**Please note, I’m not sure if this is the right section for this, feel free to place it anywhere that it could be of use as it is not just a retrospective on my year long journey, but also many of the things that I have learned along the way** Hi all, the time has come for me to give something back to BHW so I’ve put together some of my own top tips to help out people that are just starting out like I was a couple of years ago. This isn’t the standard thing here on BHW as I know many of you are in to a wide range of IM activities of which content creation only forms a small part – but however small that is, it remains not only a crucial part of any IM business, but also something that virtually anyone can get involved with to as greater or lesser extent as they wish. First up is a TLDR for those that simply skim the forums. I’m going to look at how I’ve made some cash from content writing. I’m a small fish earnings-wise compared to many of the senior members here at BHW but what I do now have is a stable and certainly decent income from what I do by specialising in a single area and that income has allowed me the freedom to now get involved more deeply in IM with a budget to get a head start. Before anyone says “why didn’t you just make a PDF,” I can’t post links. I actually did try to put together some kind of e-book for the purpose, but when you spend much of your time writing for a living, sorting something like that out can get tedious at best. Instead, I have opted to scale down what I did and how to put it into action in this very post. For those that ask why this is on BHW rather than a copywriting forum, firstly I don’t visit any other forum on a regular basis and secondly I feel that this advice is just what some people need to get to their first $100+ per day in order to buy tools, hire assistants or anything else that makes up a vital cog in their IM strategy. It is for people who have an interest in IM but have little more than the quality of their written word to go on (as with me less than two years ago). This is all based on personal experience and hopefully there should be something in here for any budding writer. It won’t make you a millionaire overnight and it certainly could be considered high maintenance. However, one of the overriding pieces of advice throughout BHW is that efforts reap rewards and I have worked up to eighteen hours each and every day to get to the point I’m now at – that being a consistent $250+ daily that does not need any schizophrenic ad networks or traffic from anywhere. For ease of digestion I’ll take up the first few posts on the thread with different ‘chapters’ so you can skip the bits you know and check out the ones that perhaps you don’t. Anyway, on with the show: here is what I did and how you can get a foothold in IM using no more than your brain and a keyboard. Part One – Getting Started - aka Every Word You Write Defines You If you are looking to make some cash through writing, then the only tool that you have is the words that you put on the page and you should remember that with every word you write. Whether I’m commenting here, on a blog or anywhere else for that matter, I always write my posts in MS Word first. It is perhaps an unnecessary step, but even full-time writers make mistakes and the built-in functionality helps to ensure that you are putting across the best image possible. If you do not have Word and cannot afford it then the word processor in Open Office is more than sufficient – although you should never let an automated tool define your style; I’ve sent off many completed projects with a number of squiggly green lines as I simply do not agree, with the previous sentence being an example of a ‘fragmented’ one, but one that I do not feel needs any adjustment. Before taking it upon yourself to become a writer, you need a few things at your disposal, all of which are free but will make you stand out before you have even written a word: · Be contactable. Most sites offer their own instant messaging platform but you really do never know when you’ll come across a new client. As a bare minimum, you do of course need an email address – make it as professional as possible – and a Skype account. You can take things further with a Google Talk address, AIM chat account and things like that, but usually the first two cover everything. · Make it easy to get paid. PayPal is generally the payment method of choice among content marketers and producers alike and wherever possible you want to have this in place. I know some countries simply do not allow it and you’ll need one of the alternatives but whatever that alternative happens to be, make it clear up front to any client that this is how you want to be paid and be prepared to explain why. · A portfolio. The only thing that sets you apart from the competition apart from perhaps price is the quality of your work. If you don’t have one then create one. Take a look at any content site and see what the most popular requests are and write as if you had the job already. A diverse portfolio allows you to send not only samples, but relevant ones. If you can prove that you can work in comfort in the chosen area then the client will already know that they have made the right choice. I, for example, have a different portfolio for finance, gambling, travel, technology