Category Archives: Writer

Yet Another Lesson Learned


I received several comments and private messages regarding my post yesterday. Although you were kind enough to not say it directly — the message was received. Yes, I was whining. LOL

I didn’t accomplish what I *thought* I should, but I didn’t exactly sit around and eat bon bons all day, either. I did do a lot. And I really really need to remind myself that, had this been this time two years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish what I did accomplish yesterday. [I’ll fill you in on that some other time.]

So, thanks for calling me on my crap. I appreciate it. The next time I have a day that didn’t go as planned, I will just refer to it as that. I didn’t do what I intended to do, but it wasn’t a total waste.

Today has been a much more productive day writing-wise. I’m just about caught up with everything, so things look good for the week. I’m plotting planning what I’m going to write about here — not sure if it will be more conversational or educational but I hope it will be interesting for you.

So, I’d love to stay and chat longer, but deadlines await. Ah — the life of a writer — it doesn’t get much better! ūüôā

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It’s Not Supposed To Be Easy


Today has been an interesting day. It seems like every other conversation, every other tweet, every other Facebook status has been someone complaining about a situation — they don’t like their jobs. They don’t have enough money. They can’t get x,y, or z. The gist of it all is: Life is hard.

Well, no s&*^, Sherlock. Yeah, life IS hard. If it wasn’t would you appreciate those brief fleeting moments when it isn’t?

If you had a truly easy life: all the money you ever needed, all the friends in the world, a job you loved…would you appreciate it?

No, you wouldn’t. You would grow to expect it. If you can’t be honest about it, then I’ll have to be honest for both of us, because I know I’d take it for granted.

That’s why, even though it bugs the hell out of me at times, I’m glad I have to work for what I have. Every new skill I gain, every new client I land, every check I cash — I know I worked for it, and I worked damn hard to get it. Nothing has been handed to me…ever.

And if I had to choose between working for it and having it handed to me, I’ll take the work. I don’t want to live on Easy St. Easy makes you complacent; it takes away your motivation and your drive. And when you are no longer motivated or driven, that’s when the rug can get pulled out from under you. Don’t believe me? Reread this.

So, to those who are complaining that life is hard — yep, it is. Accept it and keep pushin’. If it gets easier, find out what else you can do. Cuz, as soon as it gets easy, it can all slip away.

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Good vs. Bad Clients


One of my goals for 2012 was to have a better class of clients. I don’t just mean better paying clients, I mean clients who have a passion for their business like I do for mine. My other business has that built in — people request a piece of jewelry, I create it, they’re happy, they pay me and then I’m happy because I made something beautiful, and I got paid to do it.

I wanted that same feeling to carry over to my writing business as well, so that’s why I set out to get new clients. So far, so good. I’ve got 4 good clients, and I’m working on adding more daily. But there are still some bad clients in the bunch, and that annoys me.

So, what’s a bad client? Well, that’s really a personal assessment, but for me, a bad client:

* is a client who cannot tell you what it is they want. Some can’t tell you what it is they do. Seriously.

*is a client who promises to have info. to you on Tuesday, but doesn’t get around to sending it to you until Friday. Gives no explanation, but still wants the completed project the following Monday.

*is a client who balks at your rate.

*is a client who never pays on time. Once or twice is one thing, but consistently late payments is never a good thing.

*is a client that accuses you of stealing or outsourcing your work.

Now, granted, I have a lot less of these clients now than I did, say a year ago, but I still have a couple and I am taking steps to divorce myself from them. I have finally learned that I don’t need bad clients to be successful. I can hold out for the good clients. The clients that remind me why I’m in this business. The clients who make me want to stay in this business.

So, if you’ve got bad clients, keep looking for the good ones. Trust me, you’ll know ’em when you find ’em.

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Would You Like Fries With That?


or how about “Welcome to WalMart!”

Or maybe “We offer the cardigan in three colors:¬†fuchsia, magenta and chartreuse.”

Oh, don’t mind me, I’m just trying out some phrases for a new job. Cuz this whole writing thing is getting on my last nerve!

Yeah, today hasn’t been the best day. But you have those.

Sometimes you have two.

Hell, sometimes you even have 12. And if you’re really “lucky,” you have them consecutively.

OK — so I haven’t had 12 bad writing days in a row, but this has not been a stellar week. I’m making progress toward my goals, but it’s slow.

I hate slow.

Hate. It.

This life is hard. Writing is hard. Dealing with clients is hard. Waiting to get paid is hard.

But if it were easy, it probably wouldn’t be worth doing. (Oh, hush, Mom, I know…I KNOW!)

