Monday, June 30, 2008

How Much Can You Make With Suite101?

First of all, I can’t tell you. The site doesn’t allow anyone who writes for them to divulge how much they make from the site. However, people come here every day by searching Google for the answer to this very question. You won’t find the answer anywhere online, and if you do, it will probably be a very old number that was posted before they changed the payment structure.

So, the question is not really how much can be made on Suite101 but rather, is the money you make worth the effort that you put into the site. The answer to that is a profound yes and no.

There are two types of Suite101 writers- contributing writers and feature writers. As a contributor writer, your work gets little promotion and often little attention. The pay is fairly small, though there is a slight raise after you have 50 articles written for them. As a contributing writer, I did not feel that the income was remotely worth the effort. Maybe that’s because I don’t write about iPods and American Idol, or maybe it’s fairly standard. That I can’t say.

After I was made a feature writer, however, that all changed. There is a nice raise involved, but I think that the income shot up because you get better exposure. You write your category’s landing page and your latest creations are featured there. You also get a blog there that you’re required to post to every week. That also brings readers to your work.

After spending some time as a feature writer, I do think that the pay is well worth the amount of time I spend there. However, that isn’t generally my criteria for something with my name on it. About 98 percent of my work is never credited. It’s ghostwritten or simply work that the client doesn’t put a name on.

To have something online with my name on it, I require a good deal of creative control. In that respect, Suite101 does come through. I have to write weekly for my category, but the specific topics I choose are entirely up to me. I can also write additional articles for other categories if I so choose. If you want creative control- go for it. They don’t require that much of your time and they have pretty good page rank.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Meeting Clients in Person

Getting used to communicating with clients online wasn't too hard. There are a million ways to do it. But, when you're doing a local project there may come a time when a client wants to Meet in Person.

It looks like I'm going to have to meet with a client and a collaborator fairly soon for a mid-scale project that I've taken on.

That's right- not through email, not through Google chat, not through IMs. It won't be a suit kind of meeting, but it will be the kind where you have to put on a bra, get in the car and go somewhere. I haven't had to do this in several months. The last time I discovered several pros and cons of the face-to-face client meeting.

You can't wear pajama pants or eat egg rolls while you're meeting. You actually have to let the client dictate the space and parameters.
You have to be there at a specific time- not just a certain date or a range of dates. The client tells you the exact hour that you have to work. Oh no he di'int!

For a complicated project, or one that involves several people working together, it really is the best way to communicate. You can collaborate more easily and get a feel for how to make the project turn out the best way possible.
You can see all of those buildings and trees and things you keep hearing about.
Sometimes a face-to-face meeting can get you and client working together better than days of emails. This saves time for both of you.

Whether it's with a suit or without, eventually most writers will have to meet with someone. For the most part, I think it's best to talk to clients in person the way you talk to kids- keep a pleasant tone in your voice and try not to swear too much.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Resisting a Writing Niche

When I started freelancing, I couldn't understand why so many freelance writers were limiting themselves to a niche. Wouldn't they be limiting their work? Wouldn't that cut down on the kind of jobs they could take on?

After awhile, I could see the temptation to take on a niche. Once you get used to writing about something, it gets easier and easier. You are then able to write it in less time and take on more work, making the day more profitable.

But, I have tried to resist the lure of the niche. For one thing, it does exactly what I feared. It does limit the kinds of projects you can take on. It won't matter much if someone is paying $25 a word for articles about mushrooms if the only thing you've ever written about is constipation. It isn't necessary to most clients that you have direct experience writing about their specific topic- if you can show that you write about many topics well.

Even if you do write about one or two things more than any other (marketing!), it's still important to make the effort to write outside that niche. If you have some health samples (no, not urine), some marketing samples, a few home improvement samples and an article or two about onions, you can demonstrate that no topic is beyond you.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Article Prices

I've been through a lot of different payment methods for determining article and ebooks rates. For ebooks rates I've come up with a per-page system that reflects the length of the overall book in relation to how long it will take and how many other things I will have to turn down to get the ebook done. But for articles- pricing can be extremely tricky.

Per-Article Pricing
When I first began, I started with a per-article rate that was the same no matter how long the article was, how many keywords it needed and what it was about. I was able to slowly raise that rate as I developed more clients, more online bylines and experience with more topics. It was not, however, turning out to be a great method of pricing. One article might take 30 minutes while another might take two hours, but both were the same price. It didn't really make good sense.

Per-Word Pricing
I then moved to per-word pricing. This worked a lot better than the per-article pricing, but it still didn't tell the whole story. I was chugging along pretty well at my per-word rate when I got smacked in the head with a few highly-technical articles. They were short, and the per-word rate was good. Unfortunately, they took longer than most long articles and reduced my hourly income to about minimum wage. What to do? Funny you should ask because I did come up with something better.

