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Letter and Reply from “Web Content Writer Wanted for Free” Company

One of our intrepid readers, John Kulczycki, sent in a response that he received from the “Web Content Writer for Free” being advertised on Toronto Craigslist after he wrote them to challenge them on the ad. The reply is nonsensical considering that the initial ad asks the writer to work for no pay until they “prove themselves”, and also uses words like “asswipe” and “ass” when referring to John. We’d love to get the company name if anyone has it for public posting.

Just a quick recap – the link to the posting is now down. This company posted a long detailed job ad with many requirements and duties, referring to the position as an internship with no pay until you “prove yourself” in downtown Toronto. For the record, if you are in downtown Toronto and you are just starting out without much of a portfolio, you can land a junior copywriter position for no less than $30,000 with a BA or a college diploma with benefits after 3-6 months. Never, never work for free unless it is an internship position as part of a co-op program through your school.

While I usually don’t go in for basting a company like this on the public spit, the initial smarmy nature of the ad and their response to John’s e-mail, which was really no more than light-hearted teasing, sort of gets my hackles up. It also reveals the true nature of people who want you to work for free and serves as a great insight into their character. Without further adieu:

“Dear John,

You sent us an email stating:

You forgot

– Must get coffee on command and fetch other things too
– Must be eternally grateful for this opportunity to be enslaved
– Must roll over and play dead on command when I’m trying to impress people

In your “Requirements”

You see John, if you were talented, skilled and smart enough, then you’d understand that you could take this job yourself and get paid off the bat, from day one- if you knew all that the job entails.

But instead, you choose to complain and disrespect companies that pay and respect those that work for them.

It’s OK  John, stay at home, keep looking for your dream job- let others take this one and make something of themselves while you stay at home and complain about real job offers.

All our contractors happily work from home, so fetching YOUR coffee for you is not gonna happen, since you are not the boss and nobody is your slave. BTW –  they all get paid VERY well- way more than you are making.

And NO, I don’t wish to expose our company name because of asswipes like you.

I want to take this opportunity and wish you the best of luck, BECAUSE unlike you I am not an ass and want you to succeed in the future.

Please grow up, it will help you land a real good job and make a future for yourself, don’t take your frustrations out on genuine hard working people and companies (not a start up) that work hard and pay all of their staff and contractors.”

Five Tips for Beginning Freelance Writers

We get the odd question here from people who are just starting down the path of freelance writing.  Sadly, been hearing from more than one ex-journalist these days.

Seriously, though, what do you need to know when you first start out?  I would dispense the following advice:

1.  Don’t Buy Anything That Professes to Tell You All the Secrets
As you will learn doing copywriting, or as you already know, this is simply a marketing gimmick done to sucker you, the cash-flush reader, into parting with your money for a kernel of truth wrapped in a giant burrito of BS. This includes e-books, courses, webinars, and anything else that professes huge results in a small amount of time. Your money and time are best invested in building your portfolio, familiarizing yourself with style guidelines, and practicing your writing by doing it rather than reading about it. I buy the odd book by people who know what they are talking about and that is all.

2.  You Don’t Have to Pay to Get The Gigs
Elance, Guru, and other sites are arranged to give you the convenience of going into one place to get all of your work. These sites are nothing more than trumped up temp agencies that charge you a membership fee and take a cut of your work. The kind of buyers that post jobs on these sites are generally $5.00 per article types, if that. Don’t waste your time when there are abundant sites like this one, Craiglist, freelancewritinggigs.com, aboutfreelancewriting.com, and others purpose-built to help you get gigs at no charge.

3.  Join a Professional Association
In Canada, that would be PWAC. At least one regular reader of this site has had success landing clients through being listed on their website after joining. One good client can repay the $400.00 membership fee, plus you get to go to fun events with other members and network.  It’s all good.

4.  Have a Good Portfolio
A lovely resume and a killer website will do you no good. Build up your client base and your portfolio if you don’t already have one. Try to round it out with samples from various industries, as potential buyers like to see samples from within their own sector.

