Thursday, July 12, 2018

If You're an Author, Don't Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

I grew up with the desire to write for a living, and since my late teens I'd found ways to earn pocket money with my craft. It was about ten years ago, though, that a friend of mine told me about Demand Media Studios (now known as Leaf, for those who are curious). While there were all sorts of problems with the company (it paid writers peanuts, it was uncommunicative, the terms were pretty shifty, and the list goes on and on), it was the first time I made enough money writing to cover all of my expenses. After about a year of writing in my spare time (which was limited as I was still a college student), and working smaller jobs, I decided to cut ties with hourly work entirely.

For a while, things were pretty good. I could get up whenever I wanted, work in my pajamas, and all I had to do was crank out 5 or 6 articles a day. I pulled down enough to pay off my car in about six months (while still saving money on the side), and I even participated in a profit-share offer the company had so that some of my articles generated income far beyond their initial payment. When I got my degree, I moved out into an apartment, maintained a healthy savings account, and for a few years life was pretty peachy.

Then the numbers turned on me.

Like they do, the shifty little bastards.
At first it was little things. Not as many topics were available to write on, so there weren't as many articles for me to claim. That was okay, I was still getting by without too much of a problem, especially since my profit-shares were filling in a lot of gaps. Then the company started changing rules about who could write what, asking for qualifications I didn't have (for the record, no one writes an article for $15 if they have a Master's degree). And, after a solid run of about five years, there was no more work for me. Or, at least, none I was allowed to do.

The result was that I learned a very important lesson; don't put all your eggs in one basket.

A Dozen Streams Make For A More Reliable River


Unfortunately for yours truly, I'm still not making the money I was working for Demand Media Studios (and given their reputation for paying pennies on the dollar, that's a sad statement). I've also had several promising horses die under me since then, as well. I built up a big archive on Yahoo! Voices that was starting to turn a serious profit just as the site shuttered its doors, for example. I was stoking the furnace for Google AdSense when the company sent me an email letting me know they were terminating my account. I've worked for half a dozen different article-based hub sites that were good for a season's worth of paychecks before they folded, and I've had several clients who promised me a flood of work, but found they only had the budget for a squirt or two.

While a lot of those punches hurt (particularly the ones where I was just starting to let my guard down), I learned a very important lesson from DMS. Diversity is your friend, and the more income streams you have available, the less likely you are to find yourself completely dried up.

All right... just got to get up again...
So what do I do to keep that flow going? Well, my main income is still writing blog entries for clients using a service that's very similar to what I did back in the old days. But rather than just depending on that (since some clients accept my work same-day, and others can take a year or more to get to my entry), I have cultivated a number of side streams.

As a for instance, I run this blog as well as my gaming blog Improved Initiative. Both blogs have ads on them, which aren't worth much in this age of AdBlock, but folks who like my work and who want to support me can tip me by Buying Me A Ko-Fi, or becoming patrons on The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page. Additionally, I write articles for websites like Infobarrel and Vocal, both of which pay me based on the popularity of my posts.

And in case that wasn't enough (because it isn't), I also write short stories, RPG story and mechanics, and books.

Books just like this one, in fact!
Is that enough for a comfortable life? No, not really, since you ask. However, it is much more reliable than the situation I put myself in a decade ago when I was a much younger writer. Because I don't want any avenue that I write for to close up shop. However, if I go to login one day and find out that one of my streams has dried up overnight, I've still got half a dozen others I can focus my attention on.

And, sometimes, that's all it takes to stop a minor inconvenience from becoming a disaster.

That's all for this week's Business of Writing post! For folks who have questions about how to spread their eggs around, feel free to leave them in the comments below. If you'd like to help support me, feel free to check out any of the options I linked above. And to stay on top of all my latest releases, simply follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter.

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