A Writer Beware reader recently drew my attention to LifeTips, yet another of the content sites that are currently proliferating like mad across the Internet. According to its About page, LifeTips offers career opportunities, services for businesses ("We’ve got the web’s largest pool of 500+ freelance writers all screened, tested and experts in particular topics")--and opportunities for writers, namely "...a big writing career boost with paid writing assignments, free book publishing and promotion of your profile page to hundreds of clients that may hire you for assignments."
Career boost! Paid assignments! Magic words indeed! So how does it work? Well, you apply to become one of LifeTips' experts, a.k.a. a Guru, which makes you eligible to receive paid freelance writing assignments creating expert tips for clients (which, LifeTips claims, include "...heavy hitters like Circuit City, Dunlop Tire, H&R Block, LowerMyBills, Merck, Verizon Wireless, and many more"). You can earn up to $10 per tip (according to LifeTips' FAQ page, "Prices vary according to the quality of the tip you submit"), with writing assignments typically including 100 tips, or up to $1,000 in revenue. The tips are short and sweet--for example, here's what I found when I searched for tips on "vanity publishing." If there's a subject you know something about, you could probably turn out a hundred of these little wisdom nuggets without too much difficulty.
(Or even if you don't know very much. Do take a look at the "expert" tips at the link above--including Tips #1 and 4, which are largely plagiarized from the definitions on Writer Beware's Vanity Publishers page--and see how expert you think they are. I'm really hoping that the people who wrote them didn't get paid for them--but if they did, they owe me $20.)
There's also a book publishing option. Create 101 tips, and LifeTips will compile them into a book and make it available via POD. You'll get a flat fee of $3.00 per book if the book is sold from the LifeTips website, $2.00 per book if sold elsewhere. Given that the books cost $9.99, that's a pretty good deal--especially since LifeTips seems to be planning a lot of promo for the initial rollout of the book program.
But... (you knew there'd be a "but," didn't you?)
The worm in this apple shows up in the Terms and Conditions (at the bottom of the Guru signup page) to which you must agree if you want to write for LifeTips:
Any tips or content you submit to LifeTips, in any form, shall instantly become the property of LifeTips. This includes sample content submitted in your application, as well as all content submitted to LifeTips. I fully understand and agree to these terms, and especially confirm that by depositing any checks for compensation deems consent to, agreement with, and understanding of, full release of my copyright claim for the content submitted to LifeTips.
That's right. You must surrender your copyright to LifeTips. You will not own your (hopefully non-plagiarized) tips--or your book, if you choose that option. You won't be able to re-use your tips, re-sell them, or fold them into a bigger project. Ten bucks--and they're gone forever. Judging by the tips I spot-sampled in the self-publishing category, loss of ownership would not, for the most part, be cause for grief. Still, not a pleasant surprise for anyone jumping into Gurudom without carefully perusing LifeTips' Terms and Conditions.
For LifeTips, of course, this is a great deal. It's simple--promise writers easy money, and they'll come running; flatter them with heady titles like Guru and they'll run even faster--and since LifeTips takes ownership of content, it doesn't have to worry about the content providers except at the very beginning of the process. I also think we can rest assured that LifeTips is getting a whole lot more than than $10 per tip for hooking Gurus up with businesses. In fact, the arrangement strikes me as being very much like piecework, where sewing machine operators are paid a few dollars for a garment that wholesales for ten times more.
Exploitive? I think so. But that's nothing new in the writing world. Once again, it's all about the fine print.