Thursday, October 15, 2009

The mistakes content writers make: Read the directions

I'm always amazed at some of the foolish mistakes content writers make when looking for jobs. For instance, a lot don't follow the directions.

I see this a lot at the job boards and writing forums that I frequent. Someone will post a job and request that interested candidates either e-mail them directly or send them a private message.

Inevitably, a string of writers will post their own messages on the job board or forum. They'll write: "Hey, I'm interested," or maybe, "I'd like to do this."

Now, the job poster might not even come back to the message board. The poster asked for private messages or e-mails. Why would a writer post his or her response on the message board itself?

Besides, why would a content producer hire someone whose version of a cover letter and writing samples consists of "Hey, I'm interested?"

Content writers, here's some free advice: Pay attention to what you're doing. Read the friggin' instructions before applying for a job. You'll never get anywhere without doing this.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Giving Content Divas a shot

I'm constantly looking for new content-writing work these days. That's because it's getting more and more difficult to earn steady writing assignments at print magazines and newspapers. These clients still make up the majority of my freelance-writing income, but content writing has steadily accounted for a growing percentage these days.

I've built up a nice base of reliable content-writing clients. But I always need more. That's because a lot of content-writing clients need only enough writing to fill up a certain number of niche sites. Once they get that writing, they disappear for a month or two until they need some fresh copy.

This is partly why I applied last week to Content Divas. Much like AdAstra Traffic, which I've written about recently, Content Divas is a company that links freelance content-writers with content projects.

This evening, I heard back from Content Divas -- just two days after I sent in my application -- that I've been hired on as a writer. Now, the pay, as with most content-writing jobs, isn't stellar. But the service promises fairly steady work. And right now, with the struggles that the economy is suffering through, I appreciate any work that's steady and reliable.

I've heard from other writers, and read on other blogs, that Content Divas pays its writers on time. It has a unique set-up, too. Writers are hired to write keyword articles, blog posts, press releases or e-book material. Projects last a certain number of days, and writers are expected to turn in 1,000 words each day. If projects are short, and only last a few days, writers receive payment at the end of the project. If they're long, they receive partial part upfront, the rest when they finish the job.

I'm a fast writer, so I'm hoping that this will work to my advantage with Content Divas.

Meanwhile, today was an interesting day. A comic book biography I've written on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was officially announced at a number of comic-book sites today. The comic, published by BlueWater Productions, will hit comic stores in January. At the same time, I've been hired by BlueWater to write another comic biography -- I can't say who yet, but it's for the companies music-themed line and will focus on a very popular female musician -- that will be released in 2010.

The content-writing mistake: Don't tell people to look for their baby strollers in the mall

Web site owners tick me off with their often lousy pay rates. But, guess what? We content writers often tick off site owners, too, with our lousy work.

Don't believe me? Check out this blog post on It's Write Now by Emma Nelson, an owner of several niche Web sites and a person I often write stories for. Emma writes about some of the big sins writers make when composing niche articles. Some are fairly obvious such as repeating keywords over and over in a 300-word story.

Some are more humorous. Emma describes writers explaining what candles or Teddy bears are. Yes, we all know what these things are. But some writers are compelled to tell readers in great detail that a candle can provide light, but only when lit. (That, of course, can lead to a 100-word paragraph on what a match is.)

But one of Emma's last points resonated the most with me because I've been guilty of it. She complains about writers who fill their stories with paragraphs telling readers that they can find Teddy bears, candles, MP3 players, iPods or whatevers at their local mall or department store.

Thing is, the owners of niche sites don't want their readers to buy these things at a store. They want them to buy them at the links they provide on their sites.

So remember, folks, as much as we complain about lowball offers and unrealistic deadlines, the people we write for are complaining just as much about lousy writing, missed deadlines and idiot writers -- myself included -- who tell people to buy their crap at the mall.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Ridiculous content-writing offers at Digital Point Forums

We all know that content writers don't exactly fetch kingly rates. But if you're fast enough, you just might make a decent hourly rate, as long as you don't accept assignments that pay insultingly low offers.

Now, if you are looking for insulting offers, try exploring the forums at Digital Point. This forum, dedicated to Web site owners and the people who provide them services, has its own subsection where Web site owners request content writers for their sites.

Sounds like a good place to find work, right? Well, sometimes. Unfortunately, it's most often a place where site owners ask writers to provide them content for ridiculously low offers.

Here's an example: This guy needs an article writer for a bulk project. The pay he's offering? A miserly $1 for 300 words. But, the poster promises, the work is in bulk. What does this mean? That he'll end up paying writers $5 for 1,500 words. That's pretty damn bad.

This poster is willing to pay $2 for 300 words. Again, this is pretty lousy. What's even worse is the poster's attitude. The poster says that writers who provide three or more "bad" articles will be fired. That's right, fired from this terribly lucrative $2-for-300-word job. What will the poor writer do? Work at McDonald's for even more money?

Overall, Digital Point is a rather depressing place. It's filled with forum posters who can barely string together two sentences demanding perfection from writers for $1 articles. If you're looking for good content-writing work -- and there are good clients out there, even in the world of content writing -- skip Digital Point.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Living without your phone: It's not bad

My work phone unexpectedly cut out earlier this week. I'd pick up the phone to hear absolutely nothing on the other end.

Getting a human on the phone at AT&T was a bit of a chore, but I finally managed to do it, and a technician was on his way.

Funny thing, though; I didn't really miss my phone much.

Sure, I'd check in with my home phone to see if anyone left me a message on voicemail. Wouldn't want to miss all those editors calling in with lucrative assignments! But not having the phone ringing allowed me to really concentrate on pounding out the content stories. In fact, I wrote 16 content stories yesterday, and five pages in the graphic-novel script that I'm working on. I also had time to apply to three other writing jobs.

I don't know if I would have been as productive if that phone had been working.

By the way, the technician showed up at my house and only had to open our AT&T box outside to get the phone working again. Seriously. He didn't have to touch a button or turn a screw. He had no explanation for it, other than saying that maybe when he opened the box something inside it fell out and stopped my phone from fritzing out.

Personally, I don't care. I'm just glad that AT&T didn't charge me anything for repairs.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Giving BrightHub another try

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a rather snotty post complaining that I'd been rejected by BrightHub. Well, turns out I may have posted a bit too soon.

You may know BrightHub: The site pays writers $10 upfront for short, explanatory stories on a number of topics. Authors can write about environmental science, investing, finances, engineering, etc.., Authors also earn residual income on the money that their stories generate over time.

Last month, I received a message from BrightHub saying that my application to write for the environmental sciences channel had been denied. I was a bit miffed. But last week I received another message. This one stated that I'd been accepted to write for investing channel.

I turned in my first BrightHub story last night. Now, I just have to wait and see what my editor thinks. It's true that $10 a story isn't much, but BrightHub, if I can write the stories fast enough, might be a good way to fill in the gaps during the slower months. And this month of October, unfortunately, is turning out to be one of the slowest I've experienced in more than five years.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The big content-writing mistake: writing about what you don't know

I've never been to Cornwall, England. It looks like a lovely place, though. Some even say it's the birthplace of the mythical King Arthur. If you're in Cornwall, you can visit the castle where he supposedly was born.

I didn't know any of this until this morning. That's because I agreed to write four content-writing articles on Cornwall.

The price was more than fair. And the assignment specs weren't onerous in any way. However, the assignment turned out to be a bit of a pain in the butt for me. That's because I committed the big sin of content writing: I took on an assignment writing about something I knew nothing about.

The key to making money as a content writer is to write as many stories as you can extremely fast. It's a bit of a grind. But if you know about exercise equipment, it's not too difficult to pound out five stories on successful weight training. If you're really quick, you can do those five stories in an hour to make a decent hourly rate.

It's when you take on topics that you know nothing about, though, that you run into trouble. It took me most of the morning to write my four Cornwall articles. That's because I had to spend valuable time researching. Every minute you spend researching is a minute you could be spending writing.

So don't be tempted, even if the pay per article sounds good, to write about something about which you know little. It never pays off.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Residual income reality

I hear a lot of writers refer to residual income when justifying why they write for sites like Suite 101 or They say that the stories they place on these sites generate revenue indefinitely. That's better, they say, than landing a story for a one-time fee of $20.

Well, there's some truth to that, I suppose. But what if you query and land a story for a one-time fee of $500? How long does it take, say, an article on Suite 101 to generate $500 worth of income? Will that ever happen? I don't know.

If you want a real look at the negatives of sites that promise writers residual income, check out this post at Jennifer Mattern's All Freelance Writing Blog. She breaks down the real numbers far better than I ever could. You might be shocked, and certainly disappointed, at how little money most people ever make writing for residual income sites.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Giving TextBroker a try

Maybe I'm desperate. I had a solid September and a good August. But October looks to be rather shaky from a paying-jobs standpoint.

So it's time to give TextBroker a real try. Sigh.

Yes, I'm not proud to admit it. Let's face it, TextBroker pays some embarrassing rates. I've seen folks requesting 500-word articles for $1.50. That's pitiful.

Still, TextBroker, like Demand Studios and Writer Divas, can help fill in those gaps in months when the number of paying assignments isn't as high as you'd like.

So far this month -- and yes, I know it's only October 1 today -- I've written a 500-word story in the fitness field for $7.57 and a 350-word story on mortgage lending for $5.03. I next plan to write a 350-word story on online dating for $5.50. Each of the first two stories I wrote, which required no research because I'm familiar with each subject, took me 15 minutes to write. If the online dating one takes as long, that'll mean I'll have made about $18 for 45 minutes of work. That's not terrible.

