Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Elance Account Changeable

Ok, so earlier this month I decided to break down and buy a pack of Elance connects (used to be called bids, used to be readily available with a paid account). The thing that got to me was that you couldn't jut buy a pack, you had to change your account so that you now get than number every month. I have news about this on two fronts:

1. I got an email saying that my account was about to renew, and that I can change the account at this time if I want to. I don't remember them doing this before the changes, and I'm sure I'd remember because it's highly annoying. Don't get me wrong- it is a good thing to be able to change the account so that you don't have to buy the extra connects every month. But, setting up the accounts this way is still ridiculous. I don't think that draining still more of our time is the best way to go with everyone still mad from the changes.

2. The connects available in a pack are too expensive and don't get you very far. One pack of connects includes 10 for $5. If you're one of the Elance writers, you know how many it takes to get decent gigs. Most of the projects I do there are fairly small, but it does usually take me about 10 bids to get a project. I know that in some of the other Elance categories this isn't true, but from what I've read from other Elance writers, this is actually on the low end of normal. I don't think that bids should be unlimited. That would probably lead to a large number of providers bidding for every single project in the hopes of getting a few of them. Being one of 15 bidders is one thing. Being one of 200 is quite another. But, being given very few bids- sorry, connects- isn't the answer either. Having to buy our connects is outrageous when you consider that we already pay monthly for the privilege of membership.

What's the answer? Throw out the changes. They're stupid. Seriously.

Cheap Glasses Available Online

Zenni Optical sells Rx glasses for $8, including the case!
If you’re a self-employed writer like I am, you know how annoying it is to buy anything vaguely medical. There is a place, though, that sells prescription glasses for just $8. Freaky, but true. Eight dollars buys a complete set of glasses, including the case. That’s less than most people with vision insurance pay for a co-pay. This is a sponsored post, but I think I see new glasses in my immediate future.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Attack of the 1099s

One of the things about being a freelance writer, well, one of the many things, is that you end up writing for so many different people that tax time can get pretty crazy. If you haven't saved money throughout the year for the year-end money grab, there are a lot of ways to maximize deductions, so that usually isn't a problem for me. But, the volume of 1099s can get a little overwhelming.

The first issue is just keeping track of how many you have coming to you and waiting for them all to come in. If one doesn't show up, you then have to remember who it was coming from and contact them about it. If they all show up in time, you then have to keep track of all of the little people who aren't required to send one but that you nevertheless owe taxes for. The combination of the 1099 avalanche and the small project record-keeping is enough to make you want to move to the woods and live on dandelions and wild hamsters.

So, how to make sense of the mess? Well, I use a complex system of proprietary software that allows me to fill out up to 75 pages of income lists and attach pictures of all my clients. I then pay thousands to an accountant that specializes in freelance writers. Just kidding, I just print out everything I need to remember and put it in a big pile. The pile may be large, but my courage in the face of taxes is larger.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Researching Online Casinos

Online casino sites are a huge, huge niche topic right now. I've written countless articles about them, and I think most other web writers have as well. There's a good site for researching a vast number of casinos at once, called Pro360.com. The site looks at 75 different virtual casinos and gives you a quick look at the different features of each. If you need to find just the casinos that allow U.S. players, there's a quick link for those sites. There is also a FAQ section that provides detailed information about online gambling. And, if you are researching the topic for the first time, the beginner's guide is a good place to go for information about virtual casino basics. There's also a page for getting a few important gambling tips that you might need for specialized articles or ebooks, and who knows, you might just decide to use them for your own gambling endeavors. This is a sponsored review.

Friday, January 25, 2008

When Freelance Writing Piles Up

In freelance writing, it's often a case of feast or famine. Some weeks I have little going on besides regulars and a few residual income projects. Other weeks, last this week, I have slammed pretty much beyond capacity. How do you handle it when you're pretty sure that no human can do the amount of work you have?

1. Breathe. Panic is not an option. Keep breathing, and believe you can do it- Little-Engine-That-Could style.

2. Rewards. Break up the work into smaller chunks and give yourself a reward after each one. I'm trying to keep some New Year's resolutions and not opting for food rewards as often. This month it has been YouTube rewards. After each successful increment of the mountain o' work, I give myself license to watch something cool on YouTube before delving back into the pile.

