Continuing with my trend of honest reviews (go here to check out my Mass Income Multiplier review if you haven’t done so already) I’m going to be giving you a straight up review of Brad Callen’s iWriter service today; my inspiration top write this review came from Tiffany Dow’s excellent undercover review of the same service – pay particular attention to the very active comment thread that has built up a big discussion.
This iWriter review is going to cover the service from both the perspective of a content buyer (ie someone looking to outsource a bit of content to save time or make a new website in a niche about which they aren’t familiar) and we will also cover iWriter from the perspective of a freelance writer looking to make some extra money.
So what are you waiting for? Let’s get down to business and see how iWriter stacks up!
iWriter review for buyers
Let’s start by taking a look at iWriter from the perspective of someone trying to get some cheap content written. Checking out the home page, it’s obvious exactly which subset of content buyers iWriter appeals to:
Articles from as cheap as $1.25 – clearly this is the no-frills end of the market.
Signing up to iWriter is a breeze and just involves handing over a few basic details:
Now let’s jump straight in the deep end and see how you actually go about getting some content written on iWriter. To start, it’s as simple as requesting for articles to be written:
Once the page has loaded, you’ll be greeted by the iWriter “action screen” (I made that up, and I don’t really care what it’s actually called). This is where you do the ordering of said bargain basement articles, so let’s get amongst it.
You can pick whether you want to have articles written (the common choice), have pre-existing articles rewritten, or have an eBook made – please, for the love of all things good on this earth, don’t choose that option. I’m going to choose to have an original package of articles written.
Next, it’s time to give the project a description – something like “blog articles” or “weight loss articles” or whatever will do here. Picking the correct category is much of a muchness as well; if I need to explain this to you, then you should just give up on Internet marketing right now and go back to flipping ze burgers at Burger King.
iWriter will then present you with a choice of three different article quality levels, these being:
You don’t have to be Rasputin to work out the difference, but allow me to explain in a typically dry manner:
‘Basic’ articles come from the cheapest writers and cost $3.00 per 500 word article. iWriter only pays the writer 81% of the sale price. This means that for writing a 500 word basic article some poor guy in India or the Phillipines (or an earnest college student trying to hopelessly climb up the iWriter ladder to Premium and Elite status) is getting paid about $2.60 for their efforts. Naturally, this means the quality of Basic articles is about as good as a three week old hamburger – unless you’re lucky enough to get someone writing for you who is trying to work up to Premium or Elite.
Next in the chain comes ‘Premium’ articles. These are a significant step up in quality (as in 90% of them are borderline readable and make some sense). However, you’re still going to find that Premium articles from iWriter lack any flair and are simply content for content’s sake. For example, a 500 word article about weight loss will teach some cursory information about weight loss, but probably nothing the reader didn’t know already. Hardly the stuff that dreams are made of! Furthermore, even with these Premium articles you’re probably going to need to do a little bit of editing to make them read better. Still, for $5.50 per 500 word article, this is a popular choice.
Finally, if you’re the iWriter equivalent of Croesus, then you can opt to have your articles penned by an Elite (or should that be l33t) writer. This is going to set you back around $12.50 per 500 word article, which is substantially more but still nowhere near what I would call “top-shelf” pricing. Elite articles on iWriter are often fairly decent, at least in terms of grammar and structure, as it’s mostly native English writers from the USA and UK who get these Elite gigs. The earnings for writers are a little bit less slave labor as well; a Premium writer should get about 10 bucks for a 500 word piece, or 20 bucks for a 1000 word article.
Obviously you can’t polish a turd and all that, so we will pick Elite writers.
Next I enter the keywords for my articles – 4 x 500 word pieces is setting me back $50, so this is hardly what I would call “dirt cheap”. Still, if you know you can earn even $60 bucks in the time it takes to write those 4 articles yourself, then it makes sense to outsource.
Finally, you come to the last stages of setting up your project. You can pick whether to instruct the writer to use a friendly or professional tone, then provide an article purpose, and then finally enter special instructions. Protip – I suggest that if you use iWriter, you always suggest that writers use bullet points and short paragraphs. Even go so far as to GIVE them the article sub-headings, so that they don’t need to do anything more than expand on the bones of the content.
And it really is as easy as that with iWriter. Within 24-48 hours your articles will be written by someone on the marketplace. Unlike Elance, where writers tender a bid or a project, or Constant Content, where multiple authors can submit to a standing request, on iWriter a writer can come along and see an available job and then pick it. They are then given between 2-4 hours to write the article (depending on the article length). Once the article is submitted and has passed a uniqueness test, it is then given to the requester who can either accept or deny the article.
