Why I’m No Longer Writing for Lifehack (A Lesson on How to Run a Blog)

I contribute regularly to a number of different sites.

Many of them are paid gigs (that’s how mama brings home her bacon).  But some of them, like Brazen and Lifehack, I do free of charge becausethey bring something every bit as valuable as $$, if not more so—traffic.  [Note:  I do get paid for my duties as Assistant Editor for Brazen, but my bi-monthly posts are written with no compensation.]

I’ll admit I haven’t been as good lately as I wanted to be when it comes to my Lifehack posts.  I initially aimed to do them twice a month, like I do for Brazen, but as the weeks have gone by, I’ve found myself adjourning that to-do until next week’s list, then the week after, then the week after.

This is not like me.  Whatever other things I let slide in my life (and there are lots) to keep the Big Things on track, my regular posting schedule is not one of these, because that is one of the Big Things.  Which is why it really bugged me that I was slacking off so badly with Lifehack.  Until this week, when I realized why.

Secretly, in the back of my mind, I’ve been doubting more and more lately how much ROI Lifehack was really worth.  And finally, after much internal debate, I’ve decided it’s not enough.

 

Here are a million posts we have so much good content read it all there’s more coming tomorrow can you believe how valuable we are AAAAAH!

[Also note:  Stepcase Lifehack, which this post refers to, is not to be confused with the larger and better-known Lifehacker.]

It used to be that Lifehack posted maybe 2-3 posts per day—a digestible number for a reader to get through.  (I belong to the email lists of every blog I write for, to keep an eye on my competition see what my colleagues are up to and what topics the blogs prefer to explore.)

Some of the posts Lifehack published were a little fluffy frou-frou, offering not much more than a few generic paragraphs about owning your life and following your dreams and other ganked-from-Oprah non-advice that doesn’t really constitute a solid, terribly original or terribly useful post.  But there were also plenty of genuinely decent posts on productivity, lifestyle design, and other subjects—and their audience was large enough—that when I was accepted as a contributor, I assumed it was a worthwhile venture to try.  Plus I got one Lifehack post picked up by Lifehacker, which was reinforcement to me at the time that it was a blog worth sticking with because it could get me some exposure (that’s what she said).

Then, things started changing.

Lifehack started pushing out more and more posts per day, until now they’re up to around 6-7 posts on each daily email they send to subscribers.  If most readers are like me, with dozens of blogs they follow, it’s a little overwhelming to see 6-7 posts on one single blog’s email.  Even if those posts are killer, chock-full-o’-goodness pieces, after a while, the topics start to blend together.

Another post on how to fulfill my goals? it makes a reader think.  Didn’t I just see, like, 2 posts on that same topic yesterday?

In addition to the overwhelm, the more posts the site tried to push out on a daily basis, the weaker the content started to get.  Some posts weren’t even posts, just quotes from famous people.  (Which, Blog Advisor Cordelia points out, should be a tweet or an FB update, not an entire “post.”)

I felt like I’d be wasting my time trying to come up with a fresh-spin topic to write on (especially since I could barely remember which topics had been covered that week, let alone in the recent few months) and then writing the hell out of it when the majority of the posts I was seeing now were not killer, chock-full-o’-goodness pieces.  They were more and more often a few generic paragraphs about owning your life and following your dreams and other ganked-from-Oprah non-advice, written in a personality-less style that had me reading less and less posts out of each new email I received from the blog.

I finally had to unsubscribe, fed up with being inundated with fluff pieces as though a huge landslide of posts each day meant the site was providing massive amounts of fresh, unique value.

It wasn’t.  It was just providing massive amounts of fluff.

That’s when I realized I had to jump ship.

 

I am a blog snob. You should be, too.

I take the blogs I choose to write for very seriously.  My time is limited now, so I can only afford to write for sites that give me a good return on my investment, be it monetary or traffic-wise.

And I don’t believe the way Lifehack is running things provides much unique value to its readers, or much ROI to its contributors.

So not only do I have to ditch it for the sake of my own bottom line, but I’d like to point out to anyone currently following blogs or running a blog of their own:

Readers’ time is valuable.  They couldn’t care less if they only see you post once a week, if that once-a-week post is full of value, ridiculously interesting, and written in a way no other blogger writes in.  Readers have a zillion-and-one options of blogs to follow, and you’re not going to be able to compete if all you have going for you is sheer, overwhelming volume.  Readers deserve better.  And although not all of them will, many readers will eventually come to realize that.

