29 December 2010

Where Freelance Writers Can Find Work?

Because of my grand plan to become a freelance writer full time in 2011, I’ve been thinking about all the possible revenue streams that I could support myself with. And since I’m a nice person like that, I decided to share my conclusions on my blog.


Right now, oDesk represents my biggest source of income. It’s a marketplace for online freelancers, not only for writers. Once you register, you big on projects along with others and the employers choose the person they want to work with. You can charge an hourly rate or a fixed rate and oDesk adds a fee to your quote (which is how they profit from the entire arrangement).

There are other marketplaces similar to oDesk: Guru, eLance, Freelancer.com. But I’ve registered to all of them, and I found that oDesk works best for me. If you’re looking for a good site, you should check out all the possibilities before settling for those that work best for you.

It’s worth saying that at the very beginning I was afraid that with my high rate, I wouldn’t be able to find any work – a fair concern since a lot of workers bidding on jobs are from the Philippines and their rates are often below $5 per hour. But I find work and I didn’t have to lower my rate, so it’s good to know that if you know your craft, you can find work no matter your rate.

Job Boards

A good place to find writing gigs is searching on various job boards. Personally, I prefer Job Board over at Problogger.net. But I also subscribe to Anne Wayman’s About Freelance Writing where she regularly posts a huge number of jobs available to freelancers that she found all over the Internet (including Craigslist).
If you, like me, have an account with Helium, it’s always worth checking out their Marketplace. The articles that don’t get purchased are turned into regular Helium articles and will bring passive income to the author.

Don’t look for jobs, create them yourself

And by that I mean creating sources of passive income of course. Things and assets that will earn money even after you stop working on them. The website/blog combination is the first idea that pops in mind, and it’s also a great tool for exposure. It makes it easier for future clients to find you and your work. And it can help with starting any future projects.

EBooks are also very popular when it comes to creating passive income sources, but freelance writers shouldn’t limit themselves to just eBooks, because the online world is full of possibilities and you can always think of something that will have the potential to bring in great revenue.

So here you are. Those are the ideas I got for bringing in various income sources. I will most likely brainstorm and come up with several others. And if you sit down and think about it, you will probably find something that will work best for you. Good luck!

27 December 2010

Make Plans for 2011

I hope you all had a very good Christmas. For me it was a time of procrastination when I did absolutely nothing productive and watched an obscene amount of Christmas movies. Although I did read the Unlimited Freelancer eBook and found it extremely useful for my plans for 2011.

Like every year during Christmas, I also started on my New Year Resolutions. In previous years my New Year’s Resolutions were more like wishful thinking of what I would love to do next year. This time, I decided to be more serious about it and make actual plans.

-          Write 100 000 words in 2011
Every year I participate in the challenge over at FindYourWords. In 2010 I wrote over 85K and I plan on writing more actively next year. My three bigger commitments as far as fiction writing goes mean I will write at least 41K of fiction in 2011. The rest I plan to reach with my freelance assignments.

-          Finish and defend my thesis
This goal has a very strict deadline because I need to finish it by the end of March and most of my time will be devoted to writing it.

-          Set up a website
I actually have plans for two websites in two different niches, but I want to be realistic which means that I want to end the year with a fully functioning website with an incorporated blog, capable of bringing me revenue (either with passive income, or with actual clients)

-          Switch to freelancing full time by the end of the year
I wrote on numerous occasions how I’m not ready to become a full time freelancer. I already thought it through when I wrote the 5 step guide to becoming a freelance writer. And when I graduate in 2011, I will no longer have major expenses and I’ll be able to save up for a safety net and switch to full time freelancing by the end of the year.

Those are four major goals I want to reach in 2011. They are big and require lots of smaller sub-goals and a lot of planning. But this year I’m determined to make them happen.
And what are your goals for 2011?

19 December 2010

Part-Time Writer, Full-Time Dreamer

It feels like a voice beyond a grave. My life was so crazy these past months that I honestly didn’t know what to put my hands into. During that time I struggled with a major Writer’s Block, a general bad mood and school.

Make no mistakes, I’m still struggling with school, I have three months to finish my thesis, and absolutely no time to actually sit down and do what’s required of me. I still need to write one research paper for my University to even consider accepting my thesis (once it’s written).
On top of it all, I’m seriously considering not extending my contract when it ends at the end of March.

So I’m working on the side, to have as much savings as possible. Having a safety net will definitely help while I’ll be reevaluating my future.

I’ve done at least an outline of what I need to consider back when I’ve written 5 Steps to becoming a freelance writer.

Because I need a lot of savings, I’ve put the passive income sites on the backburner and instead decided to try higher paying gigs. Because right now, I don’t really have time to look all over the internet for writing jobs, I reactivated my account at oDesk. I’ve applied for some jobs and I am now steadily working. My social life suffers from this multitasking and I have very little time for friends, but some sacrifices must be made.

To paraphrase a certain character from a certain movie about dreams: I’m not afraid to dream a little bigger. Keep your fingers crossed.

18 June 2010

Last-Minute Writing

Remember when I posted about writing ahead of time? Yeah. It doesn't work out all the time.

Case in question: this very post.

Due to unhealthy amount of studying,my brain had been in overload and I've been struggling with a terrible case of Writer's Block. Not only that, I've also practically disappeared from Twitter, stayed away from my RSS and generally spent time studying and watching summer programming on TV.

But as the deadline to post on this blog approached, I started to stress more and more. Sure, this deadline is self imposed, but still. My brain registered the routine I've developed and the deadline became real. And so, I'm doing some last-minute writing.

