Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Trouble with Plagiarism

A fellow freelance writer, Lori Widmer, has been dealing with a blatant content thief. This thief probably doesn’t think he’s doing anything wrong. He’s pulling the content straight from her blog and uploading it onto his site. But he’s giving her credit for the posts (posting her name and the name of her blog) so that makes it okay. Right? Um, yeah, not so much.

This content thief is financially benefiting from her words and ideas. Sure he’s giving credit where it’s due recognizing her as the author of the posts, but he’s using those posts to drive traffic to his site in hopes that once visitors show up searching for information about freelance writing, they will click on the ads so he can get paid. So he gets paid, but what about Lori and the other bloggers he’s stealing from? Think he’s paying them for the use of their content? Yeah, that’s what makes him a thief.

Plagiarism is a major problem on the Internet. The web is such a vast space that it can be difficult to monitor and control the problem. Within the past two weeks I’ve heard of at least four other bloggers besides Lori dealing with content theft. It’s no secret that there are some clients who hire writers to “re-write” content so that it comes across as unique content when run through plagiarism detection services or software. Please be clear: rewording someone’s words and ideas IS plagiarism. Some writers are completely unaware of what actually constitutes plagiarism.

I recommend visiting for more clarification. This site specifically covers the problem as it relates to the theft of online content. The site also provides tips to help you avoid web content theft.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Are You a Freelance Writer or Business Owner?

I’m so behind on administrative tasks that it’s scary. I thought about posting a picture of what my desk is looking like right now, but I’m just too embarrassed. I have a tendency to be a little messy (much to my much tidier better half’s chagrin), but the disorder going on over here has seriously reached another level.

Part of the problem is that in the midst of working on client projects, I’ve been traveling/working in another state two weeks out of every month for the past six months, and I’m also in charge of making sure my lovely family of six stays on schedule with packing up the house for the Big Move in June. Gah! Regardless of these challenges, I still have a business to run, and my clients expect a certain level of service.

I’ve notice that when I’m asked for advice about getting started with freelance writing for commercial clients, some inquirers seem surprised to find out just how much administrative tasks are a part of “living the dream.”

For those who think that all freelancers do is put up an “open for business” sign (or website), sit back and watch the projects/checks roll in, this is a bubble I must immediately burst. Whether you freelance for print publications, online publications, resume companies, or other private clients, it’s important to approach the services you provide as a business; and in any business administrative duties are part of the operation process. There are quite a few daily tasks that can negatively affect productivity and the quality of your work if you fail to stay on top of things. Every writer’s business operation is different so this is by no means a comprehensive list. I thought I’d share some common administrative tasks that typically require regular attention:

Email Management

I maintain four email accounts and I can’t allow my inboxes to become clogged with unread emails. Now, I’ve admitted to you about how unorganized I can be, so as you can imagine it’s really easy for me to let read and unread messages pile up.

I remain organized by creating folders in each of my accounts and dealing with emails immediately as they come in. I also utilize my smartphone to manage my email madness while I’m in the car waiting to pick my kids up from school or out running errands.


If you’ve spent any time reading this or any other freelance writing blog, you already know that the best way to keep busy with projects is by constantly marketing your services. There are so many online and offline marketing methods to utilize that I couldn’t possibly name them all: email queries, cold calling, direct mail/post card mailings, attending networking events, blogging, participating on forums, etc. Make marketing a daily habit.

Following up with Clients and Project Inquiries

Sometimes communicating with clients while working on projects can be time consuming. Some projects are easier than others. I deal with clients who have preferred methods of maintaining communication: email, Skype messaging and phone calls are most common. I prefer email, but defer my own preferences to those of my clients. Sometimes communication via email and Skype is unclear and a phone call is the best way to cut through the confusion.

Communicating with clients is a necessity, but it can become dangerously time consuming if you don’t maintain control over the time you spend doing so. Depending on my work load, I may return non-urgent emails/calls in the morning, or I may wait and respond toward the end of the day. I work this around my writing schedule for the day. I respond to client emails as soon as I can within my designated work hours. On my website I state that I respond to all (new) email inquiries within 24 hours.

