There are many reasons why many freelancers choose WordPress for building their portfolio of websites: It’s easy, reliable and flexible (thanks, of course, to plugins). Okay, maybe you will occasionally be told that Tumblr or Blogger is the better choice especially for those looking for a more casual blogging experience. But for the professionals, WordPress always comes out on top — and for good reason, considering the number of features, tools and free plugins you can access to customize and monetize your content. [Read more…]
What Does it Take to be a Freelance Writer?
I’ve been a (more than) full-time writer for ten years. It takes talent, ambition and the ability to manage your time and money to be successful. Contrary to popular belief, you can be a successful freelance writer without starting your own business. However, if you have a habit of slacking or procrastinating, this probably isn’t the path for you.
My typical day includes writing for up to ten clients at a time. This includes everything from SEO-rich web content to brochures for international hotel chains. I scour job boards for new openings and apply daily, even if I have a full workload for the next few months. I’m also updating my resume, website and LinkedIn while learning new skills like SES qualifications as I accept new projects. [Read more…]
Tweeting, Googling, and Capitalization
Do you still remember the days when everyone knew that “tweet” referred to the sound that birds make? Those were the days when there was no confusion as to what the speaker meant.
How about the days when your mom may not have known what you meant when you said “Google”? Those days are long gone, and these two words have become so pervasive that even little children know what they mean. More so, kids use them on a regular basis!
There is one thing about the use of the words “Twitter”, “Google”, and their derivatives that may not be so clear, though. Used as proper nouns – the trademarks – there is no doubt about how we write them. We capitalize the first letter of the word. I am willing to bet my month’s earnings on that. 😉
With the way things have evolved, however, new words and uses have arisen. “Google” is also used as a verb. See the example below.
Why don’t you Google the restaurant’s location?
In this case, was I right to capitalize the first letter of the word, or should I have written “google” instead since it is used as a verb? Here is another example.
He tweeted that he was not feeling well.
Should I have capitalized the first letter, or did I get it right this time?
I have read various opinions on this, and the conclusion seems to be that people choose whichever method depending on their personal preference. As usual, I go to my most trusted source: Merriam-Webster.
Interestingly, it gives different answers for the two words. It defines “Google”, used as a verb, as: “to use the Google search engine to obtain information about (as a person) on the World Wide Web”. There is also an additional note saying that the verb is “often capitalized”. The example given is below. ((Source))
Then where are they going, if not to Faulkner and Achebe and Naipaul? … To the movies; to television (hours and hours); to Googling obsessively (hours and hours); to blogging and emailing and text messaging…
To be honest, I tend to use lowercase for the verb, but from now on, I hope to be consistent with the example given above.
As for “tweet”, Merriam-Webster takes on a different stance. ((Source)) The definition is: “to post a message to the Twitter online message service”. The first letter of the word is not capitalized, nor is there any note about that point.
That solves it for me. How about you? Do agree with these “rules”? Why or why not?
Image via NightRStar
Google Editions is coming, and you best be ready for it.
Google is about to go head-to-head against Amazon over the ebook marketplace. This isn’t some pie-in-the-sky speculation. It’s fact. Originally planned to launch this summer, Google Editions has been met with endless delays. But the Wall Street Journal seems to think it’s almost here, so it’s time for a primer.
Until now, ebooks have been a closed system. The ebook marketplace is heavily dominated by Amazon and its Kindle device, which boasts about two-thirds of all ebook sales. Everyone else — Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Apple’s iBooks, Borders’ Kobo, etc. — is left to pick up the crumbs from Amazon’s dinner table. But the one thing all of these ebooksellers have in common is that they all want you to use their software and hardware to read your ebooks. Amazon sells the Kindle device, but also has free downloadable Kindle software for every mobile platform imaginable. Most of the other ebook retailers offer the same, but the model remains the same: “Come to our ebook store, download or buy our reading system, and read your ebooks here and nowhere else.”
