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Monday, December 18, 2006

First Steps In Writing And Publishing

I didn't always want to be a freelance writer. When I was little I wanted to be an architect. I loved creating new things out of nothing, putting pieces together and changing them around so they made more sense. My favourite toy was Meccano, which I liked for the same reasons - a girly girl I definitely was not. As it turned out, I couldn't draw, which is a major disadvantage in the architectural field.

Luckily, right about the time that my art teacher was trying to disown me, I discovered that I was good at something else - languages - and that's how I got to know the people who would join me on my first publishing venture. I was already hooked on reading (and really enjoyed English Lit classes), and this would get me hooked on writing (in spite of my English teacher's criticisms of my poetry).

When I was 16/17 (in lower sixth, which for my American friends is the class before your final year of high school), a friend and I took over the defunct school newspaper. When I say defunct, I mean that it had appeared sporadically throughout my five years at that school. C and I decided to take it on and run it. We learned the hard way what it takes to create a publication:

  • We had to commission writing from other students
  • We had to edit it
  • We had to rewrite it if it didn't meet the brief or write it if someone missed a deadline
  • We had to arrange for illustrations
  • We had to learn to price the paper to recover our costs

Now these were the bad old days before desktop publishing, so putting together a school newspaper meant using a Gestetner machine. It was time to outsource. We drafted my mother and anyone else who could type to type the content we had on stencils. Where that wasn't possible, we got someone with excellent writing to copy the content onto the stencils. We found a way to incorporate the drawings (don't ask me how; I can't remember) and then we began the messy business of inking the machine, attaching the stencils and getting the number of copies we needed. In the process we got covered in black ink, but that didn't detract from the thrill of our first publication. Once we had stapled it all together, we were able to sell our first issue of Breakthrough for a paltry sum.

This experience got me hooked on connecting with readers through writing and publishing. It was kind of like early blogging, without the technology. We put material out and got almost instant feedback, which we used to improve the next issue. We were in touch with our readers - heck, we were our readers! I can still remember the thrill of seeing my name in print for the first time - and I still love it now. And even though a lot of my freelance writing is ghostwriting, I still get satisfaction from writing something that others want to read.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

How Freelance Writing For Free Pays

Freelance Writing Is Not Easy

Freelance writing is not an easy job. You have to spend time writing things you are not interested in because you're getting paid, and you are always worrying about where the next gig is coming from, at least at the start. And if you're ghostwriting, you don't even get the credit for your writing. That's why promotion is so important for freelance writers. It keeps your name out there and keeps the freelance writing work coming in. I'm always saying that writing for free isn't writing for free if you get something out of it - and now I have a concrete example to show you.

Freelance Writing History

When I started freelance writing, I wrote an article called Freelance Writers - Five Reasons Why You Need A Website. Some of you may recognise it as Freelance writers - four reasons to get on the net. I didn't get a dime for this article. It was picked up by freelancewriting.com and has been read by more than 3,000 people. It has also resulted in 120 visitors to my site in the past year. That's 10 a month since I wrote the article.

Freelance Writing Promotion

That's one freelance writing article. I know that's not a lot on its own, but I have about 50 articles out there, at least 33 of them unique and all with links back to my site. That's potentially a lot of traffic and may be part of the reason that I'm now getting more than 1,000 unique visitors a month to my freelance writing site. I am also getting Adsense money because some of those visitors like what they see. And people are starting to contact me about writing work (in fact, some of them are contacting me FOR freelance writing work, but that's another story). My point is this, one free article has made a big difference to my profile and to the money I make from freelance writing. Why not try it yourself?

Monday, December 4, 2006

Blogitive: The Party's Over For WritingUp

I was an early user of Blogitive, back in the days when it used to be fun. I made up rhymes and other bits of nonsense and included a link as well. It was good for creativity and gave a few people a laugh as well, but it looks like the Blogitive party is over.

It seems that blogs on WritingUp, BloggerParty and a few others are no longer going to be accepted from today. If you have a blog on one of those sites and have already had your post accepted, you will be paid, but they're not planning to issue any more offers. Here's the post that lays it all out.

I have mixed feelings about this because it started as an easy source of income, but it's not so easy now. I haven't been posting as many Blogitive posts here because of two of their rules (the 'only write about the press release' rule and the 'two posts in between rule'.) Apart from that, I haven't had much time, so writing three posts to make $5 is less cost effective than writing one. I know some people can do it, but it's been difficult to fit it in with my other writing work. Other paid posting sites don't impose those rules (at least not yet, and I can write a fun post in five minutes and get paid).

Maybe Blogitive has done me a favour. I won't waste time looking for WritingUp offers that I have to reject. It may also be the kiss of death for my BloggerParty blog. Who knows? On the plus side, I've still got a couple of other blogs they will accept, if I can be bothered to write anything for them. I hope you do too.

(Thanks for the heads up, abi.)