Earlier this month I shared my first piece for Contributoria, and now that I've (almost) fully completed one cycle of backing, writing, publishing, and payment through the site, I wanted to share my experience. The only part that's missing is the payment, but more on that later. (Don't worry -- it's not a horror story on the payment front.)
In case you've never heard of Contributoria, it's a site that allows independent journalists to write proposals for articles and set a fee they wish to be paid for writing the piece. That fee is converted into points, with the number of points required reflective of a few different things, including the number of points available. Members of the site, including those who pay for premium membership and those who just use the free sign-up, are given a fixed number of points to allocate to the projects they like each month. For example, the free membership gives you fifty points to divide as you wish between as many projects as you'd like. You can give fifty points to one project or one point to fifty projects.
Any writer who has full backing as of the deadline at the end of the month has their article commissioned, and they have one month to write the piece. Contributoria encourages writers to share drafts along the way, so that members can provide feedback. At the end of the writing month, the piece rolls over into publication, and then the writer gets paid their fee. The writer retains all rights to the piece, and the site helps them manage any licensing fees for reprints to ensure they are getting compensated fairly.
So what's it like actually writing for Contributoria?
I pitched my first piece to the community very shortly before the deadline for backing, and I was lucky to get the piece backed in the first 24 hours. It's a rare turn around, but I was aggressive about getting it in front of my network, which is key in getting backed. The transition from proposal to drafting was seamless, although the editor on the site is a bit clunky and difficult to work if you aren't used to it. I ended up drafting my piece in Google Docs and copy-pasting into the editor when I was done. Publication was also seamless, with the piece going live as soon as it hit 1 February. The only thing I'm currently waiting on is payment, which is due to my not being in the payment system yet. But fear not: I've been contacted by an actual person to get the ball rolling, and the Contributoria staff has been great to work with as I navigate the process. You just have to have faith that someone will contact you after your piece goes live.
I was drawn to Contributoria because I like the idea of asking the public what they want to read. But there is the issue of how much to ask for as a fee, with lower fees meaning fewer points needed to reach full backing. Depending on the size of your following, it may be very easy to rack up enough points to secure several hundred dollars for a pitch. But if you are a newbie, it can be very difficult. Although my own audience is growing, I still don't have a huge readership that recognizes my name, making it tricky.
That being said, Contributoria is a great way to gauge your audience and what they find most interesting, where you are hitting the hardest, and how to pitch to a huge audience. It's nice seeing the democratization of content, albeit with the caveats mentioned above. But the best part, in my opinion, is Contributoria's dedication to making sure writers are paid what they need in order to write the pieces they are most passionate about. It's an extremely empowering model, and one that I'm glad to see on the market.
You can see my latest pitch here, and of course backing is always appreciated!
Bridey is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C.
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