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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

How to Know You Need a Bigger Shovel

Spotting the Bad Job Listings

Sometimes, they just make it easy for you. There's the ad that offers you a whopping $4 an article or the one that will pay you $200 to edit a 50,000-word book. But sometimes the lousy job listings aren't so easy to spot. Unless, that is, you speak bullsh$t and can see them a mile away. If you can't, consider yourself lucky. You haven't been burned yet (or often enough). For those of us who have lived and learned, we can tell you what to look for.

"Students encouraged to apply." Nothing says "This is a crap job paying dirt wages" more than one that solicits to the college (or even high school) student. For who might be hungry enough/gullible enough to be underpaid than a student with mounting student loans? Any job that uses the word "student" in the same breath as "job" is a low-paying job that even self-respecting students should avoid. You're worth more than that, even if they seem to think you're not.

"It's an easy job for the right person." Translation: "We're paying you for one hour of work at McDonald's wages, so you'd better be quick, thorough and quit yer bitchin'." This phrase is most often seen in an ad with long lists of requirements.

A long list of requirements you must meet. I've said it once and I'll say it again - the longer the list of requirements, the lower the pay. This is one of those phenomena that makes no sense - much like the black holes in space or the lack of gravitational pull on Pamela Anderson's upper torso. If they want a college degree and ten years of experience and even expertise in the subject matter, you're getting about 20 bucks an article.

"Work from home."Yea, this is just as bad as "students are encouraged to apply." For it's stating a benefit in return for grunt work. You get to stay at home! You don't have to leave the house! Aren't you grateful enough without pay?? No? That's because you're normal.

"Pay is a percentage of ad revenue." Let's see...1 percent of nothing is....hmmm...not such a good deal after all, eh? I've had ad revenue on this site and others for a year or more. My profit grand total to date? 56 cents. So if you were working for ad revenue and the site does about as much business as mine, you're getting a whopping .005 cents per year. Aren't you glad you agreed to that?

"At the moment, we aren't able to pay..." That's funny... at the moment I'm not able to work for free. NEXT!

"I don't have much to spend." And what do you expect to get? While your honesty is appreciated, it's no incentive for me to ignore higher-paying clients just because hey, you need help. I need help building bookshelves in my study, but somehow I don't think you'd be up to helping if I were giving you just 20 bucks for the job. Am I right?

"We need a number of freelance writers." Know what that means? Their writing budget is now stretched a number of times over. You're not going to get a fair wage from someone looking for multiple numbers of writers.

"Startup" That's the only word you need to send this flag flying. Having been involved in a number of startups that rarely launched completely, I can attest to the most common problems associated with them. Most often, it's lack of clear organization, lack of steady work, lack of ongoing work and the folding of the startup - hopefully after you get paid.

"You must be available during the hours of 9 am to 5 pm by email, phone and IM." This is not a sign of a low-paying job, but it's a crap job nonetheless. Why? Because here's a client who wants to treat you like a salaried employee, and wants to dictate the hours you must be available. That, my friends, is not a client. That's a tyrant who doesn't understand the definition of "freelance" versus "employee." Educate them, but don't work for them.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Job Listings - October 30,2007

Like the Rabbit in Alice's Tale

Yes, I'm late to the dance here today. Sorry. Too much going on this past week, including helping my oldest move to another state. You with small children cannot understand now (nor did I a few months ago) what it feels like when you see your kids leave. Yes, I sobbed. Yes, I survived. Luckily - or maybe not - the youngest left for college two months ago, spawning the first crying jag. I knew what was coming, which was good. When your first-born leaves, there's no hole bigger to fill.

But I'm filling it just fine. It took just a little pep talk from online chums to make me realize the new life ahead of me as "Retired Mom". I can take spontaneous trips out of town. I can go out at night without wondering who needs the car and who's going to be where. I can redecorate the rooms. And I can work as late as I want. The television? Mine! Muhahahaha! Yes, it's rather easy to see the benefits once the sadness lifts.

