Getting Started With Squidoo (The official overview, FAQ and TOS)

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Payout FAQ

You can earn money from the good pages you build! The better your page, the more it earns.

This is an overview of questions you might have about how our payout system works for our writers (lensmasters) who publish quality content.

What if my lens was unpublished, or deleted?

If your lens was unpublished by us (or locked) due to a violation of our TOS, you default any claim to unpaid royalties that lens might have earned. Royalties from that lens will be donated to charity.

If you deleted your own lens, even if it still had unclaimed royalties, the same is true.

Do I have to pay to use Squidoo?

No, no and no! Building lenses is free–that’s a cornerstone of why we’re here.

How do I make money on Squidoo?

The first thing to know is that not everyone does!

People are here for many different reasons, ranging from self expression, to raising awareness for a project or charity or their other work, getting traffic, connecting with other writers, and a lot more. We’ve always thought of the money as a bonus you can get from our platform, and not as a promise up front.

Why not a promise? Because not every lens will earn a royalty. Some lenses might earn nothing from our ad pool, and therefore rely only on sales they make from the Amazon or eBay modules. Other lenses earn lots of money from our ad pool, because the lenses are so good. Some people make thousands a month, others make $1 or less. It’s up to you and what you want to put in, to determine what you’re going to get out of your time here.

Our goal is to continue building a self-sustaining, profitable company that shares a large portion of our income with charities and with our core community, the lensmasters who build our lenses (that’s you). Here’s how the money comes in, and how it gets paid out.

Squidoo makes money 2 ways: ads, and affiliate revenue. This means Google ads or other ads we contract to run, and affiliate income from Amazon, eBay, CafePress and more.

Ad revenue (Google and other ads). This money goes into a pool, so as to avoide clickfraud. Half of the pool distributes out to lensmasters, on a PayRank scale that is based on each lens’s average LensRank and traffic, and the number and quality of lenses in the lensmaster’s account.

Direct revenue (ie, referral income–like Amazon and eBay and CafePress). This is directly attributable to the lens that generated the revenue, and is not pooled with the whole co-op. The lensmaster gets a straight 50%. Learn which modules make you money.

Here’s a really great lens from the SquidTeam: The 9 Best Ways To Monetize Your Lenses (An official guide by SquidooHQ).

We show your previous and estimated pending earnings on your Dashboard, so that you can keep track of your royalties.

The Top 9 Ways To Make Money On Squidoo

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How do I get paid?

Squidoo uses PayPal to send you cash. And if you’ve selected to send your royalties to charity, we make a donation to them on your behalf. (Find out more about our growing charity choices below). PayPal serves over 96 million customers in 55 countries and is a trusted eBay company.

At the close of every Squidoo pay period, two things will happen:

1) Squidoo will post a note on your Dashboard with a report of total money earned across your account (for all lenses), and the breakdown of where you’re sending it. For example, if you have 2 lenses that pay cash directly to you, but 10 lenses that pay the YMCA, this email report will confirm how much money is going where.

2) If you’re to receive cash (and you’ve reached your Cash Payment Threshold), you’ll also get an official email from PayPal with instructions for how to pick up your money. The PayPal email will go to whatever email address you use for Squidoo.

Tip: If you’re already using PayPal, you might want to make sure you’re using the same email address for both PayPal and Squidoo. It’s not a requirement for getting paid, but it could help smooth the way. You can add your existing PayPal email address to our system here. But don’t worry. If your royalties are sent to an email address that’s different from your already registered PayPal address, you can always go into PayPal, to your Profile settings, and “add” your other email address to that account.

If you don’t have a PayPal account yet, the payment email you get from them will include directions for how to claim your Squidoo money. It’s fast and simple to sign up. Takes about 30 seconds.

How does Squidoo use PayPal?

I wanted to take 4 more minutes to explain how Squidoo uses PayPal to send you cash.

The short answer is: Simple. You set up a PayPal account. We have a PayPal account. We transfer money, in the amount of the royalties you’ve earned, from our account to yours. Then it’s up to you to turn your PayPal money into greenbacks.