3. Be more realistic. Three Elance projects, one RAC one, three regulars, a PLR package, a Bella article and four blogs probably wasn't the best idea for one week's work. Next week, anyone who can't wait longer for their work, aside from my lovely regulars, will have to stand in line. Three hours of sleep a night isn't making me terribly cheerful.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Internet Advertising Possibilities

I'm old enough to remember the dot com crash in the late 90's, and whatever they said caused it, I believe it was because internet advertising was overvalued. People spent waaaay too much on advertising when the internet just wasn't all that popular yet. Pretty much everyone is online now, but then...not so much. Buying stuff online wasn't as accepted back then either. Use a credit card online? You crazy!

Now, I think things are different enough that internet advertising really is valuable. Advertising online stores, affiliate stuff, informational websites, movies and even TV shows is a worthwhile endeavor. And, The Guardian agrees with me. According to them, internet advertising will soon be bigger than magazine advertising. That will make the internet the third largest advertising market behind TV and newspapers.

Everyone seems to be feeling the internet advertising surge. This lil' blog makes a (very) modest amount through advertising. Many other sites run either Text Link ads, paid banner ads, or other assorted sponsored areas. Sites without paid ads can still make a little through AdSense. And, sites with huge readership can really, really rake it in. If you ever read Perez, um, not that I ever do, you'll probably see the huge TV and movie ads he runs. The larger, background ads reportedly sell for $45,000 a week, and he has other advertising besides those. So, the money is out there to be had. All you really need is the readership.

Valentine's Day Gifts

Now that Valentine’s Day is approaching again, holiday content is flying from Web freelancers everywhere. Just don’t get too distracted to remember to actually buy a few things for Valentine’s Day. You can get more than just flowers at 1-800-flowers, including candy, teddy bears and gift baskets. Not only can you get all of your Valentine's Day gifts in one place, but they deliver it and will include a customized note from you. It can be up to 210 characters, even though all you really need is those three little words- “here you go.” This is a sponsored post.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Freelance Writing Residual Income

A lot of writers that spend their days on Web content eventually seek out some residual income for the weeks when gigs are scarce. Aside from selling ebooks and seeing the sales trickle in over time, there are a number of sites that can supply you with a small residual income. All of these sites pay small amounts based on how popular your content is, i.e., how many pageviews and clicks you get. This can be simply from the number of people who look at your content, or it may be AdSense revenue.

Triond- This is a revenue-share site, which bases its payments on the amount of revenue your articles bring in for the site. After you upload your file (one file per article), the site approves it and it's set up on one of their many content sites. You can track your pageviews and income per article on the main site. In addition to articles, it also accepts poetry, essays and pretty much anything that people may be inclined to look at.

Squidoo- Squidoo is a place where members create "lenses," which are just easy-to-build web pages. Some people use them to promote their services, some use them as writing samples, and some use them for affiliate sales. You can also combine their uses and stick some affilaite links on a lens that promotes your writing services while providing writing clips. In addition to the affiliate sales that are possible, you also earn a small amount on your lens, depending on how popular it is. Even if it gets very little traffic, you earn a very small amount each month, and it's payable via PayPal.

HubPages- The income from this one is based on your own AdSense income. You approve the site to be added to your AdSense account and you keep any income that comes from it. Each HubPage is a separate Web page, kind of like a Squidoo lens. There's no limit to how many you can make. I've heard that making 50 or more can bring in a nice residual income every month. Of course, it has to be something that people want to read in order to start raking it in.

eHow- Writing articles at eHow isn't too terribly taxing, but again, it has to be something that people want to read. There are people that do very well there, and there are people who make pennies or less per article. The only payment is from some proprietary formula based on, something or other. They won't actually say what it is, but I'm assuming it's based on the amount of income the article generates. eHow has a very specific format for their articles, but once you get that down they go much more quickly.

AC- The old standby, Associated Content, started paying residuals last year. Fortunately, that means that the people who were paid for the articles they wrote for the site before the residuals started are being paid extra for articles that were already paid for. Unfortunately, it means they pay much less, or not at all, for most of the new articles that come in, hoping that residuals are enough to keep people writing. And, so far it has been. To keep the residuals coming in, you have to be active on the account at least every 90 days. The amounts are based purely on your pageviews, though they sometimes offer an upfront payment as well.

- This one pays based on pageviews, but it has a good readership and a high placement in the search engines. I have roughly as many articles here as I do on Triond, but my residuals are three times higher on Suite101. The residuals go on as long as the articles are on the site, even if you stop writing for them.

Helium- There are residuals, but they are supposedly the lowest available pretty much anywhere. I've never written for them, and there may be someone somewhere who does well for them, but I've only ever heard of writers who ended up making little to nothing and regretting their time spent on Helium content.

