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Friday, June 30, 2006

One For The WAHMs

I had another poem published on RITRO.com today. It's called Not For Ladies. This was my take on the whole birth experience, so I'm sure many women will relate. Please leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

How I Got Paid By Writing For Free

A lot of freelance writers complain about writing for free or for peanuts. Most of the time I agree with them. Writing is a skill and freelance writers should earn a fair rate. But there are times when writing for free is useful. Let me give you an example.

Last July, I was helping a friend move house. It made me realize that I knew a lot about moving and sparked a series of articles on moving house. The articles are:

  1. Move-it Yourself: Five Steps to Success
  2. DIY House Moves: Five Ways to Make Sure Your Stuff Stays Intact
  3. Hassle-free House Moves: Five Strategies For Success

I had no particular audience for them, so I submitted them to EzineArticles and GoArticles and forgot about them for a while. To my surprise, those articles have been reprinted on several websites and are among my most popular (non-writing) articles. (They've also been scraped onto several Blogger blogs, but that's another story.) I got two benefits from writing these free articles. The first was almost immediate. Within a few days, I found links to my site on Google and other search engines.

The second was more recent. Last week I got an email from a site which specializes in house moving. They'd seen my articles and wanted me to write something specifically for their site. Of course, they wanted me to write for free as the site gets half a million visitors a month and they would give me a resource box. I held out for some money and I'll get a nominal sum for writing the article. The good news is, that I should be able to use this for further promotion - and as I'm hoping to write an ebook on moving, that can't be bad.

My point is (and I know I'm not the first or only one to say this) that writing for free isn't writing for free if you get something out of it. As a new writer, writing for free can give you clips that are published all over the web. It's a chance to hone your writing skills and build up some expertise. If you have a good selection of clips then you will make a better impression on editors and others who might want you to write for them.

As an established writer, writing for free is a chance to get some exposure and show off your expertise in particular areas. It's also a chance to have some fun writing about subjects that are not part of your core area. Whichever category you fit into, it's about promoting yourself as a writer. Do enough promotion, and that can lead to writing jobs that you WILL get paid for.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Want To Be A Professional Blogger?

Professional bloggers make money for a living. That's all they do - blog and promote, blog and promote, blog and promote. I have to say the idea has begun to appeal to me, as long as I can write other things as well. Using social bookmarking, Blogitive and other promotional tools are a good start, but there's much more to problogging than that.

If you want to know how to become a professional blogger, you should visit Darren Rowse's problogging site every day. This week he's published his A-Z of Professional Blogging. This is a list of tools and sites to help bloggers. Even if you don't want to turn pro, you can learn something helpful here. I get a new tip every time I go to the site. The A-Z of Professional Blogging has so many links that just following those will give a mini-course in blogging. Check it out.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Getting The Best From Blogitive

In How I Get Paid To Blog, I told you about a (then) new way of earning money from your blog. That was back in April, and although I've updated the original post, people have been asking me questions about how it works. So here are the answers in one tidy(ish) package, as well as a few tips I've picked up along the way. Old hands may wish to scroll down to question 9.

1. How does Blogitive work?

Just in case you're new to this, Blogitive works by giving bloggers key phrases to use in their blogs, with a link to a particular website. Blogitive gives you a web release as well, which you must refer to. For each successful post you get $5. I have made way more with Blogitive than with Adsense, so it does work, and if you look around WritingUp, you'll see plenty of other bloggers using it too. To get started, you just need to register your blog with them.

2. Will they accept all my blogs?

They may not. I tried to get this blog accepted three times before I succeeded - and my WriteNiche blog still gets rejected. The best way to make more money with Blogitive is to register all the blogs they will accept. Then your only problem is how to write all the ads.

3. How often do blogging offers come along?

This varies considerably. When Blogitive started, there were only a few offers and the more people signed up, the fewer offers there were to go around. That seems to have improved. I usually get offers twice a week, near the start and end of the week, sometimes as many as 10 at a time, because I have three blogs registered with them. Occasionally, I go a whole week without offers. This no longer panics me.

