Saturday, May 25, 2013

Never Turn Down a Job

I have a policy of never turning down a job if it is offered to me personally. Now some employers "invite" 100-700 people to apply for their jobs. I do not consider this a personal invitation, so I frequently will decline these. However, I always try to give the employer a note explaining why I am declining.

When a person sends me and only 10 other people an invitation, I frequently bid on these and if I am contacted personally through the messaging system on Guru, I definitely bid on it. I do not always get these jobs, but usually it comes down to a cost thing. If I am busy and they want it quickly, it will usually cost more than if I am available and they do not care how long I will take to do it.

Sometimes people will haggle with me to get my price down. These people are frequently from another country where this is a common factor. However, sometimes I have not understood the project. For example, one person wanted me to write a script about the negative effects of this comprehensive immigration bill that is before the Senate. I initially thought he wanted a 30 minute detailed movie and bid on it as such. He contacted me, though, and informed me he only wanted a 3 - 4 minute script for YouTube. Needless to say, my price dropped drastically, and I was hired.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Picking up a Day Job

The nicest thing about being a freelance writer is that I get to make my own schedule. If I find a good opportunity for temporary work, I can arrange my schedule to meet my needs. If I want to do volunteer work, again I can shift certain projects to other days and do the extra work. Last week, I found myself dressing the Broadway musical "Wicked" simply because one of the dressers broke her foot and I was able to go in on less than 24-hours notice and finish the week.

That said, it is very important to complete your projects on time. If you have bid for one month to complete a non-fiction book and you have to wait on interlibrary loan to get the books you need for research, always contact your employer in advance and explain the situation to them. Yes, this has happened to me, but thankfully it is not often. Most of the time, the employer is slow to fund SafePay or something along those lines and that slows the process down.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

My Technology Curse

So, my curse has returned. I published my series (Parts II through IV) on Freelance websites. I wanted these to be spread over a few days, since the inspiration for new posts strikes me sporadically, but I want to post regularly so you know when to expect a new post. However, despite that today is May 13th (the day I am writing this)and that I scheduled the post for May 21, it has already posted.

If you want to see this series in full, I began it May 5th. I would have finished it in the following week, but I got a little sidetracked. The last post was supposed to publish May 21st and is listed as scheduled to publish then, but it is already receiving page views so I think it is live despite what it says on my screen.

Oh well, just another glitch in the blogger phenomena.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Freelance Websites Part IV

One final way to promote your work is through social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+. All of these are ways you can generate interest in your work. They also allow you to set up free pages to promote your freelance writing.

And finally, you can do any combination of these things. I prefer to use a freelance website because I feel it saves me the time and work involved in marketing my work. It also gives me a chance to bid on jobs posted by people who were not initially interested in my work. However, some people may prefer to go it on their own to avoid commissions and upgrade fees. If you go it alone, you also only need to take the time to write out a bid for people who have already expressed an interest in your work.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Freelance Websites Part III

Another alternative is creating your own website. Some people use blogs to promote their work. They use Paypal and encourage people to contact them through email on their blog. Although my blog is a part of my platform, I am not using it to actively seek employment. In other words, I am targeting other freelance writers, people who want to become freelance writers, or people interested in freelance writing. If you want to generate interest in your freelance work, you would target people who want to employ freelance writers.

Instead of creating a website that is solely a blog, you can also create a website that is a traditional website instead of posting new information each week in a blog style website. A good example for you to base your website on is actually my profile on Guru. Click here to see it.

Obviously you will not need to post earnings information, but you might want to post skill categories. You can post certifications and when you received them, but you won't be able to take tests on your own website. You will also see that I have chosen to hide things, such as my resume and contact information. Where I have feedback, you can get references. You can also decide whether or not you want to post your prices or if you want to have any "deals."

You will need to have some sort of contact information on your website. Even though my contact information is hidden from the general public, potential employers can still contact me though Guru. Your potential employers will not be able to do this, unless you set up some sort of contact through your website. I eventually created an email that is specific to my freelance work, so this is one option for dealing with the volume of email you get.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Freelance Websites Part II

A while ago I talked about using one of the freelance websites such as Guru or elance to market your writing skills. These websites are job posting boards that allow freelancers to set up profiles and screen jobs. They provide a certain amount of security to freelancers and help new ones find employees easier.

However, there are other ways to freelance. Freelancing outside of a freelance website is more difficult in some ways because you will need to be able to maintain a positive attitude about your work despite many rejections. It also is a little more difficult to find clients for your work.

