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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.

I started The Freelance Writer Guide to…

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Zerys: Freelancing’s Sinking Ship

Sunk_Boat

Longtime readers (hey guys!) will know there is zero love lost between myself and the Zerys / Interact writing platform. I’ve criticized their slapdash, poorly-designed UI, I’ve removed them from my list of trusted freelance sites, and only a few months ago, I was banned and blocked without warning or notice for speaking up on my own blog – while I was owed money that was never paid to me, no less.

I do not weep for missing out on a few pages of crap orders that pay 7/10ths of a cent per word, but I do consider myself a fairly vocal proponent of the Freelance Isn’t Free movement. Zerys recent “improvements” for my fellow writers have required that writers start providing free 250 word articles for potential clients to read and consider before maybe hiring them.

The only balm offered to writers was that clients did have the ability to pay for that sample, should they so choose, and that “nice hints” (direct quote from the website operator, by the way) were left to encourage them along that path. Additionally, it was also framed as being better than the “old way” in which clients could – and still could, by the way – outright refuse an article written because they simply didn’t want it anymore, or selected another writer’s take on it. I don’t really understand how pointing out how terrible your system not only was, but still is, benefits writers.

Recently, a fella I used to date sent me an incredulous email with a post from Zerys forums. I don’t know if they think willful arrogance and transparent spin is de rigeur due to certain political campaigns lately, but let me be the first to say in a non-censored forum: it ain’t, guys. This is appalling, and it should be a source for shame, not pride. If you read between the poorly-presented mathematical lines here, it’s a statement that 60% of clients are NOT paying for their samples. That means the literal majority of Zerys clients are not paying for the mandatory 250 word samples and Zerys is actually bragging about that.

Read for yourself below. When I talk about freelancers getting taken advantage of, when I speak about the reasons I started the FreelanceWriterGuide in the first place, this is what I’m talking about. Zerys is making a mockery of everything freelancing represents, and I’m not going to let them lead newbies into thinking this is the norm. #FreelancingIsntFree guys. Ever.

***

Hi everyone
As you all know, we made some significant changes to how Zerys clients go about searching for and identifying new writers to add to their writing team. Now that the new system has been in place several months, we wanted to share some interesting data:
Out of the thousands of documents that have been posted to the New Clients Job Board since the new changes were implemented, here’s a breakdown of the review actions taken by Zerys clients:
– About 40% of the time, the client chose to add the writer to their Favorite Writer’s List AND pay the writer for the sample

– About 30% of the time, the client chose to add the writer to their Favorite Writer’s List but not pay the writer for the sample
      (So, this means that about 70% of the time the client chose to add the writer to their Favorite Writer’s List)

– About 30% of the time, the client chose to not add writer to team (and not pay for sample)
(Remember, these are only figures for NEW CLIENTS JOBS). The approval rate and payment rate for Direct Assign jobs are around 95%).
We know there was a big concern that this new system would result in writers never being paid for their time spent doing these initial samples for new clients. While clearly this is happening some of the time, its not the most common result. Since clients are “trying out” new writers, one would expect that some of the time, the client will not like the sample piece, or will decide that a certain writer is just not the right fit. We believe 30% is a reasonable percentage to expect this to happen.
Keep in mind that since these initial jobs are only 250 words, they generally will take less time to write than the much longer jobs that were being posted before (and still had the same chance of not getting paid). Subsequently, the earning potential is fairly low as well. So, while its nice getting paid a few dollars to write a few paragraphs, it is much more important that you get added to the writers Favorite Writer so you have the potential to get a steady supply of work and earn much more for months or years to come from that buyer.
So, while we’re happy to see that 40% of the time writers are being paid for the sample, we’re even happier to see that 70% of the time, writers are getting added to the client’s favorites list. (You may not see orders right away from new clients that add you to their list. We often see clients pick one primary writer, but many months later, they now need a new or additional writer, so they start using their “backup” favorite writers. So hang in there!)
Anyways, just wanted to share the data. Obviously, the percentages above reflect an average across all clients and writers. We know of many writers who have MUCH higher precentages when it comes to getting added and paid for samples – and vice versa. In the end, just keep taking as many new client jobs as you can. Keep submitting your best quality work… and have faith that in the long run, you will start seeing your amount of work increase and overall income increase over time.
Thanks for all your support and hard work during these important changes
Hi everyone
As you all know, we made some significant changes to how Zerys clients go about searching for and identifying new writers to add to their writing team. Now that the new system has been in place several months, we wanted to share some interesting data:
Out of the thousands of documents that have been posted to the New Clients Job Board since the new changes were implemented, here’s a breakdown of the review actions taken by Zerys clients:
– About 40% of the time, the client chose to add the writer to their Favorite Writer’s List AND pay the writer for the sample

