By Jennifer Roland
If you’ve been looking for steady freelance writing work, you’ve probably come across Skyword. Maybe you’ve even posted a profile there — and gone back to add more to it with the hope of being selected to write for one of their clients.
Clients use Skyword’s proprietary platform to request, receive, and post content, and many contract with Skyword to find writers and manage the relationship.
The staff at Skyword sift through the writer profiles to find writers who match the client’s needs and invite them to be part of that client’s “program.” Writers can be part of more than one program at a time.
So what’s it like writing for Skyword? I talked to several current and former Skyword writers to find out.
Skyword has some big-name clients. Purina, Lowe’s, Transunion, Equifax, and others. Mary Ann Flynn, Skyword’s vice president of content services, says that although they can’t release the exact number or names of clients who use their services, “well above 90 percent are household names.” Skyword might be the only way many freelance writers can connect with some of these clients.
The pay can be good. Skyword, again, won’t release average pay for writers who are working for them or specific rates for specific clients, but Flynn says most of their programs offer good rates per post. “Lifestyle content may pay less, in the $75, $100, $150 range,” she says, and more specialized topics such as technology, finance, or business can pay “in the hundreds.”
Writers who have worked through Skyword agree that rates are much better than content mills. Charles Costa, who previously wrote for clients such as IBM, Kaspersky Labs, and Angie’s List through Skyword, reports that he made as little as $40 per post, although most were $75 or $100. In his most active months, he reports earning $2,500 from Skyword, writing 20 or more articles to earn that amount.
Variety is the spice of life. Freelance writer Sarita Harbour likes that she gets to write for a variety of clients using the same platform. Harbour also stresses the importance of working “with a variety of editors” on the different programs — it’s a great way to get fast experience with different editing styles and needs.
Editing quality can be inconsistent. A writer who has asked to remain anonymous reports that she has gotten revision requests that directly contradict previous requests. She has added comments to her revised version that read like this: “I’m putting this back in here. I was asked to remove it on the first pass.” She has emailed her program manager about the issue, but doesn’t feel that the issue has been resolved.
Harbour had a similar experience, but she did get the issue resolved by emailing the program manager to let her know about the problem.
It can take a long time to get selected. According to the writers I interviewed, Skyword has a reputation that a writer’s profile can sit for months before they get selected for a program — if they get selected at all. Flynn confirms that of the more than 2,000 writers who have complete profiles on the site, only around 800 are actively working with Skyword’s content team to provide content to their clients.
Programs can end at any time. Costa has moved on from Skyword because all of his programs either shifted focus outside of his scope of expertise or the clients quit working with Skyword. On the programs that shifted, he got one month’s notice, but on the others, the notice was one or two weeks.
The platform can be clunky. Although some writers really like the platform, Harbour included, others, such as Lisa C. Baker, find it “really inflexible.” When Baker was writing for a client using the Skyword platform, she says, she felt like she was jumping through hoops.
“You can’t submit until your keyword score is high enough,” but because she wasn’t part of the strategy discussion, she didn’t know which keywords to include.
Costa takes issue with the way writers are rated in the platform. “In your profile,” he says, “they rate you based on articles submitted with no revisions.” However, the system doesn’t take into account the scope of the revisions. A missing comma could count the same as serious structural errors or missing content requested in the assignment.
Based on the type of clients Skyword can connect you with and the pay rates, it can be a good place to get experience and build a portfolio.
Because of the potentially long wait times to get a gig through Skyword, you’ll want to make sure your portfolio absolutely sparkles. “Post your best clips,” says Harbour. And be active in social media. Pasciullo and Flynn both say they look at writers’ social media profiles to ensure they have some expertise in the subject matter before inviting them to join a program.
Finally, keep marketing to your own potential clients. You can’t bank on being the right fit for any of Skyword’s programs, and you still need to pay your bills.
Have you written for Skyword? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.
Jennifer Roland is a freelance writer and the guest-blog editor here at Make a Living Writing. She focuses on edtech, lifestyle topics, marketing and public relations, and content creation. Her latest book, 10 Takes on Writing, will be out in late 2014.