Your writers’ efforts are also valuable.  If you’re running a site with multiple contribs, you owe it to them to keep the writer pool extremely selective.  Your site is only as good as the material it publishes, and every fluff piece you accept only devalues the worth of the writers who are putting real creativity and thought into their pieces.  Less quality content equals less perception of value, equals less eyes on posts, equals less reason for the good writers to want to stick around.  Equals even less perception of value.

Yes, I am a blog snob.  And if you care about blogging as a means of providing value to people, you should be, too.

</rant>

Image: Flickr

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  • Ah.. Finally someone said it!

    Indeed, from all the e-mail subscriptions I’m getting daily (as a fellow blogger, need to keep up to date 🙂 ), there are only few blogs who have a proven record of having interesting content every time.

    • I regularly go through my blog subscriptions and weed out the ones that just aren’t doing it for me anymore. My rule of thumb is, if I wind up deleting more than a post or two each week without even reading it, the blog probably isn’t worth my time.

      • James Rich

        @KellyCordelia:disqus, can you share with us some of the blogs that have made it through your weed out process? What are the blogs that are still making it into your inbox?

        • Mark Manson hands-down is the best blogger out there, IMHO. I also still follow Ash Ambirge (of course), Raptitude.com, Penny Hoarder and The Write Life. Everything else, I largely keep tabs on via social media but don’t have regularly delivered into my inbox.

  • Although this now means I’ll hold my nose in the air whenever I see “Lifehack” anywhere (due to my unrelenting support for everything YOU), I’m glad to read this. And I’m glad to know you’re strong enough to say no when the time comes to do so!

    I’ve been reading SO many articles about how the future of blogs and website is churning out as much content as possible. We must compete with Asia! Asia! But really, that just means that there’s too much for me to read. Your blog has the content, topics, length, and frequency that suits my life. Other websites send so much information that I automatically delete them when they show up in my inbox.

    That gives my heart a little pause. I loved this site in the past, but now I just delete their posts? But I love that blogger…and I love the site…That’s what happens when sites post too much. It hurts my heart.

    • Aw, you’re such a sweetie! Thank you.

      It hurts my heart, too. Especially because it isn’t at all fair to the writers who are pouring so much time and effort into writing posts for a blog that isn’t fairly compensating them (whether it’s in being a quality blog, or in paying them 1 cent for 500 words).

      Bear in mind that LifehackER is a quality site that, although it does post frequently, posts very strong, professionally written, and extremely useful posts on a variety of topics in a fresh way. But by all means, hold your nose int he air when the “-er” is removed. 🙂

    • Jen@whenpigsflyblog

      Totally agree with you. We are already on info overload. Sometimes less is more.

  • Cordelia’s Mom

    Yikes. If you’ve become a “blog snob,” will you still post my periodic silly pieces? I was so looking forward to the next one …

    • Psssh. You’ve already passed the test, both Cordelia- and reader-approved. You’re good.

  • And now you know why I left…I couldn’t stay knowing that was the direction it was headed in.

    • Mike, I can’t tell you how happy I am that you replied, and replied positively. I respect your work and was afraid of insulting you in the event that you left for a different reason. The work you did was valuable, and it’s a shame the site couldn’t have become a strong, super-helpful competitor in the lifestyle/productivity category. But I guess sometimes you’ve just gotta jump ship when the majority has different goals.

      I’m excited to see what The Mikes have in store. 🙂

  • Really great advice, for blog editors AND writers. It’s never fun to fall out of love with a blog that once seemed so perfect 🙁 And it’s really hard to watch a client make easily-preventable mistakes like that. Congrats on taking control of your time and having the balls to walk away, and thanks for sharing the tips!

    • Thanks, Dana. I considered just leaving quietly and not rabble-rousing over it, but I hate (hate, HATE) seeing writers waste their time and talents, or seeing editors turn their blogs into blatant money-generating (or attempting to generate) machines. I had to say something as a PSA. I’m glad it’s been so well-received. 🙂

  • Not so long ago I nearly applied for a gig writing Lifehack posts. I decided not to because even though the rate wasn’t too bad considering how short the posts generally are, I wasn’t really impressed after reading a few pages of the site. It’s not much more than a content mill, really, and I dreaded the thought of having to come up with two new ideas a week that weren’t too similar to posts that already exist.

