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.