If your browser supports Refresh, you'll be transported to our new home in 5 seconds, otherwise, select the link manually. Thank you

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Where I Get Paid To Write

I'm going to be terribly un-British today. In the UK, people don't talk about what they earn. They mask the true picture behind phrases such as 'could be worse' (meaning, I'm not on the breadline yet) and 'I do all right' (meaning, I'm rolling in it). But today I'm going to talk about cash for writing. Specifically, the places I've written for in the past six months to a year that have helped my freelance writing career and my bank balance by paying cold, hard cash. I hope you'll manage to make these sources pay you, too.

Get Paid To Write With Lifetips.com

Lifetips.com is a tips site where you get paid to write tips on just about everything. After doing 10 free tips you get access to the paid tips jobs. For these you have to write up to 100 keyword based tips for up to $1000. You also have to write up to 30 sponsored tips for $10 each.

My only gripe with Lifetips is that what you get paid per tip depends on the editor's assessment of their usefulness. However, if you're happy with earning about $850 for 100 tips of about 150 words each, then this will suit you. New tips sites come up every week and if you're in a slump you can answer users' questions at $3 a pop. I plan to write about Lifetips in more detail in another post, but what's important is that they pay on time. Cheques go out on the 1st of every month and in my best month with them (2 tips sites and several user questions), I netted over $1,600.

Get Paid To Write With ExquisiteWriting

ExquisiteWriting.com is an agency that lets me get paid to write, but frees me from the pain of bidding myself. It's run by Julie-Ann Amos and works really well. Whenever jobs come in she sends emails to a few people offering them round and you get a commission and a pay rate. Julie-Ann offers a basic pay rate plus more if the job pays more. She also seems to have an endless stream of work, so it's worth contacting her through the site.

Pay from this site has been around $800 a month - and I could have had more if I'd been working full time. I like writing for this company because they pay twice or three times a week by Paypal or (if you live in the UK) credit transfer. You write, you invoice, you get paid. As a freelance writer, that works well for me.

Get Paid To Write With Blogitive

I've had a lot to say about getting paid to write with Blogitive in the past, so instead of repeating myself, I'll just say this: $500. That's how much I've made from them. OK, it was over four months, but within that period there was almost a month when there were no offers, and occasionally there have been dry weeks. I reckon that Blogitive is about $100+ a month, which isn't a lot, but makes a nice addition to the monthly income. Here are the links to my previous posts on Blogitive:

Deborah Ng's Freelance Writing Jobs List

This site does not pay me directly, but it is a great place to get paid freelance writing jobs. I've already reviewed this, so I won't say more, but leads from this site have led to a couple of paying jobs at around $100 a pop. The most recent one is likely to lead to repeat work.

These are the top places that are paying me at the moment. I hope they work for you, too. If you're freelancing, which places have you found the most profitable? Thanks for reading.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Paragraphs - Who Needs Them?

Some things in life should be easy - and reading a blog is one of them. I don't know about anyone else, but when I see a huge chunk of text on the home page, I skate right past it. My eyes transmit the lockdown code to my brain. Too much visual information assaulting the senses. Trying to read an unbroken block of text is like trying to eat a whole cherry pie in one bite. Some people may be able to do it, but most would choke. So that's why we need paragraphs.

You see, the thing is, you've got to make it easy for your readers. If you want them to get your point quickly and move on to the next one, it helps to break up the text. The brain copes more easily with small chunks of text, and my brain could use all the help it can get.

Every blogging system is different, so you'll have to do it in different ways depending on which one you use. On WritingUp, a couple of returns (hit the 'enter' key twice) usually does the trick. If it doesn't, you can use the letters
. That gives you a line break.

As a sub-editor and editor, I spent a lot of my time making long paragraphs into shorter ones and each paragraph had to have a point. This is a good rule for blogs as well. I won't go on about the paragraph thing, especially as a couple of other writers have written about them in detail. Instead, I'll just point you towards Majansa's post on blog formatting and Gracepub's post on paragraphs. Both are well worth a read for the new blogger.

This post has been sponsored by the Volunteer Editing Support Team.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The FT Is Haunting Me!

