Again and again I get questions about whether it is worth it to write for websites such as Suite101.com or About.com, so I thought I would breakdown my experience with Suite101 and what I have heard about About.com.
I began writing for Suite101 about two years ago when very few people had heard about it. I actually learned about it from reading Jen Leo writing about it here. At the time I was looking for whatever outlet for my writing I could find. The South America Travel section was looking for a writer (this was at a time when there were only feature writers and no contributing writers); I applied and after a short hiring process got the job. Now I think you have to write a certain number of articles before taking over a feature sections that pay more.
As a feature writer I write 4 articles and 4 blog posts a month. They don’t take me long. Maybe an hour or two each for the articles, less for the blogs. Many of the articles are very general, they are on a topic I know so well that it doesn’t require much brainwork, and are not something I would have written about elsewhere. Right now I have about 150 or so articles up that get between 15,000-20,000 page views a month from readers that come from mostly Google searches. I make about $1 per article per month. You do the math. Some sections make more than others from what I hear someone makes more than $1000 per month there. It’s not a living wage by any means. Just a side gig. Will I write for them forever? Not likely.
There are both ups and downs to writing at Suite. First, the negatives. For the first year or so I really didn’t make squat, but that is mostly because they previously paid only by page views (now it is a percentage of adsense revenues). When I started it was just me writing about South America Travel, now anyone can contribute articles and many of the contributing writers don’t bother to check to see if an article has already been written about and they cover the exact same topics that I have already written about. Lastly, if I have my own website doing the exact same thing I would make significantly more.
The positives: I’ve got to network with a few of the other writers at the site. My editor is great and pretty much lets me do what I want. I have gotten a few assignments from publications because the editors found me through Suite101. Writing for Suite101 has helped me learn quite a bit about the overall web building process, about SEO, adsense revenue, etc. It doesn’t seem like much, but that revenue keeps coming for as long as the articles are posted. So, long term it seems like a decent gig. Another plus is that after one year I can use the content elsewhere, such as my own website.
I don’t know as much about About.com and I don’t write for them, but I have met several who have or have applied. It is owned by the New York Times. Here is what I gather from the site (though please correct me if I am wrong):
To begin writing for About.com there is a very long, detailed, and exhausting hiring process that includes making many sample pages. You apply for a topic with multiple applicants; therefore you may do all the work and not get the job or paid for it.
The amount of work is substantial, though, again, I don’t know the specifics. The rumor mill says that writing for About.com is a real part time job taking around 15-20 hours per week. There are blogs, forums, reviews, FAQs, tuturoials, etc. It is, by comparison, much more involved than Suite101. They guarantee $725 a month to write for them. Again, some topics make more than others.