Topic Rates
I've been using topic rates for the past two months or so and this has been working out better than either of the last two rates. With a topic rate, I charge more for things that I know for a fact will take longer. A longer article won't necessarily take longer, but a completely unfamiliar topic will. So far I've had no problems with this with private clients. As for companies, well, they generally won't change their rates to suit your new pricing plan, the bastards. So, in those cases I've been choosing topics that are more in line with what I would be charging another client for them if they were paying what the company does. Make sense? Well, it does to me.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Better Places to Find Freelance Writing Work

So, if not the standard places to get freelance writing jobs, then where? There are countless ways to go about finding better paying work. These examples comprise a combination of company work and getting your own customers. That means steady work from a variety of sources so that losing any one client doesn't mean living on beans until you find a new one.

Bidding Sites
I wrote a fairly long review about most of the freelance bidding sites and their potential for making money. The potential for a higher price per article is excellent with Elance and Guru and even RAC to some extent. These sites sometimes get bad mouthed by freelancers. Why? Because many of the people who run sites full of freelance jobs have a vested interest in doing so. If you're on bidding sites you won't be combing their sites for jobs. It's really as simple as that.

Using these sites is extremely lucrative and can get you as many regular customers as you want. It is also much, much less time consuming to get projects through these sites than by applying over and over again to those long lists of gigs. There is far less competition for these projects and there are always new ones being posted.


There are also a number of companies that hire hundreds of writers and pay them a per-article rate. One such company is WRG. They hire writers and editors periodically and are usually in the market for someone who is serious about getting articles in. If they aren't currently hiring, you might inquire about when they will be. The company has several projects, none of which I am allowed to mention specifically. The main one right now is very short articles that pay $10 apiece. That may not sound like a lot, but the articles are half sized, making them quick and pretty easy to write. The work is pretty much unlimited with no maximums. There are many people who make thousands a month with them.

Demand Studios is another company that has several projects requiring quick articles. They reportedly have maximums, however. For some people this probably works out well, though, as they don't feel like they're slacking for not writing hundreds of articles a month. It just depends on how many you want to write and how much you need to make. I'm told that this site does pay a little more than WRG on a per-article basis.

Love to Know
is another company that pays per article. They reportedly also have maximums and they are fairly limited as far as topics. There is always a list available of topics that need writers.

There are countless other companies out there that pay per article- doing a little searching may help you to find more. I used to write for one that bought short articles about insurance for $12 apiece but I can't think of that sucker's name right now. So, they are out there. Having one or two companies that pay regularly is a great safety net for slow times.

Freelance Portfolios
If you have a portfolio on Freelance Portfolios, people will come to you. It's free to put a portfolio together and it does bring in the traffic. I've had quite a few people contact me through there. And, the people who look for writers through this site aren't usually the type that don't want to pay for writers. If they contact you, they already know what you are capable of and whether you are a native English speaker or not. You can also set a pay rate right there on the portfolio if you choose to.

Your Own Website
Having your own website is a great way to get business. People can contact you through contact form or through an email address that you post on the site. A few writing samples and a bio is generally enough to show what you do and what your skill level is. People can contact you directly and you can negotiate from there.

Job Sites
Mainstream sites like have some writing jobs that are available for telecommuters. It may take some digging to find them, but since the site charges companies to post these ads, you know they are serious about paying. They will not be people looking for the cheapest possible writer. If they were so concerned about their pennies they would place a free ad somewhere else.

There are a number of other places that people find work that pays a decent wage. These are the ways that I generally get clients. I also get word-of-mouth clients who were told by other marketers that I was good and reliable. Word of mouth clients are great because they already know what you charge and come to you willing to pay it. It can take some time to get those types of clients, but it's certainly worth the wait.

If you want the ultra-high payers, there are many sites that pay much more than these. Of course, they will not pay for 200 articles from you and they may want story pitches first. I do know of people that go this route. They are certainly proud of the $800 article they wrote for an ultra mega site. Of course, it took days of pitching to get it, the article took quite a while to write and then there were revisions that needed to be made. And, that site was just one of many that were queried with story pitches, most of which were rejected. The whole process may have taken weeks.

On the other hand, my articles are mid-priced but they are always there. I made more than $800 last week and will this week as well. It's all a matter of what kind of income you need. Some want the prestige more than the money, and that's fine too. If you want to make a living at Web writing, eventually you have to make this type of decision.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Where Not to Get Freelance Writing Work

So where do you get better paying work? I hear that question a lot. The standard sources that most people hear about are Digital Point, freelance job sites and Craigslist. Sure, there are gigs to be had on all of these sites. There are, however, significant problems.

