AOL’s New Is A Good Thing For Freelance Writers

There’s certainly no shortage of freelance writers in the world right now. If you consider yourself a writer, I’ m sure you know this. And because there are writing jobs out there right now, along with that comes an abundance of crap jobs that offer $1 per blog post, or some such nonsense. If you’re taking those jobs, listen up– there’s a better way.

Freelance writers who are trying to build a portfolio sometimes turn to local newspapers for clips. Sometimes those papers pay (like the ones I wrote for), though not much. What you’re really getting out of clip-building with smaller papers is experience and, well… clips.

The biggest problem I had with the local paper was the lack of an internet presence. They hardly ever updated their website, and the news on it just wasn’t current.

Enter In an attempt to supplement my newspaper writing last spring, I took on freelance work with They had just started in Rhode Island and my summer work with them had me visiting local businesses, collecting information, and writing free listings for those businesses. It wasn’t awesome work (my skin isn’t thick enough for some of the rude people I had to deal with, honestly), but it paid well and gave me some writing experience in a new arena.

Then Patch spread to the town in which I grew up and also to my current town in Rhode Island. Both of those Patch sites went live today and I’ve got two columns and a story on one site, and an article on the other. This is great because now my clips are actually online. I can link to them in my portfolio on my website and show potential clients what my work looks like. No more pdf-ing, resizing, uploading, getting confused with GoDaddy’s uploader, etc.

I’ve heard some criticism about Patch, but I think that’s because of AOL’s other venture, Seed.  I don’t know much about Seed, but is a good thing for freelance writers. And I’ll tell you why (you asked, right?)

  • The pay is good. Compared to what you will likely make per article at a local paper, freelancers can make anywhere from $50-$200 per article depending on the piece. That’s decent pay for someone who may have been building news clips with a paper for peanuts, or even for free.
  • loves freelancers. Freelancers are, in part, what make Patch function (aside from the editor of each town’s page. Those people work harder than I can even explain!) Each page needs a team of freelancers out and about in the community writing stories. And so far, I’ve gotten the sense that my services are very much appreciated.
  • You can do it on the side. This is true for a lot of freelance gigs, though. Do it on the side of your full-time job to supplement your income, or use it as a springboard into other work.
  • It’s local, and it’s green. You’re covering news in your town, which means you aren’t traveling all over kingdom come to get a story. And since it’s a green initiative, you aren’t printing pages of paper to send to an editor or wasting ink. In fact, you don’t even need to get the newspaper for this. It’s all online.

So, if you’re a freelance writer looking for work or trying to build clips for your portfolio, see if is in your area yet. It’s spreading across the country like they told us the bird flu would, so get on board if you can.  And share with me your experiences as a freelance writer either working for small papers or online papers. What are your thoughts on the whole thing?

Shameless plugs (because I’m really proud of my work and our editor’s hard work getting us to the launch date!)

My cooking column

My DIY column #1

Coverage of school holiday concert


7 thoughts on “AOL’s New Is A Good Thing For Freelance Writers”

  1. I have been loving writing for my local site too. The editor and other staff members are nice, and payment is prompt and easy, and the assignments are usually really fun. What could be better?


  2. Your Patch outlets must be a whole different in Los Angeles, Patch sucks.

    I have been writing for Manhattan Beach Patch for a few months now. They took their time paying me. Finally, I wrote 2 articles back in January that I have NOT been paid for, and the editor is blowing me off. She won’t reply to my emails or messages. And I’ve found a lot of freelancers having the same problem.

    AOL is just a terrible company to work for. Google “Patch sweatshop” to read all the articles about how they overwork their editors!


    1. Wow, Sandra. I can’t believe that you’re having that much trouble! I have worked with two local Patch pages and haven’t had any trouble with payment. Actually, there was one time where their payroll department was having an issue, so we were all paid a week late, but my editors (especially the one I work with the most on a regular basis) always respond to emails and get payments out on the right day.

      It could be possible that your editor is overwhelmed (it’s an intense job; they’re basically running a start-up completely alone) and isn’t tracking their payroll properly. I would contact the regional director or manager out in your area and let them know the issues you’re having. They need to know if you’re not being paid for your work; that’s NOT how all Patch pages run and that’s completely wrong, since you’ve put in the effort and time to write those pieces.

      And I have heard complaints about AOL and freelancers, namely with The way I look at it is that for me, it’s steady, regular writing and payments. I’m still working on building up my freelance business, so this works for me right now. I write two weekly columns and handle news articles when I’m needed. This isn’t the only area where I’m focusing my efforts, and since I’m freelance I can of course stop any time. For now, the Patch system is working to my advantage as a writer.

      I’m sorry you’re having so much trouble and I hope it gets sorted out and you get paid for those articles you wrote! Keep me posted?

      Thanks 🙂


  3. AOL — the company that thinks they CAN fool all of the people all of the time.

    Goodbye paid reporters… all those new journalism jobs, gone. But — if you want to blog for FREE to help AOL’s bottom line (which gets closer and closer to being in the red every day), you are more than welcome to sign up for “Local Voices” the unpaid suckers blogging section.

    Maybe some of the paid professional journalists will comment about how long after the Patch they started with stopped giving them assignments and opted for free “How I Frost a Cupcake” stories from stay-at-home mom wanna-be writers.

    Check AOL’s stock price. It’s been tanking for the past 6 months (actually for the past year — with a spike when the greediest investors thought buying HuffPo, etc would drive up the price). But then they found out it’s the same old AOL, up to the same old AOL tricks — insiders get rich while employees, customers and investors get screwed.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s