Writing Online for Money with HubPages
Five years ago I had a total quarter-life freak out, quit the job I'd held for seven years, dropped out of school and declared that I was going to pursue writing as a career.
And everyone looked at me with a lot of sadness and concern.
Oh, and then a few weeks later I found out I was pregnant.
So, 2013 was pretty weird.
While my husband dragged his butt to his retail job each afternoon I plucked away at my keyboard and vomited (because I was pregnant, not because of the writing thing) and prayed to God that I would figure my shit out before my baby was born. Meanwhile, I logged back into HubPages, a site I'd joined like three or four years before and had completely forgotten about. When I'd first signed up back in 2008 HubPages was like a fun hobby site where I'd published maybe two "hubs", got bored, and moved on to other interests like fighting with people on the IMDB boards (back when those were still around) and cry-laughing through 16 and Pregnant Marathons (I'm a millennial, in case that's not obvious by now, and yeah, I love avocados and destroying established restaurant chains like Applebee's).
I hadn't thought about HubPages as a source of income until I was desperate for a source of income that would be sustained even while vomiting every fifteen minutes.
After publishing a handful of hubs on my new account I was finally accepted to the Google Ads program. Ka-ching!
I was pretty sure I was going to be rich but as I watched my monthly ad revenue totals come out to exactly nothing per month I gave up.
Whatever, my new baby was here, my husband was getting raises and anyway, the term "starving-writer" didn't come out of nowhere, right?
Writing for money is stupid.
Enter my daughter's toddlerhood - a time that had me busy but also bored and back to the reality that realistically, one income is hard to survive off of, especially when you like to buy baby clothes all of the time.
I decided to log back into HubPages, surprised to find that my dinky little articles were earning me an average of fifty cents a day. That's not a lot, I know, but for stuff that I'd written a year before and that hadn't been touched since, it was kind of neat to see my writing earning me a few bucks a month.
Then I had this BRILLIANT revelation: What if I actually tried to make money by working really hard? You know, like at a job! A novel concept, I know, and without much effort I was making one whole dollar a day.
By the time I was pregnant with my second daughter I was making enough to cash out through the earnings program each month (the minimum cash out requirement is $50, so if you only earn $30 each month, you'll get paid $60 every two months).
Then something amazing happened - I sold something through the Amazon affiliates program that is linked right to my HubPages account and earned about 10% of the selling price. That doubled my earnings for the day.
Here, a dozen articles that I'd written while my baby napped or played beside me were just earning pennies that added up to dollars while I bathed my daughter, got peed on by my daughter, bathed my daughter again, etc. It was just like magic!
While I'd spent seven years of my early adulthood shelving books and DVDs for a few hundred dollars a month, sweating through my library-girl cardigans and fending off unrequited love from men 4x my age who have a thing for sweaty library-girls I could have just been writing.
This upset me a little, but my frustration was quickly resolved when I found that I was now making like, $2 a day in the winter of 2015.
Baller, I know.
Then something unfortunate happened. HubPages fell victim to the Google Panda update in early 2016. The thousands of 200 word articles and novel-length manifestos were not holding up to Google's new standards and we were all going to suffer.
My hope in HubPage's potential plummeted along with my earnings.
Back to square one I signed up for college classes and decided I better get my saggy mom butt back in school (a really good move, IMHO) and gave up on ol' HubPages once again, opting to juggle potty-training, pop quizzes, and breastfeeding 24/7.
I gave up on my writing dreams altogether. Because dreams are for rich people and elementary school kids and I was neither.
It took me like two seconds to decide I wanted to major in business because business people make money and become president of the free world, right?
Guys, I don't know if you've noticed yet but this story has SO MANY TWISTS AND TURNS and here comes another one!
Right after that tumultuous Panda update, HubPages introduced their new marketing strategy and this one included niche sites. From now on, HubPages writers would write from the HubPages platform and after some vetting, articles that met a list of exceptionally high criteria would be moved to the niche or "vertical" sites like Holidappy and WeHaveKids. These sites were designed with Google's new standards in mind so that they'd have a better chance of showing up in search results pages.
