Sunday, October 26, 2008

PayPal Invoices

If you've ever sent a PayPal invoice, you might have paused a bit when it came to labeling the request. After choosing the amount of the invoice and the email address that it will go to, PayPal invoices require the one sending the invoice to label what is being sold. The choices are Goods, Services, eBay Items and Auction Goods (non-eBay). The eBay and Auction Goods options are clearly incorrect unless you've figured out a way to sell your writing services through eBay (and if you have- you rock!).

That just leaves Goods and Services. So which one is it? Sometimes I choose one, sometimes the other and for no real reason. I was sending an invoice today and really started wondering about this. Is it really a good or a service that we should be invoicing for? Legally, I'm guessing it's a good, since we are selling the rights to the material. But how do the clients view it? They may feel like they are purchasing our services and expertise rather than just the finished materials.

If you aren't selling the full rights, should you mark it as Services? I know that there are a lot of writers who sell reprint rights often or negotiate for usage rights. In those cases, labeling the invoice as Services might help to remind the client about the arrangement.

I think that after thinking about it way too hard this evening I'm going to start labeling invoices with that mindset- Goods for most items and Services for the very, very, very few times that I sell a reprint of something that I've already published elsewhere.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Freelance Writing Courses

I have a few words about freelance writing courses, not all of which are complimentary. I have a few opinions that not everyone will agree with, but they are nonetheless right.

Ok, I was kidding about that, but I do think that there are a lot of people who don't understand that writing and marketing are two different things. I am seeing more and more Web writers who are trying to sell their own writing courses, and to put it mildly, not all of them should. The way it is now, just because someone is successful does not mean they can write well. It also is no indication of their ability to teach anyone to do anything.

I have a glaring example in mind, but I'm not going to mention it specifically. Let's just say that there is a writing blog out there that doesn't really say much, but that it tries hard to offer insightful information about writing and the freelancing biz. Then let's say that it's always poorly written but that the blog is promoted relentlessly and has way more readers than I could ever dream of having.

Great! The blogger hasn't had to hone that pesky writing because he is a master of marketing. This blogger apparently does very well and is now running a writing course. Should you take a writing course from this person? Of course not. Should you take a marketing course from him? If he had one, I might take it, but I might not. Being able to teach things online depends a lot on how clearly you write, and let's hypothetically say that this blogger writes mainly to fill up a page rather than to actually communicate anything.

This is not the first time I've seen this. I've actually seen a number of freelancers over the past year who have decided to start teaching writing online as a sideline. I have only seen one who had any business doing so. Some of them don't have degrees and have poor writing samples, yet people seem to be interested in paying to be told how to write like these people. One in particular had a horrifying mix of steep course fees, bad writing and zero credentials of any kind. Were people interested? Apparently.

So, why are people falling for this? Besides poor nutritional choices, most of these people probably think that taking a writing course from someone who is monetarily successful means that they will be too. They won't. Learning to write badly is a waste of time and money. Now, learning Internet marketing is a whole different story. You don't have to have any particular talent for anything if you know how to market yourself. Heck, you don't even need to sell anything.

I know of at least three incredibly bad writers who are wildly successful because of this. That's what they should be teaching and that's what new freelancers need to learn. Heck, that's what I need to learn.

If a person wants to learn marketing, make sure that the "writing course" you're signing up for is about how to sell your writing. If you actually want a writing course to learn how to write, don't go through some dude's blog. There is a blog I can recommend going through, but that's because the teachers of the courses are actually qualified to teach writing.

The Renegade Writer has several fascinating-looking courses that hit on specific writing types. A real writing course will do that. A bad writing course teaches "writing" in general. The particularly bad course I mentioned earlier taught "writing" and had no other information. The blogger was pushing the course among my writers' group, despite not having any information about what type of writing she was going to teach.

Speaking as someone who took four years of specialized writing courses and did two internships, I can tell you that there is no one course that can teach you everything about writing. Anyone who says that this is possible is a marketer rather than a writer.

I've actually found that some of the most successful, visible writers are often the worst ones. Why? Because writing isn't their focus. Their focus is on promoting themselves. If you are serious about writing, I would suggest going back to school or taking online courses from either a highly-qualified writer or taking a college course online.

Here is a list of some of the colleges that teach them online as well as a few websites with credible courses. Some of these courses are free, so there's no excuse to instead seek out some blogger who promises that though he doesn't write well, he can quickly teach you to do so. If, however, he can teach you how to write poorly but become ridiculously successful by doing so, have at it.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


You might have noticed that I recently introduced Kontera to Ye Olde Blogg. If you didn't, you might have noticed the annoying little blue lines that seemed randomly placed around the page.

I have ended up writing about making money through blogging so many times that it seemed a little weird that I wasn’t really doing any of it. In much the same way that I can tell you exactly what you personally are doing wrong on your alpaca farm, I have ended up knowing a lot about how to monetize a blog even though I don’t do it myself.

Well, I decided to get off my tail and actually use some of the monetizing methods that I have written about so many times. So, I have an affiliate ad and I have Kontera and I increased the number of AdSense link units. Kontera is what’s creating the little blue lines that appear under certain keywords. The ads are keyword-based pay-per-click ads like AdSense.

There. Are the blog gods happy now? Now I gotta work on buying some alpacas…

You Know You Do Too Much SEO Writing When:

You find yourself adding keywords into an email to your parents.

You decide that a commercial on TV is keyword stuffing because of the number of times they say the product name.

You have a hard time using pronouns because, hey- that’s just a missed keyword opportunity.

You have a favorite keyword density checker and two alternate sites for when you get sick of the first one.

You find yourself shouting, “No whammies! No whammies!” when CopyScape is checking an article for duplicate phrases.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What is WRONG With MS Word?

If you were a kid in the late 80’s, you might remember the whole shebang about Deep Thought beating the super-brain chess champion. You may have also been wondering, like I was, what the big deal was since your home computer could beat the pants off anyone at Solitaire. But, I digress.

The real question is why so many millions could be spent on developing a chess-playing computer when there are no agencies working in a lab somewhere to develop a decent freaking word processing program. Seriously, think about this. If you use Word you may have noticed how frequently wrong it is. You might have had it give you green squiggles when there is no possibility of it being correct in its rude little insinuations.

Where are the government scientists in all of this? How hard could it be, after decades of word processing programs, to create one that actually works well 98 percent of the time? I’ve noticed that Hubble works pretty well most of the time. My car has never broken down. My toaster can make four slices of toast at once. But, a decent word processing program? Apparently that’s just beyond the world’s current level of technology.