    • Oh wow, I didn’t realize what the terms were since I was writing for free (which seems even stupider now given that others were getting paid for fluff), but given the quality of current posts, it makes sense. (Can I ask, out of curiosity, how much they paid per post?)

      I write for many blogs for pay, and the challenge of coming up with unique, well-written pieces each week–especially when many of them explore vary similar topics–is extremely hard. To be honest, I tend to consider that when deciding whether to take on a new gig–not only are they paying me a fair amount for 500 words, but is a fair amount given the creative work I have to come up with in keeping things fresh each week?

      “Content mill” is the perfect way to describe it. I couldn’t put my fingers on the right word, but you’re spot on–that’s the feeling I get now when I look at the site. It’s really a shame, and kind of infuriating to think that they think they can get away with it. Although maybe they’re generating enough revenue that they don’t care what readers OR writers think? They wouldn’t be the first site…

      • I can’t remember for sure but it was either $20 or $30 a post.

        Agreed. When I look at writing gigs, I usually ask when applying whether they will assign topics or expect me to generate them. Coming up with ideas takes a lot of time and energy, so that needs to be factored into the pay rate. One I’m working on at the moment has started asking me to suggest post ideas if I have any, and thankfully I’ve been able to come up with some because it’s an area I’m interested in, and now that I’ve got a feel for what they cover it’s easier.

  • Point taken. I’m a contributor as well and have noticed the ROI taking a serious hit. Being selective with the things that take our time and attention is key these days. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I’m in the same bandwagon as you!

    • Just took a peak at your posts over there, and am thankful that you look to be the exception to the lack-of-quality rule. I hope you’re getting your ROI from it, even though for me it was no longer a good fit.

      • Thanks for the compliment. I haven’t noticed much to be honest. It very well may be time for me to move on as well.

  • Jen@whenpigsflyblog

    I completely agree with your decision. There are so many sites out there with pretty much zero value added. What frustrates me the most are all the really phenomenal sites that get virtually no traffic. Too many sites and not enough eyeballs. You’ve got to spend time on the good ones.

  • peaper

    thanks, this blog post helps me determine whether or not i want to write for lifehack. they pay very little, similar to another gig i had with a city blog (about $20-30 per post). i am a young writer with some experience but i could always use more (and more money, too). i stopped writing for that other blog because the amount of work i was putting in was not worth $30. blah, i don’t know…

    • My policy, even when I was just starting out, was to charge $10 for every 100 words in a post. I also consider how much ROI I’m going to get from a gig–when I just wanted more posts in my portfolio, Lifehack helped me do that. But now that my time is super tight, I just don’t think the way they’re doing things does any good for contributors. Your posts are just one in a million that I don’t think many readers are paying attention to anymore, they’re feeling so overloaded by the number Lifehack is publishing. Best to take your talents elsewhere where they’ll get more attention–like you point out, you have to consider whether what you’re getting is worth all the time you put into it!

  • Cassie Nolan

    So I’m currently browsing your “writing” category while working on a little write-more-efficiently project for myself (I instantly thought of you and your ninja writing and editing skills–“How does she reach that level of output?!” I’ve wondered about you more than once), and saw this post… OHILOVEIT. I currently contribute to Lifehack, and like you were experiencing, I keep putting off creating more posts for them, but not really understanding why–and you just spelled out perfectly and exactly where my hesitation is coming from. Oh man. I needed this. You wrote this forever ago I think. I’m so glad I’m finding it today, though. THANK YOU for writing it!

    • First things first: How do I reach this level of output? Lots of caffeine, a semi-neurotic workaholic compulsion, and neglecting unimportant things like cleaning my house, moving my body, and being social. 😛 Actually, the more I get into the FT groove, the more I’m starting to realize ways to streamline and boost efficiency (working with your own natural daily rhythms is HUGE), but still, it’s still a whole lotta hustle.

      Secondly, you definitely have far more talent than Lifehack deserves. Any time you’d spend working on a post for them, you could put to infinitely better use in so many ways–as I think most of the smart cookies writing for them will figure out sooner or later.

      Make your escape, girl! You’re meant for bigger and better!

  • Anton Jeffery Rasmussen

    Great stuff! Glad I found this. I had it in my calendar to ask follow up with them tomorrow. I applied to contribute two weeks ago and have yet to hear back.

    That said, now I won’t be worrying about it.
    Thanks!

    • Definitely only spend your time on sites that are worth it. Lifehack, at least when I left it, was little more than a content mill, which should always fall under the “not worth your time” category.

