Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Weekly Resource RoundUp

I haven't had much time to post lately. As I mentioned in a post earlier this month, my entire family, including myself, got sick. I ended up losing close to a week of writing time. It was not exactly an ideal start for the month. I've been scrambling all month to make up for the lost income so I can still reach my goal of $400 in writing income.

Anyway, on to this week's resource round up. Since many of us haven't reached the point where we make enough income to pay for things we need, I thought I would share some freebies for freelancers that I have came across on the web.

Visit Writing Career to get some free e-books that can help expand your skills. If you are looking for information on how to make money writing for gaming sites, Freelance Poker Writing will help. Creative Freelancing shows you the various careers you can pursue from home, including freelance writing, programming, graphic design and more. If you write a lot of promotional copy or are considering adding that to your repertoire, check out The Lousy Writer's Guide to Writing Persuasively.

If you do not have Microsoft Office or perhaps you have a client that doesn't, Open Office is an excellent substitution. It is an open source (FREE) software suite that gives you word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, graphic and database functionality. It is similar to Microsoft Office so there is no steep learning curve. Extensions to improve functionality are also available for free.

Nothing interferes with a freelancer's work more than their computer having problems. Avast! Antivirus Home Edition will help protect you from damage caused by viruses. Spybot S&D will search out spyware for you. If you use IE8, be sure to scroll down the page to read about a possible issue and how to fix it. Finally, Ad-Aware Free is another program that finds spyware and adware on your computer. I like to use both it and Spybot because each will catch whatever the other one misses. When downloading, make sure you have selected the free version as they also offer paid versions with more features.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Weekly Resource RoundUp

One thing I've found since starting my freelance writing career is that research is essential for many articles. Even if you know the subject enough to write off the top of your head, there are some sites that require you to document sources. So I thought I'd share a few of my favorite research places.

If you need a study to back up a claim on something medical related, you can't go wrong with PubMed. A service of the US Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health, PubMed allows users to search through literally millions of citations from medical and science journals. The search does include some foreign language journal and there are not always translations. In most cases, results of your search will give you abstracts and point you to wherever you need to go to read the full text. I have found PubMed especially helpful in writing articles on alternative health such as herbs. My clients have really liked having scientific studies to back up the claims. "In a 2004 study by British researchers, the herb was found to increase energy by 80%." is a lot more effective than "The herb increases energy."

If you want to look for information in books, but don't feel like wading through the offerings at your local library, Google Books can help. Just type in your search terms and it will search through its large library of books. Depending on the book, you may be able to read it online entirely, get a preview or, in some cases, get nothing more than the name of the book and author. If you're interested in those that do not offer full text, you can then check your library to see if they have a copy available.

The CIA World Factbook is a good jumping off point if you are writing about countries you are not familiar with. It gives information and statistics on the country's geography, people, government, economy, communications, transportation, military and transnational issues. You can find out everything from the average life expectancy to how many cell phones there are in the country.

Ask your local library if there is a state program that offers reference material. I'm not sure about other states, but I know in my home state of North Carolina, we have access to a large online database that links us to reference sites for all kinds of subjects from auto repair to science and technology. Many of the sites normally require membership fees, but by going through the state database, residents are able to access the information for free. All I had to do was give my local library a call and ask for the password for home access. If you are a freelance writer living in North Carolina, leave me a comment and I'll help you get set up.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Importance of Breaks for Freelancers

Making a full time living working from home is probably one of the top reasons people choose to leave their 9-5 for a freelancing career. However, most people fail to take into account that it takes time to build that kind of income. They find themselves working long hours, taking on any job that comes their way, trying to get to that income level. Burnout is common.

Ask any freelancer what their secret is for maintaining their sanity and preventing burnout and they will tell you it is taking regular breaks. By regular breaks, I don't just mean a half hour lunch break or a few smoke breaks through the day. I'm talking about a break that involves staying away from the computer for an extended amount of time.

