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online learning

5 Things You Gain From Online Learning

The half-life of a learned skill is five years. Much of what you learned ten years ago is obsolete and half of what you learned five years ago is irrelevant.

A New Culture of Learning by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown

I saw that quote a few days ago from a post on Linkedin. I searched online to check where this quote came from. This came from A New Culture of Learning by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown.

When I first read that quote, it struck me and asked myself if the quote applies to everyone.

Ten and Five Years Ago

I’ve been in the workforce for more than 25 years. There are some nursing and med. tech. skills that will never die after graduating from college. But I’m no longer a practicing medical technologist and nurse. And if ever I return to professional practice, I would need to take refresher courses to update myself with the current trends and best practices and renew my licenses.

I’ve been a creative writer for 21 years now and my screenplay writing skills may have turned rusty as I haven’t written a full-length movie script for years. The recent scripts I’ve written were short company audio-visual presentations.

I’ve been a freelance writer for 8 years and the SEO and social media practices I’ve learned before may now be irrelevant.

Yeah, that quote applies to everyone in this ever-connected world. Welcome to the 21st century brand of learning.

e-Learning

The first time I heard of online learning was back in 1999 when I heard the University of the Philippines offers Open University. Enrolling in a degree course and taking it online at home, the student is only required to come on campus at a specified time or when necessary.

I experienced online learning first hand when I was employed in a BPO company. They require all employees to take an online training course and call it a “university” where at the end of each course, you take a test and get a certificate of completion, if applicable.

When I started freelancing, I saw some sites that offer online courses and enrolled in a few of them. It seems that e-learning has become the greatest revolution in today’s education.

Advantages of Online Learning

At Home

Most of us have attended a traditional learning setup — school campus, classroom, library, Principal’s office, etc. We need to pay for tuition and other fees to be enrolled and attend classes. Attendance is checked, exams are given, and at the end of the term, you’ll know if you passed or failed. Nowadays, aside from getting a formal education, people get online degree programs or take courses through an online platform. It takes a Google search to find a suitable course for you and it’s also interactive.

Self-paced

Although online education has its limitations, people find it convenient to take it within the comfort of their home. All lectures and materials are provided online and students can learn at their own pace. But comfort does go both ways. Although e-learning can be done at home, one can always be distracted. Thus self-discipline is required of each learner. That’s one of the reasons why UP Open University requires all applicants to take their readiness test to see if the student can withstand the demands of online learning.

Cheaper

Most online courses are cheaper than school tuition fees. And there are more than a million online courses that are free. But be careful in choosing those free online courses.

Good on your resume

Taking an online program will always look good on your resume. Potential employers or clients will think that you’re taking further education seriously.

There’s a course for almost everything

Nowadays, online courses are shorter because they focus on one topic. These mini-courses are skill or knowledge specific which if taken in a formal education set-up it may not be available or might have been mentioned lightly.

Everything is Teachable

There are people who still think that students don’t get real degrees online. Some may even think that online learners are lazy or are not smart enough to withstand formal education. That’s not how it is nowadays. Prestigious universities around the world do offer their degree courses online.

Because of the Internet, we’re constantly sharing our thoughts, our experiences, and our talents. There is so much stuff that we know that we don’t even know that we know. Sometimes, the greatest impact would come from sharing things we’re passionate about.

That makes us creators. Everyone has a skill and knowledge that he could share no matter the location, the experience, or the personality. Anyone can teach the things he loves and be able to impact the lives of others. You can teach the things that seem simple to you and be able to grow a community around you. You can change the norm and follow your dreams because everything is teachable.

When I started this website in 2016, all I thought was sharing what I think about writing and working from home. I’m doing this because I believe sharing is doing something right. I’m using this platform to share my experiences and what I’ve learned from the things I love doing.

Teachable

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone is advised to stay at home. I took this opportunity to attend a series of webinars which focuses on e-learning from an online platform called Teachable. Content creators can create courses and earn from these courses with this platform.

Career Karma

Also recently, I received an email from Arthur Meyster of Career Karma. Career Karma is a free app which promotes coding boot camps in the U.S. for people who are interested in breaking into information technology. Students can discover peers, coaches, and mentors to help accelerate your career in technology. However, the coding boot camps are in the U.S. I do hope there is something like this here in the Philippines.

Small Revolution

A few months ago, I received an email from Katrina McKinnon of Small Revolution. Her website is an online learning platform for those who want to become a copywriter and a virtual assistant. It also has a library of articles, bookshop and community. Small Revolution works with Kazi Work, a directory of vetted freelancers who are looking for online work. When a student finishes the training and graduates they are highlighted in Kazi Work.

My Thoughts

For the past few days, I’ve learned a lot and I’m already thinking on how I should be sharing my knowledge through this platform more. My quarterly newsletter is coming out soon and I’ll be sharing a good resource, too. So watch out for those two.

Tell me what you think about this article and let me know if I have missed anything. I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you like to read more about freelance writing, productivity, or creative writing, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.

apps

Apps I Use in Freelance Writing (And They’re Free)

Introduction

I’ve been freelancing for years and aside from my laptop, I need apps and tools that will not only make my work more efficient but also will allow me to get the job done and deliver. There are thousands of work management apps available online. But which of these apps are really for freelance writers?

If you have been freelancing or working online for some time now, you might be familiar with some of these apps. But if you’re just starting, consider this as an apps guide for an organized, productive, and efficient work from home life.

My Hardware

my remote work officeWhen I started freelancing in 2012, I used to have a desktop computer sitting beside a 3-in-1 printer on a desk. I had to invest in these pieces of hardware plus a stable Internet connection to start working at home.

As time goes by, mobility became a necessity. Thus, in 2015, I shifted from a desktop computer to a laptop. Until now, I still use a laptop 100% of the time.

Although I have an Android phone, I only use it for texting, calling, social media browsing, a few games, and my Kindle app. I never send emails or write notes using my smartphone.

And yes, add a headset with microphone for making calls. Having been in the BPO industry has made it not just a computer accessory, but a necessity.

My Apps

Most of the apps I’ll mention here are freemium, meaning you have the option to upgrade them from the free plan in order to use the full range of features. As much as possible, I always use the free or personal plan because I’m all alone in my freelance writing business anyway.

MS Office / LibreOffice

During the last quarter last year, most of my apps are web-based because I was using Linux Lubuntu as my laptop’s operating system. I have LibreOffice installed as part of the installation package. It was just like having an MS Office but free and open-source software (FOSS). What’s good about LibreOffice is I can save documents in .docx, .xls, and .pptx by default so that it would be compatible with the others who use the MS Office suite.

This year, I’m back using Windows so I have MS Office installed on my new laptop.

Google Chrome

Of course, to access the Internet, I need to use a net browser. Firefox is the default browser for Linux, but there is Google Chrome for Linux which my husband installed for me and which I use most of the time.

I prefer Chrome because I usually login on several sites using my Google account. However, there are a few sites that don’t run properly on Chrome (which used to run very well when I was still using Windows) but will run better on Firefox.

Start.me

If Chrome is my default browser, Start.me is my default home page. It is basically a bookmark management site where I classify often-used websites and apps into groups, icons, and links.

Back in the day, I used to have MyYahoo and iGoogle as my Start.me appstart pages until Yahoo! and Google took them down respectively to protect their search engine business. Come to think of it, it makes sense for them to do away with bookmarking because it will make us type on their search bar more instead.

But I prefer having a customized start page and I’m subscribed to Start.me’s free plan. Upgrade starts at $20.00 a year for professional use and the rate increases for team and enterprise use. A Start.me page can be customized by using different background themes and widgets. Once I open my Chrome browser, I have in front of me all the often-used links plus the weather and quote of the day.

Goodsearch

Goodsearch appI learned of this app in 2012 when I first joined NaNoWriMo. Ever since I’ve used of Goodsearch, I rarely use Google as a search engine. Goodsearch allows me to search for information and at the same time, for every unique search I typed in, they will give a penny ($0.01 USD) to my chosen charity (which is NaNoWriMo). Goodsearch is powered by Yahoo! It also has Goodshop and used to have Goodgames (I miss this!).

GMX Mail

Isn’t it nice to have all your email accounts in one place? That’s why I have GMX Mail. Its email collection feature is so awesome that I can read all my emails from different accounts. I can manage my contacts and calendar, too. It also has online office tools like Google Drive but I don’t use it.

Google Drive

Speaking of Google Drive, I use this to create, organize, and share documents, spreadsheets, and presentations online and on cloud. Sending a file to my clients is easy just by sharing it with a link, no need to attach it on email. But there are times when I need to upload a document from my hard drive and share them on the cloud. Uploading and downloading files on Google Drive is easy.

OfficeMA

OfficeMA appI’ve been using OfficeMA since 2013. This is my freelance business management tool and has a timer. This is also a freemium and I’m using the free plan because, as I’ve said earlier, I’m alone in my business.

