For as hard as I try and sell myself on the idea that I will never write purely for the money, so many of we writers find ourselves “earning” a mere handful of pennies a day. This was not always so, especially in the realm of online writing. But the arena has become so crowded with content producers that sometimes it’s very difficult to stand out.
There’s a lot of luck, it seems, in being able to write for a living. It doesn’t seem all that sustainable anymore. You may as well just scour the earth for a client or several clients that you know will pay you adequately for your time and effort. But when it comes to really writing what you want, most likely you, like many, are only getting pennies a day for your trouble - whether it be display ads or affiliate plans.
How do you earn more than pennies a day? Is it as simple as simply producing as much content as humanly possible? Does it mean living on facebook and twitter 24/7? While the social media helps, there’s a matter of luck to it as well, finding the right influencers to share and promote your content. It’s all cumulative. The more content you have, the more you earning power you create for yourself as long as you have the monetization mechanisms in place. But it is more than that. Once you get into the mindset of grabbing a few more pennies off the ground each day, you get stuck in the mindset of pennies are all you’re going to get.
Content as an Investment
What you have to do is think of the content you create as an investment. For those of us that have done client work, once we do a piece for whatever dollar amount we settle on, that content is usually lost to us for good. When we do our own thing, maybe we only earn a few pennies, nickels and dimes for each post we write upon publishing it. But here’s the thing. You can earn from that content forever. If you can push it out to other venues that syndicate content and still retain all of your rights, you can earn even more. Affiliate links are good for as long as the program is in place, and often you’ll earn several dollars a day if you’re consistent with them. There are websites out there that function almost solely off of affiliate revenue and pure raw pageviews from their display ads. So the potential to earn more in the long run is extremely high.
The problem I am seeing these days is that many writers lose motivation because it seems like content is becoming a “dime-a-dozen” industry. Yes, there are those that rise above the crop and can earn hundreds if not thousands of dollars for pieces of their content - but that’s pretty rare. Even then, content independence is really a better way to go in the long run, because as creative people, most writers need to have the freedom to explore their own passions. We'd love these passions are compatible with the aspirations of those willing to pay you, but this isn't always true.
Pros and Cons of Being an Independent Content Producer
What is the greatest risk of being an independent content producer? You will fail. And you will fail often. But then again, learning from those failures makes the victories that much sweeter. Having a guaranteed paycheck is nice and there’s nothing wrong with producing content for a client that likes your stuff and is willing to compensate you fairly for it. But as a producer, you need to have your own outlets. People have an innate need for expression. We are social animals. Our imprint must be made on our universe in one way or another.
This applies to more than just writing, of course. It can apply to photography, or videography, or any other form of artistic expression. As long as you retain your rights, the ability for you to earn from your content is essentially infinite. Sure, you can use metrics to see which of your pieces earn more than others, but you need to look beyond the numbers.
My Article is a Penny Stock?
Perhaps the best way to think about content is like penny stocks. For those unfamiliar with investing (one of those pet topics that I like to dabble with in my vast amounts of spare time), penny stocks are any stock that you can buy for under $5 a share, often under $1, and are typically low volume - meaning they aren’t traded a bunch. Why do I compare content to penny stocks? Because 99 percent of content out there could be considered penny stocks of a sort. Penny stocks often aren’t traded on major markets and are used by small companies that don’t want to go through all the trouble of buying into the major ones, but still want to raise capital.
Well, guess what? If you’re producing content that’s displayed publicly, you’re trying to raise capital! Now this doesn’t always translate to dollars and cents (or euros or yen or whatever your favorite currency might be). It can just as easily be social capital, whether it’s views or shares or whatnot. There have been some venues that have attempted to produce a sort of safe zone where writers can earn based on pageviews and a percentage of overall ad revenue on their content. Some have been more successful than others. But as a model, outside of the major media companies, their writers often don’t earn what their content is probably “worth.”
This is why content marketplaces have become so popular. Writers buy and sell articles all the time, but often lose their rights in the process. It’s quite likely that those that buy the content are going to benefit far more than the producer. That’s why I don’t care for those types of markets. Plus, they tend to be extremely strict on what they allow to be sold - because hey, the middleman has to benefit, too, right?
The Market Value of Content
Believe it or not, your content is often worth far more than you realize. There are some people out there that even buy and sell websites for a living. Yes, websites do actually have a market. Online real estate is actually a thing. Yes, a lot of spam can come out of it. But, it is a real, legitimate thing that people haven’t really bought into enough, I don’t think.
What my thinking is comes along a slightly different wavelength. What if we thought about every piece of content that we produce as a penny stock? Now some are going to produce far better than others and will be “worth” considerably more. I’m not a math person, so I’m not going to try and figure out the algorithms that actually produce a “real” market value of a given piece of content. It basically comes down to whatever ad revenue that piece produces, right? Not entirely. A piece’s true value comes from how relevant it is, how many people are willing to share it, and how much organic traffic it receives. Ad revenue is a byproduct of those factors.
I strongly feel that content producers are greatly undervalued by the “market” as a whole. Perhaps if we start seeing content as investment opportunities and not simply something that we consume on our daily web surfing, we might begin to look at it differently. Pennies a day can grow very quickly if it’s invested correctly. Perhaps content as a micro-investment opportunity should be considered. It hasn’t been done before. Why not try it? At the very least, we never have to look at our content the same way again.