Friday, June 19, 2009

Five Tips for Beginning Freelance Writers

My today's guest blogger is an up and coming freelance writer. Here, she doesn't hesitate to share what she's learnt with others. Check out her advice!

You've made the decision to make a living as a writer, hopefully out of love for the art and the fact that you've been scribbling away in notebooks and on computers for most of your life. Here are a few tips that can not only get you started, but help you out of a slump if you are in one.

1. Get some career experience first

Freelance writing isn't something I would recommend doing straight out of college. Get a job, any job, for a year or so in order to understand the head space that your future customers will be in. Even if you are working in a related field, such as publishing or journalism, get in somewhere where you are exposed to an office and management environment. You'll learn how to be diplomatic when presenting ideas, you'll understand what "busy work environment" means, and a million other small things that you just won't learn if you work out of a home office forever. You can also use this time to build your portfolio part-time so that when you are ready, you come out of the gate with a strong showing.

2. Look everywhere

Don't restrict yourself to looking on Craigslist and online bidding sites for work. These are really the low rungs of the freelance writing ladder and good jobs await you in other places. Sign up with an agency for creatives, such as The Creative Group, Aquent or another high-end agency. While they may seem like temp agencies on the surface, these agencies are actually the source of some lucrative contracts that can result in a killer portfolio. Also, explore sites such as, Darren Rowse's ProBlogger and Deb Ng's

I know that some will have fervent objections to my dismissal of online bidding sites such as Elance and Guru. However, my views are based on personal experience after giving these sites a good try for more than just a few months. Despite the opportunities that are available there after you spend a lot of time wading through the muck, you shouldn't have to pay a membership fee or commission for your job leads. The exception would be well-vetted sources like, which provides excellent leads for their low membership fee. Freelance Switch, in addition, wouldn't dream of asking for a commission on your project.

3. Join a professional association

In Canada, we have an association called PWAC (Professional Writers Association of Canada) that offers its members access to premium job leads, a profile on its websites that prospective buyers look at, and seminars to upgrade your skills. There are similar associations in the US at both the State and the Federal level. These are sources of quality leads and excellent networking opportunities with your fellow writers.

4. Hone your skills wisely

I haven't had any formal training in creative writing since I left University in 1995. To keep myself sharp, I practice writing daily in my various blogs and read various books on writing from authors that know what they are talking about through proven results, like a long list of clients or a significant industry background. It is more important to write than read; start a blog journaling your experiences on Inked In, Blogger, or your own domain.

5. Learn Wordpress

Buy a domain name and hosting and start your own blog using Wordpress. This may seem like a huge step for most of you, but it is so vital that you have Wordpress skills if you want to get blogging gigs. Setting up your own personal portfolio site is the best way to start and it is dead easy. I recommend for their one-click Wordpress installation, and the fact that you can host multiple sites on their server for $10-$30 a month, depending on the plan you choose. Blog owners will like that you recognize what they are working with and are much more likely to hire you.

Lastly, recognize that you are in an industry where writers are in demand, not the other way around. Low payers often like to put down writing and editing skills as being worthless in order to manipulate you into accepting low pay. Don't fall for this. You are the one who is in demand, not the other way around. Adjust your rates accordingly.

About the Author

Angela West runs and has found success as as freelance writer after a year and a half researching various methods of finding contracts. She believes that anyone else with a talent for writing also can and has set up her blog to help her fellow Canadian writers drill down on the jobs that they are eligible for. Her professional site is Working Web Copy.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Online Arbitration- It does work!

Now that my 'arbitration' case is behind me, I feel comfortable enough to write about it in the hope that others who are going through something similar will benefit from this knowledge.

This case is in particular reference to Elance. There's always been mixed feelings in the freelancing community towards this site; some make their living from clients via Elance, while others feel outraged that they charge not only a subscription fee, but also a hefty commission.

I enjoy working with Elance. I pick and choose my projects and submit bids I feel comfortable with. If they come through, then well and good; if not, there are other sites I also use.

If you happen to get into a tussle with a client (or provider) with regards to payment; then Elance has a fairly good arbitration process in place. This is how it works:

The provider (or client, as this is a two way street) needs to get in touch with Elance and file a 'Dispute Claim Form'. Someone from Elance will get in touch with you and you have up to three days to try and resolve the problem with the other party. If you cannot reach an amicable conclusion after three days, Elance sets up a Dispute Assistance conference call with the provider, the client and someone from the Elance dispute committee. Both provider and client are given time to have their say.

