Sunday, December 30, 2007

How Important are Status Reports?

I had a comment from a client recently that I hadn't sent any status reports during the course of a project. I don't usually send them for small projects because I just don't feel they're necessary. If you are dealing with a brand new web writer or one who isn't used to meeting deadlines, etc., I can understand asking for status reports just to make sure they are actually doing the work. But, from a professional with nothing but good feedback from countless clients, what's the point?

The only time I send status reports is when it's a large project or when the deadline is long or indistinct. For very large projects, a quick report is warranted to reassure the customer. For long or vague deadlines, I like to send one to tell them exactly when it will be finished. If it's a project consisting of five or 10 articles, um, no. I have my deadline. I have my instructions. I will write the articles and turn them in when it's time. There's no need for hand holding on either of our parts. I'd like to know if anyone else feels like they have to send constant, pointless updates for small projects.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Writing and Solitude

Writing is such a solitary endeavor that it's no wonder the greats were a little freaky. Shelley, Wilde, Poe- all of my guys were a little off kilter. The intense solitude of a long writing session can sometimes make you see how easy it would be to slip into a life like that, full of weird, broken relationships and possibly a storm-tossed sailboat that was foolishly taken too far out to sea. Ah, Shelley. Where are the Shelleys today? I get so sick of SEO sometimes, wanting to stretch out and try something, anything that could possibly evoke the feeling of the Telltale Heart or a Yeats poem. Instead, I write about colon cleansing. Such is life.

Shopping Cart Software

I’ve been looking around at various online shopping carts and ecommerce software for my PLR site. There are several that require a level of programming that I simply don’t have. But, for non-programmers, there are easier ways to get a shopping cart set up. ecommerce software is a big shopping cart software company, and the services they offer look pretty helpful for small-time sellers as well as bigger companies.

They have SEO shopping carts, which I have never heard of and still don’t understand. But, I suppose I don’t have to. They take care of stuff like that. They also have a free trial right now and a few other special offers. There’s a free site design right now, which I could use for all of my hideously plain sites. I actually consulted with a web designer and hired him to do some work to de-ugly my sites. But, he never showed up to do the actual work. Instead, he got a job working on a new B-movie called “Chainsaw Cheerleaders.” Seriously. But, I’m betting that the Ashop Commerce guys will be there for anyone who needs serious shopping cart software.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

An Important Lesson in Pricing

I ghostwrite a blog on a subject that I am very familiar with- one that is enjoyable and takes minimal research. I saw a posting on a freelancing site recently for blog ghostwriters to write about a very similar topic. Great! I inquired and was told that the rate was half the minimum rate that I charge for blog posts. But, there were no commissions and I could do the posts easily and at the same time as my ghostwritten blog. Fabulous. I accepted.

A few days later I was hanging around RentACoder looking at stuff, and there was a posting there for someone to write blog posts about the same topic. I applied, at my usual rate for posts, and was accepted. The buyer then told me that she'd had a couple of other bloggers that had agree to write the posts for half that amount, and that if we continued after the project ended, that would be the price. Weird, but ok. I now had three blog projects that were on the same topic. What could be better?

I then got the information for the RAC project. If you haven't put this together already, and I hadn't, the two projects were for the same site. That's right- I actually underbid MYSELF. I was one of their first bloggers for the off-RAC project and apparently helped set the price point that the site was now looking for. Yes, I am an idiot.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Six Hours and 15 Minutes

They were a little slow today, but to fair it was a Friday afternoon when I posted. It's late evening now, so I think it's safe to say that they have more than one employee doing this. There's where your fees are going, folks.


I've noticed that every time I mention the word ELANCE in a post, an employee from Elance takes a look at my blog. Yes- every time. That means they have at least one person, likely full time, searching blogs to see what people are saying about Elance. You know what we're saying? We're saying Elance. That's right- Elance. And if you guys can afford one or more blog trollers, why was it that you had to triple our fees again?

I'll post back with how many minutes it took before an ELANCE employee sprinted in here to see what was being said about ELANCE.

If you want to experiment with this on your own, I'd love to hear back about this bizarre phenomenon. Just mention the word ELANCE once or twice (or nine times) in your blog. How many minutes did it take? Did they leave a message or just read the post? How fun was it to mess with them?

