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’"

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.....

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Fifty Rules for Writing Good

I'm reading Sleeping Dogs Don't Lay, a book for the grammatically challenged, because I'm on a continuous mission to improve my writing skills. Although most grammar books put me to sleep, this one is fun! Grammar? Fun? Yep!

The book contains a list of Fifty Rules for Writing Good that I plan to duct tape to the wall. And it seems fitting for a post to the Hack Writers' Guild. Each listed rule breaks its own rule.... Enjoy.

1. Each pronoun should agree with their antecedent.

2. Between you and I, pronoun case is important.

3. A writer must be sure to avoid sexist pronouns in his writing.

4. Verbs has to agree with their subjects.

5. Don't be a person whom people realize confuses who and whom.

6. Never use no double negatives.

7. Never use a preposition to end a sentence with. That is something up with which your readers will not put.

8. When writing, participles must not be dangled.

9. Be careful to never, under any circumstances, split infinitives.

10. Hopefully, you won't float your adverbs.

11. A writer must not shift your point of view.

12. Lay down and die before using a transitive verb without an object.

13. Join clauses good, like a conjunction should.

14. The passive voice should be avoided.

15. About sentence fragments.

16. Don't verb nouns.

17. In letters themes reports and ad copy use commas to separate items in a series.

18. Don't use commas, that aren't necessary.

19. "Don't overuse 'quotation marks.'"

20. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (if the truth be told) superfluous.

21. Contractions won't, don't, and can't help your writing voice.

22. Don't write run-on sentences they are hard to read.

23. Don't forget to use end punctuation

24. Its important to use apostrophe's in the right places.

25. Don't abbrev.

26. Don't overuse exclamation marks!!!

27. Resist Unnecessary Capitalization.

28. Avoid mispellings.

29. Check to see if you any words out.

30. One-word sentences? Never.

31. Avoid annoying, affected, and awkward alliteration, always.

32. Never, ever use repetitive redundancies.

33. The bottom line is to bag trendy locutions that sound flaky.

34. By observing the distinctions between adjectives and adverbs, you will treat your readers real good.

35. Parallel structure will help you in writing more effective sentences and to express yourself more gracefully.

36. In our own personal opinion at this point in time, we think that authors, when they are writing, should not get into the habit of making use of too many unnecessary words that they don't really need.

37. Foreign words and phrases are the reader's beet noire and are not apropos.

38. Who needs rhetorical questions?

39. Always go in search of the correct idiom.

40. Do not cast statements in the negative form.

41. And don't start sentences with conjunctions.

42. Avoid mixed metaphors. They will kindle a flood of confusion in your readers.

43. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."

44. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.

45. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.

46. Be more or less specific.

47. If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times, exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement, which is always best.

48. Never use a big word when you can utilize a diminutive word.

49. Profanity sucks.

50. Last but not least, even if you have to bend over backward, avoid cliches like the plague.

I'm going to break #43 right now to end on another quote from Ralph-
"Any fool can make a rule
And every fool will mind it"

Bring any and all thoughts or questions about grammar to the comments section.

Freelance Writing and SEO

I figured it was a good time to start working on a little SEO education for our new freelance writers! Web content is the easiest market to break into and can put some cash in your pocket while you are building a reputation - but you have to understand SEO.

Short definition: SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. For illustrative purposes, we will pretend that the only search engine out there is Google. Our goal when writing web content is to optimize what we write for search terms that people type in the search box when they 'Google' something.

The search terms are made up of keywords or keyword phrases. A person looking for a pair of brown lace-up hiking boots could type in the keyword 'boots' - or if they are smart, they will refine their search by using a keyword phrase such as brown boots, hiking boots, laceup boots, brown hiking boots, laceup hiking boots,brown laceup hiking boots - do you get the picture?

If the site that specializes in hiking gear hires you to write content for their site, they may wish to 'target' some of these phrases. This is called optimizing the content, and you do it so that the 'spiders' Google sends out to 'crawl' the 'web' will be able to tell what the webpage (and by extension, the website) is all about.

A word about Google. Google is an index of the world wide web. When you Google something, it returns search engine result pages, or SERPs. A website's or webpage's spot on the SERPs is determined by how valuable Google thinks that result is in relation to the search term typed in.

Google assignes ranking based on several factors - one is how many other places on the web have linked back to that result, and the other is by the content of the page or site. They determine content by 'spidering' the page and looking for words that will tell them what topic it is most relevant to.