4. Can I reject offers?


5. How else can you make money with Blogitive?

By referring other people - $5 a time. Just tell them sharon [at] doublehdesign [dot] com sent you. :) There's also talk of making money by writing posts for others eventually, but so far that hasn't happened. The referral system is a bit hit or miss. I've been credited for some referrals but not others.

6. How often do your posts get rejected?

I had two rejections in the first week and none since. The first rejection was because I corrected the grammar in the link they gave me (it was missing an apostrophe). Once I'd gritted my teeth and put the phrase back the way it was, I got paid on that one. The second was because I had too many other links in the post (no more than three other links are allowed). The third key thing to remember is to put the link in its own paragraph with no other links. And finally, remember to refer to the web release.

7. Do I need a Paypal account to get paid by Blogitive?


8. How often do Blogitive pay?

They pay weekly. You'll get a notice of a pending payment, which clears in a few days. If you get a lot of offers, you may find it difficult to remember which ones you are being paid on.

9. What's the best way to include the links on your blog?

When I started, I used to create a whole post around the phrase. This was good creative writing practice. Now that I've got more offers, I take a more workmanlike approach. I simply put a paragraph at the end with the link and the reference to the web release.

10. Do you write a different ad for each blog?

Not usually. I usually try a paragraph on one of my blogs and if it works I use it on all of them.

11. Can you include more than one Blogitive offer in your blog?

Yes, I usually include two. I haven't dared to go for three yet, but one day I might. As long as I put each in its own paragraph and use the correct phrase, my posts are accepted.

12. Can I use Blogitive on old posts?

Yes. I have put Blogitive offers on posts that are more than four weeks old. Again, these have been accepted. (Thanks, gracepub, for this tip).

13. Is putting ads on your blog wrong?

As far as I'm concerned, I'm a freelance writer and writing is how I make money. There's little difference between writing an article or an ad for money. On my blog I try to signal by a horizontal rule (ugly, but effective) or a change of font that the content that follows is not the main subject of my blog. Most people who came to WritingUp were attracted, at least in part, by the prospect of Adsense money. Even if that's not the primary motivation any more (being the get-rich-slow scheme that it is), there's nothing wrong with it, in my book.

These are the answers to the questions I've been asked most about Blogitive . If you have any more, be sure to let me know so I can add them to this post. And if you have any more Blogitive busters (strategies that have worked for you), I'd love to hear about them.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Does It Matter?

I'm on a roll with the poetry publishing. Last Friday I had another poem published on RITRO.com. It's called Does It Matter? This one was inspired by a discussion with a friend on discrimination. Although we'd grown up in different places, we shared a lot of common experiences (thanks to the wonders of British colonialism). That didn't prevent some people from focusing on differences rather than similarities. So this poem was my take on it? What do you think?

Sometimes You Can Be Too Successful

Yesterday I took some time off from writing and went to the seaside with two friends and our five children. This is one of the pleasures of being a WAHM. This was something we'd planned for a couple of months, deliberately waiting till June so we could be sure of decent weather. The weather was good, the outward trip went well and a good time was had by all, apart from the occasional sandblasting in the high winds. So, why am I complaining?

An email came in the night before (11.29pm!) awarding me a job I'd applied for. The catch was, that I had to have it completed in two working days. This would normally be fine, but I was going to lose one working day while I was out having a good time with my daughter. I didn't panic, figuring we'd be home before bedtime and I'd have several hours to work on it.

Well, wouldn't you know it? The train from Skegness was late, so we missed our connection. Rather than wait 45 minutes for the next train to our nearest station, we hopped on one that went to another nearby station, driven by the impetus of tired and increasingly tearful children. So we were an hour and a half later getting home than we expected and I was two hours later to start work than I thought I would be. And I was tired, too. Night time is not my best writing time.

