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So you want to be a writer, huh?

I’ll be honest with you – it isn’t easy. It took me years of work and learning the hard way from multiple mistakes before I hit some semblance of a stride. Split infinitives and post-colon capitalization lurk in my peripheral vision, and spellcheck saves me a minimum of a dozen times an hour, even a decade after I first got the notion to do this for a living. I’m a good writer – an imperfect one, perhaps, but halfway decent if a bucketful of happy clients is any indication. You can be too, if you’re willing to work at it a little and keep persistence as a constant goal.

I started The Freelance Writer Guide to…

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Using “Yes, and” to Drum Up Freelance Writing Gigs

While I’m fairly terrible at improvisational comedy (shoutout to the Improv Jam troupe in Red Bank NJ, who know firsthand), there’s a rule of thumb that has done me immeasurable good throughout my professional life – the “Yes, and…” concept.

Essentially, when you are improvising, you want to initially agree to what the other party / parties in your scene state as fact in order to establish the scene. For example:

rave_grandma

WITHOUT “Yes, and…”

Person A: It’s so good to see you, “Grandma” – I’m glad you could come to the rave!
Person B: What are you talking about? I’m not Grandma, I’m your coworker and we’re at the office!

(The scene gets confusing and awkward as the parties try to recover and agree.)

WITH “Yes, and…”

Person A: It’s so good to see you, “Grandma” – I’m glad you could come to the rave!

Person B: You’re darn tootin’ little bobby! Now hand me my glowstick knitting needles and let’s get krunked!

(The scene progresses organically.)

In the second scenario, the “Grandma” agreed that they were, in fact, grandma and that the setting was a rave party. The “and” came as Person B assigned Person A a logical identity (“little bobby”) and made supporting references both to the rave and “Grandmas” age with a knitting needle joke and slang. This was the “and” part of “Yes, and…” – Person B helped the scene move forward and empowered their scene partner with information.

Okay, But What About Freelancing?

Your client(s) hire you to do a specific job the majority of the time – and, as any freelancer can tell you, a great deal of mill site gigs are one-offs. We accept, we write, we submit, get paid and then we never see that client again. It doesn’t have to be that way. The “Yes, and…” concept encourages freelancers to suggest additional topics, discuss future potential needs that align with their writing capabilities, and in general to treat the client as an open conversation, rather than a “delivered letter.”

Are there Drawbacks to “Yes, and…” ?

Freelancing itself is a gamble, and yes, you will run the risk that they’ll take your ideas and make off with them. However, a few ideas off the top of your head shouldn’t be half a novel, nor take more than a handful of minutes to conceptualize and present. If you get one job out of 4, it’s still one more job than you had before! And unlike certain *ahem* writing sites that demand you work for free, it’s entirely up to you whether or not to pursue “Yes, and…” with a given client. Listen to your gut, here. If a client seems pushy or unrealistic and doesn’t pay well, or if they try to lowball you on a bid, that’s not a professional relationship, they’re just waiting for the right moment to take advantage of you. Good clients – the ones worth pursuing and building on – pay you a fair wage and have realistic expectations for project facets like turnaround time and work volume. Save your “Yes, and…” effort for them.

One of my best “Yes, and…” nudges turned into a client I’ve been working with steadily for two years. She pays what amounts to half of my rent each month, and it all happened because I made a few suggestions and offered to deliver content on a regular basis. Remember, there is value in a cohesive tone for a corporate blog or regular social media posts – use that as a bargaining chip when making your “Yes, and…” proposition. They might be able to get similar work elsewhere, and maybe even cheaper, but if you’ve honed your writing correctly, no new writer can ever match your tone exactly.

Good luck out there, fellow writers! Improvise your way to greatness and a bank account that eats your bills, rather than the other way around.😉

 

 

The Ethics of Freelancing

Part of the reason I love freelancing so much is that I never know what the day’s work is going to bring to my desk. Constantly researching topics, looking for new angles, and pitching ideas keeps my mind active and curious, and makes interesting party conversation infinitely easier. There are some writing topics that I’m just not interested in, but there are also writing topics that I think freelance writers should be honor-bound not to touch.

