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Posts tagged ‘freelance writing’

The Gulf Between Writers and Editors

My Clients
I write for several online clients –– Demand Media Studios, Bright Hub and Constant Content. I also have several private sites (WordPress, HubPages and Triond).

My primary client is DMS. I have been writing for them for just over three years and have built up a hefty writing portfolio, to include LiveStrong, eHow, eHow Personal Finance, Local.com, Answerbag and WhiteFence. I have never edited for DMS, although I am considered a backup editor.  I am also a community moderator, which is a volunteer position.

New Developments
Las Friday (June 24), DMS announced a “CE Feedback tool” that writers can choose (or not choose) to use to provide feedback to the editorial staff members on several points. Since Friday, the forums have been active with threads about CEs, the drawbacks of the feedback tool and discussions of threads a few CEs have participated in, speaking in negative tones about the writers they edit. I suspected, but was not sure, this was happening. Now that it has been confirmed on a non-DMS forum, writers (and CEs) are arguing and saying, in effect, “he said, she said.”

Reactions
To put this new development into greater perspective, DMS put into effect a writer’s “Quality Improvement Tool,” or “QuIT” for short. I can’t go into detail about this, but writers are being referred to editorial for additional attention and assistance.

The two tools are as different as sugar is from salt. Yes, the programs come from DMS and they focus on both groups. That’s where the similarity ends. Just like salt is salty and sugar is sweet, one tool focuses on writers who are struggling with various aspects of DMS’ writing guidelines; the CE feedback tool is intended for –– feedback.

Much of the arguments center on the beliefs of some CEs: writers should not evaluate writers on some issues. Other arguments focus on the different sets of skills required for writing and editing. To be fair, DMS has CEs who also write for the company. These CEs have seen and experienced both sides of the fence. good and bad. Some CEs are concerned that some writers are going to use the feedback tool in a vindictive “I’m gonna get back at you” way. No doubt, some will. Hopefully, the PTB (powers that be) have policies and procedures in place to either prevent or deal with abusive use of the new tool.

Because writers and CEs are limited by DMS policy in their ability and mode of communication regarding articles, writers feel constrained. CEs are hidden behind a veil of anonymity  –– for good reason. Some writers who received in-depth rewrites in the past have threatened the CEs who edited their articles. DMS responded by making each CE anonymous to the writers. (The only writers who know who has edited their work are the LiveStrong writers –– and they only find out when the article is published. If the article is rejected, writers don’t know who edited their work.)

Writers have been clamoring for a way of communicating, preferably with CEs, regarding their work (why they chose the point of view they used, why they used the references they used). The writers do have a comment box where they can, and should, communicate with the CEs. Some use it and others don’t. That box comes up on the final preview page, making it difficult for some to remember points they want to make to the CEs.

The community moderators have been busy this weekend, monitoring and commenting in the threads about the new feedback tool and the CEs. The next few weeks are going to be an eye-opening time –– if we are allowed to keep and use this tool.

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Inside the Day-to-Day Life of a Freelance Writer

Monday Through Friday
As a freelance writer, Jeannie maintains a strict daily work schedule. She isn’t so strict and inflexible that she can’t handle unexpected emergencies, but she has learned that discipline is key to earning.

She wakes up to the sound of her radio alarm. While she’s not up as early as those who work for “brick and mortar” employers, she makes it a daily practice to be up before 6:30. She feeds her cats, makes her bed, exercises, makes two cups of coffee, then takes care of her email. She dresses for her day, sometimes in jeans, sneakers and a T-shirt and, on other days, in more professional clothing.

Breakfast

As she’s drinking coffee, she reads and deletes or saves the emails that have come in overnight –– her practice is to get through it early because she gets, on average, 20 a day. It’s easier to deal with the overnight emails, then, as others come in during the day, she deals with them on work breaks.

After breakfast, Jeannie takes care of a single household chore before settling down to writing. Again, she has a daily and weekly schedule, which enables her to take care of the house and the necessity to earn.

Writing

At approximately 9 a.m., Jeannie gets a bottle of water and a quick breakfast, then settles down to her first article of the day. Her research for each article is already done. As she is claiming and accepting titles from various clients, she completes her research, finding acceptable websites or books from which she can draw sources, quotes and cite information. She strives to write one article in approximately 45 minutes to one hour, which means she should be able to write between seven and nine articles a day, depending on which client or publisher she is writing for.

Clients

Jeannie writes for online sites like Bright Hub, Demand Media Studios, Writers Research Group, Constant Content and Writers Access. She does not write for every one of these sites. Instead, she has applied with, and been accepted for just a few. She also has writing/blog accounts with sites like Triond, WordPress and HubPages.