A long time ago, I worked for a small division of the Financial Times (yes, THE Financial Times). I edited stock exchange announcements for financial reports on UK and European companies. It wasn't the most interesting job I've ever had, but I learned to read an annual report and became familiar with a plethora of financial terminology.

After, I'd done that for two years (it was in the middle of the UK recession, so I couldn't afford to be picky), I was happy to move on to a more traditional journalism job, and I put that period behind me. The only reminder of it was a two line entry on my CV. It looked good, and I'm sure it got me many interviews I might otherwise have lost. However, I didn't work on financial matters again for a long time.

But recently I've been getting lots of work from a freelance agency, and I've found myself writing about financial matters again. Loans, mortgages, credit cards - you name it. Some of it's interesting, some is not, but I reckon I'm getting it because of that two-line entry on my CV. And at least it's regular, paid work. I've worked in a lot of different industries. If they go in turn, then I could find myself writing about metals next. Watch this space.

What about you? Have you got any jobs in your past that have come back to haunt you?

Friday, July 21, 2006

How To Prove You Can Write When You Have No Clips

The other day someone asked me a question. It was: 'How do you apply for a writing job when you have no writing credits?'. I knew the answer because when I relaunched my writing career last year all my writing credits were old. They proved that I used to be able to write, but there wasn't any recent history to show that someone had thought my writing was worth publishing. The advice I gave is based on what I did. Here it is:

1. Use your blog as an example of your writing. Point editors towards it and they'll be able to see your writing and people's responses to it. That will give them an idea of how popular you might be with their readers.

2. Turn some blog posts into articles, sign up with EzineArticles and upload them. The next time a job comes around, you will have clips you can show. Also, find a few places in your genre that are looking for free content and offer it to them, provided they link to your blog or site. This is a short term strategy (I don't advocate writing for free long term) designed to get you some clips. This worked extremely well for me, and it's great for promotion too.

3. If you know the publication you are approaching for a job or writing commission, write a short piece of the type they publish and send it as an example of what you can do. If you haven't got a lot of publication credits, this at least shows you've read the mag and thought about what they might want to publish.

4. Practice, practice, practice. While I was doing the EzineArticles thing, I also wrote reviews for three sites. I didn't get paid directly, but I learned a lot about what people found useful and what type of writing they responded to best. It's a good way to start to find your writing voice.

These strategies worked well for me. At the moment I have more writing work than I know what to do with, and it's only taken a year. Admittedly, I had a headstart in terms of writing experience, but in the case of clips, five year old clips are worse than nothing, so I was starting from scratch.

Now, this is just a start. I'd love to hear from the rest of you what worked when you were getting started. And editors and publishers (you know who you are), what are you looking for in a new writer?

A final question, not quite related. I'm thinking of offering an article spot in my monthly newsletter to anyone who writes about writing. No money, but a short bio with a link to your site or blog. I'm looking for 6-12 articles of 300-400 words initially. I don't mind if they've been published before as long as you own the rights. What do you think? If anyone's interested, drop me a comment

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

My Path To Writing

I was inspired to write this by a recent post from Trick Falls on writing inspirations. I haven't always wanted to be a writer, though I have nearly always written. When I was a child, I used to mess around with drawing house plans and I thought I might want to be an architect. My high school art teacher finally put an end to that when I was 14 by requesting that I not waste her time by returning the following year. (Shame really, I enjoyed art, but even I must admit that drawing wasn't my strong point.) I also enjoyed playing with Meccano and experimenting with buildings, but it would have helped if I'd had either a good science teacher (for the laws of physics) or some aptitude for scientific subjects. But I didn't. So that left me with words.

Don't get me wrong, words were not something that I settled for in lieu of the other two options. In fact, they had been a part of my life for as long as I remember. My mother remembers me as a little girl who never stopped talking. And what I remember is that as soon as I started getting pocket money (maybe around the age of seven), I started spending it on books.

