"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.

Monday, September 12, 2011

And The Times They Are A Changin'

Freelance Writing in 2011: What to Do Now?

Hey all. This freelance writing blog post has been long overdue, but I've felt for several months now that there have been some huge issues that not only do all online freelance writers need to deal with and then there are also the questions I've been wrestling with as far as what to do with this blog. I'd like to say I have everything figured out, but that wouldn't be true. This is going to be a long marathon read, so grab your caffeine and snack and settle in and dig in because I'm tackling everything at once this time.

First of all, if some of this post seems redundant or a little circuitous, please cut me a little bit of slack. Organization isn't my biggest strong point to begin with, and some of the things I want to talk about right away also have relevance to multiple freelance writing topics being covered in this post. Basically this blog post can be broke down into three overarching topics that will each have plenty of subheadings:
  1. How the freelance and Internet markets have changed dramatically in 2011
  2. What you should do NOW as a beginning writer or Internet Marketer (as opposed to a lot of advice that is now obsolete due to #1)
  3. What's the future of this blog?
These three topics are going to cover a lot, but there's no argument that the online world has changed immensely. It's always going to, and Google's Panda updates and (although they deny this many search results say otherwise) decision to jump into bed with giant companies and retailers in the search results has only added to the chaos. Advice I've given for the last two years for beginners and part timers, advice that worked for the last two years, often doesn't work anymore.

A lot has changed since I started this blog. HubPages is not the place to send beginners anymore or a place to make easy online income. eHow no longer exists and there's a lot of signs that Demand Studios might be in trouble. Constant-Content is still a potentially great place, but the long waits are getting to the point of being intolerable. But demand for independent freelance writers for web content is also at an all time high. The Keyword Academy is moving from TKA 1.0 methods to TKA 2.0 methods - the online world is changing and what's being created isn't going to look anything like what's been there in the past. This doesn't mean that the ability to make a living online is harder - if anything it's easier in certain ways and the best strategies are more sustainable from a business and personal stand point, but let's not kid ourselves at all: you have to adapt to the changes to survive, much less to thrive.

This blog has been about passion since the beginning. I love being a freelance writer, I love helping other people, and I wanted to really teach what I had learned to others so they could take advantage of this stuff far earlier than I did and also skip a lot of the learning curve that causes so many to quit. Figuring out you can make a living online can be a life changing proposition and so many college students, college grads, and young adults are struggling at a time when even a part time income from online writing could make all the difference in the world. I've done my best to provide excellent advice, and a lot of it still applies. Unfortunately because of the ever changing nature of the online world, and 2011 was the mother of all years even by normal "change" standards, a lot of the old posts are outdated or even worse, give advice that is not only outdated but now flat out wrong.

Does this freelance writing blog have a future?
The hardest section to address will be what the future of this blog is and what the future of my efforts helping others as freelancers is going to look like. Because of that, it's also the section that will be the most broken up. For one, this is a Blogger blog, which means I don't own it. If Google decides to shut this blog down and erase all the posts tomorrow, they could. This doesn't mean it will happen, but someday it could. So what would I do at that point? What about my readers? Where do I want to go with this blog I started (more than a little naively) back in 2007?

Depending on when you read this, the "Sign up for Updates" form may or may not be on the right hand side from Aweber yet, because my first priority is getting the post up and then following up with possible future transitions. Basically I'm going to start collecting e-mail addresses because in all likelihood eventually I'm going to have to move my blogging efforts to my own URL that I actually have control over. The e-mail addresses will allow me to update whenever there's a new blog post, point you to that rare blog post or program that actually does kick butt, and when I start publishing e-books and kindle books ya'll would be the first to know. In the eventual situation if Google ever decided to eliminate this blog, then I would be able to tell you where to go to find my long winded blog posts :)

So if you want to stay in touch, keep an eye for that box and sign up, and from there it's onto our huge array of topics. And while the Social Proof will be more important for my future blog site, if you don't mind giving this post (or blog or both) a +1 on Google Plus or posting this on Facebook with a "Like" I would very much appreciate it - but only do so if you really find value here. I would never ask for any support you don't think I deserve.

Is HubPages worth writing for Post-Panda?
I supposed I can't get away with just saying "no." Well: No. I can no longer recommend HubPages to beginners or anyone really for that matter. Some of my hubs are staying up because I just don't have websites where some of those articles will fit, and you can still get an occasional backlink but based on a lot of reasons, I would recommend not spending your time here. Sign up for The Keyword Academy, even if you can only afford the one free month at first to learn what you need to learn and work on your own sites. That's the way now of building a great passive income, and two years ago HubPages ranked quickly and acted like a "short cut." All the work I've done this year shows me that there are no more short cuts to ranking quickly. Going with your own sites is the fastest way to go.

Ever since going to the subdomains, here's the pattern I see with HubPages: traffic shoots up for 4-5 days, then plummets to near non-existence (this means from 2,300 a day to less than 300) for the rest of the month, then 2-5 days where for no reason they shoot up in rankings again. So far despite a lot of testing, there's no rhyme or reason and until it stabilizes, if ever, I can't recommend them. The general HubPages' admin reaction to Panda and how they decided to run the business were also atrocious and often misguided and in my opinion did more damage than even the Google Panda update did to HubPages. If you want a fuller scoop, then check out my blog post on HubPages for the full story.

Otherwise, it's enough to know that I no longer support HubPages and have already removed 35+ hubs and counting, and anticipate only having 30-40 there by the end...all backed up if (when?) HubPages eventually closes.

Why are you pushing the Keyword Academy so hard?
I know what it's like to start in the hole. It sucks. I've worked my way out of homelessness twice and despite what a lot of people in the States think (excuse the language) - it's next to fucking impossible to do. Think about it: I started off with a really crappy laptop, but I was a homeless guy with a laptop. Without it, I have no idea how people dig themselves out. But that's a 10,000 word post for another time, you can get the abbreviated version of how I became a freelance writer there, but the long and short of it is: I don't have a lot of time to waste because I have medical bills, student loans, credit cards, and basically a ridiculous amount of monthly bills that require many hours of freelancing to cover even at $30+ an hour, and then there's that expensive travel habit. If you're looking for long term passive income so you can live a life a la The 4 Hour Work Week, or looking to make yourself a safety net for after college (never been a worst time in history to be a college grad entering the job market), then The Keyword Academy is the best method.

It's NOT a get rich quick scheme, it does NOT work overnight, but if you're looking for passive income, they teach the best stable long term methods, give the best tools and advice, and will show you how to succeed if you're willing to work for it. There is no short cut using Amazon or AdSense anymore - so stop trying to game Google and learn how to make your websites Google's darlings instead. That's why I strongly advise joining The Keyword Academy (yes, that is an affiliate link, because I do believe that much in them to put my reputation on the line) if you are looking to build passive income. It's the best program, and they're going to offer you more than I ever could.

Is Demand Studios Finished?
If you've been coming here as a freelance writer and you don't have any interest in online passive income, then the section on HubPages doesn't really affect you at all. However this next one will. I've long been a proponent of Demand Studios as a great place for college students, busy moms, people with disabilities, or basically as a place a beginning writer could go and get experience in the writing world and make some decent money. A lot of people argued on this point, but $15 per article for a writer with no experience isn't bad, and if you've looked at the economy lately, for a lot of people it was good. Especially since there was no reason to do less than 2 an hour once you got the hang of what DS wanted, and voice recognition software could move that up to 3-4.

But traditionally Demand Studios would also have tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of articles and in the past three months they fell dramatically down to 10,000 area, and have consistently been 3,000 or less recently. This is not a good sign for them at all, and considering the timing of when former eHow writers agreed to their buyouts, often at 8-12 month's worth of royalties (which was before the Panda update) and then DS having to pay writers for the contracts that were agreed upon at Pre-Panda earnings levels, and then the Panda update slammed Demand Studios properties during this time. Traffic losses were anywhere from 40 to 80 percent depending who you talked to, and this is from a company that has produced one quarter of profit (end of 2010).

Even before Panda, Demand Studios warned they expected to lose between $8.5 million and $16 million in the first two quarters of 2011, and that was Pre-Panda. The actual numbers according to the released statements for 2011 was $8.0 million - but we know traffic numbers are down immensely and the company is already buying back stock from its public offering. Even if the company itself isn't "finished" in the traditional sense, I'd be extremely surprised if the freelance writing section survived. With tens of thousands of authors competing for 3,000 articles, it's no longer worth your time anyway.

So what's this mean? Frankly, if you haven't begun finding private clients on and off line, now is the time. The good news from the Google updates is that poorly written $1 articles from India, China, and the Philippines are not making the money any more. More than ever the very well written and crafted articles are scoring well in Google, meaning the demand for English speaking freelance writers to write excellent web content is shooting for the roof. And people are willing to pay a lot more for it than even a year or two ago.

