Okay, now that we all know where NOT to write to make money, now what? Disillusioned writers ask me that every day, at least those who just realized that earning passive income can be a sneaky little oxymoron.

I’ve seen comments suggesting that writers who don’t like some of the more unsavory content sites go find “real jobs.” Well, many of us live in states where it’s tough—impossible even—to find jobs, and still others must work from home.

So you need a plan that works for your personality, talents, and situation. Do you need to earn money fast? Prefer to be autonomous? Or do you work better under the pressure of having a quota to meet every month? Once you prioritize your needs, strengths, and challenges, you can better invest your online writing efforts.

But first, a warning.

From now on, I’m going to call content mills what they are: content mills. Not content aggregator sites, because my spell check doesn’t like that phrase any more than I do. They’re content mills. Sorry. I’ve been published nationally and I’m educated, and I write for them. As do many writers better than I.

So whatever your strategy, think it through first, read the TOUs if writing for someone other than yourself, and DIVERSIFY. Diversify which sites you write for, and diversify your ad sources on your own sites.

I know. But do as I say, not as I do.

When I reinstall my ads on this blog in three days (after having replaced them with Haiti relief PSAs), all I have is AdSense ads. But I’ll get there. I do have several of my own blogs and I write for content mills and do freelance contract work, so at least my earning venues are diversified.

If you’re having trouble deciding where to write next, open accounts at a couple of content sites and publish an article to learn the system. Then build your own blog or website to both diversify and integrate your efforts.

And if you aren’t yet confident about your article SEO skills, or you don’t know how to use keyword tools, and you’re not sure how to promote your articles, TIME OUT.

Go learn, because guess what? Writing online for residual income is not all about great writing. In fact, you’ll make more money as a lousy writer who understands and applies strategic SEO tactics than you will at a content mill as a good writer who doesn’t know keywords from Key Lime Pie.

That’s a fact.

So assuming you’ve got that base covered, here are a few tips to help you get started:

1. To build your own blog or website, buy a domain name and monthly hosting and be done with it. Install WordPress, whether you are planning a blog or a traditional website. Site building doesn’t get much easier or more SEO friendly than WordPress. And not WordPress.com or Blogger.com. Those are fine for temporary sites, but you won’t own your own blog.

And we all know companies can change their terms of service, don’t we?

2. If you need money fast, try Life123 while you’re working on other long-term projects. Or Textbroker. You won’t get rich, but you might not starve, either.

3. To start earning residual income by writing for a content mill without completing an application, HubPages and InfoBarrel are good bets. There are guest posts on this blog about how to make money writing for each of them. But plan on diligently promoting your content and not seeing any income for three months.

4. If your writing is above average, and you know that because your English teacher and not your girlfriend told you so, apply to Suite101 and Examiner. In that order. If you land a national Examiner column (or a local column, and apply for a national six weeks later), you will have quotas to meet, but if you’re good at meeting quotas and promoting your work, it will eventually pay off. And Examiner pays $50 for every qualified writer its writers refer.

5. Hang out on forums where other writers congregate. Warrior Forums and WAHM, for starters. The regulars will tell you the truth. Usually. Make friends and help each other with content promotion.

6. Write an ebook. Then sell it. Read Pat Flynn’s ebook guide to learn how.

7. Teach a class about online writing. The best money I ever made was teaching at a corporate education center of a college. I taught database engineering and Microsoft applications for end users, but the principles for teaching any community class are similar.

If you have an undergraduate degree, you may qualify to teach at a community college, and if you do not have a degree, you can teach at parks and rec centers, senior centers or other community venues. Or you can place ads to tutor people in web writing, SEO, or any area of expertise. Teach scrapbooking if that’s what you write about, and you’ll find sources of writing inspiration from your classes.

Most colleges and community centers have a proposal process that includes forms to complete with a description of the class you propose teaching, your fee for each student who attends, length of time, and any supplies or equipment that the school or students must supply. It’s not writing per se, but it’ll sure help support your writing habit.

8. Search online regularly for a common term that you would write about. Which sites are on the first two pages? I”ve noticed several Life123 article results in many of my searches lately, which tells me that it’s easier to get views now on this relatively new site. InfoBarrel comes up more frequently, too. Good clues–pay attention. And take note of which ones are missing, too.

9. Check Compete.com regularly. If the site you spend all  your time writing for has lost traffic in the last three months, you should probably focus on another venue for awhile. And while you’re on Compete, compare all of the sites you write for, and watch the ones you don’t.

Then relax. You’ve got your niche, your keywords, your network. Just write and stay current in your industry. You really can’t relax, I was just kidding. But relax in terms of writing about what you believe in, what you’re passionate about. Like someone else’s blog? Then link to them if they’re not spammy. If someone has a question or needs your help, give what you can when you have time. You will always learn something and build your credibility in the process.

Don’t play games. Give your readers what they came for. It will all work out. If you’re all about money, then the games will probably work for you. And you can probably sleep at night. But I’m talking to folks like me who need to feel good about what they put into the world at the end of the day, as well as what they take away.

Most importantly, remember that the Internet is not static. It moves at the speed of life, times 1,000. That fantastically generous revenue-sharing site today is going to eat your lunch tomorrow. You can earn a living online, (emphasis on the word EARN) if you can keep up. If you can’t, or don’t want to, then this is your stop.

Otherwise, get up tomorrow morning, set some goals, make a plan, and jump.

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