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AFFILIATE MARKETING

Google Says No Penalty For Using Affiliate Links Without Markup

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Google’s Search Advocate John Mueller says websites will not receive a manual penalty for using affiliate links without the recommended markup.

This is stated during the Google Search Central SEO office-hours hangout recorded on December 10.

A question is submitted asking if a website will be penalized for not marking up affiliate links with the rel=”sponsored” or rel=”nofollow” attributes.

In short, Mueller says: “Probably not.”

For his full answer continue reading the section below.

Google’s John Mueller On Manual Penalties For Affiliate Links

To be sure, it’s a strongly recommended best practice to use either the rel=”sponsored” or rel=”nofollow” attributes on affiliate links.

However,there’s no reason to lose sleep if there are affiliate links on your site without the recommended markup.

Mueller states:

“So, from our point of view, affiliate links fall into that category of something financial attached to the links, so we really strongly recommend to use this setup.

But, for the most part, if it doesn’t come across as you selling links, then it’s not going to be the case that we would manually penalize a website for having affiliate links and not marking them up.”

If that sounds confusing — the key takeaway here is that you should use either the rel=”sponsored” or rel=”nofollow” attributes when publishing affiliate links.

Google recommends it, so you can’t go wrong by following that advice.

What Mueller is saying here is Google won’t go as far as to issue a manual penalty if this best practice isn’t followed.

Mueller says as much in his next statement:

“But it is a best practice and I strongly recommend doing that, but it’s not something where I’d say we will go off and manually take action on these sites.”

This is generally in line with the guidance Google has provided in the past with regard to affiliate links.

When there’s financial compensation associated with a link, whether it’s linking to an advertiser or linking to a product from which you earn a commission, the link should be declared with an attribute.

Google recommends using the sponsored attribute in these cases, but the nofollow attribute is acceptable as well.

Why Is It Important To Use These Attributes?

Marking up affiliate links prevents your site from passing link equity to the other site.

That’s an important SEO best practice, as you should never pass link equity to sites that are incentivizing you to link to them.

If you’re linking to a page because you believe it provides value to your visitors, and you’re not receiving anything in return, then it’s not necessary to declare them with markup.

You can even link to products and services without using an attribute as long as you’re providing a genuine recommendation.

It’s never acceptable to sell links, however, regardless of the attributes attached to them.

For more on when you should and shouldn’t use link attributes, see this explainer:

To hear Mueller’s full response, see the video below:


Featured Image: Screenshot from YouTube.com/GoogleSearchCentral, December 2021.

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3,066 victims lose over $45m in job scams between Oct 2023 and Jan 2024

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3,066 victims lose over $45m in job scams between Oct 2023 and Jan 2024

SINGAPORE – At least 3,066 victims lost $45.7 million or more after they were targeted in job scams between Oct 1, 2023, and Jan 31, 2024, the police said on Feb 20.

Scammers approached their victims through dating apps, messaging platforms or social media to befriend them or offer jobs, before asking them to perform tasks for a commission.

In the case of job scams involving tasks to generate traction on social media, the victims were added to WhatsApp or Telegram chat groups by scammers who promised them easy and profitable online jobs.

The scammers claimed that they represented online communications companies, marketing companies or even TikTok.

The victims were asked to follow TikTok or Instagram accounts, subscribe to channels, or like videos on YouTube, posts on Trip.com or songs on Spotify.

After completing these tasks, they were given a small commission.

Convinced they could earn more, the scam victims accepted further tasks and, in some cases, were given fake employment contracts.

In another scam variant, those targeted received WhatsApp or Telegram messages offering small commissions for completing surveys.

The victims were asked to contact other WhatsApp or Telegram users, or join chat groups where tasks including those to generate traction on social media or transfer money for fake investments would be discussed.

To perform these new tasks, the victims had to open accounts on scam websites and transfer money to bank accounts or cryptocurrency wallets provided by the scammers.

They realised they had been scammed when their website accounts showed a negative balance, and they were told to pay additional funds to upgrade their accounts, or when they could not withdraw their earnings.