Google Editions offers a whole new model that’s not tied to any one device or software. Think of Google Editions as the “open source” option, because it can be read on any hardware and software. Google supplies the books, you supply the means of reading it. This is because unlike all other ebooksellers, Google is going to sell its ebooks via “the cloud.” That’s a term used by the tech industry to describe media that’s stored on an Internet server instead of on a user’s personal hard drive.
A lot of modern computing is moving to cloud-based models, because it gives users the benefit of not having to store their content locally on a piece of hardware that could crash and be lost forever. Cloud-based media also allows you to access your content anywhere, from any device. (See where this is going?)
With Google Editions, you’ll buy ebooks the same as always, but you won’t download them. Instead, they’ll be stored on a Google server, where your purchase allows you to access them anytime you want, from anywhere with a web browser and an Internet connection. Some are speculating that Google Editions could spell the end of ereader devices like Kindle and Nook. If Google wins the ebook war, tablets used exclusively for reading ebooks could become obsolete in favor of laptops and multimedia/Internet tablets like the iPad.
Independent booksellers are reportedly signing on with Google Editions in droves, because it gives them the chance to get in on ebook sales, which until now has been the exclusive playground of chain stores like B&N and Borders. Anyone can become an affiliate of Google Editions — not just indie stores — so authors like myself could sign up with GE and sell my ebooks directly from my own website, instead of referring ebook consumers elsewhere. And I’ll get a larger piece of the profits as well.
Google hasn’t yet revealed any details about self-publishing options, but you can bet it’s something they’re hard at work on. Amazon and Barnes & Noble both offer ebook self-publishing for writers, via upload-and-sell models where they keep a portion of the revenue in exchange for listing and selling your wares. Google would be idiotic not to offer a similar self-publishing solution, and they know it.
Google Editions is now expected to launch before the end of the year (which is not far away — seriously, where did 2010 go?). I’ll have more details for you about it once the service goes live.
5 Simple Legal Mistakes Freelancers Commonly Make
For a freelance writer, there is a lot of legal ground to cover. Copyright, trademark, privacy, libel and contract law are just some of the areas any freelancer needs to be familiar with to ensure that their rights are protected and they stay on the right side of the law.
The reason is that, in addition to signing deals and getting payment for a service, you are creating content that will be distributed to a global audience. This puts a lot of responsibility on you and everything you right to be accurate, non-infringing and non-invasive.
Still, we are all human and we all make mistakes. Combine that with the fact that many writers don’t fully understand the law or are misled by misconceptions, there is a lot of potential for danger.
With that in mind, here are just some of the more common legal mistakes freelancers made and, more importantly, how to avoid them.
1. Using Google to Find Stock Images
More and more writing contracts are asking writers to locate images to go along with their posts. Certainly not a challenge, but some freelancers use Google Image Search to find the images they are going to use.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of images in Google are copyright protected and are not available for use in such a manner, at least not without paying for a licensing fee.
To make matters worse, the stock photo industry has been on a very aggressive campaign against copyright infringers, and have threatened tens of thousands of sites over the past few years.
Grabbing the wrong photo could easily cost you more than a job, it could cost you thousands of dollars in settlement costs.
How to Avoid It: Use a free stock photo site such as MorgueFile or Stock.XCHNG. You can also look for Creative Commons-licensed images so long as you ensure your client provides proper attribution.
2. Working with a Bad Contract or No Contract
I discussed the dangers of working without a contract in a previous post but the risks bear repeating.
Whenever you write for someone without a contract, the terms of the agreement are not set in stone and, as a result, if there is a dispute the courts have to look at other conversations between you to find out what both sides intended. As such, you may find yourself giving away rights that you never actually meant to and you also have to go through a lot more hassle to find the boundaries.
However, a bad contract can be just as bad, if not worse. If you sign a contract without reading it, you can give away all rights to a work when you didn’t intend and have no real recourse as it was something you agreed to freely.
How to Avoid It: Always work with a contract and always review them carefully. You don’t have to be a legal expert to read your own contracts but, if you have any questions, definitely put it before someone else for a review.