Smorty Paid Blogging

I had Smorty recommended to me by another web writer, and I just signed up for that. The site's layout seems similar to PayPerPost, and the posts pay similar amounts. What I recently found out about PPP is that Google is reducing everyone's page rank that uses them. I don't give a crap about page rank, but I know a lot of bloggers who do, so it's something to think about.

If you want to blog for money, Smorty seems like a safe choice. Google is not penalizing them and the projects look straightforward and simple to perform. If you're interested in blog advertising, Smorty can get your item and link on blogs in whatever categories you choose. And if you have a site to advertise, it isn't expensive to get started and pay bloggers to mention your site. So, with this site it's not hard to find opportunities to get paid for blogging or to advertise on blogs. Both can be done on Smorty.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Using a Traffic Counter

StatCounter is such a useful, and fun, little traffic counter- and it's free. If you have a site that will take a little javascript, you just paste in the code and you're good to go. I have it on all of my sites, though the ones that won't take javascript just have the html version. If you can use the javascript version, it comes with a fun little link that let's you see where your traffic is coming from. This includes the city your visitors are coming from, and often the link they use to get there.

I love to see all of the international visitors that find it through Google searches, and the domestic ones who usually come in through a link somewhere. Using the StatCoutner, I saw that within half an hour of posting my last blog post, both Elance and the guy who stole work from me both visited my 'lil blog. Imagine that. Such a small world, isn't it?

Elance Fees

A lot has been said lately about the increase in Elance fees and how difficult it will make it for writers and translators to do business with them. I figured that since the new memberships come with a certain (small) number of "connects," I would go ahead and use them for projects that sent me an invitation. I've used them all for the month and I seriously doubt I will ever buy more. The amount they provide every month will probably be enough for my purposes.

But, the Elance fees that I've been the most concerned about are the over $50 in fees that have been taken from me for a job that was never paid for by the buyer. I sent several invoices, at the request of the buyer, and he never paid any of them. Of course, Elance still charged me the commission. Since I wouldn't pay Elance directly for the privilege of being stolen from, they took it out of the next few projects. But, today they actually refunded those fees! I am extremely pleased that, though it took weeks, they have refunded all of the fees I was charged for that nightmare of a project. This is the first time in a long time that I've been happy with Elance. They can act in a fair manner if you take the time to pursue matters with them.

Hotel Reservations

I've used Expedia and Travelocity before, but until recently had not heard about Hotel Reservations. The prices they offer are extremely competitive, and several of the destinations have special internet rates that are guaranteed to the the lowest rates available.

The site has more than just hotel reservations, however. There are also a number of vacation rentals available, which can be extremely difficult to otherwise find without going from site to site. They also offer deals on vacation packages, flights and car rentals.

The destinations that I've searched through, including New Orleans and London, brought up surprisingly low rates. The last time I went to London I paid a lot more than many of the rates available through the site. For the same price as my tiny room with a four-flight walk up, I can get a four-star hotel in the heart of London through In addition to the range of hotels available, they also include hostels, giving travelers a wider variety of price ranges to choose from.

This is a sponsored post.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Book Market

It's amazing how hard it can be for an unpublished book writer to break into the market, especially considering what's out there. Literary rejections on display is right on the money with its commentary about the current publishing climate. So many agents and editors turn down works that they like and think are useful, but that would not be commercially popular enough.

Oddly, I think that the non-fiction work I've been querying is very marketable. The subject matter is popular on the shelves, and at least one large publisher is actively looking for titles on the subject. Not only that, but I actually found an angle that has never been covered by any of the current books on the subject. I found an agent that recently sold a book to the very publisher I've been eying, and he did ask for a book proposal. But, since he never got back with me, I'm assuming he's passing.

It strikes me as strange that it can be so hard to break into the market when there are titles like this book that are selling. Oh yeah- I went there. That's what publishers are buying right now, apparently. And, it's doing very well. Who knew?

Friday, December 14, 2007

No More Text Speak

Ok, so I'm old. Well, not super old, but I'm not a teenager anymore. I don't text message. I don't plan to text message. I don't want to get an email written in that cheesy text-speak language that teenagers think is their super-secret decoder ring language. And, I certainly don't want to read that stuff in forums or in blogs.

Only slightly less repellent is the trend toward extreme-conversational style full of slang. In other words, a style that screams "I'm an old person desperately seeking a younger audience- please like me!!" The problem with it is that it won't last, and if the website does, it's soon outdated.

