"Master Dayton" might be humorous, (I mean if Ph.Ds are called "Doctors," shouldn't MFAs be called "Masters?") but in all seriousness I have made a living freelance writing and after several years I have tons of information I want to share to help out my fellow writers, regardless of age, experience, goals, situation, or background. This blog isn't pretty-but it will help if real freelance writing information is what you want.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Starting a Freelance Writing Career as a College Student

College Students as Freelance Writers

One of the great advantages in the changes of technology is that there exist great opportunities that didn't exist as recently as ten years ago. I graduated from college at the age of 21 back in 2002, and most of the writing websites that allow me to make a living freelance writing online now, the same online writing websites I will continue to recommend to my readers here, didn't even exist back in 2002, or were just looking to begin. How's that for strange? I've been a full time freelance writer in some form or another since 2005 - a mere three years after graduating college I held a job that didn't exist while I was going to college.

So there's no use in me being upset for not making a full time living or having my own full time business while in college because those opportunities didn't exist. But now they do. If you're a freshman in college, or a high school student about to go to college, and you like to write then there is absolutely no excuse for not having a very productive steady income by the time you're out of college - if not a full time passive income even before then.

Being a full time freelance writer does not mean you have to be an English major or use giant words from an extended vocabulary - in fact these things often get in the way. Studies show most adults read comfortably at what is considered a 6th grade level. So for a lot of web writing, this is exactly the level you want to write at. This makes it very easy for most young college students to learn how to freelance write online for a living.

There are many different routes to take. Guru.com and Elance.com are two fantastic sites to start a serious online writing career. It's hard to get started, but as you build a reputation the work tends to snowball, and both sites can provide a full time living with no outside assistance. Rentacoder and oDesk are two other sites I've heard some writers talk up, although I can't personally attest to either since I have not used either.

Even better for college students who want to make money writing is that they have something working for them that most other people don't (and the same applies to grad students as long as they are on scholarship or with a TA or RA job that pays full tuition), and that is time. Two years, three years, four years, even 8 years (assuming 5 year undergrad and 3 year MFA or something to that extent) where free time can be used towards building a long term viable passive writing income from a shoestring budget.

This is where Internet Marketing and keyword research come in. Learning about these topics while sharpening your skills as a writer gives you the time you need and the education you need in order to really make the most money writing online. Combining this with your writing can make websites like HubPages, eHow, Constant-Content, and many others pay off handsomly over the long run.

With time to learn about keywords, how search engines work, and to take this knowledge and have years to write content, there's no reason anyone in this position can't completely control their destinies by the end. College students are in an excellent position to create full time writing careers while still enjoying the college experience - I'm actually rather envious of anyone in that position and young age who has the knowledge and work ethic to be in this position, and I strongly would plead with them not to squander these advantages.

Beyond college students - anyone who is unemployed, going freelance because they were cut off from a steady gig, or just want a change of pace, I always recommend working on the long term income as well as the short term because it does pay off with every hour of work put in, and the sooner you get started, the sooner you control your own hours, your own income, and your own destiny.

Hope everyone is doing well, and have a Happy 4th of July!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Guru.com Review | Guru for Writers Review | Freelance Writing for Guru

Guru.com Review for Freelance Writers

This is one freelance writing review that has been some time in coming. Guru.com is one of my favorite places online for freelance writers to find work. It is an auction based writing website, and is right up there with Elance.com as one of the two top providers of work for freelance writers. I've often heard Rentacoder named as another place for freelance writers to find work, but I can't vouch for them as I've never personally worked there. Ditto for oDesk.

That said, even among all those auction based freelance writing websites, there's no question at this point that Guru and Elance are the cream of the crop as far as that goes. I've worked for both and there are definite positives and negatives with both of these sites. I tend to favor Guru over Elance because I think the interface is much easier for freelance writers to find great writing gigs that fit their skill set. The ability to "watch" 50 projects that you're interested in is a great plus, and you can also set your profile with your specific writing strengths so when you're alerted to new projects, all the new projects are based on your writing skills - not on writing skills you don't have.

So for example, when you're writing for Guru if your strengths are press releases, white papers, and technical writing, you'll receive daily project notifications in these categories. You won't be bothered with grant writing, fiction ghost writing, or anything like that. Not having to wade through the freelance writing jobs you're either not qualified for (or not interested in), allows you to spend more time hunting down the freelance writing assignments that you're perfect for.