3. Committing Self-Plagiarism
Self plagiarism isn’t illegal in the sense that it’s copyright infringement. After all, the person who would be suing you for infringement would be yourself.
However, most writing contracts, both written and implied, state that there is a need for the work to be original. If you simply turn in something that was written before, it would be a breach of those terms.
Think about it in this context. If the client wanted something you had written previously, they would have requested to buy the license to the work, not asked for a new assignment to be completed. In that context, simply handing in your old work could be a breach of contract and could be very costly in terms of your reputation.
How to Avoid It: Self-plagiarism is acceptable if your client says its ok but always ask and get clearance before reusing old work. Otherwise, you may find yourself at odds with them fast.
4. Being Defamatory
Defamation (libel and slander) might seem to be easy to avoid, but it is rarely so easy.
Most people believe that if you simply stick to the facts of a case you can easily avoid an allegation of libel. However, for example, if you quote someone out of context you can be sued for libel with a good chance that they will win.
If you do freelance editing you can also create a problem by editing a piece to make someone say something they didn’t intend. Even it being an accident may not be a complete defense because, unless the person is a public figure, they don’t have to prove any malice to have a claim.
How to Avoid It: Always speak the truth and stick to what you can prove. Also, remember that opinion can never be libelous though be careful when presenting facts in a way that may give people the wrong impression about what was said and meant.
5. Invading Privacy
There are many ways freelancers can unwittingly invade someone’s privacy, the easiest is through images. If you take a photo of someone without model release, use of their image in an article, especially if it’s on a site that promotes a product or service, could be a misappropriation of their image.
However, freelancers can also find themselves in hot water for publicly disclosing private facts the public has not legitimate interest in. What constitutes private data can vary from case to case and often depends on what has already been made public, but generally it isn’t wise to disclose might be considered embarrassing, isn’t already public and isn’t newsworthy.
How to Avoid It: Always either work with a legitimate stock photo agency for your photos of people or ensure that you get model releases when using photos where individuals could be identified. When writing about people, make sure to talk about information that is already public, preferably they disclosed by the subject, and don’t publicly post anything that they might see an an invasion, especially if it isn’t truly newsworthy.
Freelance writing is, quite literally, a legal minefield at times. Fortunately, if you approach the industry with honest intentions and work on understanding the law, most of the major pitfalls can be easily avoided.
But even with that knowledge, many unwittingly step into situations that can get them in a lot of trouble and, though nothing comes of most legal goofs, it only takes one angry person with money and motivation to file a suit and completely ruin your life.
With what’s at stake, it’s worth taking a moment to understand the lay of the land just so you don’t walk into any traps.
Have a question about the law and freelance writing? Either leave a comment below or contact me directly if you wish to keep the information private. This column will be determined largely by your suggestions and questions so let me know what you want to know about.
I am not an attorney and nothing in this article should be taken as legal advice.
Periodical Blog Checkups
While it may not be as important to undergo a blog checkup as it is to undergo a physical checkup – I highly recommend you make it as much a part of your routine if you aspire to blog full-time or dream of monumental success.
You can learn SO much by monitoring and studying your blog traffic, and adjusting the development of your blog to suit your readers and your personal writing trends.
Below are a few links for you to visit. Take some time to study the information you gather regarding your blog. Compile that information into a quarterly or biannual report that you can refer back to as your blog grows. Take care to note what you learn, how they helped, hurt, or changes the way you will blog, how you set up or change your blog – record all changes you make – this is fun to look back on but also serves as a valuable tool when trying to predict the direction of your blog.
- Google Cache Tool
- Live Google PageRank
- Link Popularity Checker
- Keyword Analysis Tool
- Search Position Checker
- Spider View
- Google Webmasters Central – A must have for every website!
By conducting this checkup periodically, you will likely learn something new, something exciting, new possibilities or even find reassurance in that you are doing exactly what you should be doing.
What are some of the ways you test your blog? Do you perform regular checkups?
Freelance Writing for the Web: A Change is Gonna Come. Are You Ready?
While many FWJ readers may write primarily for print, I know that many others (like me) have businesses built primarily on writing for online markets. This post targets those of us who make a living online, so to speak.
