Those of us who like words are a special breed. We love words and love to use them, particularly if it means we can psycho-analyze a topic and dissect it down to the letter. But sometimes, when we’re all alone with our laptops, blankets, pillows, and our cats, we just want to let it all go. We want to get all wild and crazy, take off our glasses, and let our hair down.
That’s where these fun, free tools for writers come in. Are they particularly helpful? Not really, but they are fun and they might even get our creative side going a little more.
The Gender Genie
Did you know I can tell whether you’re male or female just by the way you write? Well, not really, but the Gender Genie thinks it can. Based on a New York Times piece, this nifty little tool will determine an author’s gender by running text through a specially designed algorithm.
I Write Like
Do you have a favorite author? Have you always wondered if you write like a famous writer? Well, now you can find out. I Write Like will analyze any content you’ve written and compare it to their database of content written by famous authors to see which one you match best. It’s fun, cool and sorta quirky, just like us!
If you’ve ever suffered with writer’s block or have been looking for some inspiration for your latest story, you’ll want to check out The Brainstormer by Distraction Beast. In short, it’s a giant wheel of ideas with three movable circles of ideas. Imagine: a “healing journey with a cannabalist samurai” or “a tale of unconditional love with a Transylvanian shoe maker”. Yeah. Tons of wacky fiction goodness.
Make Your Own Comic Strips
(Strip Creator works, but you’ll need to make an account first and use a screen cap to host it elsewhere. The Bubblr project from Pim Pam Pum lets you use Flickr images while Pikistrips uses your photos.)
750 Word Brain Dumps
Admittedly, my vacation and some recent happenings have derailed this little project for me, but I’m waiting patiently to get back in it. I find 750 Words extremely helpful to just ramble on and I’m actually considering the idea of using it to finish one of the books I currently have on the go. I find that, after dumping almost a thousand words here, my mind is clear, I’m less stressed, and much more able to create everything from strategies to articles.
Brevity. Clarity. Conciseness. Try the GobbledyGook Grader content analysis tool.
When a little online app comes up with titles like ’8 Things Copywriters Have In Common With Unicorns’, it makes an instant fan out of me. The Linkbait Generator is definitely on my list. Granted, not all of the titles it comes up with are useable and some are a little adult, but they’re fun and they definitely get your mind going in the right direction. The only downside? I’d love to see them add more formats/headlines into the mix.
I want to respond to Kristi Hines’ post entitled ‘Protecting Your Content and Your Reputation’. While she does bring up a number of very valid points, I do have a number of points to add. After all, we’ve all had different experiences, learned a variety of different things, and I think we can all learn from it.
Having Submitted Work Edited
In a recent post giving advice to site owners on hosting guest posts, I recommend site owners make writers aware of what they’re editing. Unfortunately, many of them don’t follow this advice. Now, as a writer, I have to admit it annoys the heck out of me to have work edited and cut for no reason. From a site owner’s perspective, however, I really dislike a writer freaking out when I edit their content.
Why do I do it? Several reasons, aside from spelling and grammar, there are space constraints, optimum length for my readers, to fit in with my site theme and focus, etc. It also depends if it’s my site or not. If it isn’t mine, I tend to edit out extremely controversial points for the sake of my client. Bottom line, editing is a fact of life for a writer, so if it’s vital that the content remain exactly the same, sharing content may not be for you.
Policies and Income Generation
I personally have a big beef with this one, and not Kristi’s points either. Terms and conditions are nasty if you fail to check these out before sending in work. However, there are a number of assumed laws to be aware of. For example, Australian writers hold the rights to their work even if they’ve sold it. In other countries, the rights change hands as soon as the money does. (I cover this in my contract.) You need to be just as cautious of the ‘understood’ rules as you do the printed ones. On the same hand, never assume anything. I’ve learned the hard way to always get everything in writing.
Posting your work on sites that use ad revenue are a waste of any serious writer’s time. Trust me. I’ve tried it and I’ve yet to find a method that works well with these sites save for one: mass produce a creepload of content and spread it everywhere. You’re far better off spending the time to write decent content and using it to directly market yourself via a website or blog.
So long as you’re getting something of what you consider to be equal value in return for your content, you aren’t exactly losing it. For example, links, traffic, and money are common currency in a writer’s world, and as far as I get what I agree on initially, I’m happy with that. The important thing is to make sure the tradeoff is worth it to you and that you get it in writing! Many times, I’ve traded copy for something else and not gotten it in the end. Protect yourself.