Conversational writing is just a part of most web writing, and because the audience is likely to be all ages, it makes sense. But too many writing sites warn against formal writing- even in your own blog. If you're blogging about something serious, shouldn't the writing be formal? And isn't your blog your own space to write however you like? Silly me, I thought it was. And, these sites don't always take their own advice anyway.

If the subject matter and potential audience calls for formality- write formally. If it calls for a more conversational style- write conversationally. The truth is that there really aren't any rules etched in stone on any mountainside. This is true especially for blogs- until now, that is. I'm going to go ahead and etch a rule about text speak in stone today. If you're text messaging your friends about the homecoming dance and don't want old Mr. Witherspoon to catch you, have fun with cryptic speech. But if you've already turned 18, it's just never appropriate.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Terry Pratchett

I read this morning that beloved fantasy star Terry Pratchett has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. It's all the more shocking when you consider that he's only 59 years old. Terry Pratchett is quoted as saying that early onset cases of Alzheimer's are rare, but the stats I found show that 5 to 10 percent of Alzheimer's cases are considered early onset- starting before the age of 65. That's about 200,000 cases in the U.S. alone.

I am incredibly saddened, as Terry Pratchett is one of the best fantasy writers in the history of the genre. Like a lot of people out there, I have a family member with Alzheimer's and I know how awful the disease can be. Here's hoping for a few more books from Pratchett and a timely cure for Alzheimer's.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I signed up for PPP!

I just got approved at Pay Per Post, so I hope I can justify continuing my blog now. A personal blog doesn't usually make any money, and it can take a considerable amount of your time away from paid writing. But, just about any type of blog, personal or business, can sign up with Pay Per Post and make a little extra for sponsored posts. I first heard about the site from someone on a writer’s forum who runs several blogs and uses Pay Per Post to make money on all of them. There are a lot of bloggers out there who make quite a bit each month with their paid posts. I probably won't be one of them, but a little bit now and again couldn't hurt.

Pay Per Post is an interesting site, and I've learned a lot about blog monetizing by reading the many post offers that are available to members. There are offers from a wide variety of sources- more than enough for just about every blogging category. The blog has to be at least 90 days old and you have to have at least 20 posts to qualify. It also can’t be a blog about illegal activities and/or porn. So, if you have a non-pornographic blog, sign up to get paid to blog.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I Don't Want to Buy a Vampire

"Wesley, werewolves buy vampires because someone is selling them. If no one was selling them, they wouldn't be buying them."

What the heck is that? I have no idea. That was the last line of a dream I had, and the only part I can remember before waking up today. I love those in medias res lines that you can sometimes remember when you wake up. If you keep a notebook next to the bed, you can record lots of weird snippets and strange ideas before they fade away. I have one, but unfortunately the pen wasn't working today. So, I had to repeat those lines over and over to myself as I raced down the stairs to find a pen. Thank God no one was home at the time.

If you have a bit of weirdness to start with, random lines and scenarios can be a starting point for short story or just a creative exercise to get your mind working in the morning. Just seeing what your mind is capable of coming up with is a good way to keep yourself unblocked and ready to write.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Sitepoint, Non-Payers and Plagiarism

I saw an interesting discussion on Sitepoint the other day. A potential website owner wanted to run a news site but didn't have the budget to either hire writers to write news stories or to go out and buy the products that he wanted to talk about and write them himself. Of course, that's a clear indication that he shouldn't do it at all. Surprisingly, person after person told him to simply plagiarize someone else's work. After all, he wants the site and can't afford it.

This case isn't the only one that I've seen like it. Many people tend to get defensive about their budget, even if their budget isn't enough to pay for the thing they want. I'd like to own a Domino's, but I don't have the budget. Should I steal one? Um, no. I can't afford one, so I'm not getting one. For some reason, people can see this clearly when it involves a brick and mortar business. But, when it comes to an online one, many people believe they are entitled to have one even if they can't afford one. This leads to plagiarism, content scraping and people who outright steal other people's work and then refuse to pay for it.

So, what happens if they can't afford to pay their writers, or can't afford to populate their site with any content? They should go out of business, just like any other business person who can't get the capital together to keep going.