Most news magazines and newspapers use a certain amount of freelanced articles. If you are interested in doing this, be sure to research the guidelines for each agency, buy a copy of the AP style guidelines (note this is not the APA styles guidelines) and follow them in addition to the agency's guidelines, and develop tough skin. These same agencies may also have blogs or online content that they use freelancers to write.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Writing a proposal

One of the most important parts of being a freelance writer (aside from having marketable writing skills) is the ability to write a proposal.

The website I work through had a blog post on writing a proposal, but I felt that the guidelines were too stiff and formal. When I tried following them, I actually lost jobs. So, I developed my own format that seemed to get me more jobs.

I have tweaked this format over the past few months, but it seems to work pretty well for me. I happened to share my proposal outline with someone on the message board and as a result was recently asked to write a blog post on the topic for the Guru blog.

Since you can just click here, I won't replicate my post. Feel free to check it out. Also, I haven't mentioned this before, but you are welcome to post comments or ask questions. Feedback is always a good thing.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Being a Social Author

Years ago, authors were recluses that would reluctantly appear at book signings and media events. Now with modern social networking, authors don't have to leave their homes, but they do have to have a platform if they want to get published.

So, what's my platform? Well, you are reading one part of it. I also have another blog I share with my husband that is linked to this one. And, in case you didn't guess, I have a Goodreads account. Plus my Google + account, my Facebook account and the Facebook page for the book.

We are also going to be designing a web page for the book with a movie teaser that has already been filmed and will get posted on YouTube. Voila, a platform.

Unfortunately, it is rather difficult to keep up with all the social media and still get work that pays done. It is also disconcerting to wonder if people are actually reading your stuff or just clicking on you by mistake. I would much rather do a book signing.

Saturday, May 11, 2013


Looking back over some of my posts, I see they need a good edit, and I apologize. I really do try to read through them at least once before posting, but I find it hard to give them the thorough attention they deserve.

Being busy is good. But there are ups and downs of any freelance job. So, when there are downs, I will do my best to go back and check through things I missed.

I really need a secretary, but my business isn't big enough to support one yet. Plus, I like not making it into an actual business - this way I can fool myself into thinking that it is fun. Not that writing isn't fun, but it is also a chore. Especially when I feel uninspired about the topic, like the few I am writing about now. Which is why I am here...editing...and posting...when I should be working...

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Bad Project Listing:
“Hello, I want you to write a story for me from scratch. I will give you no ideas or help with the story line. I want you to provide all the materials I will need to sell it. You must have it properly edited and formatted for an ebook. In return for writing a book that you, yourself could put on Amazon for free and make all the profit off of if you were not selling it to me, I will pay you less than $500, you will get no royalties, and your name will not be anywhere on the book to get credit for it. Thank you.”
Why do people apply to projects like this? I like freelancing because people give me their ideas and I turn them into marketable stories and reports. But occasionally you come across job listings like this, that yes, people apply to do. Why? If you can come up with your own idea, write, edit, and format it into an ebook - post it on Amazon yourself. With your name. Get all the royalties. Unless they will pay you $5000.......

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


Writing scripts is relatively difficult, unless you have a book you are writing the script for that has excellent dialogue. It is also imperative that you have screenwriting software, and although there are several free options, Final Draft is the industry standard (at least in the U. S.).

I have worked in the theatre - one of my degrees is in theatre - and I know that it is one of the most fickle industries there is (although I think writing the traditional way with agent and publisher is probably similar). In the theatre, it is about who you know. All the parties you read about that the celebrities attend are actually networking opportunities that no serious theatre person would miss (including me). It may be your next meal.

Because of the high pressure of the theatre, I normally would not have taken a screenwriting job. But one woman wanted me to write her story and invited me and only me to do it. Then she hired me and is paying me a decent amount of money to do it.

However, like most jobs, I was expecting a book that was well written to transfer into a screenplay. I was not so lucky. The story itself is interesting, but it is very difficult to follow. It is a memoir and that makes its marketability even more difficult. But this woman is paying me well, so I found a way to make it marketable. I only hope my writing skills will live up to the task.

In the process, I have learned more about screenplays than what I knew before. Oh, always knew that they had these persnickety rules (which Final Draft does for me), but I did not know why they have them - 1 page of screenplay = 1 minute of screen time. Really. I tested it.

