Thursday, February 9, 2012

Page views and pennies

I'm a bit embarrassed by the length of time that has passed since my last post. As online writers, the past few months have been wrought with changes that have turned many of our lives upside down. Google, it seems, is determined to penalize content mills. Most of you are probably painfully aware that it is the writer that has taken the biggest fall. For the moment, it seems we are all guilty by association, and our skills and professionalism as writers have been called into question.

I have not escaped unscathed - but I maintain my faith that skilled writers will find their niche despite the recent actions of content mills who are struggling to keep their proverbial heads above water.

If I have any wisdom to share today, it is simple.

  • Avoid selling your soul for page views and pennies. In recent months I have observed many who have succumbed to just that in an attempt to recover from loss of work. When things improve - and they will - the work you did for a quick buck will still be out there with your name on it.
  • Use a pen name. If you find yourself in the position where you feel you must accept work that is questionable but really doesn't mesh with your brand - use a pen name. Preserve your reputation and your professionalism at all costs.
  • Don't work for less than you are worth. Accepting jobs that pay you a dollar or two for your efforts isn't going to pay your bills, but it will help to depress wages for writers. You may be thinking that if you don't accept them someone else will - and you may be correct - but the client will get what he pays for. Wages for online writers will not increase if writers continue to work for peanuts.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Finding Private Clients

If you are an online writer, you may have found success publishing your work on writing sites or offering your services to others by selling your work under a "work for hire" agreement. Unfortunately, the changes in Google are making it more difficult to earn a living wage from writing sites alone. You've probably already heard other writers talking about Private Clients and wonder where on earth they find these clients. The answer is simpler than you may think -- but it requires both preparation and patience.

Getting Ready to Seek Private Clients

  • Evaluate Your Skills. Think carefully about your strengths. Can you change your writing style to fit the needs of various clients? Do you have good research skills? Are you skilled in instructional or educational writing? Does your voice speak to your audience? Perhaps, a rapid turn-around time is your selling point.
  • Decide What Kind of Writing You Prefer. You may find more success if you focus on one or two areas, such as gardening, parenting or Eco-friendly -- but don't overlook the value of writing on a wide range of topics. You can always tailor your samples to the needs of the client. Covering a range of topics may open more doors -- but try to keep it to the things you actually enjoy writing about.
  • Decide on Your Rates. These don't need to be set in stone, but you do need to have an idea of what you expect to earn from your writing. Remember, if you don't know what you want, you won't recognize it when you find it.
  • Gather Writing Samples. Choose one or two of your best articles for each category you would like to write in. Links to websites work well for an online portfolio or digital submissions, but a hard copy with printed versions of your work is a must for those face-to-face meetings with prospective clients.
  • Develop a Portfolio. A notebook with printed articles -- inside plastic sleeves, of course -- allows you to show prospective clients samples of your work.
  • Digital Portfolio and Author Site. This allows you send private clients to your site at their convenience. Include samples, or links to your work, an author bio and other related information. Include testimonies from actual customers, if possible. You can easily begin with a free site, like a wordpress blog, but buying your own url adds to your professional image.
  • Get Business Cards. You might not think you need business cards, but when you find yourself in the grocery store and a prospective client comes you way, a business card -- complete with the address to your online portfolio -- assures the client you are a professional and take your work seriously. If you choose to make your own business cards, pay attention to detail, double check spelling and grammar and print them on high-quality card stock. Your business card makes a statement about you as a writer. Make sure the message it sends is professional and conveys who you are as a writer.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Social Networking for Online Writers: Are Twitter and Facebook the Answer?

I've been thinking about social networks for a while now -- Twitter and Facebook being at the top of my list. I've tried them both out to see how well they work for promoting my writing. To be totally honest with you, I haven't seen much of a return on my investment. What I have seen, is tons of people trying to sell me ebooks and reports that are guaranteed to teach me how to how to use Twitter or Facebook to build a following that will be eager to click on my links. Some even claim to make thousands of dollars a day just by posting a few simple links.

My question is: If these people know how to make thousands or millions of dollars with a few minutes work, why are they wasting their time and effort writing books to teach me how?  

Oh, we both know the answer. They are making money off the hopes and dreams of people just like you and me who are all too eager to believe that with a "secret formula" we will be on our way to guaranteed success.

There may be formulas out there -- such as setting goals and working to achieve them -- but I'll leave those conversation to my blog In the Direction of Dreams. If you are interested in that sort of thing feel free to stop by and check out the resources for attaining your goals by changing your thinking.

I just published an article about Social Networking for Promoting your online writing, so I won't repeat myself here. If you are interested in reading about how and why it works -- or doesn't -- you can read that in Social Networking: Twitter and Facebook as Promotional Tools for Writers  (or Tweeting Away Your Time). 

Your views and experience may differ from mine and I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Feel free to leave your comments on the article (Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the comment box.) or on this post.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Since I started writing online over four years ago, I've listened to other writers talk about producing "high quality work" and I have come to the conclusion that, like beauty, "quality is in the eye of the beholder."