Of course, it's not particularly sustainable, either. For instance, tomorrow I have to write a 1,200-word story for the Washington Post. That will take up most of my morning. I also have to prepare three blog posts for a Chicago real estate agent. That will take time, too. If I'm lucky, I'll get one TextBroker assignment done.

TextBroker is an option, though. If you can pound out the stories quickly, and write only on topics that you don't need to research, you can make a decent hourly wage. Of course, you won't pay the mortgage with TextBroker, but you might be able to pay the cable bill.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Another content-writing scammer from craigslist

I appreciate craigslist. You have to weed through a lot of garbage, but the site does provide real writing opportunities. One of the jobs I've picked up from craigslist earlier this year has since turned into about $2,000 worth of income.

Those craigslist scammers, though, give the site a bad name. For instance, I recently applied to an ad for real estate writers. Sounded like a good opportunity. And real estate writing is right up my alley.

This morning, I received a response. That put me in a good mood, until I opened that response. The message itself was strangely worded, as though the writer didn't quite speak the English language. Secondly, the message boasted that I had have my own desk and chair, which was odd because I was applying for a freelance, work-from-home job. I already have my own desk and chair, and would rather have a bit of extra money than another set.

Finally, the kicker: The message stated that all writers would have to agree to provide a copy of their latest credit report. And this credit report had to be no more than 14 days old. The company even provided a helpful link to a Web site that will provide you with your credit report for a small fee.

So, yes, the entire job ad was just to promote this credit-report site. The real kick is that you are entitled to a free credit report anyway, so there's no reason to pay for one.

I wrote back to the person who sent me this response asking her why she doesn't do business in a more ethical manner. I'm sure I won't hear back.

The craigslist scammers can certainly wear a content-writer out. I've lost track of how many misleading craigslist job ads I've stumbled into this year.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sometimes you have to give up a content-writing gig

Earlier this year, I accepted a writing job at a technology Web site called Digital Media Buzz. It's a quality Web site run by a strong editor. Unfortunately, it was a job that wasn't right for me.

The main problem was time. I like technology. I think I know a bit -- just a bit -- about social marketing. But I'm no expert in either. And unfortunately, that's what Digital Media Buzz focused on.

I was able to write a few stories for them. And the editor did pay me exactly on time, which is always nice these days. But I found that it was taking me far too long to write the stories for the payment I was getting. Like most online writing jobs, this one didn't pay great. But if I was able to complete the stories quickly enough, it would have been a nice, steady bit of income I could have counted on every month.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to do that. I had to do too much research, not to mention some interviews, and that sucked up all the time I wanted to devote to these stories.

So sometimes you do have to give up a perfectly good job because it's not the right one for you. It's unfortunate but true.

AdAstra update

I recently discovered a new content-writing provider, AdAstra. Basically, the site will provide a host of content-writing jobs. AdAstra writers can then claim these jobs, if the price is right for them.

It's a nice system for a few reasons: First, writers have to apply to AdAstra as if they were applying for any freelance job. Secondly, the people behind AdAstra ask writers what rates they're comfortable writing at. This way, writers won't be asked to take on jobs with rates that are too low. Finally, AdAstra acts as the middleman here, handling payment.

Last week, I turned in my first job for them. Today, my payment showed up in my Paypal account, four days ahead of schedule. That doesn't happen often, so I'm thrilled.

AdAstra is having its official opening in October. So hopefully, there will be more jobs posted. (There are no jobs available at this moment.)

So far, I've been quite pleased with AdAstra. If you're interested in learning more about them, visit the company's homepage here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

What if you fall behind on your content writing?

It happens to all of us: We over-promise. We take on more work than we can actually.

It's an easy trap for a content writer to fall into. After all, the economy is terrible. It's harder than ever to get freelance jobs, whether you're looking for print work or content writing. It's natural to grab as much work as you can.

Unfortunately, sometimes you overshoot. At least I do. In fact, I find myself in that situation right now.

Here's what's on my plate this week: I'm supposed to deliver 10 short content articles on computer repair for one client, five iPod reviews for a second, 10 weightlifting articles for a third and 30 articles on cheap stereo speakers and mortgage refinancing for another.

That's in addition to a real estate story I have due for the Washington Post and a story on real estate auctions due for a commercial real estate newsletter.

Yes, that's way too much work.

Fortunately, most of my clients are understanding. I'll have to e-mail some of the lower-paying ones to explain that I'm a bit behind. Odds are they'll agree to extend my deadline.

It's not ideal, that's for sure. But it happens to everyone. In today's economy, it's hard to say "no" to any work.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

It's the fun writing that's the most rewarding

A story of mine came out today in a major glossy regional magazine. You know the kind of magazine I'm talking about: The first 10 pages are ads for expensive hotels or cars. The magazine routinely runs "Best restaurants of ****" or "Top doctors in ***" stories.

Well, these are great markets to target. There are two reasons for this. First, many regional magazines -- especially those in bit cities -- pay well. Secondly, you can often write some fun stories.

For instance, in my story which came out today, I wrote about people who are hunting Bigfoot, chasing UFOs and looking to nab snapshots of ghosts. It was a fun story to write. And I got to talk to some truly interesting people.

The pay doesn't hurt, either. This story nabbed me a paycheck over $2,000. It's the most I've ever gotten paid for one story.

You can bet now that the story has hit print, I'll be sending more pitches to this particular magazine.

And speaking of fun writing, I might be writing a weekly column for a popular online comicbook site. This wouldn't pay nearly as well, but because comics are a passion of mine, I think this will be a great opportunity. And remember, sometimes you can get paid without making any money at all. My hope with the weekly comics column is to meet more people in the comics industry. Even though I've had a few short comic stories and series published, I don't really know very many people in the business. I'm hoping that writing for a popular comics Web site, where I'll undoubtedly interview comics creators, will change all this.

Anyway, we can file this as a rare non-cranky post from me. Tune in tomorrow, though; I'm sure I'll be ticked off about something by then.

Content writing is a supplement to your freelance writing; don't let it overwhelm you

Content writing is a nice way to make some extra freelance-writing income. You'd have to work yourself to death, though, to make a living at it. The wages are just too low.

Sometimes you have to remind yourself of this. It might be tempting to take on those two or three extra content-writing gigs to make a bit of extra money this month. But if those jobs get in the way of your more lucrative print-magazine work, then that's a problem.

I'm juggling a bit right now because I did take on too many content jobs this month. This last week or so of the month has been extremely hectic as I've tried to fit these extra jobs in around my print work. It's made me a bit stressed, I have to say.

So remember where content writing fits: It should provide a bit of a financial boost to your monthly writing income. It shouldn't prevent you from getting your more important -- make that, profitable -- work done.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009 a bit too aggressive when recruiting writers

I don't want to write for I think it's a lousy way to make money. But I can't seem to stop applying for writing gigs at the site.

It's not my fault, though. Really.

Here's what's happening: I'll apply to what looks like a typical content-writing ad on The ad will ask for subject experts to write short stories for pay, something like that.

After I apply, I receive a message directing me to a Website where I'm supposed to fill out an application. Lo and behold, when I visit that Web site, I'm automatically linked to the sign-up form for

This is frustrating. Nowhere in the original craigslist ads is the name "" mentioned. This means I waste my time writing a query and sending writing samples to a company for which I have no desire to write.

The last company that tricked me into this backdoor to was calling itself When you log onto that site, you get a domain placeholder. When you click on the link for's writer application, you're then redirected to the Indianapolis hub of

I don't begrudge for its efforts to recruit more writers. The company's model -- you're paid by how many people visit your stories -- works for some writers. I just wish the people would let writers know when they're actually applying to their site.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bright Hub kicked me to the curb

I guess yesterday was one of those days. I was feeling pretty good about the writing life: A story I wrote for a legal trade magazine in Chicago was finally complete, accepted and invoiced. My first assignment for the Ad Astra content-writing site was just about done. And the real estate magazine I edit was wrapping up production with no real problems, a minor miracle.

Then I got the message from Bright Hub. It soured my day.

In case you don't know, Bright Hub is a content site that focuses, more or less, on technology. I'd applied to be a writer in the site's Environmental Science division. Yesterday, I received the message that my application was denied.

I have to admit, this ruffled my feathers a bit. Maybe it shouldn't have. I mean, Bright Hub pays a whopping $10 upfront payment for stories. But I've written for the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, BusinessWeek online, Business 2.0 Magazine and several others. I edit two trade magazines. And I write content stories for a regular client list of about 10.

Yet Bright Hub and its $10 stories are too good for me?

Yes, I know this post probably sounds a bit pompous. Bright Hub has no obligation to take me. And maybe the editors there didn't think I fit their site's writing style.

But, man, when you get turned for a $10-a-story job? That hurts.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Ad Astra's looking good for content writers

OK, so maybe I'm jumping the gun here, but I think I've found a content-writing job site that may actually be worth working with: Ad Astra Traffic.

Like other content-writing sites, Ad Astra Traffic -- which is now in its soft launch; its official launch begins in October -- lists job offers from Web site and business owners who need quality written content. The people behind Ad Astra, though, have so far done a good job of ensuring that their site isn't clogged with insulting offers.

For one thing, the Ad Astra people don't take just anyone who applies to be a writer with them. You have to apply to Ad Astra just as if you were applying to write a magazine or newspaper. This is a big difference from sites like Suite 101 and, which take just about anyone who can string together more than two sentences.

