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pitch a good idea

The Pitch

During my screenwriting workshop days, we spent a lot of time writing down a one-sentence story pitch on the board. Our mentor, Nestor U. Torre, would comment if the pitch will sustain a full-length film story or not. It took us some time to get things right. Because if we couldn’t make a good pitch, there’s no screenplay to start with.

What is a Pitch?

In creative writing, a pitch (a.k.a. as logline or hook) is usually 25 words long that captures the essence of the novel, film, or any story. It’s the heart of the story. It is the writer’s description that will sell the idea before writing it down and getting paid.

It’s also known as the “elevator pitch”. Why? Imagine if you’re inside the elevator with a well-known movie producer or publisher. It would take you only a few minutes to tell him what your story is all about before the door opens for him to leave. That’s why a pitch should be short, simple, and concise.

Why Pitch?

The need to whittle down a story to one sentence gives a writer the head start to work on summaries in the future. It is what you build around when creating longer pitches and developing the plot. Think of it as a skeleton or framework from which the structure is based upon.

A pitch is used when interacting with agents, entering contests, meeting with producers, or anyone with whom you want to engage. If they ask you, “What’s your story all about?”, you answer them with your pitch. Its main purpose is to get someone interested in your story.

The late Filipino film director Ishmael Bernal emphasized the need for a good one-sentence summary. He said if you can’t tell your story in one good sentence, then it’s not a good film story.

How to Write the Pitch

Usually, a pitch is 25 words long. What are the things you need to put in a pitch? Here are the main elements:

  • One or two characters (most of the time, the protagonist and the antagonist). But if the main characters are in a group (like a group of teenagers), you may do so.
  • Their goal, conflict, or the choice they made
  • What is at stake? (this may be stated or implied)
  • What are the obstacles in reaching their goal? Or what they should do to reach the goal.
  • Setting (if it is important)

The pitch may be written in different ways and here are three examples:

  1. When CONFLICT happens to CHARACTER(s), they have to overcome OBSTACLE to reach the GOAL.
  2. CHARACTER(s) need to overcome OBSTACLE/reach GOAL before WHAT’S AT STAKE happens only to be prevented by CONFLICT.
  3. CHARACTERS were a STATUS but CHANGE(d), only to meet again in CONFLICT.

Make sure that you’re describing an event and not the story’s theme. This is not the time to be vague or too general. You need not be too specific as well; no need to name the characters.

The pitch should just be enough for the audience to see the beginning, the middle, and the possible end. Also, your pitch should be able to make a lasting impression so that you stand out from the crowd and have a better chance of being given the assignment or project.

Conclusion

Creating a pitch takes time and effort. It’s hard to boil down your story to a one sentence summary. It may take you several attempts, so don’t beat yourself up if you find it difficult at first. Sooner or later, you’ll know or feel that you have stumbled upon a perfect pitch. Start giving it a try and you’ll understand your story better.

Let me know if you think that I have missed anything, I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you like to read more about creative writing, 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.

Where Do Ideas Come From?

One of the overused questions asked of writers is where do their ideas come from. It may be too trivial, too basic, but too important not to be ignored.

Writers, like other artists, maximize the use of their five senses and translate them into their art. Writers, like other artists, are keen observers. So keen that they know what color is on top of the traffic light, how many tines are there in a fork, or what is inscribed at the bottom of a paper bill — simple, everyday objects that seem too obvious for ordinary people to take notice of. Aside from the use of the senses, here are other sources of ideas:

Newspapers

The old-fashioned broadsheet or tabloid is still a good source of story ideas. Scan the news and even the other parts of the newspaper like the classified ads, you’ll get an idea or two to jump start a story or an article. An article about a female college student/prostitute who killed her “sugar daddy” gave me an idea of a scene I wrote a few months back.

Magazines

The glossy magazines feature different kinds of stories, so varied that some of these magazines became specialized or focused into a particular niche. Scan the stories, even the fillers, you’ll get some catchy phrases and intriguing ideas to add into your writing. For example, an article I read about freelance writing inspired me to write my opinion on it. Also, catchy phrases become titles of a future article or novel.

Books

Reading not only hones your vocabulary skills, but also inspire you to write your next story. Reading a not-so-familiar book many years ago triggered me to write my novel, Number One Fan.