How to Do Things
- This site is another AdSense revenue site. The readership is medium sized, so there is some potential there. My articles were put up back when they paid for them, so I don't know how much the AdSense brings in. I do know, however, that my articles there have averaged more than 1300 views apiece, so articles on lucrative topics have potential.

Residuals may not pay much in the beginning, but the key is really to build up the volume of them. On most of these sites, whenever you post a new item, the views for the other items go up as well. This of course means that people who read your stuff will want to read the other stuff you wrote. Keeping some fresh content going in keeps views and revenues steady. I don't know that anyone could live off Web residuals, but they are nice to have during those slow times.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bind Your Own Books

If you've ever had the urge to publish or print your own books, you may have noticed how outrageous the cost of a vanity publisher is. The alternative is to find a way to print the things up yourself.

Coverbind is a company that has sold small, personal binding machines for the last 20 years. The binding machines can be used for small books, reports, photograph albums and anything else you need to give off a professional image. The books and reports aren't just stapled together or glued in place- they're really bound. The binding machines range from the small personal model to the larger, commercial version of the binder. Any of them will create a professional-looking result.

The binders are often used to bind a professional portfolio, such as writing clips or photography samples. If you’re familiar with how much professional photography supplies cost, a binder might be the least expensive thing in your studio.

Binders are a useful thing to happen in small businesses, as well. With an in-house binding machine, no employee has to take off an hour to run to Kinko’s. Every employee can bind their reports and meeting minutes. The result is an office that runs smoothly with less time wasted.

For writers, the possibilities of a personal binder are intriguing. You can bind up copies of a small book to use as a sample, or bind up many copies and hawk them to a bookseller. You might also use the binder to make a manuscript or book proposal more professional looking. Having a bound copy of a manuscript to send to an agent is a good way to set a manuscript apart from the slush pile. So, if you’re interested in seeing what these binders can do, take a look at www.coverbind.com. This is a sponsored post.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Um, Elance? Breathe.

Elance has visited this lil' blog no less than 11 times today. I'm not quite sure what to make of that one. That's pageviews also, so it may be less than 11 times that the site was brought up from scratch. But, several of those times were 20 minutes or more apart, and looking at the same page, so it may have been several different people. I just have to wonder what they're saying. They must bring up The Writer's Journey, close it out and then call a friend to come and look at it.

"Hey! Marge! Someone mentioned Elance on a blog! Can you believe it? What the heck? They actually mentioned us!"

Then of course, they close it out, but Bill walks in, and they know Bill wouldn't want to miss this. They bring it back up to let Bill share in the excitement.

"We've got one, Bill! Someone mentioned us! Do a screen capture! Get the camera out and take a picture! Can we get stationary printed up to mark the occasion? Check petty cash!"

Then of course Lillian walks in, and they have to repeat it for her. By this time, they've decided to celebrate with some champagne. A little bit tipsy, the Elance employees decide to re-read some of my old posts, all of which mention Elance. They laugh, they love, they drink some more. Good times, folks. Good times.

New Article Directory Offers Profit Sharing

If you’ve looked into the so-called bum marketing method, or other types of article marketing, you know about some of the biggest article directories out there. By choosing low-competition keywords, you can get in there and plug your site or pump those affiliate links out there. But, there’s a new site that gives you another opportunity to profit from your article marketing ventures. The 24Find Profit Sharing Article Directory is a new article directory that allows not only links in your article to your own site or blog, but it also lets you put your own AdSense on each article.

This is a sponsored review, but I do think it’s a pretty neat idea. Since the site is so new, there aren’t that many articles on it yet, but that could actually work to your favor. The site gives out quarterly awards to the writers with the articles with the best ratings. The ratings are made by other members of the site, and the awards are $100, $200 and $350. Since the site is new, there’s a pretty good chance of winning one of those awards. And, if you don’t, you still profit from your Adsense and from your article marketing. It looks pretty win-win all around.

Elance "Connects"

Ever since the Elance changes, they have advertised that even though you get very few "connects" with the new memberships (their new annoying word for bids), members would be free to buy more connects anytime they need them. Well, I bit the bullet and bought some today. I swore I wasn't going to, but the site now requires so many connects to bid and gives you so few, that to even bid on the number of invitations I get leaves me without connects after a week or so.