Social Media

Social media can fit into the marketing category of administrative tasks. I have gotten work from both Twitter and LinkedIn. These platforms provide writers with an excellent opportunity to form valuable networking relationships with other writers (the community is incredible), and make possible client contacts within a specific industry/niche. I haven’t been very consistent during the past few months, but I’m putting forth an effort now to show up at least once a day.

Maintaining Client Files

I’m transitioning from paper to electronic files for my clients. My goal is to eventually go paperless, and it’s a process…

It’s important to keep files up to date with vital information like contact information, contract agreements, NDAs, research information, etc. Client files make it easier to follow up periodically to remind them that you’re available for any projects that may come available.

Are there any administrative tasks you regularly tackle that weren’t included on my list?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Giving You the Good Stuff

Well, it’s the end of the week, and I’m feeling the need to spread some good ole’ link lovin’ around. I came across some really good entries this week. Hope you enjoy and find them useful.

Just a quick reminder: If you are a new freelance writer, or struggling to find good paying projects right now, you should check out The Confident Freelancer webinar (again, this is NOT an affiliate link). It’s only $79 (check out the link to see what you get) and tody is the last day to register – the webinar is tomorrow. Y’all have a fantastic weekend. 

How to Charge More than $10 Per Article, Part 3
Freelance Writing: Turning No Into Yes
4am Doesn't Suck
How to Make the Most of Google Alerts
Getting Started: The First Steps to Freelance Freedom

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Get Your Freelance Writing Business on Track: Attend The Confident Freelancer Webinar

Let me just say upfront that I am NOT an affiliate for this webinar, so if you choose to sign up I don’t make one red cent. I’m just passing along what I sincerely believe to be invaluable information for new and struggling freelance writers.

Lori Widmer and Devon Ellington are successful freelance writers who are combining forces to bring newbie and struggling freelance writers an informative webinar called The Confident Freelancer.

I’m pretty confident that the $79 cost of this webinar will be well worth the investment in your professional development - especially if you are serious about making a living as a freelance writer. Participants will receive a boat load of valuable information in the form of nine course forums where you’ll benefit from interactive Q&A sessions, connections and networking opportunities with other freelancers, and an ebook detailing all of the course information covered during the webinar.

Both Lori and Devon regularly share their expertise and advice on their respective blogs. I’ve learned a lot from these ladies. If you are just getting started and need direction, or if you’re stuck in your freelance writing business and have no idea how to break out of a low paying rut, consider attending this webinar March 26, 2011.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Is an Online Portfolio Of Business Writing Samples Necessary?

I still belong to a couple of freelance writer email groups. They continue to be a good source of information. Recently a writer posted a question asking whether or not business writing samples need to be posted on a website. This is an issue I wrestled around with a lot when I first started freelancing. I’ve done both: I’ve posted samples for public viewing, but currently do not have an online portfolio for public viewing.

I have plenty of samples available, and when a client requires one I choose one that seems most appropriate and send it. Now I’ll be completely honest – the reason I no longer have samples on my website is because when I made cosmetic changes to my site last year I just never bothered posting them.

The writer’s question caused me to really consider whether not having writing samples on my site has affected my business. Actually it really doesn’t seem to have made much difference. Several other writers in the group seemed to agree saying that they only provide samples of previous work upon client request.

In the end I suppose it’s a matter of opinion. Do you think posting an online portfolio is necessary?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Tips for Working While Traveling

Until we make the big move in June, I’ll be splitting my time between two states two weeks out of each month. The things I do for my mother (I sure hope my daughter is paying attention.).

