Friday, May 22, 2009

Helium is a Training Ground - Nothing More

Oh course I’ve been following the Helium debate on Word Count. It started yesterday when Tim Beyers posted an article against freelancers using content aggregators to post their work. Then Barbara Whitlock, a member outreach manager, refuted his points and lauded the benefits of Helium. All the discussion has got me thinking about Helium and my use of the site.

When I was first starting out as a freelancer, I started writing articles for Helium. I posted about 16 articles over a couple months. But once I lined up real freelancing gigs I stopped visiting the site and posting articles to it. I can’t imagine utilizing the site now, but at its time it was great. Starting freelancers might want to consider this as a training ground - but be careful not to spend too much time ‘training’ instead of seeking out paying gigs. Because even if Helium tells you it pays, the amount you’ll make is less than one well-lined up article.

What I got out of Helium:

Writing practice. I’d been out of the ‘official’ writing arena for nearly two years when I decided freelancing was the way to go. While I never stopped writing short stories and an occasional article, I hadn’t been writing in the journalistic style in a while.

Writing confidence. You do get feedback from your posts. Some times people write you after reading an article with comments, suggestions, etc... Plus to watch your article rise in the rankings is exciting.

Marketing tips. To see any income from Helium you need to be a huge self-promoter of your work. Write and article and seconds late you should be jumping on digg, del.i.cious, reddit, etc... and posting the article. The more you do that, the more pennies you’ll see. While the money is low, it does teach you how to promote your work - a helpful skill when it comes to keeping your blog, freelancing articles and working to get your name out there.

Pride in your work. With sites like Helium you are forced to rate other articles. As an editor first and a writer second, I was appalled at the number of poorly written articles. Even more shocking was the number of articles written under a specific topic that do not deal specifically with the subject matter.

Realization of a passion. At the time I wrote for Helium the majority of my articles were penned in the fashion section. This is an area that I had never delved into before, but had always loved. I used a clip from Helium to land a guest blogging position at SparkleShelf and have since started my own humble attempt at a fashion blog.


  1. Thanks Katie for weighing in on this, and for posting a link to this on the WordCount blog.

    Michelle Rafter

  2. Hi Katie,

    I appreciate reading your comments, and I think they are useful to others and, of course, authentic to your experience.

    The thing about Helium, as with any community, is sometimes you miss out on some opportunities when you're disconnected. For example, in one week we paid out $30,000 for a Real Estate publisher.

    Stay connected and keep getting newsletters, and you'll keep up on opportunities. Also consider follow HeliumWriter on Twitter, joining in our Tuesday lunch chats on Facebook at Helium: Where Knowledge Rules (official) Facebook group, and dip into writer in Linked In.

    Great ways to keep in touch, continue to network, and take advantage of opportunities when you can.

    Best wishes on you continued success,


    Barbara Whitlock

  3. Hi Barbara -
    Thanks for the comments. I think Helium was a great experience for me early on. And I do recommend it to beginners. But it just doesn't pay. Even if $30,000 worth of articles were purchased last month, a writer probably only got about $100 for the piece that 25 other people wrote on as well. The likelihood that you can make real $ on Helium is low.
    The link your provided on the other post about the woman who made real money writing for Helium was interesting, but it lacked one key factor - how many articles did she write to make that $. Probably dozens. When the same articles well pitched to the right pub would have brought her 10xs the profit.
    To me, keeping up, making sure to constantly rate and write takes up too much time for too little gain. When freelancing you need to focus on the pieces that will further your career and pay your bills.

  4. I understand time and writing choices you've made. Realize that hundreds of members earned $200 per article from that real estate publisher in Marketplace. Someone pulled in $240 or an article that shared poker dealing techniques to train other dealers -- there are loads of examples.

    Barbara Whitlock
    New Member Outreach Manager

    Just so you know, a busy freelancer like you can only participate in Marketplace, never write a non-exclusive article on Helium and never rate --and still earn.

    Busy freelancers often view Helium as moonlighting or gap-writing work. Just something to consider.

    Congrats on your successes,


  5. I started freelancing by writing on Helium. I had just quit a job, and had so much floating around in my brain to write. It was great fun to explore writing, teach myself how to put together an article, and served as a good place to "publish" some samples to point potential clients toward reading.

    I, like you, don't really have time or inclination to participate any more, but I have enjoyed watching Helium "rise" in search rankings.

    It is a great training ground for newbie freelancers.

  6. I agree with you that Helium is just a training ground, and a very good one at that. I registered there back in 2009 and wrote over 250 articles. The editors, the staff, the community are all very warm and supportive. It's a good environment to start developing your craft as a writer and learn the ropes, while also earning a bit on the side.

    I can see how seasoned professionals or those who have already defined their career in the field and have a good clientele don't see it as a lucrative avenue. However, for those who are still learning and growing, it's a good environment to take their first steps into the world of online content writing.