This app allows me to handle multiple clients with different rates. Thus, when I start the timer, it can automatically compute for my work charged by the hour even though I have other clients whom I charged a fixed rate.

The paid plan (Professional) costs £1.20 GBP per person per month and lets you issue invoices. But I don’t need that feature because I have my own PayPal account.

I have used different timer/monitoring tools, too, like Time Doctor, Worksnaps, HubStaff, ActivTrak etc. because some clients do require me to install a monitoring tool. Whenever they don’t, I use my OfficeMA and send them a report once a task, assignment, or project is done.

PayPal

Ever since I started working from home in 2012, I have used PayPal as my payment management tool. Setting up an account was easy back then, I didn’t have any problems with linking it to my bank account. Most of my clients pay me via PayPal in their own currencies. I can also issue invoices using the app when I need to. But most of the time, my clients don’t need invoices.

Skype

Calling long distance is costly. But thanks to the marvels of the Internet, we now have Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP). One of the early apps on communication is Skype with its desktop version. Now, I’m using the web-based Skype. This version is convenient for me. Aside from making a call, I can do a video call, chat, and even share files.

I also use Messenger on my phone and seldom on my computer. There are clients who prefer Messenger over Skype. I am also familiar with other chat tools like MS Communicator, HipChat, Viber, Slack, Webex, Zoom, etc.

Trello

Trello appTrello is my project management/collaboration/organization tool. It applies the Kanban method by using boards, lists, and cards. It is also a freemium app and I’ve been using it since 2015. Upgrade starts at $9.99 USD per user per month.

I have used Basecamp, Highrise, Taiga, Slack, Asana, etc. because my clients use one or two of these. But I still prefer using Trello.

Evernote

Remember those Trapper Keeper binders during the ’90s? Those big binders can hold more than one notebook. Evernote is literally my online notebook binder. It allows me to create notebooks and organize my notes. It is also a freemium app and the upgrade starts at Php 130.00 a month. I used to have the app on my cell phone but I found the size too large for my phone’s memory so I use the web version since then.

However, not all my notes are on the cloud. I still have my Bullet Journal with me for planning and taking down notes.

Canva

Canva appI started using Canva in 2015 for my graphic design needs. I am not an illustrator so I use this app to create images for my website and social media accounts. It is also a freemium and upgrade starts at $9.95 a month when billed annually.

DupliChecker

DupliChecker is a web-based plagiarism tool that I’ve been using since 2012. After writing, I copy and paste the document (up to 1,000 words only per check) on the site and it will detect plagiarism for free.

WordPress

I use WordPress for Content Management System (CMS). Aside from this website, I still maintain other blogs using the WordPress platform. Years ago, I had a love-hate relationship with it.

RELATED ARTICLE: 100 Best Apps for Online Job Freelancers

Other Apps

There are apps that I’ll also mention here because they’re worth using especially when working from home. These are the apps which I use only when needed.

HootSuite

HootSuite is a social media management tool which I started using in 2013. This is also a freemium app. The free version used to allow me five different social media profiles but now, it was reduced to three. Back then, I could schedule many posts across all five social media platform, but now the free version only allows 30 scheduled posts. That’s one of the reasons why I seldom use this app nowadays.

MailChimp

Mailchimp is an easy-to-use marketing tool which can organize my mailing list, subscribers, newsletters, and marketing campaigns. The free version allows me to have a limited number of subscribers, but once I exceed, I have to pay a monthly fee. Therefore the pay increases as my mailing list grows. However, I switched to MailChimp’s TinyLetter late last year. TinyLetter is much simpler to use and fits my needs.

Free Press Release

I used to have an account with Free Press Release for creating and distributing press releases. However, I’ve checked the URL and it’s no longer available. Instead, I found PRFree, another free press release distribution site. It has been years since I’ve written a press release so I was unaware of this change. This is also a freemium PR distribution service and upgrade starts at $19.00 USD per PR.

Hemingway Editor

For writers like me, the Hemingway Editor helps make my writing readable and lean. Inspired by Hemingway’s “rule” in writing (less adverbs, the better), this app will show which sentences are too long or wordy with its color-coded highlighting.

Free Screencast

Free Screencast is a video editor that runs on Windows. I used to have a GoPlay Editor which I used to create YouTube videos years ago. I shifted to Free Screencast because it’s free. However, be aware of the add-ons it’s trying to impose on you [Chromium and McAfee]. I haven’t done videos lately, so I haven’t experienced the other features

There you have it, the apps I use in freelance writing.

I would like to thank Katrina McKinnon for reaching out to me and inspired me to write this article. You may visit her website, Small Revolution, an online learning platform for people who want to work from home.

Let me know if you have used any of these apps and tell me what you think. Let me know, too, if I have missed anything, I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you like to read more about freelance writing, productivity, or creative writing, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.

 

clients

Stop Attracting Bad Clients

All freelancers agree that there are bad clients out there. We hear from writers similar stories of bad experiences from clients after writing for them. I, too, experience those types of clients. This phenomenon has become a chronic disease for some writers because they get one bad client after another which could burn them out of freelance writing.

But before I go on, let me share my recent experience which prompted me to write this blog post in the first place.

A Recent Experience

I’ve been promoting myself as a freelance writer through this website and once in a while, I do engage on social media. One day, I posted a comment on someone’s YouTube channel and shared a link about working from home which leads to my blog.

The personality behind that YouTube channel has books, TV appearances, and a large following on social media. He sent me an email through my website to contact him. I was surprised and was very honored to talk to him on the phone. In the process, he asked for a writing sample. I sent one, and he liked it. I haven’t heard anything from him since.

Just recently, I received an email from his staff asking for my rate. I told the staff that my rates vary depending on the client and their needs.

Although I prefer to be paid by the hour, not all of my clients prefer this method. I can be paid per month, per project, per article, per page, per 500 words, or a combination of per hour + per 500 words.

Also, I told the staff that as a member of the Freelance Writers Guild of the Philippines (FWGP), no writer should be paid lower than Php 2.00 per word. So I gave them a quote for my minimum rate which I believe is fair enough for me and for them, and still within the FWGP standard.

After a few hours, I received the staff’s reply. He said that “although they like my writing”, my rate “is beyond something they can afford”. They also said that they “wouldn’t haggle because they respect my pricing”.

That reply made me think.

This personality has more than half a million subscribers on YouTube alone. His books are best-sellers. With his stature, he can afford to hire good writers at a fair rate. Saying that they couldn’t afford my rate made me think that they’re probably hiring someone who would accept a writing job worth less than Php 2.00 per word. Now I’m wondering how much does this YouTube personality pay his team.

I’m just hoping that no one from the FWGP circle would be fool enough to accept a YouTube video script writing job for less than Php 2.00 per word because this perpetuates the phenomenon of getting bad clients.

RELATED ARTICLE: How Much Will You Charge?

Types of Bad Clients

The YouTube personality I mentioned is not really a bad person. I am subscribed to his channel because I like his content. But because of this personal incident, I could classify him as a potential bad client.

Below are the types of clients freelancers encounter. If you experienced at least one of them, chances are you’ve been duped. But if you experienced them all before, by all means, avoid them.

The control freaks

These clients have a lot of trust issues. They keep on sending you a message every now and then asking for updates. They might even require you to install a remote monitoring tool just to check if you’re not playing around.

The dreamers

These clients want the moon and the stars. You’re enticed to support their goals but the problem is, they don’t tell you how to get there. You’ll have to figure it out yourself and give it to them on time.

The eccentrics

These clients don’t have an idea of what they want until you write it for them. They’ll be happy but then they’d change their mind and realize that your writing or your service is not what they want at all.

The samplers

These clients would ask for a writing sample or ask you to do a “writing test” just to check if you’re the right fit. And most of the time, the sample is never paid.

The fly-by-nights

These clients disappear with your payment. They would come up with all the reasons for not paying you. They could also be eccentric, you know. Also, a sampler and a fly-by-night could be one and the same person.

The misers

These clients prefer to pay the lowest rate possible. That’s why they are scattered across the different online job platforms. Most of them are also starting up, with limited funds to hire people, thus they outsource.

Why You Keep on Attracting Them

You might have heard of the Law of Attraction. Your thoughts become things. Whatever you think and act about, you bring about.

Probably, in your desire to get the freelance writing gig quick, you attract them unknowingly. Here are the reasons why:

You keep on choosing clients in the wrong places.

When I started freelancing back in 2012, I started using oDesk and Elance (both are now Upwork). I also made a profile on other online job sites like OnlineJobsPH, PeoplePerHour, Outsourcely, etc. These sites are where I’ve met those bad clients, and only a handful were good ones.

I’ve realized that these sites have become overcrowded with writers who are willing to bid low rates just to get the job. And bad clients love these kinds of freelance writers.

You sound desperate.

Have you noticed how you write your cover letter or pitch? Take a look at these samples:

“I agree with the cause of your non-profit organization and I would be honored to write for you for a reduced rate.”