Websites want their webpages to rank highly in the SERPs - in other words, to show up in the top ten, or five, or three. This means they need keyword rich content, so the spiders will think they are a good match to certain search queries. Some keywords are highly competitive - there are big sites with huge amounts of money to spend on marketing, thousands of links, and a team to provide plenty of content. How do small sites compete?

They go for the more complex keyword phrases. Instead of 'boots', which might be typed into the search engine a thousand times per day, and which they can't hope to be competitive with, the specialize in a niche. They optimize for a 'long tail' term, such as 'brown laceup hiking boots'.

This might only get ten searches a day, but if only you and a few others are optimizing for that phrase, you could end up in the top few spots of the SERPs. If you are near the top, you get more clicks from people searching, and they come to your site. 50% of ten is way more than a tenth of a percent of a thousand - and a tenth of a percent is what you wuold be lucky to get if you are buried on page ten of the SERPs for the keyword 'boots'.

In addition, even if someone did dig down and find your site by searching for 'boots', you have only a slim chance of having the kind of boots they want. However, if you pop up near the top in response to the search term 'brown laceup hiking boots', the people clicking on that result are already more predisposed to buy from you since you have exactly what they are looking for. This is called a niche market, and the visitors are targeted traffic.

Back in your character as a writer - what does all this mean for you? If you are hired to produce keyword rich content for a website, you will probably be given a list of keywords or keyword phrases to include - often one primary and several secondary ones.

Usually if you use the primary in the title, the first sentence and the last paragraph, you are on the right track as far as the spiders are concerned; and you can sprinkle the secondary ones in where they fall naturally. Some buyers will have a specific format to follow, and others will be stuck on the idea that more is better - making it an interesting challenge to produce readable content!

Hopefully, you can learn to stare at the keywords for a few minutes, then block out your articles by using one or two in each paragraph depending on the density required. This can be fairly easy work once you learn how to do it, and while it doesn't pay a whole lot per word, it is an excellent way to stretch your writing skills and break into the freelance market. If you are fast, you can eventually knock out enough words per hour to even make a decent wage at it. The nice thing is that often buyers want several article on the same or similar subjects, meaning that research time is negligible.

Questions about SEO or freelancing for a living? Comment below :)


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Begin as a Part-time Writer

Since the popularity of the Internet, more and more people are venturing into professional writing. The great news is there are numerous opportunities abound, even for a novice writer. For many of these novices, undertaking writing can gradually lead to a part-time business while they still maintaining a day job. This makes sense given the economic downturn right now.

Writing should be a contrast from the drudgery of the “day job,” but there can be set backs with part-time writing.

The number one culprit is “burn out.” In fact, many part-time freelancers never make it past a few on-line or print gigs, without throwing in the towel. A budding writer with the potential to make the transition to a full-time time writer can be easily discouraged.

There is no denying that set backs can happen even for full time writers. As a new part-time freelance writer on the block, take note of these tips to assure you do not get used up before you even begin.

• Begin your part time writing with one of the on-line writing sites. Not only can your earn some money but can gain knowledge and build a portfolio.

• Find where to look for work as you gain more experience. Several freelance writing blogs have job listings each day. Set some time to go through these listings, apply and make sure your cover letter is error free. You are presenting you and your talent.

• Rushing into the world of writing too fast only to make a quick buck never works. Quality work is always better than quantity. Trying to do twenty articles a day is exhaustion and you want to have a steady clientele.

• Remember you are a professional writer first in a legitimate business. Set aside a dedicated area to write in, free from distraction.

• Invest in your craft by making sure you have all the proper and powerful equipment and software for your freelance writing business.

• Join some social networking sites. Get to know other freelance writers with sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Hack Writers Guild. A circle of peers who share valuable tips will never let you feel as though you are alone.

• Never on Sunday or whatever day you choose. Having both a day job and a part-time freelancing can take away from your personal life. Schedule a day or time frame to chill out; otherwise you will resent being a freelance writer.

• Monitor of your successes. Keeping a log of successful projects completed is an important task for the beginning freelancer. Not only this record encourage you when you feel discouraged, but will form the basis for your professional portfolio.

The rest is up to you. A transition may take place for you to become a full time freelance writer.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hi, Molly Rose here...

Hi everyone! Molly Rose is the name I answer to, now. It’s part me and part who I want to be. In high school, about a million years ago, (well, maybe not quite) I did well on an English paper and liked the feeling. At that time, I was more into riding horseback and drawing than writing, though.