Digital Point

Con: The people of Digital Point are often called bottom feeders, and if you've ever spent time there you will understand why. Don't get me wrong- there are a few perfectly lovely clients there who want quality and will pay for it. Unfortunately, there are about 1,000 jerks for every one of those. They will argue and make fun of anyone who wants a decent price for articles. They tell new writers that the "standard rate" for articles is $5 apiece. New writers believe it and soon devalue their own work to the point that they can't afford to keep writing.

Pro: If you have an enormous amount of time on your hands, you can find the lovely clients. They are there, somewhere. There are also a few places to post your info and to post special offers for the marketers who hang there. I'm told that though it costs $20 to do this, it can pay off in the end.

Freelance Job Sites
Con: For the most part, they are a waste of time. They are so heavily promoted and so populated that the job posters are inundated with several hundred emails a day, making it impossible for them to even look through them all. The first cheap one is generally chosen. Also, most of the jobs are from Craigslist and many of them are scams. I wasted too many hours that I will never get back on this type of site.

Pro: There are a few gems in the bunch, but it can take 100 hours or more of applying to scam after scam to actually find one, if you manage to apply within minutes of the gem being posted. I do know of people who have found high-paying work this way.

Con: Most of the time the jobs are either scams or they simply weed through responses to find the cheapest one. For a professional it can be difficult to abide this type of system. Quality is often not a consideration. And, scams are flourishing at a rapid rate. Many of the ads for high-paying work are really affiliate ads trying to get you to sign up for a membership with a job board. Others are there to get your email address to sell to people who run those types of job boards.

Pro: Like any type of freelance site, there are gems in the slush pile. I know of companies that use Craigslist to quickly fill legitimate writing positions and individuals that use it to outsource decent-paying work. However, like the freelance job sites, it can take days of searching and applying to find one.

Tomorrow I will go into some of the best places to get work that pays better than the DP "standard rate." Once you get going in that direction and build a reputation, there's no reason to ever take .02 a word, or even less, for an article.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Can You Make a Living as a Freelance Writer?

Of course you can. I sometimes see speculation about whether it's possible and who is actually doing it. I know of quite a few who do, and all of them are Web writers or copywriters.

I'm not sure whether it's possible with magazine writing, though. Magazines may pay a lot more, but there are far fewer paying markets and it can take months before you see payment.

If you've ever look at a Robert Bly book, the entire process of becoming a commercial copywriter is spelled out fairly thoroughly. According to him, much of it depends on cold calling. Copywriters that I'm acquainted with have reported the same thing. If you can't do it, and I can't, there's Web writing.

Web writing may not pay as much per project in most cases, but there's plenty of work and no limit on how much you can earn. If you're getting started, it's a good idea to have a monetary goal in mind. Without that goal you may be taken advantage of by unscrupulous people looking for what is essentially indentured servitude. To reach a weekly or monthly goal, you need an hourly goal. Starting with a reasonable hourly figure, with hard work you should be able to increase that rate steadily until you are able to work fewer hours and still reach your goal every month.

Reaching an hourly goal sometimes means having a specific per-word rate. The rates for Web writers vary wildly, but there are a few norms. One norm is that the bottom feeders will try to tell you that .01 a word is the standard. It isn't. Even starting out there is no reason to write for that rate. Another norm is that charging a super-high rate means getting little work. I do know of people who charge .30 a word or more for Web articles. That rate will probably work for one or two clients, but it would be hard to succeed long term at that rate. If you are writing sales letters or other commercial copywriting online, that is a more reasonable rate. Of course, it may take longer and involve revisions. In the end, the hourly rate may be the same.

If you seem to be working all the time but are wondering where the money is, calculate your hourly rate. Try it for at least two days- using only one day may be affected by mood, energy level or distractions. If you can get a two or three-day average, you might be surprised by what you see. It may make you ask for higher rates or it may impress you so much that you put on a bow tie and hit the town. Either way, you will know where your business stands and what you need to do next.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Stay Out of the Low-Pay Rut

I've seen it happen many, many times. New Web writers accept very low paying work and then have to work an extreme amount of hours to make the money they need. Then, of course, there is no time to search for better paying work or to learn about other markets. All time becomes devoted to the low paying work in order to keep up the pace. People who get into this rut may never get themselves out.

Don't get me wrong- you certainly can't start at the top. Making the transition from print to Web writing usually means a learning curve and a lower wage to begin with. But, if it isn't going anywhere, it's time to overhaul your markets.

