"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, August 7, 2012

2,522 Words on How to Fail as a Freelance Writer (and Blogger)

When September’s blog post about times changing came up last year, I never dreamed I would then go six (oops I guess now it’s 9 – brings the point home though) months without a single post on a blog that has been my passion, my stress relief, and a really devoted project of mine for years.  People who’ve followed me know even when I’m “slow” – that means 1-2 posts a month.  Until I disappeared.  Letting the inner nerd of me out I’ll go to Monty Python to assure everyone “I’m not dead yet.”  Although I’ve certainly failed badly in keeping the blog up and in even getting around to any “coming soon” update.  Even with the soon to be mentioned in this post updates, a lot of those actions I meant to have happen months ago.

I’m not dead yet – so where have I been?
But sometimes life gets in the way, sometimes you burn out, and sometimes it’s just time to hit the reset button and be done with it.  And sometimes you breakdown at the worst time and are left with a mess to deal with in the aftermath.  All of these combined only start to scratch the surface of what’s been going on, and unfortunately even after all of that I can’t honestly say I’ve had “time off.”  But it’s time for a change and time to return to my passions, and I always did love this blog and all the amazing people I’ve been able to meet, talk to, and help out along the way.  This is something that needs to come back as a major part of my life again.

The last post even mentioned this in detail, and although there’s been a mess of personal, financial, and other situations between then and now, it’s finally time to just put that all behind and get kicking again.  I’m really invigorated and finding my passion again, and I want the help given out by Master Dayton to be a part of that.

So where is this freelance blog going?
So here’s the long post – probably the final super long post on the blogspot blog although I will have smaller updates here always pointing out when things are going on or when there’s a new post at the other blog.  The kick-off of masterdayton.com also comes with some really cool announcements, but we’re about a week or two away from that.  However the majority of strong future posts will be at that new site and I want to encourage everyone who wants to continue along for the ride to sign up on the e-mail list, which will be getting really active in a very short time.

So before going on to my new thoughts, the changes on the landscape, and what you can expect with a whirlwind of activity here in the next few months I want to focus on the title of this post:

“How to fail as a freelance writer and blogger” 

This blog was never supposed to have more than a month without a post, and I certainly never intended to disappear for now going on 8 plus months.  In fact there are several discarded drafts of Master Dayton blog posts that were started and then abandoned on the way and never made it to the next publishing cycle.  Some of what’s happened can be traced to recent changes with Google updates and major freelance website writing changes, while a lot of it goes from a ridiculously tumultuous year for me personally, emotionally, financially, and basically every “-lly” out there you can imagine that can turn your life upside down in an instant.  Mix them all together and here’s where it all happened.  Just even when I thought life was getting back to something even remotely akin to normal – this post has taken several months to put together.  Not a good sign – except by the time you read this it’s been published and that means progress has been made and it’s moving forward.

So getting back to the first point of this really long post – how do you fail at freelance writing blogging or any type of blogging for that matter?  For me there are 10 main points I can grab from my own personal experience (guess I should have SEO’ed the title to 10 ways to fail at blogging, huh?) and hopefully you all find these points helpful.  Another great blog post on the subject you can find from Chris Deline, who used to run the music blog “Culture Bully” (I know – great name, isn’t it?) and you can find that URL at http://chrisdeline.com/portfolio/how-to-market-your-music-online.

#1 Freelance blogging failure: Getting away from your original passion
This is a huge one and one that really affects a lot of bloggers at one point or another.  This might sound weird: does that mean I no longer love freelance writing?  Well that wasn’t the original point of my writing blog.  The idea of passive or relatively passive income is still a passion, but I also never hid that I was a creative writer first and fell into the freelance writing back in 2006 after a 2005 car accident on my birthday (see my how I became a freelance writer post for this one) and went on from then. 

But my passion with this blog was helping others get started from scratch.  Whether it was a college student making a part time income to prepare for after graduation, someone on disability who just needed a little more to get by, a long time unemployed person looking for anything to make ends meet, or a writer who had no idea where to start – these were people I understood and whom I felt I could help.  That was the thing that was really cool.  Interacting with other people, helping them get started or finding a new source of income, the really neat comments and encouraging e-mails.  Helping others was great: but then as I wondered about keywords and SEO or social function or marketing versus writing and whether or not I was getting too advanced in lessons, eventually it just became frustrating and another chore I had to do versus something I looked forward to all week.