The Big Question
Why do people pay you to write?
Is it because…
- You’re so damn talented?
- They can’t do it themselves?
- You can make the content creation process more efficient?
- Clients love your website and/or pitches?
- You have a special skill or area of expertise?
Those may be reasons why clients choose you over other writers, but people come to the marketplace in the first place for another reason. They think they can use what you produce to turn a profit. They want to make money.
Sometimes I wonder if too many online writers spend way too much effort thinking about how to get work now and how to compete for gigs while spending far too little effort thinking about that bigger, core question. I wonder if many web-based freelancers may be setting themselves up for future struggles because of it, too.
A Change is Gonna Come
That’s not because I foresee a sudden drop in the demand for online content. On the contrary, I think that a variety of new and even lucrative opportunities is on the horizon. However, I do question the longer-term viability of many markets upon which writers are building businesses. I wonder how many writers will survive and/or react as the Internet and the way we use it changes.
In order to protect yourself and your business, it’s important to delve into the reason why demand for writing exists–the profit potential of the output. That means having both a solid understanding of the strategies clients are employing in pursuit of revenue and the greater trends that will undoubtedly force changes to those strategies and to the marketplace as a whole.
For instance, any writer who isn’t thinking about inevitable changes in the nature of search engines is making a mistake. The search engines don’t stand still. Google and its smaller competitors are constantly refining their approaches and there are a number of reasons to believe that they’ll be forced to make some major adjustments in the relatively near future.
Those changes could have a major impact on what are “bread and butter” for many writers. Traditional article marketing and the mass production “content mill” approach will have a difficult time thriving in an improved search environment.
Last week I posted an interview with SEO Kieran Flanagan here at FWJ. He made a point of discussing both the changing face of link acquisition for SEO and the growing role of social media in his business. The days of using 500-word articles at a pre-ordained keyword density level and fueling them with a series of easy-to-acquire, low-grade links is on its way out. At the very least, the writing is on the wall.
At my blog, I recently posted about the less-than-rosy long-term future of low-quality content mill work due to market forces within the search sector and the increasingly untenable hypocrisy of Google in terms of how they’ve “banned” paid links yet are allowing other intentional methods of subverting their search algorithm to have an impact on SERPs.
You don’t need to agree with my perspective to recognize that there’s a lot boiling under the surface in the way people find and use information online. No matter how you think it all might unfold, you can be certain that, in the words of Sam Cooke, “a change is gonna come.”
Preparing for Change
We often talk about the need to spread risk when developing an overall approach to building a freelance writing business. That need is usually expressed in terms of “not putting all of your eggs in one basket.” That’s rock-solid advice–in the short run. In the longer run, it’s just as important to have a sense of what future eggs may look like and if there may be new ways to store them. Hell, the eggs we gather today may be poisonous before too long and we might all be laughing at the antiquated notion of using baskets.
People pay writers because they want to make money. Writers who aren’t sufficiently prepared to transition their talents and to apply them to new contexts aren’t going to be in the best position to help clients make money. Writers who have over-invested in strategies that seem to have a limited lifespan could be setting themselves up for a more difficult future.
That doesn’t mean anyone should abandon any part of his or her business that’s currently producing a nice stream of revenue. Make hay while the sun is shining. However, one should probably do that with an awareness of the need to move on to new markets and new approaches once the limitations of those activities start to become increasingly visible. Otherwise, you might find yourself well behind the curve while other writers profit from being ahead of it.
The Moral to the Story
Continue to focus on being a badass writer who offers the world’s greatest customer service. Continue to work on distinguishing yourself in the marketplace and do everything you can to become the best choice among those who are looking for a writer.
At the same time, look ahead. Make a point of learning more about why potential clients are looking for a writer in the first place and study the hell out of the marketplace and the kind of changes in advertising, search, social media, and all of the other things that are going to force changes in the way people conduct business and information acquisition on the ‘Net.
If you’re going to focus on online markets, be smart, nimble, well-informed and an expert in larger trends.