Add Craigslist to your writing job search

Although I recently used Guru.com with success, I think your writing job search should begin with Craigslist (external link). I’m not sure why, and admittedly I wasn’t on the service very long, but out of my three inquiries in a week I got three responses. Previously, with the different freelance sites, I got only two responses to over three dozen proposals. Could it be that Craigslist is more local and not flooded with the entire world? I don’t know. But the freelance sites do attract an enormous amount of people, all seeking work they can do remotely. Which is something you can also do with Craigslist.

I live in West Sacramento, California, a medium sized city without many editing or writing jobs listed on Craigslist. As soon as I started looking over the San Francisco Bay area listings, however, things started to turn around. Many of the jobs insisted that people be in the local area. But many did not. It’s possible, I suppose, that I could have even enlarged my search for virtual work to the Los Angeles area. Who knows what might be there?

I would highly recommend Craigslist; it’s a free service and worth investigating. Yes, there are scam artists there, just like on the freelance sites. And some employers want to pay a penny a word. Ignore those just like you would anywhere. Oh, one last tip: work on your on-line portfolio, these days you have to have a web presence just like the company that will hire you. Good luck!

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Writing again

I’m proud, happy, and pleased to announce that I am now working for In Focus Publishing, otherwise known as In Focus Web Marketing (external link). They’re a Vancouver company that builds websites with marketing in mind. It’s not enough to build a pretty website and expect people to find it, you have to design a site from the beginning with an intent on getting it found. The owner, John Gorecki, has grown his business into an impressive concern. The firm has ten years on the web, building sites throughout America and Canada. I’ll be writing, editing, and perhaps helping in coordinating the work of his other writers. It feels good to be a part of a good team, and it even feels even better to again be writing for a purpose.

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How does one become a better writer?

Practice seems an obvious answer but it’s an incomplete one. What’s needed is practice backed up with better reading. You need to be influenced by great writers while you flesh out your own sentences. No one desiring to draw a new automobile design would look to a Pinto, a Maverick, or a Yugo. Instead you would take cues from Lamborghini, Ferrari, and Porsche. Average influences will only produce average results, and penning five hundred or a thousand words a day will only get you more of the same. More average.

Melville for cadence, Orwell for honesty, and Hunter Thompson for outrageousness, are just some writers that are bound to positively affect you. Reading poetry, especially extended nonsense poetry, gives you an ear as to what words and sentences sing and those which merely hum. Consider the opening of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky (external link):

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Here, it’s not the meaning that’s important, it’s the pattern and the sound that the words possess. Such utter originality cannot be borne out of simply pushing pen against the page, day after day. While Carroll was a genius, he had his influences. We can be influenced, too, chiefly by fine, classic writers. We need to read and  read well. Without great guidance and inspiration we will simply create a Pinto, a Maverick, or a Yugo in print.

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Lewis Carroll (external link) 

Update: February 7, 2015

This is a link to a speech Bob Dylan recently gave. (external link) In it he discusses what influenced him; his marvelous and mysterious songs did not appear by themselves. Someone described the speech as masterclass. I totally agree.

Starting over. A new direction.

Instead of continuing to ply hardcopy magazines for freelance assignments, I think I will try to find part-time work with companies that need writing done. Although I enjoy writing for publications, I did not achieve much success last year in interesting publishers. I learned many new skills throughout the year, particularly with video, but I did not get the response to my writing that I wanted.  I am now pursuing leads on Craigslist, California’s Employment Development Department, and job postings at different private and public job boards. All for part-time work. It would be ideal to find a telecommuting position but I am located only a short drive from the San Francisco Bay area; it is possible I could drive to an office until I get established. I think the key is to do something different and to remain positive.

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Lies, damned lies, and statistics

As a non-professional web designer I find the statistics compiled by different services to be so confusing and contradictory that their reports are rendered useless. Do you have the same experience?

This blog site is administered by WordPress.com. As such, it comes with a built in statistic tracker. Over the last three days it has reported that 15 individuals have visited the site. By contrast, Google Analytics, an external web site tracker, says that there has been no activity during that time. None. In two other zero days, that according to Google, WordPress states that 11 people hit the site. There’s more.

Of the 52 sessions that Google Analytics has recorded, 96.15% of my visitors have come from Russia. Really? WordPress, on the other hand, notes only three visitors from Russia over 1232 recorded views. WP does note a freakish occurrence with Brazil: 219 views from that country. Both Russian and Brazilian activity might denote automated hack attacks, robots trying to take over the website to generate spam. Still, Google, during the entirety of their recording, does not log a single Brazilian viewer.

I don’t doubt the technical prowess of either Google or WordPress. I have to assume that both can identify activity and a country of origin with little effort. But with such contradictory information I am unable to use the data they provide. Again, let me know if you have had the same experience or can provide a reason for such disharmony.

Thoughts on the end of the year

Apologies for the tone of this post, it is more negative than anything I have written while as honest as anything I’ve penned. Trying to be positive is absolutely essential in an oft-too negative world, but I won’t be Pangloss; I am now a troubled Candide in the freelance writing world. With that one cry of human distress, I’ll try to sum up what I’ve learned from 2014.

It hasn’t been a good year for me as a freelance writer. I am bothered by that certainly, but I am more bothered by the fact that I don’t know why I haven’t been successful. Of the dozens of query letters and job proposals I’ve drafted, only one has generated a form letter rejection. That despite each proposal being individually crafted. Lacking any kind of feedback, I stumble forward. Although guesses aren’t a good way to explain the past, it is all I can do. Here, therefore, are my conclusions about writing in 2014.

The hardcopy magazine business is certainly dwindling. Fewer titles mean fewer markets. And while each magazine has a website to complement it, these sites aren’t new opportunities, they are merely an extension of the title, an archive and showcase, rather than a market for additional writing.

Opportunities to write abound if you don’t need to make money. You can write for free for the local newspaper or one of  thousands of websites covering your interests. Everyone wants content if they do not have to pay for it. Revenue from advertising for most web sites has to be scarce to non-existent. I can think of dozens of sites that are so covered in ads that you accidentally click on them as you scroll down the page. But if you need to write, if you are really driven to that, never mind getting paid, the world is wide open.

Developing new skills like video does not mean that a writing pitch will be more successful. Each query letter that I wrote in which I mentioned developing complementary video was met with silence. Working with sound files or developing an app mean little as well unless you have someone interested in a project beforehand. Being versatile and skill rich is a good thing, just don’t expect that to get your proposals answered any more than when you didn’t have those talents.

Any bright spots? My gardening video on YouTube has been a tremendous hit, with over 2,700 views at this point. Although I think the gardening market is saturated, perhaps there is room to grow here.

What’s next? I am developing a motorcycle website. I hope to attract a sponsor at some point but I have tempered my expectations lately. There are so many websites covering the trade that I may be irrelevant or simply overlooked amid all the sites. In the spring I will probably return to nursery sales part-time as a way to earn extra money. Right now, I can’t think of a way to do that on the web.

 

 

Working on NewMotorcycleRider.com

I don’t mean to abandon this blog, but right now I am working at the site I want to develop into something commercial: NewMotorcycleRider.com (external link). In the last week I’ve been writing on changing a motorcycle battery, tire care tips, and replacing an air filter. I should probably write something positive here, to counteract the negative feelings about that failed job fair, but right now I can only work on one thing at a time. I’ll be back here soon enough.

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