Secondly, Ad Astra allows its writers to list up front how much they want to get paid per word. This keeps the folks behind the site from recommending jobs that don't pay enough to writers who want more lucrative work.

Of course, this being content writing, the payouts are still pretty low. But I've seen far worse at other sites.

My first assignment with Ad Astra is due on Tuesday. I'll provide an update on the payment and editing process -- Ad Astra pays through PayPal -- but so far, I'm impressed with this and hope to build a long-term relationship with Ad Astra Traffic.

Friday, September 18, 2009

No free work, even in comics

If I could write anything and make a living at it, I'd choose comic books.

There's something about the form. It seems to match my style of writing well. Problem is, as difficult as it is to earn a living as a nonfiction freelance writer, it's even more of a challenge to do so as a comic book writer.

The reasons are many, but basically it boils down to this: A lot of writers want to be comic book writers. There aren't a whole lot of companies willing to pay writers to do this.

I've had some luck. An independent comics company last year published a four-issue comic book miniseries that I wrote. Another company hired me, and paid me $1,500, to write a comic-book adaptation of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. And this year, I've been working with an individual who's created a rock-and-roll comic. I've rewritten the first three books of his comic, the first of which he's already published. Two of my other short comic book scripts have made it into an anthology, and a third -- Halloween themed -- should be out this October in a different anthology.

So I've made a bit of progress. I'm nowhere near able to support myself on comic book writing, though.

Which leads me to the point of this post. There's a Web site out there called Digital Webbing, which is devoted to comic book writers, artists, inkers, editors and letterers. One of the members is creating an interesting anthology. The gimmick is that every story in the anthology must be a classic fairy tale set in the future.

Of course, writers were invited to submit their pitches. I toyed with the idea of coming up with an idea. It'd be nice exposure if I made it in the anthology. Unfortunately, there wasn't any guarantee of payment. The odds are good that the anthology will lose money. Most comics not published by Marvel, DC, Image, IDW or Darkhorse do. In fact, many comics published by those same big hitters lose money, too.

That means there'd be no profits to split among the creators. And these days, with me writing so many content stories, there seemed to be no time available for an endeavor that won't pay me money.

It's a shame. I am, of course, writing my own script for a graphic novel now. And there's no guarantee that it will ever make me any money. But that script is my own, not someone else's idea. These days, that's the only kind of free writing I can afford to do.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

At least I'm not covering high school sports

So my time-management skills were way off today. I put together a small package of content articles for a new client I just picked up yesterday. (I like calling these folks "clients," even if they are paying me the equivalent of minimum wage at times.) It took me about two hours to do this, even though for me to make a decent hourly wage on the project, I needed it to do be done in an hour.

Also today, a client (There's that word again) who owes me a whopping $20 won't be able to pay until early next week. He's waiting for his next paycheck. And I thought I was hard up on cash.

Anyway, it wasn't the best of days. Two people I was supposed to interview for print magazines blew me off. And I found out there's a parents' meeting tomorrow night at my son's school that I didn't know about.

But, it could be worse, right? There's always a worse job out there. And there's always a worse writing job out there, too. Our local community newspaper showed up at my doorstep this morning. I don't pay for this paper, it just shows up. Maybe it's a curse.

The paper had a full-color photo of a local high-school football player in action splashed across its cover. It reminded me of this important fact: At least I don't cover high school sports anymore.

That's how I started my career in journalism, as a reporter for my local community newspaper covering football games in the freezing cold of Chicago winters. Not a pleasant experience at all. I remember games where I couldn't feel my toes by halftime, even though I was wearing two pairs of socks and thick boots on each foot.

But there's something even worse about writing about high school sports. It's so damn meaningless, but the sportswriters who cover the basketball games, baseball games or wresting matches act like it's the most important thing in the world. I know they're paid to do this. But it's a bit sickening to watch grown men and women huddle around a high school sophomore who just made the winning free throw and treat her like she's the second coming of Michael Jordan.

In fact, I don't think newspapers should write about high school sports at all. I don't need a junior tailback thinking that he deserves his photo on the back page of the local paper just because he fell into the end zone on Friday night.

By the way, here's a scary number: I made a salary of $13,000 at that community newspaper so long ago.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Another content-writing site to avoid TOPTENreviews

There's an ad making the rounds at Craigslist for a company called TOPTENreviews. It seems like a pretty standard content-writing opportunity: You review products, more or less.

I applied a while back to this company and quickly received an e-mail from one of its editors. The editor was interested in having me write for TOPTENreviews, and sent me a list of available topics and a rundown of company policies. The way the site works is like this: You create your own pages, and fill them in with content. Each page is about a specific topic or category. The editor who contacted me, thought I'd be a good fit for the company's "home equity loans" page because of my experience writing about mortgage loans and real estate.

The only thing not clearly stated in the information the editor sent me was how much the job paid.

So, I asked. Of course, the answer wasn't good: Though TOPTENreviews was unclear in its craigslist ad, it turns out that the company only pays on a revenue-share basis. You get a percentage of ad revenue generated by your page.

This, of course, usually equals next-to-nothing. So I passed on this writing "opportunity."

Writing for revenue share usually doesn't pay off. Yes, I write for Suite 101. And, yes, that's a bit of a contradiction. But it's the only revenue site I'll work with for now. (I've already written 40 stories for Suite 101, so I don't want to abandon the site until I at least reach 50 stories.)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Filling in the gaps with content writing

This probably won't go down as one of my better years financially. It's tough to be a freelance writer these days. Real tough. Life's especially difficult because I specialized in writing about residential real estate.

If you ever watch the news or read your local newspaper -- if it's still in business -- you know that the housing market crashed recently. That crash took a lot of my freelance-writing jobs with it. Three of the real estate trades I wrote for are no longer in business. Four others stopped hiring freelancers.

Yes, that stinks. But I've managed to fill in the gaps a bit. My yearly income will still be down, but it'll be enough to keep us in our home and eating food that isn't macaroni-and-cheese.

One of my big breaks was to hook up with a small publishing company called Publications International Limited. They put out silly books, including the Armchair Reader series. These books focus on strange or goofy facts. I'm currently writing several pieces for the company's Vitally Useless book, filled with, of course, vitally useless information. Not to give too much away, but I've already written about Mighty Mouse, famous transvestites, the world's most dangerous occupations and Asian ice cream flavors. I hope to pick up even more work from them this month.

I also maintain a strong relationship with GateHouse Media, which produces a whole slew of special sections for smaller newspapers across the country. The pay per piece isn't great for these, but the work is generally quite easy. The stories, which tend to center on things like identifying the risks of having a heart attack and picking the right type of deck for your backyard, usually don't require interviews. And the stories are rarely longer than 400 words.

I also ghostblog for a real estate agent in my hometown. I get paid by the post, and the real estate agent sends me my check about three days after I invoice him. Not bad at all.

These are just some examples of the diversity that is needed to survive as a freelance writer today. The days of doing one thing are pretty much over, unfortunately. I have no idea, either, if they'll ever come back.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A nice round number at Suite 101

Well, today I hit 40 stories published at Suite 101. This isn't a great achievement, of course. I had written 25 stories in my first month. It's taken me three more to write my last 15.

My revenues at Suite 101 have tailed off fairly sharply from my first month. During that first month, when I mostly wrote about mortgage topics, I made about $27. Last month, I made an even $10. That's a significant figure, though: You have to hit $10 in a month to receive payment for that month. If you don't, you have to wait another month until you do reach the magical $10 payout amount.

Anyway, I've been inspired to get busy again with Suite 101. I read a forum posting recently from a Suite 101 writer who makes about $20 a day. That comes out to about $600 a month. That's not a fortune, but, it's not bad. My goal now is to get to 100 stories on Suite 101. I have no idea how much money a month that will give me, but it should be a decent addition to my monthly income.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Want to make money at Don't count on it!

I'm always amazed whenever I read on other forum's writers getting accepted at For one thing, accepts just about anyone who can string more than two sentences together. Getting "hired" at this outfit isn't exactly something to crow about.

Secondly, and most importantly, I know that 99 percent of these new Examiners won't earn hardly anything. started out paying posters a penny for every page view their Examiner homes notched. This is pitiful, considering that it's hard to earn more than, say, 25 cents a day this way. If you're keeping track, that's just $1.75 if you manage those 25 page views every day for a week.

But here's additional proof that won't make you money. Even the powers that be at the site say you shouldn't write for if you want to make money. Here's a quote from an e-mail sent out by one of's channel managers: "As I’ve said since I joined this team in August 2008, as the first channel manager in the office – money should not be the motivating factor behind being an Examiner. It’s about the opportunity to write about a topic you’re passionate about, with the potential to reach a worldwide audience."

If you do decide to become an, that's fine. Just don't expect to earn much money at all. And don't ever list it as a professional writing job if you're looking to get work from newspapers or magazines. You'll be laughed out the door.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Found another scammer

It's easy to ferret out the scammers: Ask them how much they'll pay you for your writing. If they don't respond, they're a scammer.

Here's an example. Last week, I responded to a craigslist ad from someone who needed a writing coach to help him craft letters to his bosses, write reports and compose short speeches. It sounded fairly interesting, especially compared to some of the dry-as-dirt content writing I've been doing lately.

I responded, and I heard back from the ad poster within an hour. He wanted to know if I could write a sample letter for him. He wanted a raise, and he wanted me to write the e-mail message that he would give to his boss asking for one.

