"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.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Dragon Naturally Speaking Review: The 15 Minute Review

Immediate Impressions of Dragon Naturally Speaking 11

After recommendations from several people about looking into this software, and getting the green light of approval from several online freelance writers whom I respect very much who claim to use Dragon Naturally Speaking Software full time (thanks to TW at Complete Writing Solutions for the encouragement and answering my questions), I decided to finally bring out the credit card and take a shot to see if all the hype was there and if this really could make me more productive - or at the very least take down the physical stress from Carpal Tunnel. I bought the Dragon Naturally Speaking 11 Home Edition, without any fancy bells or whistles. What I thought would be interesting is to try it right away and give my initial first impressions, do a second review in two weeks (right before my vacation) and then do one in January after I've had plenty of time to decide whether or not this is something I'd recommend to freelance writers.

So what's the result after literally only 15 minutes? I would probably recommend it to most people. Seriously, I'm blown away by the early results. This doesn't mean I don't have frustrations or concerns, but this software hasn't even had time to adapt and learn how I speak and it's by far and away superior to every other voice software I've ever tried.

In fact, I'm going to paste in my "practice run" using Dragon for the first time:

Dragon naturally speaking review.

Many people have recommended this software to me. After a long debate, I decided to finally give it a try. Early on it is hard to figure out it is a good piece of equipment or not. Early on I'm having a hard time with actual word showing up that I did not say. But I have been told that this is a problem that most people have with speaking software right out-of-the-box. I do have to admit, that so far I am fairly impressed with this software. The hardest part for most people, including myself, is having the patience to train the software to work for us. When the software is working fine you definitely pick up speed and versus typing.

This is my first test using Dragon NaturallySpeaking software. There is no question in my mind, that this is a much better piece of software than the cheap version that comes with some Windows. When I tried using other brand it was pretty much worthless. I can already see how the this particular piece of software could definitely help me out. One thing you will have to be aware of so, is that you will have to do a lot of visual checking and correcting to make sure the words are coming out right.

Another very important aspect of using the Dragon NaturallySpeaking software is that you have to make some corrections yourself. Making the corrections with your voice instead of typing them in, helps to train the software to recognize your own enunciation's and accents. I also think that while correcting text to seems difficult at first part of that is just not being familiar with the command first time.

I have made some minor corrections with this text, but have chosen to leave most of it as is so you have at least a reasonable idea of how the software is working as I'm talking to you first time. So far I have had to make approximately 6 corrections. The funny thing is, many of the hardest words on here the software recognized right away. Right now is having the hardest time figuring the word at versus it. In fact I just had it correct that in the last sentence.

If you're writing here does not seem up to par with what I usually do, don't worry that's more of me figuring out the software and learning to talk as opposed to write my ideas. Although obviously there are some early frustrations, unlike other voice software I have tried even with the first test run here I can see how this will be worth the purchase. I also appreciate that the DragonPad makes files in RTF format.

This makes it much easier to save the file straight to document and then be able to use it with anything I need on or off line. While I can't endorse the software yet due to the fact that I'm still using it on my very first day, the potential is definitely there and my hands are already happy with the rest that they are getting. Once I actually get used to the commands that you use with this program and more used to talking instead of typing, I think I could definitely improve our production using the software and help prevent carpal tunnel, or at the very least alleviates it.

So in some ways you can look at this is a test, and maybe I'll have a better idea what this can do after 10 days and even better idea after 30 days. It is too early to say for sure whether this was a good buy or not, but the early signs are looking like this is a very worthwhile in investment. Are you kidding me
End of Dragon test

Now the "are you kidding me" comes from me realizing that as opposed to talking out about 300 words in 13 minutes, which is where I thought I was, the total actually came out to be 633 words, which comes out to 49 words a minute completely ignoring the facts that:
  • I spent over 50% of the time correcting small details and trying to learn the correction commands
  • I had no outline and no idea what I wanted to say
  • This is my first attempt dictating an article as opposed to typing, so I felt very slow stringing my thoughts together
  • This review isn't a topic I'm used to, so I couldn't just pull stuff out from prior knowledge like I can with many of my niches
  • It was my first freaking time using the software - 50% of which was spent trying to learn simple commands.
Which means even going slow as an absolute beginner, I could still belt out over 2500 words per hour even before this software learns my speaking nuances, before I learn all the commands, without being familiar with the subject, without being familiar with the software, and before I get used to speaking and thinking as opposed to typing and thinking.

So what happens when I stop pausing every time I just remember to say "comma" or "period," when the software gets used to my pronunciations, and I get used to dictating instead of typing? My guess is my rate will double at a minimum, and it will save my hands. This is especially useful for late at night when I can think of things that need to be written or things I want to write, but my hands and eyes don't want to cooperate.