and numerous other popular niches. If you can make yourself relevant then do, although there is an alternative that I’ll detail below. Finally, make sure that you write every single word of your portfolio. There is no value in acquiring and submitting articles from other sources – as with many ‘freelance’ opportunities, your recurring business will become your bread and butter and you will quickly be found out if you get the job with someone else’s work and then pass off work at lower quality. Part 2a – Getting the Job – Part One: Knowing Where to Look Naturally, the first part of getting any writing work is knowing where to look. Here is a definitive selection of all of the publically available sources of work that I have used or have been recommended to me (while not necessarily being utilised over the year): · Freelance sites. Many of these are already pretty well-known around the forum, but for the sake of completeness I’ll highlight, Freelancer.com, my personal favourite, together with Elance.com, the site I first started out at, and oDesk.com. They have different twists and turns but each follows the same pattern of ‘job comes up – bid is made – project is awarded’. See part 2 for how to get these jobs. · Specialist content vendors. Your mileage may definitely vary here as the acceptance criteria are definitely strict, although once through the door you have as much chance of picking up work as other writers of your level or below. Textbroker.com (or Textbroker.co.uk for international writers such as myself) offers perhaps the best rates if your work is up to it and, based on my reading here at BHW, is regarded by IMers in general as the best source of top notch content. Below this would come iWriter.com. If you are a non-native speaker or not confident in your work then acceptance is somewhat simpler, although you get paid in such a way that measures up pretty much directly to your ability. · Sale or no sale content. For the best example of such a site, a quick browse of constant-content.com will give you a great idea. Writers create articles without a remit and hope that it catches the eye of a vendor. You can get great value in terms of dollars per word, although I personally prefer writing to instructions and word counts. If you are happy to go down this route then you may well end up with a profitable, recurring income before you even submit a single bid on a job. · Relevant forums. For the best hint then you may want to look in the ‘Services for Sale’ section of this very forum. You don’t need a BST to get some work in – simply keep an eye on what crops up in ‘Hire a Freelancer’ and toss your name in the ring. Having a portfolio here is essential as those looking to hire you have little more to go on unless you have a particularly healthy iTrader score. Otherwise, many other forums have similar sections and they are valued by the community as there are rarely any commissions for either buyer or seller. Part 2b – Getting the Job – Part Two: Standing Out in the Crowd When you first sign up anywhere, you are basically nobody unless somebody actively recommends you. Most freelance sites (see point one above) use reputation systems just like the one here at BHW but they are certainly not the be-all and end-all of getting jobs. Here are the tips that I put into practice to get my name out on such sites: · Make an effort. Time is money works both ways and the more effort that you put into each and every job counts and that includes the moment you apply. Scan the work listing and ensure that you include absolutely everything that is requested in the private message. This may be a certain word to prove that you have read the requirements, or a certain portfolio piece. Even if you have nothing relevant in your portfolio, spend the time writing it anyway as even if you don’t get the job it can slot neatly into your zip file. “Please send a relevant 300 word sample” type requests are a great use of your time as a dedicated sample shows that you know the subject, are committed to the job and will serve as a handy piece for future use. · Price isn’t everything. Whenever you use a freelance site you are coming up against the best and worst that the web has to offer. You will have to lower your preferred price early on as feedback may not be everything, but it counts. Many buyers filter their offers on price and if you don’t fall into their requirements then you are never seen again. However, lowering your prices can also be of benefit. My main client to this day now pays 3c per word. I first found him on Freelancer.com and bid 1c per word. I completed that job at the agreed rate but with the same quality that I push onto every single project that I work on and soon he basically wanted me ‘exclusively’ – or as close to exclusive as you can get with me as I see benefits in diversifying, no matter what goal I’m pursuing. · Be more than a bog standard content producer. There is more than one way to skin a cat and in this regard I’m sure that many readers will have their own ideas, but here is exactly what I used to do to catch the eye: o Offer freebies that appeal to the IM audience. Whenever I bid on straight up web content, I would offer to throw in a free title tag and description. If you don’t know how to do that, then thirty minutes or less on SEOMoz.com will