Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2011 Business Plan for Writing and Editing

So, a day late, but as promised, I want to reflect on how 2010 was different from 2009 and use that as a springboard for making some goals for 2011.

Goal #1, though, is a simple picture:


And the picture really tells a simple story, but it's not the obvious story.

It's not "I need to make more time for my family." It's "I need to make the time I spend away from my family working more efficient and work for me."

So with that theme in mind, here are my 2011 goals:

About.com  - expand my income beyond the minimum ($500 per month stipend) by the end of 2011.
Suite101 - if possible, complete an experiment of 3-5 months writing nearly full-time, and quadruple my income (by quadrupling my article total) by the end of 2011.
History book - sell the proposal I have out there now, and have a full draft by the end of 2011.
Academic publishing - continue with current client and work to add one new client.
Book reviews - break into Kirkus Reviews with at least one review, and write 2-3 reviews for new academic journals.
Backlinking - write articles for non-paying or low-paying markets ONLY if I can backlink to my benefit.
DMS CE work - continue for now.

So that's it.

What I won't be doing in 2011:

  • Writing for DMS. I'm done.
  • Experimenting with lesser/low PR rev share sites.
  • Accepting work below a set pay rate (per word or per hour).
  • Chasing new clients aside from those targeted above.

Some other professional measures I need to take:

  • Create a website that showcases my work (I have the domain name).
  • Network more locally.
  • Contact more PR firms locally to get on lists for press events/grand openings/ festivals/etc. related to my writing.
  • Attend at least one major writing/editing/SEO conference.

Given that I have a toddler at home, I think this is fairly ambitious. I have about 7 hours of babysitting a week, and often sacrifice sleep to do my writing work. I'm hoping to keep my goals reasonable for 2011, but by mid-2012 Daniel will be in preschool and I may inch my way, slowly, toward having more time.

I want to enjoy my family time, though - having a large break (7.5 years) between our second and third means that I know how quickly they grow up, and at 1, 8 and 12 the time will fly by. Querying inappropriate markets, chasing low-pay but "possibly prestigious" work, and wasting my time on fruitless writing isn't how I want to spend my time this year.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Resurrecting My Open Salon Blog

I started an Open Salon blog in late 2009. You can read my latest post on home health aide training and aging parents.

So why have a blog on Salon.com? First of all, I'm not special - anyone can open one. Most important - the page rank is anywhere from 4 to 7 (depending on who rates it) and the links are DoFollow. Second, if you pop your AdSense in, you get one block of advertising. I think I've made a dollar there :-)

I don't post complete junk, or just links - I used to post updates on my $10K/month experiment, but I'd rather just blog on interesting topics related to my other articles now. The eldercare crisis blog post is a perfect example of that.

I also write at Blissfully Domestic to get high-quality backlinks (and, like Open Salon, you get one block of advertising with your AdSense account). Same with HubPages and Associated Content. Even if the site has NoFollow links, using the anchor text to target my exact keyword phrase can help boost an article's ranking - just not as much as a juicy high-PR DoFollow.

Monday, December 27, 2010

2010 Winning Strategies for Freelance Writing Earnings

I am going to shamelessly write my own version of Carol Tice's wonderful topic on her Make a Living Writing freelance writing blog. If you don't know Carol, she's a successful freelance writer who has made it her mission to help coach other freelance writers to earn more and take on better work.

She's very active on the LinkedIn editors and writers group, and was extremely helpful (along with Randy Hecht, Ruth Thayer and Karen Berger) last fall when I was making some writing business decisions. I read what they had to say on the forums and found myself really re-evaluating some career choices.

Carol's main message is that writers do NOT have to settle for content mills, substandard wages, and abusive clients - that there are specific strategies one can follow to improve hourly rate, quality of assignment, quality of client, etc.

Subscribe to her blog - I love getting her newsletters, and they take me out of my rigid thought patterns and help me get rid of ineffective activities.


2010 Earnings from Writing

I won't go into specific detail, but I'll say that my 2010 earnings were about 4 times my 2009 earnings. Keep in mind that I didn't get serious about earning from freelance writing and content mill writing until October 2009 - until then I'd had:

  • 1 private client (3 keyword articles/week)
  • 2 academic writing clients (10-20 articles/year, not high pay but exciting work)
  • College teaching (HA! if you think THAT pays well as an adjunct LOL)
  • Associated Content performance pay (around $30-$40/month, so I wasn't getting rich)
  • Demand Studios writing (I wrote about 60 articles in 2009)

By the end of 2010, here's what my portfolio of work looks like:

  • About.com Contributing Writer in Continuing Education (Nov. 2010)
  • Suite101.com Feature Writer in History Books and Philosophy Books (Feb. 2010)
  • 1 academic writing client, but in addition to 17 articles at normal pay, a last-minute rush job came up for 7 articles at 2-3x normal pay
  • 11 articles for PC World on smartphones, two of which were licensed to the Washington Post.
  • 1 print article in Bay State Parent on celiac disease and babies (Dec. 2010)
  • Copy Editor with Demand Media Studios, and I wrote about 30 articles this year
  • Still getting residual income at Associated Content and writing about 40 articles per year
  • Book proposal on history topic out with an educational publisher

You can see that I've added some fairly big permanent freelance work (About.com), some additional print work (Bay State Parent and articles in 2 different books for the academic publisher), a major technology publication (PC World, though I'd already written one short piece for them in 2007, but still...), was a "go to" person for a last-minute rush job for an academic publisher.