So ditch Demand Studios. Like HubPages, they're not coming back. It was a good ride while it lasted.

Wait a minute, Squidoo is back in?
This is a harder one to answer that falls into the "yes and no" category. I am making some excellent money from my early efforts at Squidoo but I have several things going for me:
  • I was there in the very beginning and so have followers, a forum presence, and several aged and well ranking lenses
  • I understand exactly what types of topics work best now on Squidoo and which should be saved for my own sites
  • I know how to set up the features on my Squidoo lenses to get A LOT of affiliate sales from Amazon and eBay
Does Squidoo have a ridiculous amount of potential for the future? Absolutely! Based on traffic numbers I'm getting, I think it's only a matter of time until they expand the tiers and I expect the value of each tier to continue to grow. That said, is Squidoo for the inexperienced or pure beginners? I don't think so. If you want to build some online passive income and absolutely refuse to create your own sites, then Squidoo is better than HubPages now in my opinion, and use a site like InfoBarrel to dive into AdSense.

Free reports coming soon
As an English major I have been trained to hate cliches with a passion, but as a blogger they can come in handy. In case you somehow have never noticed, I can get long winded in the old fashioned Grizzly style of blog post. I have a lot to say about freelance writing, and I want to share my online writing experiences in as much detail as possible to help out. So the cliche goes "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater," and that's how I feel about a lot of the old posts on this site. There's still valuable information, but there's also a lot of outdated stuff mixed in.

I figure using those posts as the basis of some free updated reports will not only be helpful to everyone and help me sleep better at night (not kidding, I get some weird OCD sometimes and once I started worrying about people getting old info from my blog - it kept me up), but help convince of ya'll to stay with me once I check into a new URL location :) I'll be updating on Constant-Content, Associated Content, Squidoo, and some of the less site specific and still very important "general" topics like finding online work and private clients.

And by soon, we'll say next two months. The end of this year is looking pretty crazy. Following that will be an e-book on making a living as a freelance writer: updated for online, offline, and passive income. I'm thinking about releasing it as a Kindle e-book, but am not completely sure yet. Might do a PDF online version and a Kindle, though the obvious potential issue there is people without a Kindle paying more than those who do. Anyone who has thoughts on this one way or another feel free to comment: I'm curious to see what the feedback would be.

Updating the 4 year plan for college students
This is a big one. My original post on a 4 year writing plan for college students to turn them into full time freelance writers (with passive income) by graduation was one of my favorites to write, and that was almost 2 years ago. The problem is, out of the 6 or 7 sites I recommended for college students to sign up for, now I would only recommend one of them (well maybe two, but only one solid) and several of them don't take new writers any more. In other words, while the concepts behind the 4 year writing plan are sound, the specific actions mentioned are terribly outdated. I could see this one being a report, it could be a blog post, it could probably be expounded upon into a Kindle e-book, but one way or another an update will be coming. Like I said in the original post, I'm really passionate about helping college students because it's not that long ago I was there - and this is stuff all of them should know to create a much more stable future than what the job markets are going to give them.

Hasn't the Keyword Academy Changed?
Yes, and for the better. But wait, I hear you saying, didn't you fully support The Keyword Academy for almost a full two years now? Yes. This isn't contradictory, either. What is now being called the TKA 1.0 was completely effective when The Keyword Academy started, and to an extent it still is completely effective. None of the moderators or people running the Keyword Academy say otherwise, but the risk of being de-indexed by Google and of wanting to stabilize the passive income is what leads to TKA 2.0, the new methods.

If you notice one of the constant themes of this post, it's "update, update, update" followed by the explanation of "the writing world changes, things aren't the same anymore, the writing world changes, things aren't the same anymore." So doesn't it make sense that if a great online passive income course is going to STAY RELEVANT that it must change?

The simple state of it is this: there is one and only one course online (and there are many trustworthy people, writers, marketers online, so don't mis-quote me here) that I would attach my reputation to without worry. Going by the honor code I was raised by, I would give my word to vouch for The Keyword Academy without hesitation. That's how much I think of them.

Super quick list of site changes
  • eHow - no longer accepts writers
  • Demand Studios - no longer recommended by me
  • Xomba - no longer recommended by me
  • Associated Content - okay for pure beginners, but much colder on this than before
  • HubPages - you might be able to make something, but no longer recommend
  • Squidoo - still torn on them, but better than HubPages
  • InfoBarrel - best option left for AdSense share article directory
  • Constant Content - great for beginning writers, can make some good money, but the wait times have become ridiculously long. Cools me a little on the site
  • Helium - never liked them after test, still don't. Stay away.
  • Guru.com - you need to be committed to this site, but good for pure freelancers
  • Elance - see Guru.com, though some will like Elance better, some will like Guru better
  • Rentacoder, oDesk - lots of good reviews, I don't know enough first hand to give you advice either way on either one of these sites
  • The Keyword Academy - Hells Yes
  • Master Dayton - Do you even need to ask? :)
So what else are you up to? (aka why you've been away so freaking long?)
Between personal life, friends getting married, and literally 1/2 the summer traveling, I've been busy. I'm working on multiple businesses, looking forward to the premiere of an independent film I helped produce (I try not to do more than one Hells Yes a post, but this is definitely worth another Hell Yes), and am about to set up a professional website - the new blog may or may not be attached to the professional site - still deciding on this. Might be a good way to go since ya'll could find me and see how a professional page is set up - once again if you have any comments on this feel free to comment, I'd love to hear it!

This is also another point of why I want to move off of Blogspot. SEO is MUCH easier on an owned URL than a blogspot blog. In other words, I could post shorter posts more often along with these super long ones and get more traffic with less effort. If I don't have to spend a lot of time getting links, I can spend a lot more time writing and helping others.

So what is the future of this blog?
As far as the exact blogspot blog, I'm going to keep it up. I know I could get a lot of juice to a new site doing a 301 direct to a new site with the 2,000+ links pointing to this one (by the way, a HUGE thanks to everyone out there because I have NO IDEA how I got to that number!), but I'm terrible with technical stuff and I'm traditional. This blog has done well and helped out a lot of people and I talked with a lot of you and enjoy these friendships. Even if almost all new posting goes to the new blog when it's up and going, these are going to stay here.

Second, I'd be lying if I said there wasn't some money involved. Not in a "I'm a greedy bastard who wants to steal everything you own" sleazy Internet Marketing sort of way, but according to my stats over 60 people a month search for "Master Dayton" in Google. I've gotten some really good work from this blog, and the self-deprecating name is not only funny, but it's a pretty damn good brand. And I'm not taking advantage of that at all. I think there's no question I'd have more consistent readers, more searchers who stay longer, and that I'd help more people with a more professional looking blog. That's certainly going to look a lot better than a blogger blog, and there's a lot I do outside of freelance writing with creative projects I'm excited about...and having a blogger blog is a huge liability.

At the end of the day, there's a lot of benefit for me switching to a blog off of a professional page, or have a blog on its own URL completely. Don't read this as an end or good-bye, but it's time to move forward, and by taking the first steps myself I'll also be able to teach others how to do the same. Opportunity has never been greater....so let's go grab it together!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Freelance Writing Advice: Jumping at Opportunity

The Importance of Jumping Quickly at Major Opportunity

One of the major pieces of advice I can give beginning freelance writers is the importance of jumping to take advantage of an opportunity when one arrives. Sometimes you see a potential to make a lot of money, or potential to really take advantage of how a writing website is doing in order to build up a great residual income for yourself. If there's one thing I've learned from several years writing, it's that diversification is important but when you see a clear opportunity, you need to put the majority of your efforts where you're going to get the majority of returns. For other 4 Hour Workweek fans out there, this is referred to as the Pareto Principle or 80/20 Principle. Spreading yourself out in the name of diversity doesn't make sense if you have one clear winner. Invest most of your energy in the open writing opportunity, and come back to diversify later.

So what do I mean by this? I'm going to give you two obvious examples from my own time writing online, and the reason I believe they both work is that even though both opportunities have more or less closed, meaning they wouldn't pay long term now the way they used to, if I had taken heavier action early on in both situations, I'd be far better off financially not only now, but heading into the future as well. Sometimes it's easy to say "well it's a good thing I didn't invest too much in that because now they're gone" - but that might be taking the easy way out and preventing you from learning from a missed opportunity. And if you want to make a living freelance writing online, you definitely need to learn from mistakes and learn to adapt and get better along the way.