So I'm really pleased I got the job, but really sorry it wasn't awarded on Saturday or Sunday instead. Oh well, that's the life of a freelance writer. Sometimes you have to write even when you don't feel like it. I'm not going to make the same mistake as last time, though. I've written the stuff at night, but I'll go through it with a fine toothed comb before I send it. After all, I'd like to get repeat work from this editor, so I'd better do a professional job.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Who's On Your Writing Team?

I was inspired to write this post by gracepub's recent post, Freelance & Work At Home Success is a TEAM Venture. It got me to thinking about who were the people who had supported me in my writing. Here they are:

My mother and my sister have always encouraged me to write. They've read my stuff, made critical suggestions and said I was great when I really needed to hear it. Everyone needs someone who is in their corner but is not a yes-person. Those two are at the head of my writing team, along with my husband, who is so great that he deserves a whole other post. Love and support don't begin to cover it.

Another key person is my friend S. I've known her since we were both 17. She's got a wicked sense of humour and a good ear. She pulls no punches but is also very supportive.

My friend K has not read as much of my creative writing, but was one of the first to be supportive when I said I was going freelance. Then there are two friends I met when we were all pregnant with our first children. M and R write, too, and form the nucleus of our small writing group. M and I have collaborated on two BBC competition entries and R has produced her first CD of children's music.

Finally (is this where I say last, but not least), there are all my new friends at WritingUp - too many to name them all (you know who you are), but I get support and even more importantly, inspiration here.

Who's on your writing team?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

What I Did When I Couldn't Write

Some days I'll do anything to avoid writing. The truth is, after three weeks of constant work on Lifetips and a few other things, my brain is begging for a rest. Of course, when you work at home, there's always something to be done. So instead of beating myself up about how little writing I was actually doing, I did a few jobs I've been putting off for a while.

Website Update

The first job was to update doublehdesign.com. I only did it a few months ago, but I was running into all kinds of problems with getting all the content on the page without it looking cluttered. The new template (which I have used with the author's permission) is source-ordered (that means the central column is the first one seen by search engines) and standards-compliant-ish (apart from some script). I like the coloured boxes, which make it easy for me to highlight different things. Anyway, it took me a few hours to transfer all the content from the old site to the new template and update a few pages at the same time. There has to be an easier way to do this, but I would probably have to start from scratch and configure a content management system on my server.

Freelance Writing Profile

The second job was to sign up with IFreelance. This was recommended to me by gracepub, so I decided to try it. Here's my freelance profile.

Freelance Writing Lens

Finally, as I was on a roll, I decided to create a new Squidoo lens to collect all my writing stuff. It's called Freelance Writing Inspiration. There are still a few things to add to it, (such as a link to my ebook) but it's more or less done.

Dealing With The Paper

I've got one more job still to do - and it's one I always put off - the filing. I can't avoid it any longer, though, or I'll drown in paper. Actually, some of it isn't filing, but sorting and throwing away. I've got to take the addresses off junk mail from banks and insurance companies and put those through the shredder. The rest of those letters can go into the recycling bin. I can make notes of numbers and addresses and throw out even more paper. Once I've done all that, the filing should only take a few minutes. And who knows, by then I might feel like writing again.

How do you fill the time when you're not writing?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Writing Lab News - Three Month Review

I started a newsletter in April. Why? Because I thought I ought to. All the site building, traffic building material says you should have a way to communicate with visitors to your site. This makes you a real person, builds a relationship and keeps people coming back to the site. So I did. I found a site called ConstantContact.com, which allows you to create and send a newsletter free of charge up to 50 subscribers. I thought this would be a good place to get started. Of course, now that I've got a few subscribers, I'm wondering if I should have gone with another option, but that's another story. Here are the contents of my first three issues:

