How much are you making per word?

A customer that offers ten cents a word is twice as good as one that offers five cents a word, right? Not necessarily.

You get the per-word rate only if your article is accepted. If you’ve got a 90% chance of acceptance by the five-cent customer and a 25% chance the ten-center will accept you, the odds are you’ll make more money from the nickel customer.
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Website flippers and the freelance writer

Doing research on an assignment brought my attention to a type of business called “website flipping.” It’s something like “flipping” a house for resale. A buyer acquires a site which seems to be underperforming and improves it to increase its revenue. The goal is to sell it at a profit after it demonstrates its value.

This is a legitimate practice, and it opens opportunities for the freelancer who understands it. Content is central to increasing a site’s value. Let’s say the site is about tree farming. The flipper isn’t in the tree farming business and may not know anything about it. When you need content about tree farming, who ya gonna call? Ghostwriters!
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The strange world of “content marketing”

In my work as a freelance blogger I try to put worthwhile content into every piece I write. At least some of the readers should come away from it understanding something better than they did before. It may contain promotional material, if that’s what the customer asks for, but it has a solid core of useful information. That’s my understanding of “content.”

In the marketing world, though, it means something else entirely. The biggest market for freelance writers on the Web is “SEO writing.” That means writing whose main purpose is to provide “content” that search engines will rank high. The expertise for this isn’t knowledge about the subject matter but expertise in planting the right keywords and otherwise constructing the article to match Google’s current idea of what a relevant article is. It’s clickbait, only more sophisticated.
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Websites to sell your writing

The Internet features a lot of websites where writers can connect with customers. None of them pay as well as finding your own clients, but some do offer decent pay and deal fairly. Others have serious problems of various kinds. Here are some notes from my experience:
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Writing for pay and for free

On my way to becoming a successful pro writer — not a glamorous writer of best-sellers, but one who makes a living working with words — I’m discovering a few things that are worth sharing. One is that it’s important to be clear on when you’re writing for pay and when you’re not. All of us write for free a lot of the time; no one’s paying me to write this post. We write for free to express our thoughts, to communicate with friends and businesses, to publicize ourselves, and to help people out. But we have to know which situation we’re in; the middle ground of vague promises offers only frustration.
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Writing for money

Lately, as some of you know, writing has been my main source of income. I’ve had some single-article sales, including a number to the Foundation for Economic Education and one to In between, I’ve been writing for a number of content sites. They don’t pay as well, but they always have work to offer, so I can keep busy while looking for the better-paying gigs.

BlogMutt is the most enjoyable one to write for, though not the best paying. Clients post topics they want articles written on, and I pick from those topics. The acceptance rate is well over 80%, and there’s a lively and friendly forum for writers. I’ve sold well over a hundred articles there.

Constant Content operates on a different model. While there are some calls for material, the usual mode is that writers create articles and put a price on them, and editors review them before they become public. So far I’ve sold one article that way. Articles go through an editorial process that takes a long time, so not much of my material has become available yet. Per their rules, I use a rather transparent pseudonym.

I get the impression it’s not well run. Three of my articles are visible and one has made a sale, but five others have been in the queue since last week. This morning I got a message that one of them was deleted, with the message, “Please paste the entire article in the content editing box. Only your first paragraph is showing up.” The whole thing is gone, so I have no way of figuring out what went wrong, and I’m instructed not to resubmit it. I posted to their forum, which I registered for a couple of weeks ago, asking about this situation in a comment to a post on a similar situation. It was put on moderation. I haven’t seen any new posts to the forum in a while, so it’s probably broken. Right now I’m waiting to see what happens to my other submissions before I send any more.

WriterAccess takes yet another approach. There are calls for articles, and people submit proposals. One proposal of mine has been accepted so far, and I’ll be working on it today. I found the form for responding to the request confusing, but the help desk gave me a very prompt and useful explanation. Hopefully this will work out well.

I wrote a couple of articles for one blog on vague promises of payment out of ad revenue. It never materialized, and the person running it berated me for not publicizing the blog enough. Needless to say, I’m not writing for them any more. Being an unpaid writer happens occasionally, but being an unpaid writer and publicist is out of bounds.

The work suits me well, since I love writing, doing research, and disseminating accurate and useful information. I’m still learning the business and working on my technique. There are a number of writers, especially in the filk community, who have helped me by setting an example and offering advice to writers. If I’m going to name just one, it’s Debbie Ohi.

If you’ve got leads for me, I’ll be grateful. Take a look at for details on what I do.

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Support woes at support tells me they’ve fixed the SSL certificate issue described below. I haven’t tested it, since I have something that works and don’t want to risk breaking it again.

You’d think that an Internet service provider would be able to deal with common issues like getting an email connection on an Android phone. This turned out to be beyond the ability of’s support staff, though.

This morning I tried to set up email on my new Moto phone with Android 4.4.4, using the standard email application. After entering the POP3 server information I got this error message: "Can't safely connect to server. ( Trust anchor for certification path not found.)"
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Sneaky gas pricing from Shell

Sneaky pricing at a Shell station in Nashua, NH

A Shell station near Exit 4 in Nashua, NH. Largest price displayed is $2.45.9, but that’s the “price with wash.” The actual price for regular is $2.75.9.

Several Shell stations in New Hampshire and Massachusetts have adopted a sneaky way of displaying their prices. The largest displayed price looks amazingly low, but a closer look shows that that’s the price with a car wash, and that the actual price of regular gas bought by itself is considerably higher.

Shell stations in California have been caught doing the same stunt.

As long as they’re playing this “Shell game,” I’m avoiding all Shell stations.

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Consumer alert: North American Power

In today’s mail was a “First Notice” from “North American Power,” addressed to a person I’ve never heard of. (I’ve lived here for over ten years, so if it’s a past resident, their records are really old.) A “first notice” from a company I’ve never done business with is ample reason for suspicion, and some quick research turns up more grounds. An article dated just a few days ago, from a Rhode Island author, says that the outfit is offering a “teaser” rate without making it clear that it will go up soon and that it’s been the object of hundreds of BBB complaints. It provides a link to a report that the Maryland Public Service Commission fined North American Power $100,000 for deceptive practices, including impersonating a PSC representative.

I know I won’t ever deal with this company. What you do is up to you.

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Minuteman Health’s online terms

Recently I signed up with Minuteman Health, and I began the registration process so I could automate my payments. When I came to the terms of service, I read them more carefully than usual, since they could affect my insurance agreement. That was a good thing, since I came upon this:

V. The User shall: … 4. Keep confidential all information that he or she obtains from the Site, including, but not limited to, information about Minuteman Health’s business practices, providers, or rates of payment to providers.

That means I wouldn’t be allowed to talk about how well I’m covered, what doctors are in their network, or how what sort of service the company provides online. I immediately backed out and wrote a check. Using Minuteman’s online services under those terms is simply unacceptable, and it doesn’t give me a good feeling about the company.

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