Because Jeannie spent several years working for various brick-and-mortar employers, she is used to sound, conversation, ringing phones, whirring copiers, slamming file drawers and the interruptions of coworkers. She can’t work in silence any more, so she has the sound of her television to help her focus on her work.

By 1 p.m., Jeannie is hungry and takes a quick lunch break. As she’s munching, she browses around the forums of one of her clients. She interacts with some of her colleagues in the forums, sending and receiving occasional private messages, or PMs.

More Writing

Apple Desktop Computer

After lunch, which usually lasts about half an hour, Jeannie’s back at work, tackling more articles. By this time, she has written anywhere between 3 and 4 articles, depending on how much research each title requires.

Jeannie tries to be finished with her writing by 6:30, so she can work on a blog entry, then relaxing with a television show or one of her hobbies.

She sometimes takes a break to take care of personal business –– paying a bill, getting allergy shots, buying groceries or picking up prescriptions.

At the end of the day, Jeannie has written, on average, anywhere between six and nine articles. As an independent contractor, she is responsible for 100 percent of her income, and is always looking for new clients.

Tomorrow will be a new day, and Jeannie faces new titles, new topics and new research.

The Pull Between Freelance Earning and Relaxation

I wasn’t sure what I was going to write until a couple of minutes ago. I spent all day long on my working writing (Demand Media Studios, adjusting my writing schedule at Bright Hub, my book and now, here for WordPress). It’s just after 10 at night –– and I started at about 9 this morning. Took a short break to go to the store for some food we needed.

As a freelance writer, independent contractor and self-employed business woman, I am always busy. I write six, sometimes seven days a week, depending on how my monthly earnings are growing. My goal, after earning badly needed money for several things I am working toward, is to cut down to 6 days a week, take Sunday off, then within the next year, reserve Saturday for my book, crafting, relaxing and friends.

My earnings fluctuate wildly, depending on several factors. These include the availability of titles within my areas of knowledge/expertise, and even some that are just a little beyond those areas. Another factor is technical glitches, such as site crashes or inability of the CEs to access waiting articles.

I was just invited to write for Local.com and WhiteFence, two new DMS publishers. WhiteFence articles are actually moving fairly quickly while Local.com articles are moving. Very. Slowly. It’s a new publisher, so the number of writers and CEs assigned there is still low. Everyone is still getting comfortable with the guidelines and expectations.

Earlier this year, I worked on the photo audit team at DMS. Earnings were fantastic. I earned my highest monthly total ever, whether self-employed or traditionally employed. I’m trying to get back into that, obviously.

I have been approached by a publishing company owner to edit some manuscripts that will be ready for copy editing in the next few months. It’s something completely new to me, but it’s another learning opportunity.

Google’s Panda and Panda 2 wreaked havoc on my Bright Hub page views and earnings. Pre-Panda and pre-Panda 2, I was moving up in page views every month. March was my highest month ever, with over 7,000 page views. Now? I’m lucky to get 2,500. I was following editorial direction in keywording. Everyone, whether writer, CE or company executive, learned from the drop in page views. Bright Hub has since completely revamped the writing process and channels. I am still in the Health channels, but those have been moved to an outside site. I’m writing for Education/Library/Books, Housecleaning/Crafts and Parenting as well.

Even there, Panda has exerted its effect: The crafts and books channels are now editorially managed. For my crafts articles, I have to take pictures of the craft I am making. It’s a moot point, actually. Panda has forced a reduction in the number of writing opportunities every month. Where I could claim 10 at a time from one channel, now I can claim two or three titles.

I am always looking for new clients. I’m signed up with WritersAccess and I have been applying for casting calls.

Why am I doing all of this? I am trying to find the kinds of opportunities that, while I will still be working hard, I’ll also be working smarter. Rather than $20 or $15 per title, I’m aiming for the $100 per article payments. Multiple articles per month.

Where does the relaxation, rest and hobbies come in? Where indeed? My goal is to stop the work writing every day between 6 and 7 p.m. Once I finish for the day, my plan is to spend an hour an evening writing my book.

After all of the writing (work and book) is done, the next part of my evening would be spent reading, watching a television program, then either crocheting or cross stitching. I have a scarf, sweater and blanket I need to finish or get started. It’s time to think of the Christmas gifts for my family (yes, in June. I make my gifts and I have a large family).