“I would be willing to lower my rate if you’d agree to hire me.”

“I don’t have any writing samples, but if you would give me a chance to write for you, I could prove my worth.”

“I would love to write for you.”

These are the statements that attract bad clients. They could smell insecure and desperate writers. And in the end, these poor desperate writers would be treated like doormats.

You easily jump in for anything and everything.

In the desire to get a freelance writing gig, you tend to apply for any writing job on any platform without realizing what type of writing the prospect wants. Applying for any writing job on any writing format and hoping that something will stick together doesn’t work.

I consider myself as a generalist because I can write both fiction and non-fiction, from web content to academic writing, and almost everything in between. However, I know what I can’t write and I tell my clients about that at the beginning.

RELATED ARTICLE: 6 Reasons Why You Should Have a Website

What You Could Do To Avoid Bad Clients

Qualify your prospects.

Qualifying means to check your prospective client’s online reputation. Do some research. It’s not bad to have a profile on some online job platforms. Some platforms provide ratings for employers to guide freelancers. You may still find rare gems there.

Target your prospects directly.

It’s better to choose the type of writing jobs you are comfortable with. Avoid those job posts that seem too good to be true. With experience, you can sense the job posts made by these bad clients.

If possible, have a website or a blog that prospective clients could look into. One advantage of having a website is that you control your own content, thus your own profile and portfolio. And it makes you stand out from the crowd.

My current client sent me an email and told me that he found me on Google while searching for a freelance writer. And when I proposed my rates, he agreed. This only shows that there are good clients out there.

Also, learn some principles of good networking. Dress up, attend gatherings, and connect with people. Who knows? They may refer you to good clients in the future.

Project that self-confidence and communicate your useful expertise.

Take a look at what you’re writing and saying. Are you using words that show your confidence? You should come across with an attitude that your writing is a valuable skill and provide a valuable service.

But what if you’re not confident enough? Then fake it until you make it. Doing consistent confident actions tend to build confidence over time.

Try looking for gigs that you are comfortable writing with first.

“Write what you know” is a cliche you’ve heard a lot of times. But for freelancers, this can still apply. Successful freelance writers focus on specific industries and limit their clients within that niche. Ask yourself what topics and industries do you prefer to write about. Do you want to focus on B2B (business-to-business) or B2C (business-to-customers)? And if you see a niche you really want to get into but don’t know about yet, then study and learn until you’re comfortable writing about it.

Have your prospective client pay for a writing sample.

To avoid a bad experience with the samplers, have them pay your writing sample. Charge them per article or per 500 words whether or not they hire you or not.

I’ve put this provision in my Statement of Work with the client. I charge it either per article or per 500 words depending on the length. I also put in there that if ever they liked my writing, the project will push through. But if not, consider it as a “kill fee”.

RELATED ARTICLE: Statement of Work

My Final Thoughts

Freelancers encounter bad clients, that is a fact. But it should never be a constant in each freelance writer’s life.

To avoid having bad clients, know who, what, and where to look for a good client. Acting and sounding confident (even though you’re faking it) could impress a potential client. And focus on a specific niche you’re comfortable writing about.

Let me know if you have experienced these types of bad clients and how you dealt with them. Or just tell me what you think about this post. Let me know, too, if I have missed anything, I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you like to read more about freelance writing, productivity, or creative writing, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.

statement of work

Items to Put In Your Statement of Work

One of the frustrations of a freelance writer is not being paid for the work he/she had done. The freelance writer would charge it to experience. However, it keeps on happening, especially if the client sounds too good to be true.

So to avoid this kind of scenario, it is better to set up a written Statement of Work (SOW) which, for me, also serves as my proposal. And once the client signs it, it becomes a contract.

I have on my file a template which I can freely edit depending on the client’s job request. So each of my clients receives a different scope, thus, a different rate.

Statement of Work

You might have heard of these acronyms or terms before:

  • RFI (Request for Information)
  • RFP (Request for Proposal)
  • SOW (Statement of Work)
  • SLA (Service Level Agreement)
  • MSA (Master Service Agreement)
  • Independent Contractor Agreement
  • Contract

Technically, they operate in different ways. These documents describe specific aspects of how an agency or a contractor is going to serve the needs of a client. These documents could represent a section or the entire contract itself.

Most businesses prefer a general contract. BPO companies do have a separate SOW and SLA within their Contract. Others prefer an Independent Contractor Agreement for freelancers.

The reason why I chose to call my contract a Statement of Work (SOW) rather than anything else is its purpose. A Statement of Work provides a detailed and descriptive list of all the deliverables of a project. For me, aside from providing a detailed description of my deliverables, my SOW serves as my free quote or job proposal, including my promise of service level. And if the client signs it, this becomes our contract.

Let me show you how I compose my Statement of Work.

The Parties Involved

At the beginning of the contract, I always state who I am dealing with.

This [type of contract] is by and between me, [YOUR NAME] of [your company] and the client, [CLIENT'S FULL NAME] of [client’s company].

I prefer to deal with one person, even if the clients are in pairs. This way, I avoid any miscommunication or misunderstanding during the course of the project. However, if they are a pair, like a husband and wife team, I state both full names in the contract.

If the person has two companies, I prefer to set up a separate contract for each company. Why? Let me tell you a story:

I had this client who reached out to me to write for his website. The topic is within my expertise, thus I wrote blogs on his behalf comfortably well. However, when he announced that he would set up another website and asked me to write its contents, I thought twice. The topic is not within my expertise but I could write about it if I’ll research it well. That would mean more time for research and writing, meaning more time and effort. Thus, I gave the client another set of rates, different from the first assignment. At least, I would not feel I’m at a disadvantage if I write for both websites at the same time.

Most clients would take advantage of this situation. Since they already know how much I charge, they would find a way to use my talent to do something much bigger than the first assignment. Clients would think that the same rate applies across the board. It may apply to other freelancers like illustrators who could charge per piece, but not for freelance writers.

Scope of Work

This part of the contract contains a detailed and descriptive list of all the deliverables. It defines the type of project, its scope and limitations. This serves as a compass for the project so both parties can track the progress and make sure everything is going according to plan. It is better for me to define everything, even the slightest detail. A vague SOW only opens the door to disputes. It’s in the best interest of both parties to eliminate vagueness whenever possible.

SCOPE OF WORK: This is a [type of] project for the client which includes:
• [describe the nature,
• scope of the project, and
• limitations of the project]

An example of what I presented to a client recently looks like this:

SCOPE OF WORK: This is a SEO and Social Media Management project for the client, which includes:
-- administering the WordPress site,
-- article/blog writing
-- social media posts on 1 Facebook page and 1 Twitter account only (additional social media platforms will have additional charges)
-- responding to comments for audience engagement (but not including critical or sensitive customer service or technical support issues which I may not be able to handle due to my limited knowledge of and exposure to the company/organization)
-- content curation and
-- other activities related to Search Engine Optimization and Social Media Management.

Although the above example does not show much details, the important thing is I laid out the general scope and limitations of the work first. Particular details may be discussed and laid out later during the negotiation phase and/or final drafting of the contract.

RELATED ARTICLE: 7 Ways to Turn Your Writing Into Cash

Delivery Date and Deliverables

This part defines the desired outcomes based on the scope of work. I usually state what I would produce (e.g. 2 articles in .docx format), when or how frequently they are delivered to the client (e.g. weekly), and how they should be delivered (e.g. via Google Drive).

Here is what I have on my template:

DELIVERY DATES: I shall complete the Services and/or Work by or in accordance with the delivery schedule below:
   Deliverable/s: [number of] hours per week (a total of [number of] hours per month) of writing in [type of] format.
   or [number of] words of [type of] writing in [type of] format within [period of time] upon my acknowledgement receipt of written instructions via email.
   Submission: Submission of deliverable will be via email or Google Drive or whichever the client prefers.

Revisions

Some freelance writers miss this part because they might not have given a thought about it. There are clients who keep on returning the work for revisions many times that the writer’s pay itself is no longer worth it.

As much as possible, I make sure that the work needs no revisions at all. However, there are times that clients point out an issue or two for the writer to revise. Once is acceptable. But more than twice require additional charge.

Here is how I stated it on my Statement of Work template:

REVISION: Edits will be avoided at all costs and are not anticipated except in extreme circumstances. An article may be returned to me only once for revision at the sole discretion of the client. Revision will be done within 24 to 48 hours upon return. Succeeding revisions, if any, will be charged as per the writing rates stated below.

Also, in order to avoid confusion, it is better to define clearly in the Statement of Work what satisfaction means. For example, my current client has defined that all works should be 100% unique or 0% plagiarized. Although there are instances when direct quotes from sources are all over the Internet, these would show a result of 97% unique or 3% plagiarized, which is still acceptable within the principle of fair use.

Payment

I guess this is the part why freelancers need to set up contracts with their client in the first place. Getting paid for writing may be fun, but getting paid right is another issue.