So the first example: eHow. I wrote for eHow's now defunct writer's compensation program when I was just getting started with online writing, and it did very well for me. With around 150 articles I made about $160 to $190 a month every month, with the majority of that income coming from the last 30 articles I wrote. The reason was that when the original version of the 4HWW came out I listened to the audio book, did the 80/20 looking at which articles and topics were making money for me on eHow, and then my last 30 were only on those topics. All of them made at least a couple bucks a month, while some of my highest income articles came from this batch. In fact, I would say those last 30 averaged $4 a month each with some higher and some lower, as always.

This might not sound like much, but based on the subject matter that was doing good for me, I had a list of over 600 more topics which based on my research would probably have evened out to the same $4 an article per month rate. But I was also writing for Squidoo and for HubPages and for Associated Content and for my former employers and on Blogger blogs and building my own sites and pulling myself in a thousand other directions. Then the WCP closed.

Between when I had the article list and when the WCP closed was three to four months. In that time, I could have easily completed all 600 articles which not only would have led to several thousand a month in passive income for another year or two, but when Demand Studios decided to buy out articles, the buy out would have been worth virtually a year's salary as opposed to the almost one month's income my buyout was (I can't disclose actual amounts due to the confidentiality agreement). One month is nice...but imagine what I could do if I was holding a payment equivalent to 10 months or a full year? I could outsource for entire mega-sites, pay off a lot of outstanding debt, and work on anything I felt like for several months knowing all my bills were taken care of. Or I could even buy several aged sites already earning passive income and continue to build on them. The point is that instead of staying spread out, had I taken those three months to just "kill it" on the eHow articles not only would I have made far more passive income the past couple years, but I'd be setting myself up for an early retirement right now investing the severance payment.

That's one example where I should have really busted my back to completely finish off that list and to get up to a decent income as quickly as possible - then I could have spent a lot more time diversifying when I didn't have to worry about bills or anything else on a month by month basis. By delaying, I missed a golden opportunity which turned out to be two (when including the buy out).

Then there's HubPages. While my last blog post on Hubpages being finished might have been a touch premature...although I'm still not convinced it isn't...there was a time not so long ago when it took very little work to get your hubs to rank ridiculously high for any decently researched keyword. So what was my missed opportunity here?

Once again it was seeing the power they had, and not focusing enough energy on HubPages while they were extremely profitable. While the Panda slap would obviously still hammer me, there's still a good reason to see this as a missed opportunity. I was making about $350 a month from one HubPages account and $250 a month from another account. $600 a month isn't bad, but I was averaging only about 7-10 hubs a month with my attention split in multiple directions all at once. The $600 a month came from 200 hubs, but once again the majority of the income came from 50 hubs, many of which were some of my newest at that point. Had I focused first and foremost on hubs, there's no reason I couldn't have produced 100 a month for a few months. In three to six months, that would be near a full time income (on the low end).

While Panda would smack that number down like it did with the hubs I had, there's a very good reason I still should have put more work right into the HubPages when they were ranking so easily: because even at six months or one year earning a full time passive income I could spend all my time on diversifying, on building my own sites, or investing all my actual freelance writing income back into my own business. In other words, the gain I could have made in those months would have really pushed forward my business and my passive income even before the Panda smackdown.

Add in the new Hub Ad program, and the bounceback with 500 more hubs than I currently have and even now I would still be in better shape.

Don't get me wrong, I'm doing fine when it comes to building my residual income and my recovery from Panda is going great. In addition, I'm making more freelancing than ever which definitely makes things easier. But the point remains: I could already by at my goals, be sitting on a year's pay from a buy out, and still be a couple hundred a month more ahead right now had I taken advantage of those two online opportunities while they were there for me.

Now there is one extremely important point to make when talking about putting most of your energy into one source: I wouldn't just stop and rest on my laurels. I would take advantage of the situation to diversify AFTER getting my full time income, then with my freelance income I would invest in my business to diversify FURTHER. I'm just saying instead of spreading yourself too thin and spread out early on, get your money and your income and then with your renewed freedom and extra income you diversify.

The point is, when you're writing for multiple sites, or maybe you're setting up multiple sites for yourself, look for that opportunity. When it shows itself, don't be afraid to take advantage of it. Work your butt off, race to your monthly passive income goals as quickly as possible, and don't worry about diversifying until you get to your goals. While some people might find this controversial, the more you think about it, the more it makes sense. Diversifying is what you do to protect income, but until you have a major income to protect, what's the point?

Right now for me this means taking advantage of what The Keyword Academy has to offer, building my own sites while they are ranking the easiest compared to Web 2.0 properties, and jumping on the BMR train while it's still showing results. If there's one thing the past few years of online freelance writing has taught me, it's to take advantage of every opportunity!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Freelance Writing Opinion: Why HubPages Is Finished

HubPages Ain't What It Used to Be

Well this is a freelance writing post that's somewhat painful to write, and I'm sure there's going to be a lot of flak back about it, but one thing I've never been afraid of in this blog was calling things as I see them (you should have seen the level of hate e-mail I received after my negative Helium.com review) so I'm not going to sugar coat this freelance writing blog post. I will add the caveat that a lot can change over time, and things could very well change in a year or two, or even less. But as things stand right now, I'm not going to pull any punches on what I'm feeling about HubPages because as much as it hurts (I've made some very good money and wonder at the potential had they lasted out one more year) they're a mess. Or as Lissie put it, HubPages is a train wreck. Folllow that post up with her earlier HubPages Earnings Update, and you can see pretty easily that a lot of previously profitable and prolific hubbers seem to be jumping ship, and it's hard not to see that trend continuing. Part of the reason I finally wrote my Keyword Academy review is because there was no doubt in my mind that even for beginner freelance writers, it was time to jump ship from HubPages.

So let's get down to it. A lot has changed in the past few years since I started this online writing blog, and a lot has changed since Google rolled out Panda, not the least of which is the general opinion of many people I talk to that their 1st page rankings are total shite. Nothing like typing in a term that should scream "informational request" and getting 10 shopping links from Amazon, Target, Wal Mart, Home Depot, JC Penny, KMart, and eBay. Note to Google: If I wanted to buy from a top 10 retailer, I would have typed in their website name myself. But I digress. This is about the changes in HubPages, and why I think the ship is not only going down, but it might already be 100 fathoms deep. So let's jump into this, and remember that this is my own two cents as of 07/13/2011.

Starting with the ELEPHANT in the room
I thought about having this further down on the list, in the traditional "4th spot to hammer the point home for good" slot, but this time the Elephant in the room is so big it really stays as my number one reason why I'm dubious HubPages will recover. First of all, if you've been in Internet Marketing at all and you've dealt with SEO you know there's one major rule for attempting to stay out of Google's cross hairs: Don't Embarrass Google!

This is a big one, and the way you embarrass Google is by intentionally and blatantly gaming the system and taking advantage of Google's algorithm to rank your site - especially if it's duplicate content, poor quality, thin content, or any of the above. And HubPages was blatantly gaming Google's algorithm. How? Internal linking. Anyone who has done Internet Marketing knows that keyword anchored backlinks are the key to ranking high in the search engines, and that external links are far more valuable than internal links, which are still important. So what was the problem with HubPages? The problem was the internal linking was so strong that it was easy to get duplicate content, lousy content, or thin content ranked in the top 5 in Google for relatively little effort based entirely or almost entirely on internal linking alone.

Take for example my old hub on Vaser Liposuction. When I wrote this all 100% of the content is original, I worked to provide a lot of information on the procedure, there were over 1,200 words of content in addition to links to authority sites (which Google claims to like). I also built nearly 30 backlinks to this page. At the time, a hub did indeed end up #1 in Google searches for the term "Vaser Liposuction." But it wasn't mine. It was a bland 400 word hub full of fluff with little original value and 0 external backlinks. So how did this page out rank mine? It drove me nuts, but finally with an SEO tool I saw only one major measurable difference: that hub had 60 internal links while my page only had 2 internal links. So I managed to get my hub ranked a little higher score wise, which got the internal links from HubPages sidebars pointing at me. With 30 of those I ranked #1 for the term at the time.

Knowing this, I tested my next two hubs and easily got their scores high enough for the internal links to kick in (they were based somewhat on hub score - so getting over 70 was critical and over 80 was excellent), and with 2 Ezinearticles to each and internal linking alone, they both way outranked pages with nearly 100 backlinks and which had more content.

How could this be seen as anything other than gaming the system by Google? Add in the fact that these out of control internal linking practices have NOT been changed at all by HubPages - despite making many others in response to Google that don't really make sense - so they might be changing a whole lot, but they've done ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about what clearly (and glaringly) stands out as their biggest flaw. Until that is dealt with, I don't see any serious recovery, and yet among many ridiculous changes, no mention has been made of this at all.