I was a voracious reader. I started with Enid Blyton, moved on to Richmal Compton (William stories), Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Biggles and various children's classics. Once I'd exhausted those, I took a brief swing through some teenage fiction (Judy Blume and the like), before heading for my parents' bookshelf. Now they had a lot of books. There were books in the hallway, in the dining room, in their bedroom and in every spare space, so I was happy. At first I took the books I was allowed to read (lots of mysteries - Agatha Christie, Nero Wolfe etc) and then I raided the shelf for other books (Jacqueline Susan among others). Don't worry, I was quite a bit older than seven by this time. Not everything I read was great literature, but it made me appreciate a good story. And though my reading tastes have changed, I still do.

The reason I mention this is because most writers worth their salt are also readers. So reading was a crucial part of my development as a writer. (And let me take a moment to plug Scrabble. I started playing the junior version at around six and the adult version at eight with my grandfather. There's nothing like it for enouraging a love of words and boosting your vocabulary.)

At school, I always enjoyed writing stories, but I never thought much about that enjoyment. There were two experiences that set me on the road to writing. One was pleasant, the other not. The first one was growing up with an alcoholic father. By the time I was 15 I had a lot of anger and sadness to write out and that's when I started writing poetry and keeping a journal. I'm not saying it was any good, but it was writing. The second thing was becoming co-editor of the school newspaper at 17. Now, this was in the old days. We used a Gestetner machine, commissioned people to do illustrations by hand and got covered in ink. That was when I first felt the thrill of writing for publication and managing a magazine. I really loved it.

But I'm slow on the uptake sometimes. So I did nothing more than the occasional poem while I was at university and away in France. When I got back home, a local paper was looking for someone with language skills. I applied, got it and started work as a journalist. In that job and in all my other journalism jobs, I got to write about a variety of things and to do a variety of publishing related tasks. Although I didn't always like my bosses, I loved the job.

Then came my last boss. He was a bully and for the first time, I contemplated leaving journalism. So when a chance came to teach it at university, I jumped at the chance, thinking that I could freelance as well. That didn't work out, because of the amount of preparation a new teacher has to do and then childbirth and motherhood.

Throughout this time, I'd continued to write the occasional poem, but it was when I went back to work after maternity leave that it struck me. I wasn't happy. I wanted to write full time (or at least part-time so I could spend time with my daughter). Finally, a year ago I made the jump after listing the pros and cons. The pros were that I had lots of experience as a writer and would be able to work from home doing what I loved. The cons were that I didn't have many recent contacts and I might not make any money for a year.

So now, here we are. I'm getting paid to write and I'm happy. Inspiration is all around me. My daughter has inspired children's stories (five to date) and poetry. My nomadic life has inspired books on moving (still half-finished). And blogging at WritingUp has inspired lots and lots of writing, most of which you have seen.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Blogging For Smarties

Blogging For Smarties is not the opposite of Blogging For Dummies, a book which tells us how to do what we already do here at WritingUp.If you want advice on smart blogging, try Performancing.com, Problogger.com or read Seven Essential Blogging Habits. This is about a conversation with my three year old which made me think about the life of a WAHM.

Like many people, I used to go out to work. For my daughter, work was something that you did when you were out and when you were home you were off duty. But last year, when I went freelance, that started to change.

Of course, the change didn't happen overnight. Freelance writing success rarely comes quickly. But with all the writing I've been doing in the last couple of months, something major has changed. I'm never off-duty, though I force myself to spend family time (that IS why I'm a WAHM, after all). All you writers will know, though, that when a deadline looms, everything gets shoved aside so you can deliver on time. And that somtimes means children, too.

Like most three year olds, my daughter is the centre of her universe, and she doesn't like my work stealing the limelight. She knows I'm a writer (thanks to five unpublished children's stories which I've tested on her and her friends with great success) but she doesn't always understand that it means I have to sit at the computer. But she IS beginning to understand about money, so I came up with a way to explain my blogging and writing habit to her. The conversation went like this:

Me: You know that Mummy's a writer, don't you?
T: Yes (smiling)
M: Writing has to be done at the computer, because that's where people write. Do you understand?
T: Yes
M: Do you remember Daddy explained to you about earning money to buy treats?
T: Yes (warily)
M: Well, that's why Mummy has to write. So she can earn money to buy food and treats like Smarties (Smarties are small chocolate sweets wtih a bright coating, like M&Ms but smaller). They are her favourite treat at the moment.