April 2006

  • So You Want To Be A Freelance Writer?
  • How To Write Copy That Pays The Bills
  • Article Secrets For Writers
  • Resources For Writers

May 2006

  • Freelance Writers - Four Reasons To Get On The Net
  • Turn One Moment Into One Hundred Years
  • Diary Of A Working Writer
  • Free Resources For Writers
  • How I Get Paid To Blog

June 2006

  • Copyright Law: A Quick Guide For Freelance Writers
  • Article Secrets For Writers (this is different from the April one)
  • Diary Of A Working Writer - June 2006
  • Free Resources For Writers
  • Guru and Elance: Are They Worth It For Writers?

Now that I'm preparing my fourth issue, I've got a format. I try to have one article I've written, two articles by someone else, a diary entry, a roundup of my best blog posts of the month and some free resources, if I've found any. I also have links to products I recommend (so far only to things I've used).

I've also started archiving my posts on sharonhurleyhall.com. That way, when subscribers sign up mid-month, I can send an email out pointing them to the previous issue. I follow up mid-month anyway (thanks, Mitch) with a a short letter highlighting the archived copy and something new, like a blog post, article or resource. I've had good feedback on it so far.

My only niggles are with the ConstantContact templates. The links are ugly and the interface a bit clunky. However, I still think it's a great place for the novice newsletter producer. Once my subscriber base grows a bit, I'll be exploring other options. I'll let you know what I've found out.

Subscribe to Writing Lab News, my FREE writing newsletter

Monday, June 19, 2006

Freelance Writing Success

Gracepub has got an interesting questionnaire on her blog about freelance success and obstacles to success. Here are my answers.

1. If you had to start again, what would you do different?
I would have started freelancing earlier. Although the time I spent teaching was not wasted, I would have been happier and further along in my freelance career.

2. What one obstacle kept you from making money?
Deciding what to focus on. Just because you can write about anything doesn't mean you should. Once I learned to focus on areas of strength, I was able to use those to branch out to other areas and build my knowledge base gradually.

3. What helped you make money?
Blogging was something I fell into by accident, but it turned out to be really good for my writing career. It gave me the discipline of writing every day, which improved my writing speed and style. My writing was also noticed by editors and publishers, which led to more freelance writing work.

4. What mistake did you make?
Thinking people would pay for my years of writing experience. Some people will, but many won't. I learned to work out what I could do the job for and use that as a basis for a bid.

5. What advice would you give others?
Set a schedule for working at home which matches the schedule you would have in an office job. If you give the same time to working for yourself as you give to working for others, you'll find it easier to be successful. During working time, don't do housework, laundry or catch up on your favourite soap. Be disciplined. Learn to recognise opportunity. Sometimes working for free actually helps boost your career.

Places To Get Published

I found a good resource the other day. It's called NewPages.com. The site has links to more than 100 online magazines where writers can get published. These are listed alphabetically and there are separate categories for poetry resources and literary sites. In addition, the site has links to print based literary mags and contests. It's certainly worth a look for any writer.

Great Freelance Job Site

Having decided that I was spending too much time on Guru and Elance for too little return, I started looking around for other sources of job leads. And I didn't have to look too far to find one.

Deborah Ng's Freelance Writing Jobs blog lists jobs from a number of jobs sites, including Craigslist. What's good about this list is that Deborah tries to weed out the scams before she publishes, so for the most part, these are genuine writing opportunities. The list is updated four or five times a week, Monday to Friday. Where it's available, each job has a location and rate of pay next to it. There are also markets looking for freelance writers. Deborah sometimes includes other jobs related to writing, such as design and web design jobs.

