For the anyone new to the world of online freelancing or content writing, there are a bewildering array of websites offering to host your writing and give you financial rewards for doing so. It seems that every social networking site bulges with adverts offering money for your writing. To make an informed choice of where to place your writing, you first need to know about the sites available. The focus of this article is the website Helium.com.
Helium.com is a well established online copy site advertising itself as a “knowledge co-operative”, its motto being, “Learn what you need, share what you know”. What this basically means in real terms is that it is a free to join site, where almost anyone who measures up to the rather relaxed quality standards may post their articles on an almost endless variety of topics. Many articles by different writers on the same topic are accepted, the philosophy being that the more points of view available the better.
What this lofty ideal equates to in reality is a wealth of poorly written articles, heavy on opinion (however outspoken) and low on research and quality. How much an article earns depends on how well it is rated by other members, often arbitrarily. Articles once posted cannot be removed or sold exclusively elsewhere, and each earns less than a cent per viewing.
For writers seeking adequate remuneration for individual articles, instead of a very slowly growing pile of pennies, there are far better sites available. For first time writers seeking somewhere to practice their skills, Helium is a friendly and uncritical place to see your writing published.
Rating is the biggest single differentiator between Helium and other pay per page view content websites. When an article is accepted, and is in a competitive title (containing two or more other articles), it is then rated against a series of other articles by the members. This takes the form of two rival articles displayed next to each other, with a scale at the bottom to indicate which the viewer prefers. Depending on how well an article is rated, it will either climb to the top of the list, becoming the most viewed and potentially increasing its earnings, or disappear into obscurity.
Rating would seem to be a fair way to assess the quality of an article, but because Helium requires members to have a ‘Rating Star’ (gained by having rated a certain amount of articles in the last ninety days) in order to receive payment for their articles, it is actually an exercise in futility. It is evident that while some members do genuinely take the time to read both articles, compare them, and rate them fairly, most simply read a line or two and pick an arbitrary rating, or rate them on which expresses an opinion similar to their own. This is clearly visible when a well written article is rated below one full of grammatical and spelling errors, something that happens lamentably often.
Content on Helium is divided into three main categories. These are Marketplace, Writing Contests, and Zones.
Marketplace content is generated by external Helium “Partners”, who offer a topic they wish content written for, and pay for the best articles submitted. Like the rest of Helium, it is the users who vote for the best articles, making the most popular articles the most visible at the top of the list of submissions. However, unlike the rest of Helium, it is not the users who have the final say in the content ultimately selected. While the more popular content is the most visible and has the best chance of being chosen, it is the Partners who decide which article to purchase.
Writing Contests are an entertaining and challenging feature of Helium, offering prizes of around $60 for first, $40 for second, and $30 for third place. A topic and a series of article titles are given by Helium on a bi-weekly basis. Members then write to these, being given (or deducted) a certain amount of points per article, depending on how well rated they are. The winners are those with the most cumulative points. Several contests may be running at any given time.
Zones form the largest section of Helium, and consist of broad areas of interest, with sub-categories in each. Members can submit articles to start new titles in the categories, or add an article to an existing title. For writing to an empty title Helium is advertising, members may receive a small upfront reward of $1.
One of the defining aspects of Helium is that, for the Zone category articles, it is a pay per page view website, where each time an article is viewed the corresponding advertising generates a financial reward. This reward is calculated by a complex equation involving the type of article, its ranking, the member’s writing stars, the advertising on the article page and other factors. However, what this equates to in real terms is that each viewing of an article generates somewhere in the region of less than a cent. It is worth noting that members only earn on their articles if they have a current ‘Rating Star’, as mentioned above.
Payment is restricted to a minimum of $25, which can be requested as often as it is earned. Payment is made through Paypal, and thus writers wishing payment must sign up for this service and be willing to pay a small percentage of their earnings in a service charge per transaction.
For the casual hobby writer or budding freelance writer, this small financial incentive may be an added bonus to the chance to hone their writing skills. For anyone looking to make an income, or second income, or even receive a payment each month, the only way to make any real money from the site is to either write for the Marketplace, or to a lesser extent the Contests, or have several hundred well rated articles on the site. In order to keep individual articles well rated and near the top of their title it is necessary to update them every few weeks. This means that while perpetually earning a few cents on each article may sound like an easy and carefree choice, in reality a lot of hard work is required firstly to get several hundred articles on the site, and secondly to keep them updated and well ranked.
Helium.com has one very important issue when it comes to article rights. Namely that, while articles may be posted elsewhere under a non-exclusive agreement, there is no option to remove an article from Helium. This means that once an article has been posted, Helium has the right to keep it online indefinitely and the users cannot remove it. The only exception is the Marketplace, where full rights are transferred to the buyer on purchase.
While this inability to remove content is not a problem for casual writers, or those just starting on their writing career, it can become a problem later on.
Posting an article on Helium excludes ever selling it exclusively elsewhere, which means that an article which could have fetched a decent price on a different site, once posted on Helium, will only ever earn pennies. For anyone who can write with any degree of professionalism this is a distinctly non-advantageous situation to be in.