As freelance writers, we don’t necessarily have the freedom to pick and choose the topics we are going to write about all the time. There may be times when you end up writing about a boring topic. The good news is there are some strategies you can use to engage your reader and make your content interesting even when the subject is not one that happens to be one of your personal favorites.
Last week I wrote a post critical of revenue sharing sites. I maintained that, generally speaking, writing for sites like Associated Content, Bukisa, ListMyFive, Infobarrel and the like yielded a poor return on a writer’s investment of time and energy.
Some commenters argued that revshare sites were a credible “first step” for new freelancers. A few maintained that it was possible to generate a sizeable passive revenue stream via revshare contributions. I’m still convinced that my position is correct in most cases and I may eventually get around to answering some elements of those objections in future posts.
This post, however, will address another set of comments. More than one reader remarked that it would be nice to hear about some alternatives to revshare operations. I thought that was a more than valid request. While a pure critique may have value, it’s almost always better to combine one’s attack on one option with a workable alternative.
So, if you think I might just be right about the limited utility of revenue sharing sites, here are a few things you might want to do instead. Consider these options the next time you’re about to tap out another article in hopes of capturing a percentage of someone else’s ad revenue.
Build and Improve Your Own Writing Property
If you don’t have your own website, you should. If you’re serious about establishing yourself as a credible freelancer, you should have some presence on the web. Obviously, the quality and scope of that presence will be even more important if you plan to focus on ‘Net-based markets. Your site is a means by which people can find you, learn more about you, discover your skills and contact you. It’s important.
Consider spending some of the time you’d otherwise dedicate to revshare contributions to building or improving your existing website and related elements of your online presence. Admittedly, these efforts don’t directly generate revenue. However, they do create the foundation you need to secure better gigs. In the longer term, it’s a much better investment than revshare work.
Build and Improve Your Own Other Properties
Instead of funneling your awesome articles to a non-appreciative revenue sharing site, keep ’em for yourself. Build a site or blog dedicated to whatever non-writing topic that happens to trip your trigger or in which you have expertise. If you’d love to be a subject matter writing specialist, hone in on that subject area.
You can buy a domain for under ten bucks. You can get hosting for under five bucks per month. It’s free to install and use WordPress if you’d like. It’s a teeny tiny investment that can really pay off. Even if you’re not interested in aggressively promoting and monetizing the site, you can still point potential clients to your work, making it a showcase for your writing skills and knowledge base. If you do put forth a little effort, you can probably start earning just as much from your posts to your own site as you can with your revshare submissions.
Spend the Time Marketing Yourself or Pursuing Paying Gigs
Tom Chandler, the head honcho at The Copywriter Underground, recently commented on a post at my site. The rant in question objected to the way people automatically tend to make assumptions about one’s position on all freelance writing issues based on one’s position with respect to a single topic. I illustrated my complaint by referencing some of the comments left at my anti-revshare post. In his comment, Tom made a point about the world of lower-paying gigs that certainly applies to writing for revenue sharing outlets:
I firmly believe that investing the same time spent writing $10 articles in new biz development (cold calls, client searches, etc) offers better ROI down the road.
He’s right, too. In most cases, the return on smart self-marketing has the potential swamp the value of revshare contributions other lower paying gigs. If you’re ready to give up on collecting fractions of Adsense clicks, you might want to spend your time working to secure more substantial opportunities.
Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I think lower-paying options are a mistake for all people under all circumstances. That will probably become clear as I keep moving through my list, but I just wanted to point that out.
Take a Crappy Writing Job or Two
The alternatives presented thus far don’t directly put cash in the coffers and I know that’s an issue for many people. If you’re ready to give up on the revshare game but aren’t ready to wait to bring in at least some cash, reach out and take a few gigs that don’t pay particularly well.
If you do, you’ll make some money. Not much, but it will be as much as you’d make with revenue sharing contributions in the short run (actually, it will actually be a little more). Plus, it will give you something you don’t get by writing for the revshare sites–a real human contact on the other end of the transaction.