It's kind of the same way that I see the fast food industry and minimum wage. If minimum wage was raised high enough to give workers something closer to a living wage, fast food restaurants claim that they'd go out of business. Great! If you can't afford to pay your workers a decent wage then you should to go out of business. If the fast food industry disappeared, teenagers would stop spending half their week doing low wage labor and perhaps go back to their studies. Adult workers would be forced to look into some of the free job training provided by their county (just about every county in the U.S. has training centers free to low income workers) and stop working at a dead-end job. Customers would have to put some thought into their meals rather than buying the cheapest, fattiest food available just because it's convenient. You'd have less obesity, less poverty and fewer hideous fast food restaurants littering the roadsides. It would be better for everyone.

The same is true with websites. If the people who couldn't afford to go into business stayed out of it, the bidding sites wouldn't be littered with weirdos hoping to find someone willing to work for .01 a word. You wouldn't have junk websites hiring people to write garbage in the hopes of making .50 a month through AdSense. This too would be better for everyone.

Friday, December 7, 2007


It's been a wacky week in freelance land. The wackiest day of the week came when eBay sent me an email threatening to sue me for cybersquatting. I wrote a fairly short ebook about selling on eBay, which I sell regularly on eBay itself as well as having a ClickBank listing. I thought it might be nice to have my own site to sell it on as well in order to avoid the steep fees that I pay to both of those sites on each sale. Well, apparently they are going after everyone with a domain name that has the word eBay anywhere in it, and using the cover of cycbersquatting law to scare people into taking their sites down. The cybersquatting law was started to prevent people from buying domain names that are the names of existing companies and then offering to sell the domain to the company at an increased rate. Obviously I didn't do that.

They also said that someone might confuse my piddling little site with one that was owned by eBay, which was also untrue. I have no discernible web design skills and the site was extremely plain, consisting only of a page about the ebook and a link to buy it. I can't imagine anyone believing that it was in any way a part of eBay. The example they used in the email was their successful blockage of the domain "ebaysecurities." I don't have any proof, but I believe that was an attempted phishing site being used to trick people into giving up their personal information. I didn't do anything of the kind. I would have likely won in court if they had decided to take it that far, and I am incorporated, so I can't see them getting much more than my laptop, some office paper and possibly my giant box of Bic pens even if they won. But, in the end, I decided not to mess with it. In an uncharacteristic backing down, I erased everything from the site. I just don't need the aggravation and I don't really have the time to do much promotion for the site anyway. I may have an obnoxious streak, but I don't mean any harm to anyone and don't want any trouble.

If you have a site with any company name in it, you might think about checking with the current cybersquatting legislation just to make sure you're on the right side of the law. There are other companies shutting down domains, but so far none of them have been tiny sites selling an ebook.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

How Words and Letters Effect Everyone

I think we all realize how words can affect us, from the words we use to the words we hear and read from everyone else. The PC notion was started with good intentions- to reduce the sexism and racism that was present in some of the everyday language that was common. No, "man" does not mean human anymore than "woman" does. Specific words hold strong distinctions that can affect us subconsciously, though the entire notion has gotten extremely out of hand. Merry Christmas!

But, I found out recently that even the letters we are attracted to are letters than have significance to us. The initials of our names create a preference for words that start with those letters. This has been found even in GPAs, with people with names starting with A and B getting better grades than people with names starting with C and D. People choose their brands with a preference for ones that start with their initial letters. Since reading that, I've noticed how many of the brands I'm loyal to start with an S- there are a lot.

That's how deeply words can affect us. We see the words around us as being personal and connected to us, even when we don't realize it.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

More Queries

Since getting my rejections from a couple of children's book agents, I really believe that the project would better be pitched directly to a publisher. But, I am choosing right now to concentrate on a non-fiction book that I think has a lot more market possibilities. The question for this one, of course, is whether to query agents or publishers. I's rather try to get an agent to do a lot of this for me, but I think I might just query publishers right now and try to get somewhere that way. In the end, there is the distinct possibility that none of it will matter and no one will be interested in this book. My time would probably better be spent on seeking new freelance clients.

Will that stop me? Heck no. There's nothing like a book project to get me feeling creative and excited. Most of my fiction has been abandoned at some point because there's really no limit on what can happen in the book. I can go on for years with fiction, tooling and retooling a piece of dialogue or adding scenes that I thought of while in the shower. But, a non-fiction book has a much more distinct flavor. There's an actual stopping point with non-fiction. At some point, the topic has been covered to your satisfaction and the book ends. So, win or lose, this is my project and I'm going to try to get it noticed. I'll post when I start getting rejections.