So my initial reaction is that this was an exceptional buy for me, and I have a feeling I will be strongly recommending it once I really used to using this software and become much more comfortable and efficient using it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Backlinking for Dummies (or Just Beginners)

Backlinking Basics for Beginners

Welcome to the freelance writing blog post featuring the most alliterate title to date. Recently I've been helping some friends get started not only with freelance writing, but specifically with the real basics of passive income. HubPages, keywords, and backlinks all come to the front of the discussion, and it's easy for me to overlook the basics because I have been working on passive income for some time now. I believe for a lot of us this could be the case. Even after a short time working for passive income online it can be easy to not think about things like keyword research or finding backlinks, because it's all become second nature after even a short time.

Also, after a certain amount of time you get used to being able to take short cuts. I've done so much keyword research I can take an educated guess at this point and with about 60 seconds of research decide if it's worth going after or not with a pretty decent rate of accuracy. But it took a lot of time to get to this point. And now more often than not I simply use the tools at The Keyword Academy to REALLY shorten up the process. Ditto with collecting backlinks (and if you're serious about your online business and have the time and money to invest, the $33 a month subscription for The Keyword Academy is ridiculously good resource. That is an affiliate link, but I believe the first month is only a $1 and if you don't like the affiliate link, then type "keyword academy" into Google).

So for someone who is a true beginner, who knows only the most basic information about making money online and SEO (Search Engine Optimization if you're really a noob...aka getting ranked high in Google), doesn't know where to get backlinks, and doesn't have the time or money to make a $33/month investment at this point, then this post will walk you through a nice simple template of actions I used early on to get backlinks to everyone of my money pages - and I still use this with new pages when I don't want to think too hard about it.

If you're a veteran at the passive income, you can probably skim or even ignore the rest of this. For anyone who feels lost as a beginner and wants a solid way to build several good backlinks to their money sites, read on or feel free to print this post out as a starter's guide.

Caveats: Many of the links further down are affiliate or referral links, but I only use these links when I get a cut of the website's %, not yours. This is also going under the assumption that you're building HubPages as opposed to websites when starting off. I'm doing this because HubPages is by far and away, in my opinion, the best way for true beginners to learn how SEO and Internet Marketing works and to see some early results to stay motivated.

If this isn't the case, I'll explain more about how that changes things (actually very little) later on in the post. Also, have a safe place to keep copies of all your log in information as you will need to open accounts in several places to build your backlinks.

First of all, you will need to open accounts at several article directories and websites. Some split income with you (InfoBarrel, Xomba) while others don't (Ezinearticles, Buzzle, Articlesbase). This doesn't make one better than the other: you need backlinks to get your money pages ranked, and the more good links, the better.
  1. After publishing a hub, the first step is to write a Xomba bookmark for your hub. Although there is a 50 word minimum, I strongly recommend 75 words as this almost guarantees your hub (or whatever you're bookmarking) will be indexed by Google within 24 hours.
  2. Find a high PR blog that gets a lot of attention (like the 4 Hour Work Week Blog) and make a relevant comment, only linking your name to your site. This isn't for a keyword - this is to get Google's attention, index your site, and get a "natural crappy" link to make the link building look natural and honest.
  3. Write 3-5 original articles for Ezinearticles and submit them.
  4. Write 1 original article for Buzzle
  5. Write 1 original article for InfoBarrel
  6. Write 1 original article for Articlesbase
  7. Write 1 original article for Olive Articles
  8. Write 1 original article for Theinfomine.com
  9. If the topic is something you're going to right a lot about, start a Blogger.com blog and a Wordpress.com blog. You'll eventually want a minimum of 5-10 posts each, but each post can have a link to a hub or article (not even including the blogroll for each blog).
  10. Bookmark your hub at RedGage.com, YouSayToo.com, SheToldMe.com, & A1 Webmarks.com.
  11. Create a Xomba bookmark to every single one of the articles on this list with a 75+ word description.
  12. Use the 4 social bookmarking sites to bookmark every one of the articles on this list.
  13. Write a Xomba article (not bookmark) that links to your hub or site. 400+ words is best but not mandatory - this will give you a "no follow" bookmark, which is always good to have a few.
  14. If you want a few more links, Google "KeywordLuv" and spend 20-30 minutes gathering blog comment backlinks using a variety of keywords related to your hub.
That's it. Is it a lot of work? Yes - but everything online for making money is. Is it difficult or hard or confusing? No. This is very easy, and you can completely skip the Blogger.com and Wordpress.com steps if you feel like it. If you're a true beginner, I might even recommend that. When you're further along with Internet Marketing you'll understand how to use those better, anyway. If you have a website or blog as opposed to HubPages, then just follow these steps, except add a HubPage and then go through all these steps for the HubPage, too, to make that a much stronger page, which will make it a stronger link.

This outline is very basic, it uses basic social bookmarking, blog commenting, and article marketing to get a solid group of links. HubPages is a very strong website that tends to rank very well right off the bat and FAR better than an independent site or blog starting from scratch. If you follow this group of instructions, you already have 15-18 backlinks, even with no Blogger Blog, no WordPress blog, no Keyword Luv commenting. A decent amount of these directories even split any AdSense earnings that your articles might earn. Aside from Xomba and InfoBarrel this rarely happens, but every little bit extra helps.

