Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Weekly Resource RoundUp

In this week's roundup, I want to focus on applying for jobs. As freelancers, we'll be spending a lot of time looking for and applying for jobs.

First, check out Deb Ng's list of 12 things to do before applying for a freelance writing job.

Next, work on your resume. Learn how to make it stand out from the pack. If you missed my post on creating a writer's resume earlier this month, take a look to be sure you have all the information you need.

You want to be sure you have a great cover letter. If sending through email, there are a few extra things to consider.

If you want to brush up on your writing skills before applying check out Mom Writing From Home for information and links on improving writing skills.

Monday, August 24, 2009

10 Reasons Freelancing Might Not Be for You

To many people, freelancing may seem like a dream job. There's no punching a time clock. You can take off when you want. If you don't feel like doing something, you can turn down the job. For those that actually attempt a freelancing career, reality may come as a rude shock. So before you tell your boss exactly what they can do with their job, check out these ten reasons freelancing might not be for you.

You like interaction.

Freelancing is lonely work. You spend a lot of time alone. What little talking you do will most likely be with clients. If you do online work, the majority of your contact with clients will be through email or instant messaging programs. Since starting my freelancing journey four months ago, I've only talked to two people on the phone.

You are not proactive.

In other words, you are not a go-getter. It's extremely rare to have freelance jobs just fall into your lap. Most of the time you have to do the work of finding jobs and submitting an application or resume. While freelance job boards and jobs that connect clients with freelancers do exist, you still have to put yourself out there.

In some cases, you will have to be persistent. Don't be afraid to follow up on a potential job if you do not hear back after applying. Your application or resume may have been lost along the way or the client may be sitting back to see who takes the initiative. One of my current writing jobs was landed as a result of sending a follow up email reiterating my interest and asking if they needed any additional information to make their decision.

You have a lot going on.

This isn't always a barrier to a freelance career if you have good organization and time management skills. There are many freelancers, myself included, that successfully balance freelancing with family and other responsibilities. However, the more you have going on, the less time you have to devote to your freelance work.

You are unorganized.

Organization is an important skill, especially if you want to get paid for your work. You need to keep up with what work you've done and how much you are owed for it. For some clients, you may be asked to submit an invoice. When writing for content sites, you often have to click a pay out button before you will receive payment.

You also need to keep your income and expenses organized for tax time. Even if you plan to drop everything in the lap of your accountant, you need to be sure you have all the information handy. after doing the taxes for my husband's business for the last few years, I can tell you from experience that your accountant will not enjoy spending more time finding missing information than actually doing the taxes.

Your skin is thin.

With so many people drawn to freelancing, you may be going up against a large number of applicants for a job. Some may have more experience or offer lower rates than you are willing to. In some cases, it may come down to who offers the quickest turnaround time. Rejection is a sad fact of life in the freelancing world. Even big names in freelancing occasionally get turned down for a job.

You don't have good time management skills.

Time management skills are critical, especially if freelancing isn't the only thing on your plate. Missing a deadline is a cardinal sin in the freelance world. While a single missed deadline as a result of a situation beyond your control will most likely be excused, a reputation for constantly missing deadlines will be fatal to your career. Word gets around about unreliable freelancers and it can quickly become difficult to find work.

You expect a full-time income from the start.

While a full-time income from the start isn't completely impossible, it is highly unlikely. It takes time to build your reputation. Income usually grows as you gain more experience and visibility in the field.

Your communication skills aren't up to par.

While the majority of your contact with clients will most likely be through email or internet messaging, good communication skills are required. You need to be able to understand their needs, asking pertinent questions if necessary to clarify. If taking on a large job, you need to be prepared to update the client on your progress at frequent intervals. In all communications with clients, you need to maintain a professional image.

You need supervision.

As a freelancer, you'll be given a job and expected to do it. While asking questions for clarification is to be expected, most clients do not want to hold your hand as you do the job. If you can't work without someone telling you how and when to do something, you're probably not going to do well as a freelancer.

You're gullible.

There are scams that specifically target freelancers. Most of these revolve around the scammer posting an ad for a position and asking for samples as part of the application process. In reality, there is no position and you have just provided the scammer with free work, which they turn around and submit as their own or sell to others. If you're the gullible type, you will spend more time getting scammed than actually making money freelancing.