I'm not that smart. But I knew this was fishy. I'd already given him samples of my writing. He didn't need additional ones, then, to figure out my writing style. I e-mailed the poster back, anyway, asking him what he'd pay for such a sample. Of course, I didn't expect a response, and I didn't get one.

Here's my advice: Never, ever write a fresh sample for a potential employer, especially if you hooked up with this employer through craigslist. The odds are, that the poster is going to use your sample without paying for it. Only send job posters samples of your previously published writing. And make it absolutely clear that the samples you are sending have been published already.

Web site owners laugh at writers who are stupid enough to send them fresh samples. It's a great way for these scammers to fill their Web sites with unique, free content. Don't fall for this trick.

Want to make a living as a freelance writer? Learn to juggle

I make enough money as a freelance writer to support my family, keep our house out of foreclosure and put food on our table. Some months are better than others, but for the 15 years I've been working as a freelancer, I've been able to keep us relatively sound financially.

My writing certainly has won any Pullitzers along the way. But I do enough of a good job to keep the work coming in, though it has gotten harder to do that this year.

What's the secret? It's all about building a writing career that's varied enough to survive the little downturns or hiccups that hit every industry.

Here's my formula: I specialize in real estate writing for trade magazines and newspapers. This includes my work as an editor for a real estate trade magazine in Chicago. Of course, this part of my business has taken a big hit lately thanks to the housing meltdown. A slew of the real estate-centered trade magazines that I've written for have either gone out of business or have slashed their freelance budgets.

Fortunately, I have also developed a busy content-writing career. I haven't been writing content stories for too long, but I generally make anywhere from $800 to $1,000 a month in content writing.

I also do some ghost writing for corporate blogs. That part of the business has suffered a bit, too, thanks to the economy. However, I still have a handful of reliable blogging clients.

I still write regularly for the Washington Post, too, and have picked up work this year for an Illinois publisher that creates books full of odd trivia. This means that I've been able to write about the history of Mighty Mouse, the most overwrought Harlequin romance book titles and the world's most dangerous professions. I also write regularly for a local newspaper chain.

Finally, I have nabbed some -- not a lot, but some -- paid writing for comic-book work. That's a blast.

Every day, I make sure to apply for new writing business. It's the only way you can survive as a freelance writer, especially in this lousy economy.

It's a lot of work, but it's better than sitting behind a desk all day.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Dropping out of Creative Weblogging

My mortgage blog was the last I ran on a blogging network. But this week, I decided to drop out of this blog, hosted on the Creative Weblogging network, too. The reason? The people behind the network weren't treating me well.

And that's a common theme on blog networks. They treat their writers like garbage.

Here's what my Creative Weblogging experience was like: I signed up late last year to write a mortgage blog for the network. Everything was set up. Then, two days before my blog was set to go live, I received an e-mail message: My blog had been canceled, before I had even made my first post. Worst of all, there was no explanation in that message.

So I checked with my contact person. Turns out, Creative Weblogging was struggling financially. All new blogs would be canceled.

Fine. I forgot about Creative Weblogging until about two months ago, when the network contacted me again. The powers that be were ready for me to start writing for them again. This time, my mortgage blog actually went live. For two months, I posted five times a week for $140 a month. Not a princely salary, but the blog posts were short.

Then, about two weeks ago, I received another e-mail message: My blog wasn't making enough money. Creative Weblogging wanted me to now post once a week for a fee of $28 a month. This time, I declined.

It just doesn't seem worth it.

Besides, Creative Weblogging wouldn't even give my blog a full two months to grow its traffic. Why should I stick with a network like that? Problem is, every blogging network I've worked with treats writers with the same level of contempt.

So avoid those networks. Even content writing is less degrading than writing for a blogging network.

Friday, September 4, 2009

What are the odds of landing content-writing jobs from craigslist?

I'm a bit of a slow learner. But I'm starting to realize that applying for content-writing jobs at sites such as craigslist -- or even through job boards such as the ones at -- is a waste of time.

It doesn't matter much how good you are as a writer. So many talented writers respond to these ads, especially now in these tough economic times, that the odds of the publisher actually picking you as a content writer for his or her site or project are extremely slim.

It's a numbers game. If, say, 500 content writers respond to a craigslist posting, what are the odds that the poster is even going to open your e-mail message? You can have the best resume' or clips in the world, but you're not going to get that job. That's because the poster, in all likelihood, opened the first seven to 10 e-mails responding to the job request and picked the best writers from that batch. The rest? Erased.

So how do you get content jobs? Here's how I've gotten most of mine. I contacted a Web publisher directly and offered to write some content for her. She was looking for content, so I got lucky. I wrote a few stories for her, then a few more, then a few more.

After building a relationship with her -- This didn't take long, about four assignments -- I asked if she knew of anyone else who needed content sites. She posted a message with my e-mail address on the forums she visits. Before long, I had more content writing work than I could handle. I am still working with about 10 regular clients that have found me through this original client.

At the same time, I can cut on the fingers of one hand the number of content-writing jobs I've secured from craigslist. It's a bit depressing, actually.

The advice, then, is to build your client list slowly and steadily. Find work for one good client. Do great writing for that client. Meet your deadlines. Keep asking for more work. Then, when you've earned that client's trust, ask that client to send your name to other publishers. Then do the same with the new publishers you find. You'll soon have a lot of content writing to take on.

And you can finally ignore all those scammy-sounding craigslist ads.

Sometimes you have to slow it down

I'm a list person. I start each morning by jotting down the writing tasks I want to accomplish during the day. And because I get up at 5 a.m. most mornings -- Thanks, 2-year-old son! -- I have a lot of time to think about those things on my list.

Not only am I a list person, I'm also someone who really enjoys checking items off a list. It gives me great satisfaction to cross something off as done.

Problem is, sometimes I want to get things off my list -- which on some days stretches to nearly 30 items -- so badly, I'll half-ass some of my projects.

I'm beginning to wonder if this is showing. It's one thing to half-ass my content-writing duties. Even at 50-percent effort, I can still string together coherent sentences into coherent paragraphs. My content-writing clients still love me, as long as I turn my stuff in on time. Of course, sometimes I wonder if my content publishers even read what I send them before they slap the content on the Web.

But when it comes to pitching ideas to print-magazine clients, or when it's time to actually write a story for a newspaper or trade magazine, I have to force myself to slow down. Otherwise, the results are horrible.

This week, I wanted to pitch some real estate story ideas to the Washington Post. I'm working with a new editor at the paper -- the one I'd worked with for more then seven years retired from the paper earlier this year, and is now traveling around the world -- and am still working on establishing a good rapport with her. So instead of rushing through this item on my work checklist, I took a deep breath and ... it was painful, but necessary -- worked slowly.

I thought carefully about the real estate stories that the Post had run recently. I didn't want to duplicate them. I also considered what I could realistically cover for them; I don't live in the D.C. area, after all. It doesn't pay to shoot too high and then not be able to find all those "real people" sources the Post needs.

In all, it took me about an hour to come up with three good ideas, write coherent paragraphs pitching each one and send it to my editor. Normally, I'd try to do this job in about 20 minutes.

Fortunately, my slow-and-steady pace paid off. The editor accepted one of my ideas. I now have a new $500 assignment to show for my willingness to slow down.

It's easy to get overwhelmed with tasks that need to be completed, especially when you're working for yourself. But don't forget to slow down once in a while. There are certain projects you have to give 100-percent effort to.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A goal without a plan is a wish

Roadside signs usually don't inspire me that much. Well, unless they're advertising a fast-food sandwich I'd really like. But otherwise? I just ignore them.

Except this weekend. I was driving my 2-year-old son back from a quick trip to the grocery store. I was a bit down. The stories I've been writing lately have seen so meaningless. Content writing will do that to you. You're turning in copy that not even the people who are paying you read all that closely.

Here's what I want to do: I want to write comic book scripts. To be more accurate: I want to be paid to write them. And I want to write my own stories, not something a publisher asks me to take on.

Getting paid is tough in freelance writing. Getting paid scripting work is nearly impossible in the world of comic books. Writers who want to break into comics are common. Unless you're a big name, no one needs to pay you. There are plenty of writers who will turn in scripts for free.

Anyway, I've been writing my own graphic novel script for a while now. I like it. A lot. (Of course, I'm biased.) But there's a stumbling block: To get it published, it'll need to be drawn. I can't draw, at all. I can try to find an artist who'll work for free, but that never ends well. Trust me on this. I've tried it.

You have to pay if you want a good, quality artist. Sequential art -- which is what comics is -- is nothing if not challenging. Top artists can charge a good penny for it. And I want a top artist on my comic.

Thing is, like most freelance writers, money is exceedingly tight. Many, many of my former magazine clients have gone out of business. I'm relying on content writers, and on pumping out stories faster than ever, to help make up the difference. But I'm realistic enough to know that there aren't enough content stories out there to make up for all the print-magazine money that I won't be making this year.

So without money, how can I ever afford a good artist to illustrate my script?

So back to that roadside sign. It said, "A goal without a plan is a wish."

That's not too deep, I know. I'm sure I've heard it many, many times before. But this weekend, it really hit me. I'm wishing to not only break into comics, but to make a living at it. But that's all it is, a wish. I don't have a plan.

So I'm working on it. It may involve taking a lousy, part-time, non-writing related job to make a bit of extra cash, money I can save to pay an artist. Or it may mean finding an extra content-writing client who gives out regular work and saving all the money I make from this particular client for my graphic novel.

