Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Let's talk about keywords

Everyone has been waiting for a little pep talk about keywords. So they let's admit right away it isn't the sexiest sounding subject in the world, but if you really plan to earn long term income on ppm/ppv sites, you have to get in the groove with them as depending on sheer luck to grab traffic isn't going to work out for you too well most times.

Keywords at their base is SEO. Knowing what a keyword is and sticking it in your article is all fine and well, but what really counts, and what far too many SEO writers really don't get is that density matters and writing SEO friendly content that doesn't read like ad copy is not only possible, it's really pretty easy.

The mistake too many people make is choosing the wrong keywords to target, and then overly saturating that keyword. I'll be upfront and admit immediately that SEO pros disagree on the best density and most are full of crap anyway. Some will say you need a 6% density, others will say 2% gets the job done, I say hovering around 2%-3% is about right. But hey, what do I know right? I mean I did eat kitty litter once as a child because I was curious. I avoided the clumpy portion, I'm not that weird. Sheesh...you guys....

To discuss keyword density and keep things simple, let's just focus on optimizing your article for only one keyword. If you get that concept down, you can go hog wild and expand to two or three on your own using the same principles. Let's suppose we are all optometrists and we are all writing copy about our clinic we own and are wildly successful in. If we're going to play pretendsies, let's do it right!

Our need is to get good page rank so that we can generate traffic that may lead to more clients. As optometrists, let's say that "Optometrist" is the keyword we are going to focus on -get the connection..optometry...focus....? Learning can be fun!

We want to use the word optometrist 3 times every 100 words to achieve a density that everyone agrees is minimally sufficient, but at the same time won't be so overused it turns a reader off. Nobody likes having the same keyword jammed down their throat when reading. Using Optometry in that density is no problem, but it also isn't too effective. If you google optometry you get about 830,000 returns which means being located on that word alone is going to be one heck of a challenge. If it's going to be that tough, it all comes down to luck and time on the web to get page rank, right? BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!!!! Wrong answer! It is only that way if you let it be that way.

"So what's the secret oh divine goddess-like waif I worship?" is what you're thinking -and even if you aren't let's pretend you are since I'm doing this for free. The secret is using that keyword of optometry better. We use it better by creating keyword phrases and long tail keyword phrases. The reason we are going to do this is because it makes the results returned more niche which means we have better search results. So how do we niche?

We accomplish this by creating relevant specific two word phrases to beef up "optometry." What are examples of keyword phrases that work? The examples are only limited by your imagination. Our keyword phrases need not be complex, try things like:

A) Indiana Optometry
B) Muncie Optometry
C) Best optometry
D) affordable optometry

That's not so tough to do, and using example D for instance, we have cut the search results returned on Google to about 224,000 words. Going from a result of around 830,000 to 224,000 is a huge deal. As good as that is however, it can be better. How do we make it better? We go long tail. Long tail keyword phrases are 3-5 words long ideally, I like 4 words, and they allow you to accomplish the following things:

A) Get niche which means less competition to get page rank which means you have a better chance of getting found quicker.
B) It allows you to keep up your density without appearing to be needlessly and painfully repetitive.

Let's try expanding to a 3 word key phrase and see how things go. Let's build off of our two word key phrase list to keep things simple and try "Affordable optometry Muncie." Why Muncie instead of Indiana you wonder? Two simple reasons, 1 being it is more specific, and two being "Indiana" is one of those weird words that even Google garbles a bit and will spit out returns related to "Indians" and "India" which means you are needlessly fighting for rank against content that has been misplaced. See, there was a reason I chose Indiana and not Iowa! Getting back to our three word Muncie keyword phrase, we get a return of about 33,000. It's good, but it could be better.

Let's go to 4 words and try "Best affordable optometry Muncie." It narrows a bit more to about 27,000, but if we go to a very specific phrase like "best affordable optometry Muncie Indiana", voila! We have a return under 3,500!

So now you say, "Ahhh...I see the key! The more specific and longer the keyword phrase the better!" Absolutely not true. There is a reason 5 words is considered the ceiling and it is because going to the sixth word, that tiny little change screws everything up way too often. How does being more specific screw you up is what you're wondering and the answer is simple - computers and software are designed by people, but they aren't people. They process the words, not the context. For example let's say our phrase of "Best affordable optometry Muncie Indiana" is tweaked by adding what should be a somewhat niche word like "gay" to the phrase because you have a gay friendly business. The return is now up to 15,500! Why is that? It is giving you returns related to not just "gay optometry", but "gay Muncie", "gay Indiana", and "best gay." It goes back to thing about to many cooks in the kitchen.

So when you write your article about your gay friendly optometry clinic in Muncie, Indiana, that you think is the best, what kind of keyword phrases can you use to be niche, get good rank, and also be broad to a degree while maintaining a good density that doesn't read like crap? You would try keyword phrases like these:

A) Gay Muncie optometry
B) Gay Indiana optometry
C) Gay optometry
D Affordable Indiana optometry
E) Cheap Muncie optometry
F) Inexpensive Muncie optometry

The list goes on and on....The thing is you want to avoid "Spamming" the same phrase, but you want to get as many instances of the word optometry into your article without being overbearing, and the variety of phrases is how you do it. You can easily write a 500 word article using "optometry" 15 times in varying combinations one to two times each and not sound cruddy.

What so many people fail to realize is that the long tail keywords don't just help you in the short term with niche rankings, going back to that basic single keyword of "optometry", which had about 830,000 returns, your article will climb those results based on that keyword because it is getting hits as a part of the long tail keyword phrase. The jump isn't going to be overnight or dramatic, but it will be positively influenced.

Once you get working with one keyword down you will be ready to expand into using similar words and phrases like "Optometrist', "eye care", "eye care clinic" and weaving in the other goodies like "cheap", "affordable", etc... to have the most optimized possible article to nail nearly every worthwhile keyword phrase possible. To help you do this, there are tools available, but if you want to know what they are you have to go to this gratuitous article link . The tools listed there are free by the way.

The odds are that it is going to take you some practice, and at first it is going to be a pain in the butt probably, but once you get the hang of it you can greatly increase your view earning income. You don't have to go crazy with it, even just the inclusion of a few good keyword phrases in the right place is going to make a difference - especially if it is something you never focused on before. If you're not a believer, try writing two optimized articles and watch how they earn over the course of a 60 day period. If they are not doing better than your submissions normally would over that period time I would be greatly surprised. Keep in mind that writing a good article is the most important thing, and that the topic has to be something people actually have a need for.

In case you were curious, the density of "Keyword" in this post is 2%, and "optometry" is 2.1%.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What's Up

Dear Hack Writers,

What is up? Are we all honing those writing skills, searching and bidding for jobs. Defining or redefining past articles?

Just wondering.


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Strive for the Best and Shine through Tough Times

Every writer’s site I have gone to recently has been discussing grammar or lack of it and generally poor writing appearing throughout the web. After all, there are more freelance writers on board these days due to the appearance of numerous ads stating one can earn money easily by writing. Well meaning friends and relatives will say, “well you do it; how difficult can it be, so why can’t I?“

Don’t discourage them but instead let them in on the secret that writing is a full time job. Yes, you can work your own hours but there is much responsibility to writing if you want to earn a living.

Freelance writing takes time for factual research, coming up with unique ideas and the dreaded edits. Everything has been said already, so writing becomes a matter of expanding a flow of words that speaks your true inner voice. Every day you will be job hunting and composing effective cover letters and clips in order to secure another new writing job.

The web may be the instigator of poor writing skills and undervaluing writers. I read recently that approximately 150,000 articles are needed per day. The good news is that there will always be plenty of work for all of us. The bad news is that under-bidders who either spin existing article or have poorer writing skills are getting through and clients do not seem to care. Personally I believe this to be a temporary setback for writers who do widen their knowledge and training.

Many of these a articles appear to be based on rich SEO content with clients wanting the same key words plastered 20 times in a 200 word blurb in some cases. Talk about redundancy! So besides complaints of grammatical problems, what many are finding is the writing is beginning to become boring.

What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure - Samuel Johnson

Boring sites mean fewer hits and less income for those who own them. Perhaps those who hire will now realize that quality work will always reign.

We all started out as novices but cultivated our craft, while taking pride in our work as it improved. We are open to learn from others and continue to do so, probably to our last typed sentence.

Developing your craft will always be a continual objective; write everyday, brush up on your vocabulary and grammar and add that little extra that comes from deep inside you that sets you apart from the rest.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


A good freelance writer knows when writing for someone (personal attitude) cannot stand in the way. One needs to be flexible and willing to take on jobs with the clients point of view in mind.
After all you're hiring yourself out to write about their topic of discussion.