I don't know about you, but in my case, that last minute writing is never as good as it could've been. I don't have time to edit properly, rearrange sentences, para-phrase or fix pacing. It all feels rushed and I always worry the reader notices all the flaws as well. I always obsess that the reader feels the idea for the article was rushed and not thought out properly.

And it adds up to the stress.

Sure, sometimes last-minute writing can turn out into additional 5K of words on a novella. And those words might be brilliant.
But I always have to ask my editor afterwards to be especially hard on those last words, pay attention to pacing and word choices.

Not to mention the fact that I often get sidetracked and my writing shows it too...

I suppose the answer to this last-minute writing problem is proper time management. Finding time to write way before the deadline, brainstorming and being more organized. But it doesn't always help. Like in my case right now, sometimes life just throws stuff at you and then you find yourself staying up all night, because of the deadlines.

Then again... Every once in a while probably doesn't hurt much...

16 June 2010

Writer's Block

That's how I feel right now, staring at a blank page.

(Image made by me in Photoshop CS)

14 June 2010

Monday Update - What I've been up to

A lot happened lately in my writing life, so instead of a regular post, I decided to write an update.

Writing Interruptions

Unfortunately it's that time in the year and I have to study for the exams and write those papers. And maybe work on my thesis some more. Which makes it almost impossible to do any actual writing. I'm staying possitive, since I only have one semester left and then, I'll be defending my thesis. And I'll have a new, shiny degree.

Fiction Writing

Since my last update, most of my projects moved forward.

My editor finished correcting the first draft of my bigbang story, and right now I'm fixing the mistakes. It's a painful process, I admit, but I know that it will make my story even better. I need to finish the second draft and send it to another editor before the end of June, because I need to have the final story by the end of July. It's all very exciting, since the feedback so far was completely positive.

The Epic Collaboration Project kinda took over my life. In between what I've written and what my co-author added, we basically wrote almost the entire thing. We still have three chapters to write, with the big climax, and the dramatic reveal, but I'm estimating we should be done with the first draft in maybe two weeks. We already crossed the 30K in wordcount and I think we might reach 40K before we're done.

I completely change the concept of my third big project - the 20K story I need written by September. Mostly because the initial set-up, while dramatic, didn't work with the character development I wanted to have. The scenes I already planned out will probably still happen, and I'll try to rework them into a short story of maybe 5K, but I'll have to outline it to make sure it works.

I also signed up to a writing challenge called HC Bingo. Which is an interesting concept and definitely something of an inspiration. It'll be mostly short stories, but maybe one or two longer ones. We'll see where the muse takes me.

Non-Fiction Writing

Unfortuantely I didn't work on my articles or ebook ideas, due to school and exams. I'm getting slightly worried, because I have to complete 7 more articles for Suite101 by the end of July, and I'd like to add to my articles on Helium as well. And it's not even that I don't know what to write about, it's the lack of time that interrupts with the writing.

Once I'm done with exams, I'll have to really get back into the non-fiction world.

On a plus side, even though I had little time, I managed to keep up with my blogging, which is a huge success. I definitely deserve a cookie. It becomes a part of my weekly routine, writing and posting to this blog. I suspect I'll soon be able to modify that routine to include writing and posting at other places.


A mix of writing and networking, I've been active on Twitter, and it's been great fun. Apart from three days when I went offline to study.

I switched from TweetDeck to HooteSuite, because the latter offered me option to schedule my Tweets, which turned out to be extremely helpful since I share a lot of links to writing resources and blog posts. Plus I can keep it in the background and write or work, and it doesn't interrupt me with constant sound effects when somebody update's their account.

I also ventured into the world of Sponsored Tweets. It was more of an experiment, but it turned out to be a very interesting experience. It's not a big thing, nor it's extremely big revenue stream. But I can choose things I want to advertise, I can write the tweets to match my other content and all in all, I'm very pleased with that site. You can check it out for yourself here.

11 June 2010

5 Steps to Becoming a Freelance Writer

Not so long ago, I wrote an article explaining why you don't need experience to be a freelance writer. I really believe it's true, after all I landed my first problogging job with no experience. Although, if I had a say in how the title was formed, I would rephrase it.

You don't need experience to become a freelance writer.

Whether you stay on the job or not, is a different matter.

There are two schools of becoming a freelance writer. One saying you have to risk it, because that risk will motivate you into pushing yourself and your business into success. SelfMadeChick is a proof that approach works.

There's also the less radical idea to first keep your day job and start freelancing part-time, building your brand, getting clients, finding out what works for you and what doesn't. Save up some money, to create a safety net, before transitioning to freelancing full-time. That's me.

I decided to share the Step-by-Step Guide to becoming a Freelance Writer, which is basically my To-Do list.

1. Answer important questions:
    Do you want to be a freelance writer?
    Why do you want to be a freelance writer?
    What kind of writer do you want to be?
    Do you have a niche you want to write in?
    If yes, why this niche?
    If yes, how competitive is this niche?
    If no, why?

2. Make basic calculations:
    How much money do you need to survive? Count the bills (rent, electricity, media, food etc.). That's what you need to survive. Not counting the holidays, fancy dinners, parties and sudden natural disasters.

Now add to that health insurance, additional expenses like paper, printer, other office supplies.

You got the minimum of what you need to earn every month. Now, you should probably add at least 50% of what you calculated, to actually have some profit.

It's not a good business if there's no profit.

3. Research:
    No, seriously. RESEARCH. Before you jump in and do any actual freelancing. Research the field. Research the markets. Watch, read and learn. There are number of great, informative websites out there designed to help freelancers to build and develop their freelance business. There's FreelanceSwitch, FreelanceFolder, Problogger, About Freelance Writing, All Freelance Writing, The Creative Penn, The Renegate Writer and WriteItSideways. And that's not even half of my RSS Feed. There's a lot of material out there, all you need is to learn from all the great people.