*Image by Svilen Mushkatov.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Weekly Resource RoundUp

weekly resource roundup logoIf you accept Paypal payments from clients for your freelance writing, you may be getting a little less than expected from now on. While personal accounts used to be able to receive money for free, Paypal has now added fees for certain transfers. Check out Paypal Doubles Fees, Forgets to Tell Customers for more details. This move may mean less money in your pocket now, but keep in mind that payment processing fees can be deducted as business expenses on taxes.

Freelance Apple offers 17 tips and tricks for new freelancers. Check it out to make sure you're doing everything you can to get your freelance writing business off the ground.

If you plan for your blog to be a source of income and want to be sure it gets off to a good start, there is a blog post on Just Make Money Online to help you out. The post is called how to make money from blogs in the first 6 months and gives you a month by month breakdown of what you need to do.

Daily Writing Tips gives us the top 5 freelance mistakes to avoid.

Last, but certainly not least, Deb Ng of Freelance Writing Jobs offers a little advice for finding work between jobs.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Pros and Cons of Writing Packages

balance scaleWriting packages consist of multiple articles. Occasionally packages are for articles on related topics, but more often they cover the same topic. For the most part, I enjoy doing packages. However, there are some drawbacks.

  • Research is faster. Instead of having to research each individual article, you can research the subject once and do all the writing from a single research session.
  • Clients get to see more than one sample of your work. On content sites, work usually goes to the writer who claims it first. Unless you get lucky and snag multiple orders by the same client, you're left trying to make that one article convince the client you're the best writer for any future work. With a package, you have several opportunities.
  • You gain skills in originality and creativity. This is especially true of packages in which the subject matter is very narrow. You may end up covering the same ground multiple times and each article needs to be unique.
  • If you have trouble with one article in the package, you may have trouble with them all. This happened to me recently when I took on a writing package of five articles on a popular cosmetic procedure. When I first accepted the job, it seemed like it would be an easy one. However, once I started writing the first article, it quickly became apparent that meeting the client's needs and writing effectively was going to be difficult. With every subsequent article in the package, my frustration grew. While I did manage to complete the package, it was not a pleasant experience.
  • You may get paid less. In a world with buy one get one free or other discounts promoted everywhere, clients may expect a discount for giving you multiple articles to do. While it may not seem much to offer a $0.50 per article discount, it can quickly add up. Over 100 articles, you'll make $50 less.
What are your thoughts on article packages? Are they worth it?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Scheduling Writing Jobs

daily planner for scheduling freelance writing jobsWhen I first started taking assignments, I would write them down in my planner on the due date and time and would often actually write the article the same day it was due.

However, with everything I have going on in my life, I realized that odds were something was going to happen to prevent me from finishing my work on time. I started scheduling jobs a day or two before they were truly due in order to give myself a cushion.

This week, the odds were not in my favor. My husband was supposed to be home for the day on Friday so I scheduled a bunch of work to do that day. At 9 AM Friday morning, he got a call about a tile job. Since he's building his own business at the moment, he had to take the job. So I was left with a slew of work to be done while taking care of our sick three year old. I ended up only getting half of the work done that I had planned for the day.

Thankfully, my new system for scheduling saved me. Although I had scheduled the work to be done Friday, it was actually due over the next few days. I was able to complete all my jobs and get them turned in to the client by the real deadline.

How do you schedule your writing?

*Photo by Uffe Nielse.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Promoting Your Writing

person with a bullhornIf you write for content sites that pay for page views such as Ehow or Associated Content, getting traffic to your writing is important if you want it to earn money. While SEO (search engine optimization) and good writing may attract some traffic, promoting your writing exposes more people to your work.

RedGage is one method of promoting your writing. After registering for free, users can upload their photos, videos, blog posts and links to their work. Other RedGage users view your content, sometimes rating or commenting on it, and you earn cash for each view. While RedGage promotes the potential to earn, my goal for the site is simply to drive more traffic to my writing. It's paying off. In just a couple weeks, I've managed to gain over 200 views.

Twitter is another option. If you have a lot of followers, tweeting links to your articles can gain some views. However, be careful not to overwhelm your followers with links as this is considered by many to be spamming. I would suggest breaking up link tweets with conversation or only tweeting links that would interest your followers. For instance, if many of your followers are parents, a link to an article on how to get permanent marker off a hardwood floor would probably be a welcome tweet.