If you are thinking about writing a screenplay for yourself or someone else, follow the rules. If you do not, when it arrives on the desk of an agent or producer, it will go in the trash. The other thing about screenplays is they are formatted to be read quickly and easily. If you don't follow the rules, the producers aren't going to waste their time.

One final note: if you write a screenplay, get it copyrighted and registered - immediately! This is one of the mot important things you can do. It is dog eat dog and you do not want to be the dog that gets eaten. This is one thing that does not cross over so much into the writing world. In writing, you generally do not need to copyright it unless you are planning on self-publishing.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Freelance websites Part I

There are may freelancer websites out there. However, not all of them are reputable. I use Guru, but I looked at elance before deciding Guru just had a more friendly feel to it.

When I first started, I did not pay anything but the commission - the basic membership. At this point, it would cost me a lot more to use that membership, so I have upgraded to full Guru. I was initially surprised at how easy it was to make money - as long as you know what you are good at and are not tempted to bid outside of it.

Most people I tell about freelancing think there is some kind of catch. Nope. Sorry. Nothing there. You pay a commission to the website you are working with and that is it. Guru and elance both allow the employer to deposit funds with them in advance of the project and then release it to you once the project is complete. This way you know they have paid the money and you won't be shorted at the end of the job.

If you use a seedy website, you may have serious problems. I looked in the Writer's Market - an industry standard - to find good ones. I have heard rumors about the websites, but I have never tried them myself (thankfully), so I will not repeat them here.

I have thought about expanding and developing a presence on other sites - such as elance - but I get enough work to keep me busy where I am. In addition, I build feedback that is not transferrable to other sites. Plus, I am used to all its quirks. Guru also has blocking power, which allows you to block some negative feedback. And hey, what can I say, it just has a nicer feel to it.

For the record, I did stop by elance again before writing this and they have taken away some of their sharp edges. However, they just feel a lot bigger and a lot less friendly to me.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Up All Night

I was looking for jobs and came across one at 9:00PM that said the person needed formatting done in the next three hours.
Now usually these jobs are posted wrong. I have frequently applied to a "rush" job only to find it was awarded to someone else days later. I charge more for these because it is rather inconvenient to drop everything you are doing and work on them since someone else didn't plan very well.
Amazingly, this guy contacted me. He wanted to Skype - which I don't - I mean I was already in my pajamas. He talked with me through email a bit then and finally said he was going to give the job to someone else he was talking with who bid lower. I wished him the best. You see when a freelancer bids low on something like this, it means they either are new or aren't very good. It also means the employer has a chance of not getting it done.
My workday ends at 1:30AM, so at 1:00, I began shutting everything down. The guy called me on the PHONE! Yes, I was shocked. He said he lost contact with the freelancer he had hired. I told him to give me a minute while I rebooted everything. By the time I go in touch with him online, he had found the other freelancer and again said he didn't need me. So, I again shut everything down and went to bed. I was just getting settled in to Mansfield Park and he called me AGAIN!
Now, I like working and getting paid, but I have children. I don't want the phone waking them up at 1:00 in the morning. This time, he said he was finished with the other freelancer - apparently more problems had arisen. Fool that I am, I took the job (I should have probably charged him extra). Since I could barely keep my eyes awake, the 2 hour job turned into a 3 1/2 hour job. In addition, none of the references were even remotely in good condition. I hate formatting bad references. Needless to say, I did not track down the ones that were incomplete, I just posted them as is. I finished in just enough time to wake up and take my son to school. Sigh...

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Knowing what you want

The hardest jobs to bid on or complete are those from people who do not know what they want. While this may seem like a no-brainer, it is actually more complex. For example, one person posted a job for a screenplay.

People who professionally write screenplays know there are two major screenplay formatting programs - Final Draft and Movie Magic. Although you do not have to have these to break into the industry, you do have to format your script exactly like these two programs would. Final Draft is used by industry screenwriters and so you can easily collaborate with it. This is one program I use.

This particular job seemed less formal. However, I asked to be certain - 'Would you like the script done in Final Draft or are you looking for something less formal?'
The person replied that "yes, he would like a final draft."

Another person wanted a riddle - which I do not do - but it also sounded like he wanted a code - which I do. So I asked.

He replied that he did not need any computer coding.... sigh.

I suppose this is good since I do not do computer coding, and I am only familiar with Python and BASIC anyway. But on the other hand it is bad. I have to carefully weigh whether it is worth it or not to work with him.

Needless to say, the first job was for an informal advertising script - which I did not apply to do.
The second one, I am considering.