One way to avoid ruffling your feathers is to, research a writing job before you accept it. Don't tie yourself to writing about a subject you hate and can't present at 100%. Your quality of work could reflect your "attitude" towards the assignment, if it isn't something you like. Word of mouth spreads quickly, good or bad people will come to know who you are as a freelance writer. Look before you leap.

Still, taking pride in what you write and having a passion for it should be owned by you!

Here's a glimpse at my passion for the pen! (Literal, digital or otherwise.

Pen's Write

Scribbling furiously my nib takes flight.
Snap, tapping motion of fluid release.
Words gather quickly preparing delight.
Rasping pen echoes, fulfilling increase.

If spoken, decreases intended bite,
disquiet then creeps in to intrusive views.
Impairing motion of pens' truest cite,
leaving me waiting your harshest reviews.

White pages become littered with inks plight.
Dueling lines pleading for dominant space.
Once chosen, dipped ink, is set to new heights.
Showing no evidence of struggles trace.

When all agree, ink, pen, paper and I,
what challenges come I'll release through flight.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Howdy! It's your Weekend Update from the Freelance Room

Okay, I kind of went AWOL and I apologize!

Summer is rough - three kids don't leave me with enough time to get all my work done, let alone blog. Thanks to all who post here and help keep things going.

Since I have a migraine today and am doped to the gills, I can't really gather my scattered brains together enough to come up with deep insight and words of infinite wisdom. Instead, I figured I would give you the Grace update -- since I know y'all are simply DYING to know everything about me and what I am doing.

On the home front, I managed not to get divorced this summer, though things are still shaky. I and my sig other are in a state of truce and trying to work things out - it's hard when you have kids and are trying to make the best decision for everyone involved.

We have a new vehicle ('05 Chevy Suburban) which we were forced to buy when some idiot ran a stop sign and drove hubby into a ditch, totaling our almost paid for truck ('01 Chevy Silverado club cab). Only good thing about it is that our payments and the interest on the loan actually went down, and we got the hulking thing for about half what it would have gone for four years ago, even used. Go decline of the SUV market, woohoo. Gets the same MPG as the truck did, is more convenient for hauling tools (rain can't cause problems) and LOTS more room! (Plus, DVD player for the kids for trips to Dallas, Yay!)

On the work front, I am about sick and tired of my boss at my 'real life' work at home job where I am down to what is more or less a token position. I'm pulling in less than $700 a month supervising a small crew... but every time I try to bail my crew has hysterics (Oh please don't go! We'll eat you up, we love you so!) so I keep hanging in there. Boss is a total (insert derogatory word here) and I hate him. Seven years of him has been six and a half years too much.

Writing. Going well, actually! I keep busy and make enough to get by most months. Made some good contacts, and the repeat work keeps coming in. This month I tried something a little different; a lot of one-offs to fill in gaps. I started bidding on the little bitty jobs since Elance has a $50 minimum, and managed to do about three this week, bringing in a nice bit of side money.

Rewrite a social media newsletter, edit 2500 word sales landing page for a real estate book, and come up with 2,000 words in first person on solutions for premature ejaculation. Seriously. I pulled it off according to client, who said (and I quote) "You write really well in first person for a problem you've never experienced, haha!" I replied that I had "asked my husband if he had any input, but he got affronted and asked me if I was complaining." LMAO.

Who says you can't have fun at this job?

All right, next week maybe I'll have something better to offer, but for now keep trying, keep bidding, keep hunting for jobs, and don't ever give up. Those who persevere may one day land a premature ejaculation gig of their own. :D

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Go green and make some green

I'll be the first to admit I'm not green. Trees are to be cut down to make me stuff I want to buy. I could care less how many chemicals a steer was exposed to so long as it tastes good. I sometimes throw recyclables out with the regular garbage and don't feel the least bit bad. The one thing I do recycle is my writing and you should too.

Lean times hit everyone and it never ever hurts to have a safety net to help generate a little extra income in a very short period of time. Anyone that has hit a rough patch and is using bids left and right with no work to show for it, or has seemingly all their regulars go on a buying embargo at one time has to know if it happened once, it will happen again. While you're searching down the big ticket jobs that really pay your bills, what do you do in the meantime?

Sure you can go to the Paid to write sites (PTWS) and try churning out a pile of articles for maybe an average of about $3 each that take a good 30 minutes or so each and pray you don't shoot yourself in the head after three days. It is money and money is good, but after awhile it gets tedious, frustrating, and it almost screams at you to stop writing. With changes to the pay structure at our preferred PTWS, how do you make money in the lean times and not go insane?

The simple answer is you go green and recycle your work. If you've been freelancing awhile you have to have a few hundred completed articles saved somewhere. You've done the research, you've constructed the format, the hard part is done. Now you have to re-write it.

Nobody likes re-writes all that much, but take a quick look at why you will learn to love it.

An average 400 word article should never take more than 30 minutes to write. Ever. A rewrite of one of those should take no more than ten minutes. That is 6 rewrites an hour for the math challenged. Lets suppose you can rewrite them that fast (And of course make them distinct from the piece you sold) that means if you only average $2/article that is $12/hr. It isn't great money but it isn't bad. If you can average $3/article that is $18. Not bad huh?

Say you have a small cache of articles like...hmmm.....300 sitting around.

300 articles x10 minutes = 50 hours
300 articles at lets say $2.50/article =$750
$750/50 hours = $15/hr

That is something you can do in one week if you apply yourself which will bring in enough money to let you keep pursuing higher paying gigs. It may not sound big, but if extrapolated over 1 year that is $36,000 assuming you take a months vacation, so yes it is good money even if only briefly. The problem is I don't know anyone with 12,000 or so articles to do this with, but that's not the point. The point is short term relief.

Even if you don't need to rack up a big week to cover a shortfall you can easily rewrite your sold articles quick and easy for extra PTWS dinero. With that said, let's look at the second angle.

Not all articles we sell to publishers come in neat little 400 word containers. In the case of those that are less, you should be able to beef them up in less than ten minutes to create a new article. In the case of longer ones trim them down. A 1000 word article becomes two 500 world articles. Chapters in an ebook become a series of articles.

In some cases it is going to take some time to make changes, but if you are waiting on bids come through and have nothing else to do but contemplate who invented liquid soap, and why, then you have time to do rewrites. Making some money off this material via reposting makes a whole lot more sense than letting it grow more cobwebs than an octogenarians special happy place.

The big question is whether or not it is legal and ethical. The short answer is yes. So long as you make each rewrite distinct from the original you are good to go. To keep past clients happy make sure you change the SEO (even kill it altogether and just get the thing posted fast) and generally make it your own. You all know how to rewrite so why am I explaining it.....Of course you now have the long steady trickle of pennies from share revenue to make this keep paying off long term.

The thing is if you recycle writing like I'm supposed to do with Mountain Dew bottles, you can make an extra couple thousand dollars a year in your downtime with minimal effort. Take it all at once or bleed it out over time, the choice is yours. Just make it a point to get in the routine of doing it, unless of course you already have enough money. If you do, I accept cash or Asian call girls under 5'5" with dyed blonde hair as gratuities. Just a suggestion, feel no pressure.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Utilizing The Parts Of Speech Can Lead To Successful Writing

How long has it been since you graduated high school? Really, isn't high school the last place you fully utilized all the parts of speech. Unless you majored in English, in college, you haven't traveled down the ole parts of speech highway since.....(add your graduation date here).

While working up lesson plans for my sons' homeschooling in writing, I was amazed at how much I'd forgotten of the parts of speech. You're asking yourself right about now, what does this have to do with freelance writing? Here's the scoop, do you see it? It's right there mingling with the noun and verb. For me it's the hyper adjective! Did you look closely? Did you see it? It sits there happily waiting for me to put it to use.

Seriously any part of speech can enhance your article. How you put your information together, when creating an article for purchase, will either catch the eye of a buyer right away or have them yawning from the start. Freelance writing is creative writing, but with less on the dramatic and more on the serious. This is true when facts come into play. By making those less restrictive places within your article, visually pleasing, you stand a good chance of selling your article.

Be it noun, verb, adjective, adverb, pronoun or any other parts of speech, reacquaint yourself with their usefulness. Become friends with them. If you treat them well enough, they just might all fall into the right places for you.

Ya, ya you say, but did I get your attention? If writing is your livelihood, you'll benefit from using the parts of speech to their fullest potential.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Enhance your Writing from Cyber Resources

Sometimes it is impossible to hit upon everything there is to know about writing, the trends and overall job tips. No matter how experienced you are, even the pros need to be reminded of how this business changes and the need to listen.

To start off your Monday, which on a personal level is the start of a new beginning; the following five recent articles should not be miss. Refer to them and make this content part of your writing career bible.

5 Ways to Instantly Become a Better Writer
by Mason Hipp

The information is so simple, yet very important advice to consider as a writer. Freelance Folder has advice for all types of freelancers and not for writers only, but when they come up something in our niche, it’s terrific.