I won’t be a hypocrite here – there has been a time or two in my career that I’ve written a Shakespeare essay or a similar piece of literary analysis that I was pretty darn sure was destined to carry a lazy or overworked student’s name. I made a rule for myself early on, however – never touch the life-or-death stuff. I won’t write false reviews or unsubstantiated claims about medications or supplements, and I won’t give medical or legal advice in my writing that isn’t fairly common knowledge, and vetted.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the work isn’t out there. Take a peek below at a job I recently spotted on a board.

screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-1-44-32-pm

This looks to be a pretty basic walkthrough for a nurse-in-training, and it’s part of an established curriculum, if this Chegg “homework help” page is any indication. This is not the kind of education that someone responsible for medical care should be shrugging off.

While it’s up to each individual freelancer to make judgment calls on what he or she will work on, this is the kind of “opportunity” I condemn and caution against with the strongest terms possible. Keep an eye out, and always consider the deeper ramifications of your actions – our words have the power to inspire, create, sell and comfort, and, as the web-slinger himself once put it…

with-great-power-comes-great-responsibility-spider-man

The Latest (Bad) News on Zerys

I know that some of my readers may wonder why I’m devoting so many blog posts to a site that banned and blocked me for my opinion. I would point to my unusually high number of new blog followers, comments and likes on my Zerys posts as proof that there’s clearly a large audience that wants to talk about their frustrations there, but can’t due to forum censorship.

As I mentioned on a previous blog post about Zerys practices, I have an ex that I’m still friendly with that keeps me updated on some of the craziness going on over there. He was researching approval times recently and came across this admin forum post from last month:

zerys_post

“We understand the desire to know where you stand with every job off the New Clients Job Board. Writers have a right to know one way or the other whether a buyer will add him/her to their writing team, and also whether they have chosen to purchase the initial piece or not.

For all other regular assignments to Favorite Writers, if the client doesn’t review the piece in time, we can auto-approve the piece because the client has already added that writer to their team, and there is some likelihood that the client would approve the content anyways since its from one of their favorite writers.

For initial New Client jobs, however, there is a unique challenge when it comes to auto-approval. We cannot force the client to like a writer, and we cannot force them to purchase a piece that was primarily designed to review a writer’s ability. The reason clients don’t have a review deadline on New Client Jobs is because these are not final, publishable pieces of content, but rather, these are jobs designed to help them identify writers they like, and want to add to their team.

All this being said, the great majority of New Client Jobs are reviewed within the 7-day window, so we are not finding this to be a major issue at thie point. We will, however, continue to watch it closely.”

There are several problems here – notably that “great majority” isn’t qualified – and even then, numbers don’t always work favorably in Zerys’ PR history, as we learned after the announcement that 60% of Zerys clients are not paying for their “samples.” Secondly, and admittedly this is anecdotal, but several writers I know have admitted that their samples sit for weeks, with some still languishing in queue from back during the initial shift to writing for free – excuse me, providing “custom” writing samples –  on the platform, months ago.

So, to recap, in order to get jobs from any new client on Zerys, you’ll need to:

1.) Write a 250 word article for free, knowing that 60% of these samples, by Zerys own admission, will never earn a penny.

2.) Wait for an indeterminate period of time, which is entirely up to the client, in the hopes that you’re one of the “lucky” 40% that actually gets paid for your work.

3.) Keep your work in limbo indefinitely, unable to repackage or sell it, because you’ve essentially created Schrodinger’s Article, which the client can buy at any point in time and lock down a copyright for.

This is what #FreelanceIsntFree is pushing for, my writing readers. These expectations and edicts are a slippery slope that devalues our hard-earned craft and makes new writers feel as if they’re not legitimate until they work for free.

You are worth more than that. Never forget that your work is worth paying for!