When I started my journey into freelance writing, I fell in the trap myself. Because my time was split between taking care of my family, going to school and helping my husband with his business, I took every chance I got to write. I ended up giving up time with my family on weekends since that was the only time my husband was home all day to be with our daughter.

Then it hit me. I can't be effective as a freelance writer if I don't give myself some downtime. My brain needs times to recharge, especially if I'm working on multiple orders on the same subject like I have been lately. My eyes and back also need the break. More importantly, my family needs me on weekends.

Now I make it a point to take at least one day a week off from work and everyone is happier. My family is happy because I'm not hidden away in my home office. My back and eyes are happy because they got a much needed rest. Even my clients are happier because a recharged brain is a creative one.

Do you take breaks?

*Photo by Vassiliki Koutsothanasi.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Weekly Resource RoundUp

This week's roundup is all about blogs and blogging. While most of these resources focus on running your own blog, some of the tips can also be applied to paid blogging for other people.

Jade Craven highlights 892 tips you can learn from some of the top bloggers on the web. Darren Rowse (Problogger), Michael Martine (Remarkablogger) and James Chartrand (Men with Pens) are only a few of the gurus on the list.

Learn 10 tips to help tidy up your blog categories. I've been working on this myself here on The Freelance Experiment. As you can see, I still have work to do.

The Weblogs category at has a nice directory of advertising opportunities. If you're wanting to monetize your blog, you might want to check it out. While it doesn't cover all the options for monetizing your blog, it's a good jumping off point.

Daily Blog Tips shares 4 ways to promote your blog offline. The blogger at Balkhis shares 13 ways he promoted his blog. Between these two, you should get some good ideas on blog promotion.

Finally, check out Dragos Roua's list of 100 ways to improve your blog. The list covers content, layout, plugins, promotion, networking and money. It's a long read, but full of great tips.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Making the Leap to Private Clients

Since starting my journey to become a freelance writer in April, I have stuck to content sites. I have browsed the various freelance job sites, but haven't taken a chance on applying or bidding for anything. Considering how well suited I was to several, I'm kicking myself for letting fear of getting turned down stand in my way.

However, the last few weeks have shown me that if I can just get a client to let me do one article, they usually come back for more. Last month, I had several clients on NAA that liked my work so much that they put up additional articles for me to do. Today alone, I had messages from two NAA clients offering me more work on the basis of my original article. One offered 20 articles and the other offered 50.

To truly make a career out of freelance writing, I need to take the leap. While writing for content and ghostwriting sites has allowed me to get my feet wet and gain confidence, it's difficult to make a living on them alone. I did reach my income goal last month, but I also turned out a lot of writing, approximately 39,000 words, to do so. If I had did the same amount of writing at a slightly higher rate, say 3 cent a word, I would have made enough to cover most of my family's expenses. At 5 cent a word, I could have paid everything and had a little left to put into savings.

This month I'm taking that leap. I'm starting small with a commitment to apply for or bid on at least one freelance writing job per week. At the end of the month, I will have hopefully landed a private client.

Have you taken the leap yet?

*Photo by Jeff Hallam.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

When Missing a Deadline is Unavoidable

For a freelance writer, or any freelancer for that matter, missing deadlines reflects badly. Miss too many and you get a reputation for being unreliable. However, there are times when missing a deadline is unavoidable due to circumstances beyond your control. How you handle these situations can go a long way in the client's impression of you.

Murphy's Law states that if anything can go wrong, it will. Maybe you or someone in your family gets sick or hurt. Perhaps your computer crashes. Or maybe a storm knocks out your power. You never know when something might happen so planning for the eventuality is difficult.

This week was the first time ever when I knew I was going to miss a deadline. My husband had to be hospitalized unexpectedly. Then my daughter got sick and finally I got sick. Needless to say, it's been a rough week.