Research also helps you to learn about rates, invoicing, marketing, branding and the business side of writing. And while there are some good freelance writers out there, it's the actual business knowledge that can turn a good freelancer into a great one.

3a. Find out what works for you:
    It could be considered a separate point, but for me, it's part of researching the business. It's about trying out different revenue streams and figuring out what works for you best. Is it blogging? Self-publishing? Writing novels? Writing online content? Writing for print magazines?

What are additional revenue streams you can pursue in addition to your main source of income? Teleclasses? Affiliate marketing? Adsense? Passive income? Anything else?

The reason why I put it in the research step is because I strongly suggest trying out every road. Try querying to magazines, maybe bid on a blogging job or two. See what works for you, makes you more comfortable. What's most fun/better paid/better for you? Sure, you could just read up on the subject, but I strongly believe that you don't really know what works, until you try it out on yourself.

Sure there can be missteps and false starts. But in the end, you'll truly know what fits you and your working style best.

4. Get a website:
    This step is actually one of the crucial ones. Nowadays, a professional doesn't exist if he or she doesn't have a website. Today, a person's first instinct is always to look up something (or somebody) online. Which means that to be found, and most importantly, to be hired, you need a website.

4a. Get a blog:
    If you decided to write in a particular niche, blog about that subject. Not only it will show off your knowledge, but blog posts (if you use proper SEO - what's SEO? Go back to step 3!) will help your website's Google ranking. And a higher Google ranking will make it easier for clients to find you. Additionally, blog is one of the best ways to connect to other people in your niche. And while being a freelancer is fun, it's much better when you have people to share the experience with. So go, and make friends.

5. Work!
    In previous steps you made some decisions about how you want your freelance career to look like. You tried various ways of earning money with your writing. You did your research.

All that's left is doing the actual work. And the actual earning money.

9 June 2010

Plot Bunny Farm - Handling the Ideas

Few hours ago I had an idea for a blog post. I know it was brilliant and it would sweep you of your feet. But I was busy at the time so I didn't immediately started writing.

Now I can't remember what that post was supposed to be about. There's very little chance I will ever get that particular (and no doubt awesome) idea back.

And it's not a problem with blog posts either. Ideas come tome (and to every writer, I imagine) every day, every moment. Sometimes it's like the scene in the "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" when the vampire bunny jumps and rips the poor knight's throat out. That's how I feel with my ideas. As if I'm surrounded by plot bunnies who want to be written nowNowNOW, and don'twant to wait patiently in line.

And in the creative chaos that is my brain, there are hundreds and hundreds of stories running around, articles that peak shyly from behind the shelves wondering if I could maybe, perhaps, write them. And there are blog posts, that come in front of the line, wave enthusiastically and if I ignore them for even a second, they run away, sulking and thinking I don't love them.

I lost a lot of ideas over the years, but something snapped in me today, after that one blog post idea. I don't know why, but today, I decided to change something and save at least some of those plot bunnies.

I set up three new Googledocs files, though I assume regular text files on my HDD would work as well, even a notebook (notebook seems like a popular choice, from what I can tell.) One for stories ideas, one for articles and one for blog posts. I'm determined to use those files to write down ideas, dialogues, snippets - anything that will come to me in moments when I don't have time to write the entire thing right away.

True, I'm not entirely sure how this will work for me. Maybe when I write down the ideas they will dissappear anyway. But I want to find out. Because if there's even a slight chance at this new system helping my productivity (especially in the non-fiction department), then I really want to try it.

Hopefully,it'll work out. If not, I'll move to something else. But I don't want to miss on any ideas.

7 June 2010

Fiction Writing Marathon - Pros and Cons

I spent the weekend at my friend's house (who's also my co-author on the Epic Collab Story I mentioned over and over again). During that time we wrote non-stop for hour, and the story is now over 22K (and it's not even half of it).

You could say that those three days were some kind of a Writing Retreat. Since apart from writing our story we also spend most evenings (and nights) brainstorming ideas for our next collaboration.

Yes, those brainstorming sessions weren't always productive, as too many of them included a variation of the "I'm Batman!" joke. But in the end we did come up with a very good idea that will most likely consist of two longer stories.

I'm sure it's not a secret that after an incredibly productive couple of days, every writer feels satisfied and accomplished. I did too.

But there's a problem with spending so many hours writing. For a few hours after returning home, I felt burnt out. It was as if no words that left my brain and appeared on my screen were good enough. I felt exhausted and I just wanted to sleep (and eat). Not to mention the fact that no posts and articles I wrote in between the writing sessions felt like they were up to my usual standards.

So, on one hand (huge Pro), I wrote an obscene amount of words during those two days. I moved the story along and followed the outline, including some really fun foreshadowing.

On the other hand (a huge con), it really feels like too much in too short period of time. My brain is used to creativity being spread over several days, due to my schedule and fitting the writing after my day-job.

I know I can do writing marathons, I did that in the past when I had a deadline to meet and I wrote over 5K in one day. But this weekend showed me I can't do such an intensive writing all the time. Maybe I could do it once every few months. Maybe even once a month.

Have you participated in Fiction Writing Marathons before? Do you have a routine for insane days when you just write and write and write? Any tips for when I do the writing marathon again?

4 June 2010

Guest Posting?

Lately, I've been considering guest posting. It seems like an interesting thing to do, sharing my thoughts with a different audience, one that might not be familiar with my sense of humor or my writing/blogging style.

But I'm hesitant to pitch any sort of post to the blogs I read on a regular basis.

Mostly, it's because I have never pitched an article to a complete stranger. I either write articvles in response to an assignment or pick any topic I feel like.