Biographies

Lives of other people show us how was it living in their own time. We get to see not just a character but also a lifestyle different from ours. Somehow their lives inspire us to write a story for others to learn from.

Stories and legends

There are some stories that keep on burning because they don’t die and people remember or mention them repeatedly. Folklore, fables, and even urban legends could be an inspiration of your next novel.

Dreams

Believe it or not, dreams could also be a good source of story ideas. My husband’s dream became my inspiration of a comics manuscript I’m planning to write.

Songs

I used to write down nice phrases that came from songs. The lyrics of Randy Crawford’s “People Alone” inspired me to write I’m Greg, Short For Gregarious.

Ask “What if?”

 Asking this question somehow challenges you to provide possible answers and in the process creates a possible story.

 Overheard remarks

Eavesdropping for the sake of getting ideas? Why not? I write these overheard remarks and make them patterns for dialogues.

Once I got an idea, I put them down on writing. As a writer, I should not rely on memory because there are times memories fail. A writer is a journalist and therefore should have a handy notebook and pen to jot down these ideas that burst abruptly.

Now, it is your turn. Go get yourself a notebook for the sole purpose of jotting down ideas. The size and thickness should suit your need and desire. I suggest that you put tabs to separate different sources or categories. Make it a habit to write it down and don’t let it escape your memory. Happy idea hunting!

Let me know if you have done this and how did it work for you. 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.

6 Pros and Cons of Being a Writer

You might be asking what are the pros and cons of being a writer. Well, I could think of six answers. However, each answer has a good side as well as its downside.

1. Low overhead cost

Pro: Nowadays, you need a working computer and a reliable Internet connection to work as a writer. But long ago, William Shakespeare just used a quill and paper. That’s how low-cost writing as an occupation could be.

Con: A fabulous equipment like a computer, a printer, and a router may give you a little bit of a head start but it will not guarantee success in your writing business.

2. Anybody can write

Pro: Anybody can write, or could set himself up as a writer, no matter what your education or professional background is. Just look how many bloggers out there and check out their background. Some of them didn’t even finish college but can write well.

Con: Too many competition. You may have the award, the recognition from peers, etc. but the person beside you might also be another writer who is much better than you (and you don’t even know).

Anyone who says he wants to be a writer and isn’t writing, doesn’t.Ernest Hemingway

3. You can make money writing

Pro: I’ve mentioned in another blog, you can turn your writing into cash. Depending on what kind of writing you do, or whom you’re writing for, writing pays a lot. You can charge per word, per page, or per project, depending on what you’ve agreed upon with your client.

Con: Sadly, there’s no minimum wage for writers. Although there are some writers who earn a lot, some writers still struggle and receive low pay. That’s why many people still think that writing is not a real occupation or a good source of income.

RELATED ARTICLE: 7 Ways to Turn Your Writing Into Cash

4. Anybody can start at any time

Pro: The late Sidney Sheldon published his first novel past his age 50 although he had been a screenplay writer before that. Other writers started their writing career late, too. I am also a late bloomer, I started writing professionally in my 30’s.

Con: Distractions, discouragements, and chores may get in the way while you’re in the mood for writing. Well, all writers agree that the hardest part of writing is the beginning. Therefore, you could not just start writing any time.

5. You have the basic materials

Pro: Actually, you are the basic material. Your talent, knowledge, skills, and experiences can provide the basic materials you need for writing. Write first of what you know about.

Con: Sometimes, your material is not enough. You need to seek out and research more. Writing is hard work.

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

6. You write alone

Pro: Writing is a good career choice for introverts who are shy to interact with people but have something more to say to the world. Most writers are introvert, come to think of it. You can lock yourself inside your room and write.  (I love this part.)

Con: However, no man is an island. You need to socialize, interview, and network from time to time. In the end, you have to deal with editors and publishers, too.

So there you have it, six pros and cons of being a writer. Let me know your thoughts or if you have something to add on this one. 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.

Make The Time To Write

Writing is a juggling act. A writer juggles his job, family, friends, recreation, and writing. Some writers grow weary of the constant juggling act and give up writing. Others like me struggle to keep going.

How do you find time to write?” has been a common question to writers or among writers. The answer depends on each one of us. Some writers write during their free time while others have a fixed schedule. Some of the well-known authors started writing their novels while having a job of their own. Other famous writers had the luxury of spending their whole day writing.

