What if your website doesn’t get many hits?

Don’t worry. Mine doesn’t get many either. But you don’t have a choice. A website is essential for a writer, just as a business card is. You need a presence on the web, a storefront that is open around the clock, at any time to any employer around the globe. You need a website just in case someone is looking, somewhere, for a good writer. And a website makes that possible.

How else are you going to show off your work? Where else can you demonstrate your current writing? Not with a résumé. In fact, I no longer produce a résumé, instead, when asked, I simply point people to my website. If they like what they see and read, great. If not, well, at least I had a chance to show what I could do on a large scale, rather than being trapped within a single sheet of paper.

It’s true that you can point to your writing with links embedded inside a Word document. It’s also true that links go bad and need tending to. And it’s  even truer that a blog can’t be part of a résumé. I have over 90 blog entries at this site. How can I work that writing into a résumé or into a standard job application?

Still worried about hits? Look at my page views for the two weeks or so. A high of 17 one day, a total of zero on two or three others. Don’t worry, you can always work on getting that hit count higher. For now, get building that website.

 

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I still need a teacher

My efforts at relearning grammar (internal link) are stalling out. The instructions aren’t always clear, and with no teacher to ask questions of, well, my progress has slowed down. I’ve been trying to reconcile questionable pages by looking through the net for more information. But since every course is taught in a different manner it is difficult to find specifically what I want.

For an example, I am puzzled by the site’s lessons on comparing adjectives and by the one on adjective identification. Using another site to explain the lessons finds instructions that are too lengthy, not lengthy enough, or are just plain off-point. Perhaps I will look for an on-line course with an instructor. It might be a better use of time than constantly having to look up material that doesn’t fully answer my questions. It looks like I still need a teacher. images

Considering a professional course in editing

In my last post (internal link) I described how I was working my way through an on-line grammar course. It’s engaging enough that I am considering going further, by taking a certificate course in editing. U.C. Berkeley offers a course called the Professional Sequence in Editing (external link). Designed for writing professionals, it may be just what I need to help me with the editing and proofreading I do now.

Besides being a freelance writer, I am an on-demand worker for In Focus Web Marketing (internal link) of Vancouver. I edit other writers’ copy and I write material of my own. I would like to better understand my decisions. Why starting a sentence with the word “and” is acceptable in certain cases and why it is not in others. Using less rather than fewer, onto, rather than on to, unlawful, rather than illegal, and so on. Enrollment starts on July 6th, classes begin in September.

After another month I will have worked my way through the grammar lessons and be in a better position to decide what to do next. I feel I’ve learned my writing and editing style by ear, by what sounds right, like a musician who can play passably but who can’t read sheet music. I know what sounds right, but in many cases I am  wrong. It’s time, perhaps, to learn the sheet music of my craft, to go further.

June 7, 2015 Update. I’m learning! I found this wonderfully informative quote in The Chicago Manual of Style, on why it is proper to start a sentence with a conjunction like “and” or “but.” It reads:

There is a widespread belief—one with no historical or grammatical foundation—that it is an error to begin a sentence with a conjunction such as and, but, or so. In fact, a substantial percentage (often as many as 10 percent) of the sentences in first-rate writing begin with conjunctions. It has been so for centuries, and even the most conservative grammarians have followed this practice. Charles Allen Lloyd’s 1938 words fairly sum up the situation as it stands even today:

“Next to the groundless notion that it is incorrect to end an English sentence with a preposition, perhaps the most wide-spread of the many false beliefs about the use of our language is the equally groundless notion that it is incorrect to begin one with ‘but’ or ‘and.’ As in the case of the superstition about the prepositional ending, no textbook supports it, but apparently about half of our teachers of English go out of their way to handicap their pupils by inculcating it. One cannot help wondering whether those who teach such a monstrous doctrine ever read any English themselves.” (Charles Allen Lloyd, We Who Speak English: And Our Ignorance of Our Mother Tongue (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1938), 19.)

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An excellent grammar site

Good editing demands a good knowledge of grammar. Toward that end, englishgrammar101.com (external link) should help most people immensely. Both free and pay services exist, with the free tutorials being well thought out and extremely useful. Module 1 starts with verb identification and ends, 55 (!) lessons later, at adverbs modifying other adverbs. And, if you get finished with that first module, there are five more left to go. Advanced lessons teach about gerunds and past participles and splitting infinitives, all those building blocks of grammar that I forgot about since high school, or never learned to begin with. A great site to bookmark.

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What do I charge? And what should you?

I charge $30 an hour for rush work, $25 an hour for everyday jobs, and $20 an hour for ongoing work. My speciality is non-fiction research and writing for the web, although I also do light editing and polishing. These numbers are simply what I need to enjoyably continue writing as a part-time job. If I asked for more I think my writing assignments would dry up. If I charged less then writing would become an annoying chore; good writing is difficult and it needs to pay for that effort, otherwise, retail clerking and other comparatively simple jobs become attractive.

My rates are significantly under what the two leading writers’ associations suggest but I do not hold this out as a selling point for my services. I’m sure that I, too, would raise rates should I ever be overwhelmed with work. You can take a look here (external link) at what the Editorial Freelancers Association suggests as editorial rates. Writers Market also publishes a rate table (external link). It is very comprehensive but it is also nearly ten years old and does not reflect, I think, the rise of internet writing nor the collapse of wages for same.

At this point a related and vexing topic presents itself: how long does it take to write an article or a blog post? On this subject I am in total agreement with the Editorial Freelancers Association. They say that one to three pages an hour is a good guideline and that a standard manuscript page is 250 words. In my experience, 750 words in an hour is a rare occurrence, speed writing, with little research. 500 words an hour, by comparison, is a workable goal.

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Too many years with a one button mouse

Too many years with a one button mouse has kept me from knowing all the terrific features that are delivered by a two button mouse. Picking synonyms in Microsoft Word by simply choosing a word and right clicking is a new, great joy. And invoking a thesaurus at the same time is an even happier happening. Why did I take so long to discover this?

The “Magic Mouse” that comes with an iMac is a single click device. One button. Making it into a two button device is done with software: you enable its two sided function by selecting that choice in your System Preference settings. You then click on the right side of the mouse and voilà! Thanks to Linda Dodge for pointing this out. Now, does anyone need a beat up, hardcopy thesaurus?

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Joining a professional organization

I’ve joined a professional organization, the non-profit Editorial Freelancers Association (external link). It seems to be the best of the few groups that cater to freelance writers. It’s run almost completely by volunteers and members, most of whom are full time freelancers. Cost for a year, including a one-time sign up fee, is about $175. There’s a job board, a newsletter, on-line education classes, an e-mail discussion list, and other benefits. I think the cost is reasonable compared to other professional organizations. And the job list appears solid, serious, without any of the outrageous employer postings featured in the low cost freelance sites. I’ll give it a try and report back.

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