Helium – A Writers Marketplace?

Helium has just turned one year old. You may have seen the Google adsense marketing blurbs when you are researching writing and resources for writers, and I think they are probably the number one writing services advertiser at the moment.

Helium is a site that allows you to submit your articles in anticipation that they will be sold (by them) and you get a percentage of the fee. You can also earn a share of advertising revenues generated by the site and there are writing competitions which may can earn you extra pay as well. The big issue is that you are not being paid for the time you spend crafting an article and getting paid any realistic amount is totally dependent upon the article being sold.

I’ve never contributed to Helium as I always shied away from submitting work with no guarantee that I’ll be paid for my efforts. I wrote for a short while for a similar site Suite 101, but nothing ever really came of it and I stopped as work with upfront pay began to dominate my working time. The buzz on the various writing blogs regarding Helium is very mixed in terms of the effort required for no certain return but like almost everything else in life, it is a gamble.

That said, Helium has lasted a year so the business model would appear to be working, otherwise why do so many writers bother submitting to it? Currently there are almost 70,000 writers submitting articles to Helium though how many are still active is a matter for debate. Helium allows you to view what a publisher is looking for and produce the articles as appropriate. The publisher then will select articles and buys them; Helium’s starting rate for sale is $16 but they take a 20% commission. Now comes the bad news, if the publisher does not select your articles then you are left with a work product that has taken you time to create but no buyer unless Helium finds someone else interested.

Like I said, Helium is a gamble!

I am going to break my Helium cherry and submit some articles to them this week, not least because of an email I received from a writing mate in Canada. Chris outlined why he uses Helium and I think he has a point – Helium writers make money if their writng meets certain market based criteria:

  • article quality – if it’s any good it will rank better and gain the opportunity to earn more;
  • readership interest – if the subject matter is of no interest to anyone, no-one is going to bother with it; you need to write about interesting topics to gain a following;
  • advertising attraction – in keeping with Chris’ philosophy, the market decides how much something is worth and advertisers will decide what rate they are going to allocate depending on subject popularity. If you want to write on Aboriginal Hunting Habits you can expect a far more restricted audience than if you keep to personal finance which is a very popular subject, and advertisers follow suit with their rates.

Helium provides a naked and raw writers battleground for commercial success and if you can deliver what the market is asking for then you’ll get paid.