Step one, though, is to commit to writing at least two pages a day, probably in the evening after my "real" work is done. Step two is to edit those pages like mad. Step three is finally figure out how to get the money to pay for an artist. I figure I'll start earning that money -- however I decided to do it -- while I'm editing.

Finally, I'll print my graphic novel on the Web. I certainly can't afford to pay printing costs.

Yes, I'll make no money if I put it on the Web. But I might draw a following. And at the every least, I'll have a graphic novel that I did on my own, not one that some publisher screwed up or some editor ruined with a weird-ass suggestion, to show other publishers.

And that might be the very first step to transforming myself from a paid content writer to a paid comic book writer.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Time to give up on blogging networks

Blogging sucks.

Well, maybe I should make that a bit more clear: Blogging for a blogging network sucks.

There's a reason for this: The people behind blogging networks have no idea what they are doing. And for very low monthly or per-post fees, they expect their bloggers to not only supply their content but to bring visitors, and ad-click revenue, to their networks.

Blogging networks treat writers like garbage. That's what I've found, at least.

My first blogging network was b5 Media, where I blogged about residential real estate. I steadily grew the site's readership, increasing its visitors each and every month, sometimes by quite a bit. The pay wasn't great, but it was better than most blog networks, and it was steady.

Then b5 Media began counting its visitors a different way. Suddenly my monthly pay would be cut by about 75 percent. I decided that it was time to go.

I went to, where I wrote two blogs, for the princely fee of $1 a post. Still, the posts were easy to write. Why not? Well, because the geniuses at obviously had no idea how many site visitors would actually click on the ads on their blogs. Before long, the brain trust told me my pay rate was being changed. I'd be paid $2 for every 1,000 visitors to my blogs. That was below insulting, so off I went.

ContentQuake wasn't so bad. They always paid on time, even though their pay was bad. But it was a combination of pay-per-post and pay-per-visitors, so you knew what you were getting into. Unfortunately, last month, ContentQuake, too, ran out of money. Now they're not paying anything for bloggers. So long again, blogging network.

Finally, there's Creative Weblogging. The folks behind this blogging network gave me a whole two months before they decided that my blog wasn't making enough money. So they slashed my monthly pay from $140 to $28, and dropped my posting level to once a week. Add to this that they usually take a long time to pay each month's payment, and it's just about time to leave Creative Weblogging, too.

And that's it. No more blogging networks for me. And my advice for you? If you want to make money blogging, do your own thing. You won't make any money, probably, but at least you'll only have yourself to blame.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

ContentQuake in trouble

I've been blogging for ContentQuake for more than a year now. I've liked working with the company. ContentQuake doesn't pay a lot, but it did pay on time and regularly.

Well, those days are now over. ContentQuake sent out an e-mail message today to contributors saying that the company was taking a furlough starting Sept. 1. That means that bloggers can continue to post for ContentQuake, they just won't get paid for those posts after Sept. 1.

I won't be posting. I can't justify doing any free work.

Combine this with my experience with Creative Weblogging earlier this week, which you can read about one post below, and I've just about given up on writing for blogging networks. I've now written for Creative Weblogging, ContentQuake, b5 Media and None of these experiences have ended well.

I think blogging networks have never made the kind of money the people behind them expected to see. And I'm tired of being asked to not only write for these networks but to promote my writing, too. The networks ask a lot for not much money.

I think the days of the blogging networks that pay per post are ending. The real money in blogging? It lies in blogging for businesses or corporate clients. Writing for blogging networks usually means little to no money.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Frustrated with Creative Weblogging

For the last three months, I've been writing a mortgage blog for a blogging network named Creative Weblogging. The pay isn't great, but it was steady.

I say "was" because the folks behind Creative Weblogging just downgraded my contract. Instead of having me post every weekday, they are now asking me to post just four times a month, at an even lower pay rate.

I accepted their new contract -- some money is better than no money -- but I'm not happy about it. The powers that be at Creative Weblogging said that my blog wasn't bringing in enough income. Yet, they barely gave me three months to boost traffic.

And that leads me to my biggest beef with blogging networks: Why do they want us writers to boost traffic, and ad revenue, for them? With the piddly amounts of money they're paying us, you'd think they'd get off their rears and handle blog promotion themselves. I'm a writer, not a promoter. Yet it seems that everyone who wants you to write for the Internet expects you to be both. It's a big pain in the butt.

My worst fears about the Internet are being realized: It's not given writers great new writing opportunities. No, it's given us more work for lousy pay. And the idiots behind blog networks? They expect us to not only write every day for them, they want us to bring traffic to their sites, too. What, may I ask, are the blog networks actually doing? Not much.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Don't be afraid to contact publishers for work

To succeed as a freelance writer, you have to market yourself like crazy. It's unfortunate, then, that many writers tend to be shy folks.

They don't like bugging people. And that can be a problem when you're trying to dig up freelance-writing jobs.

The key to nabbing new jobs is to be aggressive. Sometimes you have to chase down editors and publishers to get new assignments. This is especially true in the world of content writing. The publishers who work in this field often work with dozens of writers. It's easy for them to forget about you, even if you turned in good work and met your deadlines.

So make sure they don't forget you. Don't wait for these publishers to contact you with assignments. Reach out to them: Send them an e-mail today asking if they have any work for you.

They might actually have a few assignments for you to tackle. Maybe they don't have work now, but they will next week or next month. If that's the case, you've just increased your chances of getting that extra work.

So put aside your natural tendencies and be a bother. It just might help you pay the bills this month.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Persistence pays off: Publisher coughs up missing money

It's a sad fact: It's harder to get paying jobs these days thanks to the dismal economy. There's pretty fierce competition from freelance writers for even some of the lousier writing jobs.

What's even worse, though, is that it's getting more difficult to force deadbeat publishers to cough up the money they actually owe freelancers.

This happened to me earlier this month, when a publisher seemed to disappear after I turned in a short writing assignment for him. I bugged him a few times by e-mail, didn't hear anything and decided to give up. It wasn't worth my time, I figured.

Then I changed my mind. The money wasn't a lot. But I did do the work. I deserved to get paid. So I started bugging the publisher again. This time, I heard back. And, amazingly enough, the payment showed up in my Paypal account.

Of course, I don't expect I'll get any more work from this guy. His message back to me was a bit on the ticked-off side. But so what? I don't want to write for people who I have to constantly pester to get paid.

On the down side, I have two other clients -- print publications that actually pay significantly more -- that are late on a total of $1,750. Again, that's not a ton of money, but it's enough when the assignments are so hard to come by. Come Monday, I'll be bugging these editors and publishers, too.

It's a bit of a shame, really. Freelance writers want to write. They don't want to run their own collection agencies.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The case of the disappearing publisher

So it finally happened. For all my complaining about content writing, I've been fairly lucky. I turn something in. I've gotten paid for it. And I've usually gotten paid quickly.

But it appears that one of my content-writing publishers has disappeared on me.

I wrote this guy six posts already, and was paid quickly for each of them. Then, early last week, I turned in three more posts. This time I haven't heard "boo" from him. I've sent him a few reminder e-mail messages. Nothing. I have to guess that he ran out of money or simply wanted to snag my articles for free.

Maybe he didn't like the stories I turned in. It's possible, right? But there was no message asking for different information. There was no message telling me that I'd done something wrong.

Well, I won't work for this guy again. And it's not like I'm out of a small fortune or anything. Like all content-writing work, this was for fairly low pay.

It might be frustrating, but worrying over deadbeats doesn't help any writer. Unless you're out a significant amount of money, it's easiest to just let these things go. You can send message after message, but that becomes a waste of time at some point.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The late-payment blues

I just got back from a week-long camping trip with my family last week. We had a nice time. We didn't even have to rough it too much. That's good. My version of roughing it means I have to drink warm cans of pop instead of cold ones.

Anyway, when we came back, I was hoping to find several of those wonderful, career-affirming checks in my pile of mail. Unfortunately, I found my credit-card bill, but not any of my much-needed paychecks.

This seems to happen quite often: I think I've written more than enough stories to maintain a steady cash-flow. But then the bills come more quickly than the pay. It's rather annoying.

So I make the rounds, calling or e-mailing editors and publishers looking for my checks. I get the same excuses: Oh, sorry, we missed you in our last round of payments. Don't know how that happened. We'll get in our next round, three weeks from now.

And remorse? None. And is anyone ever willing to break the standard payment cycle and actually send me a check even if it's off the payment schedule? Heavens, no.

I'm convinced that magazines are doing this to freelancers on purpose to help with their own cash-flow problems. Trouble is, there isn't much a freelance writer can do about this in today's economy. I'm writing for clients whom I'd never touch before. Now I have little choice, at least until the economy finally improves.

So I'm writing myself to death, and running to the mailbox every day. We'll see what comes today, more bills or a few of those elusive paychecks.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The randomness of content writing

Sometimes I kid myself into thinking that the "publishers" I write content-mill stories for actually care about what I write. Then I get an e-mail from one of them and I'm quickly proven wrong.

For instance, yesterday I turned in a package of three content stories of the longer side. Each was about 600 words. The stories took me longer to write than usual, but I turned them in on time.

The publisher was happy with the work. He had just one complaint: Two paragraphs in one of my columns were both about the same subject. In other words, the eighth paragraph in my story talked about creating a new blog. The ninth paragraph added just a bit more information to that thought.

The problem with this? My publisher spins the stories so that all the paragraphs except for the first and last are jumbled in random order every time a new version of the story is posted on one of his Web sites. If two paragraphs, such as my two on blogging, need to follow one another, this screws up his random jumbling. After all, it won't make much sense to have the second of my two blog paragraphs appearing before the first.

