Monday, May 24, 2010

When do you fire a client?

I have a client whom I really like working for. I write a set number of content stories for him every week. What he does with the stories I have no idea. But he always pays on time, each and every week.

So why am I considering "firing" this client? As nice as the guy is, writing for him is starting to make less financial sense by the week.

Earlier this month, I picked up a new ghost-blogging job for a financial services provider. I write about anything to do with mortgage loans, auto financing, credit scores, credit card debt ... you get the idea. He pays me about $600 a month. Basically, I make $20 for every 400 words I write. Not great money, but solid. And I'm a fast writer, so it works out.

I'm also taking on a new personal blog at a blogging site run by a major metropolitan newspaper. For this blog, I'll be covering residential real estate. I'm excited about the opportunities here. My goal is to develop an audience -- thanks to the blog network's already built-in readers -- and then translate that into more opportunities down the road: a book, a position with one of the more lucrative blogging platforms on the Internet, a guest columnist position. Why not reach for the stars, right?

In the meantime, my reliable content publisher has become a bit of a burden. I simply no longer enjoy writing his stories, and the time to pound them out has become terribly scarce. Because the pay-per-article just isn't high enough, I have to let him go.

This, by the way, is actually a good problem to have. When you have to fire a client, you know that you're starting to do better again. At least that's how I look at it.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

NinerNiner a strange one

Have you heard of It's one strange little site.

Apparently, writers can sign up to the site and earn money for making posts to a series of blogs that NinerNiner runs. The problem? The pay per post is awful. For 200-or-so words, you can earn a payment of 50 cents. Yes, 50 cents.

And that's for a high-paying blog. NinerNiner also pays 10 cents for posts on some blogs.

I suppose this is good if you're angling to get a chicken sandwich off the dollar menu at McDonald's: Just two 50-cent posts and one 10-cent post to cover the tax! But if you want to make a living as a freelance writer? It's probably best to pass on NinerNiner.

By the way, I've poked through some of the company's blogs. You truly do get what you pay for. The quality of the content is amazingly bad on most of the blogs.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Is Demand Studios' USA Today deal a raw one for writers?

I'll answer the question in the title of this post right away: Yes. It is.

If you don't know, Demand Studios is paying its writers $20 for travel stories that will eventually end up in the pages of USA Today. This begs the question: Is this a great way for writers to get a byline in the national paper, or is it just one more sign that newspaper publishers enjoy screwing over writers?

I think it's the latter, unfortunately.

Look, $20 is simply a lousy fee for a USA Today story. The USA Today is a national newspaper. It should be paying writers $500 or more for travel stories. Instead it's worked out a deal with Demand Studios to fill its pages on the cheap.

To me, this stinks of a terrible deal for writers. I write every now and again for the Washington Post. I get paid a lot more than $20. My fear is that more big-time newspapers -- not the small ones that have always paid lousy -- will make similar deals with content providers like Demand Studios.

It's already tough enough to make a living as a freelance writer. We don't need papers like USA Today working to make it even tougher.

(And I, unlike most writers, actually kind of like USA Today!)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Yes, sometimes journalism can still be fun

I took my first helicopter ride today. A commercial real estate developer flew me over the company's latest major project, an intermodal site in one of Chicago's suburbs. And, I can't lie, it was pretty neat.

I've flown in airplanes, of course, but taking off in a helicopter just has a different feeling. For one thing, you're surrounded by a lot of glass. You really feel the air rushing past you and the ground slipping away. I mean, when you're in an airplane you can imagine that you're merely in a really noisy house or apartment, long as you don't look out the window. In a helicopter? No way.

I even got to wear one of those cool headsets.

This is all just a reminder that sometimes working as a writer can still be fun. Yeah, I had to take notes during the flight. But I also spent much of it enjoying the view. That's not so bad.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

eCopywriters: Ups and downs

eCopywriters is one of those content-writing sites that hasn't yet garnered a lot of attention. We all focus on Textbroker, Demand Studios, and Suite 101. But for those willing to dig deeper there are a host of sites out there that will pay you for your writing.

Now, they might not pay you well. But remember this: You don't have to turn in stellar prose to earn your bucks at content sites.

eCopywriters is a pretty straightforward site: If the editors here approve your application, you'll be able to write almost immediately. Writers here are ranked by the editors, and that impacts the pay you'll receive. I generally get about $8.80 for writing a 440-word story here.

The good news is that the stories are pretty easy to write, if you know financial topics. The site generally gets plenty of insurance-, finance- and auto-related stories. The good news is that these are straightforward stories. You won't find too many assignments that are as strange as the ones you'll find on Demand Studios.

Now for the bad news: First, there's the pay. It's generally in line with most content sites. That means it's pretty low. That's fine, though, if you can write the stories fast enough. The real problem with eCopywriters is how long it takes to get paid.

You won't receive payment here until eCopywriters' client approves your work. This can take a long time. When I first signed up, I had several stories waiting for approval for more than a month. This has improved a bit lately, but stories still take an average of three weeks or so to earn approval.

Once stories are approved, you'll get paid quickly. eCopywriters has never stiffed me on a story, so that's a plus there.

Another downside is that the company's list of available jobs is occasionally empty. Don't rely on eCopywriters, then, for steady income.

I don't write for the company much these days. If I'm looking for fast cash, I'll go with Break Studios and Textbroker. To sum up, eCopywriters is a good source for a bit of extra cash at the end of the month. Don't rely on it, though, for a steady stream of income.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Content Divas worth the time

Several months ago, I signed up with Content Divas, another content-writing site. This one, though, is a bit different. Once you're accepted, you can apply for a wide variety of writing projects requested by Content Divas' clients, everything from travel writing to real estate stories to debt consolidation and mortgage-loan features.

So far, I've had good luck with the site. I am now on my fifth month of a reoccurring financial project, where I write blog posts on debt consolidation, credit cards, credit repair and other topics. I also have a second reoccurring project with the company where I write copy to match the graphics used on a site devoted to consumer finance issues. The pay isn't great, 18 cents a word, but it does add up to a decent paycheck every month.

What I found the most difficult with Content Divas was initially acquiring work. After you sign up, you have to request projects that are offered to the pool of Content Divas writers. As a new writer, it can sometimes be difficult to grab any of the stories before more veteran Content Divas writers nab them.

It helps if you have a specialty: For me, my specialty in covering the mortgage-lending industry helped me land my first assignment for them, a PLR book on real estate financing. Once I finished that, the editors at the site connected me to the blogging project that I'm still working on.

Overall, I'd give Content Divas high marks. The editors are fair and quite pleasant. And the work can be steady once you get established. Oh, yes, the work itself is fairly simple.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

What Is It About Demand Studios?

Demand Studios must be the biggest name in the freelance-writing world these days. Every time I make a post with "Demand Studios" in the title, my visitor numbers take a big jump.

That's a sign of how the freelance-writing world has changed. As reporters lose their "real" jobs, they rush to Demand Studios and its $15 stories. The place is a financial safety net. I know, because it's one to me, too.

Now, I do wish the company paid more than $15 a story. (They do offer $20, $25 and $30 stories, but those are for special assignments. And, from what I've heard, they're usually more work than they're worth.) I do wish that the copy editors didn't ask for the moon for these $15 stories.

But, despite all this, I'm sure glad that Demand Studios is around. Those $15 stories have added up for me. They've helped me fill in the blanks from all the trade magazines that have gone kaput.

Here's a word of warning, though: Nothing lasts forever, not even Demand Studios. Writers need to always be drumming up alternative streams of income, and not just more content sites. For me, that means editing comic books and making inroads in commercial writing. More about all this later.