What’s It Like Writing for Skyword? Writers Tell All

three airplanes in formation on airshowBy 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.

The pros

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.

The cons

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.

The verdict

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.

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24 comments on “What’s It Like Writing for Skyword? Writers Tell All
  1. Very timely! I just encountered them at a conference and was trying to dig up some info on their pricing with little success.

    I always suspect these kinds of platforms won’t pay as much as clients you find directly and will have stricter guidelines on how pay works (so you have less room for negotiation and raises). Sounds like that might not be the case here, if you can actually get the work.

    • Carol Tice says:

      That is my general rule, exactly — there are exceptions, but for the most part you’re going to earn more when you’re not going through an intermediary who’s taking a cut.

  2. T Williams says:

    Sorry, I should have posted this as a response to Alexandria’s comments.

  3. T Williams says:

    I had a similar experience there a few years ago. I never saw articles above $50, and I wrote for at least 5 different clients. Some clients and editors were great, but some were not. For example, I wrote an assigned article on Top New Year’s Resolutions for Kudzu Atlanta. Then the editor decided that the four resolutions I used were too common, and instead wanted me to write another article focusing on one, lesser-known resolution. I complained to my program manager that I wrote the article based on the assigned title (“top” implies well known, and “resolutions,” implies more than one), but she said the editor had the right to make that request, so I let the article expire.

    I also wrote for Daily Glow – which I enjoyed – but one day, while I had several articles waiting to be reviewed, Skyword sent out an email that Daily Glow no longer wanted freelancers to write articles on health conditions, and we were free to use those pending articles else. From an integrity standpoint, I think Skyword should have paid us for writing the articles.

    The final straw was when I wrote several articles for BusinessBee. I went on their site one day to view my articles and to my shock and horror, all of my articles were attributed to BusinessBee staff members! When I contacted my program director, she investigated and then informed me that BusinessBee decided not to use me as a permanent writer, and as such, said they didn’t have to attribute my articles to me. And since they paid for the articles, they were allowed to use them any way they saw fit. In that program manager’s defense, she did seem genuinely shocked by BusinessBee’s actions, and she did apologize.

    Before all of this happened, Skyword contacted me to be a “featured writer,” and even had me submit a quote detailing why I enjoyed working there. Needless to say, after all of this happened, we parted ways.

    Again, I want to say that I enjoyed working with some of the editors and clients, and if I’d never had these bad experiences, I would probably still be writing for the company. My primary concern was whenever there was a problem, Skyword seemed to take an “oh well,” approach.

    I encourage freelance writers to ALWAYS have a several clients, because this provides the freedom to say “no” or to walk away when you think someone is taking advantage of you. I have several writer friends who only have one client, and they’re always complaining that the requirements or the pay changes at a moment’s notice. However, they’re scared to confront their clients or refuse a request because they think they may get fired.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Right on — if you’ve only got one client, you might as well have a day job! Then you could at least have more pay security and maybe some healthcare and other benefits thrown in.

  4. Daryl says:

    I love the fact that Skyword offers decent pay, with bylines for companies that you’d actually be proud to write for. However, as you’ve mentioned, the issue of “work drying up” seems to be a major one for many writers, who’ll write for one program before it suddenly closes. I’m also definitely interested about hearing about Ebyline – I’ve signed up for that sight but they asked for additional information and I simply haven’t gotten around to doing it!

    Despite the general trend of low pay for content mills, I think there are a few exceptions (e.g. Skyword and allegedly Ebyline) where writing for them does actually make sense (and dollars!) especially for writers looking for a generally steady stream of income.

  5. Just checking the box for e-mail notifications.

  6. Great post, Jennifer! Thanks for sharing such detailed information.

    I think Skyword and others like it are actually a great starting point, but they shouldn’t be something freelancers come to rely upon exclusively. It’s like the renting vs. owning analogy that internet marketers like to use. You definitely want to be on there, but keep learning and finding ways to find clients through your own means as well so that if this (or any other service) do disappear one day, it doesn’t take your entire income with you.

  7. I did okay on Skyword for about a year. The pay was only $10 but they were really easy to write and took almost no research as it was in a topic that I was already experienced and knowledgeable in. Then it all went downhill. Standards changed to the max. They expected more work for the same pay and I wasn’t playing ball. In the end the programs closed (guess other writers weren’t playing ball either and the companies didn’t like it).

    One thing I found was that writers would get rejected because the program was too full and then not have another chance to reapply. How was it the writer’s fault that the program was full but the application forms were still available?

    Also, the editors are not only inconsistent but the terms are too. The guidelines for articles would change after submitting articles, and then the articles would be returned to match the current guidelines; usually with a lot of rewriting because of the change. Writers were never compensated for this time. As I’d already been paid for one piece (that was returned three months after writing it) I refused to do the rewrite because of their terms of not paying writers extra. I was removed from the program but it doesn’t bother me. Private clients are the way to go.

    I’ve never seen any program pay more than $50 come up, though. I’m surprised any offer anything more than $100.

  8. Linda H says:

    Hadn’t heard of Skyward Jennifer, thanks for posting this. I’ll check it out and create a profile. Never know what might pop up.

  9. I have not heard of Skyword. Thank you for this detailed explanation of the platform.

  10. Tom Bentley says:

    Sure, email me at bentguy@charter.net. Won’t be around a lot this weekend though.

  11. Williesha says:

    Never heard of Skyword thanks!

  12. Tom Bentley says:

    Hi Jennifer. I registered with Skyword a bit back, and did get a recent assignment. The process, including the interface and editing (scant) wasn’t problematic to me.

    I did more research for the piece than the pay—which was OK—warranted, so I just made a pitch for another piece that’s more in my wheelhouse. And the people I dealt with for the assignment were prompt and friendly, so it was an acceptable experience for me.

    I’ve had decent experiences with Ebyline (well-paying piece) and Contently as well.

  13. Rob says:

    I signed up for them, got accepted and that’s the last I heard from them. Actually forgot about it until you posted this.

    • Editor says:

      Like I said to Shauna, that seems to be pretty common. And their stats back that up, with only 800 out of more than 2,000 writer with complete profiles actively writing for Skyword’s clients.

  14. Marcie says:

    I have never heard of this writing platform. Thanks for sharing this info.

  15. Nida Sea says:

    Great post, Jennifer. I did make a profile on Skyword years ago, but I never heard back. That’s OK, I’m having fun finding my own clients. 😉

    • Editor says:

      Nida, That’s what sets successful freelancers apart! And I think it’s part of the fun of freelancing. You never know what new types of clients or work you’ll come across. I’d love to hear what’s working for you in finding the right clients for you.

  16. I’ll have to re-visit my profile on Skyword. I registered with them a long time ago and have not received one single gig. Thanx for the info and reminder, Jennifer!

    • Editor says:

      That is a really common experience, based on what I heard in my interviews. And it’s a great reminder why it is so important for all of us to proactively go after clients rather than waiting passively for them to find you — or for a service such as Skyword to send them your way.

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