What kind of freelance writer are you?

Tell me, and I'll send you a customized report to help you earn more. (It's free!)

Get Your Report

As Seen On...

Forbes Inc. Write To Done Entrepreneur ProBlogger Copy Blogger

Writing Gigs You Never Thought of: Community Moderator

By Carol Tice

Today I’d like to talk about a growing writing niche that’s a bit off the beaten trail — community moderating. Indeed.com recently had 83 job listings for community moderators, both for free local forums and for pay, moderating online forums for companies — Allstate, Fox Entertainment, and many others. Corporate moderators learn to be the “voice” of the brand to their online community.

This niche is so new that it’s like wide-open spaces as far as breaking in. If you write well, have an even-tempered disposition, a background in the subject matter, and are willing to get trained on the company’s criteria for what is an allowable post, you could find yourself getting into a whole new sideline. Community moderating tends to be steady work, so it can provide a ground floor that helps you keep freelancing and supports other writing projects.

I’d like to introduce WM readers to someone who’s got a paid moderating gig — my awesome Make a Living Writing Web developer Tony Kehlhofer — that’s his mug above. After six months of freelancing, Tony, who’s an experienced programmer, started a couple of Web sites he’s monetizing, Maps4Kids and TotalCraigSearch (lets you search Craigslist across many cities at once for jobs, check it out!)…and was recently trolling for more freelance work.

He answered a Craigslist ad — NOT kidding! — and several rounds of interviews later found himself moderating building-block giant Lego’s new massive-multiplayer online game for tweens, Lego Universe. They flew him to Denmark for training…can you say dream job? He reports it’s decent, steady money and there’s growth potential aplenty. His edge: They wanted someone bilingual-German, and Tony lived in Austria for years. I was dying to hear the details, and thought WM could listen in:

CT: Tony, what did you say to Lego that got you this amazing gig? Did you have any moderating experience?

TK: I didn’t really have any. I said I’m familiar with online tools and gaming, I’m willing to work as a contractor, and I spoke the required language, German, which is the second language they’re going to roll out. I interviewed on Skype in English, then on Skype in German and took a written test in German. They flew me to Denver to meet the hiring executive, and then to Denmark.

CT: What did you learn about moderating in Denmark?

TK: We went through extensive psychology and policy meetings. We talked about trademark issues — you can’t be “Luke Skywalker” on Lego Universe. We learned how pedophiles groom children online so we can spot them. There were up to 20 people on my team there, who’re based everywhere, Spain, Italy. I’m one of the oldest members (laughs)…by far.

CT: What-all do you moderate within the game?

TK: Everything, even the usernames. The conversations the players have when they get in an area together. There are also community forums.

CT: What kind of hours do you work for Lego Universe?

TK: I’m working 16-20 hours a week now, and it will ramp up to 24-32 hours a week when it goes live. I was in the program, which is in beta, last week and had to approve over 300 new usernames in a few hours. My afternoon is the middle of the night in Germany, so I save them having to pay third-shift overtime.

CT: What sort of future opportunities do you see now that you’re in moderating?

TK: I think there’s a whole career path here in moderation that is pretty incredible. For me, the neat thing is there’s another company involved with Lego, eModeration.com. They do a first level of screening out problems. Their client list is exceptional — MTV, Disney, Canon. So I’ve made a connection there.

CT: Any final advice on finding unusual jobs such as this one?

TK: Search widely. I have eight or nine regular search terms I use to find jobs on Craigslist in Seattle, and I would never have found this one if I hadn’t decided to also search on “German.”

Since this interview, I’ve posted on my own site about more jobs in social media — take a gander over to Make a Living Writing to learn more.

This post originally appeared on the WM Freelance Writer’s Connection.

When Writing Clients Create Crises

Crisis Writing Clients Need to Pay MoreI got a new client recently that I was very excited about. It was an ongoing account for eight short articles a month, from a decent-sized, established company. They had a big list of topics ready to go. I thought it sounded just great.

Then I started trying to work on the account, and everything changed. This client turned out to be a crisis-creator. And even though it represented more than $1,500 a month in income, I dropped them.

It turned out the client didn’t really want short blog-type pieces, they wanted full-blown reported articles. They also wanted me to interview their experts and ghost some of the entries for them (a fact they hadn’t mentioned up front). Their experts weren’t very readily available, I’d have to try and try to reach them before finally getting an interview time, so deadline panic became the norm.

It quickly became clear that this client was a massive pain in the butt. Also, the services they really wanted I would have billed at three to four times the rate I’d quoted them for the “quick blog pieces” they originally claimed to want.

Some writing clients are really dysfunctional and tend to create crises in your schedule. If you end up with a crisis client, you have to decide if it’s worth hanging onto them or not.

I have another crisis client right now. They pick their topics v e r y   s l o w l y…then they take forever to OK a story outline. Then…the minute they approve it, it’s due in one week flat. Kinda crazy.

But they’re paying me $1 a word, and I’ve decided they’re worth it. Which brings me to my main rule of crisis clients: They need to pay a lot.

Often, you get the deadly combination of crisis-creating client AND they pay sorta crummy. Those two do NOT go together!

When I worked as an entertainment-industry secretary back half a lifetime ago, I saw that the production office often had a sign posted on the wall. It was a triangle with the corners labeled “Good,” “Fast,” and “Cheap.” Below it would say: “Pick any two.”

Clients who want good work done fast because of their crisis-creating proclivities need to pay top dollar. Otherwise, you’re letting them turn their crisis into your crisis.

Don’t let that happen! My philosophy is that your crisis is my opportunity. I happen to have the ability to turn around complex stories fast — if you need that, pay the freight.

Photo via Flickr user alancleaver_2000

Tagged with: ,

Avoid the Crash When A Big Writing Project Ends

So here’s a situation a lot of freelance writers are confronted with: You’ve had a great client and been working on their great project, but now you can see the end is in sight. Soon, this project will be over.

What to do? How to prevent the income and self-esteem crash that can come when suddenly, a fat account wraps up and that party’s over.

Got an interesting comment on this topic from one of  my mentees this month, Boise freelance writer Lindsay Woolman. She’s in this exact situation right now, as she strives to find more direct clients and move away from working as a subcontractor:

Right now my only client (other than subcontracting) is a ghostwriting book project, which has been the best and good pay. I expect it will last through the end of the month. It makes me nervous to have the project end, but she has really liked my work, so it has given me more confidence.

Right on, Lindsay, about the confidence — it feels great to do a fun, lucrative project!

But you’ve got that bad, nagging feeling because it’s ending. What is that nervous feeling? It’s the feeling that you should be doing something about this. Either:

1) You do nothing. You’re going to work this account, and feel nervous until the bomb drops and suddenly you have less income. Then you’re going to be poor and scramble to try to find a replacement. Meanwhile,  you’ll be depressed because the ego boost of having this great client is gone. This is not a good scenario.

OR

2) You take action now to find a replacement client. You really can’t act fast enough. If you start a six-week project that you know will end, the day you start the job is the day to start looking for its replacement. Because finding another great client takes time!

AND

3) You keep constantly prospecting, in case a client unexpectedly shuts down. In this economy, it’s happening more and more. Even if you can’t see an end, there may be one coming.

I’ve dealt with replacing big accounts myself…one of my biggest clients ever suddenly fired my editor about a year ago, and everything changed. Though I initially still had plenty of work in the pipeline from them, I felt the writing was on the wall. This account was going to wind down.

So instead of just cruising along on my remaining projects, I started looking immediately for something else to take its place. As it turned out, I didn’t find one giant account just like it to plug in when it went away — which it did, in about 4-5 months — but I found several smaller ones which together paid roughly as much.

Life went on without much of a hitch. No panic, no depression, no big income dip. The client went away mid-year in 2009, and it still wrapped up as my highest-earning year ever, because I was aggressive about replacing this account, and others that came and went, too.

This is one of the prime strategies for becoming a higher-earning freelancer — keep your pipeline of clients and projects constantly full. If you wait for the crash and then start looking for a replacement, that delay — and in this economy who knows how big a delay it will be? — will cost you big dollars over the course of the year.

Tagged with:

How to Earn Well Writing Reported Articles

Write Reported Stories to Earn MoreBy Carol Tice

One of the comments I get a lot from writers who started at content sites is that they can’t imagine how they could write fully reported stories and still earn well. They take so much time! Finding sources, setting up interview times, talking to live humans. How can it possibly pencil out?

Well, I’m here to testify that when done right, reported articles are a far more lucrative way to write. Here are some tips on how professional writers earn well writing reported stories.

1. Keep your interviews short. Unless you’re doing a 3,000-word profile of somebody or something similar, I try not to spend more than 15-20 minutes talking to any particular source. This not only keeps your hourly rate for the story up, but keeps the source from entertaining delusions that they will be the whole article. Respect sources’ time and yours, have your questions ready ahead of time, and keep it brief.

2. Think before you drive. Before you get in the car, adding hours to your reporting time, ask yourself whether this needs to be an in-person interview, or if it would do just as well as a phoner. Many roundup stories don’t need in-person work. If you do need to travel for a story because you really need to see things and people to write it properly, take a single day and line up all the interviews the story needs, so you go straight from one to another. That’s my M.O. with stories that need field work.

3. Double-down on your sources. While you’re talking to sources, think about other stories you’re writing for other outlets, and whether you could use them for those pieces, too. Also pick their brains for additional stories you could pitch elsewhere. Recycling your experts really saves time, and it’s legit as long as it’s different topics for different markets.

Example: Recently, I interviewed the head of a niche recruiting company for a career story on a major jobs portal. I learned her company had gotten certified as a Beneficial or “B” Corp, which I thought was interesting so I sold that idea to a corporate business-information Web site. She was a woman business owner, so I also got her into a story for the online site of a national magazine about women who owned her business type. Total pay: more than $1,400. Not bad for a half-hour of interview time with her, plus a few other short interviews thrown into the roundups.

4. Find sources fast. Learn how to use HARO, Profnet and other source-finding tools. Find expert authors fast on Amazon books. Become a Google pro. Tweet or tell your LinkedIn crowd about your sourcing needs. You have to find exactly who you need, pronto. If you have to interview three people to find one good expert, you can’t make this pay.

5. Resell, resell, resell. Once you’ve done a topic, think about noncompeting markets you could rewrite it for with a slightly different angle and reuse your experts. A classic one: once you’ve learned about a business, ask your source where they went to college, and sell a profile about them to their college alumni magazine. If it’s a daily paper piece, see if it could be resold to dailies in other markets. Crack that Writer’s Market and find more places that could use your idea.

6. Build relationships. Don’t be a news zombie, sucking the information out of a source’s head and leaving them a dry husk by the roadside. If you think a source is articulate and knowledgeable in their field, make friends! Often, if you’re friendly, respectful and don’t waste sources’ time, you can come back to the same sources over and over for various stories — sometimes even for the same outlet. Just ask your publication if it’s OK if you use someone you’ve cited for them previously.

You don’t want to overuse this — keep finding new sources, too. But when you get stories with rush deadlines, it’s great to have built a rolodex of sources you know will return your calls.

If you need tips on how to be a crack interviewer, there’s more here on that topic.

This post originally appeared on the WM Freelance Writer’s Connection.

Photo via Flickr user Piratenpartei Deutschland

When Writers Set Goals…And Don’t Meet Them

Failure is a Part Of the Freelance Writing JourneyLike many of you, I set some goals for my writing business for 2010. With one-quarter of the year gone, it’s time to review those goals and consider adjustments.

Personally, I already have that sinking feeling of behinder-ness I get when I see myself not meeting all my goals. I want to be steering the direction of my writing career, not floating along like a leaf on a stream, staying in a rut of familiar clients.

If you’re like me, your to-do list tends to be pretty ambitious. I don’t take things into account like spring break, and kids underfoot, and power outages…which all happened around here last week. I don’t imagine I’ll ever get a bad night’s sleep or be too tired to write. I forget I’ll need to hem my kids’ pants, help them get a science fair project ready…in a word, life will keep happening.

But all those things happen, and the goals start to slide. I also saw my list sort of upended this year by one major goal that I unexpectedly met very early in January…but that dreamed-of new account, while thrilling and lucrative, turned out to need WAY more ramp-up time than I imagined.

So here I am well into the year and I haven’t sent anything like the queries to my targeted new national magazine markets that I thought I would…one of my big goals for this year. And my ebook is STILL NOT READY…and probably won’t be until next month at the earliest.

But a lot got done. Great new clients were signed up. I paid a lot of bills, and this month is set to be my biggest of ’10. The groundwork is starting to pay off.

Now’s the time to forgive ourselves for what we haven’t gotten done. The goal list may need a little judicious pruning — but that’s OK. Breathe and let go of the feeling that we’re behind, that we’re failing. Instead, let’s celebrate the progress.  Every day we can keep freelancing and make enough that we don’t have to look for a job is a day of precious freedom. As I struggle to steer this writing ship where I want it to go, I’m going to try to remember to enjoy the trip, setbacks, bumps and all.

Photo via Flickr user fireflythegreat

Tagged with:

10 Killer Interview Tips for Amazing Articles

Use Interviews to Supplement Your WritingIn this bloggy, Web-based, insta-posting age, interviewing sometimes seems to be a lost art. But if you want to move up and get better-paying writing assignments,  you’ll need to conduct interviews with people. You’ll need to not just do them, but to utterly rock at interviewing.

The difference between ho-hum and great writing is often in getting wonderful quotes from sources rather than blah ones.

A lot of new writers are getting started at content sites writing quick articles that don’t require any interviews. Then suddenly, an editor or business client will call wanting to assign you a great article or project — but it requires talking to actual live humans to gather information.

Don’t let interviewing be a roadblock to growing your writing business. Here are ten tips to get you started interviewing:

1.   Research your topic and your interview subject, and prepare a question list prior to your interview time.

2.   Shut up. People hate silence, and if you’re quiet, they will likely say more.

3.   Take copious notes, and consider bringing a digital tape recorder so you can go back over the interview.

4.   Take a little time to make small talk and put the source at ease.

5.   Remember your fact basics, and find out the who, what, when, where and why. Then, go beyond these to capture a few more details that bring the story to life.

6.   Consider your written list only a starting point. As sources talk, what they say will bring up more questions.

7.   If you have questions that may upset your subject, ask them at the end of the interview, so that you get as much info as you can before they shut you down.

8.   Ask, “Who else should I talk to about this?” “Where can I learn more about this?” and/or “Who disagrees with you on this?”

9.        Ask, “Is there anything else you’d like to say on this topic that I haven’t asked about?”

10.      Always conclude with, “Where can I contact you later to check facts or ask followup questions?”

Photo via Flickr user tuppus

Tagged with: , ,
1 172 173 174 175 176 179