Reputation Leakage and Image
This is a huge one in some respects, but not so much in others. You are definitely judged by the company you keep. Without a doubt! However, this works in both ways. Use your access to high-end sites to your advantage, but don’t fall into the common trap of marketing to your peers either.
You gain and lose authority according to your clients, not necessarily from your peers. They pay you, and what they care about is what kind of a job you can do for them, not how many invitations you get to the next major conference or who you sit with while you’re there. Don’t underestimate the importance of complementary businesses either. These can potentially generate a large amount of profits if you play your cards right.
And while I wouldn’t get into the habit of appearing on low grade sites, I think people put a little too much emphasis on negative PR. I’ve learned there really is no such thing as bad PR so long as you deal with it the right way. The short-term damage is often far worse than the long term.
In short, treat your online business as you would a brick and mortar store. If you conduct yourself in the same way, you’ll do fine and have nothing to worry about.
I don’t normally rant on my blog, but after seeing many big name bloggers struggle and make tweets like this I felt it was time for me to have my say. What’s all the hubbub about?
Bloggers are being all but stoned to death for taking money (or products) in exchange for sponsored blog posts. That tweet clearly states that the isn’t a paid post, but at the same time, why should they have to explain things like that? It shouldn’t make a difference whether it’s paid or not, so long as it’s honest.
Sponsored blog posts are yet another advertising/social media marketing practice being used by many companies. These aren’t little companies either; think cameras and cars for starters.
I don’t care whether we are talking about Brian Clark, Darren Rowse, Michel Fortin, or Joe Blow from down the street. When these people post entries in their blogs, they are providing a service. This service includes all kinds of thoughts and information that most readers would not have access to otherwise. The reader takes this information and can apply it to their own writing and blogs and make money with it.
Now, many bloggers sell advertising, have affiliate links, or use Adsense to monetize their service and ensure they can cover costs. I have several affiliate links on this site. I don’t hide the fact they are affiliate links. I have even provided readers with an alternative, non-affiliate link to use if they so choose. The only thing is that I only choose products that I have used and have had a positive experience with. In many instances, they have helped me get to where I am today.
Honesty and transparency is more than my values coming through in my writing. It has become a mainstream marketing trend whether we all like it or not. Consumers demand this out of every company they purchase from.
And they should!
I think, as a whole, we’ve had enough of the sleazy marketing types that could ‘sell you the wedding ring from your own finger’. I agree wholeheartedly with this trend. I feel that this is the positive effect of the recession. (Because money has become tighter in most instances, people are a lot more careful about where they’re spending their money.) I also think part of the reason for this change is social media, which is the driving mechanism behind this trend.
What irritates me the most are those who write a sponsored post, and get roasted for it. Now, I could understand if this was kept a secret, but not when they are open and honest from the start. The way I see it, the ones who get these opportunities are all big time names who have been around a long time. Their readers have generally been reading them for a long time, and should have some level of trust there to ensure the honesty of the blogger.
What bothers me is the idea that some people feel offended that the writer would take money to write a post. Hello??? How much do some readers honestly expect to get for free? The money isn’t out of their pockets. No one is forced to read the post. No one is forced to buy. What’s the issue?
I do think there is a reason for this. Michael Martine of Remarkablogger (Michael, I think this was you. If it isn’t please correct me. It sounds like Remarkablogger wisdom to me though.) hit this nail right on the head with a single statement. ‘If you don’t monetize from the start, readers are offended by it when you do decided to recoup some of your loses’ (paraphrasing here, but you get the idea).
Regardless of what anyone tells me, there is a lot of expense tied to blogging, particularly for those who blog or write professionally. The time invested in quality posts costs money. Then, there is hosting and domains. On top of that, there are the expenses associated with the design, development, and upkeep of the site not to mention those last-minute, panicked repairs. Bloggers shouldn’t have to apologize for trying to recoup some of these costs and even make some profit.
Dirty money? IMO, not a chance!
Am I being irrational here? Should bloggers refuse companies who ask for sponsored posts? Should it only be done under certain circumstances?
There has been a particularly heavy run of scammers praying on writers these days. Some in particular have been extremely convincing. For example, ‘send in a resume and a requested writing sample and we’ll pay you big bucks to write for us.’
Unfortunately, this has sucked in a good number of newbie and experienced freelance writers. Don’t to fall for it!
Providing Writing Samples
Lots of clients and companies request a specific sample related to their industry. When you submit this sample, the idea is that the client will see how you write in their industry and what kind of knowledge you have about it. Unfortunately, those who are crooked will take the sample and just never bother to contact you. Never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever submit a writing sample.
Don’t fear however, there are ways around this little hiccup to satisfy both the client and the writer.