And if I work late, maybe some of these jobs would fill my time... (how's that for a transition?)

Freelance Writer/Editor (FOX News)
Freelance Writer
Academic Freelance Writer
Freelance Editor
Content Developers
Writer - Health Supplements
Business Reporter
Marketing Writer

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I'll Do it Myself

Cool Writers, Cool Ideas Series

It pays to follow links in other blogs. Once in a while you come upon a truly exceptional read and you want to share it. I happened upon the blog of Glenda Watson Hyatt, a writer who has published a book and has written numerous articles - all with the use of just one digit. I was halfway through her blog when I glanced over to the sidebar, only to learn that Glenda, who is a remarkable writer, has cerebral palsy, which has limited her to typing with her thumb. I dug deeper - Glenda is also nonverbal, but that doesn't even seem to matter, for she's got such a warm, conversational tone to her writing that you can hear her talking.

Her blog, aptly named Do It Myself, is one of the most inviting and personal blogs I've read in ages. I was thoroughly enjoying it for its warmth and humor. When I realized she wrote this with painstaking effort, I was in awe. Check it out. She's one cool writer.

Back from Hiatus

We just dragged our road-weary carcasses back to reality late yesterday, so forgive the lack of any real "useful" post today. It was a great trip. I can say that the time traveling goes by so much easier with an audiobook. We listened to Garrison Keillor's latest - Pontoon. Hysterical and heartwarming - I highly recommend it.

Back to work tomorrow. Today, I'm answering emails and making contacts with potential clients who got in touch while I was away. Back to business in full tomorrow. Sadly, my oldest is moving out - probably tomorrow or Friday - and I'll be devastated and trying really hard to keep my lower lip from quivering as he leaves. It's tough watching them go.

Tomorrow, I promise to focus on my Cool Writers series. Anne Wayman has some good company, as you'll see in the coming days. If you know of any writers who might qualify, please share their info with us!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Blip in the Radar

Sorry for my absence of late - we took a vacation and I've been gloriously out of both cell phone range and Internet access. While touring the east coast of North Carolina, I've found that there are still places on earth that don't necessarily need cell towers, nor do the inhabitants care if they have a wi-fi connection. The most enticing place was Ocracoke Island, which has both services, but only if you have a particular cell provider (not mine) and don't mind either A) waiting until 2 pm for the library's public hours (it's the school library for the first part of the day), or B) hanging out at Ocracoke Coffee Co. all day and night with your laptop (one guy was there hours after closing, sitting on the porch emitting an LCD glow...).

Sitting here in a hotel in more populated locations, I'm reminiscing a bit. One highlight has to be the Seahawk Motor Lodge in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. Think kitsch at its best - a two-story motel from the 1960s, left pretty much intact, but fancied up with parrot bedspreads and glossy aquarium-fish shower curtains. The front lawn, looking out into the sea, was littered with hammocks around the dunes, the requisite pool, and a number of gas grills for your culinary pleasure. I was smitten from the first glimpse. Finally - an inn with more than just "tastefully appointed" furnishings. This place has a real personality! Oh sure, it could be newer and cleaner, but both my husband and I were happy to stay there (and to pay a mere $75 for oceanfront views).

Since I'll be traveling tomorrow, I won't be able to provide you with the Tuesday job listings. But I'll be back on Wednesday, and I will continue the Neat Writers series. Talk with you then!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Vision Your Book

Cool Writers, Cool Ideas Series

Raise of hands - how many of you have a book idea or even a rough manuscript that you're just not finishing? Yea, I figured as much.

You're in luck. Anne Wayman has been offering Visioning teleclasses for a number of months now. Her method of tapping into spiritual side is unique and inspiring. Read about it here. What I love about this idea is Anne teaches you how to reach inside in order to find your inspiration and the ability to deliver your story. The questions Anne has you focus on will bring more clarity to your process and your story. Anne's well equipped to lead you through the visioning process - she's a meditation practitioner and an overall spiritual person. What's more, she's a talented writer.