One day I opened up an email from the HubPages team letting me know that they were editing my article "Getting Hitched: How to Get Married at The Courthouse" so that it would be up to standards to be moved to PairedLife.com.
This single move shifted my traffic drastically. I went from a couple dozen hits on my articles each day to hundreds, and eventually thousands. Each uptick in traffic has meant significantly more money for me since I get paid for each view.
When I first started writing on HubPages my goal was to make enough to pay for our car insurance each month and I'm ecstatic to report that I not only make that, easily, but a lot more on top of it.
I am telling you this to brag a little bit. I take a lot of pride in writing content that informs and helps my readers while also making enough money to contribute financially while I muddle my way through college and staying home with my two small children. I'm bragging because if you're reading this, you probably have similar hopes and you're wondering how you can do it.
Keep reading, because I'm going to tell you how you can make some sweet, sweet cash writing for HubPages.
(Full disclosure: I'm not about to try and sell you anything and whether or not you also decide to write on HubPages will not at all affect me. This isn't a sales pitch, it's an article on how to make some money from home as well as how to build passive income, plain and simple.)
How Do I Even Make Money From HubPages?
If you're not already writing on HubPages you're probably wondering where the money actually comes from. Simply put, when you sign up for HubPages you choose an earnings program. All of the money you make from HubPages is coming from ad revenue from ads placed on the site.
How I Make Money Every Single Month Writing on HubPages
If The Title of an Article is a Question, I'm Sure to Answer it Right Away
First thing's first, if one of my articles is asking a question in the title, I try to make sure that I'm answering that specific question in the first few sentences or at least paragraphs. This is for two reasons:
- It annoys people when you make them dig for answers, especially because most people Googling for answers are already freaking out and...
- Google likes answers! And Google is my friend, Google is where the majority of my traffic comes from and I want Google to like me. Answers that appear in the beginning of an article give that article a better chance of showing up on the first few pages of a search results page as well as the top result which (currently) gives a detailed preview of the article.
If I Have a Question, I Write About It
Because if I'm wondering, someone else has to be too, no matter how random or obscure it seems. That courthouse article I mentioned? It's one of the top Google results for questions like "How do I get married at the courthouse?"
When I wrote it, I had no idea that it would be such a popular subject. So, just because you think you're the only one wondering about something, that doesn't mean it's not worthy of an article.
I Make Sure to Write at Least 2,000 Words Per Article (Usually)
When I set out to write an article I ask myself first if I can realistically write at least 2,000 words pertaining to the subject that contain helpful information and original thought. If I can't, or if I start writing it and realize it's just going to end up being stuffed with a bunch of fillers, I move on to the next article. I'm not going to waste my time writing it and I'm not going to waste a reader's time with a low-quality piece that will probably be written better by someone with more experience on that subject.
One thing that drives me crazy when I click on a Facebook link or a search result is ending up with an article that's barely pushing 500 words and doesn't really give me an in-depth commentary on the subject (I'm looking at you, Apartment Therapy, even if your site design is super cute).
Another reason I'm sure to write at least 2,000 words per article? Google favors longer articles (probably for the reasons I just mentioned)!
I Include at Least Three Pictures That I Have the Legal Right to Use
Photos help break up an article so that it's easier to read and digest. But photos that are irrelevant to the subject, that are bad quality (pixely, small, dark, etc.) or that I don't have permission to use aren't going to help me at all. If I click into an article and hate the pictures I honestly shoot back and start over, looking for an article with photos that make me happy. My content is a fraction of what's out there and just like in retail, shoppers are going to reach out, touch, and then buy whatever looks like it has the best value for the price (in this case, the price is the reader's time) and I want to be valuable to them by providing them with stimulating visuals alongside fresh, well-organized information.
Two places (there are tons!) that I go to look for free photos that can be used for commercial use and can also be edited without attribution are the creative commons on Flickr and more often these days, Unsplash.
Personally, I always credit the photographer, even if I've heavily edited their photo because if it were my work, I would want the credit! Another reason I do that is that I'm my own brand and I want readers to trust my brand. I don't trust writers who don't credit other artists, so why would someone trust me if I fail to credit the photographers behind my graphics?