Over the years, I spent many long days sitting in a truck waiting to drive a few miles and wait again. What’s good to fill those long hours spent alone? You’ve got it - writing and drawing! Notebooks, pens, and pencils always accompanied me. Later, adding a camera let wildlife become my target.

Drawing and lettering posters and signs was something that always found me, no matter where I was working. In college, classes requiring papers were where I did best. Tests that were papers rather than questions were usually aced. This gave me the idea maybe I could write.

Just before Christmas of 2007, I was able to buy a new computer. On January 12, 2008, Helium appeared on the screen. With no idea how I got there, I find everyday that I’m glad I did! It’s a good place to learn bunches about writing and make wonderful friends.

Right now, I’m ‘peeping’ out from under Sarah Grace’s wing in the freelance world. I’ve done a number of projects for her, and am currently working on several. I’ve learned so much since starting it’s truly amazing. With each piece, it gets easier, and I’m looking forward to many more in the future.

Writing and actually being paid for doing so is a dream come true. Thank you, Sarah Grace, for you help, encouragement, and friendship!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Hello everyone!

Hi! I am Shelley. I am a homeschooling mom to three kids that also are very into competitive swimming. The youngest two are twins.

I am very new to writing. Aside from Helium, I haven't done too much. Many, many people over the years have told me I should write a book (why, exactly, I am not sure), but about a year ago, I finally decided I would. It's around 55,700 words at this point and I think it may be about half done. It is, very briefly, about a boy, a dragon and some adventure. I think children near my oldest son's age (eleven) will be the target audience.

Not long ago, I decided to reach outside my Microsoft Word program and put some writing out into the real world sort of as a test. This is where Helium comes in. I have gained some experience, confidence and am beginning to learn a bit about what works and what doesn't as far as writing is least with articles.

The next step for me is to edit some of the articles that are doing less well than the majority of them. Also, I am interested in bridging the gap from thinking about making money doing freelancing to actually making money doing freelancing. I am hoping that some of you more successful types can aid in my transition. I also am hoping to eventually figure out how to get the dragon and boy book published, but that is not my next major writing hurdle currently.

I very much look forward to learning with and from all of you in the near future. Thanks for the invitation to join this community. I think it will be fun.

A Brand New Year

Those of you who know me know the past three months have been pretty darn awful on some fronts - notably my health and that of my kids.

I have had rapid fire issues with migraines, ulcers, and a vicious reaction to a medication that put me almost completely out of commission for a big chunk of time.

My daughter is growing up and I had to buy sport bras, which was highly traumatic (as any mother of a daughter will know). She has also reached the sass phase, complete with flouncing and sarcasm (she is not quite TEN!!!) and I have been locking horns with her daily. (I still love you, Vivien!)

My older son had a trip to Dallas to the eye specialist scheduled which had to be postponed when I got so sick and then rescheduled - we were all in dread and he especially was under a lot of stress thinking for sure they were going to say surgery for the fourth time. A ray of light - when we finally made it there all the worry was for naught; he was pronounced 'not a candidate for surgery yet' and we have at least a two month reprieve. (Yay Chance!)

My 20 month old son wrestled a fifty + pound toybox away from the wall, halfway unplugged the heater cord which was (we thought) safely hidden there and inserted the tip of his right forefinger into the gap. Result: massive electric burn encircling the tiny digit. It scared the living dickens out of all of us, and is only now finally almost healed two months and change later. He will have a bit of a scar. (Duncan! WHAT am I going to DO with you!!)

I was telling a client and friend all about all of this the other day when she contacted me for a new project, and said something to the effect of 'This has got to have been the WORST year ever!'

"Oh, no, no,' she said. 'You cannot think that way. In my country (she is from the Middle East), we do not start the new year until spring! Our New Year was four days ago, so this is the new year, right now. You get to start over - all of the bad stuff is past and this is a brand new year!'

I can't express how much better I felt. Just hearing that from her made my day. I had been stuck thinking that the year had started sucky, and was prepared to accept that hanging over my head for the next nine months, but my friend showed me I could have a fresh start. I think I am going to follow her lead and this is my brand new year!

Hello everybody, it's Margaret!!!

I haven't been around for awhile. I've had some issues and otherwise. But, I'm still writing, and even have picked up a few jobs on Elance. I need to get my stars back on Helium as they have fallen by the wayside, but I will get busy on them soon.

Grace has been keeping track of me, and we talk most days.

I hope to hear from y'all. I actually have a blog on here, too, I just have to update it and figure out how to link it. And Grace is whistling Yankee Doodle right now!!!