In the end, I need to get back to what I’m most passionate about: helping others.  It’s been years since I’ve been a true start from scratch beginner.  Hopefully some of the old posts are helpful (although the days of eHow, Demand Studios, and Associated Content are long gone, among many others) but it’s not an area that really gives me the same passion because I’m so far removed.   However basic freelance writing advice is always a good thing, and some of the base tenants always apply.  So the fix to this is simple: go with the passion.  If right now that’s Kindle, re-evaluating Amazon associates and advanced writing tips to get up to $30 a page or more, that’s what I’m going to write about.

#2 Freelance blogging failure: Stretching yourself too thin
This is one that really killed me and one that I am ridiculously susceptible to.  Part of the reason is that I’m easily distracted and I’ve never been the type who can focus on one single project for a couple hours at a time.  This means that it’s natural for me to juggle three, four, or more projects at once.  This isn’t bad in and of itself but let’s take a look at this old list of what I was doing at one point: eHow articles, HubPages, Squidoo lenses, daily Demand Studios articles, daily writing for Constant-Content, Associated Content articles, Austin client weekly reports, Iowa City client weekly articles, Guru.com 5-15 projects per week, Elance projects, my own e-books and content for 25+ blogs and websites.  Try fitting all of that into a weekly schedule.  It doesn’t take long to realize, that was not sustainable.

Now being diversified isn’t bad at all.  In fact, I highly recommend that.  However there is such a thing as going too far and I can write an entire book about this.  Well I’m on Kindle now (as of this publishing it’s my first fiction Kindle book, but many non-fiction reports and books on freelance writing will be coming up in the future, as well)  so maybe I will.  The point is I should have concentrated on the three or four sources of income that were best for me now, and one or two with the long term in the future.  There was no denying some of these sources of income had far more potential than others – and I failed to fully take advantage of that at the time. 

Not only do I get to dream of missed $20-30k buyouts, but also being too spread out meant I didn’t see the results as quickly as I wanted, especially for long term projects, but there were times I had to work on short term income when I wanted to go on a roll for long term projects.  Being more focused instead of stretching in 100 new directions would have helped me out immensely.  Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, but don’t make the opposite mistake, either.

#3 Freelance blogging failure: Spend too little time on long term projects
If you’re building big sites long term for Amazon Associates or AdSense funding, or even a passion site you want to turn into a business – these are long term projects because you’re not going to do it overnight.  Likewise there’s nothing wrong with getting started with Guru.com, Elance.com, or $9-$15 an article content mills found around online.  However, you always want to spend 10-20% of your time a week on long term projects whether it’s residual income or cold calling local businesses to build simple WordPress blogs and maintain them or finding the high end clients who pay $30 or more a page.  I understand having to pay rent, but don’t sacrifice the long term.

#4 Freelance blogging failure: Fail to adapt
I’ve been freelance writing since January of 2006 but this blog didn’t come into existence until September 2008.  Doesn’t seem like it was that long ago, but the online writing world has changed.  Back then Squidoo was slapped while HubPages and eHow gave a quick way to rank articles and build up massive passive income.  Now many Squidoo veterans are fine or doing better than ever while HubPages died and then is showing some minor signs of life and eHow isn’t open to writers anymore.  Many of the best content mills from back then are gone, and Google’s updates have hammered thousands of marketers while pushing up established brands.  On the other hand, there’s never been a better time to find independent clients who are willing to pay high dollar amounts for high quality work.  I needed to adapt more with this blog and stop forcing everything to be “for beginners” or “for part-timers.”  Things evolve and change – this isn’t a bad thing.  The 2008 plan won’t work in 2012.  Time to keep moving on.

#5 Freelance blogging failure: Start without a plan, continue without a plan
This one is pretty self-explanatory.  It’s not something that is necessary if you’re working on a personal site or blog but for a blog you want to stick with or one you want to build into something it is important.  The plan doesn’t have to be exact or precise or x number of points, but you want at least an idea of where you are, where you’re going, and where you want to end up.