5.  Smile And Laugh
Don’t forget to have fun. You are a creative, and we creatives are the envy of every cubicle worker out there. Enjoy it and be happy that you’ve taken the bold step to be a freelancer in the first place.

Where to Get Gigs Other Than CraigsList

If you are a freelancer looking to fill up your schedule with something other than underpaid CraigsList gigs, there are a few places that you can look.

1.  Other Freelancers

Believe it or not, us freelancers are a busy lot right now.  Take the time to craft a tailor-written e-mail to other freelancers that you find through their websites or other means and offer to take a load off if they find themselves to be too busy to take on a project.  Expect to be paid less than your going rate as they have essentially “gotten the job” for you, and be prepared for some freelancers not being too cozy about this particular tactic.  Just like cold-calling, you will get people who don’t want your services.

On the upside, you will most likely make new friends and may even form some working relationships that will last for years.  You’ll need to have a strong portfolio to sell yourself to an established freelancer, and don’t send form e-mails.  Your peers can see right through that in about two seconds.

2.  Advertise on Craigslist

Maybe it was just blind luck, but I nailed a great client the very first time I advertised on CraigsList.  Make sure that you are posting in the proper category so that your ad doesn’t get flagged and removed.  If you live in a huge area, such as New York City, go back and repost your ad once every few weeks and be sure to post in surrounding areas, where your ad is less likely to disappear.

3.  Spend Time on Marketing

Build your website, set up a Twitter account, create an e-mail newsletter.  Do everything you can to further your marketing efforts in any “off-time” that you may have and you won’t find yourself having off-time for long.

4.  Follow Up With Leads

Did you put off a potential client because you had too many projects on the go?  Revisit them and see if they still need your services, even if it is way after the fact.

5.  Local and Government Directories

Advertise your business on free local directories, as well as any federal directories that you can join.  In Canada, if you have a business you can register with the CCC database (Canadian Company Capabilities) database at no charge.  Government agencies and businesses actually do use this database to find suppliers.  It can be found here.

Why Knowing Web Design Makes You a Better Web Writer

I recently touched off a nerve in an article on web writing by suggesting that web designers have a “leg up” on freelance writers when writing web content because of their familiarity with search engines.  Unfortunately I said this in one statement and didn’t really back it up with anything, since the article was tailored to web designers rather than writers.  Here, for the writers, is an explanation of what that meant.

Why Code Knowledge Matters

Web designers and programmers deal with the “back end” of the internet.  As such they are keenly aware of the red lights and green lights of the search engines.  There are some turns of phrase that can be used innocently in web copy that the search engines simply won’t like.  While most writers know to avoid repetition, they may use it in examples or in other ways that the search engines will still pick up on.  A web designer would know inherently to put such an example in an image file rather than using it in the site text.

I would recommend that every writer who is getting into writing for the web design a site from the ground up with proper code and everything, forgoing Dreamweaver and other WYSIWYG editors.  Once you understand code implementation and have read current literature and websites about search engine optimization, you’ll be well on your way to being an exceptional web writer.

Getting Started

There are about a million sites out there that offer tutorials on web design.  Start simply with HTML and work your way up from there.  Keep in mind that most designers use CSS, or cascading style sheets, for fonts now instead of HTML attributes, so you’ll want to pick up CSS along the way as well.  Don’t bother with programming languages like Javascript and PHP for the time being, that will take up too much of your time.

If you learned some HTML back in the day don’t rest on your laurels and think that is enough.  Code a site from the ground up with HTML and CSS and update your skills to current levels.

Get the Right Stuff on SEO

As a general rule, ignore any site or article on search engine optimization that has been written by someone who doesn’t have an extensive work history in search engine optimization, web design or programming.  If they call themselves “internet marketers” and couldn’t code to save their lives, chances are good that they just read up on current trends and spit them back out on their blog posts without any actual understanding of what is going on in order to sell some advertising on their sites.  If you see something that looks suspiciously like one of these posts, click on the link back to the source material and read that.  It will probably be cohesive and contain some good tips.