Time is not healing
You know that old saying "time heals all wounds?" Well according to HubPages traffic numbers and Google Analytics, that's not happening with HubPages' attempt to recover from the Panda update. For something like the fifth month in a row I'm still losing traffic and rankings. Some of my well back linked hubs are maintaining okay search engine positions, many others aren't. But either way, it's easier now to rank a brand new website from scratch and rank it for a keyword than it is starting a hub from scratch and ranking it for the same keyword - so why give up 40% when there's no advantage to doing so anymore? While I understand changes take time, there have been several more roll outs of post Panda adjustments, and I'm not seeing any positive changes.

The Amazon/California Situation
This is a huge deal. Maybe HubPages gets this sorted out, maybe they're okay with allowing hubbers in non Amazon affiliate banned states to continue profiting from Amazon modules on HubPage while they're not, or maybe they can move their corporate offices to allow themselves to become Amazon affiliates again. These are all viable options, but they also don't help individuals who are in states like North Carolina, California, and Illinois where Amazon won't allow individuals to sign up for their affiliate program (and a general "sorry" goes out to you folks). Then there's the chance that HubPages can't work in a way for themselves to profit off of Amazon and so shut it down. Since there's no way of knowing which of these scenarios will actually take place, that adds in a lot of uncertainty, and not a lot of "everything will be all right" options compared to further hammering on the HubPages model.

Baffling Official Response
Even with the disaster that was Panda, I'm with many online Internet Marketers who agreed that HubPages response was more damaging and damning than even the update itself. After the update they should have restructured the internal linking to make it far less powerful (which they didn't do), ban duplicate, spun, or low quality content (which they did), and then waited out the after effects to see how they would do with the next update before making any rash moves (which they didn't do).

So the changes like banning links to popular affiliate sites like Clickbank: terrible idea that chased away a lot of the best marketers. In fairness, I understand their thinking in that this idea looks good on paper, but it doesn't work in reality. Yes, Clickbank has many products that encourage spam, and they also have some excellent programs which used to make hubbers a lot of money. Now that all of that is out the window, and while trying to keep spam topics away is admirable: you could just ban spam topics or spammers. Just a thought.

Then there's the ban on pixelated images. WTF? Really, what's that have to do with anything?

Limiting capsules to content: I don't have a huge issue with this at all although they may have overdone it a bit.

Changing the AdSense layout has absolutely demolished the clickthrough rate (I can't give my CTR % because that's against Google's TOS, but I can tell you that my current rate is less than 25% of my old one). You were penalized for things other than ad layout - I'm not sure how cutting AdSense revenue by 75% further is really going to help at this point.

In addition, rampant complaints of the tone of interaction with moderators and administrators changing is giving off a lot of smoke. There are major complaints of much ruder responses, a shift in philosophy from "all of us together" to "we're talking to you." There are also the less friendly and longer responses, like promising a blog post in a "couple days" in response to the Amazon situation and the community waiting 14 days later and counting for a response. I understand when nothing happens, but then give an update along the lines of "we're working on it." Freelance writers who helped make your site deserve at least that much.

Because of the Marketer Exodus
When some of your best writers who know SEO, keyword research, and backlinking/marketing all leave, who exactly is going to rebuild your rankings? Many of the best marketers and writers are already leaving HubPages - and with no one promoting your site, how exactly are you going to rank in the future? If everyone who knows what they're doing are leaving and even taking down their hubs, it's not going to be good. Especially when Google notices all the backlinks going to pages that no longer exist, and all the internal or broken links to other hubs that no longer exist. This is going to make HubPages appear even uglier in Google's eyes. So freelance writers, beware. HubPages is not the sweet deal it used to be.

So what now?
So can you still make money on HubPages? You can, as long as they stay afloat (and many of us wonder if they're bringing in enough now to do that - although in fairness that is pure speculation), but the effort is MORE than building your own blogs or websites. So why would your bother with HubPages? If you're serious about the passive income, The Keyword Academy is the way to go. They adjust to changes, give amazing education, and provide all the tools needed to build up a long term passive income. Now that starting your own sites from scratch is faster than HubPages, and more stable and successful, it only makes sense to go with them.

As for which sites work for active income, or for a passive income split, it's probably long since time for me to put up another update, but that's coming next. For me, I'll keep an eye on HubPages, but I'm not holding my breath. Even the HubPages Ad Program has gone down considerably every month I've been in it, not only as total income put also $ per 1,000 so it'll be interesting to see if they can recover the way Squidoo did or not.

But for now, I have to stick by The Keyword Academy as the best passive income option and at this time I simply can't recommend HubPages anymore.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Keyword Academy Review

Reviewing the Keyword Academy

This blog post is probably way past overdue, but with the now infamous "Panda Update" from Google and a little more time to see how some of the so called "content farms" panned out, there's been plenty to do and test. And seeing how everything works now, I'll be the first to say I was wrong with one of my last posts: HubPages is good for nothing other than backlinks now, and you shouldn't spend a lot of your time putting original content on their site. But I'll get to more on that in a bit. The reason I want to review The Keyword Academy now is because based on what I'm seeing, honestly the best way to make passive income is to go with your own site. It takes less effort now to build your own site in the rankings than it does a HubPage or a Squidoo lens...so why split the profits with someone else for your hard work?

Many of the advantages that Web 2.0 sites used to offer are gone or highly diminished. At one point I had no problem with advocating that individuals start on HubPages, learn how Internet Marketing worked as they wrote hubs (which was so powerful as to virtually guarantee rankings in the search engines) and then made some good quick money on the way to learning everything you needed in order to apply those lessons to your own websites. But based on what's happened since the now named "Panda Update" and perhaps even more importantly HubPages reaction (and that second one is truly the key), I don't believe they'll make a bounce back any time in the near future, and the fastest way to success is now through building your own website, BUT you need to understand exactly how to do it the right way.

This includes understanding:
  • Keyword research
  • Website set up (including the best WordPress plugins)
  • Backlink building time line and strategy
  • Monetizing methods
  • Importance of consistent work/effort
  • Knowing how/when to test ad lay outs
The reason I gladly promote The Keyword Academy (and yes, these are affiliate links but as I've said before, I don't put in an affiliate link unless I believe in it - notice the lack of HubPages affiliate links in this post) is because they teach all this in really clear video tutorials in addition to providing a wide range of services to members which really makes making money online much easier. In fact, if you're getting into Internet Marketing and you're competing against Keyword Academy members, you're at a huge disadvantage. So buckle in for perhaps the longest Keyword Academy review on the net.

Introducing the Basics
There was a time where I hesitated to recommend this program to pure beginners since I've been in a place where $33 a month seemed like a major investment, especially with another $12 for each domain name and another $10-12 a month for hosting. Especially early on when you could build up $100 a month in a few months using HubPages or writing eHow articles. However, now after a lot of testing the quickest way to get rankings is your own website, and that changes things drastically.

For the beginners, the keyword academy has a clear "First 100 Hours" plan which basically takes your hand and helps you go step by step through 100 hours of work to get you on the right track, get you building niche sites that rank, and earning money. This is a very labor intensive business, so having a 100 hour guide is a great help to beginners who can just look down, work the next step, and start seeing results as quickly as possible to keep from becoming discouraged.

In fact, there's even a "New Members Welcome Page" to get you all the e-mail support you'll ever need and to point you to the most important lessons for beginners to start out with. The e-book in the members area has chapters that come in both print and video form, giving you a very effective tutorial ranging from the attitude and perspective you need to succeed to specifics about setting up websites and videos giving all the technical details for those of you (very much like myself) who are absolute dunces when it comes to the technical side of things. In other words, you can re-watch set up videos again and again to make sure you learn how to set up a new WordPress site inside and out. I can't over emphasize just how easy and simple they make it for people to learn absolutely everything you need to set up your online websites and to build the rankings you need to succeed.

The Niche Refinery Tool
The niche refinery tool is one of my personal favorites among any online tool I've ever used. This tool uses the mathematical formula the Keyword Academy teaches to determine the value of keywords, but instead of having to hand check every single keyword and run the mathematical formula over every single keyword (a process that could take many many hours if you were checking out 100 keywords), the tool allows you to import several hundred or even thousand keywords from the Google AdWords tool and allow the program to run through all of them while you go and write content, gather new keyword lists, or do something else that's productive.

The information is then given to you in a spreadsheet format where you can organize all the keywords by difficulty level (judged on a number scale from 10 on up) or on the projected value of the keywords. These can be arranged from lowest to highest or highest to lowest, making it very easy to analyze the information and target the easiest keywords first, followed by the ones with the highest money making potential. This tool allows you to run multiple lists of keywords at once, meaning in one day you can easily run enough data through the tool to find more good keywords than you could possibly work on in an entire year.