I Figured Out How to Use Canva
Speaking of high-quality pictures, I couldn't create the content I do without Canva which I use to create graphics that will appeal to readers on social media. Because even though a lot of my traffic does come from Google, a good portion of it also comes directly from Pinterest, a place where the first thing people will see is a graphic, not the content I've written. A well-designed graphic is my only chance to explain to them that they need to read what I've written. I'm not a designer, I'm not good at it, I wouldn't ask someone to pay me to do it, but for myself, these images suffice.
I use one of my free-photo sites to find a picture that is free to use for commercial use (and is also allowed to be edited) and use that to build my graphic over on Canva with the title of my article, add some flare, and upload it into my article from the plugins on HubPages.
Honestly, I've always used high-quality photos on my articles but it's only within the past year that I started creating graphics for my titles and it's made a huge difference in my traffic and thus my income - for only an extra 15 minutes of work (that is actually pretty fun).
I Write With a Vertical Site in Mind
When I start out a "hub" I take a quick peek around the niche sites to see where the subject I'm writing about would fit in best. From there I try to cater to the audience who would search that particular niche or vertical site (they are, to my knowledge, the same thing).
I want the majority of my articles to be eligible for a niche site because these sites gain the most traffic and traffic = money for me.
I Treat Writing for HubPages Like a Part Time Job
At first, I didn't, you already know that.
But now that I'm legitimately including my income from HubPages into our monthly budget, I no longer see it as a hobby. Researching subjects, extracting the most relevant information out there, and packaging it into an easy-to-view, easy-to-find, and most importantly, easy-to-read article is a service that I do for money and I can't make money if I don't work.
I try to set aside a specific amount of time each week (depending on homework, doctors appointments and feeding the kiddos) to dedicate to working.
Sometimes that's tricky, because to my family and friends it just looks like I'm just messing around on my laptop and ignoring them. But I know, because of the results that I've seen, that the more work I put into writing and the more time I put into piecing together helpful articles, the more money I'll make.
From about June of this year, to now (it's December, so six months) I've basically quadrupled my income by being diligent about sitting down and creating content and truthfully, I'm only publishing about three articles a month right now (which is like a dinky 10 hours per month)!
So that's a huge income increase for a minimal amount of work. I can't even imagine what kind of money I'd make if my attention wasn't so divided.
I Get that HubPages Isn't a Blog
Blogs are awesome and successful blogs have the potential to rack up the creator a crazy awesome amount of money, much more than I make. But blogs are also more work to establish in search engines and out on the interwebs in general, something I don't have a lot of time to do (yet!). They cost money to startup and operate whereas HubPages is completely free from the start. Plus, the audience for a blog is also slightly different than the audience for an article. I think of blogs as an ongoing story, a peek into a writer's life with deeply personal stories and a lot of "community" happening in the comments.
That is not HubPages, at least in my experience. With a blog, I could really brand myself, but on HubPages, I'm branding HubPages, representing a website's ability to deliver a constant stream of high-quality, researched content to the world. For this reason, I try to avoid using this as a platform to publish more personal issues (besides how I pooped while giving birth without an epidural) unless they're an anecdote to information I'm giving to the reader to help them better understand why something is the way it is.
From my own experience here, that material doesn't get a lot of traffic on HubPages.
Someday I hope to have the time and attention to devote to a personal blog that I can also monetize, but right now, I'm happy to create content for a well-curated, trustworthy publishing platform that rewards me for the traffic I drive to it.
I Use My Real Name
This goes along with a reader trusting the information I give them. I'm personally put off by writers whose name is very clearly not their name like "Super Momma PowerPants"* or OMDfan99*
That's not to say that there aren't great reasons to use pen names, like if you're writing about something controversial, or that could jeopardize your day job but I think it's a good idea to pick a name that is at least legitimate sounding.
*Not real writers here, I miraculously pulled these names out of my head in the time it took me to walk from my computer to the front door where my daughters were ringing the bell incessantly.