Anyway, I hope this finds all of you doing well, and I will talk to you all soon.

Take care.


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Hi Everyone

Hi there,

This is Kim Kirsch and I am so glad to have been invited to take part in the activities here. I am also a member of Helium but spend most of my time freelancing at GAF and Elance.

I am a mother of two and I have a great boyfriend. My youngest is graduating high school this year and will begin college in the fall. Speed skating is our life as she is a world champion so that is what the majority of our free time is spent doing.

Let's see, what else might you want to know? Well, we attend church regularly and are quite involved there as well. My helium writings have led me to many other new writing opportunities including writing articles about people for the church's Sunday Magazine. Talk about

Anyway, again I am so glad that Sarah Grace invited me and I cannot wait to post again and read what ya'll have been up to. :)


Heeeeerrrrre's Mandyyyyyy!!!!

Hola, como esta mi' gentes! Soy Mandy de Los Estadaos Unidos.... You thought I'd do it all in Spanish didn't ya? I suppose I am the niche hack du jour having over time weaseled my way into cushy little gigs by virtue of just being me...and willing to be controversial. Everyone has their own calling card, mine is ticking people off.

I've managed to reach my twenty year anniversary getting paid to write since selling my first series of articles about the secret society of gays in the military under the name Shannon McCool way back in 1989. Since then I ran through a couple dozen more pseudonyms before finally getting a chance to write as myself, and not confuse my following, only a few years ago. It's a long story I'd be happy to write for you if the price is right.

I'm an admitted hack and always have been. For me it works! In this day and age being a hack is nothing to be ashamed of. I'll never win awards nor will I try I to, rarely will any hack. A good hack however will never go hungry for lack work. While a journalist spends hours fretting over each word in an article, a hack churns out one above average piece after the other. A journalist gets the respect of their peers for a well crafted piece while the hack gets tickets to Yankee Stadium which are nicer and have a greater resale value.

So who am I really? I'm the person that blew off all the best advice everyone ever gave me that I was assured was necessary to be successful. I not only constantly write in the first person, uses contractions, too many commas, get overly sarcastic, and write about topics everyone said just wouldn't sell, I do it with typos. I infiltrated a market I was told few women, much less no gay woman would ever be welcome in. I'm the woman that learned if you know enough about anything and have a passion for it you have a nearly unlimited market. Most important I learned if you knock politely and someone fails to open the door, kicking it in is a perfectly reasonable second step.

Has it worked for me? You bet it has! I get to write for one of the biggest paid membership niche sites on the web free from regulation. I get to walk into the clubhouse after a game, stare at a kid young enough to be own who's poised to make more money in a year than I will in a lifetime, and say "Any thoughts on why sucked so bad today?" and get a laugh and honest answer out of it.

So I guess I'm living the hacks dream. You can too. All you have to do is put in the work and save every rejection slip you ever received so that when you're still working and find the newly unemployed journalist coming to YOU for work you can say "Gee...I just don't think you're hack enough to make it." Then again you may not be as evil me.

Is this what you wanted Sarah? Will you stop sending me invites now? lol

Friday, April 3, 2009

Protocol for this Blog:

Just a note, to keep the blog running smoothly:

So far we are getting great posts! We are about to start asking questions and posting on specific topics, however. On those posts, if you want to reply, please use the comment feature instead of making a whole new post.

This does NOT apply to the 'Calling all Freelancers' post - everyone did it correctly, posting a new blog post about themselves as an introduction, which is what I wanted.

I'm talking about new posts that ask a question, or invite people to a project, etc. These can be commented on instead of a whole new post being drafted in reply, and that way specific topics can sort of form their own 'thread' in the comments.

For example - you can comment on this post if you have a question about the protocol. You can comment on any of the introductions so far, just to say welcome.

However, if you are new and are ready to post your self introduction, if you want to tell us about a new gig you picked up, if you need to ask a question on another topic (like 'What is a primary keyword' or whatever); then start a new post.

Make sense? Thanks!

Your Take On Contract Terms

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.


(Disclaimer: No information or opinion appearing in the above post or any of the subsequent comments is intended to represent legal advice. Please contact an attorney and pay thousands of dollars in consulting fees in order to protect your next investment in a $50 project.)

Yankee Doodle, Keep it up...

Does everyone know the story about the origin of the term Yankee Doodle? It was a derogatory term used by the British to designate the country bumpkin colonials.

Another common term of the time was 'macaroni' - which basically meant 'high class' - supposedly the average American was such a dolt he thought a feather in his cap was the height of fashion.