You can also post links on your Myspace or Facebook profile. Again, you want to be careful not to overwhelm with links. A few well-chosen links will do. If your readers enjoy your writing, they will go looking for more of your work.

If you're a member of a forum, linking to an article or your profile on a content site may be an option. On the WAHM forum I frequent, it's not unusual to see members with links to their Ehow or Associated Content profiles in their signature. Answering a post in a niche forum with a link to your work may also be a way of getting views. For instance, if you're a member of a crafting forum and a member has posted asking about free patterns, you may be able to link to your article on finding free patterns.

Advice sites such as Yahoo Answers may send some traffic to your writing. Don't be afraid to link to your writing if it's relevant to the question.

As a final option, your blog may be a way of promoting your writing. While you should not plaster your blog with links to every article you've ever written, occasionally referencing an article in a blog post or putting a feed of recent articles in a sidebar can bring traffic to your writing, especially if your blog has a high volume of traffic.

*Picture by Yamamoto Ortiz.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Weekly Resource RoundUp

weekly resource roundup logoNo one wants to put a lot of work into applying for a writing job only to find out that it's a scam. James of Men With Pens shares three scams freelancers face and how to avoid them. It is an older post (September 2007), but many of these scams are still in use today.

If you're writing content for the web, search engine optimization, often referred to as SEO, is something you need to know about. Check out this great list of free SEO tools. If you're writing for a share of ad revenue, you'll definitely want to check out the keyword tools.

Unless you plan to stay with content sites, odds are you're going to start looking for your own clients at some point in the future. Daily Writing Tips gives us 5 tips when bidding for freelance work.

Freelance Parent gives us 67 freelance niche writing markets you may have never considered.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Busy, but Productive

person jugglingLast week was very busy, but also quite productive for me. I finally hit my writing groove and managed to knock out almost $100 in articles. I'm well on my way to my August goal of $400 in writing income. I may even end up surpassing my goal. The addition of two more sites at the end of last month definitely helped as I have more options for income.

My new system for writing has helped a lot. Originally, I was grabbing an article or two, doing them and then looking for more work. Now, I sit down once a day and grab several articles with varying due dates. I spend less time looking for work and have work lined up several days out. What's your system for writing?

In addition to writing, I've been helping my husband with his business. After four years of subcontracting pretty much exclusively for one company, he decided to go in a new direction. He went into partnership with a friend. Since they're basically starting a new business from the ground up, they can't afford someone to handle the phones, bookkeeping, advertising and setting up their online presence. That all landed on my plate. I can't say that I mind too much, though, as they've already landed several nice jobs.

With everything going on, my time management skills are getting quite a workout. I'd be lost without my planner. I write down everything on it-due dates for articles, when I need to request payouts, doctor appointments, my classes, etc. Then I block out periods of times to do each thing. I try to take writing assignments on similar subjects so I only have to research once.

One thing I'm considering is setting up an additional monitor on my computer. I spend a lot of time going back and forth between my sources and my word processing program. Adding another monitor would enable me to have my research on one screen and my article up on another. This should reduce the amount of time I spend writing an article, in turn increasing my productivity. Do you have more than one monitor? If you do, has it increased your productivity?

*Photo by Joe Zlomek.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Weekly Resource RoundUp

weekly resource roundup logoA few more good resources this week. If you know of any that may be helpful to me or other readers, please comment and let me know.

If you're looking for information on how to monitor for content theft or how to deal with it if you find it, you need to check out Hey That Blogger Stole My Content at Blog World Expo.

If you're constantly fighting distraction, then check out 155 ways to work at home without distractions. There's lots of great tips from people that work from home.

Twitter has become the new social media. Learn 62 ways to use Twitter for business.

Ever wonder why you are not more productive? Check these 6 reasons on Dumb Little Man and learn how to get past them.

Your bio is an important part of how client's perceive you. Learn how to write a killer bio that lets clients see who you are and what you have to offer them.

Monday, August 3, 2009

How to Create a Freelance Writer's Resume

ResumeAs in a lot of other jobs, freelance writers sometimes find themselves in need of a resume in order to apply for a desired position. While a traditional resume will sometimes suffice, a writer's resume is a better choice. A writers resume focuses on your writing skills and experience. Any training related to either writing or the type of writing you will be doing should also be included.

