Thursday, May 24, 2007

Freelancing: Professional Contacts Can Bring in Business When You Least Expect It

I started a website in 1997 called HistOracle: A Journal of Uncommon History. If you go into The Wayback Machine you can find it. It was hand-coded in HTML by me, and it is quaint. It was a webzine for historical fiction. I produced 2 issues.

A staff writer for an educational publishing division for a private school system contacted me after seeing HistOracle; he asked whether I knew any historical fiction writers who would be interested in a full-time telecommuting position, fully benefitted, writing historical fiction for kids.


My resume and cover letter went off to him with lightning-quick speed. That was in October 1998. I was 38 weeks pregnant. He didn't know that. My writing sample and job application went out the day I went into early labor.

I had my son in November 1998, and three weeks later I was dressed in business casual for an interview, trying not to leak through my shirt (I succeeded) and not mentioning my infant. Three days before my son turned three months old, I had my first official day as a Staff Writer.

I worked there until I was laid off in August 2002, and since then I have picked up freelancing academic writing jobs through personal contacts, Elance, and professional contacts. I've written articles for twelve reference books since 2005, and yesterday was contacted by an editorial company that heard about me through a publishing representative I've spoken with regarding textbook adoption for the courses I teach at a local college. I'd told the representative that I was looking for freelance textbook writing, but this was months ago.

Lo and behold, I'm now on a new project, new company, new publisher. It's not full-time, and I won't get rich (yet it's a paid, History job!), but it's interesting work (test development and chapter review writing) and I can put another Big Name Publisher on my client list (next to two names you already would know if I wrote them).

All from networking.

So make sure you network!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Money Update: I am really, truly making money from these sites.

Letter Rep: I sold 2 letters this week. $20.

Constant Content: I sold 1 usage license this week. $10, but CC takes 35%, so I've made $6.50. CC has accepted another eight articles I have written, so those might sell as well. Keep in mind that selling a usage license means the article can still sell another usage license, or sell for much more (in this case, $30) for full rights.

Associated Content I've already discussed. I'm plugging along averaging $600 per month. And MyPoints is continuing to generate about $5 per month. I'm working steadily on my two-month Elance project as well.

You won't get rich here, but if I put up more Constant Content material, and if I wrote more LetterRep letters, I could earn more. Sadly, both of my children have coxsackie virus (hmm...maybe I should write about that!) so it's a slow writing week.

Another point I'd like to make: I'm doing this for fun and extra money. I'm also involved in an academic research project. So the goal of these programs and freelancing opportunities, for me, is three-fold:

1. I have no set deadlines. Sick kid? Sick me? Playdates? Research pressure? Fine. I just hurt myself if I don't do the writing and make the money, but no editor is screaming at me for a late article.

2. I can do this when I want. 15 minute break while the kids are playing? Write an article for Associated Content. 10 minutes while they watch television? upload an old article to Constant Content for usage rights. MyPoints get clicked while checking email. LetterRep I do when the kids are doing computer programs or watching German videos.

3. I write about what *I* want to write about. This is a double-edged sword, because if AC or CC reject my work, I can only blame me. LetterRep is funny--I only write the letters I want to write. I don't want to write a break-up letter! Then again, $10 for about 10 minutes isn't bad, either.

So there's my update. I'll update frequently and will be presenting more work-at-home opportunities this week, both good and bad.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Freelancing: is a site where buyers buy, well, letters. Need to write a job reference letter for someone? Buy one for a fee. Need a letter explaining your poor credit? Buy one. Need a letter requesting an import/export agreement between your company and one owned by the Sultan of Brunei? You got it--for a fee.

As odd as it sounds, in this day and age of the Internet, you can hire just about anyone to do just about anything--even write a break up letter for you. I'm not joking. Pay for someone to write a "Dear John" letter. Check it out at

So what's in it for freelancers and people who want to earn money from home? needs writers. Letter writers. And they pay you $10 every time someone buys your letter.

Writers can earn money in two different ways. First, you can upload your own, existing professional letters. Of course, the letters need to be modified. For instance, using substitution brackets in key places, such as "Dear [hiring manager]," is important. If you already write professional letters, or have a handful sitting around, it might be worth going over them and uploading the documents to Every time a buyer purchases one, you make $10.

The second way to earn money with is to write on request. Buyers can list specific requests, such as "letter declining a job" or "letter explaining my derogatory credit history" or "letter to my ex-husband's girlfriend asking her to do a police background check." The writer then looks at the request and either suggests existing letters on, or writes a new letter tailored for the client.

Most of the specific requests are seemingly ordinary. For anyone who has worked in a secretarial or administrative position, writing such letters may be second nature. But what takes one person ten minutes to write may take another person hours. Hence the birth of this service. If you, as a writer, are skilled with letter writing, this may be a great opportunity to earn some money using your skills.

