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

Tuesday, 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!


  1. Hey Shane,
    As a twenty-something stuck in a career rut, I just wanted to thank you for your insight. I found your blog a few weeks ago and haven't been able to stop reading since. I've considered freelance writing for some time now and have had several opportunities to do so and for whatever reason, I shied away. After reading your blog, that dream of mine seems more than tangible now, and I appreciate the kick in the pants I needed to step in with both feet. :)


  2. Hi Megan,

    Thank you for the kind words - it never ceases to bring my spirits up to hear that my blog has helped someone out. I definitely understand the mid-twenties rut. I went to grad school - in retrospect would not recommend that :) The best part about the freelance writing is you can start part time, or you can focus on long term passive income, or both. Please keep me informed on how you're doing as the months pass!


    Master Dayton

  3. Hey Master Dayton,

    I found the exact same thing happen when I wrote for InfoBarrel (though I never took it to your level) - focusing on the topics that were already performing well was a HUGE point of leverage for my time and energy.


  4. Hi Master Dayton,

    I came across your blog quite by accident - I was actually seeking out some tips on improving income stream at Helium, but this has helped tremendously. Thanks for sharing your realistic earnings too - it gave me an idea of what to expect if I continue to plug for the passive income :)

    Thanks again,


  5. Master Dayton,
    You are making the world a better place.

    I am just getting started, with circumstances similar to the ones that have made you the Master you are!!

    Please forgive my uneducated questions...

    As a beginning freelance writer, contemplating the advice of Keyword Academy --is the first step writing several articles to upload (even unpublished), or publishing several articles before creating a site? Is there a minimum number of articles, pulished or unpublished, or any other sort of writing or professional accomplishments that comes to mind, or any minimum of market based criteria, for freelancers to be considered considered koshe to be taken seriously, at an individual site?

    I understand the clear benefit of having a site, and word driven searches, but wonder how much writing/reputation needs to be in the can for the kind of support such as Keyword to work.

    Any of your feedback would be much appreciated,Master... ! You take care.


  6. Master Dayton,
    You are a ray of light for beginning freelancers. Thank you for all of your insight and shared experience.

    I am just beginning, and I hope the basic level of my questions aren't too annoying.

    Is an arsenal of published (or nonpublished, for that matter) articles a prerequisite/recommendation in order to make use of Keyword Academy services? Should I start writing and then structure with Keyword, or does it matter?

    I've come across cute and inventive pen names, and of course, conventional. Would you ever publish at a serious site under anything but a conventional name?

    Many thanks for your wisdom, Master Dayton. Best wishes to you with everything!


  7. Kate,

    Thanks for the kind words - always appreciated. I'll try to answer your questions as best I can, though not all of them are clear cut. You can go either way with starting as a freelance writer: you can set up your own website with writing samples uploaded (and you always should have samples on your professional site). As for numbers, it helps to have URLs to point out or have writing credentials but at the end of the day the writing samples and writing on your website is most important. Writing is one of those fields where proven skill and ability far outweighs credentials and resume. If you're an exceptional writer and that shows through, then the rest doesn't really matter.

    Which also brings up another point I probably don't bring up enough - even experienced freelance writers need to keep working on their skills over time to keep honing and sharpening their abilities. If you're not making well over $20/hr or more, you still can improve.

    For pen names, I would generally use a normal one, or I often use my own name. As far as cute or unusual, I very rarely recommend this unless you're doing something less formal or it fits into a market - like sports blogging, video game blogging, or outdoors stuff. There a penname that's a little less professional makes sense, and even "Master Dayton" is what I used here because this was never meant to be a "look at me and hire me" type of freelance blog, though I have gotten work from here. It's a fun name, it gives the informal and fun atmosphere I wanted, and in the end if things took off it's pretty marketable. So even when it's a "fun" name I think very carefully about what to choose.

    As far as the Keyword Academy goes, there's no wrong answer. I know $33/month can be a huge cost to someone starting out, and I have enough bills to know it can be a lot even later on. If you're really short on income, there's nothing wrong with starting out writing 10-20 good blog posts and saving them, then posting them to a website when you're ready before joining the KWA. I know some friends who are really tight on budget and are writing blog posts and supportive backlink articles prior to joining since they might only have a few months to really stay with KWA if they don't get early results.

    The Keyword Academy is amazing for beginners and for experienced Internet Marketers, in my opinion, and is the single best program out there. You get tools, searching, great forums and webinars, and they're always adding more great stuff. Building a solid money making website has become much easier since they've been around, IMO.

    Anytime you're building your own site, it's going to take time and effort. As for how long before the Keyword Academy is helpful, that's tough to say and depends on what you mean. I think they're extremely helpful and useful from day one, but if you mean how long until you see the tangible effects, that's hard to say and depends on the niche, the site, and many other factors.

    Hope that helps. Feel free to ask any more questions you might have and I'll do my best to answer.