provide everything that you need and this demonstrates that you know at least the basics of SEO which breeds confidence among the potential clients. o Throw in other benefits that others are likely not providing that once again demonstrate that you are eager to present yourself as the best. A favourite trick of mine involved Copyscape. Unique content is almost a given nowadays among anyone that takes IM seriously and demonstrating a knowledge of it almost instantly rockets you to the front of the rankings with potential buyers. I offered a free Copyscape Premium check on all articles – this cost me a cent and a minute of my time, but secured me more jobs than you could possibly imagine. It also served as a guarantee to the client that I appreciated just how valuable uniqueness is when it comes to content. o Reassure the client as to your quality. Some writers, for some reason, want to retain an interest in what they have produced. I take a different approach. If I was painting a picture and selling it on eBay, I would not expect to still have that picture hanging in my house. Similarly, when I write an article I do it because I have been paid to and all rights go out of the door as soon as the payment lands in PayPal. Assure the client that their article will never be resold, placed in a portfolio or anything else and, more importantly, stick to it! EXTRA: My own personal PMB message when seeking work (short but sweet – many IMers are time starved). ‘In addition to the above’ refers to a personalised project bid that covers all of the job basiscs: A selection of work samples are enclosed which will hopefully serve to give you an idea of the quality of my work. In addition to the above information, you can be assured of the following: > Native UK English speaker – perfect UK or US English > All articles checked with Copyscape Premium with screenshot proof enclosed with project delivery > Full rights to all work are transferred to the client immediately upon payment Thanks for your consideration and I hope to hear from you soon. Part 3 – Doing the Job So, you have the complete faith of the client and they have selected you for the job at an agreed price. Now is the time to exceed their expectations with not just what they want, but also what they didn’t even know that they needed in the first place. · Be on time. Duh. If you have told your client that the work will be ready in four days, make sure that it is. In the early stages of any relationship, even the most minor failures can completely wipe out any goodwill that you have built up and you have lost out on a long term customer simply because you had one more drink at the bar or stayed in bed for an hour longer. This extends back to getting the job itself as you should be realistic with both yourself and your potential client for the sake of both of you. · Live up to both your own and the client’s expectations. I’m fortunate in terms of being able to write in that it has come to a point where decent stuff flows from my fingertips at will as long as I put the requisite time into planning and research. If you’re not in such a position then an article may take you longer, but it is well worth it in the long run. · Give them value for money. Whether you’re writing about your specialist subject or something that you have never even heard of, it is your job to ensure that whatever gets submitted to the client provides value not only to them but also to their readers. Do your research, even if that means hitting the most obvious sources like Google and Wikipedia. There is a world of information out there and simply putting a spin on it will provide the kind of content that people can use and enjoy without getting even remotely close to copying. Part 4 – Following Up Never consider the job to be done when you have submitted the final articles. The sheer nature of the industry is that if someone has taken the step to buy articles once, they are more than likely to want more in the future. If you have made a good impression, then you will be the person that they come to for the next batch. · Offer enough without compromising your own earnings. By all means offer a single rewrite or edit, or perhaps even two. Writing by nature is very personal and many clients have their perfect article in mind when they order and you may not reach those expectations first time round, even if the piece is technically perfect. Denying adjustments kills the relationship so try to get it right first, second or third time. If a client wants more after that then either their demands are too much or you are simply not cut out to work with them. You have fulfilled your obligations but the chances are that you will never see any repeat work and sometimes you simply have to cut the client adrift as all of the time that you spend on getting their needs right could also be spent on a brand new job – one that pays all over again. · If the client is happy – and they should be if you have been following so far – then make it clear that you are more than happy to continue working for them. The benefits are obvious and include cutting out the middle man and the commissions that go with it, not to mention not needing to fight off other bidders in the future. Declare your availability within a token thanks message when the articles are delivered – you