I like to think I produce quality work, but I'm not naive enough to think that everyone shares that opinion of my writing. To some, much of my writing may simply be drivel that is best left in the recesses of my mind. You see, I dabble with all sorts of writing that appeals to a range of readers from my paranormal blog to my Goals and Gratitude Blog. I take risks and have fun with what I do. But, I have long given up the notion of being a perfectionist. I make mistakes, and that's okay -- at least in my blogs. I like to think it makes me appear more human. I also write for clients who expect flawless work written in specific formats and adhering to stringent guidelines. I can do that, too -- but its not as much fun.

Some writers measure the quality of their work by the amount of money they earn, confusing the money value of their work on some sites with its quality.  I know that sounds odd, but I think its true. As online writers we are all too quick to equate our earnings with our success and often overlook that there is more to online writing than making money.

Others assume they are producing quality work if their topic is popular. It may attract a lot of viewers and if you write for revenue share or earn money from page views, it may be profitable -- but that shouldn't be confused with "quality writing."

So, that brings me to the question: What is quality writing? Is it flawless writing that meets all the standards of grammatical construction and states its case in clear, concise language? Is it writing that draws the most readers? Or, could it be that quality writing is something different altogether?
I have come to the conclusion that quality writing is more than construction, more than popularity and more than the money it earns. I can't speak for anyone else, but I can share with you my ideas of what makes quality writing.
  • Meets minimum standards of grammar and construction. A missed comma or two isn't going to kill anyone. Simple direct language is fine, but sentence fragments, run-on sentences and gross errors of tense and subject/verb agreement are not.
  • Spelling is accurate. Anyone can look up a word in the dictionary. Work riddled with misspellings is the sign of a lazy writer.
  • Provides the reader with new information or provokes thought.
  • Goes beyond what the reader wants or expects to provide the reader with what he needs, regardless of if he is aware of the need.
  • Backs up information and avoids vague references.
  • Does not present opinion as fact.
Please feel free to add your ideas on what makes quality writing in the comments. I'd love to hear what you have to say.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft.~H.G.Wells

As writers, dealing with copy editors is an everyday occurrence, but that doesn't mean its always easy. Sometimes, well-meaning criticism from an editor is enough to shake the confidence of any writer--but you can avoid damage to your writer's ego.

  • Accept that you are not perfect. We all make errors, we all have bad days and no one produces their best work every day. Accept that as part of your role as a writer.
  • Don't take it personally. Editors respond to the written word, offering advice and guidance to improve your craft. Resist the urge to take it personally.
  • Realize that however harsh the criticism may be, it's just the opinion of one person. 
  • Walk away if edits seem difficult. Time and space have a way of lessening the sting of overly harsh editing. 
  • Find humor in the situation. Go ahead. Laugh at your mistakes. Poke fun at your funky editor--although I don't recommend sharing your new found humor with the editor. 
More quotes about writers and their perilous relationship with editors.
If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.  ~Toni Morrison. Find more quotes about writers and their perilous relationship with editors.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Google Stings Online Writers Yet Again

I don't know what Google has against online writers, but I'm beginning to think its personal. Not only are page views taking a hit from Google's game of musical algorithms, Google has decided to remove some of its tools, as well. If you do your research to find search volume and estimated CPC, you probably already know that that information has been removed from the AdWords Keyword Tool.

Honestly, I might not have noticed for a while, but you see, this came just as Demand Media announced that the eHow's WCP program is shut down. Offers were emailed to contributors for their body of work and writers have the choice to sell out or remove their articles.

This, of course, set off a mad rush to the Google Adword Tool, as writers frantically tried to decide if they should sell or if a little tweaking and republishing somewhere else was in order.

Much to my surprise, when I clicked to set the columns, this option was gone. At first, this threw me into a loop as the realization that writers no longer had access to the value of keywords began to sink in. A whirlwind of emotions swirled as I tried to make sense of this disturbing change of events. But, I'm feeling a bit better about it today. 

It occurred to me that if writers don't know the value of keywords, then the practice of choosing keywords and creating a superficial article around those words may actually stop. That's good news for all of us, unless, of course you were the person pumping out superficial articles centered on high paying keywords. If you are, you probably aren't going to like what I have to say.

As writing sites, aka content farms, scramble to meet Google's new quality standards, their tactics of obtaining content must change. This just may mean new opportunities for those who have already established their skill at producing quality content. Why? It's simple, really. Those who have been busy honing the craft of sculpting superficial content around a series of keywords--and accepting mere pennies for their efforts--don't know how to produce the type of quality that is likely to save content farms from being buried under the rubble.

That's where we come in. To save themselves, writing sites need the help of experienced online writers who can and do produce the quality they seek. This may mean increased opportunities and income for those who can rise above the changes and meet the new demands for online content. For those who can't, the prospects aren't looking so good.

So instead of worrying about how the changes to the Google algorithm will effect your online work, take some time and consider what you have to offer to the changing face of online writing. Look for opportunities to use your skills in productive ways as you adapt to changes that just may prove to be beneficial in the long run.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A to Z blogging Challenge: W, X, Y and Z

W, X, Y and Z mark the end of the A to Z  Blogging Challenge. No I'm not proud to cheat my way from A to Z, but sometimes a writer has to do whatever it takes to work her way through an article--whether she feels like it or not. Ordinarily, I'd take more time and would never hand a client a piece of shoddy work--but, well, I'm already late and I want to talk about Google and online writing again. See you in my next post.