People were also scammed in a variant involving affiliate marketing, with scammers approaching and befriending victims on messaging platforms, dating apps or social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.

Those targeted were offered a commission to help boost products on e-commerce platforms.

Subsequently, they were referred to other WhatsApp or Telegram users, who instructed them to take screenshots of certain products on e-commerce websites and make payments to specified bank accounts or PayNow numbers before they could get their refunds and commissions.

This process was repeated, beginning with low-cost items before progressing to expensive ones.

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Farmers Growing Their Wealth: Harvesting Free Time To Grow More Than Crops

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Chicken laying eggs on farm

People associate land ownership and working the land with farming and agriculture. Although this isn’t inaccurate, there’s a lot more to owning land than farming.

Some ranchers work with cattle and horses. Some host events with picturesque venues. Others farm part of their land and offer Airbnb experiences — a daytime activity or extended stay in an old train or cozy cabin. Zoning and owners set the bar for profit.

Some assume farmers only want to farm, yet agriculture only yields so much profit. Even though many landowners don’t look at farming as a profit mill, most can’t work the land at 80 years of age.

Self-sufficient living appeals to many, but many people consider it overwhelming. Independence appeals to many, yet “giving it all up” isn’t realistic for those wanting to become more self-reliant. Is farming even possible for those who don’t own tons of land, say, only an acre?

Even if it is, farming on that small land would not benefit more than self-sufficiency, right? One lifelong farmer learned to maximize media while still working with his hands. A freelancer turned farm-preneur took the phrase “Grab life by the reins” literally.

Tilling the Fields for Maximum Yield: Derek Lancaster, the Build Wealth Farmer

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Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Derek works on his family farm, Lancaster Farms, in North Carolina. He works well past full-time, with many weeks averaging 80 to 90 hours. Those are entrepreneurial levels, for sure! He explains his and his wife’s mindset on his website and Instagram.

“Being a full-time farmer working 90-hour weeks with a wife who’s a full-time teacher, inflation hit us hard. We went from a life of stable comfort to one of paycheck-to-paycheck stress, hoping to live the ‘American Dream.’”

Imagine working that much only to experience this level of financial strain. Unfortunately, inflation impacts most Americans. 21% of families and 67% of single adults lived paycheck to paycheck, according to LendingClub’s 2023 report. Lancaster doesn’t disclose debt. Living with no safety net is stressful, especially with two full-time providers, children, and significant assets to maintain (e.g., the family farm).

Most folks would find a new job, but that won’t be an option for Lancaster. Without selling land and moving closer to a city, there was no “finding a new job.” He chose to take a personal risk by trying a new, alternative income stream.

Don’t Be Passive About Growing Wealth

Focused young couple calculating bills, discussing planning budget together, serious wife and husband looking at laptop screen, using online banking services and calculator, checking financesFocused young couple calculating bills, discussing planning budget together, serious wife and husband looking at laptop screen, using online banking services and calculator, checking finances
Image Credit: fizkes/Shutterstock.

Although wannabe financial influencers use phrases like passive income, it’s often a scam. In reality, earning income is never passive. Even with leverage income goods (e.g., ebooks, courses), setup and maintenance are often required. For folks with work weeks like Lancaster, these tempting scams rely on desperation.

Yet passive income, as defined by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), only includes:

  • Dividends, interest, and annuities
  • Royalties
  • Rents from real property and personal property leased with real property
  • Gains from sales, exchanges, or other dispositions of property (with some exceptions)
  • Sale of goods income without production, delivery, or inventory

These categories fall into the more reputable passive income programs sold online. Most of these programs and micro-influencers need to share how much time and energy it takes to build a business, even with passive income.

Fortunately, Lancaster is realistic — although initially doubtful.

“Being someone who works outside all day, I was skeptical that I could do this. But [affiliate marketing] was one of the most beginner-friendly routes I could take. So now I am here, sharing it with as many people as possible to show everyone that you can do this, no matter your background.”

For anyone versed in digital marketing, sound, profitable affiliate marketing takes a lot of time and effort. To Lancaster’s credit, he’s used to a long workweek and is quite the workhorse, so taking on more work seems simple enough.