If you’re completely new to the game, the process of working with an individual will help you get experience with client communication, invoicing and all of the other processes that will become a part of your freelance writing business. That low payer may be willing to spend more money with you when he or she sees how damn awesome you are. He or she may spread the word to others who could use a writer. He or she can certainly write a positive review or testimonial you can use in your own marketing efforts. The nickel and dime material you write will show up somewhere, and you’ll be able to point future prospective clients in its direction. And trust me–those articles will carry as much, if not more cache, with future potential clients than something tossed up at AC or Infobarrel.
A few el cheapo gigs can put a foot in the door while dropping a little change in your pocket. The gigs at the shallow end of the rate pool may not be what you want in the long run, but if you need a few quick bucks and something that passes for experience, they’re probably better than an article at Bukisa.
Those low-pay gigs aren’t hard to find. If anything, they might be too easy to find. The Internet marketing forums are crawling with potential clients and Craigslist is overflowing with “I need ten articles about _____”-style clients.
Work for a Slightly Better Mill
Instead of writing revshare articles, you could always write for a content mill that pays you a little more than the potential of future money. It will only take you about thirty seconds to find a year’s supply of articles and blog posts decrying sites like Demand Studios and other pay-per-piece content mills. I’m not interested in answering the complaints. I’m not interested in defending this option, either.
This option and snagging a few lower-paying gigs may not be great ideas for everyone. Some folks may benefit more from some of the other ideas. I’m just saying that it makes more sense than writing for most of the revenue sharing sites.
Volunteer Your Talents
If your goal is experience and an opportunity to create materials you can use to prove your competency to others, consider volunteering your writing talents to make the world a better place. Offer someone engaged in a charitable pursuit a little pro bono copy.
No, it doesn’t pay. Then again, revshare doesn’t usually pay much. You’ll be trading a little hunk of dough for a much heftier hunk of feeling good, I guess. Oh, and pointing others toward this material will undoubtedly work better than showing them your ListMyFive posts.
I was going to put “Try Your Hand at Affiliate Marketing” on the list, but decided it wasn’t a great fit. Even stripped down versions of so-called “bum” article marketing strategies require a great deal of non-writing work. It’s a credible option for those who want to learn how to make it work, but it just didn’t feel like it was part of the same world, so to speak. That applies to a few other online moneymaking plans that involve content production, as well.
Well, there you have ‘em–a few alternatives to writing for revshare sites for new writers. I think they’re all credible alternatives to using your professional skills to supply user-generated content to sites willing to pay you only a fraction of the ad revenue they generate and that have so many other shortcomings.
So, you want to write web content for more than one-third of a penny per word. Or you’re doing the Demand Studios thing and would like to branch out. Maybe you write for some of the other content mills and think it‘s time to cut out the middle man/woman. Maybe you’ve been working the bid boards and are tired of giving them a cut. Maybe you haven’t received so much as a “thank you” for anything you’ve written, but you’re ready to get things rolling and you want to deal with real-life clients who’ll toss work your way on a regular basis.
You’re not alone. I know that because I get emails asking, “How in the hell can I get decent clients?” on a regular basis. I know that because I see folks quizzing discussion board participants with variations of the same question.
I decided I’d take a stab at answering the question. Here’s my seven-step recommendation for those who want to find their own clients in the not-always thrilling but sometimes cool world of writing web content for dough. I suppose you should consider this more of an outline than a definitive, detailed guide. On the other hand, this really isn’t rocket science. If you can write and you really want to write web content, you can secure a good client base.
If you follow these seven steps, you’ll soon find yourself sleeping on a mattress stuffed with C-notes. At the very least, you’ll have more than enough work to keep you busy.*
Step One: Buy a domain name. That’s right, my first step requires you to spend a few dollars on a .COM domain to call your very own. If you have some super-clever business name, feel free to use it. If you can get your own name or some variation thereof, that’s not a bad idea, either.
If you’re not willing to spend less than ten bucks to secure a domain name, I think it’s safe to say that you’re either too risk-aversive for the whole entrepreneurial scene or that you’re so dead broke that you should probably be more concerned with finding a way to generate some immediate cash instead of focusing on building a career.
Plunk down the money. Yeah, you can make Blogger.com blogs look pretty these days, but it just isn’t the same. You need a credible home base.
Step Two: Spring for hosting. Yep, another expense. Don’t worry, you can find cheap hosts. A few bucks a month. Stop griping and pry open your wallet. It’s time to put that domain to use.