I've always known that I do content writing just to fill in the financial gaps from the writing I like better, the stuff I do for trade magazines and comic-book publishers. Sometimes, though, I get little reminders like this: It's not really the quality of my writing that matters when I'm turning in a content story, it's all about hitting the right keywords and turning in the right number of small paragraphs.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

How nervous do publisher e-mails make you?

Yesterday, I received an e-mail message from the publisher of one of my top print-magazine clients. I shudder when these arrive these days. Often, they're an announcement that the publisher can no longer afford to hire freelance writers.

Sure enough, this particular e-mail message was bad news: The publisher wasn't firing his freelancers. He was asking them to take a voluntary pay cut on all their stories. I agreed to the cut. What else was there to do? I need all the clients I can get these days.

For writers, the end to this recession can't come soon enough. It's getting a bit depressing to see so many great magazines -- both consumer and trade -- go out of business. And what's happening to the newspaper industry is even more frightening. Again, some truly good newspapers are no more thanks to declining ad revenue. And my hometown paper, the Chicago Tribune, is a shell of its former self.

This turned out be a depressing post. Oh, well. It's that kind of day, I suppose.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Worries at

I wrote for for about two months. During this time, I never even reached the $25 necessary to receive my payout. I quit writing for Examiner not because I was misled, but because it wasn't working for me. There wasn't enough money there to make it worthwhile.

And, really, unless you have the perfect topic, I don't see how anyone can make enough money writing for to make it financially worthwhile. When I was writing for the site, Examiner was paying a penny a page view. I was averaging a very pitiful 70 or so page views a week.

You could argue that I should have spent more time promoting my stories. But for what? An additional 10 page views a day? That's still only 70 cents more a week. Is that really worth the effort it takes to promote your writing?

It looks like has just gotten even worse to write for financially. Several Examiners online are fretting that Examiner is no longer paying even a penny a page view. Instead, if you get 50 page views on a day, you'll earn something like 26 cents. (Just an example.)

Now, this does stink. It stinks even more because Examiner -- which I'm sure has the right to screw around with its pay system however it wants -- doesn't seem to have explained the new pay system to its writers. There's no excuse for that. If you're going to screw your writers, at least tell them why.

By the way, if you want to read some fun stuff about Examiner, check out this blog post and this one, too.

I've read plenty of forum posts from writers thrilled to be "hired" by I wonder why. Why would anyone be happy to be paid even a penny a page view? I also cringe when I hear forum writers say that the people complaining about are dinosaurs who don't recognize the future of reporting or journalism. I certainly hope -- with no fact checking or editing and such awful pay for writers -- isn't the future of journalism.

Look at it this way: Even if you promote the living daylights out of your stories and generate 1,000 page views a day -- pretty unlikely -- you'll only earn $300 in a 30-day month, if my math is right. Think how much work goes into that $300. It's a shame.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The summer doldrums at Suite 101?

I admit that I've been neglecting Suite 101. I started out like a ball of fire, writing 30 stories in my first month. Not coincidentally, perhaps, that was my best month at the site: That month I earned $28.81.

Now, I realize that's not exactly lottery-winner money. But it's far better than the $14.21 I earned last month, or the shockingly awful $3.60 I've earned so far in July.

Is it just that I've slowed down considerably with Suite 101? After those first 30 articles, which I wrote in March, I've added just nine more.

Maybe it's the summer. People are outside, right? (At least those people who aren't content writers.) They're not reading about low-down-payment mortgages or the first-time homebuyer tax credit. (Bastards!)

One of the writers at Suite 101 recently posted in the forums there that he just finished his 500th story for Suite. I had one thought about reading that: **&%$! (Sorry, this is a family blog.) The writer, of course, didn't give out his earnings at Suite 101. This is a no-no, I understand. There's a lesson here: Most places that forbid writers from giving out their income are paying out horribly low monthly incomes. Why else wouldn't they want their writers telling the world how much they're making?

Anyway, I do plan on sticking with Suite 101 through the rest of the year. My initial goal was to get to 100 stories. The way things are going, though, I might shoot instead for 50.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sometimes it's fun: Writing about fortune cookies and halloween

I moan a lot on this blog about the challenges of trying to make a living as a freelance writer. I complain about low pay, unresponsive editors and publishers who always seem to make the worst possible decisions.

But then you take on an assignment that's actually fun. And everything seems worthwhile again.

That's happening now. I'm writing a series of short, short fact-based stories for a Chicago-area publisher. The stories will appear in a book of useless trivia. What could be more fun than useless trivia? I love useless trivia. In fact, I can tell you every baseball World Series winner since 1926, and every SuperBowl winner ever. And I can do it all in correct order.

To stick to the topic, though ... I'm writing about the history of fortune cookies and digging up interesting trivia about Halloween. The fortune cookie bit's pretty fun. Did you know that fortune cookies weren't even started in China? In fact, hardly anyone in China eats or serves fortune cookies. In the United States, though, 3 billion fortune cookies are produced each year. And did you know that Illinois, of all states, produces the most pumpkins every year? Or that the witch is the most popular costume choice among adults, with pirates second? Did you know that 90 percent of parents admit to sneaking candy from their children's trick-or-treat bags?

Now you do. And I do, too.

These stories are fun to write. They're easy. And they pay well.

It's easy to get down on this industry. But it's hard these days to think of any industry that's exactly thriving. An engineering friend of mine has to take 10 unpaid days off this year. Another friend of mine, who works for the city of Chicago, has to take 15 unpaid days off. A third friend works in the banking industry and is hanging onto his job for dear life.

Writing is stressful these days. But unlike most jobs, it can actually be fun at times.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Why don't the salesmen ever have to fix their own mistakes

I'm a freelance writer. But I also hold down a full-time writing job as the editor of a trade magazine covering commercial real estate. It's a bit of a drag, but it's provided me a steady income, and insurance benefits, for more than 10 years now.

The problem is, we're operating with a skeleton staff these days. The company laid off 2/3 of our editorial and sales staff earlier this year thanks to the bad economy. Because of this, everyone's handling several jobs at once. Mistakes slip through.

For instance, in our most recent issue, our advertising staff forgot to include an ad that was already paid for. That's a no-no at any time, but it's especially bad when every dollar counts, as it does today. The advertising staff also put in the wrong contact information on a second ad. Another no-no.

And who has to clean up the mess? The few writers left on staff, of course. You know, the folks who had absolutely nothing to do with the mistakes that were made.

For instance, I now have to interview officials at both companies that the sales department screwed over. Then I have to figure out how to weave these interviews into the stories I'm already working on for the issue. Sounds like a great time, no?

What makes all this worse is that the reason we're operating with a skeleton staff is because our sales men and women haven't been selling enough ads. And now we're all doing extra work because these same people keep screwing things up.

Nice job, everyone.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Another client cutting back

My mood swings are getting more severe these days. One minute -- a publisher is interested in my script for a graphic novel! -- I'm thrilled. The next -- another client has gone out of business! -- I'm gloomy as hell.

Today's one of those dark-cloud days.

My favorite print-magazine publisher sent an e-mail message this morning to all his freelance writers. Not surprisingly, the publisher is going through some tough financial times. In his message, he stated that all of the publishing company's employees have taken 10 percent pay cuts.

He then asked us freelancers if we'd be willing to take the same 10 percent cuts on our freelance stories. If we said "no," we wouldn't be getting any new story assignments.

I said "yes." Of course. My options aren't exactly unlimited. This publisher is one of my top-paying ones. It would be economic suicide to walk away.

So, get out your umbrellas. It's another stormy day in the world of freelance writing.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Don't forget to follow your writing passion, too

We can all get wrapped up in our latest deadline assignments. I've been spending a lot of time producing weekly content packages for two clients lately. The pay isn't bad, by content standards, at least. But it is time-consuming work.

And sometimes, if I'm not careful, I'll lose track of time. And I won't leave enough of it to pursue my real writing passion: comics.

I started writing for the comic-book business about two years ago. I have some credits to my name. I've even managed to make the tiniest bit of money in this business. (That's no easy feat. There aren't many people who make ANY money writing for comics.)

Today I set aside a large chunk of time to work on a synopsis of a young-adult graphic novel I've been working on. An overseas publisher is interested in publishing the story. The publisher just needed me to create a two-page synopsis of the story, beginning, middle and end.

It would have been easy to have let this slip through the cracks today. I have two content packages due, one tomorrow, one Wednesday. I also have an edit to complete on a story I wrote for the Washington Post, and a short story due for a newspaper chain in the Midwest. These are all deadline stories, with real, live, often impatient editors behind them.

But the young-adult graphic novel? That's my passion. It's why I write, to create stories that I'd love to read. I hope that's what I'm doing with this one.

Yes, there's no money in it now. But there could be, if the publisher likes my synopsis.

So don't forget to write the things you want to write once in a while. It's a great way to refresh your creative energies.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The danger of burnout

Be careful what you wish for. Two months ago, I was desperate for work. My very best print-magazine client had stopped assigning freelance stories. One other had gone out of business, and a third was moving from a monthly publication to one published just six times a year.

So I started grabbing whatever I could to make up the difference.

That included two content-writing gigs for two different publishers. One would pay me $300 a month. The second, $350 a month. It didn't equal one assignment from my formerly top print client, but at least it helped.

Until now. These two assignments are dragging me down. They're a lot of work -- basically, I'm producing a package of content stories every week for both publishers -- and take up more time than they deserve. And now that I've secured a new print-magazine client -- one focusing on healthcare, so it's strong -- and some writing for a trivia book that will basically let me take on as much work as I want, I'm finding it difficult to keep up with the content-producing work for these other clients.