Harvesting Free Time To Build Wealth

Businessman hand writing and signing white empty bank checkbook with modern computer notebook and wireless mouse on the desk at office. Payment by check paycheck payroll cheque sign conceptualBusinessman hand writing and signing white empty bank checkbook with modern computer notebook and wireless mouse on the desk at office. Payment by check paycheck payroll cheque sign conceptual
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Living paycheck to paycheck, working 90 hours weekly, most would break under the stress. Lancaster felt differently. 

“DONE with stressing over any financial obligations that we came across daily… [and] wanted the freedom to earn income online without the hassle of creating products, fulfilling orders, and handling customer service requests.”

Knowing what he had time for and what he didn’t want to do narrowed down his options. Extra time constraints of operating a farm and spending time with family clarified his options. For Lancaster, affiliate marketing stood out.

He converts a few hours into moneymakers with his skills and dedicated training and learning. On Instagram, he’s forthright with his profits. He’s also very upfront about how much work it takes to start and operate a business like this. Lancaster mentions that this is not passive income but requires dedicated attention.

It is effective, too; his account is manageable. He’s not out here trying to microinfluence with his farm. Instead, he uses affiliate marketing as a supplement to his primary income. The goal is to build up enough wealth that when he does want to retire, he has the option. Instead of being forced to work the land until he’s well into his twilight years, he’s giving himself and his wife a bigger future.

Building wealth during free time is the best use of that time. Instead of escaping from your 9-to-5 grind, use it to explore things that move you. As personal finance expert Michael Dinich suggests, “You gotta try junk.” That’s what free time is for, right?

Increasing profitability requires discipline and clarity. Lancaster’s other commitments limited him and laser-focused his priorities. This focus made it easier for him. To leverage free time and develop a side hustle into something profitable, others might have more work ahead of them.

There’s still hope for those who aren’t currently farmers or landowners! Self-sufficiency can be attained by achieving the work-life balance that comes with it.

Brand Building to Land Owning: Freelancer Turned Farm-preneur, Alexandra Fasulo

FarmlandFarmland
Image Credit: Shutterstock/Ronald E Grafe.

Social media makes it easy to find plenty of aesthetic content. Successful content creators play to their viewers’ visual appetites. Much content uses beautiful natural backgrounds and scenery, including vacation footage, rented space that was traveled to, or, in rarer cases, land owned by the creator.

Digital nomads work and love to feature the beautiful spaces they work from. Alexandra Fasulo did this. She taught others how to freelance and thrived off side gigs for a long time. She eventually tired of the digital nomad life and wanted to settle down. On one of her trips, she found a piece of property she fell in love with in upstate New York.

Although some discount her casual buy of 6.74 acres of land, it makes sense when you learn more about her reasoning. She purchased the land using capital, research, and the right loan. Why buy farmland with no prior experience?

Fasulo explains, “We all need to step up and start buying the land in this country before Wall Street does (it’s alarming). I know buying undeveloped land sounds scary. So, I will become the case study in my experiment of how you can turn even less than one acre into YOUR own money-making business.”

Although she’s coming from the reverse end of Lancaster’s experience, their goals are similar. She wanted to remain unfettered from financial stress and build a future that gave her flexibility. Many millennials and zoomers are tired of the 9-to-5 grind, even those who switch to self-employment.

Leveraging Freelancing Skills To Profit Off Farmland

Typing using computer planningTyping using computer planning
Image Credit: Shutterstock/Rawpixel.com.

It’s easy to judge the casualness with which Fasulo bought her land. Yet, she outlines her intention and ideas for purchasing it. Despite the haters, her purchasing process was well-researched.

She details how she found the land on Zillow. She also explains the various loan options available to her. Fasulo clarifies why she didn’t go with a USDA loan over a Farm Credit loan. She also provides alternative suggestions, knowing her financial background differs from others. She clarifies in one of her posts:

“I am using a Farm CREDIT loan, an offshoot of the USDA, NOT a traditional USDA loan. That’s why mine is 25% down, and other loans are NOT. I also DID NOT need to provide a business plan. There are a variety of ways to secure farmland if you want it. If you have $0, that’s ok. There’s $0 down USDA loans for lower-income households, communal farm purchasing, investing, etc.”