#6 Freelance blogging failure: Never take time off
No matter how passionate you are or how much of a workhorse you are, sometimes you just need a little bit of time off.  If you don’t – then expect burnout.  That’s what happened to me with the Master Dayton blogspot blog, was burnout.  Burnout comes from a wide variety of sources, but not taking time off for yourself now and then is a disaster waiting to happen.  This can also result as part of the next one.

#7 Freelance blogging failure: Let your personal life sink you
This one is pretty self-explanatory.  Nothing you do is stuck in a vacuum.  So don’t pretend it does, and take time to yourself when you need it but remember that sometimes work and projects can be a stabilizing force for you instead of another stack of worries when you have already too much on your shoulders.  This is good for life anyway, and the rest goes beyond the scope of this blog post.  There’s always reason to take care of business and push forward.  Like that motto for Britain during WWII: Keep Calm and Carry On.  It’s good advice for blogging whether about freelance writing or something else completely.

#8 Freelance blogging failure: Worry about what others think
You are always going to have detractors.  And Internet comment trolls.  Or well-meaning people who still are going to discourage you or want you to go in a different direction or forget that online stuff or blah, blah, blah.  Basically you need to stay passionate and in love with what you’re doing.  If you’re going to do that, then you are going to be happier, more fulfilled by what you’re doing, and less likely to burn out than if you don’t.  Advice from other bloggers or writers can be a good thing and by all means, enjoy the community you build – but you have to be who you are.  Don’t worry about what others think. 

#9 Freelance blogging failure: Get exasperated
This goes along with burn out and worrying what others think.  If a post doesn’t seem to be working then shelve it and go on to the next one.  If your plan doesn’t seem to be inspiring you anymore or working the way you want it to then get a new plan.  Don’t get exasperated.  The frustration from getting exasperated just creates an albatross ten times larger than what the actual project is.  Exasperation is also an early sign of possibly burn out or that other issues are cropping up that need to be dealt with.  Getting exasperated I’ve found just doesn’t help writing, it doesn’t help building a business, it just doesn’t really help anything.

#10 Freelance blogging failure: Be afraid to try something new – or just be afraid
Fear is the opposite of success.  Sometimes you’ll screw up.  Sometimes you’ll do really well.  You might be surprised by what posts take off (I never expected my rant against a former professor to be one of my most popular posts), and which ones fizzle.  You may discover your natural voice, a new “online tone” that you fall in love with and readers react to – there’s

These are my ten ways to fail at freelance writing and blogging.  Part 2 of the original part of this article will be coming soon – and probably be one of the first features at my new Master Dayton website.

It’s good to be back.  Let’s see if we can finish 2012 strong!


  1. Welcome back! Although I am not a freelance writer (actually I'm not a writer at all), I enjoy reading your posts and wondered what might have happened during your long absence.

    You may ask, "Why would a non-writer read my blog"?

    There are a number of reasons:

    1. I read it because it is well-written.
    2. I read it because I find it interesting and informative.
    3. I read it because I am impressed by your compassion to reach out and help those who are where you used to be.
    4. I read it because what you share with your readers about the things you've learned, covers more than just the lessons of writing. It covers the lessons of life.

    So, be encouraged. There are those of us out here who silently read your posts, never commenting. We too are learning. Lessons you may not have known you were teaching.

    All the best to you in both your current and future endeavors.

    1. Hey Nicole, I really appreciate your kind words - thank you! It's always nice to know people are getting a lot from my writing, and to know I'm making a difference. Thanks again for your kind words!

  2. Welcome Back!!!!!!

    1. Thanks Prudence! It's good to get back into the writing groove once again!

  3. Hello

    I have actually never seen your blog before but stumbled across it today... And its probably the first thing Ive read today that has helped me with my recent decision to quit my 9-5 job that was making me miserable and sucking the life out of me and actually persue my passions.

    Im 5000 words into a novel and hit a wall with my working situation... Ive always been so afraid of not making enough of a living that I have done jobs I hate purely for money and it has not been much of a life. I am not at a point where with all my heart I know "fear is the opposite of success" and will no longer be fearful.

    Thank you for such an insightful post.


  4. Hi Clare,

    Thanks for the kind words. Yeah - I've had plenty of the soul crushing jobs in the past. In the long run they're just not worth it, especially if the stress leads to health problems. Getting over fear is a major thing, and the rewards in all parts of your life are great if you can do it!