I spent yesterday morning traveling and the rest of my afternoon working on client projects. I find that as long as I have a plan and work it, the transition each month goes pretty smoothly; my clients have no idea. However, this week I had to inform a couple of regular clients I handle weekly projects for that I would not be available Thursday and Friday in order to handle some personal business. The client got a little panicked. I assured him that I would have everything for the week completed before I left (after all I was already preparing for the trip). It took turning in the project early as promised to ease his concerns.

I find that it’s best not to worry my client’s pretty little heads unnecessarily; I don’t bother telling them when I travel. I figure as long as I’m completing projects and meeting their quality standards, it’s best. I do make a few adjustments while traveling to reduce the chances of problems cropping up unexpectedly.

I Bought a New Laptop

I now work exclusively from my laptop. I invested in a new laptop last month and passed my beloved, but slower, desktop on to my children. Working from two different computers could get a little confusing for me. I installed and transferred everything I need to my laptop to keep things simple.

I Started Using Google Docs

I was initially introduced to Google Docs three years ago by a client. At the time he kept me quite busy with projects. In order to keep things organized (we’d often work on two to three projects at once) he gave me a crash course in Google Docs.

Google Docs is a very flexible online tool. You can create documents as you would in Microsoft Word or Open Office, spreadsheets, create pdf formats and PowerPoint presentations.
It’s also great when you’re collaborating with clients and other contract workers like web developers. It’s easy to share documents with others.

My favorite feature is the database. I can store store all of my documents so that I can access them from any computer. It’s the epitome of doing business in the cloud.

I Work Ahead

I work on a couple of personal projects in addition to handling client work. I try to work ahead on regular projects like blogs as much as possible. I also try to plan deadlines with enough cushion to handle any unexpected surprises.

I Don’t Overdo It

I don’t schedule an excessive amount of deadlines while traveling. I prefer to keep things as simple as possible, so the majority of the work I do while out of town consists of research and writing. I seem to handle deadlines better on my own turf - or maybe it’s just the security I get from being in my own home office with all my files and resource material.

I Use a Cell Phone for Business

I don’t do a lot of business by phone, but there are certainly times when it’s necessary. Sometimes people call after coming across my website, or a past client will contact me to discuss a project. A cell phone is just easier for me to manage and it goes where I go.
Do you have any tips for working while traveling to share?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Don’t Give Away the Milk for Free

I work with a lot of small businesses. Every now and then a start-up, or existing business that’s just starting to create a presence online, will contact me about my services. It’s been a tricky balancing act for me learning to give enough information to get them interested without giving away all the goods.

I used to talk too much. I’d get so excited about sharing what I knew. I was pretty much an open book for anyone looking to pick my brain for ideas.

Maybe you’ve experienced this too. Most client inquiries are legitimate, but every so often a client supposedly looking for help will consider you a free consultant. Don’t fall for it – the information and experience you’ve acquired is valuable. Give just enough information so that your clients understand the objectives and feel confident in your ability.

Have you ever had a client contact you just to pick your brain for information? How did you handle it?

Friday, March 11, 2011

I Got My Mojo Back!

I have to say it’s been an exhilarating week for me. For the past couple of months I haven’t been very motivated about my business. I know motivation tends to ebb and flow so I just push through those “meh” times still confident in the fact that working for myself is the best decision for me, and soon enough something will spark my enthusiasm once again.

Sure enough that burst of energy I’ve been waiting for hit me out of nowhere this week. I’ve been raring to go – ready to tackle tasks I’ve been dreading and putting off for the past few weeks. Even my accountability partner could hear the change in my voice during our Monday morning call. “You really sound different – better than I’ve heard you sound in a long time!” she said. I’m taking advantage of the rejuvenation I’m feeling about my business to follow through on my goals for this month.

Another great thing about this week – I actually carved out time for blog reading. I came across quite a few gems I’m only too happy to share with you - enjoy and have a great weekend!

The Low Paying Rut
How to Use (and not Use) Twitter to Find Freelance Jobs

Make Money as a White Paper Writer
This Writer's Landing a Ton of Work Doing What So Many Companies Need
13 Mistakes No Freelance Writer Should Ever Make

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Do You Regularly Invest in Continued Learning?