 

Debunking a Craigslist Writing Scam

Red warning triangle with the word scam in red on the left sloped side, and the word Alert! in black on the right sloped side. In the center of the triangle is a red police-like bubble light with the word scam in black beneath it.

WritingLeads.Info is a Craigslist Scammer!

When you’re trying to become or living as a full time freelancer, hustling is always on your to-do list. Hunting for new work, marketing yourself and following up on leads is as important as writing itself, if you want to keep a steady flow of work coming in. Craigslist, a popular nationwide classified ads-style website, has job listings for those brave enough to look. Their typical 9-to-5 job listings are often scams for non-existent postions, designed to pull in resumes to cull for nefarious purposes like identity theft. But, you may be asking, are Craigslist writing ads a scam too?

Mostly, yes. There are a few exceptions, such as local ad agencies listing a position with a local number, but by and large they’re out to get your money or your info. Here’s an example, including my extremely thorough debunking of the supposed writing site, a writingleads.info scam:


From Tom Wilson ( WritingLeads@gmail.com ):

Good morning Delany! This is a great opportunity. How this works is you sign up and complete the application process, look over what types of writings that different companies want, write them, submit them and get paid. It’s a great way to make some extra cash.  You get what you put into it. If you are a decent writer there is really good money to be made. You probably won’t become rich but if you like to write, you might like this!  Good luck! (link)
Tom


My Response:

Tom;

Ten years in the business means I know a thing or two about legitimacy. No real job makes you pay – either now or later – for the privilege of working for them, and that’s precisely why a “7 day trial” is a massive red flag. I actually own and operate a popular how-to-freelance blog that tells people where to go to earn money writing, and I do it for the good of the community because I don’t charge a dime.
Let me guess, you probably set a bot to scrape writing listings off of free, public-facing sites and stick it in your haphazard framework, right? With no filter for which jobs will take beginners and which require actual experience in the industry? No floor to how little the listings are charging, and no filter to keep the scam jobs that are even worse than yours off the site? No methodology to find and remove jobs that have been filled?

We both know what your site is. Shame on you for wasting people’s time with a scam. You’ve been flagged and your site is being added to my scam page on the FreelanceWriterGuide. Go find some legitimate work and stop trying to make a living charging people for free information.


From Tom Wilson ( WritingLeads@gmail.com ):

Hi Delany, I do online marketing for them. I have had people who signed up and tell me they really like it. I don’t work for them. I realize it’s not for everyone, but some people do like it. It saves a ton of time for looking for the paying gigs. Thanks for flagging it, appreciate it, especially when you have no idea what it is. A true hero to the people looking for paying gigs.
Good for you.
Tom


My Response:
Okay, Tom. Let’s chat about your super legitimate site, shall we? I know exactly “what it is” – and the fact that you fall back so readily on sarcasm tells me that I’m definitely not the first professional to call you out on the carpet.

What are the odds that all of the “writers” featured in your success stories would ALL join the same shady-looking fat loss program?

It’s interesting that literally the only. place. these. “writers“. use their professional headshots. is in your network of websites. Oh, wait…I’m sorry, I spoke too soon! Apparently, “Mabel Curtis of Australia” is incognito as Jennifer Bergman, American Wedding Photographer – I guess she didn’t want people to know about her salacious life writing articles for money. Oh, and this isn’t Anton Diaz – this is the husband of actual food blogger Susan Thye – this is the Anton Diaz your site likely trying to impersonate and commit fraud with. Oops, I mean “quote.” Don’t worry, I’ve taken the liberty of contacting both of them to let them know about this little mixup.

Apparently I’m not the only one to see through the obnoxious auto-play marketing audio and landing pages full of unsubstantiated fluff – this guy looked into it, as did this one, among others. “Glen Anderson” doesn’t exist anywhere that he should, including LinkedIn, for purportedly running a company that boasts I could pull a $14,000 A MONTH payday if I only fork over $47. Eight million alleged dollars in payouts to freelancers and yet no one’s ever heard of him? His signature is a font, for gods’ sakes. The Freelancers Union has no idea who he is, what your company is, and actively cautions freelancers not to ever pay money for access to jobs.