If you're unsure of what to include on your writers resume, hiring a professional resume writer is an option. However, you should keep in mind that you may need several variations of your resume depending on the type of writing position you're applying for. That is why many freelancers choose to build their own writers resume.

A writer's resume begins like a traditional one with your name and contact information. Use discretion when deciding how much personal information to share. While many legitimate freelance writing positions do request a resume, spammers sometimes use the ruse to gain information.

Next is the objective. This is an often debated part of a resume. There are many that believe that no resume is complete without an objective. There are an equal amount of people who believe that the objective is useless. If you do decide to include an objective, make sure it's personalized to the job. A generic "position to utilize my writing skills" should be avoided.

Skills are next. While you may be tempted to include all your writing skills, it's best to list the ones that are relevant to the position. Remember hiring managers generally only spend 15 to 30 seconds reviewing a resume.

Experience follows. Focus on your writing experience. However, if you've held a non-writing position that can relate to the position you're applying for, it may be worthwhile to include that experience on your writers resume. For instance, if you're applying for a position as a medical writer and have ten years experience as a nurse, you would include your nursing experience because it lets the potential client know that you have a medical background.

Education should also be included. School name, location, degree, year of graduation is a common format. Even if you didn't graduate with a degree, it may be helpful to include relevant classes or activities that you did well in.

That is a basic format for the writer's resume. Don't be afraid to reorder the parts to play up your strong points. If you have little experience, but a Master's degree in Journalism, definitely move the Education section.

As you can see, a writer's resume isn't much different than one for any other job. The key is in highlighting your writing skills.

*Photo courtesy Microsoft ClipArt.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Freelance Progress Report: July 2009

Coins into piggy bankJuly ended up being a pretty hectic month for me and I fell short of my income goal. Between my husband and my father-in-law both being hospitalized and running here and there taking everyone for doctor's appointments and tests, I wasn't home that much. When I was home, a lot of my time went towards designing new business cards and a website for my husband's business.

Most of my writing was done the week my husband was out of work. He took over taking care of our daughter and the house, which freed up my time for writing. I registered our daughter for Head Start and now we're waiting to hear if she got in. If she gets in, I'll be able to do more writing during the day, which should increase my income substantially.

I started my phlebotomy classes the last week of July. It's paying off in an unexpected way. Thanks to what was covered in our first two classes, I came up with a few article ideas. I've set aside some pages in the back of my notebook I use for class to jot down article ideas.

I picked up two more writing jobs this month, Need An Article and Ecopywriters. I'm still getting used to them, but so far I'm enjoying writing for both sites. NAA has really impressed me with their open communication policy. Unlike other sites where you rarely get to speak to the staff, NAA encourages communication. I'll have more details on both sites once I get a little more versed in them.

The Breakdown
4 articles-$35.08
4 articles-$21.60

Associated Content once more got pushed to the side in favor of better paying options. I did do one article, an assignment, but other than doing a little promotion to drive traffic to my articles there, that was the extent of my work for them.

The Breakdown
1 assignment-$2.00
June PV bonus-$2.91
Total for month-$4.91
Total since start-$108.05

I had joined eHow a while back, but for some reason, I never followed through. This month I did put up a few How to's. I'm pleasantly surprised by the result. While they don't pay upfront like the other sites I write for, their pay for page views is better than I expected. With only 5 articles, I made close to what I got from Associated Content and I have 36 articles up on AC.

The Breakdown
5 articles
PV earnings-$1.65

With joining two other writing sites this month and learning the ropes with them, I did very little writing for Text Broker. Despite being told that the move to a level 5 would take a few weeks, I still haven't heard anything or noticed a change in my rating. I'm a bit disappointed.

The Breakdown
1 article in the 4 category-$4.55
1 article in the 3 category-$2.00
Total for month-$6.55
Total since start-$169.25

This month I joined RedGage in an effort to get more exposure for my writing. I added links to all of my Associated Content and eHow articles. It seems to have helped a little. The day after I added links to my articles, my AC page views went up. They did come back down, but are slightly higher than they were before. I'm going to keep experimenting to see if I can find a method to consistently drive traffic to my articles.

The fact that you can earn money when people click your links on RedGage was an added bonus, but since I joined just before the end of the month, I only made a few pennies. I'm not too concerned about the money issue since my main reason for joining was to get more views on my articles.

*Photo by Marc Garrido i Puig