And there's the matter of what to blog about. It can't be something I already covered here, it would feel too much like cheating. And coming up with something fresh and totally new? It's a huge challenge.

I'm also hesitant because of a byline. I would have to come up with something, linking somewhere (most likely to this blog?). What would my byline say, anyway? "Executive assistant by day, freelance writer by night" (like on my Twitter profile), or something completely new?

And besides, I'm by no mean an expert. I'm still discovering my way in this freelance world, not to mention my publishing credits aren't very impressive (though I'm very proud of them, it's nothing to write home about.)

I will most likely end up writing all the pros and cons on a piece of papers, trying to decide. Thankfully I have entire month of June for that, as one of the blogs I love just announced they will be accepting Guest Posts.

If and when I decide, I will let you know.

2 June 2010

Googledocs - perfect tool for writers

If you're following me on Twitter or read one of my previous posts, you probably know about my love affair with Googledocs. I promised to write a love letter to Googledocs, and here it is.

Why I love Googledocs?

Easy access
All files are stores online, so you can access your files from every computer connected to the Internet. You can work on your writing from your laptop, using a computer at a library, computer at work, or from anywhere else.

At the same time, you don't have to worry about saving the files on a USB drive. You don't have to carry that drive everywhere you go, and there's very little chance on ever losing any of your writing.

True, what is Googledocs' big advantage is also its flaw. You can't use it while offline, so when you want to write on an airport,while you're waiting for your flight, you need to buy Internet access.

Sharing option
That feature is a single most amazing thing about Googledocs. You can share your files with other people, giving them the ability to edit the file as well, or simply view it. I'm currently sharing my stories with my editors and I have to tell you revising the story based on the comments is far easier than sending the file back and forth allthe time.

Not to mention the fact that I'm also co-writing a really awesome story (also using Googledocs) and let me tell you. I know exactly when my co-author updates the file, and I don't even have to refresh the file as changes appear automatically as the new text is saved.

Googledocs look familiar. It has most of the options offered by the regular word processors like Word or OpenOffice. You can format the file before pasting it into your blog. If you use the Rich Text option on your blog, Googledocs will keep all the links and bold fonts and even different colors.

And did I mention the sharing option? Yeah, it's really awesome feature.

Just because I am completely in love with Googledocs doesn't mean I'm blind and can't appreciate any other great software perfect for writers. So if you use something different, please share!

31 May 2010

Feedback, the reason why I write online

At the very beginning of my freelancing adventure, I wrote an article explaining why I think online publishing is better for writers than print publishing. But there was one point I didn't cover in that article. A reason while online publishing is so amazing. It's feedback.

When you publish anything in print, the delay between the story going live and getting a response from your readers is huge. Especially by today's standards.

Meanwhile, when you publish something online, you often get your very first feedback the same day. If you post your stories on your blog, or in some sort of writing community, you hear from your readers almost immediately. And it's amazing.

For me, the almost instant feedback is what really motivates me to write more, write better. The response and the comments, telling me I'm doing something right (or, sometimes, I'm doing something wrong) mak me want to cater to that audience, provide them with new material.

The feedback, I get the same day I post something new is the reason why I'm writing another instalment in that cracky little universe I started while in Hague (I mentioned it in my previous post). It's why I post on a regular schedule here (as opposed to the way I posted in the past).

It's the ability to have a conversation with my readers, to improve based on the criticism provided by much more people than just my editor.

I trully believe online publishing is the future of writing.

28 May 2010

Travelling and Writing - How Did It Work Out for Me

When I posted my Writer on the Move blog post, I didn't really know how this whole travelling and writing gig would work out. With so much things on my plate, I didn't want to have my expectations high. Let's face it, it's better for your ego is you get a nice surprise than when you're disappointing yourself.

What I did manage to accomplish:

I wrote a quick little article for Helium about successful blogging. I used both the advice I've read online (at various sources) and the stuff I know worked for me. The topic just pushed the right buttons, because the moment I saw the title available, I knew what and how to write it. And so, even though I wasn't planning on writing any non-fiction during this trip... There you go.

I also wrote a flashfic (barely above 1000 words) that came to me while I was exchanging story ideas via Twitter. It was an unapologetic fun story that could also be described as crack. But people who saw it seemed to like it (demanding another story in that universe - the highest compliment, I suppose). All in all, I had major fun with it.

I worked on my thesis as well. Not much, but I managed to accomplished what I planned during my stay in Hague. So that's a success - not getting too distracted by the new surroundings to forget what I had to do.

What I didn't do:

Not everything got done though. I promised myself to study for the exams... Yeah, not so much. The city was too interesting, the plot bunnies simply needed to be written down. Hopefully, I'll find time to do some studying at some point and pass those two exams.

The really awesome part:

What I'm really proud of is that I managed to keep the regular posting schedule here. Even though this post is being written from the airport as I'm waiting to check-in, it'll still go online on the day I planned. That's a huge victory for me, as establishing routines is usually a very painful process for me.

Have a good weekend everybody. I have a plane to catch :)

26 May 2010

Writing Ahead of Time - Having Things Done Before the Deadline

You probably noticed I started to post more regularly to the blog. Yes, I amaze myself. But I came to a conclusion that if I blog more often, I will naturally develop a writing schedule, just to fit in the time to write blog posts into my day. And everybody knows that a writing schedule is one of the sure tools to prevent writer's block.

But let's not kid ourselves, simply setting up days in my calendar and saying "oh, I'll blog on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, it'll be fun", doesn't mean I will have time or the strength to sit down, write a post, find links that go with it, and edit it to make sure there aren't any embarrassing typos. Knowing life, and my luck, I would never have any actual time to write on those particular days.