This tool is not only an incredible time saver, but it saves on the tedium of having to do all the keyword research by hand and makes it very easy to see what keywords in a niche are the most worth going after, and what the "low hanging fruit" are that should be easy to pick off and gain rankings for. This tool alone is worth the monthly subscription, IMO.

The PostRunner Tool
The PostRunner tool is definitely the crown gem of The Keyword Academy's tools. Anyone who has been in SEO or Internet Marketing for any amount of time, or found a single accurate resource on the topic, knows the importance of backlinks. A few years ago outside of article marketing or investing the time and money to create your own long list of websites, getting those links could also be very difficult and very time consuming. The PostRunner tool puts hundreds, if not eventually thousands, of different blogs and websites at your disposal who accept guest posts. These are spread across hundreds of different hosting IPs, different hosting companies, and belong to over a thousand different people. In other words, it's a blog guest posting service on steroids, and unlike article marketing which only allows side bar links, most of these places allow two keyword anchored backlinks in the post - which are the most effective backlinks and also the hardest to get.

There are hundreds of niche sites which only take posts on specific topics, and as anyone who has been working towards passive income online knows, those types of links give the highest amount of benefit when it comes to ranking in the search engines. The site owners get free content in the form of articles, while you get two backlinks per article to your own sites.

Whether you call it guest blog posting on steroids or article marketing on steroids, the ending result is the same: you have hundreds and hundreds of sites at your finger tips just waiting to give you a perfect keyword anchored backlink. This tool alone is worth twice the monthly fee for the entire Keyword Academy, and a push for more niche sites and more high quality sites means that PostRunner is going to remain an extremely effective tool for ranking in the search engines.

Many people (including myself) have ranked niche sites in the top 10, top 5, or even the top of the search engines only using PostRunner and nothing else - including myself. This is an extremely effective tool, and if you combine it with article marketing and a few link exchanges then you might be amazed how quickly you can effectively rank a niche site high in the search engines and get those AdSense clicks or Affiliate Commissions coming in. You also have the ability to add your own sites to PostRunner and thus take advantage of the free content people are willing to provide.

Streamline and WorkTracker Tools
As if those two tools weren't already more than enough to justify The Keyword Academy's monthly membership cost (which really is pretty ridiculously reasonable for what you get) there are organizational and motivational tools as well. I know for me personally a chart tracking my daily word count really does encourage and motivate me - as odd as that might seem. Using the Work Tracker is simple: put in your daily word count and the graph charts it on a seven day rolling average while also telling you how many words you've written in the past month and during any of their publishing challenges. You can also join groups and make your graphs available to a number of other TKA members. This can be a great motivational tool for a group as you can compare your publishing rates to those of others in the group. This can be a great motivation to publishing more, and to prevent you from taking a few days off knowing others will see those 0 word days.

Streamline is a neat set up which allows you to assign main keywords and cousin keyword to the websites you're working on. Streamline keeps track of these, keeps track of how many articles you've written and how many keywords used, and then can be used to create a "Project Task List" which will show you how many more articles to write for each term as a basic start, and lists them so you can refer to it as a list of which articles to write next. Streamline keeps track of how much work has been done and shows the % completed for each cousin keyword and main keyword. If you tend to get overwhelmed when there's a lot to be done, this tool gives you the ability to make a very clear list telling you exactly which articles should be next and how many more are needed.

For the organizationally challenged, this tool along with Work Tracker, can be a life saver.

There are monthly webinars provided from TKA (and if I call it KWA at some point it's the same thing, just and odd eccentricity of mine) which can cover everything from "what to do after 6 months," "how to hit the next level," or other strategies about link building and the importance of getting the most out of your PostRunner site. In other words, the excellent teaching and content doesn't stop once you sign up, there's new information and training coming every single month and you're getting trained by people who know the Internet Marketing process through and through. I attend most of them because I know there's always an additional nugget or bit of information that is going to help speed up the process for me.

The Forums
I'm with many people in this business who argue that forums can be one of the greatest time wasters of all online activity. That being said, a really good forum can also give you access to expertise, support, and ideas which speed up your ability to make a living online and give all the support you need to make it through the tough times. In my opinion, the TKA forums are the latter, as you will find many people on there making $10k to $20k or more a month who are still more than willing to give advice on how they did it, help out newbies, and also provide alternative information like other methods of getting ranked in the search engines, how to sell an e-book, or many other issues. While you should spend only a little time here and most of your time writing content, the forums are an invaluable resource and even provide an "Inspiration" thread with tons of stories of how KWA members started at $0 and made it to $1,000 a month or more. It's a great addition to the whole KWA bundle.

The Trial Period
Oh, yeah, the first month is free and you have UNLIMITED access to The Keyword Academy during that time. You can use all the tools, gain backlinks, do your keyword research, and if $33 a month just isn't feasible at that point (and I've been homeless twice so believe me, I understand) then you take your information, move on, and come back when you're stable enough to afford it. If you stay, the price is $33 a month although discounts are available if you choose to buy a yearly subscription which is $396 for 14 months, or basically 2 months free when you pay for 12 months up front. Either way, it's a very good deal.

Contests & Awards
There are often 3-4 publishing challenges a year, and these challenges often have multiple awards given out through drawings. You get so many entries into a drawing often based on number of words published, number of days you publish, or other similar measurements. In other words, the more you work on your business, the more chances you get to win a prize on top of everything else.

What makes this especially intriguing is that the prizes include $1,000 cash prizes, year long subscriptions to TKA, or even free credits to article writing services. All of these can be an enormous help to speeding up your Internet Marketing Career, and you get a chance at these prizes by working to build up your own business: that's about as win-win as it gets.

Affiliate Program
Current subscribing members to the Keyword Academy can enroll in the affiliate program, which pays very handsomely. For each person who signs up for the Keyword Academy through your affiliate link and stays subscribed, you receive 35% of their monthly dues, which comes out to $11.55 a month. So if you get a mere three people to sign up and stay with TKA, that will pay for your own monthly subscription.

So Final Thoughts
This is by far and away the most commercial blog post I've ever written, and will probably stay that way. However, if you want to win in the online world in making residual income, this is the way to go. I have tested out a lot of products and membership sites online, and several of them were very high quality but at the end of the day, this Keyword Academy review hopefully explains what I honestly believe: this is the best possible program online for Internet Marketing for both beginners and even for the experienced. This program brings years worth of education down to easy to understand videos and lessons that can have you on the right path in days. That's why I strongly suggest if you haven't become a member that you start out with The Keyword Academy Trial month.

I have more to say on why I've changed my mind about HubPages and why I would suggest a completely different strategy for building an online passive income now than I did 12 months ago. That's because this is a changing game, and while I'll get into more of that, I'm going to end this post as a Keyword Academy review and hit the rest later.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Freelance Writing 2011: So What Now?

Freelance Writing Online Never Stays the Same

If you've been freelance writing online for any amount of time this spring then wow, you know how crazy the landscape has been changing even by online or writing market standards. If you're hoping for a quick read, this isn't the post. So feel free to bookmark and come back later, or get ready for a marathon run. But first a very important announcement: to those who took me up on the offer of buying my friend Ashley Cowger's first book "Peter Never Came," the report I was finishing for all of you become very outdated with the most recent Google Change and the reaction of Xomba, HubPages, Yahoo Contributor Network, and others towards them. So instead of giving a report that was half obsolete, or making you wait for just a few updates, instead I'm going to finish the freelance writing e-book I'm creating and giving you all the whole thing, including the bonuses.

So it'll be even better than what I promised, it will be completely up to date, and it'll be about two more weeks - but it'll be worth it. I'm very sorry for the delay, this was a prime example of "life happens" along with "Google happens." So since all of you have been so nice and patient with me, I'm just going to give you my entire freelance writing e-book for free.

So onto the long delayed blog post. There's a lot to cover, so this will be a long one and I'll try to cover how freelance writing online has changed, the HubPages ad program, residual income, and everything else that changed/shifted or didn't with the last big Google change.

Xomba updates their policies
Xomba has recently updated their online writing policies, especially in regard to bookmarks. Previous to this, one of the best ways to use Xomba was to bookmark your articles and blog posts, as Xomba bookmarks tended to get amazing rankings in Google all on their own (while their articles didn't which I still find strange) and even better, pretty much guaranteed indexing of whatever you linked to. For those of you who know the frustration of writing 100 backlink articles and hoping they get indexed, you know how valuable it would be to be able to link to every one with a Xomba bookmark and know that those articles would then be crawled. That's very powerful when you're trying to build your backlinks. Now you can't do that. You can't link to your articles, you can't link to your blogs, and well you can't really link to anything. So what does this mean? From my point of view, it means that Xomba no longer as any place in my online portfolio. A 50/50 AdSense on articles on a site that doesn't have the juice of other options out there (options who share more of the pie) doesn't appeal.