For a content buyer, there are some great benefits to the iWriter system:
1) There is a fast turnaround time. You could easily get 20 or 30 articles for a new niche site cranked up in about 48 hours. This is good when time is of the essence.
2) You can reject poor quality articles. Some writers just churn out crap at the Premium and Elite level. I don’t think there is any basis for rejecting a basic article (because the cheapness implies crapness) unless you’ve requested dog training titles and they’ve written about octopus shamanic magic. That notwithstanding, it can be useful to have the ability to reject a truly bad article, especially if you have paid for Premium or Elite status. When you reject an article, that title becomes free to write again and the initial writer receives nothing for their effort.
3) Payment is easy – just credit your account with Paypal and you’re away.
To be honest, the entire iWriter system is skewed in favor of the buyer; from the welcome splash screen through to the rejection system. Although I’m not one to sling mud, I found this comment from a Blackhat World thread pretty interesting:
Brad Callen, the owner of iWriter sends emails to clients basically encouraging them to take advantage of writers and get articles written for pennies. (http://www.blackhatworld.com/blackhat-seo/associated-content-writing-articles/448280-iwriter-content-requesters-ridiculous-standards.html)
I will not speculate as to whether that is true or not – you be the judge.
Now, let’s sum up the review of iWriter from the perspective of a content writer. It’s a very easy-to-use service, and you will get your articles written in lots of time. There’s a price range to suit every budget, and it’s a straightforward, rapid process to get content sorted. On the downside the budget articles are absolutely terrible (like unreadable). In my experience 90% of the Premium articles you buy need rewriting or at least tweaking to reach what I deem to be an acceptable level of quality. Only Elite articles are generally good enough to stick on your site without any editing.
Overall, I rate iWriter 3.5/5 stars from the point of view of an article buyer.
Now, let’s carry on and review iWriter from the perspective of someone who wants a bit of extra freelance writing work.
iWriter review for sellers
Once again, the process for joining iWriter is exactly the same whether you are buying or writing content (in fact, you can do both from the same account). I won’t repeat that here.
When you first start out at iWriter you are only able to take “Basic” gigs. This means you’ve got to work your way up through the crappy writing jobs before you’re able to take on any Premium or Elite gigs (which pay quite a bit more). Remember that for a 500 word article at basic level, you’ll be earning about $2.43 USD.
To achieve Premium status you need 30 articles under your belt; and all of these 30 articles must have netted you an average of a 4 star rating out of 50. Elite status is the same bar requiring a 4.6 star rating – the 30 article stipulation stands, however.
Hey Houston, can you see the problem we’re about to experience?
Let’s break it down further. Assume that a 500 word article takes you one hour to write. This means that you’ll need to spend 30 hours writing crappy basic articles for the chance to hit Premium or Elite status. For that 30 hours work, you’ll only earn $72.90! Now where I live (NZ) the minimum wage is about $13.75 (NZD, which is worth about 0.85 Greenback) and that’s going off the top of my head. If I were to work for 30 hours at $13.75 then I would make $412.50 before tax. Even if the minimum wage where you live is $5 an hour, you’re still better off not wasting your time slogging on Basic iWriter articles. $72.90 for 30 hours work is slave labor. I couldn’t even half fill my car with petrol for $72.90; it would maybe buy a young guy like myself about a week’s worth of groceries if I ate the home brand stuff and didn’t buy any treats.
And do you wanna know what’s even worse? You’ll probably need to write about 60 articles (realistically) to hit that target, because iWriter won’t count:
* Articles that are rejected by the buyer
* Articles where the buyer *forgets* to leave any feedback
What’s more, because it’s an averaged system you could write 29 articles and have a 4.0 rating, then if the next guy comes along and gives you a 1 star rating you’ve got to play catch up.
In all seriousness, I honestly believe it would take the average writer – slaving away for what might be about $3 bucks an hour tops – at least 60 or 70 hours to hit the next level of pay dirt. That’s just cruel; I mean there’s got to be some kind of law about that somewhere. Not even Darth Vader could dream up such sadistic treatment of hopeless minions just trying to earn some extra coin. Although I know little about the cost of living in developing nations like India and The Phillipines, I’m guessing $3 USD per hour still ain’t much?