Most of those are do follow, with just enough no follow to make your site look really good to Google. With a HubPage, this can often be enough to start ranking well, especially after some time passes. The steps are ordered by importance, so if one article directory is ranked in step #3 and the other is step #8, then the backlink you get from #3 will be stronger than the one you get from #8.

I'm not saying this is the best way to gather and build links, but it is a great backlink starter template for those of you who want to learn about Internet Marketing and SEO but don't have a lot of guidance. Now there's no excuse. Go make some hubs, and use this guide to get them all some backlinks. Remember that the sheer number of hubs and money pages you have does matter, and time is a very big factor when it comes to ranking a page at the top of Google, which is how your pages will make you the most money online.

By all means, keep learning and keep reading from the many incredible resources that are online, but there's no excuse now. Go to HubPages, start building hubs, and use this template to gather backlinks. No fear!

I'm not saying there won't be a learning curve, and as you learn more online you'll almost certainly go back and touch up your old sites and/or pages (I still do), but when you really know what you're doing and understand down the line from having more experience, you'll definitely be glad to already have a great base of backlinks. It makes everything much easier! Hopefully that helps out and if anyone has any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section.

Good luck and enjoy the extra results this work will bring to your efforts!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Online Writing, Passive Income, & Blogs to Read

Reading Break for Online Writers

One of the nice things that I've really enjoyed about becoming an online freelance writer is not only the freedom of time and place or the security that comes with being self-employed, but also the great community that exists online. You don't have to spend too much time looking around to find a huge number of writers, bloggers, and other normal people shooting for passive income who want to share what they've learned and help out others in their online community. I've felt extremely blessed for the number of positive comments and e-mails I've received from this blog, and from the number of people who I've helped to get part time or even full time income working on their own. Just as great has been the sheer number of online friends I've made, the communities I've discovered, and the support that really comes from normal people who have extraordinary dreams - because those are two of the common factors I've found from many people online.

So this post will hopefully give you a few great resources and blogs that are worth checking out. As always, make sure you're working towards your goals and not letting over analysis paralyze you - nothing any of us ever tell you is going to beat good old fashioned experience when it comes to learning the ropes of making money writing online and making money through passive income. But it's nice to have support, encouragement, and online mentors...and this list of blogs is one that I encourage anyone looking for great reads to take a look at.

It's important to understand that while earning passive income online most often involves a LOT of writing, that's not the only model for earning passive income. One thing I like about passive income online is that Jade Dragon's blog covers both the online and some offline methods to passive income. Two recent posts have really jumped out at me. This one on being happy with $3 a day, and then this informative article on a great link stacking tool that is extremely useful for improving your SEO online. Both of those posts are definitely worth checking out.

Along the same lines of there being more than one type of passive income, I strongly recommend the blog "My 4 Hour Work Week." There are several reasons why I love checking in on this blog. Aside from the author being about 10 times more consistent at posting than I am, he's willing to ponder unconventional questions like this post wondering if controlled chaos can equal success. It's a good read and good discussion down in the comments section. He also talks about non-Internet based sources of investment and passive income like this earnings update that also serves as a LendingClub Review.

I definitely feel akin to this next blog, as the author, Felicia, started as a writer and is moving into full time passive income. Obviously this is exactly along the lines of the same transition I'm making, one that started shortly after I originally created this freelance writing blog. So if somehow you haven't heard of the No Job for Mom Blog, you should go check it out. The comments section can be a wealth of information here.

If you haven't seen the Complete Writing Solutions blog, then you will want to check it out. This blog is a recent one that a reader actually recommended to me. T.W. covers some major parts to writing online full time, and goes into the great benefits of living as a writer such as living overseas, travel, and living a mobile lifestyle as a full time freelance writer.

And sometimes blogs are carried not just by great information, but also great personalities. This isn't saying that the other blog owners aren't likable (I find everyone listed here to be a jolly good group), but some blogs really shine almost personality first. Two examples of blogs that jump out immediately in this regards is Lissie's Passive Income Blog and Kidgas's Online Income Blog. Both of these blogs feature writers who are very open, very friendly, and know what it's like to be a true beginner still working towards their main goals. I always enjoy new blog posts from these writers and enjoy hearing about their on going successes, as well.

Finally, one freelance writer's blog that I strongly recommend is Bianca Raven's Freelance Writing from Home blog. The October 15th, 2010 post she has on the need for freelance writers to take their clients seriously is fantastic and I strongly recommend it. Far too many would be writers make this critical and completely inexcusable mistake.

So this should leave you plenty of reading material, including this blog. You never want to read so much that you stop working on your stuff, but this list of blogs gives you not only a wide array of perspectives and people willing to give good advice, but also a part of an online community that is actually worth being a part of. While these blogs all vary greatly, one thing you can see in common with those listed here is a genuine kindness and willingness to pass it on.

That's it for now, although there will be some more posts coming up soon going over my base link building strategies for passive income, current strategy for writing online, and a post making fun of the first outright "crazy person" e-mail I've received because of the advice I'm giving on this blog. So hope everyone has plenty of reading now, and keep up the good work!