Yes, my friends, it’s time for another exciting installment of The Payout Chronicles, where I interview a Hubber who tells us all about reaching their first $100 payout from Google and how they’re doing since hitting the much-anticipated milestone. Last week I interviewed Dorsi, who told us all about how she hit her first payout in 10 months and how she just hit her second payout just 3 months later.
This week I’m excited to be interviewing Lisa HW, a HubPages veteran of over 2 years and a Hubber that has written nearly 200 Hubs on topics ranging from The Magic Jack to working out percentages. I had the chance to shoot Lisa a few questions to get her take on HubPages and her thoughts on reaching a monthly payout and here is what the successful Hubber had to say:
Ryan: Well hey Lisa, thanks for being willing to be my second official interview for the Payout Chronicles! I guess that we should start off by asking you to tell us a little bit about yourself, your writing background and how you ended up finding HubPages.
Lisa: Hi, Ryan. I live in Massachusetts and have three grown kids – two sons and a daughter, who is still in college. It’s nice to have one child still in school. It helps me fend off the “nobody-left-in-school” phase (and feeling-a-little-older-than-I-prefer phase) for just a little longer.
Writing is just something I’ve always done, but it wasn’t what I did for a living. One day I woke up and found myself with one child who, because he was a adopted, needed a little more of my attention; and a premature baby whom I was not about to leave in order to work full-time. I took sporadic projects from home, but not long after my third child came along. Being immersed in a world so far from what I’d been so used to, I applied to do some freelance work for a local daily newspaper. Later I was hired to write a weekly feature for a weekly newspaper. From there I added some more freelance work and build a part-time situation that let me have the best of all worlds (or at least worlds available to me at the time). Over recent years I’ve been doing freelance writing because it has been where I can find work.
Ryan: So, when I posted the first Payout Chronicles interview with Dorsi I saw that you posted a very interesting comment about how your expectations for earning with HubPages were really low, yet you’ve seen some great success and now have a payout every single month. Can you tell us a little more about this and how long it took for you to get your first official payout?
Lisa: In the interest of full disclosure, the only reason I make payout each month is that I have one Hub that does really well, another that does pretty well, and a whole bunch more that add up in their own “insignificant” little ways. Most of my eggs are in kind of in one basket (not by design), but I’m working on changing that situation.
When I first signed up at HubPages I didn’t really do it for the earnings, which was a good thing – because the earnings were kind of laughable. I think the first month earnings were something like $2.83 (for some reason that figure sticks in my mind). The next month it may have be around $5 or $6. I think it took three months to reach around $13. There was always an increase in earnings each month, but they were really low. At the time, the payout minimum was $50. I figured, “One of these days I’ll get an extra $50, so that’s nice.” I kind of saw the HubPages earnings as a “piggy bank”.
Right as I approached the $50 Google moved the goal post to $100. “That’s fine,” I thought. Getting a spare $100 from the “piggy bank” would be even better. It took about eight months to get the first payout. (I say “about” because even though I just went to look up the actual numbers on Google, I can’t find them quickly enough and don’t want to slow up this interview).
I had read on a Hub that it can take about nine months for “Google to find you”. That was pretty close to accurate, because at (I’m fairly certain) nine months I made payout in one month. Since then, the monthly payout has increased, and I’ve been paying more attention to earnings than I once did. I’m not really thinking of them as a “piggy bank” any longer. Now, I pay attention to the earnings and figure out my average for a 31-day period. I use that to kind of project my earnings for the next payout, and it has turned out to be fairly accurate. I noticed that the “rock bottoms” tend to have risen, and that each month brings a new “all-time high” in daily earnings. Although there has been the occasional variation from the pattern I think I’ve seen; in general, it hasn’t just been the earnings that have increased. It has been the size of the increase, itself, that has also grown. January was the only month in which my “projected earnings” didn’t follow the pattern. (That pesky Inauguration Day did a number of my January average. My friend said it should make me feel good to know that my “audience” is more interested in a Presidential Election than in going online. 🙂 It sort of does. 🙂 )
Lisa: While I know what you mean about jimmythejock and Mark Knowles, they had nothing to do with my keeping writing on HubPages. The community is wonderful, and there’s lots of really fine Hubs on the site, but I kept writing because HubPages gives writers the chance to write what they feel like writing.
As someone who writes on assignment (about things I can’t honestly say I’m always that interested in), I was looking for a place to just write I want to write. It’s kind of my way of taking a break and relaxing.
Ryan: Everyone wants to make money online and everywhere you turn there seems to be a scam just waiting to happen. Why did you choose to give HubPages a shot and what has your experience been like from a ‘customer support’ perspective? Basically, does the HubPages team take care of you, or are we just a bunch of losers?