There are other sites that include lists from jobs boards, but in my opinion this site does the best job of weeding out the cr*p, which is good news for freelance writers. I've already had a couple of jobs through the site. Hope it works for you too.

doublehdesign has had a facelift.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Freelance Writing On Inspired Author

As you know, I manage the freelance writing topic for InspiredAuthor.com. When I began to write, I used some of the posts from this blog as a starting point, then extended and hopefully improved them by adding examples. Just as with WritingUp, I was forced to think about what I've learned as a freelance writer, what I wish I'd known when I started writing and what I've taught my students about writing. It's been fun and has forced me to be more creative in writing about writing. I've also learned a lot about writing for the web as I've done it, which has helped with other writing gigs. Here's the list of what I've covered so far:

Update: The site has changed a lot since then, so click on the link and browse around. New index coming soon.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Are Writers Selfish?

I lay in bed this morning, waiting for my daughter to go downstairs with her granny so I could go to my computer. This is not unusual, at least at weekends. Most other days I get up and play, or help her get dressed, or brush her hair or whatever, but I have to confess that sometimes when I'm doing that I'm thinking of the next deadline or writing task.

The trouble is, I get obsessed with my writing and blogging. It doesn't matter what the subject is, either. Whether I'm writing on writing, video chat or another project, I start to focus on the project to the exclusion of almost everything else. I don't hear when people speak to me. I'm in a world of my own. When the writing is going well I forget to eat, drink, even go to the bathroom. I know this is not healthy, that I'm risking RSI, carpal tunnel syndrome and, worst of all, a fat behind, but when I'm writing I really don't care.

Here's what my family say when I'm writing:
Daughter: 'When you've finished your email, can we play, pleeeease?' (in plaintive tones)
Hubby: 'Go back to your computer if you have to' (in long suffering tones)
My mum: 'If you have to work, get it out of the way so you can focus on something else' (I knew I loved her for a reason).

So I've been asking myself - am I focused or am I selfish? I hate being interrupted when I'm writing. I have to really force myself not to sound grumpy. But interruptions are part of the life of a WAHM, so sometimes I just shut down my computer, sigh and go off to play.

I would write all the time if I could. The trouble is, I also want to play with my daughter, spend time with my husband, see my friends. It's a shame I have to choose. I bet I'm not the only one who gets obsessed with writing and gets flak from her family. What are you like when you are writing?

Saturday, June 10, 2006

My Writing Week, June 4-10, 2006

I'm on a bit of a roll now. I've been doing some writing for Lifetips on fruit, video chat and Spanish (more about that in another post), while trying to keep up with my blogs. The schedule is hectic, partly my own fault for doing some really bad writing late at night. The result was that I had to redo it, which annoyed me. I'd have been better off sleeping and then writing in the morning. (end of rant).

Here are a couple of the things I've written recently:

Inspired Author

It's In The Bag: How Writers Can Take Their Work With Them
Record Keeping For Writers: Tracking Writing Income And Expenses

Sharon's Writing Lab

German Weekend
German Weekend 2 - The Hotel


Writing Blog Review - gracepub
The Writing Parent


Sometimes Parenthood Sucks!

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

SEO Articles

One of the topics I blog about occasionally is SEO and website development (see the list on my index). I've been getting emails this week from a site touting tag and ping for site promotion (who's going to argue with that strategy?). I was a bit impatient to know what they were going to tell me, so I hunted around their site for the sitemap and I came across several useful articles in the seo-articles section. The articles are easy to understand and are aimed at beginners. I learned a few things myself, especially about Wordpress plugins I could use on my other blog. Anyway, the info is there - have a look.

Friday, June 2, 2006

It Wasn't A Scam!

Just a quick update for you. Last week I wrote about a parenting writing gig that I'd managed to land. I was a bit concerned because I couldn't be sure I was going to get paid. I don't know why; maybe it was just that the person I was speaking to tried to talk me out of the job before I started.

But sometimes you have to take a risk to make a gain. So I wrote the parenting lesson up, sent it off and hoped for the best.And I got lucky. She liked it - and arranged to pay me by PayPal. The echeque cleared yesterday! I'm still not rich, but at least the figures in my bank account are moving in the right direction.Yippee!