Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Victoria Strauss -- LifeTips (or, Be Sure to Read the Fine Print)

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:

5. OWNERSHIP

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.

9 comments:

Newsandseduction said...

Self-publishing is better. Do you agree that a "Writer must be ready to go down?" or s/he must stick?

Fleur said...

Hi, I've heard about Lifetips before but it is only now that I've given attention to it. I've search for info about it and I found yours. I would be glad to know your recommendations on what sites are reliable and does not take advantage of writers' abilities. Thanks

Deb said...

Lifetips, specifically the 101 tips deal, was the subject of a great debate on my blog.

Here's the discussion:
http://writersrow.com/deborahng/2006/12/is-being-published-enough.html

And Lifetips responded here:
http://writersrow.com/deborahng/2006/12/lifetips-responds.html

BUT...if you really want to see a heated discussion, you should see how writers feel about Associated content!

http://writersrow.com/deborahng/2007/01/associated-content-reliable-content-or.html


Anyway, you're doing great work here!

Best,

Deb

Victoria Strauss said...

Adding links to Deb's comment:

The LifeTips discussion

LifeTips's response

Associated Content discussion. This is one is especially interesting, since it addresses the issue of quality and whether AC articles count toward building a writing resume. (See my earlier discussion of Associated Content, as well as my most recent post, which formulates some general content site cautions.) Here's one response, and I suspect it's far from an isolated attitude:

As a person who sometimes hires writers, three things will quickly disqualify you from my consideration: not following the directions in the ad with regard to what to send (resume, samples, etc), sloppy, mis-spelled, grammatically incorrect cover e-mail or letter, and writing mainly for AC or a similar place. Why? Because I have found from experience that people who do not follow directions, do not spell and grammar check their cover letters, and who submit to low-paying content sites have a slap-dash, "I've splatted the words out on paper. it's DONE. You mean you actually expect me to re-write and edit?" attitude.

Here's another response, this time from an AC writer:

I write at AC because it's quick money. I use an alias so I don't have to worry about my articles showing up if anyone ever does a websearch on my name.

Fascinating. Thanks very much for posting these, Deb. I've reciprocated with a comment on your blog.

Anonymous said...

If you decide to write for lifetips be sure you have a good therapist's name handy. They offer possibility to writers and keep demanding more. You fill out your Guru page and then in a few months they change everything and you have to do everything all over again plus they get more free tips. They got a bunch of writers to sign up before they had their program figured out and they keep demanding that writers go along with their ineptness. The demands are unbelievable. You get money taken off your one-dollar tip if you spell words wrong. I think the editor is a sado masochist. In my opinion anyone who writes for them must be desperate. Now if they can find “real” experts big names who are marketable, why would they give the copy right to Lifetips? This organization has no respect for writers at all. My life tip sis stay away from them..

Anonymous said...

The whole program at Lifetips punishes the writer.It is abusive and is like a dysfunctional relationship where you are beaten up and told it is for your own good. Their psychology is to make people think that Lifetips is doing you a career favor. They prey on peoples' hopes and ambitions. This new idea of Gurus being experts in many areas is bogus. They will get more free tips this way.

Anonymous said...

Lifetips takes, takes, takes and doesn't do a whole lot of giving. They pay celebrities for their names and likenesses and call them Gurus. Then they expect their writers to:

Complete several pages worth of bio - no pay.

Complete 10 sample tips - no pay.

Provide 101 Tips for site and "Tips Book." The 101 tips are published on the site - no pay. The Tips books are POD and the author gets $2 per copy. Most "Gurus" report little or no sales and many of those are expressing regret.

Once you achieve "Guru" status, what do you get? Not much. Not a job, that's for sure. You get the opportunity to apply, with the thousands of other gurus, for the two or three open gigs that sprout up from time to time.

And yes, the content on Lifetips is just regurgitated information copied from other places. There's nothing new here.

Run and don't look back.

Anonymous said...

You can listen to the Lifetips sales pitches....er pep rallies....er conference calls here and draw your own conclusions.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'd just like to leave the comment that I have written 100 tips on variant subjects at LifeTips. I was paid the full amount 10$ for the majority of the tips written. You have to pay attention, use good English, and write information that is not generally available for incomers to a particular field (appealing to interest, special insights, ect ect). I was paid on time and have never had a problem with LifeTips.

You also have to understand how Lifetips works. Paid assignments are commissioned by business owners and websites. Unpaid assignments are tips (mine are on business writing) and answering questions. After I wrote up about 10 tips and answered about 20 or so questions, Lifetips started asking me if I would like to do paid assignment work for them.

However, as a way to "break into" the industry, of course no site that offers you an easy in option is really going to be easy, now is it? The same thing is true whether you work for computers or car sales, you start at the ground floor and work your way up. Lifetips is a good company, but they are the ground floor.

As a single mom at 30 years old, Lifetips has helped fill in the spots while I was waiting for other written works to get accepted. Since I just changed my career from sales at a fortune 100 company (sick of 80 hour work weeks) to a stay at home freelance writer, Lifetips has helped keep my utilities on.

So a decision to work with Lifetips should be based on your level of experience and your ability to write. Just being a guru does not guarantee you paid writing assignments. Guru tips and answering questions are not paid assignments, but take less than five minutes or so to write and have helped me find other people in need of business tech based articles.

If you have been freelancing for 20 years is Lifetips worth your professional ability and time? NO! But if you are starting out, like me, and only in the first year of your career, it can be a good way to pad your income.