Because of this I no longer recommend Xomba as a place to write for online freelance writers looking to make money online or use it as part of a passive income campaign. If writing is just a hobby for you and the money is bonus, then that might be the best place for Xomba, but without the bookmarking benefit, it's just not a good ROI on effort as opposed to benefit, in my opinion.

So where to go now to help stack links and get your articles indexed and keep them that way? If you're an old hat who knows how to use Bookmarking Demon software, then you're already set. For the rest of us, I'd probably recommend two bookmarking site who have revenue share programs: Snipsly.com, and Shetoldme.com. I don't expect these to have the same impact as a Xomba bookmark did, but it's much better than nothing and Snipsly especially is pretty painless to use.

If you have no idea what link stacking is, then take a look at this video blog on the importance of link stacking. It's a great introduction, and Blogger Illustrated is a great marketing blog to get familiar with anyway.

The big Google update - is it time to panic???
The short answer is absolutely not. Google updates are going to happen, and they're going to happen every year. This time sites coined as "content farms" were hammered (how eHow escaped this designation is beyond me), and the cutting down to size of HubPages is the one that really got a lot of attention of online freelance writers and beginning marketers. Part of the reason for this is that HubPages had a ridiculous level of authority in ranking new hubs, which made it attractive for marketers, writers, and unfortunately also douchebag spammers.

My suspicion even early on after the big time slap HubPages received was that the main action was to discount internal HubPages links. The internal linking structure of HubPages was too effective. Sometimes you could get page one rankings for decent keywords with nothing but 30-50 internal links and not a single external backlink. It was only a matter of time until Google did something about this, because that type of system is too easy to abuse. Now don't quote me as Gospel on this is what happened, but others who are much better at analyzing technical data then me just in the past week or two are starting to say the same. Personally, most of my hubs with a lot of external backlinks still rank very well. The hubs whose main strength was strong internal linking were absolutely decimated.

So are HubPages still worth it? For true freelance writers (ie those of you not into Internet Marketing but whom still want passive income) HubPages is great, and the backlinks are still solid even after the Google Algorithm change. Squidoo was declared left for dead three years ago when they were slapped much harder by Google - and my earnings from that site are four times what they were back in 2008. HubPages is making some major changes, and I fully expect them to bounce back over time. Now there are no shortcuts and you need backlinks, but hubs can still rank very well, and you can backlink a lot quicker to hubs than completely brand new websites.

So what happens if you were building original niche sites with solid original writing, good articles, and keyword based URL names? In my case, and the case of hundreds of others, the keyword rankings for my niche websites (especially the long tail keywords) jumped. In other words, if you were concentrating on your own sites which you have full control over, then this last update probably actually helped you out. And if you spent a little too much time on HubPages building easy income instead of investing in your own websites (and I'm not judging - I'm nailed based on this criteria), then take this Google update not as a step back, but as the kick in the pants you needed to do what you should have been doing all along.

At the end of the day this confirms that in the online world change is constant and that people writing high quality original content and who build solid (not thin, not spammy) sites the right way pretty much still have nothing to really worry about. Keep at it.

The HubPages Ad Program
One of the major programs rolled out after the Google-content farm smack down was HubPages' news that they were rolling out their own advertising based program. This was planned even before the Google action and is being rolled out in waves starting with the most prolific and trusted hubbers and as the bugs get worked out the rest of the community will eventually be able to take part.

The earliest beta test only involved 9 hubbers, so take the early results worth a grain of salt, but they reported that AdSense + Hub Ads combined to equal a lot more than what just AdSense alone from Hubs earned. Everyone reported double digit % improvement, while some saw jumps as high as 40 or 50%. This was before the Google slap, but I've been with the program most of March and while it's still early to say anything too definitive (there's just not enough data at this point), I can say that while my Google AdSense coming directly from HubPages has plummeted, the Hubs AdSense + HubPages Ad Program = 6% income increase for me which might not sound like much, but considering that over 80% of my AdSense income came from HubPages, and all of March was post Google slap for HubPages, then a 6% gain is actually pretty damn impressive. And yes - I projected February as a 31 day month to match March so the three day difference has nothing to do with the 6% increase.

However I still have a couple of reservations. I had a couple uncustomarily big days with AdSense that ramped up the monthly earnings, while the overall number of double digit dollar days from AdSense plummeted. However, with the Hub Ad Program there might not be a lot of high days, but daily earnings are consistent which helps bring up the bottom line. The biggest problem is without those two really big days my combined earnings would have been lower. In fairness there's a chance that if I stayed all AdSense on my Hubs, the March numbers would have been even lower than projected. This will bear some testing.

I'm going to be watching through all of April and all of May to collect more data. On the plus side, as this program gets stronger and the changes being employed to HubPages should only make them stronger in the search engines, the Hub program pays directly via PayPal. This means you can still earn AdSense and Amazon from Hubs and build them independently from niche sites, but you also now can have a new income stream from HubPages which definitely helps the diversification process - and add in the bonus of building links and getting a little AdSense and Amazon action on the side and HubPages could really end up ahead on this one. As much as I dislike where Xomba is going with their remodel, I really like the direction HubPages is going for online freelance writers.

Good news - markets are getting better
Granted, this evidence is anecdotal, but on the good news front is I'm finding work much easier to find since before the big recession/economic crash in 2008. Overall many people I'm talking to agree that the demand for freelance writers is rising, and one of the benefits of the most recent Google slap and their strong public argument for quality content is that a strong movement is forming away from Indian and Philippines outsourcers and towards native English speakers for writing articles. The movement is towards at least basic quality, and even if $5 for a 300 word article isn't much at all, a good Native English speaker shouldn't have any problem writing 3-5 of these an hour (assuming Internet standards of quality and not New York Times-Pulitzer Prize level). Even at the minimum there, $15 an hour isn't bad compared to you know, $0 from being unemployed or not being able to find any work.

Now, I don't have an issue with many Philippines outsourcers who are paid to write quality and can do so, but I am against making outsourcers write $1 articles at obscenely fast rates like 125 articles per 40 hour work week. You can't get quality from that. Those of you living overseas who can write quality articles are going to find yourselves in higher demand. It may take some time, but this is a good thing in the long run.

So generally speaking, especially with a changing perception from many Internet Marketers about wanting more original content and wanting more quality, the outlook for freelance writers and especially beginning freelance writers is excellent compared to recent years.

Individual Niche Sites & The Keyword Academy
Individual niche sites are still the way to go with Amazon and AdSense based sites, or you can go with the super site model. The point is, many people who wrote high quality content and invested in their own sites are still doing well. The old model of 5 pages with thin re-hashed content and tons of backlinks and nothing else isn't going to work anymore. However a rock solid niche site with twenty or more pages of original and high quality content can do quite well.

In other words, those of you frustrated seeing cheap crap rank ahead of you because you developed your own sites with original and high quality content that took some time to develop then don't worry and keep working because my niche sites are doing fine. In fact, they've done much better since the last update. If anything, the only thing this last update did was to confirm what many Internet Marketers have said all along: go ahead and use blogger, HubPages, Squidoo, and the like for links but INVEST in your business with your own websites which you can actually control and which can't arbitrarily just be taken away from you.

This also brings us to what I believe is the best tool out there for online freelance writers or marketers, especially novices or beginners or even those somewhere in the middle. I am a firm believer in The Keyword Academy (and yes, that is an affiliate link) and see the teaching, lessons, and resources they offer as more important than ever. If you want to work towards full time residual income, then in my opinion you'd be a fool not to join this program. It's the only monthly membership site I belong to, and I anticipate it's the only one I ever will.

First of all, there's an e-book and video tutorials for beginners that are extremely detailed and helps even the greenest newbie understand basic SEO, how to build niche sites, and how to get going with making money online. Add in support forums, a great community, and some unbelievable tools and it's not hard for people to see why the Keyword Academy is so well thought off by its members.

There are amazing tools that make keyword research a breeze, help to get a large number of good backlinks (the hardest part of SEO and ranking in the search engines), and to teach the technical aspects of setting up WordPress blogs. Those videos in particular have been huge for me, helping me to learn how to change the blog set ups as necessary to optimize my sites and get the most money out of them.