And actually, I am a hero to people looking for paying gigs. People have told me that, verbatim, because I have integrity and don’t need to trick people into auto-pay scams to keep my lights on.

Do what you want to do with your life man, but at least be honest with yourself about what you’re doing.


From Tom Wilson ( WritingLeads@gmail.com ):

Sorry, but this is news to me. I should look more carefully into the companies I do online marketing for.
Tom


Now, dear readers, it’s anyone’s guess if “Tom” was being sincere in his last message, but you can see how easily I picked apart his scam website with a little “search Google for this image” magic.
Was I snarkier than I needed to be here? Sure, I’ll be the first to admit it. I’m just sick and tired of people like this giving my industry – and my peers – a bad name to make a few bucks on a scam. Rest assured I will continue to call out this garbage everywhere I see it, but you need to do your part too: make sure you report or turn in everyone attempting to usher people to a site like this. This came from an innocent-looking Craigslist ad that claimed the poster just needed a writer for a few articles. If your response gets an auto-reply or a scammy ad push like mine did, flag that post without a second thought!

Zerys: Freelancing’s Sinking Ship

Sunk_Boat

Longtime readers (hey guys!) will know there is zero love lost between myself and the Zerys / Interact writing platform. I’ve criticized their slapdash, poorly-designed UI, I’ve removed them from my list of trusted freelance sites, and only a few months ago, I was banned and blocked without warning or notice for speaking up on my own blog – while I was owed money that was never paid to me, no less.

I do not weep for missing out on a few pages of crap orders that pay 7/10ths of a cent per word, but I do consider myself a fairly vocal proponent of the Freelance Isn’t Free movement. Zerys recent “improvements” for my fellow writers have required that writers start providing free 250 word articles for potential clients to read and consider before maybe hiring them.

The only balm offered to writers was that clients did have the ability to pay for that sample, should they so choose, and that “nice hints” (direct quote from the website operator, by the way) were left to encourage them along that path. Additionally, it was also framed as being better than the “old way” in which clients could – and still could, by the way – outright refuse an article written because they simply didn’t want it anymore, or selected another writer’s take on it. I don’t really understand how pointing out how terrible your system not only was, but still is, benefits writers.

Recently, a fella I used to date sent me an incredulous email with a post from Zerys forums. I don’t know if they think willful arrogance and transparent spin is de rigeur due to certain political campaigns lately, but let me be the first to say in a non-censored forum: it ain’t, guys. This is appalling, and it should be a source for shame, not pride. If you read between the poorly-presented mathematical lines here, it’s a statement that 60% of clients are NOT paying for their samples. That means the literal majority of Zerys clients are not paying for the mandatory 250 word samples and Zerys is actually bragging about that.

Read for yourself below. When I talk about freelancers getting taken advantage of, when I speak about the reasons I started the FreelanceWriterGuide in the first place, this is what I’m talking about. Zerys is making a mockery of everything freelancing represents, and I’m not going to let them lead newbies into thinking this is the norm. #FreelancingIsntFree guys. Ever.

***

Hi everyone
As you all know, we made some significant changes to how Zerys clients go about searching for and identifying new writers to add to their writing team. Now that the new system has been in place several months, we wanted to share some interesting data:
Out of the thousands of documents that have been posted to the New Clients Job Board since the new changes were implemented, here’s a breakdown of the review actions taken by Zerys clients:

– About 40% of the time, the client chose to add the writer to their Favorite Writer’s List AND pay the writer for the sample

– About 30% of the time, the client chose to add the writer to their Favorite Writer’s List but not pay the writer for the sample

      (So, this means that about 70% of the time the client chose to add the writer to their Favorite Writer’s List)

