Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Quick Blogging Job Available

I don't usually post freelance jobs, but this one I thought was pretty cool. is a site that is becoming known for its free blogs, kind of like Blogger. However, they are now hiring quite a few bloggers to write blogs on the topic of their choice. I haven't worked out just why yet- I think t may be to get the name out there in the public realm quicker than simply waiting for people to show up and start blogs. Anyway, the blogging positions are super easy and pay adequately for what they entail.

The application link is: They pay for one post a day, though you can write more than that if you like. The pay isn't fantastic, but the posts only have to be 150 words, so it's actually pretty lucrative given the time involved. I was hired the same day that I applied, so the 30-day warning is to be taken with a grain of salt.

The blogs use Wordpress, so it's pretty straightforward. Mine was up and running within a few minutes with no trouble at all. I'll add a link here to the blog whenever I get around to it.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Virtual Book Tours

I was contacted the other day by an agent who represents a popular Irish author and asked whether I would be interested in hosting him here on Ye Olde Blogge for a virtual book tour. A what? Book tours have gone virtual? Indeed they have, as I soon found out.

Digging around the Web I found out that the virtual book tour is the current hot thing in book marketing. Who knew? I certainly didn't, as no one wants to publish my books- especially since most of them aren't yet finished. The virtual book tour is pretty much what it sounds like. The author "travels" around to different sites and gives interviews and/or writes guest blog posts over a set period of time. It's a great concept, really. The expense of traveling around the country, or to multiple countries, has to be prohibitive for most authors and publishing houses. The big guys might get the old fashioned paid promotional trip, but the little guy can forget it. The virtual tour levels the field just a little.

Of course, I don't know how much my blog would really help. I'm not exactly on the big-time blog map. I'm not exactly this guy, this guy, or, God forbid, these people. I would be happy to be a pit stop along a tour, though. A chance to pick a popular author's brain is a priceless experience, even if my own books sit in notebooks and Word files forever and ever until the word is colonized by Reptilians.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Pandering With Keywords

I've written a lot about keywords both as a ghostwriter and under my own name. I just recently published this keyword article on Suite101. I'm starting to wonder, however, how important keywords really are.

Most of the keyword information out there is just anecdotal- search engines do not tell you to have any word repeated over and over. They do not specify keyword densities. Yet, everyone believes that if they just have the right keyword density, they will rank better. Based on my own anecdotal evidence, I'm starting to wonder if that's true. I suspect that it may once have been true but that search engines got hip to the keyword density race and scraped it in favor of content that sounds more natural.

In my own experience, and I do Internet research for hours each day for various writing projects, keyword density doesn't do a heck of a lot. I pull up articles every single day that fleetingly mention a topic once and yet are featured on the front page of results. I've also seen that I rank in the top one or two results for several search terms, and I have never put any term in this blog with an eye toward keywords or keyword density. Some of the most obnoxious blogs in the world are ones that peg a niche and flood it with keywords, or worse- awkward keyword phrases.

What does look like a better way to get a ranking is to continually add to a page or a website. The top-ranked pages are almost always ones that are new or that are added onto frequently. If you really want to get a better ranking, I highly recommend taking the time to add onto your site every few days or even more often. And don't worry about keyword density- there's no proof that search engines do.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Freelance Bidding Sites vs. Freelance Job Sites

This is a post that I've had in mind for awhile but wasn't sure I should post. But, in the interest of sharing useful information and helping other freelance writers, I feel the need to write it. Let me preface by saying that I don't mean any disrespect to any one site, nor do I think that there's anything wrong with any site or its intentions.

There are those who visit freelance writing sites that post jobs regularly and apply to the many jobs that are listed. There are several interesting jobs sites that post jobs daily or every few days. I have heard from several people that they get most of their clients from those sites. I also hear that there are people who have gotten lucrative gigs from them. However, that has not been my experience and I don't think it's the norm. I believe that the people like me who have had nothing but bad luck with them are afraid to say anything because it will make them look like a loser. Well, so maybe I'm a loser, but here's why I don't see those sites as worthwhile for serious freelancers:

There are one or two sites that I visited every single day for close to a year. Every day I gathered the urls of the jobs I would apply to. I spent literally an hour or more a day just applying to those sites. Sometimes this would take several hours. It took months of this before I was offered anything from a client that I found through the site, and even then it was extremely low paying.