So that's where the notion of writing for Smarties came in. And since I also earn money from blogging, I must be blogging for Smarties too.

Funnily enough, I think my daughter understood what I was getting at. And it gives me a handy way to explain why I'm sitting at the computer sometimes when I would rather be playing with her.

What about all you other WAHMs? How do you explain your work to young children - or older children? I might need to come up with something new in a couple of years.

PS. If you haven't already read it, check out Mitch's post on backing up - it's great advice for any writer. I wish I'd read this before my laptop died.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Published And Proud Of It

I'm falling in love with TodayBooks.com. This might be the honeymoon period, because I've just had my second book listed with them. And it's one that's grown out of this very blog. Remember when I did a series of posts on search engine optimization and website promotion? Well, that turned into a presentation for Inspired Author. One day when I had not much else to do, I converted the presentation into a Word document and sent it to TodayBooks.

A couple of weeks later I got back an email that said that they liked the book but felt it was a bit thin. Who could blame them? After all, it WAS based on a bullet point presentation, so I knew it was light on content. But sending them the presentation gave them the chance to assess whether it was something they would publish. After I thought about it for a while, I decided to beef it up by including some of my original blog posts from here, generalised so they didn't just apply to writers. This book is the result of the combination.

The whole process has taken several weeks. TodayBooks are extremely slow at responding to email. What I like about them is that if they think changes are needed they tell me. They also promote the book on the home page. Most importantly, I get an ISBN, so I can list my book with Amazon and others.

There's one thing I thought they could have done better. The suggested a new title and asked me to write sales copy. I had no problem with that - after all, if I wasn't prepared to promote my own book, why should they? But ... they've changed the title again and they didn't change the sales copy to match. That's why the title of the book is SEO Tricks but the sales copy refers to Web Page Action. That's a bit careless, I think.

All in all, I'm happy. I've got my second ebook out and it's a general one that I can promote heavily. It will look great in my profile on IFreelance and other places. And I may make some pocket money from it, too

Saturday, July 8, 2006

My Laptop Disaster Recovery Plan

As a working writer you should always have a plan B for when technology lets you down. It’s my own fault. I should have known better. In fact, I usually do. When I first owned a computer in the early 1990s, I fell prey to a Word macro virus. I got my act together, installed an antivirus program and have not had a single one since.

I've been equally ferocious about backing up. First I used floppies, then CDs, then DVDs. If nothing was handy I used a virtual backup drive by emailing my work from one email address to another. I never lost anything. That was the old days. If you read my previous post you'll know that my laptop died and I lost a couple days' work. So how could this happen to someone who's usually so well organised?

Well, there are a couple of reasons. I'm much less well organised since I had a child. Simply put, there's much less leftover brain power to apply to keeping my life ticking over. I wouldn't have it any other way, but this wouldn't have happened to the old paranoid me three years ago. I'm stretched thin and suddenly very busy. The result of that is that when I managed to do 25 tips for LifeTips (I finished them on Wednesday when my daughter was napping), I forgot to back them up. Most of the time you can let things slip for a little while, and there's no danger. Not this time - and there was no warning. At 5.15 my laptop was working. At 6.15 it was dead.

What this has taught me is that it's important to have a plan B when you make your living with a computer. Until recently my plan B was my husband's computer, but he's on the road more, so I can't relay on having access to it. The library doesn't open at hours that suit the rest of my life. I quite often work late at night after my daughter’s gone to bed and my local library closes at 5.

While I was facing the loss of two days' work and the prospect of 10 days without a computer (and I admit, shedding a few tears of annoyance), I thought of a plan. My hubby had a tablet pc he had never used so maybe I could use that as a backup. We bought a USB keyboard and then tried to get it connected to our wireless network. Nothing. I fiddled around with settings, still nothing. Eventually I discovered that Microsoft’s tablet software does not support WSP-PSK or whatever it is, so it's not going to happen. So I dug out an Ethernet cable and finally got online.