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. – Stephen King

For Stephen King, constant reading keeps the writing going. Even professional writers have their own ways of delaying their writing tasks. Arranging their bookshelves, doing some art & crafts, binge-watching are some of them. But in the end, once they find the impetus to write, they do write on their desk.

The secret is forcing yourself to write everyday, either measured by page count or by word count. The important thing is showing up on your desk and write. But when delays turn from a few minutes into a few weeks, or even months, that becomes a big problem.

One of the reasons why “writers” don’t write is they don’t love writing. They like referring themselves as “writers” but they hate the hard work that goes with it.

But there are other writers who would hit the typical writer’s block. They struggle daily on how to go through with it, and then have a breakthrough moment and leap back to work.

Like any other writer, I experience writer’s block. I spend my time on other activities other than writing. And when I realize that I have deadlines to beat, I decide to make things work in my favor. So I devise a plan: make a schedule and make it work.

Fifteen years ago, I was still single then and starting my career as a freelance writer. I wrote from 9 am to 6 pm and made a schedule that had become my daily routine. It made me more focused and productive.

But everything changed when I gave birth. Taking care of a baby became a handful that I don’t have the time to write. Then an employment in the corporate jungle came along. I wrote reports not novels for the next seven years. Until I decided to return to writing in 2012 and started working from home.

Finding time to write is forcing myself to write everyday. I have to write something be it a chapter of a novel or a blog. It’s like showing up for work on my desk.

Always remember that it’s how frequent you write each week and not how many hours a day you spend in writing. Spending three times a week, 2 hours per day writing is much better than writing 4 hours a day on Saturdays and Sundays. I guess, this has something to do with the momentum. Try not to lose the momentum when there’s a story running in your head.

There are 3 P’s we gain from this kind of scheduled writing:

Planning

This is the most difficult part of writing. This is the stage where you set up everything from settings to characters to plot. By having a consistent writing schedule, you have the time between writing sessions to think about what you’re going to write next.

Pressure

Having a consistent writing schedule puts a pressure on you not not to write. Even if you’re able to write a single paragraph, you’ll be back tomorrow to write again, no matter what. Compare it if you’re just going to write once or twice a week. That one paragraph will probably stay as one paragraph in the next two weeks because you stopped somehow. And that will get you in serious trouble.

Practice

They say that practice makes perfect. It’s the repetition that trains the mental muscles and extract creative juices. You will notice that your writing improves with time.

But since people are different, one method doesn’t fit all. There are two ways of making a writing schedule. Both are effective so you can choose which one works best for you.

Gridlock Method

This is a rigid schedule of writing that you must adhere religiously. Using a grid, fill in every hour that you have commitments or activities. Then look at the empty blocks and try filling the blocks where you are absolutely positive you can write. Be realistic and don’t overbook yourself. Three to five times a week for two hours a day is fine. If you can’t find reasonable number of hours for writing in a week, examine your priorities. Once you have workable schedule, stick to it. Let other members of the family know that you have to follow a schedule and you’re serious about it.

Spare Change Method

This involves establishing goals for each day and week. Your goal is not putting in a certain amount of time, rather, producing a specific number of pages each day or week. Decide if you are going to adhere to a daily or a weekly goal. Take a calendar and write down a daily goal or at the end of the week, write the page number you expect to achieve on that day. Don’t worry if you’re uncertain, or if it keeps on changing as you write. The point is to establish a goal and work towards it.

True, writing is a juggling act. But the main hurdle in becoming a successful writer is finishing a writing project — be it a novel or a short story. Making a schedule and finding time to write will help you do that.

Writing: What It Is and The Reasons Why

 

The dictionary defines writing as a way you use words to express your ideas or opinions on paper. It is the most popular and prevalent method of creating connections among people. It also serves as the flexible foundation for almost every type of communications media. Print, video, audio, speech, and interactive online media all begin with writing.

But why write in this age and time when everything is digital? The attention span of our younger generation becomes limited as the years go by. And there are many communication media attempting to grab their attention. So why write?

Benjamin Franklin might have influenced it when he said “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do things worth writing.” Who doesn’t want to be remembered after death? It’s natural for us humans to make a mark on this world. Not for the sake of money, but for the sheer desire to make a name for ourselves. Call that egoism, if you like.

