Writing for the Web - Is it For You?

by Marg McAlister


Writing content for websites can give you a nice little sideline (while you're working on your novel) or you can build it into a whole new career.

It may be something you'd never thought of - which is understandable. Nobody tends to think much about who's behind those millions of words on the World Wide Web. We all simply take it for granted that when we 'Google' something, we're going to find an answer. (Quite often, we find thousands of answers - or even hundreds of thousands of answers, if it's a popular topic!)

Let me explain a little bit about how the three main kinds of websites that are out there using content written by other people. (There are more, of course, but these three are the main ones that concern you as a content writer.)

1. Authority websites. These are the websites that have a lot of content on a narrow area. (For example: heart disease, boat-building, building dolls houses, back pain, writing a novel.) These sites need to keep adding new content and keep up to date so that visitors keep coming. For some people, the website is a hobby, and they write most of the content themselves. Others hire writers to do it for them.

2. Affiliate websites. Affiliates are essentially the 'middle men'. Someone writes an e-book or creates a set of DVDs on a certain topic. To help them sell their product, they use an affiliate program - that is, they offer other people a cut of the profits to promote their product. Some people make a full-time income from promoting other people's goods. They choose a popular area, that has lots of associated affiliate products, and they create a website. They stock that website with all kinds of articles about the topic, and in those articles they include a link to a related product.

For example: they create a site about Caring for Aquariums. On that site they have articles about aquariums, caring for fish, different kinds of tropical fish, where to find fish, etc etc. They recommend or review certain products, and have a link to tell people where to find out more. That link includes their affiliate code, and if the visitor to their website buys the product, they are paid a percentage of the profit. Affiliate websites usually have Adsense ads on the page, too. Every time a visitor clicks on an ad, the webmaster earns a few cents.

To keep their site current, and to make sure they have plenty of the information people are searching for, they hire writers to write content. (Often, they advise writers to include certain key words in their articles: the most popular words that people are typing in to search for information.)

3. PLR (Private Label Rights) websites. PLR sites usually charge a set fee each month for members to download eBooks and articles that are copyright free for members, and can be sold 'as is' or developed into a new product. These books (or articles) cannot be published with copyright attributed to the member UNLESS they are altered substantially (rewritten, new content added, some content deleted, etc) and turned into a new product. The writer can THEN claim copyright.

The owners of these PLR sites hire writers to write an eBook or articles to a set brief.

If you're looking for content-writing opportunities, you'll find that there are also writing jobs that involve creating promotional material for websites, or writing short e-courses for website owners, but the above three categories are the most common.

  • Can you succeed at it?
  • Is it difficult to get started?
  • Can you make enough money to make it worthwhile?

Many experienced content writers will give you a resounding 'yes' to that last question. One writer who has succeeded at this - David Fraser - makes it very clear that it's NOT a 'get rich quick' scheme. He says "Traditional writers snub content writing because of the low rates compared to other types of writing, but I can assure you there is money to be made if you're willing to work."

If you're a perfectionist who needs to proofread every word a dozen times before you're happy to let it go, then you may find that content writing is not for you. To make a content-writing business work, you need to be organised, and you need to be able to write fast and well. It's handy if your first draft is usually pretty much on the money. You should find that you can re-purpose some of what you have researched or written for other clients, but you MUST change it - different focus, different expression, different structure. You also need to be very sure that you're not copying word-for-word from someone else's article on the Web (does the word 'plagiarism' ring a bell here?).

Might this work for you? If you're at the stage of thinking about getting a second job (or even a part-time job) then it's probably worth a look - at least you can work from home!



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