And so, for the last week or so, I've been writing my blog posts ahead of time, saving them up in my Google docs (oh how I love thee, I will definitely write a love letter to Googledocs later on) and moving on to another task. And then, on my posting date I just log into my Blogger account, do some copy/paste magic and bam, the post is up.

It actually improves on the entire writing experience, to be honest. Because it gets rid of a lot of stress.

Sure, like any other freelancer, I do incredibly well under the stress, and with my deadlines mere hours away. I mean, when I was finishing my big bang, I wrote over 5 000 words on that last day. And I doubt there's much editing needed in that section of the story.

But at the same time, I remember when I was blogging for Scribophile last year. And at some point, due to some life issues, I had to write several posts on the deadline. The stress of it all took the fun away. And if you don't enjoy writing... it shows.

So for the month of June, I'm setting myself a goal, to do all my writing well before deadlines. Which also means meeting my personal word count goal well before Friday. We'll see how that goes.

24 May 2010

Writer on the Move - Travelling and Writing

On Sunday, I had a plane to catch. My flight was leaving at 6am, which meant I had to wake up at 3am (to be somewhat coherent by 4am when the taxi I ordered would pick me up). It was a crazy few hours but by the time I was on the plane to Amsterdam, I was actually awake and ready for the adventure.

Right now, I'm writing this blog post from Hague (also known as Den Haag), Netherlands. I'm here on a business trip, but that doesn't mean I'm about to completely give up writing while I'm here.

True, I promised myself I would study for my upcoming exams and work on my thesis, but giving up my passion simply doesn't feel right.

So here I am, a Writer on the Move. Here's how the trip went so far.

What I learned during my trip to Madrid, was to take something to read on the plane. I haven't thought about it last time and I spent over 3 hours bored out of my mind. This time, I took three recent issues of Writer's Digest. I didn't want to turn on my laptop while in the air and the noise from the engine meant I wouldn't be able to concentrate on writing long hand. So that left reading.

I found it amusing that the first article I've read was from Chris Guillebeau, who writes for The Art of Non-comformity. He was writing about being a mobile writer. Well what look at that, I'm just giving it a try, Chris.
But, to get back on topic, having good reading material turned out to be a blessing. I didn't even notice when I arrived in Amsterdam.

I'll probabyl write in the evenings, after the business side of my trip is taken care of, and after I study a bit. But that's no different than to how and when I write at home. Though, to be honest, there's one (BIG) difference between home and here. The price of the Internet. While I won't be writing in a park, just to catch a WiFi Hotspot, the hotel's rate for Internet access are terrifying. But one has to sacrifice, right?

I'm looking forward to seeing whether or not these new surroundings will affect my muse. I'll definitely keep you updated.

21 May 2010

Writing Goals and Why Every Writer Should Have Them

Back when I was writing for Scribophile, I wrote a post titled "Challenges, Contests And Writing Olympics: Why Do We Participate?". It was a humorist answer to why exactly writing challenges are so popular among writers. The post is over a year old, so you might be wondering why I'm even talking about it again.

The answer is simple. This year I signed up for FindYourWords again and Friday is the day when I report back with my weekly word count.

I didn't meet my goal last year. For various reasons. Maybe I simply wasn't ready, I don't know. But this year, I set my goal at a modest 65K, thinking that with writing another 20K big bang, I would be able to meet the goal by the end of the year.

And let me tell you, it's extremely satisfying to see I'm almost half way through.

I think at some level, I can attribute this productivity to the fact that I report to someone every week. "Hey, I wrote this many words this week". I see other writers reporting their progress. Some of them posting snippets of their work, others saying they are in the middle of editing and so their word count isn't that big.

And reading all those comments from writers all over the world makes me feel guilty every time I have to admit I haven't written a word.

Now, I participate in the challenge over at Livejournal, because I'm active there in the fandom community. But there are many places out there for writers, where you can share your daily accomplishments.

There's The One-Minute Writer where they post one prompt a day and you can share what you've written with other in the comments. What I did (even though with my current bigger projects I don't have time to write smaller pieces, is subscribing to the blog, and I get my daily prompt with my other Feeds.

And of course you can't forget about Inky Girl and her three challenges: write 1000 words a day, write 500 words a day and write 250 words a day. Basically, based on the time you have at your disposal, how much do you want to push yourself, you choose the challenge best suitable for you.

Now, if you excuse me, I have to go and report those 2642 words I've written this week (not counting the outline I'm working on).

19 May 2010

Wednesday Update: The Writing Adventure continues

I decided to round up all that happened to me writing-wise. You can call it a stress relief tactic as the constant rains had put my city (and half of my country) on an emergency level, with bridges being closed and people being evacuated from the small villages near the river.

The World of Non-Fiction

I remain fascinated with the inner workings of Suite101. True, writing SEO rich articles isn't my very favorite past-time, and I prefer to be provided keywords to work into the article, but it's been a great training. I wrote another article about Studying Abroad; this time concentrating on how studying abroad can cost less than studying in the US. I was quite surprised to do the calculations, but Europe does seem like a cheaper option.

It's my second article, after tips on choosing good study abroad programs, in this area to be published on Suite101. Mostly because it's a topic I know a lot about and I'm seriously considering writing more in this niche. After all, I already wrote extensively on the subject while on Helium (going as far as creating a Zone exclusively about Studying Abroad).