Yesterday I attended a webinar. I paid to attend. Now this is a big deal for me because when was first starting out I was looking for the elusive blueprint to freelance success. Once I realized there was no such animal, that I needed to put for the effort to find clients and actually take on projects, I vowed to stop buying information products for a while.

My California-based biz accountability partner was just telling me about a webinar teaching email marketing tips for getting more business that she was planning to participate in. I use email marketing regularly to query businesses and have had a decent amount of success, so I automatically shrugged it off. But she emailed the link detailing what the webinar would be covering, and I realized that there may be a lot more for me to learn so I can improve my strategy. Turns out it was money well spent. I honestly learned a few things that I can put into practice immediately.

As a blogger and business writer, I‘m a big believer in continuing with professional development. It can help keep you stay sharp, reveal emerging trends, and can teach you something new. Ebooks, e-courses, webinars and teleseminars are an excellent source of online learning. I also own several business writing and marketing resource books I often refer to. You’ll also find local colleges, SCORE, SBA and other small business organizations provide in person training and continued learning opportunities.

How do you invest in your continued professional development?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Are You an Expert?

Before I get started with this post, I must sincerely apologize for not posting for so long. RL has really been kicking my behind. I’m happy to report that I’ve been as busy as ever with clients and marketing for new business (although I could be more consistent…). However my father’s battle with cancer over the past year was a priority that required me to split my time between two states for the past six months. Blogging was one of the many things that unfortunately ended up falling by the wayside for a while. Unfortunately he lost his battle two weeks ago. He was one of the biggest supporters of my online business efforts, and I simply do not have the words to express how much I’ll miss him.

Prior to my father’s passing, I began getting to know some of the staff at the rehabilitative care facility where he stayed following his latest hospital release. One day a young lady and I were chatting about everyday job stress. She explained that she was interested in finding another career path because although she loved her job, she had a tendency to become attached to the patients.

Since the majority of patients in the facility’s care were elderly and suffering from degenerative conditions, losing patients was quite common, and it was beginning to take its toll.
She explained to me that she had some previous writing experience and might be interested in pursuing freelance writing as a part-time gig to get started and see where it goes. She had on big concern: “How do I get companies to consider me an expert?

This is legitimate concern for those just starting out. Clients want to know about a writer’s experience before hiring, and new writers are trying to figure out how to get the experience. Companies are always looking for writers who are experts at blogging, SEO, technology, sales content, or topics related to legal, medical, insurance or financial industries, etc.

Although I had a background in journalism and advertising sales, and I frequently found myself asking that very same question when I began freelancing in 2007. The fact of the matter is in order for businesses and entrepreneurs to trust your ability to effectively get the job done, they must have confidence in your expertise.

So what makes a writer an expert? Knowledge of a specific subject or industry can give a writer expert status. Here are a few points to consider:

Commitment to Continued Learning

Experts in their chosen field know the importance of staying on top of industry trends. For example, a writer who is an expert in mobile phone technology will seek opportunities to stay abreast of emerging trends.

An Area of Specialization

Some writers are sought for their expertise in blogging, SEO content development, sales letters, resumes, video scripts, professional bios, ebooks, whitepapers, etc. They carve out a niche for themselves by learning all they can about a specific area of writing and target clients I need of their services.

An Understanding of Industry Jargon

An expert I a particular subject or industry will be comfortable understanding and using language shared by others in the same field. They understand how to communicate with industry experts and their target market effectively.

Authenticity that Speaks for Itself

As the old saying goes: “Experience speaks for itself.” They have hands-on experience in the subject or industry they target, and builds a reputation as a “go to” resource within their chosen field.

Attempting to pin down an exact formula for what makes a freelance writer an expert isn’t so easy since expert status is largely dependent on a client’s interpretation. I advise emerging freelancers to discover a need, find a way to learn as much as you can about your area of interest and target clients who need your services.
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