Step Three: Put something decent together. Now, get a website up and running. It doesn’t need to be the most awesome website of all time. It does need to be credible and readable. It should be something that doesn’t embarrass you.
I personally recommend building on a WordPress backbone. Don’t think of WordPress as a mere blogging platform. It’s actually a relatively strong content management system and it makes building attractive, structurally sound websites incredibly easy. There are 384,429,083 good-looking free themes available and about 238,488,992 of those are customizable if you’re interested in doing a little extra work.
Your site needs to have a few things. It needs to have enough information about you to convince people that you might be worth trusting. It needs to have readily accessible contact information. A contact form (easily created with one of many simple WordPress plugins) is a good idea. You can take it from there.
If you want to build a massive site complete with a regularly-update blog, go for the gusto. If you want to create a front page, an about page and a contact page and call it a day, that’s okay, too. The critical thing is building a credible outpost for yourself.
Step Four: Be easy to find. I’m not talking about dominating the search engines for “freelance writer” queries. I’m not talking about paying for pay-per-click advertising, either. Those are potentially smart moves, but they warrant several other long discussions.
I’m talking about getting yourself in front of people and spreading your good name around the ‘Net enough that when people try to find out more about you they can get some idea of who in the heck you are.
There are a billion ways to do that. They include:
- Guest posting on other blogs
- Commenting on other blogs
- Utilizing Twitter
- Joining the ever-growing ranks of LinkedIn users
- Writing and submitting articles to directories for distribution/syndication
- Creating and publishing press releases
- Blah, blah, blah
At this point, you need to worry a little more about giving your name and presence some breadth. You can concentrate more on depth as you refine your approach.
Oh, and don’t forget that you should be utilizing these opportunities in a way that allows you to share as much contact information as you can. Your URL. Your email address. Your phone number. Your address. Your photo. Your _______.
Did I say phone number? Damn straight. Many newer writers seem reluctant to hand out their numbers. I can understand that. However, I can also tell you that seeing a phone number tells people that there’s a real human being on the other end of things and they like that. It’s a credibility builder, as well as a contact outlet. It makes people feel better when they know they can pick up the phone and talk to you. If you don’t want to give out your real number, use Google Voice to snag a free one and have it forward to your cell. Or invest $30 a month in a cheap Cricket cell phone. Get a cheap VOIP line. Whatever. Just get a number, okay?
Step Five: Perfect your pitch. This article isn’t about how to run your business in general terms. It’s about landing regular web content clients. Eventually, you should be in a position to have clients find you. When you start, you’ll be finding them. That means scouring leads like the ones here at Freelance Writing Jobs and elsewhere and following upon the ones that look like a fit.
When you contact those people, you need to have a nice little pitch ready to go.
I’ve hired writers on several occasions. Most of the come-ons fall into two categories: Crappy ones and really crappy ones. Very few are good. The good ones exude confidence. They’re short and to the point. They’re specific to the ad to which the writer is responding. They prove the writer knows his or her way around the keyboard without forcing the hiring party to wade through too much material. They include handy links back to the writer’s website (see how it’s all coming together?) that provide necessary biographical information and or sample materials.
When you build your little ad response pitches, keep one thing in mind. Most of the folks who are hiring content writers aren’t the Executive Vice Presidents of Fortune 500 companies. They’re not shining the buttons on their Brooks Brothers suits from behind glossy black desks in high-floor corner offices overlooking the city. They’re more likely to be geeky people in T-shirts who value good ideas, talent and quick thinking over formality and standard-issue resume filler.
Make use of your website in these pitches. Put the link in the email. Put it under your name at the bottom of the email (along with your phone number).
Step Six: Pitch, Pitch, Pitch, Pitch and Pitch. A significant percentage of those you approach will never answer you. Some will answer you, revealing that they really want someone to do a helluva load of work for very little coin. Some will be cool with you but will opt to go with someone else. In other words, you won’t be thick with private clients if you’re answering one call for writers per week. Go for the gusto. Answer every ad that looks potentially appealing. If you end up not liking what the advertiser is cooking, you can also politely decline.