I also decided to branch out into Entertainment and took on the phenomena that is the Vampire Diaries and explored reasons why it's such a popular show. I did extensive research on the subject, which may or may not consisted of spending 20 minutes looking at pictures of Ian Somerhalder... You have nothing to prove it! (but he's very good for inspiration, if you were wondering)

Writing Fiction

I found an editor for my bigbang story. I haven't looked at the corrected file yet. Mostly because I'm a bit afraid of what I might find there. So far I got two very positive feedback comments from two people, but they weren't reading the story to correct it... And we all know how writers are about admitting their story might not be perfect... Well, I know my story isn't perfect. I'd just prefer not to hear it from somebody else.

Yes, yes, I know editors are usually right and we should listen to them and appreciate them for they only have our best interest at heart.

The Epic Collaboration Project is currently on hold (though we're still excited). It's because we both have other, more urgent projects (as in projects with actual deadlines set by somebody else). But we started on the outline so it's going to happen.

Another story I've mentioned before is the other 20k story I have to write by September. I decided to dub it The War Angst as it's describing the story itself rather nicely. I need to do some serious research into the Marine Corps, but because it's more about an emotional turmoil than actual fighting, I think I can hand wave some more problematic facts. The ideas of what's going to happen in this one are floating around in my brain, I just need to write them down and see if I can come up with a coherent outline.

Other Stuff Happens Too

I kept playing nice with other kids, which I suppose counts for something. But seriously, I started to comment a bit more to other people's posts. It's mostly due to the fact that I'm meeting more and more people via Twitter and the #amwriting chat, and various RSS recommendations. And it's... Well, it doesn't feel right not to get involved in the conversations there.

I also wrote down some ideas and projects I'd like to start/get involved in. I could see myself getting passionate about several of them (like expanding and making use of my knowledge regarding Study Abroad programs), but I don't want to take on any more projects with what I have on my plate at the moment. Graduation, getting my degree and finally having more time to pursue those projects, I'm basically daydreaming about that moment.

The plans for next week/more immediate future?

Getting rid of the distractions and completing part of my thesis. At the same time I'd like to write two more articles. One for Helium about my trip to Ostrava (similar to what I wrote about Madrid back in September) and perhaps one more article for Suite101 - the subject of that one is still pending.

Wow. Once I wrote down everything that happened and what I have in store... I'm quite a busy little writer! That's a great feeling!

16 May 2010

Excited About Fiction Projects

Back in November 2009, me and some of my friends decided to sign up for NaNo. And because we live in the same city, we also decided to meet every week to support each other and motivate each other to finish the Nano project.

We actually did just that for several weeks. And even though I didn't manage to write those 50K of words in one month, those weekly meetings helped me get the story further.

The best thing in it all is that we kept meeting once a week. True, right now we don't discuss writing all that much, but it happens from time to time. But during our last meeting, one thing led to another and it somehow ended with me and one of my friends deciding to do a major collaboration project.

Imagine my amusement when I got home and found an article on how to work with other writers. Honestly John, great timing on that one.

This story we started to outline (for the time being let's call it The Epic Collaboration Project) is something I'm really excited about right now.
I haven't been excited about a fiction project since... the bigbang I finished at the beginning of May.

It might sound weird, but those non-profit works I'm doing are really helping me become a better writer. Two years ago, I would laugh if someone told me I can actually write (and finish!) a 20K story. I did that last year. This year, I already finished one 20K story, I have another one to write with a September deadline, I have the ECP in the works (hopefully to be finished by the end of the year).

Not to mention my thesis, which also needs to be written by the end of the year, first bigbang story needs to be edited by July... My writing calendar looks more and more busy.

I love the feeling!

7 May 2010

Recently, Linda Formichelli over at The Renegate Writer posted "3 Excuses That Are Keeping You from a Successful Freelance Writing Career" and then asked "What’s Your Excuse?" I decided to answer her question, since I seem to fit her criteria. I have a full time job, writing on the side, earning not much.

Here's why I'm keeping my full time job, why I don't bid on jobs, why I don't send in query letters to big publications, why I write for sites like Helium and Suite101, which pay for page views to my articles and ad-click and require a huge amount of articles to actually turn a good profit:

I'm still pursuing my degree. With a high tuition, I cannot afford a month or two with lower income. Till I graduate, I have to have the safety net that is a steady income from my full time job. To add to that, I'm currently writing my thesis (or... trying, most of the time), that and the regular exams and classes take up a lot of my attention. Attention I cannot afford to give other things at the moment.

It's very possible that once I graduate (and decide not to continue my academic career), I will reevaluate my stance and change the ways I do things right now.

I have to admit. I am fascinated by the concept of passive income. Even more, I'm completely in love with it. When I had long periods of time when I hadn't written anything and Helium still paid me, I was so high with happiness, it's difficult to describe. And as an extracurricular activity, it's perfect for me.

I'm not going to hide this. Writing short informative articles are easy. I'm writing them mostly from my own experience. It's quick and easy and after a long day at work, the last time I need is stress over deadlines (I have enough of that on my fiction projects)


Apart from non-fiction articles and projects, I also write fiction. Short stories, a novella a year for my Fandom bigbang. Sometimes I need to put everything on the side and spend an entire day finishing my story, because OMG there's a deadline! Sometimes I simply need to ignore everything else and put my fiction projects before everything else.
If I had big clients (or any clients at all, in fact), I wouldn't be able to do it. I would have to deliver first to those that trusted me with their projects and paid me obsene amounts of money for my services. I dont deal well with guilt.

Yeah. You read that right. I actually love my full time job. And I enjoy it. A lot. Not only that, I know there is still so much I can learn about International Education. I just don't want to miss out on that.

This means two things. Some writing jobs are out of my reach becaue I cannot fill in the W9 and those other American tax related forms. And due to exchange rates, what may seem like a small payout for American writers is actually a nice one for me. Yes, I recognize that this argument also means that a nice and big payouts for Americans would mean huge ones for me.