Freelance Writing and Private Clients

You'll also notice I lost one academic publishing client (just no work that ties in with my specialty) and 1 private client I provided keyword articles for - I raised my rates and that work had become episodic by November, so I don't count it as regular work, but there might be episodic work again in the future.

During late 2009 and 2010, I experimented with:

Examiner
Factoidz
Askables
Bukisa
Break Studios

and while I stuck with Examiner the longest, I never made more than about $100 from them, and found it's just not worth it. The others made me pennies or, in the case of Break, $8 per article for 3 articles that were all kicked back to me for rewrites. I can make $20 per article at DMS if I want rewrites from a content mill :)

My best hourly rates came from:

  • Print academic work
  • PC World
  • Private client
  • Suite101

(not in any specific order). About.com is so new that I'm not making a good hourly rate as I work to acclimate to the new job, but that's fine - it's a long-term game and I know I'll do well.

So what have I learned? I'll talk about that in my next blog post.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Degree Completion Programs

I am now a Contributing Writer for About.com and have been writing profiles on continuing education programs and non-traditional students. For instance, so far I've profiled the Home Health Aide training program at Finger Lakes Community College, the same college's CNA Training in New York program, and have just completed a profile on an adult learner who completed the Penn State online RN to BSN nursing degree.

Other online degree completion programs profiled include the University of Massachusetts University Without Walls program and Kent State University's continuing education department.

Bay Path College offers a more traditional on-ground program with a twist: weekend college for students who want a bachelor's degree completion program.


Look for more of my articles, and know that this blog chronicles 3+ years now of my attempts to work at home. If you'd told me 3 years ago I'd be writing for About.com's Continuing Education topic, I would have thought you were a little nuts, but would have taken you out for coffee to pick your brain :)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

I'm now a Contributing Writer for About.com

Hey - check it out: About.com Contributing Writer

Now do you understand why I've been MIA for a bit? I've also written articles for PC World Magazine, Lerner Media, Plus1 Media, Today's Parent and been busy with rev share sites. I have a non-fiction History book proposal in the works as well.

How close am I to the $10K/month goal? Let's just say closer than ever.

Maximizing Writing Income - Which Articles to Place Where

This post is prompted by various threads on the Suite101 private writer forums. So many folks - oldies and newbies - seem to equate page views with income.

First, Suite doesn't pay by the page view. Examiner does. Associated Content does (plus a small up front). Factoidz does. But not Suite.

Second, while *yes* - there is a *correlation* between higher page views and higher income, the opposite is not automatically true. Low page views does not mean lower income.

I decided months ago to stop revealing specifics about my income at Suite and a few other sites, largely as a result of rampant copycatting on Suite. Let's just say I earn above the site average for Feature Writers, which stands at about $1.13 per article per month. I make more than that.

My page view rank is not - in any way, shape or form - a reflection on my income. I know many other "pay per click" writers in the same boat - modest page views, higher-than-average income.

But they are drowned out on forum after forum (and not just Suite - I've seen it at eHow, DMS, on WAHM.com, and other forums) by people who refuse to see any view other than their own.

It's not just about SEO when it comes to pay-per-click - you have to use conversion rate optimization as well.

I can't count how many times I've said this on forums. I also can't count how many times my statement has been ignored, while folks who flog the old PV = higher income line get attention. And that's fine  - but if you want high PV, and you want those PV to earn you money, you're better off going elsewhere.

For instance, if you earn 500K PV on Suite but your earnings per 1000 PV are $1.50, you'd have been better off submitting to Associated Content or Examiner (in theory - if the article is well optimized). If you're getting mega-PV in the hundreds of thousands, worry less about writing more articles and tweak the ones you have that earn huge PV to optimize for conversion.

If your efforts to convert readers to clickers don't work, then take a serious look at which articles you'd be better off placing on other sites. HubPages has complete transparency - try placing a few articles there to see how they perform. Play around with article topics and layout. Use THAT data to feed other rev share sites.

But the worst thing you can do is complain that a site doesn't pay for a model they don't support! Freelance writers are self-employed; we have the freedom to go where the money is. We don't need to stick to rigid business patterns that don't work for us. Find the best home for your articles based on the earnings model in which *each* article performs best. If you don't customize your approach, all you'll get is low earnings and a few long threads of complaints that go nowhere.