1. We pay only through PayPal. No exceptions on this, sorry. If you can’t use PayPal, you can try finding a friend who will help you send the money through their account. Get your free account at PayPal.com.

2. Make sure your info is correct. Make sure all your email addresses are associated with your PayPal account, AND, check under PayPal Address on your My Profile tab to make sure we’re sending your cash to the right address. If the info is incorrect, returned money defaults to our charity fund.

3. Make sure your payment threshold is where you want it. Even if you’ve earned money, it won’t be paid out until you’ve met your threshold. The default is $5 but we’ll go as low as a buck, so check your My Profile tab for details on this.

4. Yes, Paypal charges us a transaction fee. Paypal charges up to $1 (and never more than $1) when they send you your earnings every month. To save you the hassle, Squidoo automatically deducts that amount from your monthly payout before sending it via Paypal. This is why you might see that your total earnings for a month were $234, but the amount you received in cash was $233.

5. If you don’t want to mess around with PayPal at all, then please change your Squidoo payment settings to charity.

My earnings went to the wrong PayPal address

Ensuring your PayPal address is correct is important! You’ll find several reminders about this in your profile and lens workshop. If your payment was sent to your Squidoo account address, instead of an alternate address, you can still collect your payment.

If you have access to the address you received the payment at, just check the message for details on claiming the money.

Click it and follow the directions to add the new PayPal address to your account. You should then be able to collect the funds from that email to your account. You can contact PayPal direction with technical issues regarding their site.

Then, change your PayPal address in your Squidoo account. Click on the My Profile tab in your dashboard and scroll down to the PayPal Address line. Click edit, and enter your email address of choice. All future payments will go to the address you have selected in your account.

Please keep in mind that if your PayPal address on your account is wrong or missing, returned funds will go to our Charity Fund.

Why is there lag time between when I earn royalties and when I get paid?

Most of our revenue partners (advertisers, Amazon, etc) have a 30 or 60 day processing delay, which is why there’s always a lag time between when money is earned and when it is paid out. The totals can fluctuate if sales are canceled or returned, so the Pending $$ numbers you might see on your dashboard before payday are just estimates.

How does the Refer-a-Friend bonus work?

If you invited a friend to make a lens, and your friend’s account earned its first $15 during our recent pay period, YOU get a $5 bonus! W00t!

(This program used to include paying your friend a $5 bonus too, during our beta test. That has been discontinued).

Find your referral link here.

Global Payment Settings

Let’s say you’re a big fan of the nonprofit organization Donors Choose. (You better believe we are!) Now you can, in one easy step, change all your royalty settings on all your lenses over to donate to that charity. Just visit your Account here and select “Change all my existing lenses to use this payment setting.” Even handier, check out this Payment Settings Manager to make sure your money is going where you think it is.

Payouts, tiers, and earnings explanations

This is a long description about how money is earned and paid out at Squidoo. I hope you’ll take 4 minutes to read it.

As we’ve explained in painstaking detail in lots of places, we at Squidoo pay our community 50% of all our revenue.

You, the lensmaster, could earn royalties two ways: 1) through moneymaker modules (like eBay, Amazon and CafePress) and 2) through Google ads and other display ads that run on your lenses. The moneymaker modules are the easiest to track: whatever sale you make, we give you 50% of our referral bounty from that affiliate. You don’t share it with any other lensmasters; it’s all yours. That’s called a “directly attributable” royalty.

So how do we pay the second part, the community’s half of our Google and display ads? As you know, we put 50% of our earnings from those ads straight into a bucket just for lensmasters. We pool that money in order to prevent click fraud — this is a pretty common solution.

Then, we divide that pooled ad money based on the “goodness of your lenses” — which in our economy means LensRank. The earning number that we calculate according to your LensRank is called PayRank, or, as lensmasters have popularly started to call it: the “tier system.”

The first thing to know about tiers is that not all lenses are created equal. We work in a meritocracy, where lenses earn royalties based on how well they perform. We believe in paying our best people, who make the best lenses, more.

The second and perhaps most important thing to know about tiers is that they can change at any time. The percentages are constantly changing based on how many lenses there are on Squidoo and how much money is in the ad pool each month. So while reading the tea leaves and trying to predict your ad pool share can be fun, all you’re really doing is guessing.

The third thing to remember about tiers is that they only affect your cut of the ad pool. Whatever you earn via moneymakers on your lenses, like Amazon or eBay modules, you always get a straight 50% cut.

For even more specifics, here’s how tiers work: Lenses with higher average lensrank for the month get a higher percentage of the ad pool than other lenses. Lenses that perform poorly in LensRank, after a certain threshold, get no percentage of the ad pool.

So for example, if your lens is has an average LensRank of #100 for the month, that’s really good! (Important to remember that we count the average, not just the LensRank of the lens on payday). That lens would be in Tier #1, and would get the highest percentage of the ad pool possible.

Now imagine you had a lens that has performed well, but not as well in LensRank as in the scenario above. That lens would get a smaller percentage of the ad pool.

And if a lens has an average LensRank of #400,000, let’s say, well, we’re making the bet that lens needs some work and isn’t that useful to readers on the web. It probably didn’t get much traffic or contribute a whole lot of goodness to the whole Squidoo community (and didn’t drive any ad clicks, either), so that lens gets 0% of the ad pool.

Our goal is to pay out best lensmasters, the most. As more lensmasters make better and better lenses, it might make sense to shift the tiers in the future.

So that’s it. No hidden tricks.

The point, the whole point, is this: Make good content. Make useful pages that help people learn or interact or connect or buy. The better your page does, the higher a royalty you earn from it.

P.S. If you’re only going to read a little, read this:

There is absolutely no value to you in trying to figure out details of next month’s tiers, or to guess or to count on how this money is allocated. We say that not in order to obscure data, but to save you time. Lensrank and Payrank changes all the time. One thing you can be certain of is that while it can seem a little random, it’s always as fair as we can make it. We always pay out 50% (which is more than we promised, because while we have the right to apply this money to overhead, we never have) and we never make side deals or special payments. That way, you can spend your time and energy building and promoting great lenses instead of worrying about the system. To be fair to everyone, the Squidoo team won’t engage in any special correspondence about the tier payouts… we’ll post updates here from time to time, but that’s it.

How do the taxes work?

Since you're earning a royalty through Squidoo, and have the option to send it to charity, your earnings don't work the same as they do with your "normal" job.
  • If you send your earnings to charity, you won't receive any income, and therefore won't claim the donation. In order to claim that you donated your earnings to charity, you must actually first take ownership of the funds, and then dispense them on your own. Since Squidoo does this on your behalf, it's a wash. You don't claim the earnings, and you don't claim the deduction.
  • If you receive cash from Squidoo you must claim it as income. Last year, the IRS started using a form called the 1099-K. If you use Paypal or similar services and earn more than a minimum amount from online services (like Etsy or Squidoo), then they (not us, but Paypal) will send you this 1099-K.

    The current minimum is $20,000. Below that and no paperwork appears unless Paypal or other middlemen decide to send it out.

    This means that Squidoo will no longer be sending 1099s to our users. The IRS policy has been centralized, rationalized and organized to cut down paperwork all around. You're still required to pay taxes on what you earn, but the bookkeeping is being handled by Paypal now.
  • If you receive cash and then give it to charity on your own time, you will claim both the cash as income AND the deduction. It's like any other money you earn.

If you haven't collected a payout in a year...

It’s worth knowing that if you go more than twelve months without reaching a payout, regardless of how small, we’ll assume you’ve abandoned your account or aren’t here for the money, and your unclaimed royalties will be returned to our system and applied to our overhead and the Charity Fund. In April of 2009, for example, we’ll zero out any cash generated by your account since April of 2008, but which you never claimed via PayPal. So if you want to make sure you continue getting your money (we hope you do!) whether it’s $1 or $100 waiting for you in Squidoo, keep your Cash Payout Threshold low. And make sure your correct PayPal address is on file with us in your account.

Why are we even bothering? Accounting clarity. We want to pay lots of people a lot of money! But we don’t want to “owe” lots of people a few cents, especially if they’ve abandoned their accounts. Easier and cleaner for everyone involved if we zero out unclaimed pennies after a year, and donate it to charity instead.

Who will this affect? Well, as a policy it applies to all lensmasters. But in action, it only affects people who have their payment settings earmarked to cash, but haven’t claimed their royalties even once in the past year. So if you HAVE reached your Cash Payout Threshold in the last year and HAVE claimed your earnings from us via PayPal, you won’t even know that this policy exists. That’s most of you.

Why did my money go to charity?

Squidoo helps lensmasters support charities in many ways, and there are three main ways your lens might have been set to send its earnings to charity.

1. Your global settings list a charity.
Under the My Profile tab of your dashboard, you can set a charity to be your default location to send payments. By changing this setting, you can reset all your lenses to go to cash or the charity of your choice.

2. You created a lens through a front door that supports a charity.
Several of our front doors (such as SquidWho) help you create a lens by plugging in modules and information. These lenses are often set to send your money to charity. You can change this at any time by editing the lens and changing your payment options in the right column.

3. The lens was individually set to a charity.
Most often, individual lenses have been set to a charity, and the lensmaster forgets! Check your lenses first to see if this is the case.

4. The lens was locked or unpublished due to a TOS violation.
If the lens had earned any money that you hadn’t claimed yet, we send that cash to the Squidoo Charity Fund.

5. You haven’t claimed your earnings in over a year.
Since it’s hard for us to keep the books and owe many people just a few cents each, our policy is that if you haven’t claimed your cash earnings in over a year, they’ll go to pay Squidoo overhead the Squidoo Charity Fund. You can avoid this by changing your payment threshold settings to as little as $1, and earn cash early and often. Learn more about this policy here.

How does the Cash Payout Threshold work?

Every account has a configurable Cash Payout Threshold. Um, English please? Basically, we want to let you decide when you get paid. If you’re the type who likes finding a long-forgotten twenty dollar bill in your pocket, maybe this is for you. If you want to get paid when your account reaches $1… $5… $50… and so on, you control your destiny!

SO, here’s how it works:
The Squidoo default Cash Payout Threshold starts at $10. This means that if you don’t edit your threshold, you will get paid when your account (across all your lenses) earns $10 or more in cash (not for charity).

Reset the threshold to whatever you want! Change it here.

As you know, when you make a lens you get to choose whether you’d like to receive all your royalties in cash, give all your royalties to charity, or a combination of the two. So, if any portion of your lenses is set to cash payment, that cut is what goes into your account’s pending cash bucket (AKA your “reserve hopper”). Then once your account reaches $X in cash (as above), we’ll get you paid in a jiffy.

If 100% of all your royalties on all your lenses are going to charity, the Cash Payout Threshold is a moot point. Why? ‘Cause all your cash is paying out each month to charity. (And you get a hearty pat on the back for your generosity).

Yes, your cash earnings roll over from one month to the next! Let’s say one of your lenses earned $2 last month. But your Cash Payout Threshold is set to $10. That $2 will roll over to the next month and the next and so on until your entire account has earned $10. To make it easy, we’ll always show your cash Reserve on your dashboard so you know how close you are to your threshold.

Q: It’s the middle of the month, and I just changed my Cash Payout Threshold. Will this new threshold be in effect for the next Squidoo payment?
A: Oui oui. Even if you change to a new threshold the day before we process payment, it will be active. Of course, if you change your threshold the day AFTER we process payment, you’ll need to wait until next month’s round to get paid out.

What does "pending $$" on my dashboard mean?

The Pending $$ column on your dashboard indicates estimated royalties that you’ve earned recently from affiliate partners (Amazon, eBay, CafePress, etc) and are still pending clearance from those affiliates. Most affiliate programs have a 30 day processing delay, which is why there’s always a 1 month lag time between when money is earned and when it is paid. The totals can sometimes fluctuate if sales are cancelled or returned, which is why the Pending $$ numbers are just estimates.

So look at this sample scenario: In early September we processed payment for your money earned from July 1 – 30. If your July earnings reached your Cash Payout Threshold, you get paid via PayPal right away. If your July earnings DON’T reach your Cash Payout Threshold, they get moved into your Reserve Hopper. And if your July earnings were all set to go to charity, we donate them immediately. SO… any royalties your lenses earned after July 31 are what appear in the live Pending $$ column on your dashboard. These are your estimated affiliate sales (Amazon, CafePress, eBay, etc) that occurred from August 1 on. When we process payment again in early October, we’ll pay you the portion of your Pending $$ that was earned during August 1-August 31.

What is the reserve hopper?

If you had earnings from previous pay periods that didn’t reach your Cash Payout Threshold, they’re carried over and stored here until they do. Your Reserve Hopper is not live–it’s updated monthly with any carryovers from the previous payperiod. If your Reserve Hopper hasn’t reached your Cash Payout Threshold (see below) in a year, we will assume you’ve abandoned your account or aren’t here for the money, and will roll that money into the Charity Fund. To avoid that happening, keep your Cash Payout Threshold low!

Can I use my own affiliate links and ads on Squidoo?

We offer several money-making modules through big-name affiliates (Cafepress, eBay, Amazon, etc). The total commission made from each sale is split up. Five percent off the top goes to our charity. Yay! The remainder is split 50-50. Squidoo gets 50% to run the site, and you get 50% to play with.

Several advanced users also become affiliates for websites and products not yet offered through one of our money making modules. This allows them to offer additional products that match their niche topics.

If you choose to do this, here are some tips to keep in mind.

1. Any third-party affiliates you wish to add are at your own risk.
2. We can’t offer assistance with link or coding problems that stem from these affiliates.
3. Commissions don’t show up on your dashboard, nor can we track them for you.
4. Many modules allow you to add some HTML codes. We do not support iFrames or JavaScript or Flash.
5. The same rules apply. See our Terms of Service for more details.
6. Don’t fall into the spam trap! See Squid Don’t for rules. If you’re not sure, don’t do it.
7. Need help? Ask a fellow lensmaster at the forum. (But check with your affiliate first. We might not have the answer!)

Why does my dashboard show a negative earning?

Ouchie! If your lens is reporting a negative earnings balance, it’s most likely due to a product that was purchased from your lens but later returned. Usually the return chargeback occurs a month or two after the original purchase, which is why the negative balance becomes more obvious right after our monthly payment.

Each of our affiliates is a little different, and they all report to us in different ways. While we’re still working on a system for reporting product purchases from our CJ, any Amazon purchases that are returned will be listed in your “Amazon Orders” stats section.

How do I get a new charity added so that I can send my royalties to them?

Squidoo.com now supports nearly 100 nonprofit organizations, from the world’s most popular causes right down to tiny local animal shelters.

Lensmasters can choose to donate their royalties to any of our supported causes. And at last count, about 40% of them are doing just that. Wow. So keep up the great work.

If you’re a non-profit interested in applying as a partner, this lens is for you: www.squidoo.com/charity-sign-up.

Does Squidoo make a profit?

Yes, Squidoo is an old-fashioned corporation, with real employees real server fees and real PB&J lunches to be eaten. We divide up the money we receive in a very public, very simple way. Here’s what we do with the cash we receive from advertisers, Amazon, eBay and others: We pay 50% to you, our lensmasters, or to the charities you select. We don’t make any deductions or take any long-term reserves. In fact, we never have.

Recent News from SquidooHQ 

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Did you see the Lens of the Day? 

Were you picked?

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Who founded Squidoo? 

This guy

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