“Bunch of losers??!!” – That never would have occurred to me. People are great, but, more importantly, professional. With the exception of this interview, I haven’t had a lot of “individual dealings” with the folks who run HubPages. All has been well, I’ve seen the gradual and progressive moves toward an “even better” site. It’s a nice site, and it’s run well. When I’ve had questions I go to the forum and get them answered; but because all has pretty much been smooth and problem-free, I haven’t had any complicated issues that required asking for personal attention from HubPages administration, itself. With experience writing on other sites too, I can say that HubPages does an excellent job of preventing those “complicated issues” from occurring (at least in my experience).
Lisa: HubPages is not a scam. For one thing, nobody asks for a cent – and that’s the first measure of scam. For another thing, nobody promises anybody they’ll get rich quickly. HubPages pretty much tells all new users not to quit their day jobs.
As a writer, it has occurred to me that (at least with some pieces) I could theoretically earn more by looking for a print publisher, going through the whole thing with queries, waiting for long periods of time, and maybe selling the thing (etc. etc. etc.). I don’t want to be doing all that. I don’t have the time. I have a “rest of life” to be dealing with. Like most “writer types”, I write because I enjoy it, want to, and sometimes feel as if I need to. Before the Internet existed (oops, showing my age again), I wrote stuff for my own enjoyment and just stuck it in files with the idea of “maybe someday marketing it”. Some of my writing is “hobby writing”. Some of it is “take-a-break-from-day-to-day-life” writing. Earning from that kind of writing is kind of “icing on the cake”. I set up a whole, little, separate (and free) checking account so my earnings could be deposited electronically. It’s fun to have that “piggy bank” turn into a second ATM card in my wallet.
Any time any of us first finds a writing site we never quite know how it will work out, whether it’s a scam, or whether we’ll earn more than 90 cents in six months. With that exception of whether we could be/would be selling off our rights to a piece of material for a substantial amount (and there’s an awful lot of competition and requirements involved in selling a $3,000 article to a major publication), there isn’t anything to lose by writing on HubPages. I’m not above writing an article on assignment and being paid as little as $20 for it. Earning money by posting ads on writing is a different way of earning; and for me, it took a little “brain adjusting”. It does present the additional aspect of needing to learn about things like traffic, Google workings, and other things that many writers haven’t previously thought much about. I was new at this type of thing. Much of the learning (that I’m still doing) has required hands-on experience. Still, that top-earning Hub is not a piece of Earth-shattering art, and it has earned me hundreds and hundreds of dollars over the course of almost a year. I think writers need to separate the natural association of success of a piece with big upfront payment; and they also need to decide if the aim is earnings and/or having the thing read, or some other less “nitty-gritty” aim.
Ryan: Let’s do some role playing, shall we? You’re you (that should be easy) and I’m a new Hubber trying to figure out what the heck’s going on and learning my way around the place. Give me a few great nuggets of advice that will help me become the type of super awesome and successful writer that you’ve become.
(I wish I could play someone else. I’m kind of sick of playing me. 🙂 ).
Having learned only through that hands-on experience I mentioned, I think one good approach is to combine “all purpose” writing with a good number of “nitty-gritty”, informational, pieces. In the beginning, I didn’t really know how I should interpret “write what you want to write” and “the more useful a Hub is, the better it will do”. I wrote about things like dealing with grief or parenting, thinking they were useful in their own way. Sometimes some of my things seemed a little too “dreamy” or “human-based”, so I tried to think of very practical topics, like “making a cheap dinner”. In one desperate attempt to write something useful (aka “practical”) I wrote about “fake bacon” (the soy version of bacon). To be honest, I didn’t really have any idea of what was particularly “searchable”; and I wasn’t even thinking in terms of anything but writing what I felt like writing, interspersed with something practical.
I knew I could go find the most searched terms of the day somewhere, but that wasn’t how I wanted to approach my writing. I had a stab-in-the-dark approach or else a “what-I’m-in-the-mood-for” approach.
Today, now that my Hubs have a history, I can see what “useful” really means. My most financially successful Hubs and the ones I like best aren’t the same Hubs. The Hubs that have had the most success for me are practical (not “dreamy” and not “change-the-world-y”), but they very much have “me” in them. They aren’t clones of everything else on the web about the same subject. Also, it turns out that daring not to produce something “Earth-shattering”‘; and being brave enough to produce something that you think is a “too-personal” version of a subject that is presented in “more professional ways” all over the web; seems to work pretty well.
I have noticed, too, though, that those Hubs that aren’t particularly “hot” but that have gotten a good score, have contributed in their own way to the larger picture, in terms of earnings. I worry that my “hot” hubs won’t be “hot” forever; but what I’ve figured out is that if 100 “non-hot” hubs earn something like $30 a month, then 500 of them will likely earn five times as much. Of course, 500 Hubs with poor scores aren’t going to do the same thing, so it’s always important to aim to write good material.
Something else I’ve noticed is that (I’m guessing here) because much of my material is generally aimed at a grown-up audience, I think that accounts for a lot of the pretty high eCPM’s on Google. Some of my things that don’t get much in terms of traffic do pretty well on ad clicks.