All of my work at the moment has to be researched on line so doing without a net connection is not an option if I'm to meet my deadlines. Now I've got to figure out how to prop the tablet up so I can type and see the screen at the same time.

Meanwhile I am missing my favourite programs:
- Firefox - I will install this soon
- Thunderbird
- Performancing - my blog editor of choice (by the way, that’s why there are no links or fancy formatting in this post. I’ll go back and fix it once I’ve got my laptop back).

I have lost
- 21 lifetips
- a new poem
- my WritingUp backup
- my invoice template
- this week's writing jobs - most of which I had submitted

The lesson I'm getting to is that you need to have a plan B. So, I've now got a few.

First, I'm moving everything that I can online. I already use blinklist and Google calendar. Now I'll use my gmail account for backing up my work in progress. That way I can access it wherever I am.

Second, as soon as I can afford it, I'll get a cheap desktop pc as a backup.

Third, I'll replace my 80GB external hard drive with something that I can keep permanently attached to my laptop, so I can backup as I go.

Fourth, I’ll put a reminder in my diary so that I always do it.

Fifth, my new laptop will come with an international next day onsite warranty.

Apart from the social deprivation of being without a reliable internet connection (regular writnguppers will know what I'm talking about), this incident has very real consequences for my writing. I'm going to have to make up a couple of days' work over what is already a busy week. I won’t get caught this way again.

How have you done with disaster preparedness? Do you have a plan B?

PS. If I'm a bit slower than usual responding to comments you'll know the reason why. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Website Promotion: Here's Proof That It Works

I recently did a post on website promotion strategies for writers and bloggers. Today I had more proof that it works. While I was browsing around my site stats, I noticed a few inbound links I didn't recognise. One of them turned out to be from Worldwide Freelance Writer. They publish a newsletter (every couple of weeks, I think) and the next issue is on their site. One of my free to reprint articles from EzineArticles is the lead article. This is good news for me, as it has links to both my site and blog.

To make the most of this opportunity, I've written to the editor pointing him to my other free to reprint writing articles on EzineArticles. I've also said that I'm available to write unique content for their standard fee (which was about $20 the last time they were accepting submissions).

I figure I haven't got anything to lose. The only thing to do now is to update my bio on all the articles, so it shows the latest links I am promoting.

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Look What You Can Do On WritingUp

This morning I was wasting time when I should have been writing. I decided to go back over all my old posts and tag them and group them. Then I started playing around with the topic specific pages. This is what I found out.

When I clicked on a topic, it brought up all the blogs on that topic. Nothing new there. Then, there was a login link on the right - that's not new either. What was new (and I may be late in discovering this) was that when I logged in and clicked on the my blog link, I found only the posts I had written in that category. So in theory I could now promote the following subcategories:

I'd like to be able to do one on promotion, which is the other tag I use, but there's no specific topic for that yet. What is does tell me is that I need to be much more careful about tagging blog posts so that my niches are well defined.

This has great possibilities for focused promotion. Now that I've found these I'll be adding them to social bookmarking services, blog directories and submitting the links to search engines. It can't hurt, can it?

Monday, July 3, 2006

Website Promotion Strategies For Writers And Bloggers

You can't argue with these figures. This month I had 843 unique visitors to doublehdesign.com (200 more than when I wrote about this in January). I had 17,000+ hits (only a small increase) and I had nearly a 50% increase in page views (to more than 10,000). This month I've also had a few emails a week from the contact form on my site and people have seen my stuff and contacted me about work. So I must be doing something right. The trouble is, when you throw everything at a problem, it can be hard to know which one has worked best. Here's what I did. I hope following these steps will help you promote successfully too.

1. Choose A Domain Name

I bought my domain name almost a year before I was ready to do anything with it. That was one area where I made a mistake, going for a name that captured what I thought I wanted to do. Doublehdesign is ok, but SharonHurleyHall.com would have been better. I've bought the other one now, but I've put a lot of effort into promoting doublehdesign, so I'll have to be creative in how I promote the other one. If you are blogging, choose the name of your blog carefully. Although you may be able to change it later, any links that you have promoted may show up as broken if you change the name (this happens on WritingUp). This will not help with site traffic.

