Don’t Be a Sweatshop Writer

1 Dec

Don't make me write about camping toilets.

When I decided to become a writer, I fell into the same trap that many other writers do; I started writing for article mills, or writing sweatshops, as I prefer to call them. In fact, I used to have a blog post here about how I managed to earn $100 per day doing so when I needed money and it paid the bills, but I decided to take it down as I didn’t want to promote these awful companies.

Recently I’ve seen lots of comments online about people defending working for article mills, and many people claim it’s a valid way to begin a writing career.

Here’s why it’s a horrible thing to do:

  • You will never develop a real portfolio with article mills. No legitimate client looking to pay you a living wage will regard what you churned out at lightning speed for 0.5 cents a word as “writing.
  • In fact, what you are doing is not writing, it’s content filler regurgitation. If webmasters could simply use auto-generated garbage and throw keywords into it, they would, but decent Google ranking requires at least some coherence to the verbiage that surround those keywords, so they hire work-at-home monkeys to do it for them.

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10 Free-Range Ideas for Living an Independent Life

28 Nov

Happy chicken - no wire fence

OK, a quick post today as I have loads of erotic fiction to read as part of my romance writing self-guided boot camp. My head is full of muscular torsos, warm embraces and really crass stuff that I had no idea was actually written in Romance novels.

In the meantime, I’ve had lots of conversations with people who are interested in going it alone and starting a new career, so I have thrown together some ideas for living a “free-range” life with businesses that can exist anywhere in the world (other than Mogadishu, perhaps).

My criteria for choosing these suggestions were that each suggestion does not require years of specialized training,  is within reach of most people who have professional experience or fairly common skills, and does not require lots of money to begin.

Writing is one of the many ways to live life on your own terms and fire your boss. Here are some others:

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Heaving Bosoms and Whatnot: Critical Update

27 Nov

Better than gingivitis?

After my thrilling discussion with Doreen last week, I stumbled across an article on Internet fiction  that left me absolutely stunned. Being the money-hungry web writer that I am, I became fascinated with the successes of the young author featured in this article, Amanda Hocking, who sells around 100,000 romance novels per month. Grabbing onto the coat-tails of the successful “oh Edward, I love how you look like a dead person, ravish me now” vampire sex craze, she writes paranormal romance fiction for young women who gobble up her books at an insane rate.

So she writes loads and loads of romance novels and is really successful – so what? That doesn’t provide me with enough enthusiasm to embarrass myself all over again with a bog title that has “heaving bosoms” in it. What makes this story interesting is that she is self-published, and didn’t have to persuade Harlequin or any other publishing house that her work was worthy of publication; she just did it. At the age of 26 she has had more success than most authors achieve in a lifetime, by a very long way.

She’s not the only author who has carved out an incredibly successful career this way. Selena Kitt, a mother of four and devoted wife who enjoys organic farming and raising chickens in her back garden, writes  romance novels with titles like Alice (A BDSM Fairytale), and French lessons. Her novels are less about vampires and more about pages and pages of graphic sex scenes that women can’t get enough of.

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Cupcakes and Yoga in the Tropics: Inspiration for Quitting the 9-5

26 Nov

There aren’t many people who decide to quit a reliable job with a software company and move to the Dominican Republic to volunteer, sell cakes and teach yoga.

That’s exactly what my good friend and ex-colleague Alicia Harman did. For those thinking they can’t stop working for someone else and pursue their own dreams, here’s a story from a woman (who everyone said was bonkers) finding happiness her own way. I interrupted Alicia’s baking and downward dogs to ask her about her experiences starting life on her own terms.

Lorna: So I know you like cakes, and I know you like Yoga. How did you manage to create a life that combines both in the tropics, with no “real job” intruding on it all?

Alicia: I’ve wanted a café or a bakery for a long time. I considered culinary school, yoga school, and graduate school a number of times. However, the opportunities never presented themselves in the right way for me. Despite that, I always believed that I would eventually be able to combine my various interests and talents to create a working life worth living. I didn’t know what form this life would take, and I certainly wasn’t able to put it on a timeline.

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Freelancing to Free Yourself of Wholesome Company Values

25 Nov


About a million years ago I had a good job and worked with a lot of very good people. I really hated it.

I didn’t hate it because of a workload from hell, a Genghis Khan-incarnate boss or an unbearable work environment. It really wasn’t that bad. I hated it because I didn’t feel anything. I felt Nothing, despite trying.

At first it was all great. I felt a lot. It was a rapidly growing private company with opportunity behind every corner and enough collective enthusiasm for the cause to keep the gremlins of grumpiness and dissociation locked up.

And then something terrible happened. It wasn’t a bomb threat or an anthrax attack. Human Resources released company values upon us. Big yellow posters with spheres and triangles telling us what our collective values were. They gave us matching postcards for our desks, and to pass on to others in the workplace as sweet mementos. “Here, take this and let it always be with you. Let’s grow together.”

It wasn’t long before an underbelly of alternative values emerged. “Play Together, Play Hard” begged to be morphed into something filthy. Other phrases became more common, too. “Corporate swine” was thrown around the bar after work a lot, and the company picnic, formally a fairly innocuous event, became “the company shitnic.” Even the bagels started to taste a little stale. I had never been to the company shitnic, but now I really didn’t want to go. It wasn’t a picnic, it was a shitnic. Cracks opened up everywhere.  Hours felt longer. We went public and the share price dropped. Good people left.

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I Don’t Need a Business Plan because I’m Better than Everyone Else

24 Nov

Your fabulous business planThere are writers out there much less competent than you, earning far more money. They are not bad people, they just happen to understand internet marketing and have a real business model.

I know it’s annoying, but at least you can find solace in the fact that you can use semicolons beautifully.

I know that you think you don’t need a business plan, just like I knew you really wanted to write romance novels (that is, before you met Doreen).

It’s part of what I like to refer to as “the Tumblesome Spiral of Writer Denial,” which many writers must endure before experiencing the “The Keyword Copywriting Spinning Trajectory of Rage.” Part of the denial insists that “tumblesome” is a word, but mostly it refers to a writer’s lack of acceptance that he needs a business plan.

I know because I’ve been there, and the symptoms can be quite horrendous.

You wouldn’t get into your car with a thermos of tea and a map drawn on the back of a napkin and try to drive to Guatemala. So don’t try to be a  freelance writer without a business plan.

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Going it Alone: 5 People to Learn from and Feel Inspired

23 Nov

Learn to be fabulous

I admire anyone who decides to leave a decent (or awful, as is increasingly common) paycheck and starts a business, or who decides to go it alone after losing a job or other tough experience. It takes guts and perseverance.

Many people do so by following time-tested internet marketing approaches or by working with personal contacts (my approach) and go from there. The people that I find inspirational are the ones who don’t worry about being themselves, are frank, brave, and creative, and do what they do incredibly well.

Incidentally, none of them used short-cut approaches such as article spinning, irritating sales letters with lots of yellow highlighter, selling ebooks that are actually just a regurgitation of what you can find for free elsewhere, or the exploitation of cheap writers in developing countries who will work for 0.5 cents per word. I doubt they use paid backlinks or turkers to tweet their websites, either.

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