There are a few ways you can handle a situation like this. Not all of them are right. Some freelancers make the mistake of not contacting the client and just submitting the work when it is ready. Others may just blow off the client entirely, not even bothering to complete the job. Both of these are wrong ways to handle the situation. They leave the client in the dark. Even with the first option when the work is completed, the lack of communication will probably leave the client with a poor impression of you.

Better ways to handle the situation would be to contact the client to advise them of the problem and either request more time or suggest another writer. While suggesting another writer may seem like you're working against yourself, it actually benefits you in two ways. One, it lets the client know you care about the satisfaction of your clients. Two, by sending business to a fellow writer, you increase the chance that they'll refer business your way.

When handled correctly, a missed deadline can work to your benefit. However, keep in mind that a habit of missing deadlines, no matter how well you handle it, will not do your freelance writing reputation any good.

*Photo by Paavo Leinonen.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Weekly Resource RoundUp

This week's roundup will focus on running your freelance business. No matter how good a freelance writer you are, you will need some business skills to survive as a freelancer.

To start, we should know what not to do when starting out as a freelancer.

If you are considering leaving your 9-5 for a freelance career, check out the get started now guide to becoming self employed at Zen Habits. If you have time, take a look at the comments too to pick up some more great tips.

Before you rush out to purchase a bunch of software or other tools for your new business, take a look at 10 awesome online tools your business should be using. Some are even free!

Deb Ng asks (and answers) the question "Do freelancer writers need business cards?" To be honest, I never really thought about it until reading her post. Now I'm thinking about potential designs.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Freelance Progress Report: August 2009

August was my best month to date. Early in the month I set an ambitious goal of $400 in income from freelance writing. I'm thrilled to say I did reach that goal and even passed it by a few dollars. The new system of scheduling writing jobs is definitely paying off.

In last month's progress report, I mentioned that I had picked up two new freelance writing gigs and would discuss them more once I had a chance to get used to them. The two sites were Ecopywriters and NAA.

I've decided Ecopywriters probably isn't going to work for me. While I like the idea of a system similar to Textbroker, their payment policy is a breaking point for me. I wrote four articles for them at the end of July. I received payment for two of them about halfway through this month. The other two are still pending approval as of today. While I have no problem giving clients an opportunity to make changes, I think over a month is a bit excessive. When you add in the lack of variety and several days of no jobs available at all, it's just not a good fit for me. Unless they make changes in the near future, I will most likely be closing my writer's account there as soon as I get paid for the remaining articles.

NAA has turned out to be my favorite freelance writing site so far. The jobs are plentiful and on a variety of topics. In my first month, I have already managed to impress several clients, who are now requesting me specifically to fill their orders. One liked my original article package so much she put up five more packages totaling 22 articles for me to do.

The Breakdown
66 articles-$381.00
Total to date-$402.60

I actually did a little bit of writing for Associated Content this month, but still not much. The three articles I did were all assignments. My plan is to continue adding a few articles a month to build my residual income.

The Breakdown
3 assignments-$9.00
July PV bonus-$2.52
Total for month-$11.52
Total to date-$119.57

I didn't have a lot of time for eHow this month. I did collaborate on one article with my husband. After hearing him tell me several times that he wasn't much of a writer, I was expecting to do the majority of the work. I told him all he had to do was write down the steps to the project for me and I would take it from there. However, I was pleasantly surprised to learn he is actually pretty good at writing. I ended up only having to add some safety information and do a little fine-tuning for SEO.

He's quite pleased with himself and asks me daily how many page views it is up to. If you want to check out the article (and make him happy by increasing his page views), you can find it here.

The Breakdown
6 articles
PV earnings for month-$3.63
PV earnings to date-$5.28

Textbroker got put on the back burner while I focused on NAA. When I did look on the board for assignments, most were either on topics that I was unfamiliar with or ones that required a lot of research. I ended up only doing one article for them this month.

The Breakdown
1 article in the 4 rating-$5.95
Total for month-$5.95
Total since start-$175.20

*Photo by Christophe Libert.