– About 30% of the time, the client chose to add the writer to their Favorite Writer’s List but not pay the writer for the sample
      (So, this means that about 70% of the time the client chose to add the writer to their Favorite Writer’s List)

– About 30% of the time, the client chose to not add writer to team (and not pay for sample)
(Remember, these are only figures for NEW CLIENTS JOBS). The approval rate and payment rate for Direct Assign jobs are around 95%).
We know there was a big concern that this new system would result in writers never being paid for their time spent doing these initial samples for new clients. While clearly this is happening some of the time, its not the most common result. Since clients are “trying out” new writers, one would expect that some of the time, the client will not like the sample piece, or will decide that a certain writer is just not the right fit. We believe 30% is a reasonable percentage to expect this to happen.
Keep in mind that since these initial jobs are only 250 words, they generally will take less time to write than the much longer jobs that were being posted before (and still had the same chance of not getting paid). Subsequently, the earning potential is fairly low as well. So, while its nice getting paid a few dollars to write a few paragraphs, it is much more important that you get added to the writers Favorite Writer so you have the potential to get a steady supply of work and earn much more for months or years to come from that buyer.
So, while we’re happy to see that 40% of the time writers are being paid for the sample, we’re even happier to see that 70% of the time, writers are getting added to the client’s favorites list. (You may not see orders right away from new clients that add you to their list. We often see clients pick one primary writer, but many months later, they now need a new or additional writer, so they start using their “backup” favorite writers. So hang in there!)
Anyways, just wanted to share the data. Obviously, the percentages above reflect an average across all clients and writers. We know of many writers who have MUCH higher precentages when it comes to getting added and paid for samples – and vice versa. In the end, just keep taking as many new client jobs as you can. Keep submitting your best quality work… and have faith that in the long run, you will start seeing your amount of work increase and overall income increase over time.
Thanks for all your support and hard work during these important changes
***

#Nope.

 

The Newbie’s Guide To WriterAccess: Part 2

Planning on applying to WriterAccess? Please let me know if I steered you that direction, and please mention that Delany M. sent you! I don’t get any $ for doing this blog, and a few referral bonuses would go a long way in the WordChick household – THANK YOU!❤

(Did you miss Part 1? No worries – Catch up on the WriterAccess Basics!)

Welcome to Part 2, fellow WA-er! Now that we’ve covered pay and you know what to expect from that, it’s time to tackle best practices for the site itself. Here are my 4 commandments for getting the most out of your WA career:

1.) Don’t ever let an order expire. Yes, ever. If you’ve come from other writing sites where you could let an order expire and snap it back up, or if you had to let a LOT of orders expire before you got into any real trouble, rest assured – you’re not in Kansas anymore.At WA, timing is a big deal and even letting one order run out of time unheeded can become a substantial obstacle on your path to higher star levels. That being said, know that picking up an order from the board and actively returning it within an hour will not subject you to penalty – WA gives us this 60 minute grace period to do a little research-digging and make sure we’re capable/willing to do that particular project. Remember that WA offices run on the EST time zone, double-check when your article is *actually* due, and set an alarm in your phone if you need to. If you have a legitimate question on the order, you can ask the client a question, which puts the order on “pause” – after they answer the question and release the hold, you’ll have either the time that was left on the clock to finish it, or, if that time left was under 12 hours, you’ll have an additional 12 hours to finish it.