In addition, many of the requests have a legal slant to them. Paralegals, lawyers, of business consultants have an edge with this service. Many of the more technical or legal requests go unanswered. A niche is waiting for the right person.

Signing up for a free account with LetterRep is easy. The process takes two to three minutes. Writing on request is exceptionally simple as well; you click on the request and a text box appears. Type your professional letter in the box, fill in the additional requested info (i.e. bullet points explaining the letter), and hit submit.

The letters are reviewed by staff within six to twelve hours. If there is an editorial problem, the letter is moved into "My Problem Works" on your account, where you have a chance to fix any problems and resubmit. If the letter is clean, considers it "live" and ready for viewing by prospective buyers.

While letter writers earn $10 per letter for sales, payout does not occur until you reach $50. In other words, you must sell five letters before you can receive a payment. offers buyers a niche service that isn't found elsewhere, and writers a unique opportunity to earn money in a very different writing capacity. To learn more, visit and explore this market.

Freelancing: Elance

Elance is a fascinating, half-eBay, half-classified ads job site. In the Elance Marketplace, service "providers" are linked to job "buyers" through a basic message board-like interface, which allows buyers to post projects and for providers to browse the same projects and bid to get the job.

There are various freelancing categories on Elance, including Writing and Translation, Programming and Software Development, Logos, Graphic Design, and Illustration, Website Design, Business Design, and "Other".

Buyers post projects--for free--and providers browse the various projects. Providers then describe why they are the best person for the job, often attaching samples of previous work, and then bid on the job, describing how long the job will take as well.

Then the buyer decides.

Providers can create a basic profile about themselves or their business, and create a Portfolio of past client work, so that potential clients can view their work on Elance and elsewhere.

While posting projects is free for Elance buyers, for providers there is a membership fee. While the least expensive option is only $11 per month, for instance, for a "Limited" membership, many Elance buyers refuse to work with "Limited" providers, choosing "Select" providers only. A Select provider membership starts at $69 per month, although an annual membership runs $349. For this fee Select providers can bid on "sealed" bid projects (Limited and Professional members cannot); in many cases, the most lucrative projects are posted as Select projects. In essence, going for the lower-cost option on Elance will limit your ability to retain the best clients.

Since 2004 I have earned more than $80,000 as a result of Elance. While technically I have earned $15,400 according to my Elance profile, I've picked up clients on Elance who have then turned into non-Elance clients. In one case, I went from 10 hours per week as a writer for one client's website to working 40+ hours per week for them for eight months. In other cases, I picked up long-term website writing, SEO writing, and user interface testing projects.

Elance not only charges a membership fee, they also charge anywhere from 6.75% to 8.75% of the project total to the provider. In other words, if you win a $200 project, $13.50 to $17.50 goes straight to Elance. There is a minimum $10 fee as well, so smaller projects, such as a $50 article, will be charged a $10 fee off the top.

Like eBay, buyers and providers provide feedback for each other. Elance rates on a 1 to 5 scale. I currently hold a 5.0 rating, and many buyers will only work with providers with a 4.8 to 5.0 rating. Performing quality work is key to maintaining a high rating.

Elance works well for writers, website designers, and software and business consultants who have a reasonable amount of work under their belt, and who can build a strong portfolio to gain clients. A complete beginner to freelance writing, for instance, will struggle to find clients on Elance. Most buyers want to see some work samples before considering a provider.

At the same time, in some categories the prices for projects are very low. Keyword articles, for instance, are often priced at $2-$4 per article for a batch of 100 articles. Even a well-seasoned professional takes 10-12 minutes to write a 400 qord keyword article; between writing, saving, uploading, and client communications, at best a $2 per article rate would yiled $9-$10 per hour for the work, pretax.

Providers from Romania, India, and Pakistan have flooded Elance, and can often underbid U.S. and Canadia providers because of cost of living differences. On the other hand, some buyers refuse to work with non-U.S. providers for various reasons. When looking at project bids, keep this phenomenon in mind.

I recently picked up a ghostwriting book project for over $3,000 on Elance; the project will keep me busy for part of the summer, and it's a topic I already enjoy. This is work I could never have found without Elance. The buyer is located in a different part of the country, and even through professional contacts I could never have connected with him to perform this fascinating (and remunerative) Elance work.

Elance is an excellent tool for freelancers, but I wouldn't recommend it for complete beginners. Use it as a second step after making sales to Associated Content or Constant Content, and keep in mind that the competition can be brutal. Bid fair rates, do quality work, and get your completed project done before the official deadline to keep a high buyer rating, and Elance will work well for you.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Internet Program: Epinions

I have been a member of Epinions since 1999. Between the end of 1999 and early 2001 (14 months) I earned $290 on Epinions. I earned about $21 per month back then. MAD LOOT!