Anne also offers a number of classes, such as Writing for Magazines. Check 'em out.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Job Listings - October 9, 2007

The Jobs You Wish You Could Take, But Not Really

As I cruise the job boards each week to bring you a smattering of listings, I often come across those that are insulting, weird, or just completely bizarre. This one transcends all categories and lands somewhere near Saturn or Jupiter:

"I’ve smoked enough peyote to know what works and what doesn’t. I’m a damn good bullshi**er and I have a fantastic idea that I know will be a smash hit, I just need someone with talent to help me. This idea is a sure thing. But ONLY if you do it. So…. give me a call and let’’’’’s set something up. - gray"

Not exactly sure what the topic is. And perhaps that's the point, eh? Or perhaps someone should put the pipe down and back away sloooowly....

Here are a few jobs that don't require recreational drugs (to my knowledge):

Car and Automotive Writer
Pet Mag Writer (low pay)
Fashion Writer
News Desk Manager (telecommute/high pay)
Freelance Publishing Writer
Outdoor Guidebook Writer
SEO Writer
Freelance Sports Writer

Monday, October 08, 2007

Clients: What to Expect from Your Writer/Editor

Sometimes the problems we have with clients comes from the expectations - what we deilver versus what they think we'll deliver. Nowhere is this more true than in the actual scope of work we deliver. Recently I had a conversation with a client in which he thought I was performing A function when it was stated in the contract and in conversation that B function was what he was getting.

So maybe it's time we include a "What to Expect" flyer to go along with our contracts. I'm not kidding - if we clear up now what our clients are getting for our fees, wouldn't that go a long way toward more harmonious working relationships?

So clients, here's what you'll get:

1. You will buy clearly defined work. If I say I'm writing your copy, that's what you get. You won't get extensive numbers of rewrites, refocuses or even editing. Writing. Period. I do my best to hand you copy that's clean and relatively easy to edit. I make no guarantees that edits won't be necessary.

2. Work will be delivered on time. This one's dependent on you, client. For I can't make my deadline if you miss yours. And you're going to have them. If I'm working for you, I'm working with you, too. That means any copy that needs approval will come to you before I move forward. That also means you have to be diligent enough to work quickly on and send any feedback to me within a few days at most.

3. Your voice - my focus. This one's a biggie for me. I will write your copy with your voice in mind. I do have a particular focus that I match to your personality and your vision of the project. For example, if you want an informal paper, I'm going to give you informal language in it. I will mirror your own speech pattern as closely as possible. So be certain of what you're asking for. It saves you both time and money. I'll do my best to interpret your needs, but I can't read your mind.

4. Editing will be done following my editing style. Did you know that if you run your story past five editors, you're going to get back five different versions of your story? That's because not all editors edit in the same way. See my previous post on editorial styles for more on that. But I will edit your work (if that's the reason you hired me) using my style, which is to choose the appropriate manual (Chicago, AP, etc) and to apply my own line-by-line edit, overall edits for content relevance and attention to transitions and points being made. What I won't do: edit to suit the style of everyone you've shown the story to. I won't waste my time or yours jumping through hoops because someone along the way didn't like the way I phrased something or thought serial commas should die a painful death. You're paying me. Trust me or let your "free" editors handle it.

5. You will get a finished product - not an entire suite of publishing and marketing services (unless agreed upon and paid for). Too often I finish writing the book, the article, the white paper only to hear "How do I get this published? Aren't you going to do that, too? I thought you were!" Uh uh. I write and I edit. Unless we have it written into the contract that I'm handling all functions of getting your product out to the consumer, my job ends at the delivery of the final manuscript. Understand I will have on hand some names of publishing houses and links to information on publishing, but I am not a publicist or a book packager. I'll cheer you on, but that's always been a freebie. :)

Friday, October 05, 2007

Writer's Rates

Thanks again to Anne Wayman's forum for another lively discussion about pay. This time, the discussion centers around how much you should expect to earn as a freelancer. Interesting topic, for there are as many right answers as there are writers, I suspect.