With my history as a freelance writer and my dream of owning land, her transparency about the process is refreshing. She doesn’t imitate a real estate, finance, or agriculture expert. Instead, she explains her motivation and goals and the process she’s taking to get there. She’s also fully aware of the mistakes she will make along the way.

Sharing her experience on social media gets her views and potential sponsorships. She leverages her former experience as a content writer to generate newsletters and maintain income, building up everything she has planned for the farmland.

Cultivating More Than Crops

Gardening CommunityGardening Community
Image Credit: Yuri A/Shutterstock.

Although a business plan was not required for her loan, many folks will not follow Fasulo’s route. Farm Credit required a much higher credit score and a 30% down payment, at least in her region. It’s important to look into regional differences because farmland is more valuable for different kinds of agriculture. Loan accommodations for lower income may be more forgiving depending on the demographics and economics in your area.

So far, Fasulo has yet to do much to the property. She closed on the land back in August of 2023. She’s discussed her land plans and made local connections to ease the construction. Although she focuses on sustainably profiting off her land, she still has to develop a lot of infrastructure and knowledge.

One smart move: connecting with local Amish people, whom she hired to build the road to access the back of the property. She also shopped their barn builds for the first structure on her property. They poured the pad for the barn as well.

Aside from a certified land surveyor, most of the physical labor on her land has been done by the Amish.

Knowing she needs to gain the physical skill and practical knowledge to do much of the work, Fasulo leverages her network. In this case, her network was her neighbors. That’s one of the beautiful things about landownership and working in agriculture. Farming communities trend towards interdependence. The mutual exchange of goods and services naturally occurs.

Becoming Financially and Agriculturally Self-Sufficient

Seed PropagationSeed Propagation
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Like many farm owners, Fasulo aims to profit off the land. She wants to set “an example of protecting the environment while making great money. I don’t see many people pursuing the same thing right now!”

After checking that it meets city zoning laws, she’s included a quick list of everything she plans to include on her land.

  • Social media brand deals with green-forward companies
  • Twitch streaming farm animals
  • Plant sales from microgreens, mushrooms, and vertical farming
  • Subscription boxes
  • Event space for weddings, community, etc.
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Email newsletter with ad space
  • Monetized YouTube posts of her process
  • Quarterly courses for locals and visitors

All of the infrastructure needs to be built out. That will take a lot of time, and many mistakes will be made.

Fasulo is open to learning and growing, however. Making a big personal shift like this involves staying open-minded despite adversity. At the end of the day, as Lancaster showcases his lifestyle, working the land takes work. It’s simple, but it requires dedicated and consistent focus.

I look forward to seeing where Fasulo goes with this process and hope she sets a trend for those interested in self-sufficiency.

The Benefits of Self-Sufficient Living

GardeningGardening
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

As Lancaster shows, not everyone can hack the 90-hour work week plus side hustle. Only some people are built for the entrepreneur’s life. However, there is a way to incorporate your existing skills and acquire farmland. Fasulo addresses this a few times by highlighting how little space you need to farm. She’s not experienced like Lancaster, but accessible farming trends like hydroponics and vertical farming simplify growing.

Purchasing grow lights and building hydroponic towers for indoor farming is tough but still doable. Most farmers are independent and need help maintaining the cost of living, maintaining the land, and expanding their farms into a specific, profitable niche. It’s hard when all your working time focuses on caring for your crops or animals.

Work-life balance and self-sufficiency are critical for farmers. Those who have found a way, like Lancaster or Fasulo, are approaching income generation based on their values and necessities.

Leveraging the community can cut costs for any farmer, as Fasulo shows by turning to her local Amish. She can’t build the structures herself, but she can begin to invest more time and infrastructure and expand her ideas for profit.

Although Lancaster focused on affiliate marketing, Fasulo will work through different side hustles to determine the best income generators. Although she’s got a side gig as a marketing liaison for the Amish, I’m sure there’s more hustling she’s doing using her freelancer experience.