      P.S. Tell me you’re staying away from content mills, too?

      P.P.S. Tell me that’s a Boo on your shoulder. 🙂

      • Anton Jeffery Rasmussen

        Haha! Love your post scripts.
        Yes, I am 100% out of the content mill thing. I was a writer on Fiverr for a few months and worked my ass off and made about $2/hour — which brought me about $350/month. But, I’m past that . . . I think it was good for honing my writing skills–at least writing about various topics; but, I think it’s bad for the freelance writing world overall.

        Also, yes, that is definitely Boo. He all up in my beard. We crazy like that. 😀

  • Thank you so much for writing this! I have to admit that I just became a contributor at Lifehack just to see if it would bring more traffic to my site. I just churned out a couple of (useful, meaningful) articles for them. Each article took me 2 hours to finish, and I’m kind of annoyed at the fact that they expect me to write an excerpt, upload a feature image, add tags, etc. They’re having us writers do ALL the work while reaping all the benefits (revenue from ads). So far I’m not impressed.

    • Yuck. When I left, they asked us to include hyperlinks in our post to other Lifehack articles, but not to add the excerpt, image, tags, etc. Talk about lowering yourself even further, Lifehack…

      • Really? Ugh. I think that if they started offering a percentage of their AdSense revenue to their writers, then they’d net a lot, and I mean A LOT, of quality articles. But, hey, it’s not my business so…

  • Hey Kelly,
    I see this post is a year old, but I just found it. I actually am trying to create a decent income from freelancing and am getting paid by Lifehack. They pay $30 per feather post and $15 for a keyword post.

    Not great especially since we have to do all the work with formatting, photos, SEO, etc.

    I also noticed some of their editors don’t even have a very good grasp of proper grammar. Odd…

    The other part is it is bringing very little traffic to my site. I think it’s because there are so many damn articles posted that it gets lost in the shuffle.

    Anyway, I hope your gigs are going well!

    • Yeah, I’m still not at all impressed by them. The standard industry going rate for a decent post is $50, and that’s just for the writing. Editors responsible for doing formatting, photos, SEO etc. can charge a handsome hourly fee, and they’re making you do all that for free — and not even giving you much traffic in return. I’d look for somewhere that’s going to value your time better.

  • BTW, that was supposed to be feature post 🙂

  • I have written a few articles for lifehack which i enjoyed writing but like you said the ROI was next to zero. I felt lifehack was gaining a lot more from my articles than I was, so i haven’t written for them in a while.

    • The way I always look at any opportunity now isn’t just “what ROI will I get,” but “what will I be giving up in order to to do this”? Think about the other things you could be doing with all the time you’re pouring into Lifehack — getting in the door for a bigger and better blog, pursuing your own stuff, growing your craft, etc. In the end, the equation just isn’t worth it.

  • Roland

    HA! Lifehack or Lifehacker or whatever the hell it’s called wants FREE content so that they can make money and you can waste your time. One more example if the SHARE economy — you take your share of my free labor! Ha!

    • What’s sad is that they’re preying on people who just want to get their name out there and are asking them to put in waaay more than they’ll ever get out of the arrangement. Free posts aren’t evil (I’ve written plenty of unpaid posts for sites I want to get onto), but you should only give them to quality sites who will increase your rep by featuring you, instead of using you.

  • Tara Kimes

    oh man….I just got hired for Lifehack last week and since I am new to blogging assumed not to worry about the pay thing. But after reading all these comments I am considering emailing them and backing out of it. Totally don’t want to give away my free labor (love what Roland said!) and be a content hawker. I already have 2 day jobs plus am in school full time. Prob much better off spending the wee bit of free time I have working on my own blog. Can I ask how long you wrote for them?

    • I wrote for them for some odd months in 2013. I’d like to hope they’ve gotten better since I was with them, but based on the ongoing comments this post keeps getting, it doesn’t look like it.

  • East Coast Mum

    I joined Lifehack a few weeks ago, and so far I’m having fun. I am a
    little disappointed with the editorial rigor- they have missed a couple
    of typos I made, whereas Scary Mommy.com was tight as a ship, and edited
    an article I wrote for them really professionally. I write about it
    here.
    http://www.eastcoastmum.ca/?p=1214

    • From what I understand, their editors are going through similar conditions as their contributors — tons of work expected from them for very little pay. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few things slipped through the cracks given their working conditions.