Writing has become a tool that can encourage, or make people move. In its altruistic sense, we write because we want to change the world or create a new fictitious universe. We try to find meaning in this world in the hope of understanding our existence and our purpose in life. But because writing is neutral, its purposes and results depend on the intentions of the writer and the audience.

I write for the same reason I breathe — because if I didn’t, I would die.Isaac Asimov

Generally, people see writing as a hobby. But some writers claim it as their profession. Others see writing as a form of therapy. Whatever reasons each writer has, the main purposes of writing are to inform, to entertain, and to motivate.

It connects people across time, space and culture. It keeps records of past events, form opinions, and shape the future. This makes us learn from yesterday, gain knowledge about today, and design for tomorrow.

How about you, what is your main reason to write?

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.

How Much is Fair in Fair Use?

Before I get into my topic on fair use and copyright, let me tell you a story.

Just before my second trimester in a school I was in, a department head told me that I’ll be teaching a new subject. I thought I heard him right so I said, “Oh, copy writing. Okay, I’m in.” Weeks later, I realized that the new subject I was about to teach was “Copyright Laws“.

Anyway, I taught Copyright Laws and Multimedia Arts Ethics for a trimester and it was a good learning experience for both me and my students. We tackled fair use which is today’s topic.

It is okay to quote a few lines from a novel just as long as you are within the context of fair use. But before we discuss fair use, let’s start with the basics of copyright.

THE BASICS

Copyright laws were created to promote the progress of arts and sciences. These laws protect the original works of inventors, authors, artists, and other “creatives”. These also covers the exclusive rights to copy, to adapt, to display or perform, and to control the first sale of their works to the public.

Once a person fixes an original expression of an idea in a tangible form, that person can claim copyright in the work but with certain limitations.

SO, WHAT ARE THE LIMITATIONS?

Copyright only protects the form of expression but not the ideas. Therefore, an idea like a love story of a cat and a dog may have different forms of expression. One author may express it in a short story. Another creative may express it in a song. And another artist may express it in a comic book. So you cannot just say, “Hey, someone stole my idea!” unless you have put that idea on a tangible format.

The copyright owner controls public but not private displays or performances. Therefore, anything you use at a personal level like singing in the bathroom, or sharing a book to your child does not constitute copyright infringement. But if you perform or display it publicly for financial income purposes, then you have to ask permission to use the copyrighted material first.

This is where the YouTube reaction videos get strikes due to copyright infringement. As you all know, anyone with a YouTube account can earn as soon as you hit more than ten thousand subscribers. A person can earn money from YouTube depending on the number of subscribers, clicked ads, etc. And most YouTube accounts I see online bask in the popularity of reaction videos — reacting to TV shows or performances — without realizing that they’re violating a few principles of fair use and copyright.

The copyright owner controls the first sale but not the subsequent sales of each copy of the work. Writers need to understand this part. Selling your work to a publisher already gives that publisher the right to sell and gain income from the sale of your work. Unless specified in the sales contract, you may or may not receive anything else.

Copyright usually lasts for 50 years, and once the 50 years has lapsed, the work becomes a public domain. But not all works past the 50 years mark are public domain. Heirs of authors or other creatives might have taken over the copyright of the author’s works. So check it out first.

The copyright owner’s rights are limited by the “fair use” doctrine.

WHAT IS FAIR USE?

The fair use of copyrighted works includes reproduction in copies, mostly in part, for purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, or research, and is not an infringement of copyright.

Reaction videos on YouTube are usually covered under this fair use doctrine, although this situation is tricky as I’ve mentioned earlier because part of reaction videos is displaying a copyrighted material for financial income.

Fair use is always going to be a gray area, and it should be. We need to allow for things we can’t see yet.Robin Gross

FACTORS TO BE CONSIDERED IN FAIR USE

  • Purpose and character. If the purpose of copying the work in part is for non-commercial research, for educational purposes, for critique, and for news reporting, then the act is considered fair use. Most reaction videos on YouTube will cite this as fair use.
  • Nature of the copyrighted work. Non-fiction works like science and history may receive less protection than fictional works because facts need not be copyrighted. For fiction, quoting for the purpose of book review is generally fair provided the amount taken is reasonable.
  • The amount and substance of the portion used in relation to the work as a whole. Take into consideration the quality and the quantity of the words taken from the work. If the “heart” or the main essence of the work or its full context was taken, this is not fair use even if the number of words copied are few.
  • The effect on the market. The degree of fair use now depends on the impact of the new use on the original work. If the use is minimal and for a valid purpose, then the author of the original work may consider it fair. But with today’s social media, it’s easy to know the impact. People who are active on the Internet can easily tag a work as “plagiarized” if they know something about the original work.