Even if you managed to grind your knuckles to the bone and develop severe carpal tunnel syndrome chasing iWriter riches, you’ll not earn much more. A 500 word Premium article will net you about $8, and you’ll get around $12 for an Elite one. However, the kind of people buying Premium and Elite articles are going to be more likely to reject you for any small reason, meaning your hourly rate of pay will be nowhere near as good.
As we can see so far, iWriter totally stinks from the point of view of a writer. I guess some will argue that if people are willing to flog their manpower for such a pittance, then it’s their choice and nobody is getting hurt. However, I’m a great believer in benevolence and paying someone fairly for their work – if a person can string together a readable article, then they deserve more than $2.43 for their efforts. Of course my warnings will fall on deaf ears, and this time next year there will probably be twice as many guys and gals from all walks of life, throwing their lives down the drain chasing nickels. Even at $8 or $12 an article, someone who could write at that Premium or Elite level and at least put together a coherent, well-written, and largely error free article deserves a lot more.
But the thing is hardly anybody wants to pay for good content for their affiliate marketing or Adsense or Amazon sites. And so the vicious cycle continues.
I, for one, would rather spend that time writing and submitting articles to a site like Hubpages or Squidoo; at least that way you have the chance to build up some recurring income over a longer period of time. If you’ve actually got some decent writing skills, then there’s always Constant Content or even private contracting work. iWriter is simply not worth the effort for the amount of pay you’re going to get, end of story. Nobody’s time is worth so little, especially when the eventual payoff for all your hardwork is an extremely mediocre pay rise.
The straw that breaks the camel’s back
While I was planning out this blog post I actually received an email from iWriter support, inviting me to check out their “fast track” program. I clicked on the link, and was taken to the following page:
There is a bit of an explanation about the different iWriter levels (Basic, Premium, and Elite) and it’s all a bit “salesy”, including the little calculator that shows you your potential annual earnings writing at Elite level – yes, if you write 10 articles per day you might earn $100 daily, but you’ll be working almost half your day for rubbish pay. May as well work the day job in that case and get the attendant benefits like a good reference from your boss down the track!
With the fast track program you get the chance to have your account graded up to Premium or Elite based on three sample articles that you write. Sounds straightforward enough, right?
None of this sales letter nonsense phased me too much, until I read the line “pay the 1 time application fee of $147 to apply”. $147 for the CHANCE to go to Premium or Elite status – no guarantee and no refunds available. That’s pretty poor form if you ask me – imagine if a “real world” employer said to staff that if they paid a one-off fee then they might get a wage increase, but only if their performance is up to scratch, there would be absolute outrage! Knowing that some poor souls will be spending their hard-earned money in a vain attempt to get a slightly less meager payout makes me rather unhappy, to say the least. I would almost call it exploitative in a way, but I’m not going to speculate any further.
Seriously iWriter, if you want to save face amongst the freelance writing community, then you need to implement a few changes:
1) Ditch the fast track program, or at least make it more fair. It’s nothing but cruelty making people pay for a chance at getting paid more. At least make the system purely based on writing skill (e.g. the iWriter team give a wannabe writer 5 articles to write in 5 hours – if they all meet the grade then either Premium or Elite status is assigned).
2) Pay writers more, end of story.
3) Make the rejection process more difficult. Prevent serial article rejectors from posting jobs – or at least make them hold the money in Escrow. For example, if some has rejected more than 20% of submitted articles, then there should be a neutral editor who has the final say. I would even go so far as to suggest that for serial rejectors, there should be a fee for turning down content (e.g. you only get 50% of the purchase price returned, and the other half goes to the author). I have seen methods floating around the darker IM spaces that explain how to effectively rip-off innocent writers by converting the article preview image to plain text, and then rejecting the work; my suggestions would help prevent this from happening.
Overall, from a writer’s point of view I give a score of 1/5 stars. That single star is only being awarded because it is at least easy to find work, and because you’re paid via Paypal.
I really wish I could be more positive about iWriter. The concept of a quick and easy content marketplace is fantastic, and Brad and the iWriter team must be commended on their efforts to make a viable alternative to the bid-based structure of places like Elance. However, there are a number of structural errors that I just cannot see being fixed. Furthermore, the system really does seem to be skewed in favor of the buyer, and writers get hit with the pointy end of the stick.
Thanks for reading, and I welcome all comments – both positive and negative – below. If Brad or anyone from the iWriter team happens to read this, I’m also more than happy to publish a full written response.
P.S. I write awesome articles, so hire me to write your content instead. It costs five times as much as normal, but you get twenty times the quality. Now that’s value my friend. Email me on sam [at] internet-marketing-training-for-newbies.info and we can sort it out.