About 90 percent of the time I got no response whatsoever from the people I applied to. About five percent of the time I got a form email saying that the position had already been filled. These emails were often sent within one day, meaning that the jobs were assigned very quickly and with little consideration for quality. The first person offering a cheap rate was chosen. After talking to countless freelancers, both people on the jobs sites and those who had gotten jobs through them, I found that this was certainly the case. Most of the ones who had gotten gigs got them within hours of them being posted. So, to even be considered for many of these, it's necessary to apply immediately with the cheapest possible price.

Compounding that problem, I later found out that many of the people applying were offering to do the projects for even less than was offered, and the prices offered weren't that great in the first place. And even worse, I found out that the jobs listed on one of those sites had hundreds of people apply to them the first day they were listed. So, to get them, you had to check the jobs sites constantly, since there was no set time that the jobs are listed. Then, you had to offer as little as possible immediately and compete against hundreds of people doing the same thing.

What happened the other five percent of the time? I got scammed over and over again. I either got a form letter inviting me to pay to join some job list or I got added to a newsletter about working at home. The jobs that looked like they paid a lot, the ones that I was most interested in, were most often scams. When I did hear from someone about a project, they either asked me for free work as a "test" and wouldn't accept the samples I already had (scam), or they would offer me much less than they'd advertised because, as they said, so many people had applied with cheaper prices.

After about a year of this, I'd had enough. I can't count how many hours I'd spent on those sites, looking for jobs, sending hundreds of cover letters, resumes and samples. I can't count how many times someone had made it sound like I would get a project, only to find out that it was a scam.

There are people who get projects through freelance job sites. I know there are. But, I'm no amateur. I have a four-year degree in journalism and years of experience in print and Web writing. I have a good resume, countless references and a nice writing sample site that offers hundreds of Web article samples. If I couldn't get one decent project in all of that time, there's something wrong. After almost a year, when all was said and done, after the communicating and emailing and checking and trying, I got one paid project. That project was extremely low paying and I did it only briefly because the pay just didn't make it worthwhile. One. Project.

Meanwhile, at the same time I was spending an hour or two a day looking for projects on Elance and RentaCoder. I got countless projects through those sites and got clients that stuck with me for months or even a year or more. I bid a fair price, not always the lowest, and competed with far fewer people. A lot of competition for a project was about 20 or 30 people, a far cry from the hundreds that competed for each of the job site jobs.

So, why did I even both with the job sites? I certainly wish I hadn't bothered. I wish I could have seen how useless it was and how much time it wasted. I wish I had that time back and could use it for the actual paying work I got through bidding sites. I think part of the problem was certainly that I heard from so many people that they got great projects through the sites. I never heard a bad word about them and never heard people telling stories like mine. I thought there must be something wrong with me and that I should try harder, apply faster and keep going. I'm over it. I think there are a lot of people out there who had similar experiences with those sites and were too afraid to admit it. They're afraid it will make them look like bad writers who couldn't score a project because they were terrible. Let me tell you, I'm no Dickens, but I'm far from terrible. And, I've seen some terrible writers talk about getting projects through there.

So, I don't think it has anything to do with being good, bad or ugly. I think it's simply a skewed supply and demand system that is no longer worth the time for a serious freelancer. Perhaps it once was, before everyone found out about the sites and rushed them, but no longer.

This isn't to say that smaller job sites aren't still worthwhile- some of them are. But, for the larger sites, their useful time has come and gone.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Weirdness of Ghostwritten Blogs

Blogs are proliferating so rapidly because they a) are fun to read b) rank better than just about anything in search engines and c) provide a personal way to get information. When you read a blog, you get the information from a real person, or group of people, rather than from a faceless website. You build up trust in the person you're reading week after week. I personally think that's the main draw- you get to know these people through what they write and how they deliver their information. So, what if the whole thing is put on?

I'm mainly a ghostwriter, meaning that I'm undead and float around. Ok, it just means that my name doesn't go onto most of what I write and often someone else's name does. It can be irritating to see something you slaved over being published with someone else's name on it, but that's the nature of the biz. The buyer pays, they own the work and they can put Bozo the clown's name on it if they so choose. The only time it really feels weird is when this occurs with a blog. I've ghostwritten several blogs now and I still find it strange. I enjoy it, blogs have been some of my very favorite jobs, but it's still a little odd.