Farmers and freelancers can grow wealth by prioritizing work/life balance and embracing self-sufficiency. Explore the possibilities of achieving financial stability and free time through growing crops and building a life based on your values.



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How to Earn More From Your Writing

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How to Earn More From Your Writing

Writing is a very solitary activity, but many creators are eager to get their work out into the world to be read and enjoyed by others. That would be much better if they could make a little money from their post. The problem is that their own website may not generate much traffic. That’s why many writers are now sharing their stories on Vocal Media. 

Vocal Media is a proven way for writers and other creators to earn more money for their stories. Using their storytelling tools, you can earn a solid income from your writing. 

Not sure if this platform is the right fit for your creativity? Let’s dive in and see if it’s a match for you today!

How to Earn More From Your Writing

First things first, we need to explore what exactly Vocal Media is and what it offers to its creators. This is a robust platform that allows you to publish your creative work and receive payment based on the number of people who engage with it.

How does it work? 

First, you sign up for an account and then start to post your very first story. It can include text, music, images, and more, depending on how creative you are and what mediums you like to work in.

After you implement their storytelling tools, your piece gets sent out to their engaged communities. In exchange for engagement, Vocal Media believes in rewarding creators.

The more people who engage with your story, the higher your pay will be. Plus, users can send you tips and pledges to continue supporting your work long-term.

Type of Work Accepted from Vocal Creators

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When it comes to media, Vocal offers just about every type of medium you can think of creating. They believe that every creator deserves to have a place where they can share their work with the world.

If you can dream it, chances are you can share it on this platform.

To give you an idea of how creative you can be, here are a few categories they permit: 

  • Blogs
  • Stories and essays from authors
  • Professional videos
  • Original music
  • Podcasts
  • Photography.

However, most of the work featured here is submitted by writers. It’s a great place to share your stories and build up a following if you want to do more publishing work in the future, such as writing a book.

If you have no experience writing a book, you might learn more by utilizing Vocal to start. 

Following Community Guidelines

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While they are fairly open to all creative pursuits, they do have some rules for submissions. These can be found under their community guidelines.

Of note, authors should heed their word count (600 words minimum for prose, 100 words for poetry), the grammar rules, and formatting. 

Keep in mind that your work may not be appropriate for Vocal if it is NSFW or contains graphic content of any kind. You must also think about their rules on the assertion of personal beliefs (namely, they do not accept content that could be divisive for their readers). 

They also only allow work submitted in English at this time. Of course, you must also own the right to share work and maintain the copyright on it. Plagiarized work is not accepted. 

Vocal+ Subscription for More Earnings

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Unlike other sites, Vocal Media has a subscription service, but it isn’t for readers; it’s for the creators. For a small membership fee ($9.99 per month), you can gain access to new features that can scale your income and grow your audience.

It’s a small price to pay for the potential to almost double the earnings on your reads. 

For example, you earn $3.80 per 1,000 reads with a normal account. That number jumps to $6.00 per 1,000 reads with a Vocal+ subscription.

In addition, you get a 4.1 percent reduction on fees from tips. This membership also allows you to accept pledges from your audience. 

Keep in mind that you can also gain access to their challenges when you sign up for a subscription. It’s one of the easiest ways to make money writing

If you already have a body of work, it can be time-consuming to think about where to upload to earn the most money. Vocal Media might be the right choice for you, with some of these tips to earn more. 

Average Earnings Per Read

How to Earn More From Your WritingHow to Earn More From Your Writing

As mentioned earlier, Vocal creators earn based on the number of people who engage with the content. This is calculated on a CPM (cost per mille or cost per 1,000 views) basis. For every 1,000 views, you can earn $3.80. 

Of course, you also earn more if you happen to be in their Vocal+ program ($6.00 for 1,000 reads). 

This might not seem like a lot, but it can really add up if you get featured on their main page. Keep in mind that you may even be able to get your piece to rank on Google if you pay attention to keyword research and search engine optimization while writing. 

Gain Access to the Bonus System for Top Stories

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Writers and other creators can also earn more money by tapping into the bonus system on their social media and website.