To Query or Not to Query: That’s a Question for the Pros!
by Jennifer Mattern

Jennifer created a series involving seven well established writers; Chris Bibey, Angela Booth, Jenna Glatzer, Kristen King, Deb Ng, Allena Tapia and Anne Wayman using a question and answer format. The series began on June 15th and should be coming to a close soon.

Avoiding the temptation of easy to score but low paying gigs
by Jennifer Mattern at Freelance Writing Jobs

Jennifer stopped by Deb Ng´s fabulous site and offers a wealth on infomation that we all are guilty of – low paying gigs. Deb, herself, is an adament foe of the cheapies.

How to Increase Your Freelance Writing Rates by Anne Wayman

After reading about Jennifer’s tips to avoid low paying gigs, a must is Anne’s guidelines on how to increase your rates. I know you are probably afraid to do so but if you want to make a living out of your love of writing then this article is a must read.

Writing: how to get more great ideas every day
by Angela Booth

Although Angela is a prime marketer of her numerious eBooks on writing, her blog has been bookmarked as very informative. Sink you teeth into it.

Topics such as these are what make the web a worthwhile resource for a writer. There are hundreds of thousands of others in cyberspace. We all narrow down the ones we prefer. Why not list some of your favorites here as a reference for others?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Freelance Update From The Field

So, I told y'all I would be back with an update on my freelancing adventures. Here is a run down of the sites I have tried so far:

Elance - very good for getting new and repeat business. We get most of our income through this site. As expected, job awards tend to come in clusters so there is some downtime. We use this to work on our own website and put in bids on other freelance sites such as:

iFreelance - no luck here so far. I think this will end up being a waste of money. There are very few assignments that are even worth bidding on (maybe 2-3 projects a week). We haven't been awarded anything so far. This site doesn't charge commissions, so that is good. At this point I just hope to land 1 job to get back my 6 month membership payment.

Guru - just started bidding on this site on June 1st. No awards so far but there are a bunch of good projects and buyers. You get 100 "bids" a month, so I am burning through them. I asked the Guru helpdesk if I could link to my Elance profile to show my feedback and they said yes! That is good since I won't have to start from scratch building a reputation there.

Demand Studios - started turning in work on Monday and just got paid for my first article. These are simple to write but tracking down images takes a little time. The format for entering the articles on the site appears to have a couple of bugs (the bullet lists don't show up correctly), but nothing major. Just follow the Writer's Guide closely and you will be fine writing for this site.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Being responsible for what we say: Fredom of speech is not always cut and dry

We spend a lot of time here talking about our writing, specifically how to increase exposure and revenue. Today I am going to discuss our responsibility as writers whether we be freelancers, paid to write site users, or bloggers. Words are very powerful things as they have they have the ability to create images, shape opinions, deliver information, and uplift a person. They also have the ability to destroy a person.

Plenty of people are now aware of a certain situation which occurred on a paid to write site many of us are familiar with which surrounds, blogging, promotion, and quite frankly deliberate harm inflicted on another writer. No names nor links to any of this will be provided, but it is a prime example that we as writers in our zeal to up our personal brand and earnings need to be completely aware of who it is we deal with and how we look as a result of that. It is also a reminder about all that business about living in glass houses and throwing rocks and the such.

Suppose a person were to approach you saying they wanted to feature your article(s) on their blog or site to help promote your work. It would be flattering and exciting, no? What happens when that goes bad or they misrepresent their intentions? What happens when you aren't even asked and someone does this anyway?

In the case someone features your work with a byline and you can generate revenue with no negative imagery or words surrounding it, super! That is actually the norm, most people want to be courteous and cut deals where they give you a little something now in the hopes that later you may return the favor. We do that here even.

However in a recent case, a person simply chose a person whom the blogger viewed as living a life against "someones" own moral code. A scathing personal attack was written and then the person seemingly unsatisfied sought to share that attack within the community they both are active writing members within. The unsuspecting person was painted as an immoral seductress with overtones she may even do this regarding children which was patently false. She neither informed the person this would be done, cited the persons work in a manner in which a reader could easily find it (That means no link to it), and further did not allow the person to respond in the blog via comments. She simply deleted them if we are to believe what the person attacked stated.

Right away we all think the same thing hopefully which is in the following order:

1. "That is wrong from a decency standpoint."
2. "A person should be allowed to defend them self where they are attacked."
3. "There is the 1st Amendment thing."

On points one and two the emphatic answer is yes. On point three the answer is not so much as you think. If you post something, even in the name of "citizen journalism" you are still held to certain legal standards. Of course defamation of character is an issue, and bloggers are finding they are losing lawsuits over this left and right these days. Don't think so? Google "Sued bloggers", "Blogger lawsuits", or some variation of that and watch the pages of results scroll by.

If you choose to be, and I will be blunt here so cover any virgin ears, an asshole, and trash people in your blogs, articles, or even forum posts, you are leaving yourself in an actionable position. You have in effect attacked a persons character and perhaps even jeopardized their ability to function reasonably in society regarding any number of issues like housing, their career, their family relations, and issues too numerous to list fully.

You can reasonably criticize a persons work if you are discussing their writing. Hell you can trash their writing ability all you want. It is when you cross over to personal attacks, veiled or not, in which you are now held to a different standard.

An example is in 2002 a post appeared on a blog in which a person was cited by name in which a blogger called a person an incompetent hack and then intimated the person was...in kind words a homosexual. They did this on several blogs and forums. Big deal you say? For the accussed it was. He was not homosexual, but he was an active duty member of the military. He was unaware the posts existed. In late 2003 when re-enlisting a routine security clearance check was conducted by ENTAC and SBI. Both found that post during their investigation, they can do that when they literally get thousands of dollars to conduct each check.

The person cited in the blog was not only denied re-emlistment after almost 16 years of honorable service, but was brought to trial under the UCMJ which is much stricter and has far looser standards of proof regarding this offense; basically they can find guilt based on "It sounds reasonable/probable" with no hard evidence. He was then kicked out under other than honorable conditions and left to fend in the world without his pension, and with that stigma attached to him forever.

During trial, the posts came into his custody as a part of the hearing. It wound up being a person he minimally knew who simply had an axe to grind. He sued in civil court and won. The person had no money or assets to cover the judgment. Vindicated to some degree the person in question tried to clean their military record of this and re-enter the service so he may finally finish his time and retire. He was denied. His life was destroyed by a person that wrote defamatory posts about him just to be spiteful.

So what is the point of all this? Pay attention to what you write. Pay attention to the blogs you link to and help promote. If someone offers to promote you on their site or blog, actually go look at it. Read what they have done in the past. Investigate the person them self, and go with your gut instinct if it seems even a little bit fishy. Make sure that no matter what is posted you have the ability to respond directly and publicly, not through some third party.

Just as the links in our articles are judged by their associations, we as writers and people are judged by ours as well. The difference is a bad link can be easily corrected and pushed out of sight. As people, a bad association is far less understandable, far harder to forget or forgive, and far more damaging both personally and professionally.

Just think in the case of the above soldier and how a simple post on a blog from a person he barely knew ruined his career. As a freelancer we are judged by where we live on the web. We are dealing with web savvy people for the most part. Don't get fooled into thinking that if you freely associate with people who do nasty things to others, that you may not be judged the same even if you don't.

It is not only poor form as a person, but can damage your earning ability and standing in the writing community. Nobody wants to risk working with a person that has a reputation for that type of work or those who identify them self to those people. While it is a shame something happened to prompt the need for this discussion that damaged another writer's reputation, it is something we need to be aware of.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Tweet, Tweet!

It is a new world out there with social media sites and not just fun only. One of the fastest growing and nearly mentioned everywhere is Twitter. From Larry King to Allure Magazine to endless corporations all seem to have an address on this social networking site, so there must be something to it.

You too can be a part of Twitter. But is there any potential for using Twitter as a writer’s tool? Twitter can be found at http://www.twitter.com/ and should be considered as a mini blogging tool. The service is free and you are allowed to enter a series of small text entries (140 characters), known as tweets.

The basis of your posts can be interactive with other users.You can create your brief biography, customize a background, add an image and link to your blog. It is a good idea to follow along and watch others when you start out. Then tweet away, as tweets will announce you, your ideas and projects.

Make the most out of your tweeting experience with the following tips. They should help you succeed in your quest of conquering the masses on Twitter.

1. Join the conversation and build relationships. If you are a travel writer, fashion writer, techie; follow those in the industry and send a request to follow you. They often tweet the latest and you can get first dibs on any story lines. Head straight to @freelance_jobs, @journalismjobs, @media_pros and @mediabistrobs and follow them immediately.

2. If you need assistance on something, tweet your question. Tweeting often leads to response tweets from your followers offering helpful suggestions and links to other resources. Writing is no longer a lonely profession.