This part of the contract should define how much you will charge for what type of project. Specify also how you should be paid (e.g. via PayPal or bank deposit), how much is the deposit, and when and how the balance should be paid.

Here is how I worded mine:

PAYMENT: The total project price is quoted at $xxx.xx USD per month (₱xxx.xx PHP per month). A minimum of 50% down payment is paid up front…
   Payment is done [frequency], no later than [day of the week or month]. Should [day of the week or month] fall on a non-banking day, payment should be made not later than the next banking day. An invoice from me should reach the client no later than the closing of working hours of every [end of pay period].
   International payments will be paid in [currency] via PayPal to [email address]. For direct bank deposit, it should be payable to: [bank details]

RELATED ARTICLE: How Much Will You Charge?

Sample Writing and Kill Fee

Here’s the sad and frustrating part. Many clients require sample writing from applicants. A few of them would pay for the sample writing, but most of them don’t. If they belong to the latter, I refer them to my website, blog, or portfolio so they could check it out. If they insist, I won’t bother. Most likely they will pay me lower than my worth.

To avoid this problem, I offer a paid writing sample or paid trial. I charge this the way I charge per article. The Statement of Work specifies that if the client likes the sample, the project will push through. If not, the payment for the writing sample serves as the kill fee.

A paid trial will be done to see if my writing suits the client’s requirements. A writing task will be given and will be paid for at the amount of [amount] per 500 words upon submission. If the paid trial satisfies the client, the project will push through. Paid trial is non-refundable.

The kill fee also serves as a good protection for freelancers who are in the middle of a project. If the client suddenly decides to terminate the project, and the freelance writer is not yet paid for the current task, it would make sense that the payment for the current task would serve as the kill fee. However, this should be stated in the Statement of Work, too. Better specify in the contract how would you like the sample writing, down payment, and kill fee be paid for your protection.

RELATED ARTICLE: 6 Reasons Why You Should Have a Website

Rights, Disclosures, and Non-Compete

We are now reaching the end of the contract. However, there are other issues that need to be discussed.

I usually ghost-write for clients. Thus the issue of copyright should be laid out in the contract. More often than not, I would declare that the copyright belongs to the client on a ghostwritten project. Otherwise, I would declare the full copyright of the article and have my by-line attached to it.

Another issue is the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) between the client and me. This is especially applicable in ghostwriting projects where we both agree not to publicly (or even privately) tell anyone that I write on the client’s behalf. This is stated in the contract as well.

Since freelance writers get many jobs from different clients, it is common that a writer gets two clients having the same industry or niche. To prevent conflict arising from this situation, I declare and include a non-compete clause in the Statement of Work.

This is how I wrote mine:

RIGHTS, DISCLOSURES, NON-COMPETE: I hold no copyright to the materials created [if this is ghostwritten]. I agree to non-disclosure of rates, processes, and client lists. I agree to refrain from competing with [client or company name] for the same client during the course of this contract.

Execution and Effectivity

This is the last part of the contract. It specifies how I will deliver the Statement of Work to the client, and in what format. It also specifies what will happen if there are changes in the terms and conditions during the course of the project.

Also, I specify the date of effectivity of the contract and when the project should start. If the client can define the date of when the project will end, the contract contains that detail as well. However, most of my freelance writing contracts are open-ended.

EXECUTION BY COUNTERPARTS. This SOW may be executed and delivered via email in PDF format. Any changes in any of the items herein should be done in writing and must be mutually agreed upon.

At the bottom of the contract are two signatures: one for me, and one for the client.

I usually write the terms and conditions on MS Word or Google Docs. Then save it as PDF before sending it to the client. I don’t need to have this notarized because most of the clients don’t want to be hassled, too. However, there are organizations that require the contract to be physically signed and notarized.

My Final Thoughts

A well-constructed Statement of Work (SOW) should be detailed. Otherwise, it will open the door to disputes. Take time to review and polish each section well and make sure to be descriptive and detailed as possible leaving no room for misinterpretation.

Let me know if you think that I have missed anything, I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you like to read more about freelance writing and productivity, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.

how much will you charge talent fee

How Much Will You Charge?

The freelance writer is a man who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps. – Robert Benchley

The quote above came from American comedian and writer Robert Benchley. Every freelance writer, or other freelancers even, can relate to it. How much should a freelance writer charge is one of the frequent questions asked among writers. Just recently, two readers have consulted me about this.

A freelance writer can charge whatever he or she wants as long as it makes sense for him or her, for the client, and for the market. As long as the freelance writer feels that it’s fair, there is nothing to worry about.

There are people who charge way too much and get those high rates because they’ve built their reputation and their business up and have earned it. I know someone who can demand a million pesos for a book project because she has great writing credentials under her belt.

On the other end of the scale are the other writers who charge way below what they should, unknowingly or deliberately, thus affecting other freelance writers and the market in general.

So how much is fair?

In the course of my freelance writing career, I’ve tried weighing four ways on how to charge a writing project: per word, per page, per project or per piece, and per hour. There are pros and cons for each but let me give you an idea how it works for me.

Per Word

When I got hold of my first copy of Writer’s Digest back in the mid-80’s, I read from the ads that contributing writers would get between $0.05 USD to $0.25 USD per word. At that time, the exchange rate was Php 35.00 = $1.00 USD. I was in high school then and all I could say was, “Wow!”

When I joined the Freelance Writers Guild of the Philippines (FWGP) in 2012, we had agreed that no Filipino writer should charge below Php 2.00 per word. And yet, some writers accept projects that pay way below that rate.

In fact, I’ve encountered a writing platform that pays writers $6.00 per 500 words. Although there are many writing tasks to grab daily, and an average writer can write up to 3 articles per day, it may look like the rate is fair if converted into Philippine peso. But think again, given the task requirements [like sticking to the SEO keywords and the exact 500 words] plus the time spent on research, writing and polishing the draft, the $6.00 per 500 words is way below the Php 2.00 per word FWGP standard.

When charging a writing project per word, better ask the client for the required word count. Most of my clients for web content require me to write articles 1,200 to 1,500 words long. Only a few would require me to write up to 3,000 words. Since the word count varies, it is easier to set the price per 100 or 500 words. This is much easier and acceptable to both client and me.

According to an article in Entrepreneur magazine dated October 2013, writers may charge from $2.00 USD per 100 words for academic writing, $3.00 USD per 100 words for special reports, $5.00 USD per 250-399 words, and $10.00 USD for 400-500 words for article and content writing. That was almost seven years ago. The rates have changed now. If we are to follow the current FWGP standard, the rate should be $20.00 USD per 500 words.

However, if the client specified a project long enough that charging per word may be too much, I go for the second option: per page.

Related Article: Statement of Work

Per Page

Two years ago, I finished an e-book project that paid me by the page. I’ve checked around and saw that prices per page vary from one writer to another. One source said, it’s $15.00 USD per page. That is around Php 780.00 if converted. The client may say it’s over his or her budget, so be ready with a counter-proposal to meet halfway.

Editing and proofreading services are better charged by the page, whether fiction or nonfiction writing.

However, because of images, charts, diagrams, etc., the text would have to move along adding more pages which could be both an advantage or disadvantage. The more pages I have, the more money I’ll get. However, the not so good thing about it is when I compute for the per word rate, chances are it would go way below than my usual per word rate. Realizing that would make me think twice, my next option is to charge it per project.

Per Project

This is something easy for the client because it’s a flat fee regardless of the project’s length. Also, I have an advantage to figure out how much I would like to get paid without the limitations of word or page count. I just have to factor in the hours and resources spent, in a way that it makes sense to both parties, and still have enough gain at the end.

Projects that require interviews, library research, and other non-writing tasks, etc. are best charged on a per project basis. I think as if I’m going to be paid a salary per month or per week, depending on the project’s time frame. Also, I ask the client how much is his or her budget and I base my quote from it.

The disadvantage of this method is if the project becomes more in-depth than I anticipated and I end up on the losing end. Most freelance writers suffer this kind of trauma — working on a project, being told to revise this and that, hoping to get paid but ends up not being paid due to some unfortunate circumstances, and if ever paid the amount is lower than all the effort.

One way to prevent this is to ask for a down payment to finance the project, and ask for the balance once the project is done. This is stated in my Statement of Work (SOW) along with the project’s details.

If ever the client decides not to continue the project, I usually state in my SOW that the down payment will serve as the “kill fee”. This way, I’m paid for the services rendered during the first days of the project.

If I can’t figure how much the whole project would cost me, then I try charging it per hour instead.

RELATED ARTICLE: Apps I Use in Freelance Writing (And They’re Free)

Per Hour

This method is fair but tricky at the same time. I’ve scouted around and saw varied rates from $5.00 USD to $40.00 USD. (And I also found a few who charge much higher.) If you try to convert that into Philippine pesos you’ll exclaim, “Wow!”.

I use a timer and an invoicing tool so I could easily charge the client and show him or her how my time was spent in the project. That includes research, Skype calls, writing, and editing. I just have to be conscious of my time and motion and be honest in charging.