Of course, the Amercan militia turned it around and adopted it like a badge of honor!

That's why I called this blog the Hack Writers' Guild. A literary hack is generally assumed to be unskilled and cheap - a 'mediocre and disdained writer'. Not necessarily!

I got obliquely referred to as a hack a while back, and decided sure, what the heck. I don't mind being called a hack! It's my macaroni.

About Me?

Hi everyone,

My name is Lynn. My writing adventure began as a teen when I was invited to a special college level writing course while I was in high school. I was excited about writing then - but as often happens - life intervened and other things took precedence. Creativity never left me, and I often wrote poetry and did quite a bit of journaling, as well as lots of artwork (painting, drawing, calligraphy and the like).

Then last year, someone pointed me in the direction of Helium. I thought to myself, I can do that and with the encouragement of my husband and some close friends, I began writing. Though I have had some successes with Helium, I feel that I am a still very much a novice. I continue to learn and continue to write. I have even managed to make some money along the way doing something that I truly enjoy. Special thanks to Sarah Grace for all of her input and assistance to me on the latest project. It has been a privilege to be a part of such a fun assignment. It has been a learning experience as well and I hope to glean more here.

I think after reading all of your posts that I may be the least experienced here among all of you. I look forward to drawing on all of your expertise as well as becoming friends with all of you. Where I go from here is hopefully always forward. I am happy at this point with writing and learning. As a homeschool mom, I know that learning is forever. Whether writing will continue to be the part-time adventure that it currently is or become a full-time experience is still up in the air.

Good Day or Good Evening Wherever You Are.

I am Veronica. Life has always been exciting for me and I look forward to each day as a new adventure. Maybe I am a "cock-eyed optimist" who always sees the glass half full.

I have been writing on and off for 25 years. In my previous positions, I did catalogue work and copy writing; always creating something original from scratch.

With each twist and turn of the road in one’s life, I never even considered the touch of writing in my professional career as writing. That is until 2004, when I left the business world and moved from the states to Europe.

After doing some analyzing, I started to write for the English speaking papers here in Spain. I hooked up with an editor for an international paper based in Paris and began writing about festivals and folklore in European towns. I figured it was time to expand with other genres.

Since then, I write everyday and my works have been accepted for web and print work for ezines, magazines, blogs, marketing sites and of course, Helium. In 2008, I was commissioned to write a book on Green Building.

The amount of money I pull now in is much less than while working in Manhattan, but I am where I want to be. My writing has improved and my life is more tranquil allowing me to spend more time with my husband and son.

I am very thrilled to meet so many people, especially SG, via the Internet and look forward to contributing to Hack Writer.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Calling all Freelancers...

Hey, peeps!

This is our blog. Not just mine. I know a lot of us are Heliumites, but I thought it would be nice to have our own little corner where we can shout out our gigs, ask for advice and share each others' joys and woes.

Lets all post an intro to get things started, shall we? Your name, how you started writing, where you are on your journey towards freelancing for a living or part time hobby, and what you are working on right now. I'll start.

Hi! I'm Sarah Grace.

I began writing in February 2008, when I broke down and bought myself a computer. I ended up making about $22K in the last eight months of 2008, and have been supporting my family with my freelance work almost exclusively.

Right now I am working on a parenting self esteem ebook with an online children's games resource guide; another ebook for leadership in tough times; articles for a wholesale freshwater pearl jewelry website as well as a well known parenting guru's site; I blog for an SEO website and for their SEO news blog as well; and I write go-green fundraiser articles for two different sites owned by the same entity.

Trying to land a few more steady clients to fill in the gaps - I have one on the line, so we'll see!

I am preparing to launch my own freelance training website and firm, so that will be my focus as soon as I stabilize.

What are you doing?

Proud Freelance Peep

Hi, I'm Diane.

One day I found myself retired after many years in a boring working life where trying to read an executive's mind was considered a job qualification. Generally speaking, the only pleasure I found in my work was when I was allowed to write or use my creativity.

I spent a lot of years earning a living while my spirit was dying of thirst. During my early days of 'job liberation', I puttered around for awhile. As you would expect, I quickly became bored without any focus or purpose.

Then it occurred to me--I could write for fun using the Internet! Dumb luck led me to Helium in June of 2007. I dabbled without much purpose for awhile, trying to figure everything out, and didn't really get too serious until about a year later when networking introduced me to some amazingly gifted writers. More amazing was that they cared about helping other writers, like me, who were clueless about...well...everything.