I recently returned to my account on Epinions to find some old product reviews I'd written (more on this in a future post). Epinions is a website where users post short product reviews on products, services, colleges, restaurants--you name it. In 1999 it was innovative. Now, frankly, it's quaint.

Epinions earns money for the company in two ways: advertising (of course) and click-through purchases. If you write about a baby toy, and someone buys that baby toy from from your review, then Epinions earns an affiliate kick-back (normally 5-15% of the cost of the item).

Epinions, in the past, paid reviewers a flat rate ($.10 to $1) for each review, and then a certain amount ($.01 to $.10) every time the review was rated by readers.

That system has changed. It's now a "revenue share" model, which means you don't know up front how much you'll earn per review. The 42 reviews I posted in 14 months are still generating small streams of revenue, ironically ($.50 in my account!). So the good of Epinions is that you write your review and it lives on, earning non-active revenue.

The bad of Epinions is that your revenue stream may amount to a trickle that isn't worth the initial time to set up an account and write reviews. On the other hand, in March 2007 Epinions had a "10 for 10" promotion--write 10 reviews, earn a straight $10 upfront plus revenue share. So there's potential when Epinions runs promotions.

Epinions can be an excellent tool for those who enjoy writing reviews of products and services, and can be a nice addition to a "recycling content" model I will share in coming days--a way to take one 400 word review and "monetize" it on multiple sites and accounts to maximize effort and money.

More on that later. Click here to join Epinions:

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Constant Content

Constant Content is something like the anti-Associated Content. Both have a place on the web and in any work-from-home tool box.

With Associated Content you write an article on a topic you enjoy, or want to write about. You make sure it's SEO-compliant. Let me take a moment to explain this and how it relates to Constant Content.

SEO, or search engine optimization, simply means that you are writing your article to get it as high as possible in search engine rankings. Let's say you're writing an article about kids and allergies. Your keyword, then, is "kids and allergies" and also "kids" and "allergies." Now, "kids" is a vague keyword. If you type "kids" into Google you will get thirteen billion hits, and there's no way your article will be on page 1. Same with "allergies." But "kids and allergies"--you might have a chance if the keyword density is solid.

You want to write articles that are right around 400-600 words, leaning toward 400. This has to do with complex search engine ranking software issues that I, a non-techie, have no desire to try to explain, as I'd rather have an unmedicated root canal while listening to Rush Limbaugh describe his latest colonoscopy than explain software code. Suffice it to say that you want to stick to 400-600 words, leaning toward 400. Here is where Constant Content comes in.

"Keyword density" means that a certain percentage of the words in your article should be the keywords. So "kids and allergies" should be written, exactly as is, to the specific "keyword density" required by a client or a site. In general, you want to aim for 3%-5%. So--in a 400 word article, "kids and allergies" needs to be mentioned 12 to 20 times. Constant Content clients want work like this.

That's SEO writing. That's it. It's not rocket science. Again--this is a basic explanation. There's far more to SEO coding, and even to some forms of writing (secondary keywords, for instance). But this post is about Constant Content, and not SEO. :)

Both Associated Content and Constant Content want keyword-rich, 3%-5% density articles, in the 400-600 range. With Associated Content, you post the article. If they like it, they offer you $3-$12 (most in the $5-7 range lately). You accept, and the money comes into PayPal a few days later. You also earn long-term revenue from page views.

Constant Content is more selective, but the payoff is far, far higher. With Constant Content the article is reviewed for quality. And rejected if it is of poor quality. Whereas Associated Content edits and reviews ONLY for advertisability, Constant Content actually cares whether the article is good.

As an author, you create an account with Constant Content. Click here to check out the site: Constant Content

You then upload your article in a .txt file. Be certain it is error-free, and uses proper grammar. Unlike Associated Content, Constant Content is a stickler for detail.

YOU set the price you want for three levels of rights offered to people who want to buy your article at Constant Content: Usage Rights, Full Rights, and Unique Rights. Usage Rights bring in the lowest amount of money--but you can sell Usage Rights over and over, as you're essentially licensing your article for one-time use to various people. A 500 word article, for instance, sells at $5 to $10 on Constant Content for Usage Rights on average. Again--that's per sale.

Full Rights means you're giving away the copyright. It's the buyer's article now. Most "full rights" sales run between $40 and $120. Again--you're setting the price here. Think of Full Rights as a version of work for hire writing. You're just writing about what you want to write about, and then selling off the copyright. A 500 word article that sells with full rights at Constant Content for $75 equals a $.15 per word rate, which isn't half bad.

Unique Rights is an odd category, and frankly I'd avoid it. It's a hybrid between Usage and Full, and it creates a grey area. It's intended for people who want to retain their byline on the article. The client is required to keep your byline, and to keep the article intact a is--they can't break it up for change it. In my opinion, Usage only meets this need. If you want to protect your writing, go with Usage and Constant Content. If you just want as much money as possible outright, sell off Full Rights.