I bid for $11.00 USD per hour for two separate writing projects. The British client said, “I guess you’ll just be writing for thirty minutes per item, how’s that?” The Australian client said, “The US dollar rate is too much. How about if it’s in Australian dollars?” In short, I sealed both deals in 2015.

The advantage of being a Filipino is having this kind of opportunity to work with foreign clients and still get comfortable with the rates even if it’s below expectation. Both $5.50 USD and $11.00 AUD were fine with me because I was comfortable with that. Believe me, it was much more than the starting rate I had in freelance writing back in 2012.

I have set a lowest rate where I could still be comfortable and resolve that I should not go lower than that. Also, I factored in other fees like the kill fee, time for research, meetings, and revisions. I check with the client what the project entails then decide which method to use.

To help me decide, I weigh in the pros and cons of each rate in relation to that project. I start proposing for the hourly rate, then go for the per project rate. For small projects, it’s simpler that I start proposing for a per project (or per piece) or per 500 words rate. Then I sent my Statement of Work (SOW) which could also be my contract with the client once it’s signed. The rate will now be sealed.

Among the four methods, I prefer charging by the hour. However, different clients prefer different methods. So this is a tough balancing act and yet I like the variety.

How you’re going to charge the client depends on you. As long as it’s fair for both parties, as long as you’re comfortable with the cost, then it’s fine to charge per hour, per project, per page, or per word. But please, freelance writers, not perhaps.

Tell me what you think of this article or let me know if you have issues regarding talent fee. Let me know, too, if I have missed anything, I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you like to read more about freelance writing, productivity, or creative writing, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.

internet

How the Internet Made My Freelance Writing Career

Internet is Life

A few days ago, my husband, who is working at night, told me that we didn’t have an Internet connection. So he had to buy a prepaid load at eleven o’clock in the evening to load up our pocket wi-fi so he could get back to work. Fortunately, the next day, our Internet connection became stable.

You see, we are a household that uses the Internet a lot. It’s part of our lifeblood; we couldn’t live without it because it’s part of our livelihood. My husband and I work at home for many years now that we invested not only on computers but also a stable Internet connection.

Life Without Internet

But before I go on, let me tell you something about how life was without the Internet.

I was born in a generation between the old-school and the technological advancements. Thus, I have experienced both worlds and could live, thrive, and survive without the other.

I was in second year high school (today’s grade 8) when I learned how to type. My father taught me the finger placement on the typewriter. Then, slowly I learned how to type without looking at my fingers and started to type fast.

Two years later, I had a computer as my elective subject in fourth year high school (today’s grade 10). For the first time, I learned BASIC computer language. BASIC stands for Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code. Back then, a black and white TV could be used as a computer monitor, and a floppy disk measuring 5.25” could contain 360KB of data.

We don’t have a desktop computer at home then. So I still rely on a typewriter for school projects.

Eight years later, during my second college course, we were taught WordStar, Lotus 123, Print Shop, and dBase IV. Floppy disks then were the 5.25” and 3.5” which can store 1.44MB of data. CPUs then do have two floppy disk drives for each type.

Two years later, I was introduced to Windows Office ‘95. It was the first time I saw GUI icons to click that would do away with memorizing keystrokes for commands.

Then the late ‘90s came. For the first time, I was able to use a dial-up Internet connection and had my first email address. At this point, I’m already proficient in MS Word and Excel, plus Adobe Pagemaker.

But I still don’t have a computer at home.

Yes, even though I have an email address and have access to the Internet, I still rely on my typewriter for writing. And if ever it needed to be a computerized copy, I would go to the Internet cafe, rent a computer by the hour, save it on a 3.5” floppy disk, and have it printed on a dot matrix, ink jet, or laser printer all for a fee.

It was only in 2003 when we had a desktop computer at home. The most reliable operating systems then were Windows ‘98 and Windows 2000. Typing became much easier because the keyboard was soft to the touch, there’s no need to move the typewriter carriage to the left as I reach the end of the line, and there’s no more need to feed paper.

Oh, those were the days, my friend.

How the Internet Made My Freelance Writing Career

As time goes by, the Internet has evolved and new technologies have sprung. Today’s Internet is far different from the Internet in the late ‘90s. It’s difficult to identify an aspect of our lives that hasn’t been touched by the Internet. It has become so innovative and so in demand that it has transformed the whole world. So much so that the changes brought by the Internet has caused us to reinvent the way we work.

Recently, three of my blog posts that dealt with working from home were noticed by readers like Nick Porter of BroadbandSearch.net. The blog post he shared inspired me to write this one.

It’s obvious that the Internet has made a huge impact on human civilization. Let me enumerate how it affected my career:

Working From Home

my remote work officeI’ve mentioned in previous blogs that I’ve worked for almost seven years in a large US-based BPO company. It was there that I’ve experienced working in an almost digital environment.

When I decided to work at home, I applied what I’ve learned which made my transition from corporate to home set-up easy.

Back in 2012, freelancing and independent contract work were starting to gain popularity. With websites like Upwork (formerly oDesk and Elance combined), OnlineJobs PH, PeoplePerHour, etc., freelancing has become more acceptable as the years go by. The Internet made me find full-time jobs as a freelancer.

With the heavy traffic and long commute that stress people everyday, we expect more people to shift from office work to work at home setup and/or freelancing soon.

Independence

What I liked about working from home is the freedom from the stress and pressure of an office environment. I got more sense of autonomy as I worked my way through my freelance writing business.

On the other hand, I still need to discipline myself to become more focused and efficient in order for me to succeed.

Working Hours

Freelance writing has made me free to choose the hours I want to work so much so that I’m no longer working 40 to 48 hours a week. But there are times that I am working almost 24/7 because of my passion.

There were clients that still follow the traditional 9 to 5 schedule that I was forced to follow their time zone. But there are newer clients that embrace the concept of flexibility regardless of their location or time zone.

Communication & Transparency

One of the things I’ve learned from working in the BPO industry is transparency. And to achieve this, communication is the key.

The Internet has made communication easier and has expanded the media. Aside from email and websites, we now have SMS, chat, VOIP, streaming media, cloud storage, and the like. This has made the world smaller in terms of reaching people around the globe.

Collaborative Work

Start.me appWorking with clients located abroad would be challenging if there’s no Internet. Today, the Internet provides productivity tools that we can use to collaborate, allowing multiple people to work on a document at the same time.

e-Learning

The Internet has made it easier for me to enroll in courses I’m interested in. This can help me take my career to the next level as I thrive in the freelance community.

Security

However, the Internet also has its own downside. While I work from home using it, I’m also aware of its dangers. In fact, working dependently on the Internet has a bigger risk now that there is so much going on online. Hackers and scammers can pose as prospective clients. That’s why I have to be my own first line of defense against cybercrime. I also need to have a working knowledge on how to detect threats and what to do if this happens.

Now that I’m already settled working from the comfort of my home, Internet connection (and electricity that runs it) have become my necessities. It is difficult for me to live without it because my livelihood depends on it.

How about you? Are you also dependent on the Internet?

RELATED ARTICLE: 9 Ways the Internet Has Changed the Workplace

Let me know how the Internet affected your life and career or tell me what you think of this article. Let me know, too, if I have missed anything, I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you like to read more about freelance writing, or productivity, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.

Debunking Remote Work Myths & Misconceptions (Plus its Pros & Cons)

After almost 7 years, I left the BPO industry in 2012 to try my luck in remote work. Working from home at that time was starting to gain ground.

Who wouldn’t love to work from home? With the kind of traffic in Metro Manila, the long commute under the tropical weather is already a challenge. My commute from our house in Fairview to Cainta and back took 3 hours from my day. My commute to and from Makati took 4 hours. That was around 2006 to 2012. Imagine if I’m still working in Metro Manila today.

Good news: President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the Telecommuting Act or Republic Act 1165 last 20 December 2018. This law provides private companies to allow their employees to work in an alternative place with the use of telecommunications and/or computer technologies. In short, working from home is now legally accepted as a work arrangement in the Philippines.

Other perks of working from home are having no specific dress code and having flexible working hours. As long as I have a working computer, a PayPal or bank account, and a good Internet connection, I’m fine.

If Those are the Pros, What are the Cons?

One of the main downsides of working from home is the interruption from family members, relatives, and friends. Because they know that I’m at home, they can call on me any time. The flexible schedule and the comfortable dress code are also partially to blame. People around me know that I’m working, but they can’t help to call me to eat, or to ask something, or any other trivial interruptions. But it’s fine with me because it gives a random change from the routine.

Having a specific work schedule and a home office space couldn’t solve the problem especially if the remote worker himself allows it.

Another disadvantage that I could think of is the way remote work is getting the bad reputation it doesn’t deserve. There are myths and misconceptions from people who had bad experiences with remote workers and from people who are weary to try.