It seems that you can 'teach an old dog new tricks,' because I'm actually selling articles! (Who knew?)

Count me proud to say that I'm one of Grace's freelance 'peeps.' (Hey, anytime I'm classified as a youngster, it's a compliment.)

Lately, she's been keeping me busy with blog articles (with a real byline), and other juicy opportunities. With Grace's help, (we) recently submitted my first bid on an Elance job. Thank God she never sleeps or when would she have time to help all of us?

I'm learning as much as I can as quickly as I can, and plan to take advantage of any new freelance opportunities that come my way.

From my vantage point, it's all good!

Greetings, Hacklings

Hello, everyone!

This is Sarah Grace's little sister, Daisy.

Sarah introduced me to Helium in April of 2008 and I started building a portfolio of useful content on that site. After I got comfortable with the medium (and was hosted on the Helium front page a couple of times) I decided to try Elance too. Since June 2008 my husband, Ken, and I have raked in almost $5000 writing part time.

I have taken the leap (yikes!) of quitting my regular office job in corporate purchasing to do freelancing full time starting 4/14/09. There appears to be no shortage of work and I plan to branch out on Guru and IFreelance next. Since I live in a big city, I may also be able to find local clients through Craigslist as well.

Although I enjoy writing, my real passion is for drawing and painting. Working from home will give me the opportunity to pursue these interests through some of the same venues that offer writing jobs. I already illustrate a Karate newsletter for one client and I hope to land some contracts to write and illustrate children's books.

My current most frequent writing genres are: eco-friendly topics, self improvement, martial arts, home building, interior design, human resources, medical, and technical subjects.

Ken and I are currently building a
vegetable gardening and recipe site that we hope to monetize with adsense and affiliates this year.

I look forward to getting to know the rest of you peeps better.

Now, back to the ink well!

Shasta Daisy


Hi I'm Isabelle,

I have been an internet travel writer since August 2000. While I have never come close to SG's success, in my own sphere I am quite well know.

I have made enough to pay for my 9 grandchildrens Christmas gifts every year as well as parlayed my writing skills into free press trips and lots of other travel perks.

Helium has been a nice addition to my writing since now I can write about other things besides for travel, it has been very eye opening for me.

I like the community at Helium as well, though with all my years at I also have strong community ties there. We even had get togethers which might not be such a bad idea at Helium.

I guess I like making new friends almost as much as I like writing. I even submitted one of my poems on Helium, which since they are a very private part of me is a big deal.

Anyway it is great to know that we can all make some money with something we enjoy so much.


I'm Melissa and I'm a writer in process or a progressing writer. I started writing poetry first. I was invited to start contributing to Helium by my cousin and with half a heart and little knowledge I signed up.

Wow, I learned right off I didn't know much about poetry, let alone writing professionally. However with the help of many patient writers, I'm proud to say I've evolved to being a so so writer and not so bad writer of poetry.

I'm still in the learning process, but I am branching out towards freelance writing. I do have a passion for the pen and the flair of emotion which comes from being a temperamental poet.

The journey is a singular one, as each person evolves differently in their writing capabilities. Yet, there is something to be said about the unity that comes from being around others who share your joys and passions for writing.

Where I'm heading right now is still up for debate, but hopefully it will always involve writing and eventually something far greater in the field of poetry.

Here We Go

Hi! My name is Kristina, and I'm a hack. This is a support group, right?

Let's see... I joined Helium in December 06, but didn't write anything because I was terrified- I had only ever written academic work and personal journals. After waiting entirely too long, I started contributing content and learning the ropes of web writing. Somehow, between then and now, writing became my main source of income.

Currently, my online writing is with Demand Studios and Examiner. I occasionally chime in on Helium, but hope to spend more time there than I do right now. I have a monthly gig editing a newsletter and re-writing portions of it for a different audience, and I'm hoping to acquire more projects through freelance sites. I also help out with other projects that come my way.

My usual daily routine is: coffee, reading, reading, reading, coffee, writing, reading, reading, coffee, bid on project, reading, reading, reading, "Hey Sarah Grace, what the *expletives deleted* does this mean and what do I do?", reading, reading, coffee, writing, writing, reading, "Hey Sarah Grace...". Yeah, you get the point :)

I'm spinning in circles and trying to figure out which way is up. Sarah Grace always points me in the right direction, and I hope she lets me write a horribly cheesy testimonial for her services when the website launches. :)
But I love what I do right now. There are ups and downs; yet, it keeps on getting better!