If you still cannot resolve this over the conference call, Elance then gives you the option of filing with an online arbitration company called, Net Arb (
The party who had initially filed the dispute gets the first opportunity to file with Net Arb. Elance issues a unique registration code to file the case and transfers all documentation and Private Message communications over to net-ARB once both parties accept net-ARB's Arbitration Agreement.

Following net-ARB's registration process, everything is handled via e-mail only. The cost to file the case is $199.00 for a single arbiter or $399.00 for a panel. This cost is split equally three-ways, between each party and Elance. In the event an arbitration case is filed and the other party does not respond, the non-participating party’s account will be suspended and any funds held in Escrow will be released to the party who filed the case.

In the event the case is filed, then the arbitration process begins. Both parties get the opportunity to make an opening statement. Each party is then allowed to present evidence and ask questions of the other. All this is done only via emails. Finally, each party needs to make a closing statement. The arbitrator then makes a binding decision; which is communicated to Elance, and accordingly, the funds get released to the person who has won the case.

It's very straightforward; less intimidating than you would imagine; and there is no time frame or deadlines to be met. So you have ample time to prepare all your statements and evidence.

If you still have questions, do visit their site; or contact me and I'll be happy to share the information I have.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bookkeeping Basics For Freelance Writers

Networking is wonderful. Through it you meet so many other talented men and women, who will help you grow your writing business. Most freelance writers don't realize that in order to make a successful career from their writing, they need to treat it as a business. And what could be more important in any business than bookkeeping!

My guest today is Brigitte Thompson. Apart from being the President of Datamaster Accounting Services LLC; Brigitte has also written a book especially for freelance writers. We spoke a couple of days ago about the wonderful work she's produced.

Usha: Hello and welcome. Why don't we start by you telling us a bit about yourself.

Brigitte: I live in Vermont with my husband, three children, three cats and two dogs. I operate an accounting business, Datamaster Accounting Services, LLC, am an author of 8 books, and freelance writer. I’ve been self- employed for 17 years and am very thankful to have found a way to balance everything. I enjoy what I do and don’t consider it work.

Usha: When did you begin to think of writing a book specifically on bookkeeping for freelance writers?

Brigitte: The idea for this book was born in 2006 when I was answering questions from writers that were part of online forums I belonged to. Many of the same questions came up so I began to keep the answers in a file on my computer. As this file grew, the concept of writing a book about the financial side of a writer’s life became a reality.

Usha: Have you found that freelance writers require a very different set of bookkeeping rules by which to play?

Brigitte: Many bookkeeping rules are universal such as the requirement to record income, but there are some areas of the tax law that are more common to freelance writers. This includes dealing with royalty payments, bartering, personal property and agent fees. My book addresses the universal tax rules as well as the infrequently discussed rules that apply specifically to freelance writers.

Some writers may not see themselves as business owners which can be detrimental to their career. Learning what is reportable income and what deductions are allowed will give them the best chance at overall business success.

Usha: Does your book offer advice on issues such as difficulty in fee/payment collection? I know this is a topic that every freelancer must address at some point in his or her career.

Brigitte: I recommend writers work with contracts which are legally binding. There are copies of these written agreements in the book for writers to use. Unfortunately, even written contracts can be broken and eventually we will encounter a client who is not willing to pay us for the work we have completed.

I strongly encourage writers to utilize Small Claims Court and report the problem to the local Better Business Bureau. For more detailed information, I recommend Michelle Dunn’s series of books on collection. She shares a wealth of information on this topic.

Usha: Would writers living outside of the States benefit from picking up a copy of your book?

Yes, the organizational information and tips included in this book benefit writers both in and out of the United States. However, the book is based on the Federal Tax laws of the United States, so the tax portions of the book would not necessarily apply to business owners outside of the United States.

Usha: You’ve interviewed a number of freelance writers while doing research for this book. What are some of the challenges they’ve faced with regards to bookkeeping?

Brigitte: The interviewing was one of the best parts of writing this book! It was so nice to connect with other writers and to learn about their experiences.

I found the most common challenge writers face is an understanding of what they need to do to organize legally as a business. If their first job is writing the school newsletter, is the money received really income? Do they need to do something with the Internal Revenue Service before they can be considered a business? How do they handle self- employment tax?

The second most common concern for the freelance writers I interviewed was related to proper documentation. What receipts did they need to save? How should they be kept? What information needs to be recorded to prove the expense?

These are all great questions and they are addressed in the book.

Usha: You've also incorporated different sections such as Writer’s Block and Tips for Success into your book. Could you tell us a bit more about these?

