Private Clients vs. Content Sites

I’ve wanted to weigh in on this topic for some time, but haven’t gotten around to it. I’m also a little hesitant because I know there are huge debates raging out in the Internet land about this very topic and I really don’t want to get involved in the battle.

Let me first say very clearly that I have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING AGAINST content sites. In fact, when I first started freelance writing most of my income came from a well known content site. Having been on both sides of the debate allow me to share my opinion.

Content Sites

I’ve worked for several including Demand Studios (DS) and have to say that there are many benefits to content site work plus, if I ever need to I will do more work for them. It’s nice to simply have them around to fall back on. Here are my pros and cons with content sites:

Pros

  • Plenty of work – for most sites, there is always work. At DS they have thousands of titles available every day.
  • Fast Pay – content sites offer weekly or bi-weekly pay. DS even pays their writers twice a week. This meant that my PayPal account always had money in it.
  • Quick Work – articles for content sites typically range in length from 400-600 words. This generally means the articles are fast and easy to write.
  • Little Commitment – for most content sites there is no commitment required. I haven’t written for DS in a few months, but I could sign onto my account today and churn out several articles without being penalized for not writing in a while. Additionally, once an article is written for a content site you can forget about it and move on. No thinking about work when you’re not working.

Cons

  • Low Pay – To me the pay rate at content sites always seemed low. This isn’t to say that you can’t make a living off of them – I did for several months when I had nothing else, but I worked long hours and made less than half of what I make now.
  • Picked Over Titles – If you like to write about popular topics like weddings or pets your choices in titles are limited to non-existent. Sometimes I found the only titles left didn’t even make sense.
  • Inconsistent Editing – All the content sites that I worked for employed many editors. The problem was, what one editor found acceptable, another didn’t. I was constantly getting contradicting feedback from editors. At times it got very frustrating.
  • No Personal Connection – DS has a forum and that’s great, but for a content site that only pays me $15 per article I don’t want to have to go hang out in the forum for a personal connection. There is no “good job” or exchanging ideas to improve projects that you get with private clients.

Private Clients

For the past few months I have made my living solely from private clients and I have seen a huge improvement in everything associated with my career from my income, to my time, to even my mood. I love my private clients and feel very fortunate to have found all of them. There are a lot of benefits to private client work and very few cons. Here are mine:

Pros

  • Personal Connection – With private clients, I have immediate access to the client, the company and the editor. If I have a question I can fire off an email directly to the client, not visit a forum. Plus there is a lot of feedback and even some “good jobs” sprinkled in. And editing is done the same way, by the same person and guidelines every time!
  • Higher Pay – The pay with private clients is most definitely higher. As I transitioned from content site work to all private client work I saw my monthly income rise while I worked the same or even fewer hours.
  • Better Quality Work – I do my best work for my private clients for several reasons. First they pay me more so they expect (and rightfully so) to have perfect work turned it. Also due to the personal connection I feel more accountable for my work. Finally the work I do for my private clients is work that I intend to use as clips (with their permission of course). Clips from private clients hold a lot more weight and get me much more work than clips from content sites.
  • In Depth Projects – Rather than writing a short 400-600 word article my private client work tends to be more in-depth and more researched work – the type of work I can get involved in and really care about versus an article I write and then promptly forget about. Even when I write 400 word articles for clients they still require more thought, creativity and research that really gets my brain working.

Cons

  • Juggling Clients – When it rains, it pours. In other words, when one client needs me for a big project, it seems like they all do. Not that I’m complaining, its good to get needed! But sometimes my schedule gets tight and some days I juggle several projects and deadlines because of the commitments I have made to my private clients.
  • Accounting – I actually have to create the invoice, keep track of my hours/projects and bill my clients. Then I have to wait for payment. I’ve been lucky so far and all of my clients have paid me consistently and on time, but the whole process tends to be a bit slower than with content sites.

Overall, the benefits of working for private clients far surpass working for content sites. I would gladly take on more private clients than more content site work and I feel so lucky that I have had a full schedule for the past few months that has kept me away from the content sites. Fingers crossed – hopefully it will stay that way.

What about you – who do you prefer to work for?

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One Year Anniversary

Today is the one year anniversary of A String of Words. It’s so awesome to look back to a year ago at this time and realize how far I’ve come with my writing and in pursuing a freelance writing career. When I started this blog, I wasn’t even sure I would leave my job and I never in a million years believed it would happen so fast or that I would have such good results in such little time.

Over the past year, I’ve thought of developing this blog into more than just a personal blog and of trying to create a large following, but recently I’ve decided against it. When I started this blog it was meant to be about my life and my writing journey, and that’s what I want it to remain about. I like that I can talk on professional topics if I want but also go off topic just as easily. I like the freedom. That’s not to say I don’t have other blog ideas in the works, but as for this one, it will remain the way it is.

To the small number of people that read this blog – thank you!

Skiing and Writing: How do they compare?