Another thing I like about writing for Guru is that there is enough work provided for several writers to make a full time living only working for this website and not having to do anything else. That said, I always advocate multiple income streams for the online freelance writer, but knowing that you could make that much income on Guru.com just goes to show how valuable a resource that this website could be.

The profile section also allows you to upload a LOT of information, and I strongly recommend that you take advantage of this. The reason is that it is hard to get started because there is a star rating system on Guru. Once you get a lot of positive feedback you're in great shape, but getting that first positive feedback can be really hard - especially when you're competing with so many other writers who have already earned five star feedback. The profile page is where you can set yourself apart by putting up a resume with any offline freelance writing experience you have, post a lot of different writing samples, and just make yourself look as good as possible to help capture that first writing job on Guru.

Once you have a couple of five star rankings, getting awarded with freelance writing work on Guru is much easier. It really snowballs. For example, my first five months of writing on Guru earned me: $200, $50, $445, $699, $1,298. June actually made me two grand, so the sharp upward trend continued. There's no reason anyone reading this post can't get there faster.

There's a lot more work for freelance writers to be had on Guru now then there was when I was starting out. In addtion, then they didn't have such a nice profile set up. Add in that all writers now have the ability to block out one feedback from an employer (in case they're one of those types who is unreasonable or just mean spirited) which means one negative feedback that you didn't deserve won't sink you - the way a mediocre feedback from a professional ball buster on Elance sunk me. It's hard to get work with a 4.1 rating when everyone else who worked for reasonable employers had a 4.9 or 5.0. On Guru you have the ability to keep one bad report from sinking you.

As for what membership to sign up for, never take the free basic. There's no point. If you're serious about a freelance writing career, then you need to invest in it. The other caveat to Guru is that it does take time to build a really solid and steady freelance writing income stream. So I don't recommend a one month, or even a one quarter membership. You get a nice discount if you invest in a one month membership to the Guru website, and I strongly recommend that because it's enough money to make you serious about the commitment to become a full time (or solid part time) freelance writer, but low enough that over a year you can easily make that money back. This also gives you the time you need to really get your writing career off the ground and going.

A freelance writing career is never easy, but I like Guru.com as a mainstay of my online writing income and I think a lot of people reading this blog could benefit from making the commitment to write at that site for a year. And if you're a stay at home parent who needs to help make a second income, a laid off worker with unemployment running out, or a college student who just wants to build a business of their own - Guru is a great place for all of these people to start and launch their freelance writing careers.

The least you can ever make on a freelance writing job here is $25, which is less than Elance's $50 minimum, but I also find that it's generally easier for pure starters and novice freelance writers to get started writing at Guru than it is at Elance.

That's a brief review for now. There's so much more to cover I could write an entire e-book on it, but there should be enough information here to get people started, which is always the most important part. If you have any specific questions, please feel free to ask in the comments.

Keep writing, and remember that a freelance writing career doesn't start until you have the courage to start writing and put yourelf out there. I hope you found this Guru.com review useful.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Summer Writing Update | Brief eHow Review

Summer Writing & Brief eHow Review

Update 04/05/2010: Due to a hugely unpopular move by eHow and parent company Demand Studios, there no longer is an eHow writing program open to writers. If you're looking for other ways to break into writing online, I suggest having a look at my Constant-Content Review or Demand Studios Review (which may also need updating depending how this all goes down). Avoid Helium.com, and keep hacking away at the dream. It may have gotten a little bit harder as yet another employer chose not to respect their writers, but keep at it.

Original freelance writing blog post & original eHow review
First of all, thanks to everyone who has left comments or sent encouraging e-mails. It always feels great to know people are reading your writing, that you're getting some great positive support, and that you're making a difference and helping out. I also want to congratulate those of you who have been doing very well on Constant-Content - an extra few hundred a month is nothing to sneeze at and one of you just cleared $500 in about 4 weeks. Very impressive.

For those of you who haven't read the last post, or caught wind of it elsewhere, I'm in the middle of a major writing marathon. I'm trying to really push for a shift from conventional freelance writing to more of a passive income/residual income mode of making a living writing. I have AdSense blogs, affiliate sales, etc. helping in this pursuit, but I'm naturally a writer first, and so a lot of my focus is trying to really build my online writing in places where it can earn me a good residual income.