3. Twitter Feed is used by Twitter users to broadcast writing gigs. The search engine at the bottom of the Twitter screen is the place to visit. Enter into search writer, freelance writer, blogger, etc, and see what comes up. Your next gig may be a click away especially perspective client is tweeting about job listings.

4. Post links to your latest work, Helium zone, blog or anything that helps promote you and your writing. Offer help and answer questions related to your level of expertise. Always respond to anything addressed to you.

5. This one will sound pushy, but as you gain more followers, just ask for a job. Begin to send your portfolio or website to all potential clients. You can establish your expertise with them and stand out from the crowd.

Are you a twitter and actively use it to promote your writing?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Common sense when using adsense

Today we need to talk about something everyone needs to know about these days both for ourselves and for clients which is properly using google adsense to make money. Everyone should be familiar with the rules regarding spamming and fun things like that so I am going to skip over that. If you don't know their policy concerning that just ask and you'll get plenty of answers from the fine folks here. Also I'm skipping the how adsense technically pays part, as I get long winded anyway, again if you need to know, just ask.

The biggest misconception people have when using adsense most times is that it is worthwhile to chase down the keywords and phrases that carry the biggest price tag or cost per click. Everyone has seen plenty of stories floating around where someone testifies "I made $6,731.14 in one day on adsense writing about "selling structured settlements" (Which incidentally has or recently had a cost per click of $64.81 cents), or some similar claim. Is it true?

In some cases it can be true, however that is like catching lightning in a bottle. It is like posting an article to one of those communities like reddit and having it go viral. It does happen, it just doesn't happen anywhere near as much as people wish it did. If it was that easy we all have mansions and a pool boy name Pogo fanning us with palm leaves while we sipped frozen adult beverages and discussed the decline of Hollywood films with a topless Anjelina Jolie. Insert Brad Pitt and make him bottomless if that works better for you, we're open minded here.

The question is if the keyword is that expensive, why not pursue the big bucks using it? There are two very big reasons for that:

1. Everyone that can do a google search knows it is worth that much and chases it down looking for the huge payday.
2. Because everyone is doing that, and it really isn't that common a search phrase, your odds of getting a hit are a joke.

The hairy details are that phrase is so under searched that it only averages 0.1 clicks per day. That in reality means the phrase pays out once every ten days, or 36.5 times per year. What do you think your honest odds are of getting a piece of that pie without getting hit for click fraud, believe me they will check, especially if you are set to get paid on it a couple times a year. It's just that unusual.

On the other hand truly profitable keywords are far more common but they fall into two categories:

1. Fairly high cost per click, but somewhat reasonable to chase
2. Low (by the the $64.81 high standard) and very reasonable to chase

An example of a category one phrase is "insurance." That word has a cost per click of $17.41. That sounds great, but again, how many times do you see that word each day if you regularly cruise the web? Enough to barf up a lung. The odds are that you wont get a click per day, but maybe one every two weeks if you're lucky. At that rate you can potentially make around $450 annually. Will you? Probably not, that is why the big word potential is in there. If you have a huge traffic blog or site, you could make far more, potentially.

"Insurance" gets about 49,900 clicks per day. You have to figure out in your mind how big a slice of that pie you really think you can grab when considering it against ALL the google adsense accounts targeting it. It pays over $17.00 so you know it is going to be highly sought after by tons of writers.

Lets look at a category two example like the keyword "free." Free gets tossed around all the time, but you'll see it is hardly free at a cost per click of $1.06. Here's what makes this a better word to pursue than insurance- it does more than triple the hits per day at 172,680.5. On average it pays out $183,041.33 while "insurance" pays out $868, 645.81 per day on average.

Now before you say "Hey Mandy, are you rocking the ganja? The math doesn't add up!" take off your school math cap and try on your web browser hat. If you open two articles randomly on the web and one has the keyword for insurance, given how often you see it, how likely are you to click on it? More than likely not much at all which is a part of why the clicks for that have to pay more. It is a word we have unconsciously added to our mental ignore list so the demand to get clicks on it carries a higher payout. It's hard to get people to want to click on that word.

On the other hand, if you see the word "free" how likely are you to at least give it a shot out of curiosity? The odds are pretty good because we all like free stuff regardless of the economy. As such, it can pay much lower because it is going to get far more clicks. You don't have to twist arms to give stuff away as much as to get them to read about insurance. Make sense?

But what about the math? If "insurance pays so much more than "free" isn't it worth chasing? Not really. People that make money on adsense that don't have high ranking sites and blogs literally doing thousands of hits per day just don't draw enough attention to make it feasible. In a sense you need to chase quantity over quality. You can be the K-Mart of adsense and make money rather than trying to be the Tiffanys and spend all your energy chasing it.

With all that said and done what does it mean for you? It means be reasonable. The most expensive adsense words in some cases don't even get hit enough to pay out everyday in some cases. Why kill yourself chasing them like Moby Dick? Scale down and look at words in the $0.50 to $1.00 range and aim for lots of small regular hits. Realize it is better to grab those little hits you can snatch everyday than it is to go for the big boys. It is easier to make $2/day on several low paying words people really click on than it is to make $15 on one word per week.

Also remember that the prices can fluctuate rapidly at or near the top. In instances where a phrase winds up in the news like "mesothelioma" the vast amount of people searching to see if they can jump on a lawsuit can devalue the word in the bat of an eye. The other piece of bad news is even with that increase in traffic, your odds of working it into something, getting page rank to grab readers, and then getting clicks is negligible. The little words stay consistent.

In summation, less is more! If you want to know the ten most potentially profitable (not expensive, but profitable adsense keywords), read this gratuitously placed link because I'm too lazy to copy it over here and I've already used up a pile space!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

To Diversify or Not to Diversify, That is the Question

A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others.
William Faulkner (1897-1962)

Many so called "experts" will argue that you can only write about what you experience or know first hand. However, with a wealth of research tools out there, a good writer can write about almost anything.

Blogger to magazine writers to authors of books never
seem come to a consensus of which works better; focusing in one area or diversifying in many subjects. Finding the right niche can offer you a success in writing, depending on the subject matter. But opting for diversification, it will open up more gigs for you.

Which ever you decide upon, remain versatile.

If you feel uncomfortable to venture in other areas, focus in a general area but move out a little in style and spin a new thread to your topic and writing abilities.

There are several advantages to having a specialty. By developing an expertise in a particular area and you will be in demand and your rates can increase. You expertise should have adequate demand. Google certain key words to obtain an idea is the competition is fierce or not.

The downside towards writing only about what you already have experienced is boredom. There may be numerous ways to write about toilet paper but after thousand and one times, the subject becomes stale and originality begins to wane. Sometimes you may find there is no market for your niche.

On a personal level, diversification is where it is at for me, although I have certain niches I tend to cling to. Declining an assignment or project that is offered just because I have never written about before is not in my DNA. "I’m just a girl who just can say no."

However, I must be honest with the client in advance so there are no misunderstandings if the work gets rejected. In a positive manner, I will also request their opinion on how the topic should be handled. If I never took a chance away from print, I would never have learned how to use Word Press, Blogger and other web software; thus giving me a more competitive edge.

Adapt to the voice of the editor or client of what they specifically are seeking. Do not write as a liberal if the publication or website has a conservative or spiritual tone. You will soon be able to adjust to their vision.

What option will you choose; diversifying or specializing?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

So You Think You Can Write (A writers view of getting started)

Wow, I have been asking myself that question for some time. Talk about jumping into the fire with both feet planted on hot ground. OUCH!!! I think I burned myself.

There are so many different ways to approach Freelance Writing for a living and all of them require taking the time to know your level of writing skills. This involves implementing all those English classes, Writing classes and Spelling classes you took in school. Who the heck is going to hire you, if you don't know how to put sentences together and accurately at that! You might have an award winning Pulitzer Article, (I can dream) but unless you know how to pull it together it's going to sit on the shelf collecting dust. You wont be hired if you can't back up your pen's writing skills. Metaphorical pen here folks or literal whichever you use.

Okay, so I can write but what quality of writing am I putting out there? I mean my skills are pretty much limited to the mere basics of writing, included but not limited to Creative Writing. Does that qualify me as freelance writing worthy? Egad, thank goodness for my understanding editor and writing instructor supremeo (yes, I said supremeo) boss lady!

The desire and passion is there, so there's kindling waiting to be lit. I have accumulated knowledge on a plethora of subjects, so I write about different topics. I have the determination to see projects through, so I'm trustworthy. I guess it comes down to the quality of my work.

What to do? Well if I'm going to declare myself a freelance writer and I'm lacking in writing ability, then I suppose I could take night courses that will eventually hone my skills as a quality writer. Then perhaps I could seek out small projects to bid on, something that doesn't require a thousand plus words in the beginning. Maybe I could hire an editor, who has the patience of Job, to proofread and direct me in my weak areas of writing. I mean I want to always offer my best. The goal is to get the writing job.