Send links to work you have done previously, or a link to your online portfolio. Whatever you use for this should be diverse enough that the client can see what you’re capable of.
If it is something you want so badly and you have no other choice but to submit a sample, consider writing the piece and adding little tidbits of hidden text. It can’t be just any kind of hidden text, however. Add a standard phrase such as ‘Angie Nikoleychuk‘ and add it to the end of a paragraph in the middle of the sample. Once you’ve done that, set up a Google Alert specifically for the ‘security phrase’. When they attempt to use it, you’ll be instantly notified.
I’ve found that generally works brilliantly. After all, if the scum bag is too lazy to write his or her own piece and too lazy to pay anyone to do it, they are most likely too lazy to read through the entire article. You might also want to consider including these pieces in places such as CopySentry. (The cost is deductible in many instances )
Writing ‘On Spec’
Writing ‘on spec’ means you write up the piece according to the instructions given by the client. Submit it to them to the client for their inspection. If they like it, you get paid. If they don’t, you have to rewrite it or the client moves on to another writer.
While this might sound like a fair practice, this is the number one way writers often get screwed out of their money and their work. How? You submit your best piece of writing and the client ‘rejects’ it. However, two weeks later, you’ll either find it plastered all over the Internet with a different by-line, or they will have someone rewrite your piece for a dollar or two and make thousands with it.
Granted, not all clients will do this, but it happens all too often to try it.
Require all clients to give 50% of the project up front. This way, if they take your draft copy (or original piece) and fail to come back with the rest, at least you’ll have something to cover your efforts. Also, this is a good way to get rid of the scammers right off the top. On larger writing projects, I will even ask for 50% up front, 30% halfway through, and the remaining 20% at the end. The client demonstrates a small bit of faith in me, and I demonstrate a certain amount of trust in them.
Writers hate asking, clients hate handing it over, but you only have to get cheated out of a pay check once to get over it.
When Is It Ok to Write for Free?
I don’t generally write anything for free, but like anything, there are exceptions to the rule. In some instances, the exposure is an equal trade off for the money. In some instances, the opportunity to write about the topic is more than enough to peak my interest.
My article for the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, my guest post at Search Engine People, and even SEO Scoop are great examples of this. These were all opportunities that I rather quite enjoyed doing and don’t often get the opportunity to cover in my daily work. Combine that with the great exposure, and I was more than compensated for my efforts.
So I guess the moral of the story is, unless you are sure you get something from it for 100% sure, don’t give your work away for free! If that person wanted you to write it, your stuff is obviously worth the compensation!
No one goes into business, or starts a career with the goal of failing. Everyone starts with the best of intentions, works hard, and does the best they can possibly do. But, you need to also remember that nothing ever stays the same. Everyone is always looking for a better/faster/more efficient way of doing things. Failing to keep up with these changes, as well as what’s going on in your industry, can literally degrade the quality of work you do as well as the service you provide.
Don’t see it? Take SEO, or search engine optimization, for example. Say Google changes its algorithm, which determines how it organizes and presents search results. If you don’t keep up on what these changes are, you can’t adapt your methodologies and techniques accordingly. This means you are unable to do your job, and may even cause your clients to suffer terrible penalties by the search engines.
As a writer who provides a large amount of SEO copy and articles for marketing, I am passionate about the SEO industry and associated news. However, I also need to keep up on what’s going on in the writing industry as well as the areas my clients are involved in.
Is this time consuming and take a lot of work? You bet it does, but it I owe it to my clients. I wouldn’t feel right about doing my job and having others pay me otherwise.
You can find the latest news and information just about anywhere. Belonging to the right groups is often a good start. For me, I find Twitter keeps me up on all the important news bits and information in terms of writing and SEO. I am a huge user of Google Alerts and Social Media searches and monitoring. Lastly, I have an extensive RSS reader that pulls feeds from some of the most influential blogs and bloggers in these industries.
Of course, there’s other benefits to this as well. I’ve become well-versed in many different areas, which satisfies my information obsession. The amount of unexpected things I’ve learned and had the pleasure to do has been amazing. It is these things that really make this ‘job’ the absolute best I’ve ever had.
It has also allowed me to get in contact with and become great friends with great people from all industries and walks of life. There is always a good conversation or debate somewhere. When I’m having a down day, or an extremely stressful moment, or am having one of those ‘OMG what am I doing moments’, I always have support and the backing I need to succeed. I hope that I can do as much for them.
If you are not keeping up with your industry, you are doing yourself and your career just as much of a disservice as you are your clients.