Freelancer put so much energy into getting their businesses off the ground, they forget about “me time.” A friend of mine finds this necessary. Her “me time” activities are reading, making and eating a chocolate shake or going for a walk with her husband.

Putting so many hours in the day into writing is good — up to a point. (I passed that point about 3 hours ago.) I know what my healthy balance is; I need to get it back again.

Freelancers, Hobbies and Preventing Burnout

The Business of Freelancing

Freelancers (writing, accountants, graphic designers, personal shoppers, counselors, organizers) give themselves a big opportunity when they decide to start working for themselves. Freelancers also take a huge risk, financially. If they do not have employment outside the home, the responsibility is 100 percent upon them for success –– or failure. Most self-employed people realize this and put many hours into their businesses every week, sometimes more than the usual 40 they would work if they were to be working for someone else.

Setting Up a Workable Work Schedule

Focusing on an individual freelancer –– while it is good to be focused on making her business grow, her efforts will be useless if she does not pay attention to her mental health. She could push herself to the point that she can’t work and bring money in. What should she do to meet two seemingly opposite goals?

First, she should map out a reasonable work schedule that allows her to focus on working during the day. This schedule should allow her to take care of errands that she can’t complete outside working hours, such as paying a bill in person.

Second, she needs to give herself enough time every week to take care of household activities, such as cooking or cleaning. If she can, she should arrange her workday so that the cleaning or cooking are all taken care of in the same time block so that, when she is working, she will not be distracted.

Third, she needs breaks during her work day. Regardless of her self-employment status, she needs those breaks so she can rest her mind and eyes. If she keeps her television on for sound, she can take advantage of this and watch a portion of a program during her breaks and lunch.

The Consequences of Overworking as a Freelancer

Is she at risk of burnout if she doesn’t allow herself to relax? Isn’t that just a bunch of fancy talk that allows her to be lazy at home?

Yes, she is risking burnout which can put her business at risk. No, it isn’t just an excuse to be lazy. Here’s an imaginary scenario:

Our freelancer (let’s call her Vicky) is highly motivated to make her business a success. With this goal in mind, she sets up an ambitious work schedule. Thing is, she overlooks giving herself enough time to take care of business outside her home; she forgets to factor in time for laundry, cleaning or cooking. She forgets about her need to recharge herself.

At first, things are going great. She’s putting in 12-hour days and she’s seeing results. She’s gaining new clients every month and they are becoming repeat clients. She gets excited and redoubles her earning efforts. She begins working on Saturdays.

Her house is beginning to show signs of neglect: laundry is piling up and it’s been a few weeks since the bathroom was cleaned. When she remembers to eat, it’s an apple here, a bowl of cold cereal there or crackers and cheese. She’s had to throw out more than one carton of spoiled milk and moldy or spoiled food.

One morning she wakes up –– or she tries to wake up. Her eyes just won’t open and she is so exhausted. She feels like she got slammed by a freight train. Thinking she’s coming down with the flu, she stays in bed and sleeps until 3 p.m. The next few days are a repeat. She’s getting calls from clients looking for the jobs they gave her. They want to see what progress she has made and all they’re getting is her voice mail. Eventually, she’s able to get up and she checks her voice mails only to find out that some of her best clients are ready to jump ship and look for another freelancer. Even worse, when she opens her email account, her best client has already done so.

She’s alarmed and, despite the fact that she’s still very tired, she resumes her work schedule. She finishes the jobs she’s contracted for and sends them to her clients. She gets calls and emails from them, letting her know that they found several errors in her work. They’re sorry, but they’re going to terminate their contract with her and send her their final payment.

If Vicky had set up a realistic work schedule, this would never have happened — or, at the very least, the chances of this happening would have been greatly reduced.

Find a Hobby and Respect Your Mind and Body

Working for Herself at Home FDP Credit Ambro

The self-employed freelancer needs to give herself a workable schedule.

Where does the relaxing activity or hobby come in? Just as with the reasonable working schedule and work, it comes out at the top. As a self-employed person, Vicky is responsible for it all. She is her own boss and employee. She has to pay self-employment taxes every quarter. She has to pay for all her office supplies AND all of her personal bills. She cannot do so if she is driving herself so hard she makes herself physically ill.

For this reason, it is very important for her to leave herself enough time at the end of the day to relax with something recreational. It should, of course, be something she enjoys learning and doing. Perhaps it’s gourmet cooking or baking; woodworking; making or writing music; a needle craft or creative writing. Just as if she were traditionally employed by an employer, she needs to give herself time at the end of her workday to recharge her batteries (physical, mental and emotional).

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