Back to my statement, "So You Think You Can Write". Yes, I can write, but I need to work on the quality of work I'm putting out there. The freelance writing world is competitive. I need to be at the top of my game.

So to all you other freelance writers, struggling to get good writing gigs, ask yourself the same question and honestly explore the answer. Do what needs to be done to hone your skills as a freelance writer.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Freelance Writer Contracts, Continued

Here is the aforementioned post on contracts, as per Daisy:

Here's a question that I have been kicking around for a while and I would like
to hear some opinions from the other writers here.

Do you peeps have a
favorite contract template? I haven't found one I like yet. The versions on
Elance are too wordy (4-11 pages) and are skewed toward the buyer's interests.
For projects under $1,000 a contract of more than 1-2 pages is simply not a
feasible option.

I have a lot of experience negotiating contracts in my
Purchasing job so I figure I will put together my own eventually. Maybe we can
put our heads together and brainstorm a simple freelance writer contract that
everyone can customize to their own needs.

Let me know who wants in on
this and we can start kicking around requirements and suggestions for a sample
contract in the comments section.


And the contract later posted:

Daisy said...
OK, sorry for being so late. Here is a sample of the work
terms I created for my Guru profile. This is the short version since I ran way
over the character limit with my original version. I guess shorter is better
anyway. Here goes:

We accept payment via ________. Buyers can pay upon
completion for projects under $_____.

Communication - We will
communicate with you regularly and respond to your inquiries via email within 1
business day (CST).

Delivery Schedule - For escrow projects, work begins
when the appropriate milestone has been funded. Please fund promptly to avoid

Revision - We consider a revision to be alteration of up to 20%
of content. 1 revision is offered free of charge for each of the first two
articles we write for you. Ebooks often include additional revisions in the bid

Rewrite - This is an extensive revision (such as 50% of content).
In the unlikely event that you require us to rewrite the content we submit to
you, this will incur a surcharge. You can avoid the need for rewrites by
providing clear and accurate instructions at the outset of each project.

Attribution/Byline - We offer discounted pricing to buyers who allow us
to publish work under our own names. This builds our web presence and makes it
easy to point future clients to online examples of our writing.

Copyright - If you are purchasing all rights to the work we submit, we
will not create a sample from the end product to post in our portfolio without
your specific permission.

Feedback - Your satisfaction is our highest
priority. The final feedback you leave on ____ has a huge impact on our
potential for growth. We also appreciate your endorsement since it helps us
build our business.

More thoughts and input? let us know how you worded your last project, and why!

Freelance Writer's Update

And here I am! I've been writing furiously, trying to meet deadlines and take care of my lil chilluns - all three of which have birthdays! Vivien Grace turned 10 on the 10th, Duncan Ray is 2 today (the 11th) and Chane Delaney turns 8 next week on the 18th. Yes. You counted on your fingers correctly. August in Texas is very, very hot, and an air conditioned bedroom is quite inviting! :)

Anyhoo. Here, albeit belatedly (this is my blog and I can use all the ten dollar words I want), is the update I promised. This past month the Hack Writers' Guild has featured a lot of wonderful posts!

In alphabetical order by first name, we seem to have quite a following already: The Baseball Goddess (our own outrageous Mandy); Daisy McCarty (my sis); Diane Quinn; Isabelle (Belle Starr); Jim Bessey; Kim Leah, Kristina (who just landed a VERY lucrative project - go Kristina!!); Lynn C; Margaret Merrill; Melissa Bickel (Missy, our creative writer and poet); Molly O'Shea, Shelley (who was just accepted by Demand Studios - Yay Shelley!) and Veronica, who posts to the blog every week faithfully and with excellent posts that make me VERY grateful to have her here with us! (Thanks, Veronica!!)

I see Alex, Carolina, Conny, Dawn and Leigh peeking around the corner - we will lure them in yet.

In recap: we have hammered home some points on the origin of the name of the Hack Writers' Guild, how to be a hack, getting started as a part-time writer, learning SEO, rules for writing 'good', when to break the rules, good freelance sites to find gigs at, how to frame a successful bid, finding a freelance writing project made for YOU, how to wease the link juice (thank you, Mandy and Pauly Shore), creative writing (from our resident poet, Missy), and sptting freelance writing scams.

The one post I want to pull up to the front so we can continue discussion is the contract writing one Daisy started, as this is VERY important. It will be repeated along with the pertinent info from the comments for the next post.

Thanks to every one who is contributing to this blog! We hope it will become a haven and resource for budding freelanceers from all walks.



Thursday, May 7, 2009

General Rules for Spotting a Scam

Sometimes writers become complacent and make the classic mistake of 'putting all their eggs in one basket.'

As a freelancer, an important rule of thumb is that nothing is permanent. Easily something can happen to the longevity of any assignment, whether through a change of management or a complete shut down.

This is not the time to panic, but carefully seek out other writing options as discussed in Hack Writers´ Guild. Even though you may be out of your comfort zone applying for new assignments; the good new is many editors are seeking fresh talent.

At times like these, it is easy to become more trusting and develop a "take a chance" attitude. The economic downturn breeds a feeding frenzy of scams geared towards writers. Many writers can easily become ripe for scams and cons out of sheer desperation. Now is the time you should be even more vigilant of who you are doing business with.

Don’t get caught in such webs of deceit.

Request free samples:

Unpaid writing samples are often a way for unscrupulous website owners to get free content. Almost any client should be happy to review previously published work as samples of your talent. If they request a short sample of thirty words to see if you meet their style in a particular subject matter, that is fine. Anything more requested is working for nothing.

Asking for money to set you up:

The basic principle of any job is that the employer pays the employee, not the other way around.
The potential employer’s websites can not be found:

Check the validity of their contact details and/or website. If the information given to you does not exist, it is certain neither does a legitimate job.

Will not discuss rates upfront and wants to negotiate:

This is not a Middle Eastern Bazaar: Get a firm offer and contract.

An ad states that a book publisher is seeking to publish first-time authors:

Established and legitimate publishers rarely take manuscripts from novices or unknowns. Many work through literary agents only. All though self publishing companies do accept unpublished authors, you may be responsible for printing costs and additional expenses. In other words, know all the details before signing any contracts.

If your intuition suggests something is amiss; just decline the offer:

With experience, you will be able to distinguish between the legit and scam offers. But even if everything seems on the up and up, you can still be taken advantage of with low payers. Know you worth. 1000 words for $2.00 is not the way to go with your experience.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Thanks for the great advice so far!

Thanks to my new friends here on this blog, I now have a functional profile at Elance (user name Skishpaugh if anyone wants to look at it and give me feedback). I also put together a resume (thanks a ton to Kristina for all of her patient hand-holding on this) and just received an email that I have been accepted at Demand Studios!

I am rather excited to spend the weekend learning how to navigate these sites and will be putting some plan of action together for next week. I am certain I will soon have a million more questions, but I wanted to throw an update in here to let everyone know that this blog has already been extremely helpful to me, and I look forward to learning more from you wise people in the future.

Thanks a bunch!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Creative Writing - What's your motive?

First of all I'd like to state that if you are considering or exploring the idea of becoming a Creative Writer, do it because it's a passion and not because of money. The true fact is folks, you'll never get rich being a "Creative Writer". Well, unless you write an instant hit like Harry Potter.

Most well known writers became famous first and foremost by word of mouth recognition. Someone liked what they read and passed on the information. Getting your name out there is the key. Good recommendations, mean great word of mouth, equaling free publicity!

Creative writing encompasses many genres, such as short stories, poetry, memoirs, reflections, satire and humor, so know which genre you are good at. You might be good at writing short stories, but you find your poetry draws the most recognition. Establish your name in poetry first, then pursue short story writing as a secondary genre.

It's important to know about the creative genre you've chosen. If you don't understand the principles of that genre, how do you expect your viewing audience to understand or even like what you are doing? Take classes, read information, read others works and do writing exercises. We all begin at the lower end of the totem pole.

Remember not everyone will like what you write! Everyone's taste varies, so don't be shocked if you hear negative things. Use the negative as a honing tool to sharpen quality writing skills. There is always something you can improve on. Even if you are writing for yourself, keep in mind you want to do the best you can. Have pride in your writings.

Okay, so here's the low down. Creative Writers don't get rich quick, don't expect over night success. Get your name out there first before you even consider making money. Your name is what is valuable in the writing community. Use negative feedback as your guide to improve weak areas of writing.