If you can't afford to stop writing for the low-paying markets long enough to apply to better markets, then simply integrate it into your writing schedule. Spend one hour per day scanning through freelance bidding sites. Also check out legitimate sites like ProBlogger and MediaBistro for better markets. There are many people who get high-paying work from Craigslist, but it is often much more time consuming to do so than to go elsewhere for work.

After integrating this into your daily work schedule, you will eventually see the ratio start to shift. At first 90 percent of your work could be in the .02-a-word ballpark, then 80 percent, then 70, etc. Getting out of the rut is possible, however. I have seen too many people lately who are stuck and see no way out. Just keep plugging away and in a few months the transformation will be breathtaking.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

American Literary Tastes

I think that this says it all. Basically, if it says "Best Seller" on it, it's usually crap. Except Harry Potter. And anything by Kim Harrison. And Anne Rice.

Actually, what most Americans read is romance novels. I was shocked when I found out that they make up a little over 50 percent of the country's book market. I wrote a summary of the American book market's appetite for romance novels here. Yes, there really are NASCAR romance novels.

I think that the perfect story for American audiences is probably a handsome lawyer who falls in love with a beautiful but feisty woman and then commits a crime in a haunted house. That's probably the quickest road to being published. I have not copyrighted this story idea, so feel free to use it. Also feel free to send me a cut of the royalties.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Web Press Releases

It occurred to me the other day that I haven't written a press release in a couple of months. I think that's the longest I've gone in years without writing one. This wasn't really an accident, though. I haven't sought out any press release writing gigs in awhile because writing Web press releases can be extremely annoying. Here's why:

It's time consuming. I see more people wanting bad press releases than wanting good ones. That means cheap prices and little attention paid to actually getting the release carried. Sorry. I can't do it. It takes me at least a couple of hours to write one, and I end up with a result that is a balance of PR and newsworthiness that I believe has the best chance of being of interest to media outlets. I'm not writing a $5 special because it's a waste of my time and the client's. Of course, that means that $20 for a press release isn't going to cut it and I'm tired of looking for people who can actually pay for their releases.

Clients often don't know what they need. In the online press release world, I have found that many clients sincerely don't have any idea what a press release is or what it should contain. I've had clients tell me that a press release is "just an article in a different format," and other such nonsense. Clients like that really don't understand what goes into one and they don't know what aspects of a press release make it very different from an article. I'm tired of having clients ask me for a press release and then need me to tell them what one is.

Many clients think their topics is incredibly newsworthy, when it isn't. When I was doing online press releases regularly, I only took on releases when I knew I could make them slanted toward the newsworthy. Often that takes a great deal of creative nudging to make it equate to something that people want to read about. I did one a few months ago that publicized an online store that sold one specific type of product. That product is kind of antiquated and has never been newsworthy. However, I took it on because I remembered a news story two weeks before that could propel those products back onto the map.

I wrote the release with that in mind, slanting it toward actual news so that it would get picked up. The client said that the news story I had referenced wasn't "recent enough." Now, keep in mind that this was the only news story about this topic in at least 10 years, and the story had only been two weeks before. Now you may see why I'm soured on Web releases for the moment.

On the other hand, I've never had any problem whatsoever with print press release clients. They listen to my advice, understand my experience and trust my judgment. So far, I've never had one fail to get into the newspaper. Go figure.

Monday, June 2, 2008

How to Get Your Blog a Book Deal

Blogging is a lot of different things to the people who blog. I saw a recent post somewhere that said you are not a blogger unless you do research before you start a blog and figure out how to bring in traffic. I wish I could remember where I saw that, but I do remember that the blog itself was crap. It was dry, boring, offered no new ideas or points of view and was heavily invested in bringing in as many people as it could. It will never be like
Passive Aggressive Notes
. This site is funny and interesting without demanding anything of its readers. The blogger has just been signed to a six-figure book deal based on this blog.

Postcards From Yo Momma is a site everyone can relate to. Unfortunately, not everyone can relate to the book deal that the blogger will only describe as "comfortable."

The Julie/Julia Project was one woman's attempt to cook 536 of Julia Child's recipes in one year and to blog about the experience. It not only led to a book deal, the movie starring Meryl Streep is now in production.

Stuff White People Like is a weird blog that's about just what the title suggests. It's hard to classify exactly what the point is other than just to highlight weird stuff. The blogger started the blog as a whim to amuse himself. He was recently given a $350,000 advance from Random House based on his blog.

What do these blogs have in common? They were not thoroughly researched ahead of time. They did not cajole people into reading them and they were started in the spirit of fun and self expression. Those are the best blogs and those are the ones that get books deals. So, go out and do that. The Web has enough dry blogs that are calculated toward making a profit through keywords. Seriously.

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