The way it currently works is the first month is free, then it's $33 a month for the premium membership after that (go with the premium as the webinar recordings and Forums are worth the extra $4 a month). Any one of their major tools alone would be worth the money, so the combination is outstanding. They're recent webinar push towards further quality content convinces me that they're dedicated to building amazing tools that will last.

If you are ready to really pursue the passive income options from working online, then you want to check out the Keyword Academy. They're the best teachers I've found with an amazing array of tools and a great support system. Worst case scenario, take the free month, learn all there is to know, and then cancel if you're not ready for the rest or simply aren't sure if it's right for you. Right now they're even sharing 4 "super sites" they're building from scratch so you can literally follow the process along the way.

The e-book
I'll be working to wrap this up shortly - was just about there when a huge series of changes made big sections of the e-book obsolete. So now working on the overall and I'll be bringing it out before too long. It's aimed primarily at beginners and people just getting started but there will be some solid advice in there for some people who are at that space of being more than a true beginner but not where they want to be yet making a full time living writing online.

My goal is to provide clear cut information on all the sites I've written for and how to get the most out of each one. This will not only give readers the ability to make a full time living writing online, but also get the most out of each and every site I go over. This way readers won't have to spend six years learning by trial and error like I did: they'll get all the benefits of my experience with one reading and be able to get to their goals much faster than I did.

I'll keep everyone posted on more as that project develops.

So finally at the end...
So this will probably go down as one of the longer freelance writing blog posts I've had here, but this brings us about up to date with all the changes that have gone on. I'd love to hear everyone's experience with what's going on and what your plans are to make the most of it. Hope everyone is doing well and keep at it - the reward at the endgame is worth the long online freelance writing journey.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

How Are You Going to Bust Through?: A Freelance Writing Rant

Freelance Writing isn't for Sissies. Do you know how you're going to make it?

And after a month away working feverishly on my passive writing income and setting up my business ventures for this year, we're back! This post might be a little different than some of the other recent ones, as the past couple months have also been a time of major reflection and some pretty painful and brutally honest self-evaluation. Classic 80/20, if you're familiar with the Pareto Principle that has been pushed into the spotlight by Tim Ferriss's The 4 Hour Work Week (which I highly recommend, btw), and while I have plenty of legitimate excuses about life getting in the way, have done an amazing amount of work, and have been pulled in eight directions, it was still a stark revelation to see where I really was versus where I thought I was. Unless you're really focusing on it, most people probably don't realize how much time falls between the cracks. To paraphrase something I've heard over and over: "I thought I was working really hard, but I really wasn't."

Even for those of us who do work a lot, is it really on the projects that are most important for our long term growth? Do we really accomplish what we should, or do you find after a year that somehow, some way, when you look at the numbers honestly that you haven't done anything remotely close to what you wanted? Did you really write 350 hubs at HubPages in one year at an incredibly modest 1 a day, or after a hard working year do you find yourself hovering around 70? Oops. I'm not bringing this up to preach or condemn - I'm finding myself in the same boat.

Have I done a great amount of useful work the past two years in particular? Absolutely. But what if my goals (especially for passive income) had met even some very modest goals? I'm nowhere close to 700 hubs on HubPages, which is where I'd be if I did 300 a year for every year since signing up - a modest less than one a day. How many niche sites have I actually set up? One a month? How many actual links have I built to every article, every hub, every niche site?

The funny thing is, despite all the work I've done, my actual numbers fall short of the extremely modest "one hub a day" or "one blog post a day" or "three backlink articles a day." I think most people reading this blog who are trying to balance freelance writing and passive income building with a real world job understand. Even balancing freelance writing to pay the monthly bills versus building passive income is a very difficult proposition, even if writing is your full time profession. I can look back and point out the many potential true reasons why I didn't write 700 hubs over two years and get plenty of backlinks to all of them, or I can accept that:
  • There is always enough time if you're willing to make it
  • It's all about prioritizing
  • Daily consistent work is important
  • There is ALWAYS time for one a day
When you look at your freelance writing goals or residual income goals over the past year, what do you see? Is 300 hubs in a year really too ambitious, or could you find the time for one a day (not even)? I think if most of us are honest, the problem isn't having too little time, it's not prioritizing and not staying consistent. After all, how can writing 300 hubs a year, less than one a day, be a deal breaker?

This is just one example. Did you want to set up 12 niche sets over a year and only set up 3 or 4? Ask yourself: if you sat down for one week and treated residual income as your only concern, could you knock out the basic articles and set up to 12 sites in one week? Of course you could. I absolutely suck at anything technical. I even consider using WordPress annoyingly technical. That tells you how not a techie I really am. All that "programming WordPress is easy" did not apply to me - it was hard. So if I can set up 12 niche sites in a week, including the About & Privacy pages, insert AdSense, and get 5-10 basic articles up on each and linking to one another, then what's the excuse for anyone else?

Breaking through means not doing the same-old, same-old. One of the easiest things to do is fall into habits of "studying" and "researching," or losing minutes and hours at a time sitting at the computer, making lists, making notes, or doing any and everything other than the actual work to advance your business. Breaking through means narrowing a big goal down to smaller ones, and then attacking those small daily goals over and over - even on days when you don't feel like it because you're far more likely to go on a 10 day skid than "make it up the next day."

Recently I've made a very conscious effort to only do the absolute minimum for freelance writing and spend a lot more time on passive income and my other growing business. This is a difficult decision because I have tons of student loan debt, a lot of medical bills, and several thousand dollars more in medical procedures I need to undergo. Then there are the weddings, reunions, and badly need travel vacations that I need for personal sanity and preventing the severe stress attacks that put me in terrible shape last fall. Nothing like a doctor telling you "Take a long vacation or you'll have a heart attack," to make you learn not to stress the small things.

This led to another revelation while I went on my seven weeks of travel and vacation (although I do always have to work at least 4 hours on Fridays). The revelation was that I really didn't fall behind on anything because when I looked at the bottom line numbers, I just didn't write nearly as much as I thought I was. In other words, it was easy for me to do more work in January than in October through December combined, and I take more time off for myself.

So these question are for ALL of us writers and Internet Marketers: How are we going to break through? How much more can you fit in each day if you commit only one or two solid hours to passive income? Is that hour of doing nothing really worth delaying the day when you have enough passive income to live off of?

Unfortunately, dreaming and planning don't pay. Work does. This is something I've harped on frequently in recent freelance writing blog posts, and I'll continue to do so. Look at the work you've done. Even if you don't set up your own sites at all and only did HubPages, did you do the equivalent of one hub a day? If not, how much would it change your income if you did write one hub a day for two to three years? Can you spare one more hour a day for backlink articles? This combination really is a tiny amount of work when you look at it, but most of us fail when we look back a year or two later to accomplish even that much.

So at the end of the day, it's time to man or woman up and make our large goals tangible, daily or weekly, and to dedicate ourselves to making them. If you're part of the Keyword Academy and have seen the forum reports, it's amazing how many people are hitting the $1,000 a month passive income mark and how they are taking many different strategies to get there. If you aren't a KWA member, I highly recommend it if and ONLY if you meet one or more of the following requirements:
  • You make over $50 a month passively and are prepared to reinvest to make that number take off.
  • If you know for a fact you are completely dedicated to earning passive income and won't quit.
  • If you are dedicated to spending enough time every month on your page or sites to make the $33 a month expense worth it.
  • You're already experienced and want to take the next step.
Some people recommend KWA for beginners, and I admit that I am torn on this. The issue is not with the program. The starting videos and core videos are absolutely exceptional, and if you know even the basics, you know how valuable the advanced tools are and how to properly use them. If a beginner is gung-ho and knows for a fact that they will stay with it (and the problem is everyone thinks this until they see the work that is involved), then starting with KWA will save them months, if not years, and make the process much faster. So yeah, for anyone who can afford the investment, it's worth it. The first month is free, but after that it is $33 a month.

So whether your goal is freelance writing, residual income, or a little bit of both - it's time to really be honest and look back over what you actually did versus what you thought you were doing. You might be surprised how little writing or marketing you actually did, and that might be all the motivation you need to really kick off your breakthrough for 2011.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Writing for Passive Income: Small Steps for Big Goals

Small writing steps equal giant passive income results

Hard to believe we're already 16 days into the new year, but here we are! January 1st is a day when we all make goals and resolutions for our "new start" and then generally completely forget about them until months later when we get that "it's too late now" attitude. Freelance writing and writing for residual income are two areas that can make it very easy to fall into this trap since so much work is required before seeing any pay-off. Many writers become overwhelmed, and it's easy to try and convince yourself that reading 5 blog posts and doing some keyword research is a lot of work. It's not. I'm not preaching at you, I'm still often guilty of the same thing. So this is the first update, along with a very happy and special announcement at the end :)

In my last freelance writing blog post I talked about setting some of my own goals after realizing I needed to become much more efficient to reach my goals, and after getting some inspiration from re-listening to Timothy Ferriss's The 4 Hour Work Week (love it - and that is an affiliate link), getting re-charged from vacation, and also being inspired by Kidgas's effort to triple his online income. It's been a very effective trifecta for me and I put down my own goals and dreams, although in a more abbreviated form, and swore I was going to work my tail off to get them.