In life first we stumble about, then our steps become less wobbly and then finally we walk on stable ground because we've become familiar with our surroundings. This is the way of the creative writing world. Passion for writing and baby steps first.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

How to wease the juice -Linking explained

Let me begin by saying anytime you have the opportunity to reference Pauley Shore you should. Pauley nearly made a career out of one simple catchphrase. "No weasing the juice!" As writers we are looking for a different type of juice than he was, and in order to keep your online portfolio earning you have to wease the juice, the link juice that is.

What is link juice? Aside from the quality of your work it is just about the most important thing you have to get your work to the top of google, yahoo, and the myriad of search engines floating around in the vast emptiness of cyberspace. Link juice is no specific formula per se, but it has certain characteristics making it up that need to examined and then employed. What we're going to look at today is what type of links are out there, how they help you, and how they can hurt you as well. Not all linking is good.

Give some of this a second to sink in, at points it will have to skip around in order to get everything in without turning into a pdf you need to read a chapter at a time. This is the crash course!

First we have internal links. An example of an internal link would be if I placed a link right here that led to another post on this blog. On it's own that doesn't do a heck of a lot for search engine rankings. If however 4 or 5 posts link back to that same post from within this larger blog, that raises the relevance of that post. Spiders notice that sort of thing and take note. Suddenly they identify that as a valuable page. The trick is that each of those links back has to actually be relevant. You can't just throw links out there for the sake of it and expect to hit pay dirt.

Next we have external incoming links, and these come in two flavors: Reciprocating and non reciprocating. A reciprocating link is good, it carries value if you share related information. A non-reciprocating link that just leads to your work and does not travel back to the referring source is even better. That is the gold standard of links. That tells the search engines that what you have on the page is of such value, other people are sourcing it without "compensation."

Finally there are outgoing links. Some people say these carry zero value except to the site you have linked to, but again...people are just wrong! Those web spiders are hungry critters and they love crawling around in your articles and checking out what you have linked to. When you link relevant hub pages they go into an orgiastic feasting mode! Okay not really, but they do nibble and although this isn't the best way to fill your glass with link juice it sure is a nice easy way to top it off.

Since we aren't going to get into begging people for external links, or raising your blogs search value by 1 position over several months, let's look at what we can control immediately, outgoing links in our articles.

If you spend some time strolling around blogs and paid to write sites you'll notice something right away -- People love cramming outgoing links into their articles. Some people have a link for nearly every line it seems like sometimes. Most of the time their general idea is the more links the better. In honesty the opposite is the truth, it isn't quantity, it's all about the quality.

Rather than trash someone by linking an example of this type of article, let me give you an idea of bad linking. You happen upon an article and suddenly see maybe 6 or 7 links on the first page. Curiosity gets the best of many of us so we click just to see what it's all about. Where do they links go? They go to wikipedia, maybe an affiliate link or two, some blog that nobody has ever heard of which is marginally related to the topic. You get the idea.

Why is that bad though? If it helps inform the reader isn't that a good thing? Isn't that our true aim? Here's the thing, yes and no. Yes it's nice to give the reader more information, no it isn't good to go overboard with it. For one thing, too many links looks like crap. A second thing is the more links you place the higher the odds are someone will abandon your article/post for what one of those links has to offer. Finally it looks lazy. It's like saying "There is plenty of info out there you should know about, but I don't care enough to give it to you- get it yourself."

A well placed outgoing link has specific characteristics as does a bad one.

1. The link is going somewhere that is definitely related to the article being written. If you write an article about Shania Twain for example and link "Music Video" and it goes to a video of hers on youtube, that is good.
2. The link goes to a site that already has a good strong search page ranking. Again, youtube, facebook, myspace, flickr, twitter --all potentially good stuff.
3. It is not a pay per click or affiliate link. The spiders hate this and throw up when they nibble them. These links actually knock you down in the search rankings. The more of them you have the worse it is, and anything that links to you takes a hit as well. These are bad juju all around. (The only exception is if you personally host the affiliate software, then those will help your popularity, but let's be honest, are you really willing to slave your computer to a corporation?)
4. Anything that goes to a link exchange or farm is bad. These tank your rankings in a heartbeat.

Again, external links aren't going to make a night and day difference, they are the sprinkles on top of the sundae when they are good. When they are bad, it's like dropping your sundae on the ground before you had your first bite. Realize not all sites that have strong page rank have equal juice, wikipedia is for the most part considered a joke by the spiders, they actually pee a little when they see you link to it because they laugh so hard.

So what do we need to know about linking if you were going to give this a whirl on your blog or a paid to write site right now? We know more is worse for one thing. Too many links give the spiders a bellyache and they leave. A good rule of thumb is that in a 600 word article 3 outgoing links is more than enough. Anything beyond that is really beating a dead horse. The only reason you will even see people actually ask for more is that for a week or so link spamming can provide something like a sugar rush with an ugly crash.

The reputation of the source you are linking to does matter! Wikipedia or any site that has a reputation for crap no matter how high they appear will rain on your parade. Search engines do assign "adjusted page values" for sites that have high hits but really bad content. When you willingly place an outgoing link to someone, you have just linked yourself to them forever. Even if you edit it out later, it is still living on in cache land. You can find yourself appearing on search results as "related to _____"

The perfect example is this:

You are writing an article on racist online organizations. You provide a link to one of those sites to highlight your point. You may think that innocent link to highlight an example of a hate organization is okay, and your readers will understand what you are doing. The spiders that regurgitate their findings to search engine monster will not. They just see it as a related link and suddenly you show up on searches related to that specific organization, and further down to the ones they are related to as well. It's kinda like that thing about how when you sleep with someone you are sleeping with everyone they ever slept with too. That may not always be desirable.

In loose terms, it takes 3 good outgoing links to equal the value of 1 good incoming reciprocating link. It in turns takes 3 good reciprocating links to equal one good non-reciprocating incoming link. That means at it's best, 1 good outgoing link carries the value of 1/3 of a good non-reciprocating incoming link. 1 good outgoing link is therefore no more valuable than 1/9 of a good non-reciprocating incoming link.

So what does that math mean to you toady? Well....If your article is #100 on google right now, adding a good outgoing link might move you to #96 in about a week to ten days ASSUMING nothing else in the top 100 changes a single bit. The farther down the rankings you are the more it can POTENTIALLY help. If you're at #10 already, it will likely do next to nothing for you. If that seems worth it to you, knock yourself out. If not it's understandable. Outgoing links help the most when they are in your ORIGINAL posting, adding them after the fact carries less weight.

Just remember this, no matter how good your links are, if the work they go to or come from stinks they mean nothing. Anyone can get a jump start for a few hours or even a day before fading to oblivion. Strong work with strong links and good SMO equals good SEO. It all goes hand in hand. The links we associate to are like our friends, people and search engines judge us by the company we keep.

Buy a Pauley Shore movie, the dude can use the money.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Finding the Right Freelance Project

I joined Elance in January and found it a bit (okay, more than a bit) intimidating because I had way more questions than answers. After reading through countless forums, nagging SG, and absorbing as much information as possible, I gave it a go. It sounds like a few of you have the same questions I had; this post will, hopefully, offer some insight into finding (and landing) the right project.

When you begin scanning through the posted projects (on Elance, Guru, wherever), it can be overwhelming. There are hundreds of projects and you can only place so many bids. So, how do you narrow it down?

1. Find your niche. Is there a topic that you know well? A topic that you know inside out and backwards? Is there a specific writing style/format that you are most comfortable with?

For example, maybe you regularly blog about knitting chinchilla fur into baseball caps. There you have 5 niches already: blogging, knitting, small furry creatures, baseball, and apparel. Do you see any projects that may benefit from your knowledge on said topics/styles?

2. Decide whether the project poster and rate sound reasonable.
If you see a project like this:

“I want 500 articles written within 2 days. They must be high quality with prefect sppeelling (and I check this, I am a writer to you no). I am willing to pay $2 per 1000 word article. I need them all by tomorrow night. If you don’t have a PhD in Engineering, do not bid. This is an easy job for anyone who isn’t a moron.”


3. Okay, so you have found something that looks reasonable. Finally, you’ve been searching forever! Maybe it says something like this:

“Hi, I need (5) 500 word articles for my website. The topics are: 1) the health benefits of knitting, 2) the coolest thing about chinchilla fur, 3) what’s so great about baseball? 4) how to make your own hats, 5) blogging about knitting chinchilla fur into baseball caps. Please let me know your rate per article and an approximate delivery date. I’d like to have them within 2 weeks if possible. Thank you!”

You know it’s the perfect project. You can feel it in your tummy; it’s so yours. And then you ask yourself, “Um, what is my rate per article?” If you haven’t yet set your rates, look at the poster’s project history. If you see that he usually awards similar articles for $12 each, charge something similar if you feel it is reasonable for the amount of work/time it will take.

4. Check the poster’s feedback while you’re digging through the previous projects. If you see lots of feedback like this:

“This is the WORST Buyer I have ever worked for! He told me that I write like a first grader (I’m an English teacher!) and then he didn’t pay me for 3 months after requesting 6000 revisions.” (My example lacks the eloquence of a real English teacher.)