It’s easy to say that your work is “inspired from” another. But it’s difficult if you’re accused of plagiarism.

PUTTING FAIR USE TO WORK

  • Always remember that ideas, themes, and facts are not copyrighted. However, events in a fictional work should not be taken as facts.
  • And if getting a permission to quote is something practical on your part, better get it from the author.
  • Play safe by quoting as little as possible. It is safe to quote up to 10 percent of the work or less.
  • Do not quote or use the “heart” of the original work or its full context.
  • Refrain from substituting the original words and pass it as something new. Be careful in re-wording or paraphrasing texts from your research. Always check your work with a plagiarism checker after writing and before submission.
  • As much as possible, keep the borrowed portion insignificant or undetectable.

THE POOR MAN’S COPYRIGHT

This is a simple procedure to prove that you own a piece of original work. All you have to do is mail your manuscript to yourself. The date and time stamp on when it was sent and received serves as the copyright date. However, this process may not be accepted in other countries. I suggest that you file your copyright to proper government agencies in your area.

SONGS ARE TRICKY

Unlike novels, quoting a line of a song can be tricky especially if you want to use it in your novel. To be on the safe side, ask around or consult a lawyer who specializes in intellectual property or copyright laws. If you can’t afford to pay for the rights, your next best bet is to compose a song.

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 plot and suspense

7 Ways of Suspense

Readers should keep turning the pages and will not put the book down. That’s what novelists have to create: novels that are natural page-turners that critics will rave.

Writing a novel requires constant forward movement to get the readers excited to move on the next page. In order to sustain that forward movement, writers need to create suspense. But in order to make a novel suspenseful, we have to use strategies that inspire curiosity. If curiosity can kill a cat, these tips could be worth practicing.

1. Keep secrets

Secrets make us wonder who, what, and why? Hiding something within the chapters can solicit intrigue. If the secret is fairly minor, you may withhold it for the time required to turn the page. But if it’s intriguing though, you can hide it for several chapters, taking advantage of the forward movement created by the readers’ curiosity. This way, you can keep the wonder flowing by occasionally referring back to the mystery. If you introduce a secret in a prominent position, make sure the question the readers will form inside their head is thematically relevant. The question should not be a mere device to prod readers forward. Remember, we want to manipulate the readers without making them feel manipulated.

2. Make plans

A character’s plans are future-oriented and inherently suspenseful. When you force your character to announce what he wants, you guide the readers’ attention to his motives and how he plans to achieve it. Readers will keep asking if the character will succeed or not.

3. Announce arrivals

New characters create complications. When you introduce them at the chapter’s end, you give the character a big entrance, followed by a detailed introduction on the next chapter. This indicates his importance and contributes to the forward movement of the story.

4. Schedule departures

Just as arrivals predict change, so do departures. When something leaves or ends, life changes, too. Emphasizing ends and conclusions compels us to think about the possible consequences in the following chapters. Often, some stories start with something leaving, closure, or ending. Not only because it introduces a change in the character’s life, but also because it opens an opportunity for conflict.

Plots may be simple or complex, but suspense, and climactic progress from one incident to another, are essential.H.P. Lovecraft

5. Reverse expectations

When characters fail to behave as we expect, they surprise us and the readers, too. Having said that there are only a few basic stories to tell, we begin to expect possible endings as well. Plot twists are great, but when you reverse expectations, take care to maintain credibility.

6. Ask a question

Usually these questions are implied, but they don’t have to be in your story. You as the narrator should pose a powerful question by phrasing it as an interrogative statement. Readers don’t have the answer yet but you are forcing them to respond inquisitively.

7. Introduce a new problem

Creating fiction requires giving characters goals and flinging obstacles at them. New problems stimulate forward movement. You want readers to take heed, to anticipate the conflict this problem is bound to cause. One of my mentors told us in our scriptwriting workshop to push the character in one corner until he or she couldn’t do anything but to fight back.

There you have it, seven ways to keep your novel suspenseful. But take note, there will be times that you need to slow down, too. Vary your movements. Good books require both fast pace and slow moments.