2.) Don’t leave your profile blank or underdeveloped. I know it can be tedious, making these profiles and lists of specialties and achievements for writing site after writing site, but it definitely makes a difference at WA – clients and WA staff alike will use these profiles to determine who works on certain projects. The site asks you to write in the 3rd person for your profile blurbs – for example, I wouldn’t say, “I love to write about cats.” but I would say something along the lines of, “Delany specializes in covering felines in her work, and has been a featured writer in Important Cat Magazine for the last 3 years.” While my own WriterAccess profile is constantly in need of tinkering and updating, feel free to take a look in order to determine good word counts for each section and overall tone. As with any writing site, do not include your full name and do not put any contact info, such as emails or phone numbers, anywhere in your profile. 

3.) Don’t despair if the boards look empty. A few years back, there was a big shift from “Open Orders” – orders placed in such a way that anyone of the appropriate star level or above could claim them – to “Casting Calls.” Casting calls (CCs) are when a client posts information and even jobs that they need completed, but individual writers need to put in a note to be considered for those jobs. This is just a note or a few lines, this is not where you would write the piece! Don’t write any articles until you actually pick up a job. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can talk about a rough outline or talking points, but remember – your acceptance isn’t guaranteed and you may be wasting hard work. A typical Casting Call application for me is something like:

“Hello! My name is Delany, and I have worked in (client’s industry) as a writer for several prior clients. I understand (industry concept) very well, and I would like to help educate your readers on (actual concept they’re holding the CC for). Thanks for considering my application!”

The client and/or their WA account rep will sift through these notes and typically choose one or several of the applicants for their job(s). Depending on how many writers are selected, the job(s) may be sent as a “Solo Order,” which means that only one chosen writer can see, take and work on that job, or the client may add multiple winning writers to a “Love List” (LLs) – a designation that acts as a filter when they release – “drop” –  their job(s) to be picked up. If you are on a client’s Love List, you will be able to see and take their jobs, while those that weren’t added to the Love List won’t see anything at all.

The Love List process is a little unusual in the freelance writing sphere, so bear with me while I explain. You can be added arbitrarily (say, if a client likes your profile) to a Love List, or may “win” a position on one by applying to a Casting Call (you can always check the status of your CC applications under the “Manage Orders” tab on the left of your logged-in WA screen.) When the client “drops” their jobs to their Love List writers, you will receive an automatic email notifying you that those jobs are about to post. Exactly ten minutes after that email arrives, the jobs will actually post. Use the in-between time to get situated at a computer or phone, log into WriterAccess, and be ready to refresh the screen (the F5 key on a computer works best) continually about a half a minute before the 10-minute mark is up. If there are a lot of writers on a Love List, the jobs may go unbelievably quickly (like, within-seconds quickly), but keep at it and don’t stop responding to the emails. Believe me when I tell you that many WA “old timers” have gone through the button-smashing routine, and many of us still do! It’s an important step in getting access to clients, and building a rapport that can lead to a string of solos later on.

4.) Carry yourself as a representative of WA. The fact of the matter is that if the clients feel disrespected or as if their needs don’t matter, they can easily head to a competitor or find a dirt-cheap ESL writer on a bid site. They’ve come to WA because they want great writing (we kind of have a really great reputation going on) and the customer service that comes with it. So when you’ve finished a piece, add a comment that expresses a little gratitude – “Thanks for the opportunity to write this piece!”, and let them know you’re available if they need anything in the future. Be polite and take a friendly business tone in your on-site messages with clients – “I’d be happy to.” rather than “Ok.”

  • If clients try to take advantage of you (e.g. you’ve seen your work on the web before it’s been accepted by the client, or they’re asking for a rewrite that has little or nothing to do with the original order instructions), submit a Help Desk ticket. That’s what they’re there for! You *are* obligated to complete at least one revision on each order you work on, provided the client’s revision requests fall under the spirit of the original instructions.
  • In very rare cases, clients may get rude, snippy or outright insulting, but take the high road or say nothing at all. “Talking back” to clients or copping an attitude in client-facing communication is a fast way to ensure you never move up a star level, and you may possibly even lose your account altogether. If you can’t shrug off criticism, writing may not be a good career choice. Always follow “Wheaton’s Law” – Don’t be a dick.
  • Remember that promotions are about more than writing. WriterAccess has a “rising/falling star” system internally that uses several considerations for whether a writing should move up or down a star level. For star levels 2 through 5, the promotion/demotion system is triggered for review when you’ve accumulated a certain (unknown) number of beneficial things, like “exceeds” ratings, or negative things, like missing a deadline or getting a DNM (“Did Not Meet Expectations” rating). One of the factors that we’ve found out they consider is your interactions – e.g. “comment conversations” – with clients, as well as WA editors and staffers. The more polite and prompt you are about answering and addressing clients, the better your outlook as a WA-er. Also, don’t be combative/insulting/etc. to fellow writers or WriterAccess itself on the forums – I don’t know if that affects your star rating, but being a jerk there is a fast way to alienate yourself from a really fantastic and helpful group of people.

 

 

 

 

The Newbie’s Guide to WriterAccess: Part 1

Hello, FWG readers! This post is a little outside of my normal approach to freelance sites, and that’s because I have a little confession to make: I’ve kinda been keeping WriterAccess to myself. It’s an amazing platform, and frankly I didn’t want to flood it with new applicants and risk crowding myself out of my own job, even it was for the greater good. However, since so many new writers are coming on board there and hitting the WA forums for answers, I figured it was high time to write a guide on my favorite freelance writing site.

Planning on applying to WriterAccess? Please let me know if I steered you that direction, and please mention that Delany M. sent you! I don’t get any $ for doing this blog, and a few referral bonuses would go a long way in the WordChick household – THANK YOU! <3 

Here are the basics:

  • WriterAccess accepts American writers only. (Sorry, overseas friends!) You will need an SSN to apply there, and you will also need to fill out a W-9 form. Get the jump on that W-9 requirement by filling one out, scanning it, and having it ready as a file to email.
  • WriterAccess rates its writers from 2 to 6 stars, similar to the rating tiers at sites like HireWriters, Voldemort.com “The Site That Shall Not Be Named” and Textbroker. When you first apply, the highest you can be rated entering in is a 5, though most applicants will land at a 4 or below, so don’t be discouraged! That coveted 6 star is earned over time through professional, high-quality work, which we’ll discuss a little more at length later. Think of 2 stars as “Cats are pets you will like to have around.” and 6 stars as more of “If you’re considering adopting a pet, felines are a smart option for even the busiest household.”
  • WriterAccess pays twice a month, and only pays through Paypal, so you must have an account. Check out the graphic below to get a better idea of how it works:

WriterAccess_Pay_Chart

For work submitted between 12:01 am EST on the 1st of the month through 11:59 pm on the 15th and accepted by the client without a revision request that falls after that cutoff time, you’ll get paid out sometime between the 22nd-26th. (“Period A” / Green in the graphic above)

For work submitted between 12:01 am on the 16th through 11:59 on the 30/31st and accepted by the client without a revision request that falls after that cutoff time, you’ll get paid out sometime between the 7th-11th. (“Period B / Blue in the graphic above)

Why the rangeWriterAccess is at the mercy of Paypal’s slow-as-syrup transfer times when shifting over the money to pay us. The 11th/26th end dates for the range come pretty often because, unsurprisingly, Paypal likes to hold onto money so it can earn interest.Bear in mind that, as of this writing, we will never be paid on weekends – so if those end dates fall on a weekend, you can pretty reliably plan to get paid on the Friday prior.There are no specific times of day we get paid, and they can vary from early in the morning to late at night with no indication beforehand, so be prepared for that. You can read more about it in the WriterAccess Writer FAQs.

WriterAccess absorbs the Paypal fees, so what you see in your on-site dashboard is exactly what you’ll be paid. They also take their 30% site cut of earnings out before the rates even display to writers, so you’ll never need to do math to figure out what’s coming to you – what you see is what you’ll get!

Ready to learn more about this awesome platform? Part 2 is now up!

 

Who I Am vs. What I Write

Freelance writing is a career with a staggering range of subjects to tackle, especially before you build a consistent roster of repeat clients. For some writers, this mish-mash is an obstacle to be waded through on their way to steady work in comfortable subjects. For others – yours truly among them – it’s the same mish-mash that makes freelancing so darn attractive in the first place.

In the past week, I’ve written about fat-burning cold laser therapy, landing pages for a pizza restaurant in Ohio, specialty Vietnamese sauces, air conditioner seasonal preparation, local business SEO listings, warehousing strategy, the fast food industry, an organic body oil direct sales company, truck cranes and workshop sessions that I attended at the Content Marketing Conference in Las Vegas last month. I love it, because it keeps my mind active and engaged at all times – I’m always learning something new!

However. Sometimes a job will cross my path that makes my stomach sink a little. Either the viewpoint is staunchly in opposition to my own, or the very content would be unethical  (by my own standards) to write – e.g. a review for a product I never tried. A friendWe all need the money, but I’m here to tell you, as a muddled mentor-of-sorts to freelance fledglings…

…just. don’t. do. it.

Question_Mark

Insincerity comes through in something as subtle as your word choice, and trust me – the readers are going to pick up on it. In a career path that’s highlighted as being one of personal freedom and choice, you are absolutely free to pass up on these types of articles. Yes, even if you need the money. If you need someone to tell you it’s okay, and not to feel guilty for passing on projects that make your skin crawl, consider this my blanket forgiveness: it’s cool. 

I’m a bleeding heart liberal and a lifelong pagan (yes, believe it or not, I’m a witch! And I vote! And pay taxes!), so believe me when I tell you there’s never been a shortage of jobs that don’t quite mesh with my worldview.

It took me years to make my peace with not gritting my teeth through uncomfortable subjects, but I came to realize that for every church bulletin I passed up, a religious scholar was shooing off an adult toy description I could pick up. We need to treat this crazy freelancing journey as a group effort, if only academically – stick to what you feel comfortable writing, or researching-to-write, and success won’t be far behind.

Is This the Beginning of the End for Zerys?

Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 9.20.37 AM

UPDATE, 6/17/16, 12:17 PM EST: I’ve been removed and banned from both the writer worksite, which I’ve belonged to for more than three years with more than a hundred satisfied clients, as well as the forums, ostensibly in response to this less-than-complimentary (though entirely truthful) blog. No notification, no emails, nothing. My credentials were simply yanked without a word. Apparently it’s easier to censor dissenters than actually admit that you’re sinking your own ship. Adios, Zerys, and good riddance!


UPDATE, 5/25/16, 9:00 PM EST: One of my sources just showed me an email that was sent to his boss, the owner of a very large industry blog, cold-soliciting a partnership with Zerys. The email header and body both lead with an offer to provide “several customized writing samples” for the recipient to choose from. Every letter of the language in the email avoids any mention whatsoever of buying, purchasing or favorite-listing, the supposed “benefits” that Zerys writers were told to be grateful for under the new, improved work-for-free-if-you-want-any-work system. They’ve effectively turned unpaid spec labor into a shiny new selling point for the B2B side of the platform, all at the expense of their writers.


Zerys, aka Interact Media, is a content mill writing site designed for freelance work. In terms of ease-of-use hierarchy, I’d put it below Textbroker in terms of user interface, but slightly above TB in terms of earning potential. For many freelance writers, it was a backup income stream to hit up when the other “eggs” in our basket didn’t look terribly promising. In short, not fantastic, but not the worst either.

