A new home for my writing-related posts

Starting today, my writing-related posts will appear on “The Business of Writing,” the blogging section of my business website.

It’s more convenient for people who go to my website. There’s more class in having a blog under my own domain. I could put this blog under my own domain, just as I did with Mad File Format Science, except that I use the URL for some other purposes. I discovered the hard way with MFFS that changing an existing blog’s URL on WordPress.com causes problems.

I’ll keep this blog around as a catchall for posts that don’t fit elsewhere. If you’re interested in my writing career, or if you’re looking for useful tips on writing as a business, I hope you’ll follow my writing blog.

In other news, techno-liberty.info is officially dead. The blog still exists, but it’s unreachable at present and I have no plans to revive it. It was an experiment that didn’t work. If someone else picks up the domain name, it has nothing to do with me.

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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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Writing

With this post, I’m starting to revive my posting on this blog by talking more about my work as a freelance writer. I’ve been writing full-time for about a year and a half and making good progress in reaching better markets. My technical posts will continue to be in Mad File Format Science.

One of the first things I discovered is that writing on spec isn’t a good way to make a living. For a while I was writing for the Foundation for Economic Education, which accepted most of my submissions. They still list me as being on their Faculty Network, but I’ve stopped writing for them because they’ve stopped paying for articles. I’ve submitted some proposals to Reason, but without luck so far. Maybe I’ll get in eventually, but it’s not an easy way to get a regular income.

Fortunately, I have ample skills for writing about tech topics, and I’ve found a lot of work by request. Read the rest of this entry »

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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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Cruise on a ghost (writer) ship

Yesterday evening I went on a Boston Harbor cruise with some fellow ghostwriters — a haunted cruise, obviously. The host was WriterAccess, which I do some writing for. It was very nice to put faces on what’s normally a faceless operation, and to talk with other writers on how they use the site. I learned a few things as well as having an enjoyable evening.
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Note on Foundation for Economic Education

The website for the Foundation for Economic Education recently got a complete update. The page on article submissions shows a different structure; there used to be separate categories for Freeman articles and shorter pieces for Anything that’s Peaceful, but that’s gone.

The biggest change, though, is that there’s no longer any mention of payment. FEE has bought many articles from me over the years and even named me to its Faculty Network, but I don’t know if it’s paying any more.
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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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When the passive voice can be used

Self-proclaimed experts on writing often express contempt for the passive voice, whether they understand what it is or not. Language Log has a good discussion of what it is and where it’s a perfectly good choice. It covers obscure cases that most people don’t know about.

Rather than offering my own defense of the passive voice, I’ll just list some of my own favorite uses of it.
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