I realize that Freelance Writing is not a career for me right now. But it's not a hobby either. I think, in my mind, it's more of a side project. I still want to succeed in it. I still want to develop my skills in various areas and meet people. But I don't live and breathe Freelance Writing yet. There is this one point, my graduation, when I'll be seriously rethinking my approach to life and my future career.

Right now, I have so many plans, writing projects, novels, ebooks, articles etc.
Hopefully, I can achieve at least some of them while still working and being at school.

4 May 2010

Discovering Suite101 - First Impressions

I already posted about Associated Content politely telling Non-US writers they don't want us there. I basically spent the day before yesterday trying to figure out where I'm standing and where I want to go.

Since I'm currently freelancing only part-time, I prefer to write more for sites that can offer me some passive income, so I can build up on my portfolio and not stress about having to write something or I won't be able to pay the bills.

Still, I don't like putting all my eggs in one basket. That was the only reason while, even though I'm writing for Helium, and I quite enjoy it, I started to write for Associated Content. I didn't want to get all my revenue from one place, in case something happened. Well guess what, something happened. Just not with Helium.

Since AC gave me a choice to keep writing for free until I can apply for their Feature Writer possition, or I can move on.

I decided to move on.

Suite101 is a website I ran across back in 2008 when I was just starting writing articles for the Internet. It was a bit scary, required me to submit two writing samples and threatened with editors and weird submission policies. Back then I went with Helium, which seemed much more newbie friendly.

But two years later, with numerous clips and a lot of experience, I decided to see if Suite101 would make for a good home. I revised their hiring policy, and how one could actually earn with them. Because, let's be honest, I might love writing, but this I do for money.

And so, yesterday, I created a profile, and wrote my very first article for Suite101. Because I know a lot about studying aborad, that is exactly what my article was about. I wrote about finding good study abroad programs. We'll see how it will go.

According to Suite101 rules, I have to write 10 articles every three months, more if I'd like to become a Feature Writer. What's new for me, is the fact that I'm being paid a percentage of the ad-click revenue. Meaning the page views aren't as important. It's people clicking on ads on my articles that will be bringing me money. I don't know how I feel about it. I know I won't be earning huge amounts right away, I've read both incredible earning stories and those more depressing ones.

For now, I'm a bit shy about this new place, I want to try it out, see what works there and what doesn't. I'll definitely keep you updated.

2 May 2010

New AssociatedContent Policy regarding Non-US writers

While I was deep at work finishing the story with the May 1st deadline, I got a surprising email on my inbox.

AssociatedContent was messaging me to inform me of their new and improved policy regarding Non-US writers.

See, I don't hide the fact that I am from Europe. I know that in the online job market the fact that I don't have a Social Security number does mean I miss on some of the opportunities available to my US writing counterparts.

When I decided to check AssociatedContent to see if the site worked for me, I knew that as a European I wouldn't be eligible for their Upfront Payment. But the passive income was still available to me. Meaning I would still get paid for my work.

Well, according to the email I received, that will no longer be the case:

After evaluating our payment policies in regard to international Contributors, our legal team has determined that Associated Content must immediately start withholding a portion of all international Performance Payments pursuant to U.S. tax laws. Due to the cost involved in this process, we can only offer continued Performance Payments to international Contributors enrolled in Associated Content’s Featured Contributors program.

Contributors who are not enrolled as a Featured Contributor, or are not accepted into this program, will no longer be able to earn Performance Payments from Associated Content as of May 1, 2010. If this applies to you, you will receive a final Performance Payment on May 12, 2010 for your page views through April 30, 2010 (if your balance exceeds the current $1.50 payment threshold).

If you are not currently enrolled as a Featured Contributor, we encourage you to apply now. Please note that the program requires you to have top-notch writing skills, and a strong body of work in one of our featured topic areas. You can read all the details and apply to one of the programs here. Note: There is no deadline for applying to the program, but you will not be able to earn further payment until/unless you are accepted.

If you are accepted into the program, you will be asked to submit a United States W-8BEN tax form, enabling Associated Content to withhold earnings on Performance Payments pursuant to U.S. tax laws. In addition, your earning threshold will increase from $1.50 to $100, meaning Associated Content will only process Performance Payments when the total payment balance passes $100. The good news: As a Featured Contributor, you will receive high value assignme nts every month, and will continue earning Performance Payments on all content published.

What that means for me, is that I basically need to continue to write for them, for free, to build up a portfolio in one of their categories to be able to apply for this Feature Contributor possition. And then, I may or may not be accepted. If I am, they will start paying me only for the pageviews, but I won't see the money unless I reach $100...

And they will take away portions of the money I earn.

To be honest, I don't really know how to proceed now. The articles I already published there will no longer bring me any money, unless I decide to tie myself down to the site that doesn't offer me all that many options. I can't delete my content from the site. I don't know if I want to even apply for the Feature Contributor position.

It's basically a weird situation where I can't decide what should be my nesxt step. So, basically, if you have any ideas, please share them.

20 April 2010

Defining sick leave

Boy, I think I redefined sick leave. If this was a regular 9 to 5 job I would most likely get fired by now. But after the rather difficult flu, I hit a complete writer's block.

To be perfectly honest I'm still trying to cope as far as my fiction writing goes (the problem is it's not going at all...). And with a deadline just 10 days away, I'm slowly starting to panic. I have to finish this story because it's a big part of my fiction writing plan this year. If I fail,I'll probably won't find the strenght to finish the story at all...

So that's that.

I'm also a bit (a lot) behind on my thesis writing. Again, the deadlines are a bit hectic and I should really turn in *something* just so that my supervisor doesn't get mad. One would think with writing about what I do, the thesis would be easy.
No, not really.