– About 30% of the time, the client chose to not add writer to team (and not pay for sample)
(Remember, these are only figures for NEW CLIENTS JOBS). The approval rate and payment rate for Direct Assign jobs are around 95%).
We know there was a big concern that this new system would result in writers never being paid for their time spent doing these initial samples for new clients. While clearly this is happening some of the time, its not the most common result. Since clients are “trying out” new writers, one would expect that some of the time, the client will not like the sample piece, or will decide that a certain writer is just not the right fit. We believe 30% is a reasonable percentage to expect this to happen.
Keep in mind that since these initial jobs are only 250 words, they generally will take less time to write than the much longer jobs that were being posted before (and still had the same chance of not getting paid). Subsequently, the earning potential is fairly low as well. So, while its nice getting paid a few dollars to write a few paragraphs, it is much more important that you get added to the writers Favorite Writer so you have the potential to get a steady supply of work and earn much more for months or years to come from that buyer.
So, while we’re happy to see that 40% of the time writers are being paid for the sample, we’re even happier to see that 70% of the time, writers are getting added to the client’s favorites list. (You may not see orders right away from new clients that add you to their list. We often see clients pick one primary writer, but many months later, they now need a new or additional writer, so they start using their “backup” favorite writers. So hang in there!)
Anyways, just wanted to share the data. Obviously, the percentages above reflect an average across all clients and writers. We know of many writers who have MUCH higher precentages when it comes to getting added and paid for samples – and vice versa. In the end, just keep taking as many new client jobs as you can. Keep submitting your best quality work… and have faith that in the long run, you will start seeing your amount of work increase and overall income increase over time.
Thanks for all your support and hard work during these important changes
Hi everyone
As you all know, we made some significant changes to how Zerys clients go about searching for and identifying new writers to add to their writing team. Now that the new system has been in place several months, we wanted to share some interesting data:
Out of the thousands of documents that have been posted to the New Clients Job Board since the new changes were implemented, here’s a breakdown of the review actions taken by Zerys clients:

– About 40% of the time, the client chose to add the writer to their Favorite Writer’s List AND pay the writer for the sample

– About 30% of the time, the client chose to add the writer to their Favorite Writer’s List but not pay the writer for the sample

      (So, this means that about 70% of the time the client chose to add the writer to their Favorite Writer’s List)

– About 30% of the time, the client chose to not add writer to team (and not pay for sample)
(Remember, these are only figures for NEW CLIENTS JOBS). The approval rate and payment rate for Direct Assign jobs are around 95%).
We know there was a big concern that this new system would result in writers never being paid for their time spent doing these initial samples for new clients. While clearly this is happening some of the time, its not the most common result. Since clients are “trying out” new writers, one would expect that some of the time, the client will not like the sample piece, or will decide that a certain writer is just not the right fit. We believe 30% is a reasonable percentage to expect this to happen.
Keep in mind that since these initial jobs are only 250 words, they generally will take less time to write than the much longer jobs that were being posted before (and still had the same chance of not getting paid). Subsequently, the earning potential is fairly low as well. So, while its nice getting paid a few dollars to write a few paragraphs, it is much more important that you get added to the writers Favorite Writer so you have the potential to get a steady supply of work and earn much more for months or years to come from that buyer.
So, while we’re happy to see that 40% of the time writers are being paid for the sample, we’re even happier to see that 70% of the time, writers are getting added to the client’s favorites list. (You may not see orders right away from new clients that add you to their list. We often see clients pick one primary writer, but many months later, they now need a new or additional writer, so they start using their “backup” favorite writers. So hang in there!)
Anyways, just wanted to share the data. Obviously, the percentages above reflect an average across all clients and writers. We know of many writers who have MUCH higher precentages when it comes to getting added and paid for samples – and vice versa. In the end, just keep taking as many new client jobs as you can. Keep submitting your best quality work… and have faith that in the long run, you will start seeing your amount of work increase and overall income increase over time.
Thanks for all your support and hard work during these important changes

***

#Nope.