RUN. Better luck next time!

If you see lots of this:
“I really enjoyed completing this project for BaseballChinchillasR’Us. Clear guidelines and communication with prompt payment!”

Move on to Step 5.

5. Write a winning proposal. One of the big “no-no’s” of proposal writing is a “boilerplate” bid. You don’t want to send the same cookie cutter bid to every project. Here is an example of a no-no:

"Hire BoboBloggers International for your project! We specialize in blogging! You should hire BoBoBloggers International! We write web content! You can see samples of our awesome content at: we’renotverygoodatwritingproposals.com."

Write a proposal that specifically focuses on their project. You want to show them why they should hire you instead of one of the other twenty providers who placed a bid. Show whatever it is that sets you apart from the rest (think Grace’s proposal that included her personal background that was relevant to the topic).

Attach samples of your writing that are relevant to the topic. If you don’t have anything that’s relevant, write something up! Just make sure that the sample isn’t something they could use for the actual job you’re trying to get. And if they ask you for a sample written specifically for the job—don’t do it! (More on that some other time).

6. Have a little faith in yourself.

Don’t apologize for being new—show them why that doesn’t matter! “Although I am new to (insert site), I have written (this and that) for (this long).”

7. Jump up and down and scream when you win your first project. Then come tell us and ask a bunch of questions that I can’t answer (but someone else can).

There are many more questions and issues to cover, so maybe someone else can jump in and offer some more insight into the world o’ freelance bidding.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Bidding for Freelance Jobs

You've done it. You've signed up at the freelance site, cobbled together a bio and found a job you'd like to bid on.

How do you convince the buyer that you are the best person for the job?

First you need to ascertain what the buyer really needs, so look at their request and run it by a few colleagues to compare notes and get an idea of how long it will take you and what skills you will need to complete the job.

Frame your proposal in a professional manner that still lets the buyer know you will give your personal attention to the project. I start my bids on Elance like this:


Grace here.

Next, list why you think you would be a good fit for the job:

I provide strong SEO content that is keyword rich without feeling stuffed. Your project is a good fit for my talents as I notice you have also requested experience in the home improvement industry; I and my husband run a small flooring/remodeling business so I have hands on knowledge of the field and can write articulately on the topic.

Point to work you have done, if possible - many freelance sites forbid providing a brand new sample to cut down on buyers cheating providers and stealing work, so I either show a sample doc which I have rights to (or permission to show), or I write a sample, publish it on an article site such as Helium and point to it via URL:

Here is a sample of my work that showcases my skill and my expertise. I am happy to show more samples if desired. I provide only 100% original content; all my work will pass copyscape or any other plagiarism checking program you may wish to use.

Last, give your references:

Please view my profile to see my solid repeat customer base and 100% positive feedback - personal references also available upon request.

Quote your price and timeframe for completion, along with any other terms:

I charge $15 per article for SEO articles up to 300 words, and can deliver ten within ten days time. I provide one article within 48 hours of escrow being funded, to ascertain the direction is correct, and the rest by the end of the project. Copyright is released as soon as escrow is released in full.

I am bidding $150 for ten articles, full amount to be escrowed and 25% to be released upon acceptance of first article. I am setting a project timeframe of two weeks to allow for communication.

Close politely:

Thank you for taking the time to consider my proposal. Please feel free to contact me with any changes to the scope of the project or questions about my bid. I look forward to working with you!


You really can't go wrong wth a proposal like this. You come off as professional, accustomed to doing business, and not to be pushed around - yet not arrogant ro assuming.

If you are brand new, be frank.

I am new to the Elance system, but have samples of my work at (list portfolios) and am willing to give a 10% discount to my first five clients at Elance to establish myself as a premier provider.

I hope these tips help. I have a fairly high award rate of between 20% and 40%, and a repeat customer ratio of 45% (60% of my earnings so far have been from repeat customers).

Thanks for reading! (Oh - and I was awarded the job.)


Looking for Gigs in All the Right Places.

Many newbie’s are intimidated to undertake and seek new venues for their writing talent. What is the worst that can happen when you send out a query and apply for a writing job? Either yes or no answer at all .

If you do not get a job, keep seeking and applying. It has been estimated that over 100,000 articles are needed in a day for the web alone. With figures like that only means that there are plenty of opportunities out there for all writers.

Apply for positions that use one or two of your strongers niches at first. As you obtain more jobs and experience, then venture your writing ability to other areas of interest.

Ok, you are probably thinking, "Where do I look or find work?"

Try a few of the sources listed here for starters.

Set some time to go through each of them and bookmark what you feel will work best for you. Just think, these 10 job sites are free; so take a look, apply and you may be working as soon as tomorrow.

1) On-Line-Writing Jobs – They pull from Craig’s List but it certainly makes it a lot easier rather then bouncing from city to city on Craig’s List. The site is updated several times a day and shows the number of hits.

2) Freelance Writing Gigs - Run by Deb Ng, a freelancer and blogger who has done it all and seen it all. Her developed site gets better by listing the best jobs of the day from other sites.

3) All Freelance Writing - This site offers a short list but will be available as soon as you wake up in the morning.

4) Media Bistro – A full spectrum of job listings pertaining to the media can be found here with a free registration.

5) About Freelance Writing - This site is offered on behalf of veteran, Anne Wayman. She lists new jobs on Mon, Wed and Fri.

6) Journalism Jobs – Occasionally a good freelance telecommuting writing position happens here.

7) Indeed – Search your niche (freelance writer, blogger, travel writer, etc) and something may crop up that fits to a tee.

8) Pro Blogger – If blogging is your thing, this daily site is the one to check.

9) Poe War – Offers writing job postings infrequently but when they do, you won’t want to miss these.

10) University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism - You can find a good variety of print and media writing jobs listed. No need to be a Berkeley grad to apply.

***This bonus resource will prove to be helpful, especially if you are seeking to get your writing into mainstream magazines:

Writing for Dollars – Dan Case provides a free weekly newsletter with a guideline database for high, medium and lower paying magazines. Sign up for the newsletter and copy these invaluable links onto your computer for future reference.

There are many more resources offering writing jobs. Utilize them by setting aside a certain time frame each day. Before you know it, it will be feast rather than famine with the number of jobs you are handling.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Where do we go from here?

Let's try this again!

Now that I've resurfaced from the bathroom with two of my closest friends, it's time to get down to business of a variety not typically done in bathrooms...though freelancers do make a point to mention that their work is portable...or potable, or....

Nevertheless, now it is time for me to move on to steps D through Z, so to speak. I have a few questions for all of you not-at-all-newbies to help those of us who are still really quite wet behind the ears.

First, what would you say the best sites for Freelance work are, and why? What ones should be avoided? What are the first steps one should take when venturing out into the realm of paid work? If you had to do it over again, what would you do and what would you not do when first starting out?

Many people mention Elance and I have begun to make an account there, but it wants blurbs about me and some keywords. Any tips for writing these? I'd imagine that a good balance between creative and professional is the goal here, but does anyone want to offer some basic direction?

After the account hurdle, what does a person need to know about successfully bidding on and landing work?

Also, since I am so new, I'd imagine that there are questions I should be asking, but have no idea that I should. So, if you have some other wisdom to impart for the rest of us, we'd all be eternally grateful.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Hey, there's a guy in the room!!

Someone gave me a key and let me in (Grace). Since then I've been hiding in the corner, trembling with shy reserve, afraid to step forward and introduce myself.

Hi, I'm Jim and I'm a writer. Sort of.

I hear all the ladies snickering, and see some of you reaching for your drinks or heading for the powder room in groups of three for safety.

I admit it: I'm not good enough to be called a Hack Writer. Yet.

I think too much about what I write, or about what I might write. I proofread and revise stuff that's perfectly okay the way it is. I worry that every one of you can write better and faster than I can, unless I try harder or steer away from dangerous topics.

I just read Mandy's introductory post and am now well aware of all the mistakes I've made in my writing "career." Hah.

What career? I've sold three articles for less than $200 all told. Still, that makes me a professional, doesn't it? Please tell me I don't have to give back the Key to the Guild. It's such a pretty key, and the company here is outstanding.

You know what I really love doing? "Taking in a moment." You probably can't earn a living writing about those perfect moments in life, unless you're one hell of a poet maybe. But that's my very favorite kind of writing; and finding a way to express the awe and magic of a still and starlit night and weave that into a useful article about the merits of RV camping (real example!) makes me at least feel like a decent writer.

I should have been a journalist. I've been a founding editor and an EIC for two academic publications; but that was years ago and I let the moment flash by me. God, how I loved deadlines and page design and working with writers!