Brigitte: Yes, these two sections in the book were fun to put together. Tips were shared as part of the interview process and offered insight into the lives of a variety of writers. For example, one tip from noted author, Brette Sember states, “I think that it is very important for a writer to find a niche. You’ve got to find an area in which you have expertise or experience that makes you stand out from others. It’s also important to build a platform to create that expertise. Start with a blog, articles on Web site, maybe a Listmania list on Amazon, and build up to articles in national magazines. Eventually you will have created credentials for yourself in the area you’ve chosen and can possibly make the jump to selling a book on the subject.”

The Writer’s Block section was created to include questions from writers I interviewed and the answers offer additional insight. An example from the book is listed below.

Question – “As a non-fiction writer, my articles appear nationally in a variety of magazines. I am paid by check from each publication, but they don’t all send me Form 1099- MISC. Do I still have to report the income when the company paying me doesn’t bother to send me the tax form?” — Celia in MD

Answer – “Yes, even if the payer does not send you the 1099-MISC tax form, you are still required to report the earnings on your tax return as income.”

Usha: Thanks Brigitte. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Brigitte: That the most important thing you can do as a writer is to become organized. There are many books available on how to organize your writing, but this is the best book available, written by an accountant who is also a writer, that will help you organize the financial side of your writing business.

Usha recommends you buy this book:

© 2009 Usha Krishnan Sliva
Freelance writer Usha Krishnan Sliva has years of article and copywriting experience. To get more free tips and writing ideas, subscribe to her ezine-Getting It Write!, today.

Read, Spell, Write and Fix

Something I had to share..because apart from being a full-time writer and coach (and wife ;); I'm also a very proud parent.

This morning, my three year and five month old son (who in most ways is a very typical boy; into Nascar, Formula One racing and anything that moves fast) announced that he would spell jam for me. So he stood in front of me in his pyjamas and said, J-A-M. Being busy these last few months has meant that I've not devoted as much time to his reading/writing as I did my older daughter. So I was all the more surprised when he went on to spell CAR and DOG. The look on his face when done was incredible! Never have I seen someone look so proud or pleased with themselves. That look I have to say is very inspiring!

This evening and not to be outdone, my daughter (who turned five last week) read me an entire book from start to finish without any mistakes. It was a Diego's Level 1 reader; and while she's read similar books in the past, it's always been stop and go with a little bit of help from mum. Today, it was all go-go-go.

And so, their night ended with my son spelling HUG, giving me a hug and my daughter adding- what a clever family we are- you write, Vik can spell and I can read!

Ps- When asked what my husband could do, my son responded by saying-"Dad's a fixer. He doesn't really read or write (er, yes he does!), but he can fix things! ;)"

So there you have it, a very literary family, and a fixer too!

Facebook Link

I've just created a page on facebook for Write Choice For You.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

How To Make Your Money Work For You

For most of us, we will work hard throughout our lives for someone else, in return for a waged income. Think then of how profitable it could be to channel this working energy toward our own personal benefit. And then think of how much better it would be if the money earned began to work for you, 24 hours a day, each and every day of the year!

This is known as passive income; where the money you’ve saved or invested generates ongoing income, without you having to do much more. Freelance writers can make a great deal more money via passive income. You can earn passive income by uploading online, products or services, which sell by themselves. Millions of Internet top-end earners earn most of their income via this method.

Once you’ve understood how passive income works, you can begin to generate income from multiple streams- affiliate marketing, selling eBooks and reports online etc. are only some ways in which you can rake in the big bucks.

The following are four ways in which to make your money work for you:

Create a budget:
It’s often hard to hear the budget word, especially if you are not used to saving or living frugally. However, until your income generates more money by itself, you will need to create a budget and stick with it. Ask yourself; do I really need this product or service I’m investing in? And if the answer is a no; then postpone or defer it for a later date.

Dig yourself out of debt: If you are in debt, then your first priority is to get out of it. You will never be in the plus with regards to your finances, if you are still in debt. This debt becomes a heavy burden to carry, can be passed on to your family and will prove limiting in allowing you to move forward.

Save: You’ve heard the saying, saving for a rainy day. However, savings should be made not just for rainy days, but for all days in your future. Automatically funnel a part of your monthly wage into a separate savings account, so you have no excuse not to save in a particular month.

