Freelance Writer Guide Asks: Is Interact Media legit or is Interact Media a scam?
UPDATE 5/25/16: This site is no longer a legitimate or trustworthy work option for new freelancers, in the opinion of the Freelance Writer Guide. Read our explanation here.
What is Interact Media?
Interact Media, also known as Zerys, is a content mill site, in the realm of Textbroker and Media Piston. The site uses a job board to present writers with projects. An initial star rating system, based on a writer’s sample, is used to determine what tasks are available to a given writer.
How do I get started at Interact Media?
The application process is long and somewhat convoluted. I actually got some of the way through and ended up leaving off because I had work at my already-accepted sites that was more lucrative than slogging further along. I eventually finished my application when a pleading email came from IM citing 400+ jobs had flooded in and they needed fresh writers to work at them. Here’s the hoops you need to jump through:
Once you’ve confronted the checklist, you’ll need to roll up your sleeves and dig in.
Here’s where things start getting complicated. Your next step is to pick “expert” categories to denote what subjects you will write about. Simple premise and not wholly unexpected, but there are four levels of each category, and a host of sub-categories in levels 2, 3, and 4. These sub-categories are extremely arbitrary, with paths for things like family > family crafts > craft terminology, and the inability to leave off if there’s further availability in the “path” – in that example, you couldn’t stop at “family crafts,” for instance. You must choose ten permutations and you must restrict yourself to no more than 5 level one categories. Sorry, renaissance people – you only get to be so talented.
Once you manage to get through the odd system of category-picking (you can choose up to 100 paths, by the way, if you have hours to kill) you move to the inevitable sample page. I will give IM credit in that they allow you to choose whether you want to submit an already-written sample or create a new one, but the fact they expect the new one for free kind of cancels that credit out. Cue skepticism re: every place that’s ever fished for free writing, citing “valuable exposure”.
Assuming you decide to continue from there, you can expect an email a few days later with a congratulation message for making it inside, along with your editor-issued star rating. (From here on out, your rating will be entirely dependent on client ratings of your work.) What they’ve neglected to tell you until now – and what you’ll quickly discover – is that while there are 2 and 3 cent/word jobs that show up on the boards, they’re few and far between, vastly outweighed by the appalling .007/word work. No, that’s not a typo of 7 cents, readers – that seven tenths of ONE PENNY per word. I’ve never in my career seen a legitimate American site paying such horrible rates, and I was very, very disappointed to find that a fairly well-known site is responsible for perpetuating that it’s perfectly fine to pay skilled, native writers in fractions of a penny.
How do I get paid at Interact Media?
Hopefully, twice a month via the paypal address you supplied in the application process. I say “hopefully” because the site has, easily, the longest review times I’ve ever seen. According to an email I received in response to my query, “editors” – who don’t work for IM, by the by, and are agents of the clients who post the jobs – have 14 business days to look over your article, with the potential of 14 more business days after that if they request a revision on the tail end of the countdown clock. Direct clients, those that don’t use an editor, have a far more reasonable 5-7 business days to approve or reject the article. (EDIT TO ADD: More insight into this timeline can be found in the comments below. )
How is the overall experience at Interact Media?
For me, it was terrible. After waiting for the better part of two weeks to get a measly $5 article approved, a $12 piece I had labored over (an article subject instructed to be tied in with a business that had nothing to do with it, along with links) was unceremoniously rejected – literally the first time in 8+ years of writing on content sites that I’ve ever had that happen. No recourse, no appeal, no revision attempt or opportunity allowed. Just a dismissive digital hand wave and my hard work left me with nothing but a highly-branded piece on a very odd subject that I had no hope of reselling.
Helpful Hints for Interact Media?
If you decide to try it out, do yourself a favor and check out a client’s profile prior to accepting a project. There will likely be telltale comments from previous writers if he or she is difficult to deal with, or exceptionally demanding. Don’t rely on this site for fast money, as the review times are absurdly long and they only pay twice a month.
Writing itself is a difficult undertaking, but when frustrating clients get into the mix it’s enough to make a writer want to throw her hands up and stalk off muttering. I’ve had the misfortune of stumbling over a rare few this week and I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that they definitely rained on my confidence parade. When you get your speed up and feel like you’re doing great, one of these clients can come across as a punch to the gut, and the momentum-skew is able to knock newbies right into the realm of “Maybe I can’t do this, after all.” Don’t let that happen! Here are a few rules to guide you when clients start tangling you up:
1.) It’s OKAY to “fire” a client.
This could mean releasing the job, refusing direct/personal/solo orders, or communicating the “86” directly with the client if they’re a private hire. Your time is valuable, and one of the greatest benefits of freelancing is choosing the people you want to work for – allowing a “bad” client to eat up your time and patience is essentially tossing that benefit out the window. If you’re going to do this, don’t do it often or you’ll gain a rep for being unreliable – if you find yourself doing it often on a site, it may be time to switch sites, and if it happens everywhere it may be time to take a good long look at your own behaviors and tones.
2.) Clients aren’t perfect.
Money, education, experience, and personal creed don’t make a jerk any less of a jerk. Some clients are bullies that will treat you like an indentured servant, and some are new to the game and have unrealistic expectations for the money they’re willing to put out. It’s your job to lay clear boundaries, keep your workload reasonable, and communicate frequently if you’re lost as to what they’re looking for.
3.) Cherry-picking is A-ok.
There are a lot of arguments made for challenging yourself in the freelance arena, and while I agree with some of them, the time for experimentation is not when the electricity bill is overdue. When making money is the goal, grab a pair of 300-word articles on a subject that you’re familiar with, as opposed to a 600-word article on something you’ve never heard of just because the end pay is highest. More often than not, the time/pay ratio of researching and writing that unfamiliar 600-word could have been applied to three smaller articles and netted you a higher gain.
4.) Don’t be afraid to tattle.
Treat your liaisons at content mill sites (Textbroker, MediaPiston, etc) like managers, not babysitters. If you’re having trouble with a client bullying you or expecting far more than he or she outlined in the initial instructions, drop a note to your liaison and ask for guidance and assistance – don’t rely on them to fix every small problem you may have on the site. You’re expected to act like a professional, but even professionals need help sometimes.
5.) Keep your cool.
Even if the client gets insulting and starts throwing curses, don’t rise to the bait. YOU are the professional, and lashing out with snarkiness, sarcasm, or hostility will almost always come back to bite you. Remain collected, answer in a neutral, businesslike tone, and if that doesn’t diffuse the situation, refer to #4.
As a small reminder that I’d previously mentioned in the guide, if you’re going to complain on forums about clients (and you really shouldn’t), it’s always best to use a forum-specific nickname and avoid details that could lead back to you, such as subject matter and word counts. No one wants to work with someone that whines, no matter how warranted it may be, and blabbing details might just get you booted off content mill sites for violating buried non-disclosure clauses in the opening contracts that many don’t read.