The problem is, I'm not willing to give up the work just yet. There's no guarantee that another slow month isn't just around the corner. My wife is going back to school, which means for the first time we'll be paying for childcare this fall. We need to sock away as much money as possible.

So for now, I'll continue working the late nights pounding away at nonsensical stories about dating, collectible coins minted in Canada and pinup artists. It's a living -- sorta' -- and, burnout or not, I'm thankful that I at least have enough writing work to pay my mortgage, our other bills and take a rare trip to the movies.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Craigslist not all bad

I like to complain about the writing jobs I find on craigslist. So many of the people looking for writers for their blogs or Web sites expect to get one for free. Then, when someone complains, they bring up that whole "you should write for the love of writing" garbage. Sometimes, they'll boast that by writing for their site you'll gain valuable exposure.

That's nonsense, too, by the way. You won't get any exposure by writing for some lame, mistake-filled Web site.

That's a tangent, though. I really wanted to give some credit to craigslist. The site has actually helped me land a string of fairly well-paying jobs lately.

For instance, last month, I wrote my first story for a health magazine after responding to a craigslist ad. The story brought me $750. That's a whole lot of content stories.

This month, I'll start working on an anthology book of strange statistics and facts. Again, the pay is decent if not great -- $120 for 500-word stories that require no interviews and very basic research -- and I found this opportunity on craigslist.

The problem with craigslist, though, is that you have to wade through so much garbage to find the good posts. Here's a rule: Don't respond to any craigslist ad that's shorter than three sentences. And don't respond to any that don't even tell you what kind of stories you'll be writing.

Most importantly, don't ever provide fresh writing samples for free. When posters ask for this, they are usually scammers hoping to gain free content from gullible writers for their Web sites.

By the way, I'm in an unusually positive mood today because I received some wonderful comments on a trade-magazine story I wrote not just from the editor but from the magazine's publisher. This is good because I'd like to make this magazine -- which I've only recently started writing for -- one of my regular clients.

It's easy to forget sometimes, as we concentrate on pounding out as many stories as quickly as we can, that quality still counts. Sometimes, the only way to get good assignments is to turn in your best work on a consistent basis. Eventually, people notice.

Or at least that's the hope.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Write what you know: Advice that's never more important than in content writing

I can whip out a 400-word story on homeowners insurance in about 15 minutes. I can write a story about the gold Canadian Maple Leaf coin in about 30 minutes. Obviously, it makes more sense financially for me to write about homeowners insurance for any clients.

This is an important lesson to learn: When you are tackling content writing, when getting as many stories done as quickly as possible is the main way to earn money, you have to follow that old adage: Write what you know.

It's not because you'll write better stories. That really doesn't matter much in content writing, for better or for worse. But if you stick to subjects that you already understand, you won't waste valuable writing time researching. You'll get more stories written in a shorter period of time.

This doesn't mean that you can't ever challenge yourself as a freelance writer. By all means, tackle subjects that fascinate your. Write about something about which you have no clue.

But don't do this when you're writing content. Do it when you're taking on a story for a trade magazine or when you're covering a story for a newspaper or consumer magazine. Then you'll get paid decently for your hard work.

Content writing is a different ball game: Write whatever you can extremely fast. Leave the creativity, and the hard work, to better paying clients.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Freelance Home Writer a must-visit site

I can't even hope to provide the kind of help to my fellow freelance writers that you'll find over at the Freelance Home Writer blog.

Written by hard-working freelance writer Willow Sidhe, the site provides a wealth of resources for freelancers. My favorite are Sidhe's in-depth review of content sites. (Though I must admit, what Sidhe finds often leaves me disheartened. I'm constantly amazed at how little some people value quality writing.)

Stop by Sidhe's blog today. Scroll through the archives and you'll uncover a host of online sites that pay (sometimes barely) for freelance writing. Odds are, you'll have had no idea most of these sites existed.

You should also enjoy her post for today, in which Sidhe carefully explains the difference between writing for content sites and private clients. It's a well-written, and passionate, post. It sums up the life of the content writer quite well, I'd say.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Today's challenge: Editors who want a story to say something that your sources aren't

Freelance writing sure does offer a lot of variety ... at least of problems.

Today's problem is a fun one: I'm working with an "editor" -- who, unfortunately, is actually a salesman -- who wants my story to say something that my sources did not say. In fact, the people I interviewed for the story have said something completely different from what my "editor" wants the story to say.

The problem is a simple one: My salesman/editor wants a story that's more positive than what my sources have been giving me. Now, this editor wants to to somehow write around what my sources have said to be more positive.

I've expressed my concerns. But my editor is worried that our advertisers won't like the story. And this, I'm afraid, is the heart of the problem.

Advertisers are hard to find these days for print magazines. This makes salesmen more apt to jump through hoops to keep them as happy as possible, even when it doesn't serve the interest of the readers.

This has long been an issue with one of the trade magazines for which I write. It's just gotten worse as the economy has tanked.

I've pretty much excused myself, as much as possible, from the rest of this story. I expressed my concern and told my "editor" that I don't want to put false words in the mouths of my sources.

This hasn't made me especially popular today. But then again, when is a freelance writer ever that popular? It's seems like it's been a long time, at least for me.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Wanting New York Times writing for Podunkville Gazette fees

I've been running into small publishers lately who want wonderful, imaginative, creative and witty writing, and that isn't like anything already on the Web. That's fine. But these publishers also want to pay piddly amounts for this amazing writing.

It's a bit frustrating.

For instance, I just signed up for a new blog. This week, I turned in my first posts. The publisher wrote back to tell me that my posts were a bit too negative. He mentioned that people are already depressed by the economy, and that they didn't need new blog posts to remind them of this fact.

Fine. That's a valid point. But then the publisher directed me to the blog run by Penelope Trunk. This, the publisher told me, is an example of a good blogger who has something original to say with every posting.

Again, the editor was right. Trunk's blog is a must-read. It's fascinating and funny and incisive.

But this guy isn't paying enough to get Penelope Trunk. He's paying enough to get a blog post that I can squeeze out in 15 minutes or less. That may sound harsh, but it's a reality. I can't spend too long on a post that doesn't bring in enough money.

This publisher brought up the low pay rates by explaining that he hoped that the bloggers on his career site weren't writing just for the money, but for the joy and satisfaction of blogging.

Well, nuts to that. I do write for the money. I support my family this way, often by forcing out stories on topics that are so dull I want to scratch my eyes out. But it's a living.

It wouldn't be a living, though, if I spent all day working on a blog post that paid peanuts. Shame on me for accepting this low-paying position in the first place.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I've added another blog to my list

Two posts ago, I wrote that I had applied to write for another blog. This one is a new job blog. Happily, I was selected as one of four new writers for the blog. I'll be starting this Friday.

Again, the money for this blog isn't great. But it's a check I can count on every month. If you get enough of these guaranteed checks -- even if they're not all that big -- it takes some of the stress out of trying to forge a freelance-writing career.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A good month so far

So far for June, I'm on pace to make about $1,200 in content writing online. That combines with my regular salary editing a trade magazine plus the stories I've nabbed from my regular print and trade magazine clients.

It's a busy month, then. There have already been several late nights at the keyboard pounding out stories about the Royal Canadian Mint or hammocks. But I'm trying to strike while things are suddenly hot.

It's always this way in this business. It's like a drought some months; Your regular clients have abandoned you. New ones are hard to find.

Then, all of a sudden, everyone's back, and they all want something from you.

That's where I'm at in June. Who knows what July will bring, though?

My advice: Don't turn down work these days. Grab as much of it as you can, even if it means you feel tied to the keyboard. Then you'll at least have a financial cushion for the inevitable slow periods.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Hoping to add another blog to my list

Earlier this week I completed the second phase of a tryout for a new career blog being launched later this month. I made it past the first hurdle: The editors behind the blog liked my submission package. The second phase involved me writing two sample blog posts -- which I get paid for. The editors will then select four of a final eight writers to contribute regularly to the blog.

It's a bit of a jumping-through-hoops process, but the work should be easy. And if I do get the job, it'll be one more steady bit of income.

Granted, the income's fairly small. But it's worth it for the amount of work required. It will also mean that I'll have six blogs that I write for that pay me by the post.

This is the only way to go with blogs, by the way. (Well, a flat monthly rate is fine, too.) Don't ever think you're going to make money from blogs that pay you according to how many people visit or click on ads. You'll be lucky to make a dollar every month with this kind of payment schedule.

I'll keep everyone posted as to what happens with this career blog. I'm proud of the two sample posts I wrote. Now it's in the hands of the editors.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

An unprofessional move

I took on too much this week. It sounded good adding new assignments late last week, all with due dates of this week. But finally today, I cracked: I had to call a client and tell him that I wouldn't be able to take on his assignment.

It was a tough one, at least for me, on incentive deals with mobile phones. The work was tedious and time-consuming, and involved several rewrites. As I sat down to write, I just couldn't do it.

For the first time in my freelance-writing career, I passed on an assignment that I'd already accepted.

Now, I've turned stories in late before. Too many times, probably. But to not complete the assignment? That's terrible. It's unprofessional, and very disheartening.

But for my sanity, I did it.

The client didn't seem too upset. But I know I'll never get work from him again.

There's a lesson here: It's not wise to take on too much work, even in these terrible economic times when assignments are gold. Sometimes you do have to say "no." You have to know your limits.