And finally, the area where I actually HAVE written something.
My non-fiction writing seems to be... going is such a strong word... crawling forward. The goal of 40 articles by the end of the year is still there.

I wrote a review of Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day and a list of 10 movies worth watching with your Mom during Mother's Day.

Additionally, I have several ideas for more articles, but I'm not certain if I shouldn't wait with them and concentrate on the story and (maybe :-P) my thesis first...

Wish me luck

21 January 2010

Freelancer on sick leave

For the last two weeks I've been battling the flu. Not the swine flu or anything, but the regular, nasty kind. You know, the usual: fever, headache, feeling as if you'll cough out your lungs... I'm all better now, thank you.

My point isn't what type of flu I had. It's more the fact that during those two weeks I have written... nothing. Zilch, Zero, Nul. Exactly 0 words in two weeks. No progress on my short stories, nothing new on the bigger project. No research done, no articles published.

I basically disappeared from the face of the Earth and am still recovering and trying to wrap my head around all the things that didn't get done during my "sick leave".

And while I recover it's unlikely I'll start writing with the previous speed right away. To be perfectly honest it's unlikely I'll write anything before February starts. And that means that the only money I earned was at the very beginning of the month and whatever passive income I made off of Helium and AssociatedContent.

Which, in turn, made me wonder, how would it all look like if I didn't have the full time job and income from that to fall on. It made me wonder about all those deadlines I would have to meet despite the high fever that made thinking seem like a superhuman ability. The image that appeared in my mind was quite scary, to be honest.

I don't get seriously ill too often. It's basically once a year, twice if I'm really stressed and tired. So it's between two and four weeks out of the entire year when I wouldn't be able to earn any money, not counting the passive income. Not factoring in the fact that I would work a lot more with actual clients, if I was pursuing the freelance career full-time, it means that four weeks in a year I would risk deadlines, disappointed clients and any future income they could've bring me.

All this paints a rather depressing image of what could happen to me and my career if I dare to have a flu while working fulltime as a freelancer. It does not encurage me in any way to quit my office job and switch completely to freelancing.

Are there ways to ensure that if you get sick your career won't fall into pieces? What failsafes one can instal into the business model to give oneself time to recover?


4 January 2010

Write what you know and how I had

If you start reading various sites that are designed to help writers, sooner or later all of them will mention one thing.

That you should write what you know.

Which is also exactly what I tell people when they are looking for inspiration for an article or a blog post (If they need help with fiction, I send them to the Almost Totally Random Prompt Generator). And I also followed that advice, always picking the article topics I knew something about. Mostly because it required less research from me, and we all know time is money.

After I gave it some thought, at the very beginning of my freelance adventure, I decided to write about something I know and what other people are no doubt interested in. Writing.

You can see my interest in that topic from the numerous posts at Scribophile (when I was still writing for them) and from my various articles at Helium and AssociatedContent.

But recently I decided to start sharing my knowledge about another topic I'm quite familiar with. Studying Abroad.
Apart from being a freelancer, I have a full time job at the University where I work with international students and help students of our University apply for different student exchange programs. That means I not only have the know-how, but I also know quite well what the students are most interested in.

So just to see what would happen, I wrote the first article in December (How important is studying abroad for your career?). I was surprised to see it become one of my top earning articles. So to continue with the experiment, I wrote three more articles (yes, an article a day. It happened without me realizing it):

Determining if studying abroad is right for you
Advice to people thinking of studying abroad
Studying abroad without blowing your budget

Each of them turned out to be among my most popular articles. I am THRILLED.

And just because I didn't want to slow down when I'm on the roll, I did something about one of my New Year's Resolutions and I created a Helium Zone connected to, you guessed right, studying abroad.

You can easily say that three days into the 2010 I'm rediscovering how awesome it is to track my statistics.

So when next time you read how you should write what you know, BELIEVE IT.

1 January 2010

First steps into the new 2010

I hope your holidays were relaxing and enjoyable. I know mine were. And even though I gave in to the general laziness and haven't written a word, I managed to actually sit down and think about where I want to take my writing in the upcoming year.

Resolutions for 2010:

- Write enough Reviews to finally get paid at ReviewStream.com
It's embarassing to say, but I completely ignored that site in favour of other revenue sources. But it feels like wasting the money I already earned there. So this year (hopefully sooner than later), I resolve to write enough reviews of pretty much everything to qualify for payment. The minimum payout is $50, which is the highest among all the sites I write for.

- Experiment and create a Zone at Helium
Zones are a feature that has been introduced at Helium this year and I have to say,I've been a little unsure as to what to do with them. But recently I got an idea for a zone that could not only work, but remain within my area of expertise and interest. I'll need to research the topic of zones a bit more before doing something, but it's definitely worth checking out.

- Publish an e-book
A few months ago I got an idea for a non-fiction e-book for newbie freelance writers with extra information for freelancers not located in the US. I then set myself a goal of finishing it by June 2010. But with writing my thesis, it appears it would be safer to assume August 2010 for the first draft and October 2010 for publication. Nonetheless, the idea isn't lostand will very much happen.

- Write at least 40 new articles
Last year, I've written 34 articles. With other writing projects (the e-book and fiction that I write) I think it's a very realistic goal. For full time freelancers this is of course not nearly enough to be able to support yourself on your writing, but if adding the passive income I have from articles already written, it should be a nice additional income.

I also reviewed the year 2009 using an article I've written in December 2008. 6 New Year's Resolutions for Freelancers. I was pleased to see that I managed to do most of what I invited other people to try.

And on that happy note, I hope your New Year's resolutions will come true. Good luck in the New Year 2010!!