Related Article: A Reality Check on Freelancing

Debunking the Myths & Misconceptions

“How do you know people aren’t slacking off?”

People got used to seeing people at their desk working. So for managers who don’t see much of the remote workers, they start to wonder. Trust issues start to set in. But if managers and remote workers know what they are responsible for and when the deadline is, and how to work accordingly, then slacking shouldn’t be an issue.

Installing a monitoring tool may solve the problem of slacking

When I started working from home in 2012, I was required to install in my computer a monitoring tool. Aside from recording how many hours I’ve worked in a day, it also takes a screenshot of my computer every 10 minutes.

But there is a monitoring tool that I’ve used that only detects keyboard and mouse activities. So when I work offline, like writing on a pad paper instead of typing, my “productivity rate” is reduced. It sounds unfair, right?

Also, other remote workers I’ve encountered think these monitoring tools are stressful. Aside from proving their presence online while working on creative tasks, it also breeds mistrust. That’s the reason why other remote workers prefer to choose home-based work that doesn’t include monitoring tools.

Working in the comfort of my home doesn’t mean I’m available 24/7

There are online jobs that require me to follow the client’s time zone. So if my client is from the U.S., I have to work at night following his office hours. But there were times that even if I already logged off, I would be receiving emails or calls while I’m asleep.

Also, other people don’t realize that not all emails or questions on chat are urgent. There is a big difference between what is critical (urgent), important, interruption, and trivial.

Remote work counters the work culture

Managers think that because remote workers are away from the office, they don’t know what’s happening in the office or can’t personally attend meetings.  But technology made it possible for remote work as it is today. Video conferencing bridges that gap and there are also collaborating tools that could be utilized yet still nurture a work culture.

I’ve experienced attending a Town Hall meeting where all of us, including the boss, were on Skype. I could see their faces, their work spaces, their kids, and other things about them.  It was a happy virtual hanging-out.

Also, you can create a chat group for “watercooler discussions” where you can joke around and be yourself with other members of the remote team.

I chose to work from the comfort of my home. I am not required to commute, hence I do not consume energy, deplete natural resources, pollute the environment, and create congestion in the city.anonymous

How to Make It Work

Remote work is a game-changer in labor and management. Although not all companies are open to the idea of having their employees work from home, this set-up could work on some industries.

It should start from the top

Upper management should start the initiative to set-up their own remote work program. They should be the first to set the objectives on why they should offer remote work to their employees before rolling it out to their middle management teams. Now that this is a law, private companies should be implementing their own policies by now.

Establish ground rules

Setting up a program like remote work requires having its own implementing rules and regulations. Everything from how things are done from recruitment to resignation should be laid out on paper. It’s much different from the traditional office work. I should know, I’ve written an employee’s handbook for a remote team once. It should include clear guidelines on communication — when and when not to use email, chat, or any other digital tools.

Use the right digital tools

There are many collaboration and communication tools available for remote work. Every company prefers one tool from the other. That’s why I’ve encountered and used many of them — Basecamp, Highrise, Trello, Asana, Time Doctor, Google Drive, Slack, HipChat, Skype, Zoom, etc.

With so many applications, one should realize the impact of time. If the issue is time-sensitive, then use chat or call. If it could wait for a day or two, use email or a collaborative tool.  Again, not everything online is urgent and important.

RELATED ARTICLE: The Top 52 Productivity Tools, Apps and Software Programs of 2019

Empathy

Since we don’t see each other face-to-face while sending emails or chatting, we express ourselves in emoticons or emojis. There were instances in my remote work life when chat conversations were misinterpreted. What seemed to be a constructive criticism was perceived by someone as an argument.

If ever this happens to you, it is better to do a one-on-call call via Skype and settle the differences before anything goes wrong. Remember that on the other end of the line is another human being with feelings.

Transparency

Being employed in the BPO industry taught me to practice transparency. Remote work requires transparency — lots of it. Unlike in the office where everything needs to be in black and white, remote work is paperless and digital. But with the right tools, remote work can be transparent and beneficial to both managers and remote workers.

Simply Embrace Remote Work

With the challenges of long commutes and work-related stress, labor is now slowly shifting to remote work. It is shaping the future of employment. Companies might want to look into the possibility of offering remote work to its employees.

Let me know your thoughts on remote work. And if you like to read more about freelance writing, productivity, or creative writing, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.

Freelancing: A Reality Check

People say that freelancing and working at home is the perfect set-up because you earn an income without experiencing traffic and restrictive dress code.

Yeah, right. That’s what I’ve thought of before I went freelance. So I set up my home office and got to be with my daughter, one of the reasons why I left a stable job where I got paid well but had not much time to see her grow up.

However, working at home has its own pitfalls. I repeat: working at home has its own pitfalls.

If you knew what it was really like, you may actually feel lucky to follow a Bundy clock. And don’t feel too guilty for being a working mom which makes you think that you’ll be a better parent just because you’re at home.

Read this first for a good reality check just so you won’t quit your job without knowing what you’re getting into — or feel bad that you can’t.

If You Think You’ll Be Able to Escape Office Politics, You’re Wrong

Most people shift to freelancing to escape office politics. What they don’t know is all work involves politics and freelancers must play the game much better than anyone else. With so many freelancing job sites and freelancers online, the more you have to convince clients to hire you rather than your competitor.

It’s more than just being sociable. Freelancers don’t just expand their network, they nurture the relationships.

Imagine if a disgruntled client spread the word that you’re difficult to work with, people will know you, yes, but they will not call you. That’s the power of social networking you must not underestimate.

And remember this, the Labor Code provides regular employees security of tenure. They can’t be fired from their job just because the boss doesn’t like them. Clients, on the other hand, can fire you at an instant or will just stop taking your calls without telling you why.

RELATED ARTICLE: Debunking Remote Work Myths & Misconceptions (Plus its Pros & Cons)

Meet Your New Boss

Everyone has experienced a crazy boss who sets impossible deadlines and expects you to meet them whatever the cost. Most of us have been sick and tired of working overtime and spending vacations where the cell phone never stops ringing.

Working from home won’t change that. Theoretically, you can watch DVDs, HBO reruns, Netflix, or YouTube videos all day long but at the end of the day, you’ll realize that you won’t be able to afford to pay the electric bill and internet subscriptions. Slack off and you lose projects, especially there are hundreds of hungry freelancers who can do your job twice as cheap, twice as fast.

You cannot afford to make mistakes, either. If you’re a regular employee you can mess up and won’t pay for it — the company does. But for freelancers, standards are much higher. You’re only as good as your last project, and no tantrums of a tyrannical boss can match the silent threat of a pile of unpaid bills.

So, even if you’re self-employed, you’re not the real boss. Its name is Necessity and it comes in different forms.

What Work-Life Balance Are You Talking About?

The good news in working from home: you’ll always be with your kids. The bad news: you’ll always be with your kids. Do I need to repeat that?

In a regular job, you can focus on your deadlines, leave the office with a free conscience then shift into Mommy mode when you get home.

However, when freelancing or working from home, there’s a blurry line that separates office work from household chores. I still do some errands, cook food, clean the house, wash the dishes, etc. and although I spent the whole day with my daughter, I fail to check on her homework or school project sometimes. So where’s the balance?

RELATED ARTICLE: Stop Attracting Bad Clients

Bringing the Office Structure Home

So to make my home office work, I actually had to mimic the corporate set-up. I have a desk complete with a computer and printer, a good internet connection, and set specific blocks of time for myself and my family.

The ‘flexi-time’ lay in synchronizing my schedule with my family’s. I usually start at 6 am after my daughter leaves for school (or 9 pm if I have to follow US time zones) and ends at 6 pm or 7 pm, with chores spread in between and set specific goals like “finish 50% of the daily task by 12 noon.”

Which Part of ‘Stressed’ Don’t They Understand?

However, a home office space can’t hold back relatives, friends, or house help who don’t seriously believe that you’re working. There would be times that someone would come in to interrupt you. Just let everyone in your home know and should respect your home office set up. This goes beyond the ‘do not disturb’ sign. Ask them to answer and screen calls for you. if you will.

You might have been chuckling while reading this. Probably you could relate or you know someone who had this kind of experience. So before making a leap of faith into freelancing, better think twice.

RELATED ARTICLE: How the Internet Made My Freelance Writing Career

Let me know if you’re already decided to start freelancing or working from home or tell me what you think of this article. Let me know, too, if I have missed anything. I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you like to read more about freelancing, working from home, productivity, or creative writing, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.

6 Reasons Why You Should Have a Website

One of the characteristics of being a freelance writer is the freedom to write for anyone. Having one’s byline on different websites fills your heart with a sense of accomplishment. However, when it comes to getting new clients, this method spreads your brand thin. They see you all over the place without a permanent identity.

At this age and time, when Google is not just a noun but also a verb, it pays to have a website. Yes, even freelance writers and independent authors need an online presence.