I Use Actual Photos of Myself in My Profile Photos
See above. If I click onto an article out there in the twisted interwebs and the writer's photo is a picture of a cartoon character or worse, a stolen profile picture from some random person, that's really off-putting to me. I like to put a face to the real-sounding name and know that someone coherent wrote these things on the other end.
I don't know if using real photos of myself as my profile picture here on HubPages actually works to drive traffic, but I like to believe that it helps build trust with my readers.
I Set Goals
Sometimes it's easy to get complacent with passive income because it just keeps coming whether you work for it or not. Right now, a lot of the money I make comes from articles I wrote years ago. In fact, the newer an article is, the less money I'll make on it until it starts gaining rank in the search engines, so I'm often tempted to get lazy and not put the work into writing fresh content. The thing is, monetizing through ad revenue is like a snowball. It starts small, but the longer you roll it, the more quickly it grows. The more I write, the bigger my snowball gets, and with each month the rate at which I gain income increases.
Although I'm not sure I'm allowed to reveal exactly how much I make, I'll put it this way - when I first started earning here, I made enough each day to get a Happy Meal for my kids to split. Now I earn enough each day to buy them EACH an ARMFUL of Happy Meals - and ice cream cones too.
Keeping that in mind, I try to make a monthly goal for content published, whether that be one article a week or just one article for the whole month. One way I can do this is by spending one day just starting drafts. I'll brainstorm subject ideas and then start like a dozen drafts. That way, when I'm ready to put in some writing time I just go into one of those drafts and write from there. Because half the process is figuring out what to write about!
I Track My Stats and Update Accordingly
The first thing I do after getting my kids their morning milk and pouring myself a cup of coffee is open up my laptop and login to HubPages to check my stats. I see if my traffic is up or down, where it's falling, where it's rising, what search phrases are bringing people to my articles, which articles are being shared most on social media, and of course, how much money I made the day before.
From there, I can gauge which articles need to be tweaked (sometimes changing just a couple of words in a title can have a dramatic effect on how many people read it) or updated completely.
One of the reasons I'll update an article over writing a brand new one is that that article's particular url has probably gained a lot of rank over the past couple of years and I don't want to mess with it. Still, I know it's no longer up to snuff and could use fresh photos, more relevant information, or even a few more capsules of content to make it a worthier read.
I Hustle My Hubs
I am not talking about my husband because I hate using the term "Hubs" for the person I'm married to as much as I never want to be called "Wifey", ever.
As soon as I hit publish on a hub here on HubPages, even before it's been evaluated by the editors, I begin building a digital trail. I pin it to Pinterest to start gaining views. Once it's gone through review, I'll post a link to the article on my Facebook, with a little preview of what the article is about, and make the post public so that if anyone on Facebook is searching for the subject I've written about, there's a chance my link will show up. I also use it as an opportunity to tag Facebook pages of companies on Facebook who are mentioned in or relevant to the article so that their followers might also see the article.
I Write What I Know
I don't believe you have to write what you know to be a successful writer. In fact, I write content freelance for clients who often hire me to write about things I initially have zero interest or experience in.
But truthfully, on a platform like HubPages, I think you'll make more money if you write what you know.
Here's why: When I write what I already know, it takes much less time to write it and as a freelancer my time really is money. The less time it takes me to write one thing, the more time I have to write another thing. Writing what I know also gives me some authority over it, and when a reader is looking for information they often look for someone with authority on the subject.
I Engage With My Readers
I love my readers. I know it's not the same following that a blogger would garner, but my readers are really important to me and I want them to know that when they comment, I will respond as quickly as possible. Hopefully when I publish something new, they'll be excited to click and read and start another conversation. Building traffic is essential, building traffic with an established audience just gives me the warm-fuzzies.
I Listen to My Editors
Every so often I'll get an email from one of HubPage's editors to let me know that they've begun the process of editing one of my articles or that they have some changes they'd like me to make. They're implementing these changes not because they have something against me personally, but because they're the experts and they know how this stuff works. Their suggestions are there to help us make more money, not to hurt anyone's feelings.
Do You Write on HubPages?
What's the best advice you have for driving traffic and helping other writers to realize their income potential on HubPages? Let me know in the comments below!
Questions & Answers
© 2017 Kierstin Gunsberg