Unlike Associated Content, on Constant Content your material may sit. And sit. And never sell. One strategy, because Constant Content's pricing is so much better than Associated Content's, is to write and post your articles at Constant Content. If they don't sell after one to two months, post them as non-exclusive content on Associated Content, and earn $5 or $6 bucks. You then start earning money for page views, and you still retain Usage resell ability. It's win-win.

Constant Content also has a "private request" section. These are articles buyers are seeking, so writing for the specific demands can be one way to make relatively guaranteed money (if the buyer chooses your articles, of course).

Many freelancers and work-from-home folks use both Associated Content and Constant Content successfully to make $800, $1000, or more per month. Constant Content

Friday, May 4, 2007

Freelancing: Selling video clips to is the latest in the "pay to upload" sites such as Associated Content, Constant Content, and MyLot. These sites all have one quality in common: the average person, without any required professional skills in writing or videography, can produce a work product, upload it or post it, and make money from their activity. is different from Associated Content or MyLot in that ExpoTV accepts videos only. The payout is $5 for a one-minute minimum video clip. The initial payout of $5 is not the only way that Expo TV users make money. For each new user you refer to the site, you earn a $5 referral fee. In addition, every time someone chooses to view your uploaded video, you earn $.01.

While one penny for a video viewing may seem paltry, it's actually a fair revenue share, and considerably more remunerative than Associated Content's payout rate of $1.50 per 1000 page views; at $.0015 per view vs. $.01 for Expo TV, video producers might find themselves drawn to Expo TV rather than Associated Content. However, Associated Content is considerably more established than Expo TV, and uses Google rankings to improve search engine rankings. In other words--uploading videos to Associated Content may mean increased traffic to your video, more viewings, and more earnings in the end.

On the other hand, Expo TV offers a guaranteed $5 payout, which is $2 higher than Associated Content's $3 minimum, and referrals to Associated Content garner $3 vs. $5 at Expo TV. In addition, if your video is chosen for Expo TV's television channel--yes, they're on cable, in 25 million homes--you receive an additional $25 payout.

The videos posted to Expo TV are limited, currently, to "Videopinions," or reviews of specific products that video producers enjoy. In this sense, too, there is room for both Expo TV and Associated Content in any video producer's income-generating list. Video producers could simply upload product reviews to Expo TV while saving How-To videos and other video content for Associated Content.

Expo TV has specific rules for the videos: the producer's face must appear in the video, each video must be 1 minute or longer, and the sound and light quality must meet certain minimum requirements. Expo TV accepts 90% of submissions, so as long as producers follow the FAQ section on how to produce good videos, you should be fine.

Keep in mind that Expo TV is available in more than 25 million homes via On Demand on cable televisions. Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and Charter Communications, among others, carry the television channel. You are submitting videos to be on television--real cable TV. So do your makeup, wear your thin clothes, and brush your teeth.

Learn more at Expo TV

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Freelancing: Writing for Squidoo

Well, I'm not sure I'd consider it writing, per se. The Squidoo page is more like assembling a collection of links, articles, affiliate links, eBay auctions, and so forth on a particular, narrow topic.

Squidoo is like blogging. No--wait. It's like Well, sort of. It's more like Associated Content. Um, no--it's like Helium. Well--it's like all of those.

Look at to see an example of a Squidoo "lens." A lens is a specific topic you choose. You use the Squidoo publishing process, then, to add "modules" to your particular Squidoo lens. For instance, you can have blog text boxes, add links to eBay auctions, links to books on, RSS feeds, and more.

With Squidoo, you can choose to be paid cash for any revenue your site generates. The content can remain, and there are no requirements for refreshing the page. In theory, one could spend 2 hours creating a lens, and then sit back while it generates $.10 per month in perpetuity.

Users are not limited in the number of lenses they can create. Last May, Squidoo was reporting that their top lens creators were earning $30 per month (or so) from lenses. Again--if you're blogging on your own, you can earn more via Adsense (more on blogging later), but the Squidoo lens could involve an initial time investment of 2 hours, then a once-a-week 10 minutes brush up. $30 per month for 40 minutes per month isn't bad, if you can get there. Multiply that times 10 lenses, and you have a decent little deal. For $.10 per month? Not such a great time/revenue ratio.

On the other hand, for writers working to promote articles on other sites, such as Associated Content, Squidoo might be worth the time investment. Associated Content writers could create various lenses, link to their own articles, and help generate higher Google rankings AND additional readers. So as a tool to promote content, Squidoo might be worth it. As a moneymaker--that remains to be seen. As my Squidoo lens picks up more readership over time, I will report back.