Imagine that one of the blogs you read every week isn't really written by the name that's on it. Imagine that there is no one by that name- the name was made up by the blog owner who then pays the ghostwriter to create a personality to go along with it. That personality posts information in the blog week after week as readers come around and start reading it regularly. Pretty soon they feel like they know that fictitious person and trust what they're saying. Since I've been doing this I keep wondering- how many of the blogs I read are ghostwritten? How many of them have the owner's name on them when the owner has never written a word? And, how many have an entirely fake name attached to them? I'll bet I've made you wonder now too...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Creative Writing and Writing Jobs

Anyone who writes for a living is a writer, I believe. Sometimes I wonder, however, how much of my job is really writing and how much is marketing? Most of what I do as a web writer is work for hire- someone tells me how long the work should be and what it will be about. Sometimes I cam given keywords to add, and more often than not I am given a title. So, when I put it all together, can that be considered writing or marketing? After careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that it's writing. I am not a marketer by trade, and yes, writing strictly-defined articles can be considered creative writing.

What you write, even if you are given a very detailed guide about what to write, is extremely colored by your own skill and attitude. You can make anything funny, sad, sympathetic or straightforward and unbiased. The particular path you take is a footprint you leave behind. Sometimes I think that having to work within such tight constraints and still being able to make the material alive and interesting is a harder creative process than writing whatever the heck you want.

I need writing jobs to turn to for money, and I do consider them to be creative writing in their own way. However, once in a while the need to strike out in my own creative direction hits me and I have to follow where it leads.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Not Looking for Work

It can actually happen. You can get to a point in freelance Web writing where you don't have to actively search for work. It took awhile, but I am so grateful that I don't have to search for a couple of hours every day before I start the actual work.

How it Happens:

The first step is to have a visible Web presence. I have a writing sample site, Squidoo lenses and a couple of blogs to keep my name out there. Clients write to me through the sample site or the lenses and ask me about rates and tell me about their projects. Most of them then disappear, perhaps believing me to have too high a price, perhaps simply capturing my email for the purposes of evil. But, some offer little projects that I can do without having to search out the gigs.

I also frequent a fabulous writing forum full of women writers. I regularly do projects for some of those ladies and have had nothing but good experience with them.

I have a profile on Elance full of good feedback and a portfolio full of writing samples. I get invitations for projects through Elance as well as scoring regular clients through the site. Many of my regulars are people that I first worked with through Elance.

I write directly for a company. I've been writing for a specific content company for almost a year. That work is there all the time and brings in a steady check. I'd like a second company to contract with so that I have two meaty checks every month instead of a bunch of small ones. Perhaps soon.

I write directly for websites. Suite101, AC and others pay me residuals that add up to a small passive income. If I wrote more for them, I'm sure it would be a more impressive amount. My payments are small, but it's a good revenue stream.

I make a little from this 'lil blog. I haven't done it as much lately, but I've made a little money by writing sponsored posts for various companies. There are people out there who do quite well by blogging and using paid posts.

When self employed, having different income streams is incredibly important. If you don't have a boss who will write you a check for the same amount every month, you can't rely on one single source of freelance income. Keep the work diversified and keep your name out there and there will come a time when you no longer have to hit freelance job sites.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Selling the Rights to Web Articles

For Web writers, the issue of rights can be a sticky one. When writing for magazines or anthologies, many writers keep the rights to their work after giving up the first print rights or first North American rights. I see a lot of writers who are transitioning into Web writing and are shocked at the idea of giving up all rights. But, that's what work for hire is. You are hired to write on a specific topic and the article that results is transfered to the buyer. The writer has no rights in those cases.

Personally, I have no problem whatsoever with giving up rights to an article when I have been paid for it. The only time I don't want to give up rights is when the site or client in question is paying on a profit-sharing basis. I write for several sites that pay based on pageviews or a portion of the revenue generated by pay-per-click ads.

If you want to write for a website and keep the rights to your work, there are several that allow it. Suite101 allows its writers to keep the rights to all of their articles but asks that the articles not be reproduced elsewhere for one year. BellaOnline has the same one-year policy.

I wrote for Triond for a while to test the revenue possibilities. The possibilities are bleak at best. I recently found out that Triond lets its writers keep all rights to the articles they post there. Therefore, I am going to take some of my articles from there and transfer them to HubPages, which has the same rights policy.

If you write for AC, you have the option to publish your work exclusively or non-exclusively. If you choose the non-exclusive route, you can publish the work anywhere else you desire. One way that I've found to make the most of that arrangement is to publish non-exclusive items on AC and then to offer the re-print rights on Constant Content. I have sold several re-print rights there, and though they don't go for much, it's been a nice sideline.