So, I’m going to whine a bit, eat something fattening, whine some more because I blew my diet, then probably drink some wine.

(No, wine is part of my diet. I’m a writer, remember?)

Then I’ll go back to being a writer, because, well…

I’m not asking anyone if they want fries, I’m more apt to ask people why the hell they’re at WalMart and I’d never in a million years own a¬†¬†fuchsia, magenta or chartreuse cardigan, let alone suggest someone buy one.

A bad day (or two or 12) working from home is better than a good day working for someone else. (So, I keep reminding myself.)

How do you deal with rough day(s) with work? What gets you through?

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And We’re Back!


And what did we learn?

Were you inconvenienced by the Blackouts today? Cranky that you couldn’t access Wikipedia to answer that burning question, who played Sgt. Howie in The Wicker Man?(Edward Woodward in the original, Nicholas Cage in the remake.) Couldn’t get your Redditt fix? Were some of your favorite Flickr pics unavailable?

If any of this bothered you, if you had to change the way you did one thing today, then you can begin to understand why SOPA and PIPA need to be stopped. Now, I agree that piracy is a pox that needs a vaccination — I’ve had my fair share of articles, essays, columns, etc. pilfered. But not at the expense of losing everything. Just because one idiot opts to steal software, music or someone else’s work does not mean all the sites on the ISP he happens to use should be wiped off the planet, nor should it mean an ISP or DNS should be blacklisted as a pirate.

So, now that things are back to normal, what will you do now? I hope you contact your congressman and tell him/her that there must be a better way than to give in to some lobbyists. Lobbyists who aren’t looking out for the public good — just their own bottom lines. There has to be a better way.

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Get Involved!


In case you haven’t heard, tomorrow is going to be a big day for the Internet. Wikipedia, Readdit, and other pretty popular sites are gonna go black for 24 hours to protest SOPA/PIPA.

Don’t know what that is? Read about it here and here.

(Hope you did that quickly, since they were Wikipedia pages. Ha ha.)

Seriously — read about it here. And check out a video about it here.

I don’t do censorship in ANY sense — when the KKK wanted to protest in my hometown, I was all for it, because it meant I could stand across the street and heckle them. ¬†Westboro Baptist Church? Let ’em protest and hope a house or one of those frozen blocks of airplane waste fall on their heads. If they are allowed to say what they want, then that means I’m still allowed to as well, and you all know how I love to express myself.

In short (yeah, I know too late, but stay with me!), SOPA and PIPA are censorship and blacklisting. I’m not for either of those things. And you shouldn’t be either!

So, thanks to WordPress, who is also a participant in the Blackout, The Classic Quill will be taking part in the formal protest. From 8am to 8pm tomorrow, you will be greeted with a message instead of some snarky remark from me. You’ll live, and I promise to come back with some extra snarky goodness tomorrow night!

Til then, if you can find a way to participate, you should, because this involves all of us, and we should all stand up for our Internet freedoms.

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Pros and Cons of Writing for Content Sites


Yesterday I gave a brief lesson on how to write for content sites. Today, I’m going to explain the good points and bad points to working for content sites.

Pro: Content sites are a good way to get started in the writing industry. You have to apply to sites, and you have to provide a writing sample. This can give you an inkling as to whether you have the skills to start a writing career.

Con: It’s not a realistic representation of an actual writing career. Content sites are the very first rung of the ladder that leads to a writing career. There is way more to a writing career than content sites. But that’s a discussion for another blog post.

Pro: They pay quickly. Most content sites pay frequently — many pay weekly, some pay twice a month, but usually, the longest you’ll have to wait for payment is a month.

Con: The pay is low. Freelance writers who write for private clients or magazines make WAY more. Again content sites are a legitimate way to break into the industry, but they are also at the low end of the payment totem pole. You CAN make good money working for content sites, but it takes a lot of work and juggling.

Pro: You’ll get clips that you can use for your portfolio.

Con: The clips might not be impressive to editors in other arenas. Every article you write is not going to be clip worthy — honestly, most articles aren’t clip worthy. Even with all the clips I have from content sites, I only use maybe a dozen or so in my portfolio. Not that the other articles are bad — the ones I use are the most in-depth, researched and well-written. And depending on where the articles are used, editors might be less impressed, even if the¬†article is stellar.

Pro: It’s easy work.

Con: It’s easy work…when you can get it. Lately content sites have taken a hit, thanks to the Panda. There are still plenty of content sites available, and most are still hiring writers, but the competition is increasing and it’s harder to get good titles to write. Not impossible, but harder. Much harder.

Pro: Content sites are reliable pay.

