"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!