So far in 9 days (not counting today because I'm still working) I've wrote 36 articles on eHow, which is right on schedule for my 3.5/day average to make my summer goals, 10 hubs for HubPages for the challenge (putting me behind my ideal schedule), as well as several miscellaneous articles and about a grand in freelance work that's above and beyond my normal weekly projects. Between trying to prepare for a move and everything else going on in the personal life, it's not a bad effort.

Which brings me to a brief review of the eHow website, which I haven't given a thorough look at yet on this blog. After spending long enough writing on this site to give it a fair shake, I have to say this: I'm a Big fan.

One of the things I immediately like about eHow is that it allows you to build a passive or residual income, something that is much more difficult to do with many other online writing websites. In other words, if you write a good article that continues to get traffic, then that article is going to continue earning money for you long after you've finished writing it. It has taken me a few months, sped up by buying and studying (the then available WriterGig's ebook on improving eHow freelance writing earnings) I strongly recommend buying a copy for anyone interested in making a serious passive income with eHow. It's worth the buy - especially since the advice in there had me recoup my investment in one month, so there's not a lot of risk.

Another thing I love about freelance writing for eHow: it's a very easy format. Since the "how to" set up of the website sets up the template for every article, it's very easy to whip up an article in 15-20 minutes if you know what you're talking about. For writers like me, this format helps organize my thoughts, which is not always my strength. For writers who really like step by step formats, they're just going to thrive.

Another plus for eHow is that it can be considered its own income stream for individuals who are also working towards the full time residual income online. What's this mean? The income you get from your articles is from splitting any advertising revenue your articles generate. But you don't use your own AdSense account. This means that your AdSense earnings and eHow earnings are completely separate streams of income. Just as with anything else, diversifying is the key, so having eHow as an income stream is very helpful in the overall writing goals.

Another giant plus is that eHow has a really active and good online community. There are a lot of helpful people here, and you find out pretty quickly that making a lot of money on eHow isn't a random thing: there are several hard working writers on this site who make a very good monthly pay out, and also are often more than willing to share advice with newer less established writers.

Finally, I really enjoy eHow because I've seen solid gains in earnings every single month I have wrote articles for them, and eHow is an authority site. What does this mean? It means Google sees eHow as a trustworthy site, so articles you write for them are more likely to show up high in the search rankings, which brings more traffic, more exposure, and more income. When you're learning about Internet Marketing, AdSense, or how search engines work, you'll learn why this is such a huge deal.

Anyway, this is a semi-brief update because things are still crazy here. Thanks again to everyone reading, and I can't recommend eHow enough. It's a fantastic place to write for a long term passive income. Best of luck to everyone, and keep writing through the recession. Freelance writing is a long term endeavor, but it's worth it.

Monday, June 1, 2009

A Busy Writing Summer Kicks Off

Insane Summer Writing Goals?

Regardless of what calendars say, to me June 1st has always been the "official" start of summer. As a new season begins, I'm also taking some time to wonder where I should go as far as my own specific writing goals. This isn't just about how much freelance writing work I want to get done this summer or how much I make, but also how I make it. While freelance writing and residual income are not necessarily mutually exclusive, they're not always the same thing, either. One website that is an example of where the two meet is eHow. You write all the articles and content, the website splits the advertising revenue with you. That continues even after you stop writing, making writing for eHow one way that ordinary online writing can be turned into passive month after month income.

I've been freelance writing in some form for about five years now, and I've managed to make a full time living at it since year one. It's not always the most financially comfortable living, but I've done all right and even had some quite good years in there, as well. I've been able to travel, enjoy freedom of schedule, explore the Northeast (especially Vermont), Alaska, and Austin Texas, and I'm on my way to the West Coast and Oregon in a few weeks here, once all the final ducks are set up in a row. But one thing about conventional freelance writing is you're always looking for repeat work, always looking for a new job, and after five years the "boom and bust" way that freelancing works can really wear on you when you're trying to create some form of order or semblance of stability in your life for the first time.

