The Latest (Bad) News on Zerys

I know that some of my readers may wonder why I’m devoting so many blog posts to a site that banned and blocked me for my opinion. I would point to my unusually high number of new blog followers, comments and likes on my Zerys posts as proof that there’s clearly a large audience that wants to talk about their frustrations there, but can’t due to forum censorship.

As I mentioned on a previous blog post about Zerys practices, I have an ex that I’m still friendly with that keeps me updated on some of the craziness going on over there. He was researching approval times recently and came across this admin forum post from last month:

zerys_post

“We understand the desire to know where you stand with every job off the New Clients Job Board. Writers have a right to know one way or the other whether a buyer will add him/her to their writing team, and also whether they have chosen to purchase the initial piece or not.

For all other regular assignments to Favorite Writers, if the client doesn’t review the piece in time, we can auto-approve the piece because the client has already added that writer to their team, and there is some likelihood that the client would approve the content anyways since its from one of their favorite writers.

For initial New Client jobs, however, there is a unique challenge when it comes to auto-approval. We cannot force the client to like a writer, and we cannot force them to purchase a piece that was primarily designed to review a writer’s ability. The reason clients don’t have a review deadline on New Client Jobs is because these are not final, publishable pieces of content, but rather, these are jobs designed to help them identify writers they like, and want to add to their team.

All this being said, the great majority of New Client Jobs are reviewed within the 7-day window, so we are not finding this to be a major issue at thie point. We will, however, continue to watch it closely.”

There are several problems here – notably that “great majority” isn’t qualified – and even then, numbers don’t always work favorably in Zerys’ PR history, as we learned after the announcement that 60% of Zerys clients are not paying for their “samples.” Secondly, and admittedly this is anecdotal, but several writers I know have admitted that their samples sit for weeks, with some still languishing in queue from back during the initial shift to writing for free – excuse me, providing “custom” writing samples –  on the platform, months ago.

So, to recap, in order to get jobs from any new client on Zerys, you’ll need to:

1.) Write a 250 word article for free, knowing that 60% of these samples, by Zerys own admission, will never earn a penny.

2.) Wait for an indeterminate period of time, which is entirely up to the client, in the hopes that you’re one of the “lucky” 40% that actually gets paid for your work.

3.) Keep your work in limbo indefinitely, unable to repackage or sell it, because you’ve essentially created Schrodinger’s Article, which the client can buy at any point in time and lock down a copyright for.

This is what #FreelanceIsntFree is pushing for, my writing readers. These expectations and edicts are a slippery slope that devalues our hard-earned craft and makes new writers feel as if they’re not legitimate until they work for free.

You are worth more than that. Never forget that your work is worth paying for!

 

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.

 

 

 

Freelance Writing Site Info: Interact Media Review

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:

(deep breath)

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”.

Gee, it's not like they -emphasize- one over the other or anything..

Gee, it’s not like they -emphasize- one over the other or anything..

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.

The numbers don't lie.

The numbers don’t lie.

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. )

Screenshot of an actual email.

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.