Step Seven: Kick rump. Do a good job. Meet specifications and exceed expectations. If you do good work, they’ll come back for more. And they’ll tell their friends. They’ll vouch for you when someone else needs a reference before hiring you. Before you know it, you’ll have business coming to you and you won’t be spending as much time digging through the ads for writers.
There you have it. You, too, can stay busy writing web content for individual clients.
*The success of this process is wholly dependent upon your ability to actually do the job. If you’re a miserable writer, you’re doomed. If you can’t bring yourself to sell your skills, you’re doomed. If you don’t have the ability or knowledge base necessary to implement these steps, you need to figure things out and/or find someone who knows what they’re doing to help you. Otherwise, you’re doomed. The good news is that it’s all relatively easy. At least it’s easier than many initially intimidated people think it will be.
Those of you who paid for premium cables channels in the 80s may remember Angel. It was the tale of a girl who’s momma left here alone with a $100 bill one day who decided to make a living on the streets. She had a secret life–High school honor student by day, Hollywood hooker by night.
Brett Giddens has a slightly less dramatic secret life. Then again, he’s a real person. He’s an Oklahoma high school basketball coach by day who spends his nights singing in small casinos as an Elvis impersonator.
I have a secret day/night life, too. Mine doesn’t rival the Angel story and it isn’t as fun as Giddens’ tale.
Sometimes, in the evening, I write things that pay next to nothing. And I do it just for fun.
Tonight, I noticed a content writer on a forum who mentioned that she was struggling with a deadline and had some overflow work to do. I couldn’t resist. Within an hour I was composing a series of six SEO articles on an incredibly uninteresting topic. I just finished them moments ago.
Last night, I signed up for a little-known content writing site that supplies material to webmasters who believe the road to awesome SEO is paved with short keyword-heavy articles. I actually wrote one of the entry-level articles for a rate that would make even the staunchest content mill supporter blush.
When I’m done with this post, I might take a minute to write a “Top Five” list at ListMyFive.com, which may or may not produce more than a dollar in annual ad share revenue.
Brett swivels his hips for Oklahoma grannies willing to take a break from the slot machines. Angel scoured the sad streets of late night LA for tricks while avoiding murderers. I check forums and search out low-rent content sites.
I don’t spend much time on these endeavors–just an hour or or so here and there. Sometimes, I’ll do a little something as a break in the action between my everyday work.
Why would an honor student become a hooker? Why would a seemingly normal guy want to paste fake sideburns to his face and singe “In the Ghetto”? Who knows?
Okay, Angel had to do it to make ends meet. North Oaks was an expensive school. And lots of people dig Elvis. I suppose I do need more of an explanation than they do.
Here’s why I maintain my secret life:
- I’m buying my neighbor’s 150cc Tank scooter and I don’t want my wife to find out. Thus, I need secret cash. That’s not really why I do these things, but it will be fun to buy it without anyone knowing how or where I got the dough.
- It’s a nice change of pace from the rest of what I do. I guess it’s sort of like those perfectly normal people who have an inexplicable love of a stupid sitcom or who spend hours reading the worst romance novels you can find at a granny’s garage sale. It’s a mental break. I turn the brain off and play with words for awhile.
- It’s a zero pressure situation. I don’t need to sweat every word. I don’t need to play with multiple title variations or fix that inadvertent use of the passive voice in the third paragraph. It’s a liberating kind of writing because, quite frankly, almost anything goes.
- I meet cool people. Many of the folks I’ve met doing things like this turn out to be good buddies and great people. Some are new writers who are just getting started. Some are experienced content writers who grind out articles on the side. Some have no idea of what in the hell they are doing–but they’re still cool.
- Occasionally, real opportunities emerge. Occasionally, you’ll accidentally kick open a door that leads somewhere more interesting and more lucrative. It doesn’t happen most of the time, but it does happen. In other cases, I’ve been able to do something for someone and then convince them to do more/better/different/etc. That’s always fun!
How about you? Do you have a secret life? Do you do things that would make Angel blush? Maybe you impersonate Elvis Costello instead of Elvis Presley? Are you churning out Associated Content articles under a pen name? Watching sitcoms? Are you racing me to find these stray gigs at odd hours?