I’ve learned that people want to save money or learn easier ways to do things, but a lot of people don’t want to yet another copy of a “zillion” other similar things online.
I’ve also learned that it’s true what they say about putting in some effort getting traffic to your site (I haven’t done much in the department, and I think my earnings would have better far better had I done that).
At the same time, I’ve learned that – if you don’t mind taking longer – it doesn’t take a lot of trying to out-smart the inner working of search engines, or spending a lot of time trying to figure out a non-spam way to promote material, to eventually get traffic.
Something else I’ve learned is that there is a snowballing effect that occurs both with traffic and with what I’ve learned, and the snowballing effect takes some time. It probably would have taken less time had I not been a “know-nothing” about search engines and traffic, or had I been bothered thinking about key words. On the one hand, it seems kind of awful that today I would probably be earning a lot more than I am, had I know a little more, and been bothered with a little more. Still, as a writer, I’m not sure that I could have produced my best quality writing if I had used the “brain energy” I would have needed to use in order to learn all the ins and outs of online writing, the Internet, traffic, SEO’s, etc. THAT is where HubPages has been most helpful to me. I write. HubPages does the other stuff. A fringe benefit of my experience on HubPages is that I have learned the things I’ve learned. To learn those things (about SEO, etc.) while doing “hobby writing” and (at least eventually) also earning has meant I’ve “multi-tasked” when it comes to use of my free time. A lot of people watch tv in their spare time. I’m really enjoying “my way” instead.
Now I know, too, why, when I signed up for HubPages in the beginning, the only thing I read about what to write was (essentially) “make it useful”. Whether or not you do well earning has a “big-picture” element to it, and I suspect there is no one formula that will work for every Hubber.
Ryan: Thanks again for taking time to answer a few of my questions, Lisa. Any last thoughts for all of the people out there who may or may not now what HubPages is all about? Be sure to make us look gooooood!
Lisa: I hope my earlier answers did make HubPages look “gooood”, because I’m absolutely happy with having found the site. (I also hope my answers weren’t too long-winded, but “having a lot to say” and writing tend to go together.
I’m not a “great Hubber”. I’m pretty much an “accidental earner”. That monthly deposit into that separate little checking account has grown well beyond the minimum payout now, and I kind of wish I “knew then what I know now”, because it’s only with the benefit of hindsight and learning that I see the potential earnings (in my case, still not a full-time income by any means; but nice nonetheless). Also, if I knew then what I know now, I probably would have written more Hubs. Oh well….
People like me, who first came to HubPages without any background (or even interest) in the whole “Internet-writing/SEO/ads-on-your-site” thing, need to know that you don’t need to know about those things in order to eventually earn. (If you know about them, learn about them, but then don’t put too much weight into just them, it probably won’t take you as long as it took me to make payout each month.) I say, “Don’t put too much weight into just them”, because I really do believe that concentrating on that stuff, rather than the quality of the writing won’t, in the long run, work very well.
I don’t take making monthly Google payout for granted. Something like that “pesky” Inauguration Day or the occasional holiday has shown me how clicks can be, which is to suddenly go wild (in a direction that isn’t always a good one). Although I’m kind of trying to incubate ideas about creating a whole bunch more Hubs that will be like my more successful ones, my plan pretty has the same “core” as as my approach did before I knew anything about even a modest effort at developing a plan. I’m going to keep writing as well as I know how, and keep trying to build up my collection of Hubs, and keep trying to learn. There are easier ways to get ad earnings, but sometimes maybe hands-on learning offers a good, solid, “core”.
There are many, many, online writing sites on which people can earn, provided they write the standard 400- or 500- , professionally written, article about something very searchable and/or practical (like, “how to buy running shoes” or “a short biography of Benjamin Franklin”). People who write just the right kind of article on those sites can earn (some more than others, depending on the site and the writer). Those sites, however, often don’t encourage or reward writing that doesn’t fit the formula of a “standard web article”. It may take less time (although not always) to whip up a quickie, researched, article on how to buy running shoes; but the time required to produce enough of those “quickie articles” to earn well isn’t always the best use of a writer’s time. On top of that, most writers want a way to write what they want to write (even if that’s in addition to writing as a job).
HubPages is a great place for writing what you want to write, learning a few things about how the whole “Internet writing” thing works, take a break and read other people’s stuff, and earn – while still leaving enough spare time to pursue other writing projects or hobby projects, as well. As a Hubber, I don’t feel feel like my stuff is a “needle in a haystack”, but I neither do I feel any subtle pressure to change my writing approach. If you don’t care much about earning, it’s a “fun enough” site for writing. If you care about earning, and need a quick few thousand dollars to stop foreclosure on your home, it isn’t likely you’ll earn what you need on HubPages. On the other hand, the time and effort you put in can work like investing in the stock market work – some soar, some earn less but earn steady and/or long term. It always pays to become more knowledgeable about your strategy, but there are never any real guarantees.