you’re behind the scenes. Without the explicit work-for-pay agreement in place, it’s not unthinkable that an “exposure” client may be tempted to play fast and loose with your free work, yanking your name off of it or feeding it through an article spinning program until it barely resembles your original piece. If your name is gone or your work has been turned into garbage, suddenly “exposure” can leave you pretty darn exposed.

There are (very few!) exceptions. Certain large projects – hundreds of product descriptions, several websites’ worth of landing copy, etc – may request a project-specific sample to ensure your skills fit with the project. The key is not to respond to cattle calls (think craigslist ads) with this specialized content that can’t really be used elsewhere; save your efforts for the 2nd or 3rd volley of back-and-forth with a client on a freelance platform such as Odesk. These specialized samples, which should adhere to the word counts mentioned above, can also be used as a bargaining chip – offer to do a small snippet to “help with the decision-making process” if it’s a job you just gotta snag.

My advice is to start your freelance career by writing samples – pick a favorite lamp off of Overstock, create a fictional dentist office in your town, and so on – and describe and/or write for them. Product descriptions should be about 100-150 words, while landing pages and articles are appropriately sized around 300-400. Whenever a sample is requested for a prospective client, toss one of your (expertly written and polished, natch) samples their way. This keeps the freebie frenzy to a dull roar and keeps value in your work – you’re worth it!

Don’t “Expose” Yourself: Why Free Work is a Losing Proposition

Even as a beginning freelance writer, you could throw a digital rock and hit half a dozen ‘opportunities’ that would happily accept your work in exchange for not paying you. While I don’t doubt that somewhere, somehow, there are a handful of companies that legitimately have the stature to elevate your position in the freelance writing sphere, the vast majority do not.

Casual news-scanners would be hard-pressed not to turn up one of the multitude of internship ethics articles hitting the media stream in the last few months. If you’ve happened to miss these, the gist of it is that companies are shaving down their “real” jobs and putting hapless interns – who aren’t making a dime – in their positions, one task at a time. These interns are worked mercilessly, and are often expected to pull hours a paid employee wouldn’t, and do so without complaint. The theoretical training and experience that they’re working the internship for in the first place take a backseat to the glut of expectations dumped on their shoulders. These free labor sources are very seldom hired to “real” jobs in the same company once their internships are finished.

While writing internships are few and far between, that doesn’t stop unscrupulous companies from trying to cash in on free work, especially from naive freelance writers just starting out. Don’t fall for their lines! Here are a few red flags to keep an eye out for:

  • The concept of “exposure.” Long a buzz word for shamelessly soliciting free labor from freelance writers, exposure makes the case that a client will see your work on (x) site, find themselves impressed by your skill, and seek you out to write for their own site. This is a strange and nebulous concept with logic that likely won’t hold water, once examined.
  • Why would a website want to make a case for a rival to take you for themselves? They’ll be left without a consistent tone (set up by your free work) and strengthen their rivals’ sites and sales.
  • How much traffic is the “exposure” site actually currently getting? If they’re just starting out – as is often the case – you’d have better luck starting a blog and writing articles about your skills to attract clients directly. It isn’t your job to contribute free work to a struggling site in the hopes of making it popular enough to deliver the exposure you were promised in the first place!
  • What would your byline look like? If the person soliciting work from you gives you the equivalent of an email shrug, or worse – doesn’t know what a byline is or isn’t willing to give you one – the whole thing’s a sham.
  • They demand credentials for your free work. As updates to Google have gradually been introduced to the marketing world, online identity aggregate tools like Google+ authorship have gained significant weight and value in search algorithms. To use a metaphor, a sketchy site demanding you use your G+ profile to author and link an article is like a really rude loser of a bar fly striding up and saying that they’ll “let” you date them and in exchange brag about the fact you dated them to every potential date afterwards. Sure, it makes them look good to their potential partners, but it’ll send yours running for the hills.Protect your G+ authorship credentials and only attach it to articles – and clients – that support your legitimacy as a freelancer.