2. Create A Website

I set up my site. This was quite simple when it started. There was a home page, a bio/cv/resume page, a ghostwriting page, a writing samples page and a contact form. This was enough to get me going. It was simple and I added the bells and whistles such as my photo, links pages, a sitemap and google ads later. I added one page a week to my site for about four months. I updated at least one page every week or two. If you're blogging, add at least a couple of posts a week.

3. Promotion By Adding A Blog

I added a blog in November. This was a good move, because that's when my traffic really started to increase. However, a month later, I got addicted to blogging at WritingUp, so it might have been just as easy to use a WritingUp feed on my site, with links back to the site whenever possible. This is a strategy several WritingUp bloggers use effectively.

4. Submit To Google, Yahoo, MSN

I submitted my site and blogs to Google, Yahoo and MSN. I also submitted my site to DMOZ, where it's been listed at last after nearly a year. Then I submitted to other appropriate directories. The difficulty with this is that there was rarely a category that matches exactly what your site or blog is about. Some directories listed writers' sites as personal, others as business, still others as arts. I just picked a category and hoped for the best. This added to my search engine hits and to my traffic. I submitted my blog to blog directories of all sorts. First of all I went for those that did not require a linkback, then I targeted a few that did. Traffic to my blog soon surpassed traffic to the main site. A word of warning, though. Sometimes you can get submit-happy and submit to sites that will bring traffic that you don't want. I don't think it's a coincidence that a month after doing an accidental mass submit to sites around the world, I got traffic from sites looking to sell Viagra, Tramadol and more.

5. Promotion By Writing For Free

One of my best promotion techniques was writing for free. I wrote free articles for EzineArticles.com, GoArticles.com, ArticleMarketer.com, ArticleBlast.com, SubmitYourNewContent.com and many others. These are the ones that have resulted in the most links back to my site. EzineArticles is the one that had the quickest results. Two of my articles got picked up by freelancewriting.com and I consistently get 10 or more hits a month from this site. I also wrote reviews on Dooyoo.co.uk, ciao.co.uk and Epinions.com. This allowed me to practice writing, earn some pennies, show some versatility and develop my writing voice. Again, many of these turn up all over the web.

6. Finding Opportunities Through Blogging

I signed up with freelance job agencies, looked on craigslist and looked at other job listings. These brought some work, but blogging has been even more fruitful. It was on WritingUp that I first heard about InspiredAuthor, Blogitive, Lifetips, IFreelance and other sites which are now the backbone of my freelance writing life. Taking time to read other blogs paid off in a way I could not have predicted.

7. Promotion By Exchanging Links

More recently, I have done link exchanges with writing sites, joined a writing web ring and changed my site template to be more seo-friendly. I am now getting more visits than ever. Figures for the year to date are nearly 4000 unique visitors, about 54,000 page views and about 86,000 hits. The figures were skewed slightly by the Viagra-Tramadol brigade in February. I have also used, social bookmarking, tagging and pinging.

8. Promotion Through Keywords, Tagging And Pinging

I'm also trying a new strategy. I look to see what people have been searching for (or in the case of my blog, which ads appear on the days I make most money) and then I blog about that topic again. I haven't done this on writingup yet, but I have done it on my other blog. It's too early to say how that will turn out. I do use keywords in my blog posts, though. If you want your blog to be known for a particular subject, research the keywords, use them in your blog, and use them as tags. If you look through my blog, you'll find that tags on the early posts are all over the place, while tags on recent posts are much more focused.

9. Promotion: Keep Updating

Believe it or not, when I started my promotion efforts, I didn't know much about what I was doing. I read, learned and tried new ideas, discarding the ones that didn't seem to work for me. Now that I know more about what I'm doing, it's time to look at my site and blog again and see how they could be improved. Some of the pages need some work on keywords; others need to be split into two. Of course, I'm so busy writing now that I have less time to spend on promotion, but I know I've got to keep up my website promotion efforts to keep the ball rolling. I hope some of these strategies work for you.