Here are the reasons why:

1. A website makes you look professional and stand out.

A freelance writer or an independent author should be like an entrepreneur (and I always call it “author-preneur”). Having a website is like opening your business’ front door. Freelance writers may not have a physical office building but a web page serves as a writer’s virtual office space.

Let’s face it, you cannot expect everybody to take your freelance writing business seriously if you don’t have an office or a website.

Another issue about having a website is the domain name. Although any freelance writer or author could set up a website for free, the domain name will be like yourname.website.com. Not only is it long, it also gives an impression that you have not invested enough on your brand.

If you want your website to be more professional, invest on a domain name like yourname.com. (or .net, .org, .co, etc.) Paying for a domain name lasts for a year or even more and make sure you pay the dues annually so others may not get it once it becomes available in the domain name market.

And since your name becomes the domain name of your website, somehow it automatically becomes the brand. It now gives you and your freelance writing business a face, something that will differentiate you from the others.

2. It also serves as a portfolio.

Having a website is a perfect opportunity to showcase your body of work. It represents you and your work. With a well-written About page, readers will get to know you better.

Also, blogs integrated into a website can serve as writing samples. So there’s no need for you to provide written samples when clients request for it. Encourage web traffic by having them visit your website instead.

Also, remember that a blog is different from a website. Blogs cannot stand as a website. Blogs are dynamic and keep on changing once updated. There are clients who want to see a static page that sums up your works. They don’t have time to read your blogs one by one just to know you.

3. Your online presence serves as your marketing tool.

Even established authors need to market their own books. They don’t rely on their publishers to do the marketing. So they use their website as a marketing tool to reach a wide-range of audience. Also, people tend to remember the title and the author but not the publisher, so the tendency is to Google the title or the author. How could a prospective reader find you if you don’t have a website?

Websites allow you to sell your books, give it away for free, or announce a promotion. With different e-commerce features, having these can be programmed into your website. Or you could just link them back to another website like Amazon if you don’t know how to set-up a web store .

Create a website that expresses something about who you are that won’t fit into the template available to you on a social networking site.Jaron Lanier

4. A website serves as your permanent place where people can find you online.

Consider your website as your home where you can entertain your visitors and readers. It is also a good way for potential readers and agents to find you. You can turn a casual web visitor to a loyal fan with your website. Write blog posts that attract readers like reviews, interesting facts about your books, etc. Don’t rely on the power of social media. Yes, social media are also good platforms, but you have no control over the social networking site. So it is better to gain social media following through your blogs and website.

5. A website shows your personality.

A downside of having your own website is having the time to maintain it like adding a new blog, updating the calendar, etc. Don’t leave your website unattended. Update it regularly.

If you don’t invest time and effort in building your online presence, how do you expect your clients to value your work as a writer? How can you demand a high rate for writing when they don’t see you practice what you do? Having a decent online presence and a decent following may get you better rates for your work.

6. Websites are easy to set up these days.

Basically, a writer’s web page has three important elements: About, Contact, and the blog. You can easily set up one with WordPress, a blog site that I stumbled upon back in 2012. With so many themes to choose from, designing one comes easy. I set up this site in a day or two (choosing the theme, customizing it, adding the necessary plug-ins, constructing the menu, etc.).

As I’ve mentioned before, investing on a website will pay off. Let your social networking accounts boost your online presence, and your potential readers and clients will find you settled and ready. But before I go, I would like to thank 3w Corner for hosting this site.

For those here in the Philippines, go and check out Technomancer, a web design and development company that also hosts and provides customized business solutions, and IT business process outsourcing for small and medium enterprises.

Let me know what you think about this article or if I missed anything here. I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you are interested in freelancing, productivity, work from home, and creative writing, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.

earn by writing

7 Ways to Turn Your Writing Into Cash

Want to earn cash just writing?

Yes, you can earn cash from an old poem in your notebook. You can be paid by posting a comment on social media. Instead of writing fanfiction on some fanfic site, why not turn your writing to earn cash?

Many of us love writing but can’t imagine turning this talent into a source of additional income, or worse, are afraid to try.

Thanks to the Internet, writing as a job has become much easier. Here are just some of the ways other writers like me earn cash.

BY BLOGGING

hands typing on a laptop

Some blogs earn revenue through advertisements. There are many companies that shell out money for pay-per-click (PPC) advertisements out there because they want their ads to be seen. If your blog caters or is related to their market, search engines may decide to place the ads in your blog. You’ll earn from the clicks of web visitors or from the number of impressions the ad made on your blog site.

Another way blogging can earn income is through affiliate marketing. Some websites offer affiliate marketing links when you subscribe to them. Just place those links strategically in one of your blogs and allow your readers to click on the link. If they purchase the product using the link you provided, you’ll get a percentage of income depending on the website’s terms and conditions for affiliates.

Another way I earned cash by writing was providing a link back to someone’s website. Recently, a reputable website asked me to add their link to my blog article for a fee.

However, for a blog to become a good source of income, you have to establish yourself as a blogger. Write regularly and be noticed. Who knows? Your blog site or brand can get lucky that you’ll stick to blogging as a career.

BY WRITING AS A LAY JOURNALIST

Some online newspapers and magazines rely on contributors to fill their pages. Research what kind of news and features they are interested in and pitch your idea to the editor. If you’re lucky, they’ll ask you to write for a regular column.

Sometime in 2003, I wrote to the editor-in-chief of a new tabloid newspaper and pitched my idea. After a week, my idea became my daily column which ran for a year until I gave birth to my daughter.

Not everyone can make a first-rate living as a writer, but a writer who is serious and responsible about his work, and life, will probably find a way to earn a decent living, if he or she writes well.Bernard Malamud

BY FREELANCING

There are many freelancing sites online like UpWork (the merged oDesk and Elance), OnlineJobs PH, Outsourcely, etc. Their sites have more than thousands of writing jobs available ranging from creative writing to academic writing, from copywriting to social media posting, from ghostwriting to SEO, etc. Just select which writing jobs suit you best and apply. my remote work office

Recently, I received an email from Rhick Ano and he proposed another freelancing site called Airtasker. It is an Australian-based site with a wide selection of freelance jobs: from simple to complicated tasks —home cleaning, handyman jobs, admin work, photography, graphic design or even web development. I haven’t tried this yet but their site seems reputable and sound.

There are many online job sites that you can choose from. I’m already subscribed to many of those. Just remember, when applying or bidding for a writing job, use the law of averages: the more you apply, the more likely you’ll be interviewed sooner and get the job. Also, be realistic with your bids with regards to the number of hours you’ll commit and deadline.

Since I started freelancing in 2012, I got more freelancing jobs via the defunct oDesk. However, the highest paying writing jobs I got came from PeoplePerHour and OnlineJobs PH. I don’t use these online job platforms that much today because I’m gaining traction from this website. For the past few months, the jobs I get are from referrals and email inquiries.

BY SELF-PUBLISHING

With the advent of print on demand publications and e-book distribution sites, self-publishing is now easy.

I never thought that publishing my novel in Free-eBooks.net would get a foreign publisher interested in translating it. I will be earning from the translation rights plus royalties IF it pushed through.

There are other online e-book publishing sites that I’ve tried and one of them is Dreame.com. Early last year, they offered me both exclusive and non-exclusive contracts for my novels.

You can even convert your blogs into e-books and earn from self-publishing them. And I’m planning to do this soon.

Buy my e-book on Amazon

BY JOINING CONTESTS

Winning in writing contests could produce two things: a cash prize and bragging rights. Be alert on available contests that you could possibly join. Look into websites like Writer’s Digest, Poets & Writers, and others for contests they organize or sponsor. Just follow their rules and submission guidelines to the letter.

The screenplay writing contest I joined in 1999 launched my writing career in 2000. And in 2013, I entered my first English e-book in a contest. I may  not have won, but I got good praise from one of the judges.

BY ANSWERING SURVEYS

Philip Horton from OnlineMoneyPage pointed out to me that there’s another way to earn from writing: answering online surveys. Market research has evolved to include online surveys into their methods.

Maybe, the days of the focus group discussions — where marketing companies pay those who attend by trying out their products and commenting on it — are already numbered.

Online surveys will only take a few minutes of your time and you’ll earn a few dollars from it. That is, if you like answering online surveys most of the time.

I have answered a few surveys myself but I haven’t experienced being paid for doing so.

If you’re interested in answering surveys and other ways to earn cash, visit OnlineMoneyPage and Philip will help you.

BY WRITING A REVIEW

Writing a product or book review can be fun. Not only will you enjoy the product or reading the book, you get the chance to earn from it.

I got to know a few sites that offer monetary tokens in exchange for a product review. I’ve written a few last year.

Also, I’ve been invited by publishers to review a few of their books. The book itself was the actual payment but there are sites that pay once you’ve reached a status. If you would like me to do a book review, just shoot an email through my Contact page.

Although recently, paid reviews are getting a bad reputation. So be careful in selecting review sites to write for.