Finally, I’m getting in some time for a blog post. It’s been a whirlwind of business for me for me since my trip and I’ve been absent from blogging for longer than I would have liked. But paying clients trump personal blogging. So anyway, about my trip – it was wonderful! Seeing my best friend and spending a whole week with her was awesome! We did some really cool things and I got to see a lot of Colorado. By far the best part was skiing in Breckenridge. Having not been a huge skier, I found that I did a lot better than I had hoped I would. And of course the time spent on the ski lift gave me time to draw some parallels between skiing and freelance writing. From my observations there are two types of beginner skiers and approaches:

  • The Jump Right in Approach: Those that hop on the ski lift and head right to the top of the mountain. Once at the top, they fearlessly attempt to fly down the mountain often falling, but when they do fall, they get back up and try to get down the slope again. Like beginner skiers, there are those people who decide they want to try freelance writing and they jump right in. If they make a mistake, they brush it off and move on. There is something to be said for that. Having the courage to keep trying is impressive in this tough career. However, in their haste, sometimes markets aren’t researched and money isn’t saved for slow times. Often they take on one time clients just to get by, but fail to build up long term clients.
  • The Slow and Steady Approach: Those that take a lesson before getting on the lift and when they do get to the top, they take their time and practice control as they go down the mountain. If they fall, they figure out what they did wrong to correct it the next time. In freelance writing there are those beginners that are planners. They research markets, they save up some money to fall back on during slow times and they consistently try to build up a good client base while learning from their mistakes so as not to repeat them.

In my previous ski experiences I have been the type to just dive right in to try to fly down the mountain. This as you can imagine caused me to fall a lot and lead me to believe I was not a good skier. This time however it was different for me. I took the slow and steady approach. I realized that it wasn’t a race to the bottom and that it was more important that I make it to the bottom without any broken bones.

I have taken this same approach in my writing career. I saved up money and worked part time freelancing to experiment with different markets before I quit my full time position. I have also worked hard to find long term private clients and to build a good relationship with them.

Even with all of that planning, money was tight and at the beginning – I was barely scraping by, but just as I approached this career in a steady manner, my income has steadily risen each month. I think if I had just jumped right in without planning I would have been much less successful. I would have gotten frustrated, lost confidence and probably by now would have been looking for full time work again. And just like skiing, I’ve made it this far unscathed.

How about you? What approach do you take and how has it worked for you?

Confidence: Learning to Build and Project It

*Photo by Alicia Jo McMahan

Confidence is a difficult thing to come by for new freelance writers or any creative type. It takes forever to build up and only one comment from a client to destroy it. For me, I’ve always been a pretty confident person, but my confidence as a freelance writer can be downright fickle.

In a recent conversation with a fellow freelancer, I mused that when I feel confident I land more clients. It’s like the client can feel my confidence in myself and wants to work with me because my confidence builds their confidence. It really got me thinking. If I could keep my confidence levels steady and always portray a certain level of confidence, it would have an extremely positive impact on my career. Since then I’ve been looking at confidence in a whole new light and want to offer you some tips that I’ve found.

Build Confidence

I started to look at how I build my confidence and pick myself up when I feel down. Here are a couple of my confidence boosters that may help you build your confidence too.

  • Look at what you’ve accomplished – this is huge for me. I work hard at what I do and when I look back at the results I have created for myself, I immediately feel ready to conquer the world.
  • Go back over positive feedback – I keep a file of positive feedback from clients that remind me what I did right and how good it felt to be successful. Likewise, I often come to this blog and read the encouraging comments that you all leave me. It reiterates to me that I really can do this.
  • Reach out to others – there are certain people in my life who believe in me. They think that no matter what I put my mind to I can do it. My mom and my husband are two such people I heavily rely on when I start feeling down.
  • Take a step back – it helps me when I start to feel low to step back and figure out why. Sometimes this means going over an article to see why I was asked to rewrite it, other times it means re-reading my cover letter to a potential client to see why they might not have wanted to hire me. Going back helps me understand and makes me feel more confident that the next time I won’t make the same mistakes.

Project Confidence

Confidence is a great thing to have and once you have worked to build it up, you want to make sure that you project it the right way. Have you ever thought someone was arrogant or cocky? That is an example of over projection. You don’t want to be too confident that you turn people off – rather you want to project the right amount of confidence to make other people believe in you. Here are a few ways that I’ve learned to project confidence in the business of freelance writing:

  • Be honest – a lot of people think that telling a client that they can’t do something is a way to lose the client. I have found it quite the opposite. Sure there have been times where I haven’t landed a job because I wasn’t as qualified as the next person, but there have also been times where I’ve admitted that I wasn’t sure how to do something but I showed confidence in my ability to learn it which more than once has landed me a client.
  • Say what you mean – this is especially important when talking to potential clients. Be clear and concise in your communication. When you aren’t clear, you give off the impression that you aren’t sure what you’re talking about.
  • Mean what you say – the flip side to saying what you mean. When I negotiate price with a client and say I can’t go any lower, I mean it and will walk. The way I think of it is if the client really wants to work with me, they will take my offer. If they don’t I may be opening the door for a better opportunity to come along. Have the confidence to stick to your word.
  • Brag a little – I don’t mean go out and give a potential client a five page list of every compliment you’ve ever gotten, but do show them what you’ve done. I have a professional website that I’m proud of. There I list my best work and always share it with potential clients. I’ve also shared my work with former colleagues and friends. I’m not showing off, but I am confidently portraying my work so that they know what I’m capable of should the need for a writer ever arise.
  • Be positive – it’s a well known fact that people respond better to someone who is positive. If you were a client looking to hire a freelancer, would you want to work with someone that has a positive outlook or someone who is negative, moody and grumpy? Of course you would want to work with someone positive. A positive, optimistic outlook is something that a client will really value.