That may have changed.

In a timeless trend championed by eBay for many-a-year, they’ve made so-called improvements to the platform which are at best puzzling and at worst a reason to call it quits at Zerys. In a nutshell, Zerys now expects writers to pen – on spec – a 250 article for new customers, who are in turn encouraged to place duplicate orders in order to find the one they like. On spec, or “on speculation” means that there’s a chance you might be paid for it, but in this case, it’s actually far more likely you will not. Zerys has had a long and difficult history of disgruntled writers who found their work rejected because the client simply no longer needed it, or didn’t want it anymore, not because there was a writing or grammar issue, which should be the only legitimate reasons to reject an order that was written to instructions.

Imagine ordering a hamburger for dinner, looking over it once it arrived, and instructing the waiter to take it back at no charge because you’re no longer hungry, or you realize you really wanted lasagna, or a burger from a rival restaurant. It would be ludicrous, so why is it okay here?

Allow me to present some of the more troubling passages from their lengthy official forum post (Bold emphasis mine):


“IMPORTANT! As stated before, if the buyer likes your work, they may choose to add you to their Favorite Writers List, but may at the same time choose to not purchase the article from you. Of course, it would be better if they did purchase it so you got paid, we encourage you to realize that the most important goal as a Zerys writer is to get added to as many Favorites Lists as possible. In the long run, this is what will maximize your income, not getting paid for one short article under 250 words. Again, that being said, we have included nice hints* to the buyers that make it clear that the writer will great appreciate getting paid for these initial short custom pieces.”

and later on in this horrible, ill-conceived “explanation”

“Secondly, if you think about yourself as owning your own writing business (which you do), then ultimately, writing a few custom paragraphs for a client should be considered part of your marketing costs of doing business – of course, in this case, it may not be a cost at all since the client can choose to pay you for it! Its like giving an initial consultation to a potential new client. In many professions, a free consultation is offered to new potential clients and there is never the chance for payment. In this case, at least you have a good chance of payment. Every company spends a certain amount of money on marketing in order to gain long-term clients. Zerys has spent millions of dollars to build a marketplace and attract content buyers to you**, but ultimately it’s up to you to “close the deal” by proving your ability to them.

*Yes, they actually said “nice hints.” That is 100% actual quote right there. I’d love to try and pay my rent and utilities with “nice hints,” wouldn’t you?

**I call BS on this one. Their UI is one of the worst experiences in the entire freelance sphere. If they paid millions of dollars for that, they’ve been making seriously bad decisions for a lot longer than we all thought.

As if sentiments like these weren’t troubling enough, Zerys quickly went into spin mode when the writers became very understandably upset about the sudden changes, deleting forum threads and blocking or banning huge swaths of not only the writers that spoke up on the Zerys boards, but writers – myself included – that only spoke up on private forums elsewhere. Apparently, their business model is so deeply in jeopardy that they’ve relied on reports from “double agents” that have access to rival sites’ internal message boards to shut down potential future dissenters on their own boards. It plays out like a campy spy movie, but this is really happening, folks!

Their pay dates have been getting later and later, writer support has been virtually nonexistent for years, and this is the final nail in the coffin as far as many freelancers are concerned. Nearly all of my writing colleagues have sworn off the site for good after this latest fiasco, and I can’t blame them. Perhaps if Zerys had spent some of those theoretical “millions of dollars” on their workforce instead of listing jobs at 7/10ths of a cent per word, they wouldn’t be in this mess right now.

The Freelance Writer Guide is officially REMOVING Zerys / Interact Media from our list of recommended freelancing sites. We cannot in good conscience recommend that anyone, especially our new freelancers, work for a site that clearly has no regard for the freelancers that have supported and sustained its business model for years.