Now for the shocker- you can't just buy a pack of connects. Once you buy more connects, you are obligated to buy that amount every month forever. You have to actually agree to change your account so that the new amount is what you'll be paying for every month. Very sneaky, Elance. I had pretty much planned to move to Guru in March, but it's now a concrete plan. Elance is no longer hiding the fact that they are trying to gouge writers. All the talk about making the site better by charging us more rings pretty hollow when you see how they try to trick you into paying more. The "connect packs" were never billed as a change to the account. They were billed as something you could buy at any time when you needed more. Thanks to rampant mismanagement and what seem to be some slightly unethical practices, Elance will be a ghost town in March.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Freelance Bidding Sites

Freelance bidding sites are one of the ways that freelance writers get started. There are also lots of writers who work almost exclusively through them and do quite well. I've used two of them consistently for both work through the site and to secure regular clients. Now that I think about it, I'd say about 90 percent of my regulars have come to me through an initial bidding site project. Of course, some sites are better than others, and no site is identical to any other. Here's a basic breakdown:

RentACoder- This one is free to use and was the first bidding site I tried. The well-paying gigs aren't as plentiful as they used to be, but they can still be found if you're persistent. What I usually do is check the buyer to see if they've been outsourcing to India/Pakistan/Bangladesh for content. If they have, I pass. If not, there's a chance that they may pay a decent wage. This site gets knocked a lot because it has some of the lowest-paying work you'll ever see. And, yes, it does. But, there are definitely gems to be found amid the muck. I've gotten some of my highest-paying gigs through RAC.

Elance- This site was great for a long time, offering an enormous amount of jobs, though they did require a monthly fee. But, the fee could be knocked out quickly as the jobs came in. They still do have an enormous job pool of diverse writing gigs. Some of them are extremely well paying. I've done pretty well here and gotten a lot of regular clients. Unfortunately, they recently tripled their fees and reorganized into a complicated mess that results in less opportunities for gigs unless you pay a lot more. There's still potential there for someone with a lot of experience. But, for new writers who won't be getting as many jobs at first, the cost will likely far outweigh the benefit. Right now some of the new fees are being waived until March. If you've never used the site and want to try it, I would advise signing up right away to get a few feedbacks under your belt before the hideous rate changes smack you down.

Guru- I've heard extremely good things about this one, though I've never used it. The only reason for that is that I have a problem paying for more than one bidding site at a time. I'd have to start buying generic chocolate, and no one wants that. Trust me. I have heard it recommended so highly so many times that I'll likely be jumping on board as soon as I jump off the Elance train wreck in March. The fees are comparable to what Elance's used to be back in the day.

- I've heard mixed things about this one. The fees are quite low, and paying just $12 a month means you don't have to pay any commission. The problem is that I've never seen a gig worth the money on this site. It may be like the RAC weeding out process, but wherever the well-paying jobs are, I'm not seeing them. I've also heard from several people that getting stiffed isn't uncommon there. It might be worth a try, but overall I'll have to pass.

Two others to try:

Just stay away from these guys: http://www.gofreelance.com/
They are not a bidding site but try to look like one. Their reputation under a different name was horrendous online due to scam concerns, and they have changed their name since that time. I can't prove that the bad reputation and the name change were connected, but you do the math.

Unsecured Loans

If you can’t afford to hire a freelancer, but still want your business to take off, you might think about taking out a loan to get started. Many small businesses start with a loan for start up costs, and for online businesses, sufficient capital is often needed to hire a web designer and a content writer.

America One Unsecured offers unsecured personal loans as well as business loans. And, as you may have guessed from the name, these loans are unsecured. You don’t have to put up your house or car in order to get the capital you need. A small personal loan of as little as $100 can be obtained to fund personal projects, or you can apply for a business loan of up to $50K to give your business the best possible start. And, when you apply, America One Unsecured gives a fast reply with no credit check required. This is a sponsored review.

Monday, January 7, 2008

A Good Time for Seasonal Articles

Unlike the print world, where seasonal material is usually requested about six months in advance, seasonable material doesn't have to be in that early online. It occurred to me the other day that we're probably going to have Valentine's Day in the Western world again this year, no matter what I have to say about it. With about five weeks to go, this is the perfect time to get Valentine's Day web content underway.

Sometimes it's tough to come up with something that hasn't been covered a million times already, but there are a few ways to do it. One is by coming up with a creative list, such as: Ten Ways to... or The Five Best Ways to...

Lists are usually easier to digest as Web content anyway, as they are broken into quick chunks of information. I just hope I don't run across anymore articles that tell men to buy flowers and take their dates to a romantic dinner. Blah.

Pay Per Play Ads

Most webmasters have tried AdSense and other passive ad methods on their sites. The problem with a lot of those is that the ads are strictly PPC- you don’t get paid unless someone clicks on the ads. But, there’s a new way to sponsor your site that pays every time someone is exposed to the ad. They don’t have to click anything and you don’t even have to take up space on your site with the ad.