The original poster, Yuwanda Black of Inkwell Editorial, was offering her e-book on how to make $100 a day freelancing. Yet some believe that's too little. Working every weekday, that would amount to roughly $24K gross pay annually. Remember, that's before taxes and expenses. If this is a part-time gig, that may be enough for you. If that's full time, you're going to be in trouble, and I know Yuwanda agrees with that.

This is where we freelance writers need to get realistic. Without a clearly defined plan for how much we need to make and how much will disappear before we get to spend it, our freelance careers could end before they begin. I do believe that a gross of just under $24K is low, but Yuwanda makes a good argument for starting somewhere.

But it's not that tough to make more than that. Honestly, it's not. I make that with one client, but I still have other clients. And that's the key - you have to be able to secure clientele or your revenue stream will trickle like an Arizona creek in August. One of the posters on the discussion forum thought that $500 a day is a much better benchmark. I have to agree with that. If you're going at this full time, you need to think in bigger amounts. We all have the ups and downs in our workflows - I remember sitting for months with nothing before the work started rolling in. You can't rely on that $100 or even the $500 a day to be a guarantee.

This is the most cyclical job you will ever work. It's also the job you'll put the most sweat and effort into if you're going to survive.

What do you think?

Thursday, October 04, 2007


Over on Anne Wayman's forum, the discussion of whether a writer should take a writing test is making the rounds. Are we really expected to prove beyond our published work that we can write?

The answer - sometimes. While I don't believe a test will tell you any more about the work ethic of the writer than a tuneup of your car would tell you your IQ, there are some projects that are unique enough to warrant a small (and the operative word is "small") test of a writer's prowess in that area. A for-instance: Suppose you manage to get an interview from a client who writes about eye surgery techniques. What do you know about eye surgery? That's the question the client wants to know. Because of the specificity of the topic, it's well within the rights of the client to want to know if you, the writer, can handle it. Remember, this isn't a 2,000-word test. It should be small - 500 to 750 words - and show that you can manage the content and the delivery to that very specific audience. If your potential client is of the ethical variety, there's a good chance you'll be offered some form of payment for your troubles.

Mind you, not all "tests" are worth taking. A lot of clients toss a "test" at you without knowing how to handle what they see. If it's a general topic - brochure writing, website writing, etc. - your published clips should be enough. If not, feel free to turn down any test you feel isn't going to show the client any more than you've already proven through your clips. Better yet, agree, but agree with a small fee. (I've charged $50 for a small test, and I've flat-out refused to take long, involved tests.)

Some tests, in fact, are pseudo-tests. I remember one I was expected to take that was to test my editing skills. I was to edit a chapter of this person's book - not a deep edit, but an overview of my thoughts and how I would fix it. After talking with other writers, I realized each one received a different chapter to "edit" in the same way. That, folks, is a sleazy way of getting a freebie. Be aware that these people do troll the job boards frequently enough to hit the radar of savvy writers. I guess the payback for this "client" is the mishmash of a book that resulted from so many differing opinions.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Tagged, Ugh!

I shan't pass this meme on, but it's fun anyway. If you feel like repeating it on your blog, consider yourself tagged. :)

The Rules of this tag:

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
2. List eight (8) random facts about yourself.
3. Tag eight people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them).
4. Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving them a comment on their blogs.