 

 

 

Making the Cut: The Commission Percentage

Whether you are currently writing for a “mill” style writing site (where a list of jobs are posted and you pick, work and turn your piece in within the site itself) or just considering it, commission percentages are an important thing to consider.

Essentially, because the site is acting as a “go-between,” furnishing the job list and taking responsibility for things like the interface, payment arrangements, consistency in pay and so on, they take a cut of what you earn. The industry standard is right around 30%, but the way that’s expressed can vary greatly.

Determining Your Actual Freelance Pay Rate

Some freelance writing sites force you to do the math before taking a piece, expressing your pay as a whole – for example, a 300 word piece might be advertised as a $15 payout, but in reality, you’ll only make $10 after the commission is removed prior to payout. Others are up front and state exactly what you’ll pay, taking their cut behind the scenes. The latter is definitely preferable to most of us for the sake of ease, but it also keeps writers somewhat in the dark as far as what the client actually pays. Here is, to the best of my knowledge, a rundown of commission percentages that a few popular freelance writing sites charge:

HireWriters: 23% (Writer earns $7.70 for a $10 job; $1.00 withdrawal fee)

WriterAccess: 30% (Writer earns $7.00 for a $10 job; There are no fees for payout.)

(Note, 8/17/16: more sites coming as I can figure them out!)

It’s hardly a comprehensive list, but figuring out what *writers* make is actually surprisingly difficult. WriterAccess is essentially the only site that takes pains to inform clients about what’s actually being paid out, the rest seem to hide behind charts and complicated onboarding processes. (Zerys, in particular, is an absolute nightmare as a “client.” That’s a whole different blog post for yours truly, but suffice it to say I would have given up and gone elsewhere almost immediately).

Beware of “Restructuring”

Upwork (aka ODesk aka Elance) has also undergone a recent “improvement” in their freelance commission pricing structure, effectively penalizing one-off client/writer collaborations under a $500 budget by doubling their commission percentage from 10% to 20%. Ongoing collaborations, called contracts, can earn a “break” that essentially translates to what they were making before. Looks like they’re following the much-reviled eBay seller fee school of doing business.

….And a Shift to Pay Windows

If there was a refrain in the song of freelancing, it would be some combination of not putting all your eggs in one basket, nor counting those eggs before they hatch. Paypal is by and large the main method for freelance writer site payouts, but a shift in their way of doing business has spelled trouble for pay consistency on the writers’ end. Where a firm payday was once the norm – the 1st, 9th, 15th, and so on – pay ranges seem to be the norm now, with WriterAccess having shifted paydates from single-day payouts on the 5th and 22nd to potential date ranges: the “7th -11th” and the “22nd – 26th” – paying all of their writers at once on an unknown day within the range (most writers plan for the last day, and are usually smart to do so.)

WriterAccess, at the least, pays reliably: Zerys recently sent an email after missing their stated pay window for the second period in a row. Here’s the gist of the email they sent disappointed writers, courtesy of my writing peer Carrie:

“…I wanted to give you up an update on your Zerys payment. Unfortunately, some of our valued writers will be experiencing a delay this pay period. The delay was caused due to a spike in last-minute content approvals. We do our best to estimate how much money we need to transfer to Paypal to cover our writer costs, but sometimes this is difficult because we pay right up to midnight the night of the last day of the pay period. Since it can take up to 5 days to transfer additional funds, this can sometimes lead to payments taking longer than we would like.

We apologize about any inconvenience this has caused you. We are working on making several changes to our pay periods and payment processes to address these issues, including working with Paypal to see if they can speed up their funds transfer times in the future.

Some writers should see payments later today. All other writers should be paid in the next day or two.

Thanks for your patience and understanding. We really appreciate all you do.”

There’s a lot to mull over when it comes to payments, but the moral of this story is to do some digging before you sign up with a platform. Within a single platform, it’s easy to become complacent with rates and commission percentages for wont of comparison. Be sure to poke your head up now and then and make sure what you’re pulling in is fair compensation within the industry at large!