And this is where passive income comes into the picture. I've read Grizz's make money online blog and really appreciate his knowledge and honesty. I've followed a few Internet Marketers like Josh Spaulding and Jeff Herring, signed up for Court and Mark's Keyword Academy, and bought Marisa Wright's e-book on maximizing profits on eHow. I've been extremely happy with all the information this has gained me, and have been struggling between some health issues, personal issues, and family issues to put all of this information into action. I'm just hitting the point where enough has cleared up that this looks possible - although that move to Bend, Oregon, coming up in a few weeks is definitely consuming some major time.

So what's all this mean? It means that while I'm going to keep writing website reviews and giving advice on how to make a living freelance writing, I'm also going to be spending the next several months shifting most of my efforts to making passive and residual income: income that is going to keep paying me for my writing long after the actual blog posts, websites, articles, etc have been written.

Most of my writing the past year and a half was for an employer in Austin, Texas, who is an Internet Marketer. I'm withholding the name simply out of respect because I'm not sure what's considered "appropriate" or not. I was hired for 14 months and change, and then let go. There's no ill will: I was treated fantastic the entire time, had a great face to face talk about the situation and decision, received glowing endorsements of my work, and I still gladly freelance for them on a monthly basis. But that time in Austin was my dream job: get the writing done wherever and whenever you want, just get it done. Remote location working - and Austin is a great city to have that perk!

Then, it was over. So with passive income and residual income, imagine the security you would have if you knew you were making enough off of past work to make a full time living even if you didn't write anything new all year. Imagine if you had two or three different income sources that were providing you with a full time yearly income online. Aside from the obvious complete freedom of movement and freedom of time, there's also the security factor of not ever having to rely on someone else for your own livelihood.

So that's what I'm working towards now. When I first move into Bend, I'm going to have no TV, I'm not going to know anybody in the area, and no video games or other distractions. This makes it a great time to really buckle down on the work and see what I'm capable of producing in a short time period like a summer. My student loans are in deferment (I can rant again about the politics and waste of money grad school often is - but I digress), and I really don't require that much to live if I trim the budget down to true necessities.

So I've done a lot of really hard thinking about what I want to do as a freelance writer, what kind of writing really excites me the most, and what my writing goals for the summer should be to get me from another freelance writer struggling with this gawd-awful recession, to someone making a full time income off of passive online sources. Right now I can look at a couple hundred and change in completely passive income per month. I'd like to push that to three grand or more.

I work best with a clear plan that still gives me freedom to improv my way there. In other words, I do best with general goals, but don't do as well when I break that down all the way to strict day by day guides.

So for the next three months, here's what I'm shooting for to try and make that transition from freelance writer to writing for passive income online:

  1. 22 niche websites monetized with AdSense or Affiliate links
  2. 10 micro niche blogs monetized
  3. 150 new hubs on HubPages
  4. 300 new eHow articles
  5. 10 Clickbank campaigns by using PotPieGirl's Squidoo lens strategys (50-70 lenses)
  6. Get this blog up to 100 visitors a day and look at monetizing it
These are the main goals, and not even listed will be the normal freelance writing work, more articles to add to Constant-Content, and the heavy amount of article marketing and link building to get these articles, hubs, lenses, blogs, and websites onto the first page of Google for their respective niche keywords. The link building and article marketing in theory should take even more time to get these all to first page Google than even the actual writing.

This is also in addition to moving across the country and picking up some extra freelance work from Guru.com in order to help pay for the expenses, as well as improving what I already have set up and earning for me. I'm not naive: getting all this done without outsourcing means I'm looking at 12-16 hours a day, almost every day of the summer. And you know what, to take a shot at the life that a full time passive income could offer me, I'm willing to do that. I can rest in September when 90%+ of my work will be analyzing results and building backlinks.

I posted those goals because that's a great encouragement to me. Now it's out there, published, where anyone can see it (and ask about it) later. I'll update my own progress over the summer while still adding posts that hopefully all the rest of you will find helpful.

I guess this post also points out something else I believe about freelance writing. This advice also works for probably any process that helps you earn money online. If you're going to go, go all out. If you're going to work for something, shoot incredibly high. If you shoot for the moon and miss, you might still make it up to space. If you shoot for the mountains and miss, you're still stuck in the hills.

Freelance writing isn't easy, but it has benefits I wouldn't trade for the world. That said, even the most happy traditional freelance writer, in my opinion, would be a fool not to also invest in passive income for now and the future.

That's all for now. I hope all of you are doing well, and keep on writing. As always, my one bit of advice is get started writing online right now!