So here are eight things about me:

1. I love to fish. Love it. Love catching bass and pike. Won't keep 'em. Catch and release.

2. I love to cook. It's something I picked up in the last year and thankfully, I don't suck at it.

3. I am a vegetarian, but I suffer from a strange craving - it's a hot dog with sauerkraut, ketchup and mustard.

4. I tutor foreigners in English. For free.

5. I hate the word "bulghur".

6. I saw Santana in concert and LOVED him.

7. I saw Rascal Flatts in concert and yes, I loved them, too.

8. I'm Irish with a dash of Scottish and a pinch of German.

Interview with Writer Emily Winslow

There's no better advice to follow than that of a writer who is at the top of her game. Emily Winslow is one of those writers. Emily, an agented writer living in Cambridge (US is home for Emily) recently talked with Kristen King and gave Kristen her insights on book publishing, "agenting up" and how she turned a passionate topic into a marketable book. Emily's story is quite intriguing, and when she moved to Cambridge, she looked at it as an advantage and centered her writing around her new home. Not an easy task, but I suspect Emily's capable of nearly anything. One thing to note - Emily says she's not a trained writer, yet here she is on the verge of selling her novel. That in itself is proof that talent wins out over schooling, and that tenacity goes far. So for those of you sitting there thinking you're not able to write for whatever piece of paper is missing in your life, think again.

Kudos to Kristen for sharing Emily's story with us! And thanks to Emily for her insights and tips. Read the story here. That Kristen was Emily's editor surprises me none. It's apparent Emily saw what we all see in Kristen - incredible talent.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Job Listings - October 2, 2007

A Matter of Style
When I worked on staff and I suddenly found myself to be the only staff member left, I enlisted the aid of the sister publication's editorial staff. It was a lesson in just how different our styles can be. One editor was a hard-core grammar stickler. Another was a line editor who looked deep for the meaning of each sentence. Yet another liked to reword nearly everything with no real improvement in the copy.

So when I was let go recently by a client who'd found someone else to edit his work, I was only slightly surprised by it. Not all editors can fit all needs, and it was becoming clear that we were missing that critical element in a client/editor relationship - total trust.

You're going to face it sometime, if you've not already. Your particular editorial style, while it's probably fine, is not going to be what your client needs or looks for. In fact, if you hand the same document to five different editors, you'll get five totally different versions returned to you.

There's no real way to avoid losing a client over an editorial style difference. And I don't really think you should avoid it - you are not going to be all things to all people. All you can do is let your client know how you operate - give him or her your typical work process.

Perhaps these clients will be over-the-moon when they see your style:

Freelance Radio Copywriter
NY magazine Freelancer
Automotive magazine Freelancer
Freelance Fashion Writer
Freelance Writer
NY Travel Guide Writer
Beauty Writer

Monday, October 01, 2007

Image is Everything

On the train this past week, I just happened to be sitting across from two chatty young women. In front of me for most of the trip was a woman who was taking pictures of the scenery outside. At some point in the trip, I looked up from my book when the two young ladies were making a fuss about someone taking their photo. I'd seen flashes, but had attributed it to the woman in front of me. However, she was no longer seated there. In her place was a man in his late fifties. I was looking straight ahead when I saw him lean over and take a photo of these girls.

The scene that followed was calmer than I figured. The girls looked shocked and said they couldn't believe he'd be so inappropriate as to take their photos. The man then said, "Would you like to be in the Smithsonian?" That's when the one of the girls said, "No, I'd like you to stop taking our photo. It's completely inappropriate." He then claimed to be a photojournalist from Smithsonian Magazine and he would like them to let him take more photos. The braver of the two women said, "No, and I want you to get rid of those photos." To which the man replied, "Sure. What's your address? I'll send them to you."

At that point, I motioned for them to follow me to the back of the car. I told them the man was clearly unbalanced and they should move to avoid his harassment. They did, but apparently they told the porters, who in turn came and confiscated the man's camera. He fussed about how he was well within his rights as a photojournalist to take their photo. Only trouble was his photographic "equipment" was a store-brand disposable camera, and he hadn't even considered that he might need their permission to take the photo and he'd need a release form in order to publish it.

Lechery aside, what's your image these days? Are you working with the right equipment? Or are you, like our misguided man of questionable mental faculty, working without a net?
Words on the Page