I'm just too old to pull an all-nighter these days.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Juggling "real" writing and content writing

Content writing isn't real journalism. I don't care what anyone says: Content writing is pretty much the a weekly shopper while real journalism is the New York Times.

That being said, I have no problem contributing to that shopper. Content writing is making me some nice side money, especially during these trying economic times when print publications are struggling mightily.

But it's not work I'm proud of.

Now I'm facing a different sort of problem with content writing. I've gotten so many assignments from small publishers -- nickel-and-dime stuff that I don't want to turn down in this economy -- that I'm struggling to get my "real" journalism done.

For this month, this "real" writing includes a story for the jobs section of a major newspaper, a story for a medical trade magazine and two stories for an environmental publisher. These stories take real effort and thought: I have to interview people. I have to research facts and studies.

Of course, they pay well, too.

It's hard to get this work done, though, when I'm spending my daytime hours pounding out 15 short posts on visiting New York City or playing Bakugan. (Yes, Bakugan. I'm a grown man writing about Bakugan. Sigh.)

How do you juggle all your writing assignments? How do you make the time when you also want to spend time with your family? Does the arrival of summer vacation -- which started here yesterday -- through off your routine?

Let me know your thoughts.

Monday, June 8, 2009

How much can you say about one island?

Sometimes this content writing thing gets a bit ridiculous. I've been hired to write a series of short, easy-to-write posts for a client who obviously runs a travel site devoted to Maui.

I know this because I've now written 50 blog posts about Maui for this client.

That's right, 50.

I didn't know there was so much I could say about Maui. I think I've covered every major, minor and shouldn't-be attraction on the island. I've written about every sport you can play on Maui, every scenic road you can take, every beach you can get sunburned on.

I think I've used the words "amazing scenery" or "stunning scenery" so much, the "s," "a" and "z" keys on my keyboard have worn down.

Still, I can't complain too much. The work from this client is steady. And he pays well and on time.

I just wish he'd build a site for one of the other islands.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Trying Project Wonderful

The key to succeeding as a freelance writer today is to have a large variety of revenue streams going on at once.

Here's what I have: I edit a real estate trade magazine in Chicago. That provides an annual, steady salary. I freelance write for print and newspapers. That used to make up the majority of my yearly income. In today's economy, though, that's changing. I also write for six different blogs, some of which are pay-per-post and some of which I operate on my own. Finally, I've entered the world of content writing, which, despite its generally low pay for each assignment, has boosted my monthly revenue quite nicely.

Now I'm hoping to add more ad revenue to this mix. I do have AdSense on the blogs that I run myself. The money from that comes very, very slowly. It's hard to get people to click those ads. But I have made some money. I'm not at the $100 that Google requires for payout yet, but I should get there in two months or so.

I'm also trying Project Wonderful. This ad-revenue option is popular among Web comic artists, but can be used for most any Web Site that isn't pornographic.

Basically, you sign up and wait. Project Wonderful staffers look over your site and then either approve you or tell you "no thanks." Once you're approved, you add code to your Web site -- this is very simple to do -- and wait for companies to bid on advertising on your site.

When you start, you'll get very little bidding action. And if your site isn't that popular, that probably won't change. My first Project Wonderful ad paid out exactly $0. But one day later, I had a company paying 1 penny a day to advertise on my site.

Whoopee! That's $3.65 a year! However, as I build up visitors, I hope to see that per-day figure rise.

And if it doesn't? It costs me no work to have Project Wonderful ads running on my Web sites.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Exploring Creative Weblogging

You might not have heard of Creative Weblogging. But it's another blogging service, one that has blogs focusing on business, technology, digital media, sports, family and other topics.

Last month, I began writing a blog for them. It's not a lot of money, but it is a set payment every month that I can count on.

I'm glad I began working with the company, too. A residential real estate blog I wrote for ended my contract last week. Again, it wasn't a ton of money each month, but it was steady pay that I could look forward to.

The problem wasn't the writing, the real estate company told me. It was the visitors. There weren't enough of them.

The blog had existed for about eight months. The real estate company was hoping for 10,000 visitors a month. I never felt this was a realistic goal, even though I tried to help out by posting messages on related forums and using Twitter. But the company wasn't paying me enough to promote the site as much as it needed to be.

Which brings me to this question: Why do blogging networks expect their writers to do all the work involved in promoting their blogs? Many of the networks I've worked with have asked me to Twitter for them, or promote them through services like LinkedIn. I'd be happy to do this if the blogging networks weren't paying me peanut money each week.

I mean, what are the blogging networks themselves doing? Are they doing any work, or are they just collecting money?

We'll see, then, how Creative Weblogging goes. So far, it's been hassle-free. Let's hope it stays that way.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Follow-up: I did get a bit more money

Yesterday I wrote about asking a content-writing client for a bit more money to write three stories that I felt would take more research than usual.

Well, after a brief e-mail exchange, I will be getting some extra money for the stories.

I didn't get everything I asked for. Basically, we agreed to split the difference: I'll get extra money on the stories, but only half of what I originally asked for.

That's fine. There's always room for compromise, even in the speed-and-volume-at-all-costs world of content writing.

The lesson here, then, is an obvious one. Don't be afraid to ask your content-writing clients for a little extra every once in a while. Sure, most times they'll probably beg off. But you may get lucky. In this economy, every little bit of extra money helps.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

You can ask for more, even in content writing

As content writers, we often undervalue ourselves. I'm guilty of this, too. Sometimes you have to really look at what you're doing. Does it make financial sense?

I'm currently working with a client who runs several business-themed content sites. Last week, I provided him with several stories relating to subjects such as power tools, window tinting and workshop safety.

This week, he wants me to write thee insurance-related posts. These posts need to be from 500 to 600 words, and they must cover certain subjects in depth. I'm happy to do it, but I've asked for a bit more money. These posts are simply more work: They require more research, and their longer.

I'm not asking for a fortune, just $5 more for each story.

Even content writers need to be paid fairly for their time. I'm not sure what the response from my client will be. This is only the second time I've written for him. But I imagine he'll be OK with my request. And if he's not? Then I don't want to write for him anyway.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Why doesn't Twitter help me?

I know everyone seems to love Twitter. It's one of those things that has caught fire.

Fine. But I want to know one thing: Has anyone reading this blog ever found a job from Twitter? Has anyone reading this blog seen the number of visits to their own blogs jump significantly thanks to Twitter?

I sure haven't been able to accomplish either of these tasks.

I'm not complaining too much. I do use Twitter a bit. But it too often seems like a jumble of random thoughts that have nothing to do with anything important. It's nice to know, I suppose, that Greg77 just had a sandwich and some milk. But really, I'd rather hear that EditorFred is looking for writers.

Maybe I expect too much from Twitter? Maybe it is just supposed to be a fun little tool for gabbing with friends you don't like enough to call on the phone.

What about you? Has Twitter ever helped you as a writer?

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Be careful: Content writing encourages bad prose

We all know that content writing isn't exactly art. The goal is to write as many stories as quickly as possible. The pay just isn't high enough to justify artfully written pieces.

(Some content writers might disagree. But let's be honest: The stuff we're writing isn't meant to be read. It's meant to get people to specific Web sites. If we write pure gibberish, but it brings in the traffic, we've done our jobs.)

Writers just have to be careful that they don't take their bad content-writing habits with them when they're working on legitimate magazine or newspaper writing.

When writing content stories, the goal is to get to that required word count. That leads writers to produce sentences that are far longer than they need to be. Here's an example from my own work, a content piece about shopping for big screen TVs: "Shopping for the right big screen TV can prove to be a challenging task."

Now, that sentence isn't great. But it has a good amount of words in it. That's all I wanted. If I was writing that same thought for a real magazine, though, it'd go something like "Shopping for big-screen TVs can be challenging."

The first sentence has 14 words. The second has eight. The second is also a better sentence: It gets to the point quickly. That's what we're supposed to do in journalism.

But content writing, of course, is not journalism. It's filling space. Just remember to change your approach when you're writing anything else.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

How to get that freelance writing job

Do you have to be a good writer to make it as a freelance writer? Probably. But sometimes you can get that freelance writing job simply by being persistent.

There are a lot of writers out there who are merely serviceable when it comes to stringing together sentences and paragraphs. There is no poetry in what they write. But they're successful,and you see their byline all over the Web.

How do they do it? They probably bug their editors for story ideas all the time. Persistence is the real key to success in landing all those writing jobs.

Last week, I got a good freelance writing job through this approach. One of the trade magazines that I've long written for is going through tough times now thanks to the economy. Ad sales are down, so the space available for freelancers has shrunk.

I'd still been getting fairly regular assignments from my editor until 2009 rolled around. Suddenly, I was getting nothing.

So I went to work being a bit of a pain. I made sure to contact my editor at the magazine every other week. Sometimes it'd just be a quick reminder that I was interested in freelance stories if the editor had any to pass out. Other times, I'd pitch specific story ideas.

Things weren't going well with this approach until Friday. This time, I sent another specific story idea. And, wonders of wonders, my editor responded and said that she'd like to see the story.

Best of all, this isn't some rinky dink $12 content article. This is a real freelance assignment, one that requires interviews, research and critical thinking. And it pays $1,000. And that's $1,00 that I desperately need these days.

So there's an example of the power of persistence. I used to take silence from editors as "no." Today, though, I can no longer afford to do so. Today I keep banging away at my editors until I do finally get that "no." And sometimes, if I'm lucky, I get that "yes" instead.