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Making Money from Writing the Right Way

Years ago when I started writing and publishing my work on revenue sharing websites like Hubpages I was only really interested in one thing – money. Sure I knew that I was ok as a writer and that it was something I had sometimes enjoyed doing in the past, but I didn't really go into it as a hobby or because of a strong desire to express myself; I got into writing online because I was unemployed at the time and I wanted to start earning some extra cash.

Because of that I got myself heavily involved with affiliate marketing – placing links to online stores or specific products within my articles which track visitors and pay a commission for each sale that you generate. For a while I did pretty well out of it, although I have to admit now that I am not proud of the way I worked. I would often write articles about topics I didn't know a lot about just because I knew that I could include a very profitable affiliate link in that post. I would try to include some general information that would be useful for people, but would also include a bunch of marketing spiel designed purely to encourage people to buy something, and I would often recommend products I had never used – sometimes even recommending products which I knew were not the best option just because they paid the highest commission. Through using SEO techniques I would try to get these articles into good positions in the Google search results so that I could get lots of readers. I had several individual articles which made me hundreds of dollars per month each using these techniques, and built up a reasonable income from my portfolio of content.

Eventually, however, I came unstuck. Google updated their ranking algorithm in the now infamous 'Panda update' (this was the first Google Panda update). First I saw my visitor numbers dropping down, and then the main website I had been writing for updated their terms of service to block some of the most profitable affiliate networks I had been using, such as ClickBank, in an effort to reduce what they saw as 'spammy' content. My income was almost totally wiped out overnight.

For a while I left the whole online writing thing by the wayside. I couldn't find the motivation to start again from the beginning, and in any case I found a 'real job' to do instead.

Then about a year ago I found myself once again unemployed and looking for a way to earn some extra money. I decided to start writing again – but this time to put aside my dodgy techniques and do it the right way. I had actually missed writing, and as I was nurturing a growing interest in both home automation technologies and also crypto currencies I felt like this time around I had some things to write about which really inspired me and which I actually knew a little bit about.

For quite a while I focussed purely on quality – trying to write the best, most informative and most interesting articles I could without being overly concerned about trying to maximize my earnings. I hoped that Google was right and that their new ranking algorithm really could recognize and reward quality content. This worked, to an extent. I started getting readers and earning a small income again. I even started getting some freelance work on the back of my online portfolio of content, pulling in 1-2 short jobs each month. And of course I also discovered Devtome and started writing for Devcoins. All of this together was good enough to give me an income, but not a good income by any stretch of the imagination.

Over the last months or so, however, I have started to discover a kind of middle ground, learning that you can actually write good quality and honest content and still make a reasonable income by including affiliate links!

It actually started with an article I published on Devtome. This was a review of a Bitcoin investment services which I had been using for quite a while, which had an affiliate program. Back in the bad old day this is exactly the kind of thing I would have written an article about without even using it, filling the page with marketing text designed to make a sale. This time I had only decided to write an article after using the service for 6 months and becoming convinced that it was a service worth recommending, and I tried my best to write an honest review with all the relevant information. The affiliate link itself was something I added almost as an afterthought – I would have written the article anyway but though 'I might as well' add my referral link since I would need to provide a link to the site for people to visit it anyway. That article actually got some positive feedback – a fellow Devcoiner contacted me to say they had decided to give the service a try after reading my article (if you are reading this - thanks SifuPhil!!!) and I received a small commission for the referral. This was the first time anyone had contacted me about a Devtome article, and one of only a handful of times people have taken the time to send me a private message as a result of reading one of my articles. I have to say, it was something of a revelation to me that I could write articles with affiliate links to make myself money and at the same time produce content which would get a positive reaction from my readers.

I decided to include a link to the article mentioned above in my Bitcointalk signature, and I got a few more referrals. At this stage I decided that perhaps there was a 'right way' to do affiliate marketing after all. I decided to look back over the articles I have published online about home automation, all of which were written with the intention of purely being informative and some of which were actually getting a reasonable number of visitors from Google. I discovered that many of them mentioned products which are sold on Amazon – which has a pretty good affiliate program I could use. I started adding links to relevant products alongside or underneath the text – and hey presto I started making money!

The reason I decided to write this article is to encourage other writers than you genuinely can make money from publishing your work online without selling your soul to the devil, as it were. I know that it can be hard to make money from writing, especially if you write about subjects which don't have a lot of advertiser competition on ad networks like Google Adsense; poetry, for example, is notoriously difficult to earn money from. But if you put in a little bit of thought, it is possible.

Here are some simple rules and tips I have learned to help you to make money from online writing without losing your integrity:

Rules

  • You should always write what you know and love – don't try to change this to make money. Monetizing your content should always be an 'add-on', not the primary purpose of your writing. For example, don't start with an affiliate link and write an article to promote it like I used to do – start with an article and then think about whether affiliate links could be appropriate.
  • Only include affiliate links for quality products which are highly relevant to the article and which you genuinely know something about.
  • Start with the information, and include the affiliate link later – never start off with a sales pitch.
  • Never try to trick Google into giving you a good ranking – you will never win over the long term.

Tips

  • Take a little bit of time to think about what products may be relevant to your article. For example, if you are writing poetry then perhaps you could add links to poetry books, but you can also be a little bit more creative than that. Did you use any software tools to help you with your poetry, which may have an affiliate program? If you are writing poetry about the English countryside, perhaps artwork depicting similar scenes may be of interest to your readers whilst also adding a bit of colour to the page. Apply some of the creative talents you put into your writing and you should be able to think of ways to monetizing your content whilst making it more, rather than less valuable to your readers.
  • Take a chance on testing products. If a product relating to the kind of things you usually write about has an affiliate program then consider testing it out and writing an honest review. If it turns out to be rubbish you still have an article to publish even if you won't earn commission on something you slate, and if you find a hidden gem which is genuinely worth recommending you may well be rewarded handsomely. Even better still, if you have a reasonable portfolio of work already published you should consider contacting the vendor or manufacturer to ask for a freebie. This probably won't work for very expensive products, but for less expensive things you may be surprised how willing companies are to give out freebies in return for a little media exposure. I have to admit I've never actively pursued this myself, but I have been contacted a couple of times with requests for a review that included a freebie, and I know several writers who get freebies on a weekly basis.
  • Interrogate your friends and family! One of the biggest problems with generating an affiliate income from writing is the fact that you need to publish a lot of articles, and you don't make enough money to buy lots and lots of products. This is why so many people get tempted to promote products which they've never used. One way around this is to get feedback on products which your friends and family have used, and perhaps ask them if you can have a play yourself.

Categories: Writing


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