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The Worst They Could Say Is No, Right? – Practical Tips for the Nervous Business Owner

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You sit down, stand up, sit down, get up again, pace the expanse of the rug, wipe your hands, swallow, clear your throat, and sit back down. It’s five minutes until your presentation and you feel the tiny little prickles of tension build up in your belly. You hope your voice remains steady this time as the secretary finally arrives to show you to your potential new client’s office. It’s bemarbled, bedazzled, and bedecked in all the latest trends and finishes and you can tell these guys are used to only the best. So what the heck are you doing there? You need a few tips and pointers to get you up and going, right?

The toughest thing for anyone to face is the situation that could cause embarrassment or shame, and the workplace is no different. Any time you need to put yourself or your skills on display for the world to see, you let them in to a little part of your soul and the thought that they will find you wanting is terrifying. So how do guys like Warren Buffet and Sir Richard Branson make their way to the first cart in the gravy train? They walk. Yep, that’s it. They walk to it. They’ve got their ticket for it and they’re on their journey. So why aren’t you?

All the tools you need are either within you or around you. It’s up to you to find them:

  1. Surround yourself with great people.
  2. Create your own personal definition of success.
  3. Get your A into G.
  4. Know your client or target market.
  5. Offer something that will make a difference.

Let’s explore these tasty little nuggest in detail.

TIp 1 -Assemble Your Cheerleaders

It’s tough to stay positive and motivated when you surround yourself with naysayers and people who simply just suck the joy out of every situation. Bear in mind that some of the biggest bullies you may encounter in life are those who are closest to you. This does not mean that they don’t love you, they simply just restrict you to their self-imposed limitations.

There are people in your life that fire you up. They do the following things:

  •  build you
  • you admire their passion and drive
  • achieve success in their lives
  • the success they achieve is personal to them
  • understand that being successful is about more than money or careers, it’s about pursuing the deepest desires of your heart.

They have a sense of peace about them and they immediately brighten the room with their presence. They want to see you prosper and don’t relish when you stumble. They have solutions to every problem and they can see potential. They aren’t afraid to give you an honest opinion, but you know they won’t hold it against you when you go the other way.

TIP2 – Define Your Success

The accomplishment of an aim or purpose – Oxford Dictionary

Can you remember what you thought success was as a child? You probably had an image of Scrooge McDuck diving into his money bin, a famous sports star running out on the field for the first time, or a musical diva gracing the stage in front of 100,000 people. So let’s look at that definition, shall we?

Accomplishment of an aim or purpose is a very broad term. You will need to make this a little more personal and figure it out for yourself. If wealth, fame, and reaching the pinnacle of a career are the only definitions of success then there are many things in life you will simply just pursue because someone else deems them worthwhile.

This is going to take more than just a superficial look in the mirror. You might actually have to take a walk in your inner landscape to get to the bottom of this. This is the part where you analyze things you truly like and love. Love music? Join a music class or get involved in things that allow you to be around music more often. Love solitude? Make space for alone time. This way, you will shape the path that you want to be on. Achieving what you feel is the measure of your own success becomes fascinating, interesting, and most importantly, uplifting.

It’s important to have vision but it’s equally as important to not lose sight of the value of small things. Celebrate small accomplishments as you set the bar higher for yourself.

Tip3 – Stagnating on Philosophies

Don’t become Plato on the Plateau. Capture your thoughts and think what you want to achieve during that tough discussion. Visualize the outcome and prepare yourself for victory. Go forth, dear warrior, and conquer! It’s far better to get hurt in battle and come home a war hero, than talk about a battle you never fought in. It’s always easier to comment from the sidelines when you stand no chance of getting injured, get what I’m saying, y’all?

Yes, I sound like a motivational speaker but the reason you got into what you’re doing is because you believe you have a skill. Instead of focusing on the reasons why your potential future customer should go with your competitor, rather focus on what makes you the better option. If you believe in the product or service you provide, why? What makes it different?

TIP 4 – Vantage Point

A sniper takes the time to scope the environment and find the sweet spot. This is usually higher ground that allows them to take in a large area without being spotted, thanks to the optical range and physics and all that stuff. Just like this sniper, you need to do some research before you step into your client’s space. If you know what their needs are, you can address them instead of simply just selling a product.

This is true for the creatives as well. It’s easy to set up your gear and start strumming on that vintage Fender as the sound oozes through the amp and you feel simply stoked with your tone. What you didn’t know was that this particular little town has a massive aversion to string instruments and they only want keyboard players. Find out what your customer wants or needs before you give them what you think they need.

tip 5-Dump the Junk

You have a product that you’re purely punting to make money. It has no value and has no use. It doesn’t uplift or upskill either and you’re pretty sure that in certain countries, a disgruntled customer would order a hit on you. You may have an easy product to sell, but without real value the chances are good that you won’t have any repeat customers. Don’t be that guy! If you spend as much time developing a product that could actually add value and meet the needs of your customers you will be in a far better position to build a solid client base.

The importance of having a good product or service that actually means something to customers will allow you to build up an asset that is far more valuable than a quick buck: trust.

Whether you’re a freelance creative or you have a business that covers you in mountains of paperwork, your product should speak for itself. Sure, there are going to be those who don’t like it no matter what you do, but let that be on them.

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iwriter,no pay,review

iWriter Review – A Writer’s Perspective

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When I first started writing for money, I Googled “freelance writing” and the first option on the list was a bidding site. Although I picked up a very nice client, I also landed two very hairy ones who duped me out of my money and the articles I wrote for them.

I was struggling to increase my rate and I was also scared, very very scared. I decided to expand my search to other writing sites and came across content mills. The very first one I applied for, accepted me and before I knew it, I was making some pretty decent money. By decent, I mean more than the $2-per-500-word paycheck I was earning at the bidding site. This content mill was none other than iWriter.

To get to the decent wage, however, I needed to work through the ranks which means I started off with that dismal rate of $1.25.

The steady flow of articles on iWriter provided that safety net I felt I needed. Or so I thought. I quickly worked my way up the ladder at iWriter which led to better-paying jobs. I felt secure and I was eager to get my writing done for the day. The steady flow of income allowed me and my family to survive and I felt like I was contributing to the household.

One evening, as I was finishing up a private hire request for a client, I got locked out of my account. I tried to log back in but couldn’t. My account was blocked. A few weeks before I spent a whole week writing an e-book for a client which he approved with a 5-star rating. This is the rating:

rating, iwriter

5-Star Rating

So when I got the message that this very same e-book was refunded, I was shattered! I had just over $60 in my iWriter account which was retained, I assume to “cover their losses”. I asked for details and Amanda informed me that the e-book was of low quality. If there is anything that shatters a writer, it’s getting news like that! The e-mails went back and forth and to this day, I still don’t know what this client was unhappy with. I do need to add that the e-book was eventually auto-approved and then was approved again by the client (a system anomaly) and I believe the refund happened because of a system glitch. Do you think any of them would fess up to it?

At that moment I felt like my whole world was caving in. I had no other source of income and we had bills to pay. What I didn’t know, was that this blow from iWriter was the start of great things! It forced me to think of my writing differently and also led me to some amazing opportunities. Any writer that is stuck in iWriter should know that there are amazing clients out there. There is no reason to get stuck in this mill!

The Upside of iWriter

When I started out, all the writing sites wanted me to “pay this much” in order for me to learn the secrets of their online success. I did not want to pitch to clients anymore because it didn’t feel safe. After all, I’d just been through two scam artists who made me feel like I was the worst judge of character.

 

Some of their positive attributes: 

  • They pay on time – most of the time – and the writer has the option of the payment frequency. Weekly, biweekly, and monthly options are available.
  • The pay increases with your rating.
  • Writers move up the ranks as their rating increases. There is Basic, Premium, Elite, and Elite Plus.
  • Those in the higher-ranking levels can pick jobs in the lower ranks.
  • Clients can choose their favorite writers and also allocate work to those writers directly.
  • The affiliate program allows you to earn commission on successful referrals.
  • A simple and easy-to-use platform.
  • Their commission is quite low compared to other sites.
low pay, iwriter

Screenshot of Low Pricing © iWriter

The Downside of iWriter

There is a resounding wail of displeasure that resounds in writing forums everywhere of the amount of article theft that takes place on iWriter.  Also, the grievance process is placating but not effective. Clients are not penalized for their theft and they simply reapply under other names.

There is also the risk that the client doesn’t pay for the article as they have the choice to tip the writers which will affect the balance. The system is also not foolproof, as the client can manipulate the requests when they decline the article, to make it seem as if the article is written about something they never requested, which the technical team at iWriter will dispute.

Getting banned from the site is also purely one-sided and the customer is always right. Bear in mind there are thousands of fresh writers to replace you.

The drawbacks of iWriter include:

  • You are just a number. Writers are on the short end of a stick when there is a dispute.
  • In the years I wrote for iWriter, I’ve only ever dealt with one support person called Amanda, which leads me to believe she’s the only one there.
  • Shut your mouth if you want to remain as a writer on their platform! By making waves and following the DMCA process, you will be worked out of the system.
  • Once a client has accepted an article or e-book, they can still go back and change their mind.
  • Once you start working outside the content mills, you realize just how low the pay at iWriter is.
  • When you get hooked on the constant supply of work – in the lower rungs only mind you! – you find it very hard to break out of that mill cycle.
  • The low payment of writers creates a bad market for every freelancer, as clients now expect good quality article and still pay a pittance. In fact, their catch phrase for clients is to have their article written for as little as $1.25!
  • Once you hit that Submit button, the work belongs to iWriter. Good luck getting paid if the article is used outside their platform and the client has no funds in their account.
  • Many writers have lost A LOT of money through their fast track program. Don’t get duped!
  • When your account is blocked/frozen/closed, they retain any funds in there.
  • There are formatting issues on the site that make the articles appear unprofessional when it gets to the client. This could result in low ratings or rejections.
  • The rating system is more for the client than the writer.

Should You Write for iWriter?

I would never recommend that anyone writes for iWriter. My personal experience, as well as those of writers within my writing communities, are far more negative than positive. If you value your time and your work, you will steer clear from sites like these.

Not every content mill is bad, but this one is right at the bottom of the lot. Sure, there are some great clients on there, but this site should never become your bread and butter. Invest some time and energy and look for something decent. There are great sites out there that provide amazing clients and job opportunities.

 

iwriter, just a number

Screenshot of One of 614,104 Writers © iWriter

If I had to rate iWriter at all, it would be a dismal 1/10

The only reason iWriter gets a point, is the ease of payment. When you write for a site like this one, you need to bear in mind that the owner of the site, Brad Callen, is a marketing expert. This means that the site is created to churn cash, that is all! There is no protection for writers and once you start creating waves, you will see the drop in your orders.

There are no editors to sift through the articles before they go out to the client, which means there are no fair means of mediation. As long as there are customers that pay their fees, this mass content wheel will churn out articles faster than you can say “minimum wage”. The sad part about sites like iWriter is that there are writers who will take the nonsense and the low pay.

These writers need to realize that when things go South, they will need to scramble for other income. Sites like these will cause writers to burn out and will only allow them to survive, never thrive. You are, after all, only one of 614,104 writers. Replacing you will be easy. Trust your gut, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is!

 

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bank,finance,startup,business

Finance for Startups – Let’s Keep It Simple!

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Percent of Failed Businesses Year 1 at 25%, Year 2 at 36%, and Year 3 at 44% – StatisticBrain.com

You get up, put on your best business suit and polish your shoes. You even attempt tidying up your hair and you carefully place all your documents in a briefcase. You take one last look in the mirror and mouth “hot stuff!” as you wink at your reflection and head out the door. No, you’re not heading out to a hot date or meeting the future Mrs. So-and-So.

You’re heading to the bank because you had a brilliant business idea in the shower last week and any bank who doesn’t want a piece of it, will miss out big time. You practice your carefully rehearsed script as you drive to the bank. You know what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. You get there and expect to be shown into a luxurious business office that houses a carefully manicured business manager to discuss this project. Instead, you sit and wait in the queue with the rest of the clients who also didn’t make an appointment.

What to Expect When You Go to the Bank for a Startup Loan

After sitting in the queue for the good part of an hour, you’re finally shown to the business banker’s office. The business banker looks like a smoker’s cough and although the office is neat, everything is chipboard and plastic to save costs and cut corners. Just another business, you realize. The banker turns his tired gaze to you and asks what he can help you with. That carefully rehearsed speech is out the door and you sit there fumbling for words like a fish out of water.

He slowly takes a sheet of paper from a nearby file, and you notice that it’s a checklist. He starts asking you a few questions about the industry and then runs through the requirements. A business plan, it turns out, forms the backbone of this application. You didn’t know that. Your company profile and projection just won’t cut it. He doesn’t want to hang on to your documents or look through what you have in the meantime. He will have forgotten what it was about by the time the rest of the documents get to him, he mumbles as he escorts you out the door.

Before the Anger Wells Up

Yes, okay, you worked on your documents a whole darn week before you went to the bank. You even missed the latest eposide of Hawaii 5-0 to get all your documents in place, only to find out that they’re pretty basic. He refers you to an accountant and a business plan writer, he also gives you a checklist to work through. He emphasizes that you only come back when you have all those things. No, they won’t consider it without those documents. No, the manager doesn’t have any say. Oh, and did he mention that he needs collateral and a deposit? No, they’re not the same.

Before dropping your paperwork in the trash and giving up on your idea, you need to decide how much you want this business to succeed. Suck it up, Buttercup and get to work. Even if you manage to self-finance your business, work through the checklist anyway. As much as this is a passionate decision, you will need to use your brain as well.

So What’s in the Checklist?

For a new business to start off with the least amount of risk, it’s important to make sure all the basics are in place, whether you apply for finance or not:

  • Lease agreement to ensure your business will have a premises. If you’re applying for finance, this only needs to be signed after the finance has been approved.
  • Staff appointments should your business require it, such as factory workers, seamstresses, or whatever is required.
  • A comprehensive business plan.
  • A feasibility study of it’s a high-risk industry or a niche business.
  • A list of asset requirements and invoices.
  • A list of stock requirements and invoices.
  • Furniture and fitting requirements and quotations.
  • Licenses or certifications required for business.
  • Franchise specific documents where applicable.
  • A cash flow forecast for 12 to 24 months, with assumptions.
  • Resumes of all principle members.
  • Information about key individuals.
  • Information on the collateral offered.
  • Details of the own contribution by the owner/s.
  • Any other document pertinent to the business or industry.

Why So Many Documents?

It is the duty of the bank to ensure that they mitigate risk. This means that the lending will need to take place with as much information as possible, to ensure the wellbeing of their investment. It is also crucial for them to protect the assets of the owner as far as possible. With the regulations pulling in tighter, a lot of the risk is carried by the bank even when there is security in place. This is because they suffer reputational damage when they need to call up the security.

The high failure rate of businesses is also something of concern to banks. Proper research needs to be done by the client to ensure they’re not buying a hole in their pocket. Although the bank does its own research, it is the client’s duty to follow due diligence. Each piece of paper that aids in research provides the bank and the owner with the assurance that they’ve covered all angles. When you start crunching the numbers and have a look at the number of business failures, the need for proper research is evident.

The guys over at StatisticBrain.com have done a lot of research to pinpoint the exact number of years businesses should operate for before being in the clear, and the sad truth is that longevity is not a guarantee of success. Businesses fail well into the tenth year of operation.

The different types of industries play a big role in the success of a business, and those deemed as high-risk will need a little more paperwork, collateral and own contribution before the bank will put their money down.

failure, business, industry

Failure By Industry © StatisticBrain.com

Can I Draw Up My Own Business Plan?

The answer is both yes and no. It depends whether you have a fair amount of business acumen and understand the terminology they wish you to discuss the business plan. Bear in mind that the bigger the ask for finance, the more involved the business plan should be. The business plan allows the bank or any other investor to have proper insight into the business. It also provides them with a clear picture of whether the business owners are aware of what they’re getting themselves into. There are many templates on the web that guide business owners, allowing them to draw up their own business plans.

Many business owners find this process daunting and difficult, as many of the terms or phrases may seem repetitive or ambiguous. This is why it’s a good idea to have the business plan drawn up by someone who has experience. Keep an eye out for businesses who offer a personal or Skype interview or who display a genuine interest in your business. Asking a lot of questions is a good thing. You want the business plan writer to have as much information as possible.

Those who pull a business plan out of thin air rob you of your finance opportunity. Rather spend the money wisely and get it done properly. If you think the bank won’t notice that the actual information is based on a different demographic, think again. The banks go through the business plans with a magnifying glass. Their reputation is on the line, after all.

Dust off those research skills and put on that thinking cap. Knuckle down and do the work. Your future self will thank you for it.

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cash flow, staff, stock, underquoting, overquoting, business failure, time, planning,

Business Failure – 8 Things That Could Derail Your Business

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You spend hours and hours agonizing about the figures, trying to figure out why your business is just falling short of a breakthrough. Month after month, your cash flow seems to be stretched to capacity and your sales seem to have reached a plateau. What can you do differently to get your business where it needs to be? More importantly, what can you do to prevent business failure?

Are You Spending Time on the Right Things?

It’s easy to look busy for the sake of it, but going in aimlessly and without focus can cost you valuable time. Time is the only resource in a business you will never get back. It also happens to determine many of the successes and failures in a business. A great way to keep on top of projects and ensure that time is spent on the right things, is by keeping yourself accountable. Ways to do this, include:

  • Diarise important items and ensure you stick to them.
  • Identify distractions and minimize them.
  • Delegate tasks that can be delegated.
  • Invest in a business planner.

Invest in the Best Staff

“Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your business” – sir Richard Branson

Cheap labor does not only ruin the industry, it could also ruin your reputation. Workers without the right experience could cause serious damage and eat into your profit.

It’s not enough to just have the best staff, they also need to be rewarded appropriately. Staff members need to be paid on time, every time. Reward efficiency and hard work, and invest in their training. Happy employees are far more likely to take good care of customers than a disgruntled one. Staff members are, after all, a human resource.

Manage Your Cash Flow

It’s quite tempting to go out on a splurge and redecorate your house the moment the money starts coming in. The thing with the business cycle is that the income isn’t guaranteed and that not every month will be a good month. It’s important to invest money in stock and growth and to ensure that the cash flow is taken care of. Businesses who don’t manage their cash flow will constantly be on the backfoot and find it hard to experience growth. Mismanagement of cash flow is one of the biggest causes of business failure. This is true for those who need to purchase stock, as well as fund projects before payment. A good way to ensure that cash flow is not an issue, is to request deposits where possible.

One-Man Band

You can’t work all the time and if you have a business that cannot continue without you, you could face some serious repercussions when you are unable to work. If you can’t delegate tasks to others, putting away funds for those rainy days is imperative. It’s also important to create passive streams of income, for instance, products that can be sold online. There are also special insurances for business owners that cover loss of income. If at all possible, hiring an assistant to take care of some of the minor things will help a great deal. Being spread too thinly will cause stress on one or more departments, which can lead to business failure.

cash flow, business failure

Workspace via Unsplash by Maliha Mannan

Yucky Paperwork

It can be quite frustrating to deal with reams and reams of paper on a regular basis, but it’s a necessary task in every business. Taxes, HR, and other important document flow need to be adhered to and businesses are known to have been closed down for less. Appoint a general assistant to keep these things in order, even if they only come in a few times a month. This will ensure that everything checks out when it needs to, and you as business owner can do what you do best.

No Marketing Budget, Yep, It Can Cause Business Failure

Technology is moving at a much faster pace than ever before. Businesses who are popular very rarely have to close their doors, but not everyone can rely on word-of-mouth. This is especially true for new businesses. Part of the expenditure planned for the business should be marketing. If this is not part of the business cash flow forecast, rather close the business and move on to something else. That may sound harsh but it’s important to remain relevant.

Underquoting and Overquoting

Nothing is more damaging to an industry than a business underquoting. This is not only bad for the business providing the quote, but also the rest of the industry. Customers are reluctant to pay higher prices and will not accept steep increases in the future. This means that the business will always only scrape the bottom of the barrel.

Overquoting is another issue. Do research on the industry norms and price according to your skills and experience. Every industry has a quoting soft spot. Find out where this is and quote accordingly.

Selling What You Want to Sell, Not What the Customer Wants

There are some pretty small niches where the likes of Chanel and Andy Warhol pioneered different movements in their respective fields, but this is not the norm. Bear this in mind when selling a service or product that is very niche-based. Market research and proper placement of the business can make a difference.

Making a few minor adjustments and getting back on track could save a business and steer it in the right direction. Take a breather, work out a plan, and steer the course. Business failure doesn’t have to be on the cards, as long as you play those cards right.

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freelance, work, copyright, DMCA, infringement

What to Do When Your Content Gets Stolen

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You take another sip of coffee as you furiously type away at the latest batch of articles you received from your client. They’ve paid you for the first batch and you’re already on the third. The fact that they still haven’t paid for the second batch is niggling at the back of your mind, and as you submit the last article to them, along with your invoice (plus the overdue amount) that sickening feeling starts to develop in the pit of your stomach. You decide not to get too paranoid, however, this is something that is causing you quite a bit of frustration.

Disappeared With Too Many Traces

You put all your sleuthing skills to the test and manage to uncover a bogus profile on every site that you thought you could trace these people with, and it’s no surprise that they “live” in all four corners of the earth. With a hefty fee still outstanding, you wonder whether it’s worth booking a ticket to one of the locations, and throttling your money out of them even if it is at a loss. You also start thinking about hiring private detectives, write bogus summonses, or anything just to show these thieves how connected you are.

You Start Googling EVERYTHING

There is no limit to the anger and frustration you feel, and that silly little contract that’s sitting in your inbox does nothing. They’re bogus, fake, non-existent, and there is nothing you can do about it. You run Copyscape and you realize they’ve ended up using your articles, and you’re mad as heck!

Do You Have Your Document Flow Recorded?

It’s easy to prove ownership of an item that is published first but to sell it to a third party as a Word document is another story. Ensure that you save PDF copy of a document the moment you send your final draft to the client, as it can serve as a proof of ownership. Keep copies of all your correspondence with the client, as it will help in any action you deem necessary to take.

Remain Professional for as Long as Possible

  1. Try to make contact with the website owners to get them to remove the item in question. There is the slight chance that the website owner is innocent and may have dealt with a third party.
  2. If contact with the website owner doesn’t work, try to make contact with the host service.
  3. At all times try to mediate the situation as amicably as possible.
  4. If this does not work, consider following the DMCA process. Although website might not be a U.S. based website, their servers or hosts might be and this could provide that much-needed hook.

What About the DMCA?

Website Protection Pro

There is nothing more disheartening than putting all your time and energy into a product, only to have it stolen by someone who doesn’t give a hoot. An extract of The Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998 issued by the U.S. Copyright Office, describes the act as:

The Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) was signed into law by President Clinton on October 28, 1998. The legislation implements two 1996 World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) treaties: the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty. The DMCA also addresses a number of other significant copyright-related issues.

It can take quite some time to read through all the technical terms and legal jargon. A quick way to get around this is to rely on professional services to get the job done, such as Digital Millenium Copyright Act Services Ltd.

Dealing with content thieves can be disheartening and it takes courage to pursue this avenue. The more this is done, however, the more difficult it becomes for thieves to make money off unsuspecting creatives. Protecting content is vital and the follow through critical to ensure content remains safe.

 

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Photo credit: thedailyenglishshow via Foter.com / CC BY

Great Resources for Freelance Writers

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Those fingers flit over the keyboard as you move between a number of open tabs on the desktop. Hours of intense writing and research culminate in what you hope is your best project yet. You read through it twice to see whether there are any grammar mistakes and take a breather. You get back to your desk, do a final read-through and press that submit key. Instead of the nice pat on the back from the client, you receive a scathing e-mail from the editor pointing out some glaring mistakes in the article. The feedback is half a page of errors and issues and you’re not sure why you got into this in the first place. Take heart! There are a whole lot of resources that make this easier.

Grammarly

Life before Grammarly was filled with errors, and although word processor documents have their own built-in spelling and grammar checkers, you’d be surprised how many things they overlook, especially if the word actually exists. It also points out mistakes that are unforgivable by the Grammar Police such as their, there, and they’re. Users have the option of making use of the free version or upgrading to the Premium version. The Premium version offers users the 250 additional checks, allowing them to provide clear and concise copy. Both the free and the paid versions are available in online applications such as Facebook and Gmail, as well as word processing documents such as Microsoft Word.

  • Free Version: Yes
  • Upgrade Period Options: Monthly, Quarterly, or Annual
  • Optional Corrections: Yes
  • In-document Editing: Yes

WordRake

If you’re known to take a long way round in telling a story, an editor has most likely already cited you for wordiness. WordRake alleviates this issue by removing all the words that make sentences heavy and filled with fluff and filler content. Users have the option of going with the recommendations or not. This is a must-have for those who do their own edits. Users have the option of purchasing the program for Microsoft Word, Microsoft Outlook, or both. Users decide between the one, two, or three-year option.

  • Free Version: No, only a 7-day trial
  • Upgrade Period Options: 1, 2, or 3-yearly
  • Optional Corrections: Yes
  • In-document Editing: Yes

Pro Writing Aid

This is a tool that simply has it all. It takes care of additional grammar issues, long sentences, sticky sentences, phrases, cliches, pretty much the whole caboodle. This is the perfect tool to use for copy that needs to be flawless and you have a bit of time to spend on editing. The free version picks up all the errors, however, the user will need to fix it in their document, whereas the paid version allows users to edit in document. Users have the option of signing up for the program for 1,2, or 3 years or opt for the lifetime use.

  • Free Version: Yes
  • Upgrade Period Options: 1, 2, or 3 years, or lifetime
  • Optional Corrections: Yes
  • In-document Editing: Only with paid option

Having the correct tools will help with all the minor details, allowing the user to work on the flow of the piece. There is no substitute for self-editing, however, and users are recommended to do a thorough read-through to ensure nothing was missed. Of all the editing software I’ve used throughout my career, these have provided me with the most satisfying results.

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Resigning with Style and Why It’s Important

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You’ve had enough of your soul-sucking job and your manager with that evil glint in his eye (yes just the one eye because the other is too busy playing policeman). You have a good head on your shoulders and you know that starting a business will be a walk in the park for you. You’re well-connected and there is no reason why people won’t support you, right?  You bite the bullet, punch your clock card for the last time and burn your performance contract on your boss’s desk. You walk out of your job as the fire alarms whine and sprinklers destroy papers, electronics, and perfectly coiffed hairdos alike. You’re burning bridges and taking names like you just don’t care.

Burning Bridges vs. Building Relationships

When quitting your job, there are only two ways to do it. The right way and the wrong way. Whether things have been said or done, it’s important to keep your head high and do the right thing. Serve your notice and work hard during that final phase. You simply never know who is looking. By being a total brat in those final days can cost you a loyal following as old colleagues make wonderful customers. Making things uncomfortable at work and parading your newfound freedom will cost you business and referrals from your previous colleagues.

What If You Need Them Again?

Whether you need to apply for a job with them in the future because things just didn’t work out, or you need their help with a project, your conduct during those last days will make a big difference. There are many business owners who have great working relationships with ex-bosses, as you don’t need to sell yourself to them. They already know what you’re capable of. Any potential client who doesn’t need an introduction is a save on the marketing front.

Your Future Customers May Have Big Circles of Influence

You know you’ve made it as a business owner when your clients invite you to a flashy shindig, and nothing will cause you to hightail it outta there faster than running into that old boss. The very same one who had to have his entire office drained of excess water after that last incident. Turns out your best client is this guy’s son-in-law, and he will do anything to make his beautiful wife’s father happy. Including sacking you as a provider. Didn’t see that one coming, did ya?

You’re Actually a Nice Person

It’s very hard to convince people that you’re trustworthy and loyal when your conduct says something else. When things don’t go your way, it’s better to be the better person and treat the matter with patience. Acting in anger never did anyone any good, and this type of behavior is very hard to disguise for long. Building trust in the world of business is very hard to do and takes very long. This can all be ruined by a single act, therefore, keep it clean.

There is no foolproof way of starting a business, but building solid relationships is a good way to start. Instead of plotting a revengeful exit filled with fire and chaos, rather focus on building your future. Use that fire in your soul for something good and positive and let your success be the best antidote to a life spent at that sucky job.

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Get Your Pricing Right and Make Money as a Freelance Writer

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I recently decided to create a profile on a bidding site. This morning I received an e-mail with a few recommendations of jobs they think will match my profile. Two of them were quite interesting and the budget seemed reasonable, but the third just got my blood boiling! This is what it said:

Premium Writer Required for 1500 Word Article (Budget $25)

A 1500-word piece for $25! Are they insane? A standard writer who doesn’t have to survive on writing as an income, maybe. But a premium writer?

So I decide to read through it anyway and waste another 2 minutes of my time.

I am looking for an article writer to help write original article for my travel blog. If I am satisfied with your work, you’ll get additional work.

– Only for individual writer
– Only native english speaker
– Article must be 100% original and pass copyscape
– The total amount of articles needed is (2) for a total price of $25

So there it happens! The scope creep of creeps! A whole article scope creep. At first, this employer wants one article of 1500 for the $25 pittance, of which the writer will only get about $20 after the bidding site’s fee. Now this doubles up to two articles for that very same $20 after deductions. 3000 words for $20 doesn’t seem so inviting anymore, does it? When I started out as a freelancer, I still had a full-time job and starting out at $2 per 500 words back then was a terrible rate. $3.33 For a premium writer today simply breaks my heart.

Let’s Do the Math

If you need $1500 to survive per month, and you’re getting $20 per 3000 words, this is how many words you will need to push out per day, every day just to get by. Let’s say the average article is about 500 words.

  • You’re earning about $3.33 per 500 words.
  • You need to earn $50 per day on a 30-day month.
  • You will need to write 15 articles per day, every day.
  • If it takes you 20 minutes to write a 500-word piece, you need to invest five hours of non-stop writing to make this target.

The Reality

When you do the math and see that it only requires five hours of solid writing every day to push out those pieces, bear in mind that the income example is below the poverty line. Also, this is based on spending only 20 minutes on a 500-word piece, which is not always possible. At times, you will need to hyperlink, do research, and find suitable images. This all adds up and before you know it, you’ve spent 45 minutes on a $3.33 job. Does this even cover your utilities?

There is also the assumption that you will have a non-stop flow of 500-word articles priced at $3.33 a piece, or similar, to keep the flow going. When you have a few clients providing you with steady work at that rate, you will find it hard to go out and look for work where the rate is reasonable. These types of jobs will keep you busy for hours and you will only survive, while the point of being a freelance writer is to thrive.

Stop the Madness! Pricing Guide for Writers on Bidding Sites and Content Mills

Value your skills and start requesting a decent rate for your work. There are many in the industry who won’t agree with me when I recommend these prices, but it’s important to get your foot in the right way.

Newbie

A friend told you about the wonders of freelance writing and you envy her traveling lifestyle. You work for hours a day trying to find the correct sites for research, as you found out the hard way that Wikipedia is not the best starting point.

  • You have no prior writing experience, apart from essays in school.
  • You have no portfolio of evidence.
  • You have no blog.
  • Expect to earn 0.5c to 1c per word.
  • Do not stay in this category for too long.
  • If you only write one article a day, expect to move out of this category within one to three months.

Rising Talent

You’ve gone onto a few job boards and have picked up some horrific, non-paying customers. This led you to the content mills and now you’re furiously typing away. You hope to move up to the next category within a few weeks, but those pesky article thieves and low raters are just blowing it for you. You’re desperate for change but too busy to do anything about it. This is the most dangerous category and shouldn’t last for more than three months.

 

  • You write about anything and everything.
  • You have quite a few articles as a portfolio of evidence, but none published.
  • You have a blog, but not one you’re happy to use as portfolio work yet.
  • You rely solely on the ratings of content mills and bidding sites to prove your writing ability.
  • Expect to earn 1c to 2c per word.

Fairly Established

Some big names rely on you to get their basic writing done such as landing pages and more. You’re still only writing ghost articles but at least you can trace them now. Your rate is fairly decent and you no longer need to pull those all-nighters to get the job done before the next payment cycle. You’ve even managed to move beyond the content mills and bidding sites.

  • You finally have a blog that you’re proud of and starting to monetize it (should have done this from the beginning, but everyone’s scared right?).
  • Advertisers approve your advertising requests and the money is starting to come in.
  • Your portfolio of evidence is now crossing the different genres and you almost have a writing sample for every type of job posted.
  • You’re starting to focus more on specific topics.
  • You visit the content mills and bidding sites just to fill up the income before month end.
  • You can easily charge anything from 3c to 7c per word.
  • You can afford to be a bit pickier in your projects.
  • Expect to move on from here withing 3 months of solid work and self-marketing.

Established

It took you a while to get here, and after many rejections, pitch alterations, blog post entries, and filler jobs, you finally get paid the rate you’ve always wanted. You write three to four articles per day and some of these articles take a few days to complete. The income generated on your affiliate links take care of the bread and butter at home. Advertisers are now approaching you and you now decide who to promote.

  • It’s not unusual for you to have at least 4 to 7 streams of income by now.
  • You have top-rated clients who refuse to deal with other writers.
  • Your writing is helping you exceed your financial goals.
  • You spend less time writing and more time marketing and networking.
  • Asking anything below 8c a word is a labor of love, which you can afford to do now.
  • You’re starting to refer clients to other writers in your circle as you can’t keep up with the demand.