I came to Helium nearly two years ago to try and recapture some of that magic. I've since written some things -- both fiction and non-fiction -- that make me proud. And I've met SO many wonderful writers! Many of you are right here, listed as contributors.

Will I ever be a full-time freelancer -- a dedicated and money-earning Hack? I sure hope so! I can't keep building and fixing things indefinitely. Sooner or later my knees will give out. I do know who to turn to for advice and guidance and friendship in that pursuit.


I'm honored to be counted among you, and thrilled to know each of you. And, no Grace, you cannot have this key back. It's mine, all mine!

Red heart atcha. ~Jim

Why you need to break the rules

Did you ever think of why it is not just a good idea but a necessity to break the rules now and then? I'm not talking about breaking the rules like putting your less than favored in-laws in the big Indiana Jones people cooking pot and making a stew, I mean the the general rules of writing to eran a living. How many have I broken in this first paragraph alone that you failed notice until prompted to look for them?

Get the garbage can size of coffee out, this could take awhile.....

All too often you are going to find that everyone has guidelines wherever you go to write. Publishers have word counts and all those fun things, pay to publish sites have their own preferences, and you'll even find people that will tell you there is a specific formula you must follow to be a successful blogger. The protocol extends all the way down to how much you "MUST" make on your work. Everyone has rules and every writer must follow them right? WRONG!

Let's start with the easiest thing which is how much you "HAVE" to get for your work. You see a site you think you would be perfect for but have no idea how to get started writing for them. This is the simplest and for some most painful thing to do-- JUST ASK! Offer to provide a free column once a month for say three months just to see how things work. Sure 80% will turn you down, but the 20% that say okay are a goldmine -even if you never get paid. Sounds nuts to break the rules and write for free, but here's why it's not:

1. You get a broader name recognition. This is your leverage in later jobs you want to land for the actual money. This is when that freebie work pays off. Sounds unlikely? Not really. You as a writer are a brand. When your are starting out you aren't Cheerios, you're more like those Costco Toasty Oats. Just because you start as Toasty Oats doesn't mean you can't become Cherrios. Any shopper can tell you which one costs more at the checkout.

2. Sometimes those unpaid gigs turn into paying gigs. Even when you don't get actual cash, you can still get paid. I know, you're wondering how that happens. How would you like getting free site memberships? How about going to the mail and every 4 or 5 days finding a free magazine subscription, free books, CD's, DVD's, and products from people that just want you to write a review. Maybe you do, maybe you don't, either way it is yours to do whatever you want with it. Some people...ahem...find those freebie jobs get them free passes to conferences, sporting events, and all sorts of neat little things. It may not be cash but it's nice.

The rule that you alaways have to get paid isn't necessarily true. just keep that in mind, and keep the amount of freebies you put out there to one site reasonable. 2 per month is not a bad number if you keep it under an hour of your time.

If you accept a job with guidelines, well tough luck, you're stuck. Not many rules you can break there. Do you know why you're stuck though? You're stuck because you didn't negotiate a deal advantageous to you from the get go. Here's the deal, and trust me this is true - A good writer has way more power than they think in many cases. Publishers are more than happy to ACT flippant and tell you they have plenty of options besides you (And if that were true why are there so many re-writing jobs out there?) for their assignments and that trying to negotiate a better deal is poor form. Rubbish on both counts.

Negotiating a better advance deal only aggravates SOME publishers because they quickly find out you are not going to be pushed around and pressured into doing constant re-writes and "side work" for free because you don't know better or are desperate. A perfect example of this is the article you submit to specs that comes back to you once for a slight tweak like adding maybe an extra 100-200 words not in the original deal. Then it comes back with the request you plug some more specific keywords in. Then it comes back asking you do "a little polishing" just to make it sound better. Ever have that happen? If you take enough jobs you have or you will.

How about those cases when you complete the writing assignment yet the balance of, or all funds if you accepted a rotten deal, are frozen until you place some links out there on the web, or write a little companion piece, "nothing big" they assure you, just a couple hundred words. Believe it or not it happens.

Break the "unwritten" rules and set your own rules when you deal with publishers. Will you lose some work? Sure you will, but think of it this way, the work you lose will be with the people you really don't want to work with. You can then focus on finding the good clients that will give you solid repeat business and not only be reasonable, but APPRECIATE you. Is that really a loss?

The next place to look at breaking rules is in your writing. Some people are going to tell you to never use contractions and to never write in the first person. If you happen to be writing a textbook, technical article, or a how to article (And even with those it can be a loose standard) then that is good advice. However for the bulk of your writing those things are perfectly acceptable. Let's use paid to write sites as an example here since they are broad in their offerings and see why blowing off those rules often works quite well.

1- If your style is naturally casual and conversational forcing yourself into an unnatural mold comes across in your writing. To be blunt your article will read like a bucket of suck. If you've ever tried to read a bucket of suck you get my drift. When you use the style you are comfortable in then your article flows better, it isn't so choppy, it isn't artificial, and it's actually easier to understand. Furthermore you never make the reader feel like you are trying to put on airs and show off. Arrogance does translate to the written word, and readers can pick up on it.

2- Sometimes contractions should be avoided, however most of the time they are perfectly acceptable. If Stephen Hawking can use them so can you, and he's a pretty smart guy. Why are contractions good? Again it is a matter of flow and style. Look at the following passages and see which you as a casual reader prefer.

A) I do not understand why it is often believed you cannot use contractions. It is not just my opinion, it is one many people share. In fact it is so common they are used in almost every genre you will ever read. Using these words is not a display of a lack of knowledge, nor is it it poor form. It is simply a means of expressing something differently.

B) I don't understand why it's often believed you can't use contractions. It's not just my opinion, it's one many people share. In fact it's so common they are used in almost every genre you will ever read. Using these words isn't a display of lack of knowledge nor is it poor form. It's simply a means of expressing something differently.

If you are writing your thesis the first paragraph is correct. If you are writing for the average reader the second is actually more effective. For one it is speaking to the reader in the language they most likely use. If a reader feels comfortable reading then they will continue reading. If they feel something is too stiff or may start flying over their head they move on. Pretty simple right? We all do this whether we realize it or not.

3- Know your audience and what method is the best to convey your point. Not everything can be written to effectively using an objective voice. In fact, in many cases trying to makes you look like an idiot. Some topics scream for the personal perspective. A favorite example of mine concerning this is the following:

Your assignment is to write about coping with the loss of a child. Seeing as there is no real manual for this, all you can do is offer first hand experience or re-tell someones experience in your own voice. Why is this true? A reader looking for something on that topic is most likely someone that just lost a child. They do not care to hear a clinical process of "follow steps 1-12" or read something which constantly says "some people find" , "It has been said you can..."or "Some experts say." They are looking for something real from someone that has been through it. They want to connect, they don't want to hear about what Dr. Blowhard in Dusseldorf said worked for 2 out of 8 patients he dealt with in the sping of 2004.

While you will be constantly told such articles written from the first person perspective do not sell and have a very limited audience I say hogwash! Pick up any major newspaper, go to the society page and count the first person articles everyday for a week. You will see my point. Pick up Cosmo or any parenting magazine for example and track those awhile and you'll see the same thing. Then consider why aside from the front page, sports, and the comics the two most read sections in a paper are the society page and op-ed section which are a hefty dose of people expressing opinions, telling stories, or offering reviews/local guides in the first person.

On two different paid to write sites, every month (aside from one of those weird ones where an article go nuts for no visible reason), my top 5, and 7 of my top ten earning articles are first person every month. Not just the last couple months, but for actual years. Better earners than #1 google ranking how to's, financial advice articles, technical articles, or anything else. Why is that? Because people identify to them, they read those multiple times, sometimes bookmark, and email them to others they think may enjoy them.

Think of it this way...Writing a great third person article on how to build a bunkbed may earn a couple bucks in page views every month which is nice, and that assumes it is great and top 5 on google at a minimum. Writing a great article on how to get your teen to do the laundry without being asked will earn even more. Which audience is bigger, people that need to build bunkbeds, or people that want their kids to do the laundry? What audience is looking for advice on the latter? Most likely regular moms at the end of their rope that will relate to another parent that can say "I did this and it worked!"

The point is you can follow the rules to the tee and let other people tell you how you should be writing, where you should be writing, and what you should be writing. You can make some money doing that and if it makes you happy fantabulous! There is another option which is you writing how you want, where you want, and about what you want. I won't lie, it usually takes longer to get going when you choose this route. When you do though, I am willing to bet you are happier and that because you are doing what you love your work will be better which in turn leads to earning more.

It's too radical to be true...I know...That ditzy broad flipped her wig again. It's okay to think that. Just remember this -- there are countless writers that can follow a formula, there is only one of you! Your style and experiences are your own and there is a market for them. You just have to get off your butt and find them!

But what do I know? I'm just a hack.....