New around the network:
- Easy to Forget Income Tax Deductions
- Catch Deb on Wednesday at the Girlfriends Guide to Business in Blogging Webinar
- 10 Hints For Transitioning From Freelance Writing Job to Freelance Writing Business
- What’s Wrong with Writing About Writing Because I Like Writing About Writing?
- Why a Half Empty Glass Isn’t Such a Bad Thing
- 10 Ever So Helpful Lessons in Blog Comment Etiquette
- Benefits of Being a ProBlogger
- On Lazy Writers at the Renegade Writer Blog
Web and Content Writing Jobs
- Blogger to Discuss Michigan’s Employment Situation
- Financial Blogger and REsearcher
- Pop Culture Blogger for Nerve.com
- Blogger/Website Copywriter– $1500
- Freelance Content Editor – Los Angeles
- Proofreader and Editor for Web Content
- Copy Editor/Headline Writer -Los Angeles
- Freelance Proofreader/Editor – Trumbull
- Freelance Copywriter Wanted
- Copy Chief Freelance Temporary Copywriter – Dallas
- Freelance Copywriter – Chicago
- Interactive Copywriter – NYC
Technical Writing Jobs
Ghost Writing Jobs
Business Plan/Proposal/Grant Writing Jobs
- Executive Plan Writer for Non Profit
- Grant Writer – Los Angeles
- Internet Co. ISO Business Plan Writer
Travel Writing Jobs
- Writer for Not for Tourists – NYC – $100 per NYC Neighborhood
General/Misc. Freelance Writing Jobs
- Researcher/Writer for Business Book – WebLayers
- Freelance Writer for the Nature Conservancy of Texas
- Freelance Medical Writer for Ongoing Projects – Yardley PA
- Short Review of 3 Local Cultural Events – St. Louis
- Looking for Writers – Vague Ad
- Writer Needed for Romantic Comedy Script
- Writers and Editors Needed
International Freelance Writing Jobs
- Copywriter – Amsterdam
Today’s Leads are Sponsored By:
Credit where it’s due: Just got done reading Laura Spencer’s “Writing Thoughts vs. The Five Minute Article Writer.” It has me thinking a lot about article writing and what goes into writing a good article.
Can you write an article in five minutes? Me either. How about 30 minutes? Yes, sometimes. You see, I used to be a wedding writer. I worked for a wedding publication and wrote over 500 articles (over the course of a few years) for a wedding website. Though I know a little about weddings, I’m not an expert. There have been times when I wrote an “off the top of my head 300 word article” in about thirty minutes.
When people ask me if it’s true someone can really write two articles per hour, I say “yes, but it depends.”
It depends on:
- The topic
- The writer’s area of expertise
- The writer’s experience
- The amount of research
- The word count
- If interviews are needed
I can do a quick “how to choose a wedding veil” piece of web content in about 30 minutes. If I was to write about the wedding veil industry or changes in wedding veil trends including prices and designs, as well as interviews with wedding shop owners and wedding veil designers, this would take more of my time. Writing an in depth piece would most likely take several days to produce.
As I don’t agree with the “Google and rewrite” method of writing, I might take longer than some people to write a good article. If I’m writing a blog post off the top of my head requiring no research, I can get it done in less than 30 minutes.
Talk to me, writers. How long does it REALLY take you to write an article?
by Deborah Ng
‘Morning friends. I know the majority of our visitors come for the leads, but I hope you’re also checking out the entire blog network from time to time, including the original Freelance Writing Jobs blog.
Some great leads this morning. I want to thank everyone who takes the time to give me a shout on Twitter to let me know you found something on FWJ. Keep your success stories coming!!
Enough with the small talk, Leads…
- Freelance Staff Writer – Telecommute – $10 to .05 per word.
- Freelance Writer/Speech Writer – Brooklyn
- Article Writer – $25 – $50 per (Topic is “birds”)
- Content Writer – Statistics – Belmont CA
- Freelance News Writer – Long Beach CA
- Freelance Travel Writers
- Call for Non-fiction Manuscripts
- Profile Writer – $100
- Roller Skating Enthusiast
- Environmental Science Writer/Editor
- Writers for Websites – .08 per word
- Sarcastic Bloggers [Read more…]