Pay Per Play Online Audio Ads put a 5-second ad on your site. Five seconds isn’t long enough to be obtrusive, but it is long enough for your advertisers to get the word out. There are 66,000 Pay Per Play advertisers just waiting to get their short message on your site- and pay you for every listen. This is a sponsored post.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Freelance Web Writing Controversies

I thought of a new New Year's Plan, and yes, it is now the 5th. So, I'm a little late.

Writers in general are outspoken, striving to express themselves through writing and other means. So, they can get a little melodramatic at times. Over the past three months I've gotten embroiled in debates over web writing topics that, shall we say, tend to get blown a little out of proportion in writer's forums and blogs. I'm going to try my best not to get into the silliness anymore, and if I don't think something is controversial, then I'm not going to pretend it is. Cases in point:

$3 articles- There's been a giant debate raging in pretty much every writing blog and forum I visit about whether people should take on gigs where the "buyer" is paying $3 for a full-length web article. Obviously that amount of work is not worth the money, but I'm not debating it anymore. It's crap pay and no one should take it. Pretending otherwise is just silly. After spending more time than I care to admit on helping new writers find better paying markets, I was yelled at by people who think that minimum wage is great pay for writing. And, not one person ever thanked me for my time. So, no more. If you want to work for $3- do it. I don't care anymore.

PLR articles- There is constant debate about the "morality" of selling PLR content. I actually saw someone recently who compared it to selling drugs. Seriously. Yes, writers do have a flair for the melodramatic, and I'm no different, but come on. That's just a waste of time and energy. If you don't like PLR content, don't write it and don't buy it. I'm no longer interested in opinions about it.

Marketing yourself- This was another bit of silliness from writing forums and blogs. Marketing is something that any writer has to do, whether it's print writing, web writing or PR writing. It's an inevitable step in the process these days. Even publishing houses expect their writers to do a good bit of marketing for their books. There's nothing wrong with learning a bit about marketing in order to reach your target client more easily. Doesn't sound controversial, right? Wrong. Debates have been raging about how if you're a good writer, clients will be leaping out of buildings to get you to work for them, even if they've never heard of you. Right. A balance of writing and marketing is important, as long as the marketing doesn't overtake the writing. I've seen that happen before, and the writing that results isn't pretty. But for those who think marketing is stupid, I suggest a few business courses and perhaps a different career. And, I'm not letting anyone goad me into self doubt by saying that a "real" writer doesn't have to market. Please. Even J.K. Rowling markets her work.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Christmas Gifts of Angels and Devils

These were my favorite Christmas gifts- the Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde action figures. They came complete with captions written by my spouse. The two of them together remind me of nothing less than the stereotypical angel and devil figures sitting on each shoulder. Which one should I listen to?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Pragma Systems

As quickly as technology is evolving these days, businesses need a company to provide the most reliable and secure access possible. Pragma Systems provides software that every corporation needs in order to stay connected and keep from being infiltrated by hackers. If your company uses Windows, this is especially important. Pragma Systems provides a number of software products to ensure safety and a reliable connection. To see what Pragma Systems can do for your company, take a look at the products available through SFTP. This is a sponsored post.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A New Year, New Plans

I hear so much about New Year's resolutions, I have to wonder how many people will keep theirs. I don't know that I've ever kept mine. So, instead of New Year's resolutions, I'm making New Year's plans.

Plan 1- Get less distracted during the day. I plan to work my set hours without allowing anything around me, or online, to distract me from getting my work done. Part of this plan is to spend less time at writer's forums. Those suckers can seriously suck time.

Plan 2- Get more residual income. With more residual income coming in, I'd have more time for writing fiction and sending book queries. I've been tinkering with a few sites that pay residuals, and have a good foundation built to have more coming in. I don't think anyone gets rich from it, but I'd like to buy some personal writing time.

Plan 3- Start writing for magazines. I've never queried a magazine before. Ever. I've had articles in five newspapers, a medical journal, newsletters and all over the freaking web- but no magazines. Most magazines pay better than web work, but there's not as much of it. It also takes forever to be paid. So, I don't want a career of it, but I'd like to start querying and see where it leads.

Plan 4- Read more classics. It's important to look away from web writing regularly and be reminded of what writing is really about. Web writing pays the bills, making it easy to forget for awhile how far it is from what I really want to do. Writing isn't really about the per word price, who gets signed with which company or what niches you're carving out. It's about creating the best work you can and hoping that it has lasting value.

Plan 5- Ignore more advice. Most of the advice I get leads nowhere. I'm not sure why I still listen to it.