  • writeranon

    sounds a lot like SheKnows.com. Their editors were strangely competitive with their writers and the contributing writers had to do a ton of work, all the html, SEO, and very specific non-standard photo sizes AND had to download the photos themselves from their subscription site and no one to really help with passwords etc. — the photos took forever. Then they want you to be controversial and create really awful/tacky/gossipy clickbait. Why? So the CEO can sit in her house in Beverly Hills? It’s ridiculous. A few years ago they paid writers $20.00 a post. Writers should only do this for a time and then own their own content. All these sites are using and exploiting writers and making big money off of them while paying them the bare bones minimum that isn’t even close to a livable wage or even a side income. Something has to change. After a while, it makes you suspicious of all big content providers. At least traditional media, magazines, newspapers etc. (who don’t always pay that much either) you have the cache of being legitimately published.

    • It’s funny that you mention SheKnows. I’ve written a couple posts from them and also gotten a funny feeling — long lapses in communication, confusing or conflicting instructions, payments taking a while to come through. I don’t know enough about them to pass judgment just yet — I decided they weren’t worth my time and stopped chasing them down — but it does make me sad to hear all of the horror stories writers have from sites that seem, on the face, like they could be great places to write for.

  • Paige Ashley Smith

    Hi Cordelia! I know you wrote this a few years ago, but I’m so thankful to have found it now! It was one of the first pieces to pop up on Google when I typed in “Lifehack Paid Contributor.” I just received an email about 30 minutes ago from Lifehack inviting me to be a paid contributor and I was absolutely thrilled…. until I saw the requirements (at least one article per week on a topic they choose) and the pay–$15 per article. That feels insulting to my intelligence and talent as a writer. I’m very new to the freelancing and blogging world and thus want to be flexible and not extremely picky, but I can’t shake the feeling that if I set my standards higher I will eventually find companies/publications who meet those standards.

    Anyway, reading your thoughts and the thoughts of others in the comment section has inspired me to turn down the opportunity and set sights on better pay or at least more reputable sources with far-reaching exposure.

    Thanks, Cordelia! I look forward to reading more of your writing 🙂

    • Paige Ashley Smith

      Oh, just looked to the side and realized your name is Kelly! Woops.

      • No worries. I answer to both. 😀

    • I’m glad you found this! I’ve seen the latest calls for work Lifehack has put out, and it continues to make me sad, because I know people will continue to fall for them. There’s a difference between giving someone a rate discount because you’re new and being taken advantage of, and everything I’ve seen (and heard SO many times over from other writers in response to this post) is that Lifehack is simply taking advantage of people who want to get published.

      Highly suggest you read this post as well: http://www.cordeliacallsitquits.com/youre-worth-more-than-that/

      And keep those standards high! It is totally acceptable to be “picky” if by “picky” you mean “refusing to whore out your talents for anyone who will pay you a dollar.” 🙂

  • Daniel Romero

    why would someone write for free to lifehacker, besides they say that there is no self-promotion, so why do you say that it “brings traffic”?

  • Kevin Casey

    Writing sites are a dead end for writers. Doesn’t really matter which one you choose – they’re all designed to make writing a valueless commodity. Best thing I did this year was swear off writing sites altogether. Rather than making $6 an article on a writing site, I now make over $6,000 a month working for quality clients that I have pursued myself. Financially, it’s a whole other world. I don’t even have my own blog – I’m too busy writing for money (often other people’s blogs).
    Want to succeed as a writer? Make this the year you give up writing sites for good, and go after your own clients. Create a writer website, put your previous work on there, do some networking, and go get some!
    Cheers,
    Kevin Casey
    kevincaseycopywriter.com

  • Kasturi Roy

    Oh my god. I loved what you said. I am writing for Lifehack right now. And I only do snippets because I just want traffic. And writing three hundred words to explain an infographic seems like a good enough passing of time. Anyone can do this literally. But Im a blog snob through and through.
    Also i love how you write. Id be grateful if you checked out my blog kasturiroy.com . Its a angsty existential and art blog. 🙂

  • Brian Penny

    I wrote a blog about my time with Stepcase Lifehack as well… http://thoughtforyourpenny.com/2016/05/lifehack-bullshit-content-mill-youre-idiot-read/

  • Damn, I just filled out an application to write for them. Any suggestions on who I can write for to increase traffic to my own blog? I don’t have much writing experience other than my own blog. I really need traffic and money would be good also… but mainly traffic. Thank you for this post!

  • Well said. You get it.