I myself write my own reviews on books, films, etc. Visit my other blog named Star Stack to view my reviews.

Visit Star Stack

Here you have seven ways of earning cash by simply writing.This requires patience and hard work. You cannot just sit back and relax; opportunities do not come that way. Be willing to put your time and effort in getting your byline out there. Once submitted and while waiting for the paycheck to come, write and earn cash again.

Let me know what you think about this blog or if I missed anything. I’d appreciate your feedback. If you’re interested to get more information about freelancing, productivity, work from home, and creative writing, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter.

 

Idea Is Not Just a 4-Letter Word

Have you ever thought how authors come up with their ideas for their novels?

You may have browsed writing books and magazines and have been told that an idea comes from an endless list of sources. But how do authors come up with a novel from an idea?

In this article, let us see how it works by spelling idea itself.

I – IOTA OF TRUTH

Always remember, for every idea, absurd or otherwise, there is an iota of truth behind it.

Take for example the idea of Superman. Clark Kent may be an alien who grew up on Earth, but there is a scientific truth behind clairvoyance, intuition, and other extrasensory human powers that were magnified in the Superman story.

They say that truth is relative, so what may be truth for you may not be an acceptable truth to others. Do not fret. You do not need to please everybody with your writing. Just believe that your idea has somehow an iota of truth in it.

So have that idea ready and let’s move on to…

D – DEVELOPMENT

Of course, we have entertained so many ideas in mind that we do not know which to choose. They say that there are only eight stories in the world. If that’s the case, then try the mix-and-match method and see if an idea or a mixture of two or more ideas work.

The Bestseller by Lila Ramsey plus The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie plus the nursery rhyme Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star produced a story about a mad serial killer who wants his victim to guess who will be his next kill.

If you look at stories, books, and movies, you would notice that most of them combined an idea or two from some old stories, books, and movies, too.

So now that you have developed an embryo, let’s try to…

E – EXPERIMENT

How are you going to express the idea?

The format — be it prose or poetry, novel or screenplay, full-length or short feature, — depends on your choice. Experiment on how you would present the idea. Some stories are better on film, some on print, and some made well in both.

Trust your gut feel when experimenting. Not only on the format but also on the way it is presented. Would you go linear — beginning, middle, end? Or would you go a la Quentin Tarantino style — middle, end, beginning, middle? Would you present it in the first person point of view or the third person point of view? Do not be afraid to experiment.

And now we go to the…

A – APPLICATION

At last, you have decided on what you plan to do with the idea. The last step is to apply the idea by writing. Once you see the words appear on paper, you will see and feel how the ideas take shape into a good yarn of a story. Write everything down at first. Revisions and editing would come later.

Be a sculptor by starting with a large chunk of wood and slowly carve out the unnecessary parts to form the best literary art — your novel.

Start writing something and the ideas will come. You have to turn the faucet on before the water starts to flow.Louis L’Amour

So if you have a story idea that you would like to write, go ahead. If you think there’s a truth in it, and you can develop it, don’t be afraid to experiment and express it in writing. Good luck!

quote on grammar

Common Grammar & Writing Mistakes Even College Graduates (and Authors) Commit

As a writer, I’ve been keen in observing correct spelling and usage of the English language, or even Filipino for that matter. Not only it shows how educated a person is, but also how someone respects the language or dialect.

However, even educated men and women, those who have earned college degrees commit mistakes on spelling and grammar. For some it could be an honest mistake, but for the others, it could be annoying, especially if done repeatedly.

I see three usual reasons why people commit these mistakes:

  1. Homophones;
  2. Getting confused with contractions; and
  3. Reliance on auto-correct tools

Homophones

Homophones are words that have the same pronunciation but different spellings and meanings. It’s easy to commit mistakes with homophones because we say the words as it is more often than writing it down.

I was reading an e-book recently and found some misspellings in it. I thought it was just be a case of typographical error. But when I saw the misspelled word more than twice, I felt uneasy. I began to think that the author failed to consult an editor for her e-book and published it online immediately.

For one, I do have respect for authors who diligently check their grammar and have editors to check it again before publishing. But then again, the e-book I was reading came from a free e-book site where most authors are amateurs in the publishing business.

For another, this is a good case of getting confused with homophones and other grammar rules. Here are some common homophones that confuse many.

 Lose and Loose

“Lose” is a verb that means to fail, to suffer, to be deprived of.

“Loose” is an adjective that means too comfortable, not restrained.

  • I think I need to lose weight. This pair of pants used to be loose on me before. (I need to shed a few pounds because the pants don’t fit me anymore.)

Advice and Advise

Both terms are related in giving a comment or suggestion. “Advice” with the “c” is a noun. It is the actual comment or suggestion.

Advise” with the “s” is a verb. It is the act of giving a comment or suggestion.

  • Please advise me on what to do; I need your advice(Remember: c is for the noun; s is for the verb.)

Breath and Breathe

Actually, they don’t sound the same. It just happens that this pair is also confusing to some.

“Breath” (pronounced as \’breth\) is a noun that means the air that we inhale and exhale.

“Breathe” (pronounced as  \’brēt͟h\) is a verb that means the act of ingesting air.

  • I couldn’t breathe because I could smell your bad breath.

Complement and Compliment

“Complement” is a noun that means to complete or make perfect.

“Compliment” is also a noun but it means an expression of admiration or recognition. But when used with “of” as in “compliments of” it introduces a donor of a free gift.

  • That belt looks great, it complements with your outfit. (The belt completes the look.)
  • “You look gorgeous,” the man said. “Thank you,” the woman answered, “I’ll take that as a compliment.” (There was an expression of admiration there.)
  • We had a wonderful time at the resort, all compliments of Mrs. Lim. (Mrs. Lim gave a free stay at the resort.)

Ensure and Insure (plus two more)

The homophones in this set are “ensure” and “insure”. But I’m going to add “assure” and “secure” because they almost mean almost the same thing. They all make a thing or a person sure or certain. They could even be interchangeable to some extent but the distinction lies on how we use it in context.

“Assure” denotes removal of a doubt from a person’s mind.

“Ensure” denotes a virtual guarantee.

“Insure” implies necessary measures beforehand.

“Secure” implies action to guard against attack or loss.

  • I assure you that nothing will go wrong with this plan.
  • The government ensures all its employees of benefits.
  • The dancer had insured both her legs and feet for two million dollars.
  • The military has secured the place against future terrorist attacks.

Grammar is the difference between feeling your nuts and feeling you’re nuts.anonymous

People Get Confused with Contractions

Contractions shorten spoken forms of word groups by omitting internal letters or sounds. They are formed from words that appear together in sequence such as “you are” and “do not”. Languages (not only English) have a number of contractions that use an apostrophe (‘) to show an omission of a letter, usually a vowel. These contractions are common in speech and informal writing.

Knowing how to differentiate these contractions and the words they’re often mistaken for, it will be easy for you to remember and not to commit the same mistakes again.

Your and You’re

I typed “thanks” to a friend via chat and he replied “your welcome” when it should have been “you’re”.

“Your” is a possessive adjective that is usually found before a noun or a pronoun to denote that something belongs to you.

On the other hand, “You’re” is a contraction of “you are” and that’s all, there’s no other use for it.

  • Thank you for your patronage. (It means your act of support is appreciated. So “your” is used as a possessive adjective.) 
  • You’re the matron of honor. (The speaker is recognizing who you are, thus “you’re” is used.)

There, Their, and They’re

Another common mistake is to interchange these three.

To distinguish, “There” is an adverb that indicates location or what we commonly call “adverb of place”. It has two uses: (1) to denote a place and (2) to indicate that something exists.

“Their” is a possessive adjective that usually precedes a noun or a pronoun and indicates possession or ownership. “Our” can replace “their” in the sentence. Try replacing “their” with “our” and if it still makes sense, then you are using “their” correctly.

“They’re” is a contraction of “they are” and again, there’s no other use for it.

  • I left my bag over there. (The speaker indicates a certain location.)
  • There is something missing in my bag. (The speaker indicates that a thing that exists is missing.)
  • The guards will have to check their belongings. (“Their” is used to indicate possession of more than one person. )
  • They’re after me. (The speaker is referring to more than one person coming after him/her. The expanded form is “They are”.)

It’s and Its

Another common mistake is to interchange these two, and the reason is obvious: it’s confusing.

To distinguish, “It’s” is a contraction of “it is” or “it has”. There is no other use for it.

“Its” is a possessive pronoun that shows ownership.

  • It’s been too hot for a week and now, it’s starting to rain.  (The first means “it has” and the second means “it is”. The sentence doesn’t show any possession or ownership so use the apostrophe.)
  • The wolf chases its prey through the woods(You can’t say “The wolf chases “it is” or “it has” prey…” so you don’t need an apostrophe. Think about it, the “prey” belongs to the “wolf”.)

There are other confusing words and phrases to mention which I will discuss next time. Also, I’ll have another article about auto-correct soon. If you have other suggestions, let me know.