The Shortcut

These only serve as a guideline and should help writers gain some perspective on their writing careers. Often, the biggest problem is getting stuck in a category for too long. Writers who don’t have a writing background often have to start from the bottom and work their way up. Those who have a writing background will find this process much simpler. Writers who happen to have a marketing background will probably start off with the multiple streams of income off the blog first, therefore, probably bypass the entire writing-for-peanuts phase.

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My Journey as a Freelance Writer

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It’s easy to get caught up in a myriad of information available on the net, and for me, the journey as a freelance writer hasn’t always been an easy one. When I started out, I was roped into writing blog posts for a client I met on a bidding site and was paid a measly $2 fee. I didn’t know that it was called a bidding site and didn’t know that there were options other than other bidding sites. $2 per 500-word article was a pittance, considering the number of edits she made me do. She always gave me a stellar rating and that was partly why I kept writing for her for so long.

I started writing online after a client told me what she did for a living. I must admit, at first, I wanted to find out more as I knew my sister wanted to be a writer. It took me a couple of months to realize it was one of my desires too but having a stable job meant my dreams didn’t matter, only the bills did. My profile started attracting more employers online, and before I knew it I was writing hours a day after work. It still wasn’t enough to become a permanent position, but at least I started experiencing some kind of fulfillment.

It Wasn’t All Peachy

Two clients turned out to be major frauds and the system that I believed would protect me, didn’t. I turned to the content mills and once again had to start right at the bottom, $2 per 500 words. The topics were soul-draining vacuum-cleaner-dribble and I soon found myself resenting the writing. During this phase, I also quit my job to pursue another career, which ended up not working out at all. I was at the bottom with a terrible writing career and no permanent income to fall back on.

Game Changers

I was working with my husband in his business, trying to build it up to cover the loss of income on my side, and in the evenings I would write articles. I applied to every casting call I could and googling as many writing resources as time allowed. It was a few months later when one of my pitches were accepted and I finally started getting regular writing. It started with 40 small articles a week, which I could comfortably squeeze in after a long day spent at the business. It took me an hour to write up five of these and the information was already provided. Soon the client extended that and was requesting anywhere between 150 to 300 of these write-ups per week. The money was good and the relationship lasted a full year. This was a project that was only supposed to last a month! This was a massive confidence boost and I managed to work my way up the rankings on the various sites. I now have a steady flow of income, however, some months are better than others.

Freelance Writing as a Side Hustle

Sticking to the Good Ones

I have a few profiles on bidding sites, content mills, and regularly check for work on the various job sites to ensure that I have as many clients in the pipeline as possible, without compromising quality. I prefer the stand-alone client jobs, however, the mills do provide bread-and-butter income.

Writers constantly need to keep many balls in the air, and yes, we do drop them on occasion. There are many resources out there to help us, however, and taking advantage of these can be game changers. There are a few basic things to work on first, which will be covered in a later post.

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Photo credit: Rosaura Ochoa via Foter.com / CC BY

The Dark Side of Social Media for Your Business

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“A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.” –  Scott Cook, Founder, Intuit

You’re running a small business and you’ve decided to take the plunge where social media marketing is concerned. You decide to do it on your own, without the help of a social media specialist, and things seem to be going smoothly. After a long day at the office and with a cup of tea in hand, you sit down to work through all the social media for the day, and boy are you glad you’re sitting down!

One Status Update and the Whole World Goes Mad!

The morning started out well and before you opened your doors, you announced that today was the buy-one-get-one-free day, but you failed to stipulate of equal or lesser value. It makes sense to you and the 85% pf your customers who walked through the doors that day, but somehow that notice on social media solicited all the creepy critters from society who decided to take advantage of the situation. Naturally, they will take to social media to vent. They will tell you that you do false advertising and that your institution is no longer reputable. They will exploit the situation until they are placated with a freebie, while you quietly tell them to never return to your shop again. This could upset the apple cart and damage control is essential.

Too Busy to Attend to Requests

It’s the busiest time of the month and you find that you eat, sleep, and work in a repetitive cycle that simply doesn’t have an end. There is no time to phone your mom, let alone tend to social media. Finally, during a break you decide to quickly see what is happening online, and to your dismay customers are having a field day with the lack of response on the site. Boycotting the institution is on the cards and it will take more than a few minutes to get the situation under control again. Many customers expect an immediate response and one that only happens a few days after their initial request will simply let them go with someone else, even if you have the best gear, prices, or support services.

Funny to You May Just be Inappropriate to Others

There are jokes and then there are socially acceptable mood enhancers. Although you may have  certain views, your customers may not share them, and even if they do, might feel obliged to stand up for somebody else. The moment something may come across as hurtful, irrelevant, mean, or criticizing, it has no place on any platform in your business. One of the fastest ways to alienate customers is by offending them. Once offended, customers take very long to regain trust in your business.

Social media can be a wonderful and inexpensive means to increase your footprint, but it does have it’s snags. Stick to the basics and check the updates as often as possible to ensure you don’t let anyone down. If the social media side becomes a little hard to handle, you may want to consider hiring someone who can take care of it a couple of times  week, or even on a permanent basis.

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