They have a straightforward bonus system of helping to support creators who nurture readers along the way. The extra payments are factored in addition to your CPM revenue and can range from $5 to $50. 

Here are a few of the bonuses you might get for tapping into your creativity with Vocal:

  • First 5 articles: $5
  • First 10 articles: $10
  • First 50 articles: $50
  • Liking 15 stories from other creators: $5
  • Top story qualification: $5
  • Awesome story qualification: $5.

It pays to be active on the platform to understand what readers are looking for, regardless of whether you write fiction, non-fiction, self-help, or any other type of creative endeavor.

Tips for One-Time Payments

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Maybe what you write resonates with your audience. When they come back to you time and again, they may find themselves compelled to support you.

The tips function allows them to do just that via a one-time payment to creators. The amount you will net depends on the generosity of your supporters. 

However, you will lose some percentage of this tip to the Vocal platform. Creators are hit with a 7 percent transaction fee (2.9 percent for Vocal+ members). 

Pledges for Recurring Income

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Vocal+ members can be rewarded for their hard work due to the pledges function that was added to the platform just a couple of years ago.

When someone loves what you create and wants to support your efforts on an ongoing basis, they can commit to sponsoring you month-to-month. 

Pledges cost readers $2.99 per month. After fees from both Vocal and Stripe, creators net $2.30 per pledge.

The best way to capitalize on pledges is to focus on creating a consistent fan base. People aren’t likely to pledge to you based on a single article, especially considering they can read it for free.

It may take some time to build up a catalog of work and create a consistent readership. 

Challenges for Friendly Competition

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Want to stretch those creative muscles and let Vocal review your work? Join in on the Challenges section of the blog, and you could tap into a massive grand prize.

This could be a massive windfall of hundreds of dollars all in one fell swoop. Some prizes even top $1,000. 

While competition to win is fierce among the artists on the platform, it can be a great way to get noticed by more people around the world.

Some of them are even quite short, requiring a maximum of 50 to 100 words for micro-fiction pieces. 

You can browse through their past challenges to get an idea of how much money you could earn if you were to win some of these categories.

Referring Others to Open a Vocal Account

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Maybe you know lots of other artists who are keen to get their work out into the world as well. Once you sign up for a Vocal account, you can start to refer other people to the website and membership plan as part of their Ambassador program. 

For every person who signs up using your unique link, you can earn $20. Not bad for not having to do any heavy lifting, right?

The best part is that you don’t even necessarily have to be active on Vocal Media to cash in on this money. As long as you put your link out into the ether, anyone who signs up using it nets you $20 in your account, no questions asked.

They have the possibility of earning more, and so do you; it’s a win-win situation!

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Curious how you can cash out with Vocal before you get started? All you need to do is sign up for a Stripe account, and you can cash out as soon as you hit the $35 minimum in your account ($20 for Vocal+ members). 

The benefit of using a Stripe account is that they don’t have access to your bank information. Money gets directly transferred from your Vocal wallet into your Stripe account, where you can move it around as you see fit.

It takes just a few clicks to get the two systems integrated, even if you have to create a Stripe login. 

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If you’re looking for a platform that prioritizes rewarding creators, Medium often comes to mind first. 

Unlike Vocal, they aren’t as straightforward on how earnings are calculated. It’s a complex mix of time spent on the page actively scrolling, reading, and listening time. 

Boosted content that might show up on their front page often earns higher rates than regular content. 

Of course, content is locked behind a paywall. If someone wants to read your work, they have to sign up for a membership that allows them to peruse the site as much as they want.

You get a share in the profits once they read your work. Vocal doesn’t require anyone to pay to read your work. 

For more information on other platforms, be sure to see our article on Substack vs Medium here.

If you are looking for a free platform to make money from your creative work, then Vocal Media might be the right place to turn.

Your first piece may not go viral, but future work could build up to a long and happy career with lots of tips, pledges, and reads. It’s a legit and safe way to earn money, especially if you can win their challenges. 

What’s stopping you from signing up for Vocal Media today and starting your writer side hustle?



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