So how am I doing at this point? All in all, actually quite well. I'm especially impressed considering that I'm split working in multiple directions, no matter how much I wish it were otherwise. I have to drastically increase the amount of freelance work I'm doing to pay for a wide variety of medical bills, lawyer fees, those annoying student loans, and some other major one time (I hope) expenses that are all coming up this spring. In addition, ideally I'd like this to be the first year I'm going to buy a house and get out of the country for the first time in 12 years. So there's the freelancing....then there's the building the business my brother and I are starting, which is almost like three different business focuses in and of themselves, then there's my actual passive income I want to work on...which comes from multiple sources.

In other words, I'm ridiculously busy once again, even with 80/20 applied to my life. Still, I've made some very good progress and based on everything going on, my freelance and passive writing goals are going well so far. Just this weekend I published six new HubPages for myself, with some backlink work to each, finished $400 in freelance work and produced seven hubs for my brother and I's business, all also with backlinks. The outlines to a few e-books are just about complete and I have a very clear idea of what lies ahead for the next couple months. In the first two weeks of January, I've gotten about as much done as I did in any full month last year.

So why is this? Because I didn't let myself get overwhelmed with the sheer mass of things to do. Every single thing that needed to be done, I broke it down into the smallest, easiest steps possible and then I focused only on those small steps. Yeah, I'd love to write 100 new hubs in the next few months, and in my 100% dream scenario write 1,000 total hubs on HubPages this year (BTW - if you are completely new to the make money online or make passive income online, start by signing up with HubPages and making hubs there as you learn how to rank your pages and monetize them. HubPages is the best beginner's place to go by far, IMO).

Will I achieve that goal and many other equally as ambitious? I think so. 1,000 hubs is a huge number and if I try to think about it that way, it becomes overwhelming. What if I fall behind for a few days, how will I come up with 1,000 ideas, how will I find the time to check all those keywords, how will I have time to backlink them all, etc. It doesn't take more than a couple minutes looking at the big picture before it's sheer size is enough to crush you. So I don't worry at all about 1,000 because there's no point to doing so.

There are ALWAYS more markets and topics to write about, and one thing I do have now is a couple hundred good keywords. So I'm working on those one at a time, two to five a day depending on all other surrounding circumstances. Over the course of a year, this will add up to 1,000 hubs or mighty close enough and without the stress, worry, anxiety, and everything else that would come with trying to plan out every detail from the outset. I've also known from watching other people, as well as observing myself, that when you focus on the big picture and try to get a handle on huge goals or huge problems, you tend to not only NOT control the situation, but you get far LESS work done than if you just took the "I'll do 1-4 a day and not worry about the rest" approach to it.

I don't think about having to pay off those $10,000 or so in medical bills early this year, I just think about making an extra $30-50 a day above my average freelancing workload, and over the next half a year that will take care of itself.

Whether you are reading this as a freelance writer, or an internet marketer, or anywhere in between of those two broad terms, then maybe you'll agree with me when I say this is one of the most important lessons I've learned over these past few years: we are our own worst enemies because we overwhelm ourselves so much that we end up accomplishing so little.

The choosing to go for 1,000 hubs this year while doing the backlinking on my existing articles and websites is a decision I made very recently based on a stark observation I made on myself. Back in the winter of 2008 when my job in Austin, Texas, just disappeared, I tried to plan ahead, figured I had 4 months of expenses barring anything going wrong (which it actually did in spectacular fashion, but that's a story for another day), and I was trying to plan looking at the big picture without thought on how to get there or making goals that I couldn't actually directly affect (an example: make $3,500 by March - that's a terrible goal because it doesn't give any clue for as how to get there. A goal like "write for Demand Studios or Guru.com 8-10 hours a day" at least gives me a clear idea of what to do). Obviously even with the terrible economy and hugely changing markets I made my way back and then some, but then the thought hit me: what if I had just wrote 1 single HubPage, 1 single eHow article (until eHow was closed to writers), and 1 single Squidoo lens a day?

That's well under 8 hours of work a day, and on a good day is less than 3. The answer: I would have nearly 500 more HubPages, 500 more eHow articles, and 700 more Squidoo lenses than I have now. Based on the average of what each of those earns me, we're talking about over $2,200 in complete passive income more per month. That would have me in "semi-retirement" mode, living extremely comfortably and in position right now to only work on what I want to do and nothing else while traveling at will.

So how have I worked my butt off for three years to not be at the same place where 1 hub, 1 eHow, and 1 Squidoo lens a day would put me?

Because I made the same mistakes that many other people in this position have made, continue to make, and will continue to make. I didn't make room for that minimal daily effort like I should have, even when "life happened," and I was too easily overwhelmed and distracted by the large goals or big picture to get the daily work done. I'd recommend taking a good long look at your own efforts and see if the same is true.

This time around, I'm not going to make those same errors. This year, there is always time day to day to work on the hubs, to work on the supporting links, and to make sure that by the end of the year there aren't any more years doing work for others that I don't care for. Day by day I concentrate on the good and hit it out one step at a time, one page at a time, and don't worry about the big picture: because that will take care of itself just as long as I keep steady.

Now, the very happy and special announcement: most of you who know me personally or follow this blog know my overall feelings about graduate school and the years of my life wasted there. We'll keep it very understated and say that my overall experience was less than stellar. That being said, there were a few incredibly cool people I met during my time up there who have been very close friends of mine and like family. My life has been permanently blessed and made better simply from having known them. One of these people is Ashley Cowger, who consistently was one of my favorite writers in the program. She started her first year in the MFA program in Fairbanks Alaska when I was finishing my third and final year. Her brother, Justus Humphrey, is a good friend and actually put me up for a brief six week period when I would otherwise have been homeless during the winter in Alaska. Still very much obliged, bro.

Both are remarkably wonderful people, and both are great writers, as well. I'm happy to announce that Ashley's first novel came out this week: "Peter Never Came." I'm waiting for my copy to arrive in the mail, and the next 10 I'll order for friends and family who love good stories and good reading - and even without seeing an advance copy, I can tell you from seeing a dozen plus of her stories or more that I WHOLE HEARTEDLY and without reservation recommend her book. Ashley was an incredibly talented and hard working writer when I first met her, and she continued to get better and better. I can tell you right now when that book shows up, I won't by doing ANY work. I'll be kicking up my feet and enjoying some great fiction.

It's a small press publication and a collection of literary short stories. If you want to read great fiction, buy Peter Never Came. If you want to support an amazing collection of short stories, buy a copy of the book. If you want renewed faith in an amazing up and coming young writer, read Ashley's book. If you love supporting quality literature from a small press, buy this book. Here is a link, it is NOT an affiliate link: http://www.amazon.com/Peter-Never-Came-Ashley-Cowger/dp/1932870466/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1295243965&sr=8-1

I've tried to think what I could do to encourage people to buy a copy of Ashley's book, and I think I've come up with something. This is going by the honor system, but there's a good group following this blog so we'll do this on the honor code. Over the next month I'll be putting together a guide on freelance writing & earning residual income online. This isn't an A to Z complete guide, but it will include a lot of my "tricks and tips" for making passive income, how to set up a HubPage that converts (the set up is huge in determining whether they make money or not), how to maximize results from your online work, and basically sharing my tips and knowledge from six years online in about 20 pages. It's not an encyclopedia of knowledge, but if you're a beginner or just getting started, this will speed up the learning curve quite a bit.

Buy Ashley's book, e-mail me at masterdayton [@] gmail.com with the words "bought Ashley's awesome book" or "peter never came" or anything along those lines. When I'm done with my guide, anyone who buys Ashley's book and sends me an e-mail gets the guide for free. I'll e-mail it right to you.

I'm not going to give a BS sales pitch with a fake "valued at" number, but I will tell you that this is going to have far more value than most of the multi-hundred dollar e-books out there. Hopefully that deal will help move a few more copies of Ashley's book, and I really am ecstatic over her recent success. Sometimes good things do happen to good people.

Hope ya'll liked this post. Now I have a couple more hubs to hit before bedtime, but keep on keepin' on, devote some daily time to your business, and if you enjoy a good book, grab a copy of "Peter Never Came" to celebrate the emergence of a wonderful writer.