I hope that this gets you thinking about your confidence and how you can build it and project it. It really will help you with so many aspects of your freelancing life. Do you have any tips to add?

Reflections

Yesterday was my birthday and I am feeling reflective about the past year. On the cover this year appears to have been quite ordinary, but on closer inspection, this year has been a type of turning point for me.

For starters, at some point this year, I woke up and realized that well, I hated where my career was going and I needed to start pursuing something I actually cared about. In realizing that, came the realization that I was unhappy in other areas of my life as well. I was turning into an uptight, emotionally vacant, unadventurous, uninspired person.

Then my mom got diagnosed with breast cancer, yep the C word, and everything just suddenly became clear. I had already decided to quit my job and ironically enough was doing just that as my mom was at the doctor getting that awful diagnosis. I was the first person called and I left my meeting to be with her. For the last month I have witnessed Cancer from the diagnosis, to the surgery, to the radiation with the possibility of chemo, to the emotional upheaval. I am happy to report that my mom is doing better, this is not a death sentence and the odds are good that she won’t even need chemo.

But what came out of this year for me is the simple recognition that life is too short. I realized that I am only here on this earth for a limited time – it could end anytime from anything and what have I been most proud of? Well, actually nothing up until now.

The thing is I have always had a plan. I always knew where I was going and how I was going to get there. But maybe that is not the best way for me. I think I may have missed some things by staying on track, and now I want to stop and see things, explore things and really live in the moment.

This blog started out detailing my journey from “rat racer” to freelance writer, but I am learning there is so much more to it than that. This is my journey to find myself. Leaving my full time job to be a freelance writer was just the beginning.

Since quitting my job, and I have actually quit (my last day is July 10th), the whole world has just seemed to open up. There is so much possibility, and so much I want to do, try, and experience. It’s hard sometimes to even know where to start. I know I must continue to make a living, but I also know now that I must make the most out of every moment and really focus on living life.

I have high hopes for this next year of my life, anything and everything is possible. I hope to detail my next year here on this blog, and I hope to inspire others to live their life to the fullest too.

I’m Almost Free!

I quit my job today, or rather I put in my notice. I work for two more weeks full time and then I agreed to go part time for two weeks to help them train someone else. So my last day isn’t really until the middle of June and then I’m free!

It wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. There was no anger, or telling me to clean out my desk immediately, actually, quite the opposite – they asked me if there was anything they could offer me to make me want to stay. Then they asked me if I would do contract writing work for them. So essentially I gained a client in quitting, a little ironic.

There is a part of me that is thrilled, I can’t believe I actually had the guts to walk in and quit! I can’t wait for it to be over and there is so, so much that I want to work on immediately. I’m not sure I even know where to begin, my list is so long! But there is also a part of me that is really scared, I mean, I walked in and quit a perfectly good job with job security for a career that is not the most stable career. However, as scary as this transition is, deep down I don’t believe I made the wrong decision, I have to believe that things will work out. I have wanted this for so long.

There is a lot to get organized in the next few weeks, I’m thinking of really putting time into a website right off the bat. This weekend I am out of town, so not much will get done, but soon enough I will have all the time in the world. I can’t wait, I’m almost free!

Learning Something New Every Day!

One thing I love about the wonderful world of freelancing is that I feel like I learn and explore something new every day. Today I learned about two things.

I started exploring Twitter – I’ve had an account for a while now but have never actually used it. So I started reading up on it today. There is so much information out there that is really helpful, it is amazing. And quite soon, I will be using Twitter to see if it helps my writing career.

The other thing I discovered today is Google Reader. I’m not sure of all the ins and outs yet, but so far it has been awesome! Call me behind the times, but this is great because I can actually see all the updates posted on my favorite blogs (all writing blogs so far!) right in one place.

So while I know that most of you are probably already familiar with these two gems I am exploring (if you’re not, check them out), I am just happy to have the time to finally explore them and hopefully some more things in the near future.

One other thing that I am thinking about, researching and considering is a way to boost viewers to this blog. I’m considering making it more of a niche, or starting a more specific blog to improve my online presence. So far, I’m a little short on ideas, but hopefully soon I will have a grasp on where I want to go with blogging.

Having the opportunity to learn something new every day keeps things exciting and fun! I hope that my writing career always remains this way and I hope that I never lose the desire to learn something new.

Do you have any suggestions of other things I can look into? Remember I am still fairly new to all of this!