Invest: And finally, invest your savings. Your money lying dormant in a bank, earning minimum investment, is not going to work for you. Instead, put it towards a high-return investment. The stock market, though challenging for beginners, can provide excellent returns on your investment. So too can investing in real estate. You can also invest in a new business or purchase into an already existing one. There are a number of ways to invest your finances online to gain returns, which can then be reinvested. If you are new to investing, then it’s best to seek professional advice. You should also read up as much as possible, books on finances and investments.

© 2009 Usha Krishnan Sliva
Freelance writer Usha Krishnan Sliva has years of article and copywriting experience. To get more free tips and writing ideas, subscribe to her ezine-Getting It Write, today.

If you'd like to read books on Investment and Financial advice, then Usha recommends the following:

Thank you to all Getting It Write! subscribers

Thanks to those who've re-subscribed to Getting It Write!

Don't worry, the content still stays the same, valuable and interesting material I know you can use in your quest to become a better and richer writer! What changes is the format and ease at which it is written (my end) and delivered to you.

Thanks again and I look forward to learning and growing our writing skills and businesses together!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Becoming A Freelance Writer

Everyday you hear of Internet marketers and other online merchants who all have one thing in common- they are jealous of YOU!

Yes, you, a writer can do what millions only wish they could- Turn plain words into magic. Craft sales letters and eBooks, email blasts and ezine articles that turn other peoples IDEAS into MONEY.

But being a writer is not enough. There are hundreds, no thousands of would-be writers out there who are looking for jobs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Unless you want to join them, you need access to resources which will allow you to develop a niche and find jobs that fit your writing skills. And get PAID for it. Not the $1 and $2 per 500 word requests, but BIG BUCKS!

So why not turn what may be a hobby or a budding career into something full time?

This is your opportunity to grab a FREE copy of my Ebook ‘Becoming A Freelance Writer’.

In it, you’re going to find the following questions answered:

• Can anyone become a freelance writer?

• How do I start?

• Experience versus Education – do I need either?

• Easy ways to find your writing niche.

• Easy ways to find clients.

• Where should I work?

• The top rules every freelance writer must follow.

• And so much more.....

And with it, you get a BONUS! Special access to my thrice monthly (soon to be weekly) ezine, Getting It Write! In it, you’ll find links to resources and have the first chance to read valuable articles on freelance writing, Internet marketing, building your own ezine etc.

All this and more and best of all, it’s all FREE to you if you sign on immediately.

So hurry up and click on the box to your right. Signing on takes a minute and if you are unhappy with it (which I guarantee you won’t be); you can unsubscribe at any time.

Work hard, be smart and create your own luck!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

How To Write When The Beach Beckons

As summer fast approaches; most of us are looking forward to taking some time off and spending it with family and friends. Think beaches, barbecues, summer holidays, camping trips and resort stays.

Whatever your flavor, your writing and business is bound to suffer if you don't have a built-in time off plan.

1.Schedule in extra time for non-work related activities: You will probably need to pen in a lot more time planning barbecues and trips to the beach and just spending some fun, quality time with family and friends. Clear out your schedule or don’t take on newer projects, so you won’t have to cancel any assignments or events at the last minute.

2.Try and get in some extra work time:
This may mean getting up an hour earlier each day, or working for a couple of hours during the evening. But by deciding on these extra hours in advance, you’ve automatically shifted your work load to accommodate your additional non-work related plans.

3.Update your communication tools:
Think of investing in an iPhone, blackberry or a laptop to help you work faster and more efficiently. If these are not in your budget, then there are ways to adapt. I always have my netbook and notebook (and pen) with me. And there are tons of little notebooks and pens in my car, bedroom, kitchen, handbags and even beach totes. This way, I'm never scrambling for that elusive slip of paper when my 'wow' idea strikes.

4. And finally, outsource your odd jobs: Think nannies and sitters, cleaning crew and personal chefs. Workwise, think marketing assistants, virtual assistants, financial advisors and sales staff. By delegating certain tasks to others; you are automatically creating extra time for yourself. Time which you will hopefully enjoy with your friends and family.

© 2009 Usha Krishnan Sliva
Freelance writer Usha Krishnan Sliva has years of article and copywriting experience. To get more free tips and writing ideas, subscribe to her ezine-Getting It Write, today.

If you'd like to read books on Time Management and Finding Time To Write, then Usha recommends the following:

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

10 Ways To Write Killer Sales Copy

Last week, I was informed by Ezine Articles that one of my articles had appeared on another site under a different author's name. I reported it to Associated Content (the site in question), along with proof that the article was indeed mine and they immediately removed it.

It's now on Ezine Articles and you can view it on the link here:

Thanks to all those who sent in messages of support!

If you like this article, you may also be interested in buying this book: