I’ll warn you ahead of time, this is partly a rant and partly a blog post. But my rant is structured in that it illustrates a point. So hopefully it comes off more as an instructional lesson than a pointless rant. 🙂
If you’ve been reading my blog posts for any length of time you know that I’ve often advocated getting off websites and searching out clients for yourselves. I think that being able to market yourself as a writer, self publish, find clients, and write for magazines and publications is the best way to secure a living.
Thanks to Yahoo! Voices I now have a perfect example from my own life as to why I advocate this.
Yahoo! Voices, which was previously Associated Content, as I understand it, was a wonderful place on Yahoo! where you could publish content based on your own experience and knowledge, Yahoo! would pay you for it (up-front payments, if exclusive, and performance only if not). While I never advocated this as a way to make your entire income, I’ve been a long-time fan of Y!V.
I like to write about things from my perspective, and I also like to read about things from other people’s perspectives. I think shared knowledge based on personal experience is a great thing, and it’s one of the reasons I really loved Yahoo! Voices. So I worked Y!V into my business plan for the next month and was going to publish one or two pieces of content there daily.
I went to Yahoo! Voices today, the contributor side, and this is the message I found.
You made the past nine years incredible. At Yahoo, we’re focused on making daily habits more inspiring and entertaining. That means we’re constantly reviewing our products and experiences and, in some cases, we have to make tough decisions to no longer support a product. As part of our ongoing effort to sharpen our focus, on July 31, 2014, Voices.Yahoo.com will be shut down; on August 15, we will make the final Performance Payment before Contributor.Yahoo.com closes. With the exception of content you provided to Yahoo under a work for hire license, or unless Yahoo arranges differently with you, we will remove from Yahoo all content published through Yahoo Contributor Network and rights for all of your Yahoo Contributor Network content will revert to you.
We know you have a lot of questions. Please refer to this FAQ for details.
It has been such an incredible privilege to share your talents with the world over these past nine years. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.
-The Yahoo Contributor Network Team
Just like that.
The FAQ page, by the way, was less than useless. It was essentially a longer version of what they already covered in this little memo.
This, folks, is exactly what happens when you rely on entities outside of you, your writing, and your marketing skills for income. In one fell swoop for absolutely no good reason whatsoever – because let’s face it, large corporations don’t need one – your business, or part of it, can be ripped from you. A platform you have helped build, that you loved, that paid you can be stripped away with not so much as a “Gee, thanks for everything, folks.”
Was Yahoo! Voices a huge part of my monthly income? No. Not at all.
But that’s not the point. While I’ve only lost a small, small fraction of my overall business income, there are people who have spent years – and I mean 5+ years – building their content, their name, and their readership on Yahoo! Voices. If I were one of the people who had devoted so much time, built up a readership, published content religiously, and finally started generating some really good revenue from the performance payments on Yahoo! I would be absolutely livid right now.
But you know what stinks? Technically none of us have a right to be. Because when you rely on the marketing of another entity, the brand of another entity, and the very existence of another entity in order to gain payment from your work, you freely and willingly sign up for the potential of having that taken from you.
I’m a control freak. In life as in business. So for me, having this taken away – though fiscally insufficient – is extremely aggravating.
Fortunately I self-publish, I have some of my own clients, and I still use Constant Content. But what happens to the people who only rely on sites and other corporations that doll out/accept work you write and pay you/distribute payments for it?
Do not, under any circumstances, put the bulk of your business in the hands of someone other than yourself. If you’re relying on another corporation or entity for your marketing, you can have your livelihood taken away.
That obviously doesn’t mean don’t hire your own marketing firm. If you have the funds, go for it. What I mean is that if you’re not the one out there marketing what you do, finding private clients, pitching to magazines, and publishing – thereby earning royalties – then you’re not in control of your own life and business.
Sure, a client could cancel. Sure, an article could get cut from a publication. But the chances that every client will back out, all of your pitches will fail, every single article will be cut, and Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing shuts down at once is almost statistically impossible.
For those of you still clinging to Textbroker and places like it as the life raft in the sea of freelancing, I would be very scared. I don’t see content mills lasting a whole lot longer. Maybe a few years. What happens if some day that site shuts down, or the company goes under?
I know this is kind of a doom and gloom post, but it’s also very realistic.
Don’t let yourself be put in a position where one Dear John letter can crash your business. I’m so glad that I didn’t make Yahoo! Voices an integral part of my business plan. I almost considered building up my audience and jumping through the hoops there to earn more. What a colossal waste of time that would have been.
Build your own business. Chart your own course. Control your own income. And never put the fate of your business in someone else’s hands.
Until next time, happy writing (and marketing!).