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If 90,000 People Read This Article, I Can Pay My Bills This Month

How Creators Must Climb To Absurd Heights Just To Survive

By Neal LitherlandPublished about a year ago Updated 3 months ago 7 min read

This week's title is pretty self-explanatory. As a Vocal+ creator, if I could get 90,000 people to all read this article, that would earn me roughly $540 for this month, and that would be enough to pay my part of the rent on the apartment I share (about $500), and my portion of the utilities (which is about $40).

However, I want to stop for a second and point out how absurd it is that we basically require creators to move the earth and shift the stars just so they can make enough money to scrape by for 30 more days. Because we're not talking food, gas, travel expenses, clothing, entertainment, or anything else... if I just want to keep a roof over my head, and the electricity on so I can keep creating content, I need to somehow get 90,000 reads on my articles.

And, as a brief spoiler warning, I've never done that in a single, 30-day period. Not once. Not even close.

My Life, Times, and Experience Using Vocal

Before I pull out a bunch of additional numbers, I want to establish some of my bona fides. I was one of the founding members of the Vocal+ program, and I'd already been on Vocal for a while before it was even an option. I'd been a professional writer for several years before that, so I had a pre-existing audience who was at least somewhat interested in what I was creating, and I had a network of established places I could share my work to boost my reads.

At time of writing I have 263 articles in my Vocal archive. The most popular thing I've ever written was What is The Monster in "The Ritual" (A Mythological Head Canon). That article currently has 78,195 reads that it accrued over 5 years of time. In order for me to pay my bills for 1 month I would need to combine it with my second-most-popular article (a somewhat silly piece titled 10 Signs You're Actually a Dom), and I would need to earn 5 years worth of reads in the span of 30 days.

I'm not claiming to be the most successful person on Vocal. Far from it. While I've had my share of Top Stories, and I was one of the early features in the Vocal Spotlight, I haven't won any of the contests, and I am nowhere near the top-tier folks whose earnings get pointed at as the high end of what's possible to earn for writers on this site.

But you know what? I was doing pretty well until about 2 years ago. I wasn't making huge bank, granted, but I was getting between 13,000 and 20,000 reads a month. Roughly translated, my Vocal articles were still pulling down between $70 on a bad month, and $120 or more on a good month. Every little bit helps.

Now? Well, these days I'm lucky if my posts generate 3,000-5,000 reads a month. Even as a Vocal+ member, that's barely enough for a $20 payout when it's time to cover my bills.

So what the hell happened, right?

Lots of things. One of the popular tabletop games I was writing about fell out of favor, so I had to adjust my content. Then Reddit (which had been a major source of traffic for me) added Vocal to the bots' automatic removal list, and it removed hundreds (if not thousands) of links to my work out of the various groups I'd been sharing them in for several years. Then Facebook algorithms shifted to curtail link sharing, then Musk bought Twitter and started its downward spiral. And then, and then, and then, every change taking its own piece of the pie.

What I'm saying is that even when I was in top form as a creator, and the algorithm was being kind to me, it would take me 5-6 months to accrue enough reads from Vocal to cover 1 month of bills. These days? It would take me 2-3 years of saving up the pennies from my reads just to cover those same bills for 1 month.

This Isn't Unique To Vocal, Either

Before folks start thinking I'm just here bashing on the platform, that is not the message I want to send. Vocal is one of the only platforms out there these days that will just straight-up pay writers based on reads, with bonuses for various performances and milestones. And while their rates might seem utterly impossible for you to earn a living with (keep in mind that Vocal+ members earn double what the regular members get on reads, so if I wasn't in the program I'd need 180,000 reads a month just to pay my bills), that's the same for every platform I've looked at thus far.

Consider YouTube. That platform requires you to have 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watched content over the past year before you're even allowed to get paid. And even once your channel has been monetized (which can take years of effort if you don't get a break), you might only earn a couple bucks per 1,000 views you get (and views from people who had AdBlock on their computer don't count toward that total). So even if you move over to YouTube, you've got the same kind of payrate, and you still require the same obscene level of views.

Incidentally, if you like the little audio drama above, consider subscribing to the Azukail Games YouTube channel, as I've been doing more work like this over the past year and change.

Whatever platform you use, and whatever kind of content you're making, you basically need hundreds of thousands of reads, views, or hits every month just to keep a roof over your head, and the lights on. That requires an audience numbered in at least the tens of thousands who are dialed-in, who are actively paying attention to the stuff you're making, and sharing it to help boost your signal... and that is the reality that creators of all stripes are dealing with.

Directly Support Creators Where You Can

I sometimes feel like a broken record with this message, but creators depend on your help. We can only share our articles in so many places, and boost our signal so high on our own. We depend on others to help draw attention to our work so that we can be seen, and hopefully make enough money so we can keep coming back to do it all again tomorrow. If you want to help the artists and creators you care about, please do the following:

If You Don't Have Money

- Follow creators' social media pages. Our exposure is based on follower count, so the more people who show up, the more likely the algorithm is to actually boost us.

- Leave hearts, shares, and comments. Hitting the like button, sharing content on your own social media channels, or putting comments onto an article boosts its visibility.

- Subscribe. Whether it's here on Vocal, or on a site like YouTube or Dailymotion, subscriber count matters.

If You Do Have Money

- Donate to your creators. Vocal, like other platforms, allows you to leave tips. You can also donate to a creator's Patreon, Ko-Fi, or other crowdfunding pages.

- Buy their products. Most of us will make art that's for sale in addition to free stuff, so whether your creator writes books, sells prints of their artwork, has downloads of their albums you can buy, tee shirts for sale, etc., buying something always helps.

I Could Also Use A Little Help (If You Can Spare It)

If you made it this far and you'd like to help me, specifically, here's some things you can do!

- Follow My Facebook

- Check Out My LinkTree

- Subscribe to My Weekly Newsletter

- Subscribe to The Azukail Games YouTube Channel (where I contribute video content)

- Subscribe to My Rumble Channel (longer videos that won't show up on YouTube)

And if you happen to have some spare dosh lying around, consider becoming a Patreon patron, or leaving a tip by Buying Me a Ko-Fi!

Lastly, for more writing advice, check out my blog The Literary Mercenary, and particularly the Business of Writing section. There's a good 10 years of stuff on that blog that you won't find here on Vocal, and a lot of it might be right up your alley if you're trying to figure out ways to make a living off of this platform.


About the Creator

Neal Litherland

Neal Litherland is an author, freelance blogger, and RPG designer. A regular on the Chicago convention circuit, he works in a variety of genres.



Blog: Improved Initiative and The Literary Mercenary

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Comments (5)

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  • sleepy drafts3 months ago

    This is such a well-written and concisely explained article. I had no idea about Reddit or Facebook and their effects on sharing pieces. I hear what you mean about it not being Vocal, either, though. My boyfriend is a musician and he often comments on how good Vocal's pay-out system is compared to what he's used to seeing. It's encouraging to know we're not alone and that we're all in this together, at least! As discouraging as the information may be to read, there's something very encouraging about the way you've written it. Thank you for writing this piece! 💓

  • Natasja Rose3 months ago

    I do have art, but I sell it through marketstalls, rather than on commission. Too much pressure

  • Loryne Andaweyabout a year ago

    Thank you for this informative read!

  • David Perlmutterabout a year ago

    I shared this to let other people know about this common creator struggle.

  • Babs Iversonabout a year ago


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