Beware of anyone who self-styles as an “SEO expert”.  Most of the people who actually are will let their experience and portfolio speak for them rather than loudly announcing their expert status to anyone who will listen in a vain attempt to attract more clicks to their sites.  It is so easy to start following the wrong advice when you are new to this game and the wrong advice can land you further down in the search engine results pages (SERPs) rather than higher up.  What worked in 1999 does not work now.  Unfortunately a lot of “SEO experts” don’t know this and just merrily keep on using tactics like hidden text that can land you in a heap of hot water.

Here are a few good sites to start with:

seo-chicks.com
The chicks are all actual professionals in the field of SEO and their combined expertise is staggering.  Generally any sites they suggest are good resources as well.

webproworld.com
If you are having an SEO or website problem you want to post your question in the forum here.  Professionals will answer you or point you to one of the many “stickies”.  I also recommend subscribing to their e-newsletter, its the only one that I haven’t unsubbed.  Lurk on their SEO forum to learn some current lessons on SEO.

Keyword Research

Most of you already know how to research keywords and technically this is another article in and of itself.  Google Analytics offers a free keyword research tool that is probably going to be the best for what you are looking for.  My personal preference is Trellian’s Keyword Research tool, but this is merely a habit I’ve gotten myself into and I will use both for proper research.  I feel just a little more comfortable with the Yahoo & MSN/Live coverage that Trellian gives me in addition to Google.  Both services are free although Trellian’s does only allow you limited use per day before they want you to upgrade to the professional version.  When you are done researching them, use them.  Start with your own site which you should have by now and see just how high up in the SERPs you can rank.  Warning:  this practice is highly addictive.

Attitude

The biggest thing I learned writing an article on web writing was that some writers out there have deeply entrenched attitudes about what they do and get very angry when those attitudes are challenged.  Personally, I’m willing to change a deeply held belief about anything if presented with ample evidence that I should.  Some people, including maybe your clients, may not be that flexible.  Web writing is a completely different animal than offline writing and you will run into people who just don’t believe this no matter how much evidence to the contrary you show them.  I’m sure some of you reading this right now are getting steamed about the fact that I am recommending that you learn the basics of site design and SEO.  In the end, the only advice that works for you is what actually works for you.  While there are things that definitely don’t work, no one person or site is going to give you a definitive list of what those things are, except maybe Google and their handy blog for webmasters.  You may want to pay attention to those guys.

A stick-in-the-mud attitude simply won’t work for you in this business.  You have to be willing to change with the tides of the internet and current trends.  If you don’t, you’ll be road pizza.  Plain and simple.  Your writing background is simply the basis that you have to work from, not a dogma that should govern everything that you do.

Good luck, happy hunting and happier writing!

Why Revenue Sharing is Bullshit

Yes, a strong word.  Bullshit.  Complete, total, raving bullshit.  The downturn in the economy has seemed to lure out the vultures that claim that they want to “pay” for your writing when the ad dollars start rolling in.  Here is why that is not a good idea.

Freelancewritingjobs.ca gets about 60 unique visitors a day by the time you carve out all of the search engine spiders and non-human traffic.  That’s not too shabby, especially since we started last October.  However, this traffic only nets us on average about a quarter a day.

Multiply our traffic numbers by 10 and we’re still not talking about huge dollar amounts that prospective writers can partake in – and those numbers are site-wide.

Revenue sharers often only want to share revenue on the page that your article is placed on, not their entire site.  What is that then – 0.25 a month?  I don’t think so.

Then there are the more legitimate seeming outlets that get you all excited about the prospect of revenue sharing so that they can pay you untenable initial rates for your article (cough*Bright Hub*cough).   Watch out for that little tactic as well, since it is equally flogged and equally unforgivable.

Another great thing about revenue sharers is that you can flag them on Craigslist and have their ads removed if they are in the “writing jobs” section as those must be paid jobs.  This will force them to go back and post in the “writing gigs” section, which looks less legitimate and isn’t as used.  Please feel free to join me in cleansing them from the world of the Intertubes.