won’t be forgotten. Part 5a – Branching Out and Expanding Part One If you have a command of content then you are well placed for the next step in IM. With just writing in mind, I can offer up the following, which are a combination of my own methods and ideas, together with those that I have picked up on the forum. · Start branding. Your brand is your image and there are plenty of means of securing it. Whether that means branding your own name or a company, make it memorable and get working on that reputation. I personally now operate a limited company here in the UK which I fortunately had the foresight to give a generic name as I always hoped that it would cover both my content production and my IM efforts – and now it will. Secure your domain name, build your website and put into practice all of the techniques that you have spent so long reading about here on BHW. · Utilise your secondary skills. This covers a huge amount of information, but in order to keep it simple, ask yourself what you are good at. BHW is an international forum and hopefully people from around the world will read this. If your English is great and matches up to your main language, then make a killing through translation. If not then look for local equivalents to the sites mentioned earlier. If there aren’t any, then be the one to make your country’s very own iWriter or Elance. · Remember that while there are great spinners out there, content will still be king for the foreseeable future. If your English is basic then work on it while offering a service that is a notch above spun content. If it is already first class then look out for the bigger jobs with newspapers, multinationals and more. · Start blogging. Blogs live off content and if you are a great producer then you can certainly make something passively. Choose a niche and a domain then hit the forums for how to get your word out and make the often passive cash that goes with it. · Look into Kindle publishing. I have one book up that is making a few dollars each day through sales and I am naturally looking to make more. I love the idea of writing something once and collecting residual income on a longer term basis without falling foul of any duplicate content penalties. Once again, BHW is your best bet for finding out what this entails using the search function, although I may well expand on it at a later date when I have more impressive results. · Outsource. If your reputation or site is enough to bring in work, then there will undoubtedly come a point where you simply cannot cover everything in a timely manner. Those very same sites that you started out on are packed full of writers that are just as good as you and are still starting out. Build some relationships, network and make money off your reputation without writing a word. Part 5b – Branching Out and Expanding Part Two In many ways, this is the stage that I’m now at and so rather than covering my own personal advice and experiences I’m going to cover my plans in a little more detail. · Looking towards more passive income. I have one main client nowadays and a few supplemental ones that come and go occasionally, and I’m happy with that. However, I wouldn’t be a true BHW enthusiast without looking towards expanding the empire in a passive direction and for me personally that takes the form of a ‘build one, buy two’ strategy. I have already mentioned how I value diversification highly as I don’t fully trust AdSense or any single affiliate scheme to not simply disappear one day. I have read BHW avidly for the last month and, as mentioned, regularly for over a year. Now, I plan to make up the shortfalls in my own knowledge by putting aside a budget that I have earned from writing for other areas. In basic terms, I am going to use the tools that I have identified as being essential for my needs to learn as much as I can. · The ‘build one, buy two’ strategy effectively entails building a site with my own link building, keyword research and marketing skills on one site each week. The ‘buy two’ part means purchasing something ready-made’. Ideally I plan to buy one AdSense site and one for something else each week (Amazon, CJ, ClickBank and more). One of the only things that I have purchased here on BHW so far is a readymade site that uses AdSense and it now, one year on, makes $50 per month. The site itself cost me around $50 plus domain and hosting and was delivered in such a way that it was ready to go. Now it’s in profit and $50 per site, per month sounds good to me if it can be scaled up. Finally, I’d like to thank you all for reading if you’ve made it this far. I’d be happy to answer any questions if there’s something I haven’t covered although please be aware that my post count is not high enough to respond to PMs yet, although if you want to go down that route then hopefully this thread will be sufficient to get me over the restriction. Other than that, I feel that this covers everything that you need to set yourself on the way to IM/content marketing success. I’d also like to invite any of the other content providers here on BHW to add in their own ideas regarding anything that I’ve discussed here – I know that there are some real content kings here and I’m by no means an authority on the subject, I just wanted to throw in what I had personally learned over the last year.