Con: Content sites make you lazy. There, I said it. Writing for content sites — with the quick payments and easy work lull you into a false sense of security. But ask anyone who wrote primarily for Demand or Bright Hub how secure they feel now. Or SEED or Break Studios or, well, you get the point.

So, there they are, the top 5 pros and cons to writing for content sites. As I’ve said previously, I’m not a fan, but I do believe they have their place. However, if you want to make it as a freelance writer, their place in your career should diminish over time. Next week, I’ll explain how you can make that happen.

Thanks for reading! As always, comments and email are welcome!

 

 

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Freelancing — a Primer


It was brought to my attention yesterday that not everyone knows what a Content Site (or Content Mill) is, so I’m going to take the time to explain what a content site is, and the general process of working with one.

A content site is a company that hires freelance writers to write content for them. The content might be used on their personal site(s), or sold to another site or private customer. For example, Demand Media hires freelance writers to write content for sites they own (eHow, Cracked.com, etc.) and for partner sites such as Local.com.

Content site pay varies, but most sites pay between $8 and $20 for an article. Most articles are in the 400-500 word range. You can find a variety of things to write about, from medical conditions to legal articles. Some sites also pay on a revenue sharing platform — for every visit to the website your article generates, you get a share of the profits.

Now, for why some in the writing community refer to these sites as “content mills”. There are two reasons: first the pay is lower for a content mill than it would be if you sold articles in the traditional manner (something I’ll go into in another post). Second, the quality of the articles are not always as high as they could be. Part of this is because of the ease of being accepted to write for the site.

Which leads to my next point — to write for a content site, you apply directly to the site. Each site has a different method they use to approve writers, but most require a potential writer to fill out an application and submit a writing sample. There may be a grammar test involved as well. If your writing sample is acceptable, you’re approved to write for the site, and can select articles that interest you. Once you’ve written the article, you submit it to the site for approval. Some sites use editors who review your work, other sites send work directly to the client and they either approve the article, send the article back for revisions, or reject it. This is another area I will go into in a later post.

If your article is accepted, you get paid. Most sites pay via Paypal, though there are a few who direct deposit pay into your bank account.

And there you have it — a brief explanation into content sites. In my next post, I’ll examine the pros and cons of working for content sites. As always, if you have any questions, leave a comment or shoot me an email.

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How To Make Money Writing for Content Sites


We’ve all heard the complaints — content sites (or content mills) are screwing up the industry. Content sites provide poor content. There’s no money to be made writing for content sites. Google all but killed content sites.

Blah blah blah…yadda yadda yadda.

Now, I’m not a fan of content sites, but I also don’t believe in biting the hand that fed me, and for several years, that’s exactly what they did. If it weren’t for some of the articles I wrote for content sites, (And I wrote some damn fine articles, I might add!), I would not be in the position I’m in now.

(Yes, it’s a good position, more about that in a future post.)

Even though the Google Panda has stripped much of the leaves from the content mill eucalyptus tree, you can still make money writing for content sites. Here are a couple of tips to help you out.

1. Focus on what you know. Choose topics you can write about in your sleep. Take full advantage of the search feature each site has, and find titles that are easy for you. It will take less time to write the article and since it’s a topic with which you are familiar, you’ll enjoy it more. If you run into a bunch of articles on the same topic, grab as many as you can. [There is an art to doing several articles on the same subject without tripping the plagiarism flag. I’ll come back to that.]

2. Branch away from your comfort zone. This may seem to counter what I said above, but it doesn’t. While writing what you know will bring in the bulk of your writing income, picking up one or two titles out of your comfort zone will help you in the long term. I mean, you weren’t always an expert in your main topic, were you? Of course not. So pick a title or two that you are interested in learning about more, and do the research and write about it. After a few articles, your comfort level with the topic will increase (and if you’re like me, you’ll read about it every time you get a chance). Before you know it, you’ll have TWO topics that fit the “Focus on what you know” category.

3. Share your work. Some people who write for content sites don’t like to admit they write for content sites. Sometimes it’s because of the reputation of the site, or maybe an editor screwed up an article and the writer doesn’t want to be associated with it. Well, that’s nonsense. Here’s the thing about the writing/publishing industry: Everyone knows that writers are edited, and everyone knows not every editor should be an editor. A few bad articles are not worth burying your byline and losing the exposure, especially when you’re starting out. So share your articles with your friends on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Post links to them on your blog. But if you’re that concerned about the quality of your articles, write a post explaining that the errors were introduced through an “editing oversight”. Of course, my solution would be to not write for the content site, which leads me to…

4. Choose your sites carefully. I know that when the economy is bad, you have to do things you normally wouldn’t do to put food on the table and keep a roof over your head and clothes on your back. However, you have to think long-term here. If you plan to build a career as a writer, you want your clips to be respected, and sometimes you have to consider the source. Some sites have better reputations than others, and some sites have NO reputation. Before you agree to lend a site your byline, take a careful look at the content that is already there. Is it stuff you would read, or did you cringe during the first sentence? Does the site present itself well? Take these factors into consideration before you publish with them.

5. Take your work seriously. You might “just write for a content mill,” but you never know when an article will attract someone’s attention. I have landed several well-paying gigs because someone was surfing through eHow or BrightHub and happened across one of my articles. I’ve also had people contact me for work because a friend of a friend of a friend saw an article I wrote shared on Facebook. Don’t devalue your work by just throwing up crappy content. Take pride in it. Do your best, because you never know who’s watching.

Now, about that plag flag. Here’s how I used to write 10 different articles on the same subject, using the same sources and never NEVER got a plag flag:

1. Write article #1. Save as a draft.

2. Write articles #2 – #10, saving each as a draft.

3. Submit each article, one at a time, an hour or two apart. If you’re writing for a site with quick approvals (such as how DMS used to be and how Textbroker can be), wait for the approval before submitting the next one.

Or if you have the time to spare, submit one or two a day over several days.

So, there you have it — how to make money writing for content sites. Do you have anything to add? Questions? Comments? Let me have ’em.

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Due Diligence


[Note: I know this is supposed to be my response to my blog post yesterday, but I want to address this particular issue right now, and interestingly enough, it does still carry the yesterday’s issue forward. I’ll explain my reasoning for why our industry works for peanuts tomorrow.]

Dear Client Whose Name I Shall Never Utter Again:

I got your email yesterday. No, not the one where you promise me payment “shortly” for the fifth time. Uh, no, not the one where you want me to work for you –again–although you still haven’t paid me for my last three jobs (I ignored that email, I’m sure you’ll understand why in a moment). I’m referring to the third and final email I received from you — you know, the one where you accused me of stealing someone else’s work. Remember that one?

—–Changing gears here a bit. I’ll come back to the letter at the end——-

To their credit, they didn’t come right out and accuse me of it — they blamed it on Copyscape and how my two articles showed “significant matches” to content already on the web. I guess they figured I’d become fearful and not fire off a response. And they were right — almost. I decided I would make this a teachable moment.

And they are the student.

You see, I have a Copyscape account too. I think all writers should have an account with a plagiarism checking service. It’s a good way to check your own work for duplicate content, and to be sure no one else is stealing from you. I mean, accidents do happen, and sometimes we do write something that is too similar to something we’ve read. It happens.

So, I ran the “offending” articles through Copyscape, thinking, ya know, maybe I did subconsciously duplicate content. Sure enough, article #1 showed substantial hits. Like 20 of them. So I started clicking through all the duplicates…

Let me stop here and backtrack a bit. The article was about a rule the FCC put in place to deal with debt collection agencies. In my article, I quoted the rule, with a “the FCC, in a recent ruling[ ….]The rule states:” lead-in for the quote. At the bottom of the article, I provided the source for the quote. Introduction, quote, source. With me? Good.

So, I’m looking at the sites where I¬†supposedly lifted this content..and I notice four things:

1. No lead in sentence.

2. No quotation marks around the quote. It’s written as if the person wrote the rule himself.

3. No source citation.

4. None of the sites are the source I used.

And this was the same for 20 DIFFERENT SITES.

So, all these sites include this quote, without acknowledging it as a quote and from where it came…but I’M the one who plagiarized.

Eh…no. I think that’s backwards. And when I checked the second article — same issue. A quote I used tripped the plag flag.

Now here’s the teachable moment, folks. Just because a plagiarism checker picks up something, that does NOT mean the article is plagiarized. You have to compare what the checker picks up with the document being scanned, and determine if it truly is duplicate content or not. Copyscape doesn’t care if the text is in quotation marks. It doesn’t care if there was a attributive sentence or phrase leading up to the text in question, and it doesn’t care if the text is sourced at the bottom of the article. It sees the words and kicks them out. YOU have to verify whether it’s plagiarism or not. That’s your job. And you didn’t do it, because if you had, you would have seen that my work was properly quoted and attributed, and you wouldn’t have needed to send me an insulting email.

And since you didn’t do your due diligence, you end up reading a post like this from a pissed off writer who just got accused of committing the worst crime in our industry.

You also end up getting dropped as a client. I’m not working for you any more. You’re small potatoes and slow-paying small potatoes at that. Go find some other writer to try and screw over. I’m done with you.

 

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