Why I Left Textbroker

I was a 4 star (out of 5) writer on Textbroker for over a year. I stopped being a writer for them for many reasons, but it’s still a reasonable service for those who can overlook their flaws. Here are some of the reasons that I left writing for Textbroker, and moved on to some of the other ‘content mills’ for my piecework.

Before I begin, let’s start with looking at the positive aspects of Textbroker.

Pros of Textbroker

1. They Pay on Time

For a freelance writer who’s looking for a few extra bucks, Textbroker pays on time, every time. This is where they have an advantage over single shot clients, and you can be assured that when you request the money, you’ll get it.

2. Many 2 star and 4 star Articles

There were always 2 star and 4 star articles of sufficient variety to write. The 2 star articles don’t make very much money, but for topics that you’re intimate with, there’s probably something in there just for you. It’s a matter of judgement between the money you’re making and the time it takes to research the topic.

3. Huge Company

This is a large, well known company. Most people who write for content mills have heard of Textbroker, and see them as a reliable company. As such, they receive plenty of free advertising from writers, and have a steady stream of good work in their stable.

4. Excellent Community

While I didn’t extensively participate in their community, they have a large one with which to work. You can receive feedback on your articles, as well as learn new tips and tricks about how to navigate the content mill world.

5. No Experience Necessary

With Textbroker, you do not have to present a resume for consideration. You can take up the reins at any time, and really make your impression on those who need some content. You can learn all of those tips and tricks necessary, and can choose your battles. This was an excellent learning experience.

6. You Are Not In Competition

With places like eLance and Helium, you are in competition with a lot of other candidates. This can be quite intimidating. With Textbroker, you can pick and choose the writing that you’ll do, whether it be a little or a lot. Simply pick the article and run with it because you’re not writing for nothing.

There are several more great things about Textbroker, but it wasn’t the great things that drove me away from them. There were too many irritations as far as writing conventions and feedback which drove me away.

The Bad Stuff (or, why I left)

1. Pay is Too Low

This is a criticism of many online writing establishments. The pay is too low to justify the time and the energy that it takes to create top-notch content. For 2 star writers (the lowest), you can expect to be paid under a penny a word. The five star writers will get paid more (of course), but the hoops that you have to jump through are incredible. The average of 3 stars will get you a penny a word, and 4 stars will get you a little over a penny, but under 2 cents a word. Make your judgement on whether the time is worth it.

2. Very Few 3 Star Articles

Most writers will start out at 3 stars, and there are very few of them to write as a result. The competition is high enough so there might be times where there are no three star articles to write. This doesn’t work for those who are trying to get their own sustainable income streams working, as it’s difficult to live on a single article a day.

3. It takes forever to be graded

Your ranking depends on the ratings that the Textbroker team gives you. While they are reasonable with returning feedback on the demo article and okay (within several days) about getting back to you with answers to questions, you can count on several weeks passing (sometimes up to 2 months) before you receive feedback on articles which you’ve written for their clients. Since your money is in their hands, this becomes an unacceptable amount of time.

4. Commas

Here’s where I admit that I’m an elitist. I’ve come to terms with it.

The serial comma is essential to convey the meaning of a sentence. The lack of it can completely skew the meaning of a paragraph or even an entire piece. One of the more common examples of this is ‘I would like to thank my parents, Ayn Rand and God.’ The way that it’s stated means that the author’s parents are Ayn Rand and God. If written with the Oxford comma, the meaning becomes clearer (and closer to what the author intended) ‘I would like to thank my parents, Ayn Rand, and God.’ See the difference?

Textbroker will ‘ding’ you when you use the serial comma, because they use a writing style which does not believe in its importance. To me, this was a great oversight, and they should lose every writer who has a love for the English language as a result. I did not realize that I was so passionate about this particular comma until I was forced to write without it. I would become angry because they were muddying up language by excluding a simple punctuation mark.

5. Ratings are Company, Not Client, Driven

While the client may love your work and move mountains to get you as a writer on their staff, if your piece doesn’t fit the Textbroker standards, you will be downgraded. A client should have the ultimate issue in the matter, because the client is the one who has to deal with the piece. They should be the ones who are responsible for your rating, not a company who has a proven track record of taking forever to get back with you. This is one reason why other companies get my vote.

For the beginning writer, Textbroker is an excellent company for which to write. Their community is excellent, they pay on time, and they can help you hone your craft in the writing business. You can get started immediately with their services, and get some experience (with no request for qualifications) in the writing business. For someone with experience who enjoys immediate feedback and using the Oxford comma, it might not be the best solution.

Picture courtesy of Leland on Flickr. Used under the Creative Commons License.

Are there any places that you’ve left because of the little things? I’d love to know!

As a result of my ranting about Textbroker, I found a book about success on Textbroker. It covers all of the tips and tricks to really make your work shine. Here’s a link to the book titled Textbroker Success

Getting the Most From Your Freelance Writing

As a freelance writer and blogger, I am consistently looking at the ‘one in the hand vs. two in the bush’ dilemma when it comes to my blog. Frankly, none of the blogs for which I am solely responsible have made me money. I am ‘doing it for fun,’ and enjoying the heck out of it. These blogs will be money makers if I’m willing to put the time, effort, and love into them on a consistent basis. Of that I have no doubt.

Then there’s the other half of my life. I am a professional writer. I create content for other passionate people about social marketing, recreational vehicles, greening the environment, and anything else which lands in my lap. This is where my money is made. When I say that I make money blogging – I make money from other people who run blogs but just don’t have enough time to write their own content. I feel them, and completely understand.

When it comes right down to it, I love writing. Regardless of whether there’s money on the line, I’m going to be writing. I tend to place those that keep me in kibbles and bits higher on the priority list, but I’m writing even if there are no projects on the horizon. I’m writing either for my own blogs or working on something.

I have found my passion.

I dropped off the ‘regular’ job radar in May 2010. I found myself writing things that were one-offs or one shots for people who weren’t very anxious about paying me very much. I would do three hours of research for a $3 article. That wasn’t paying off. Now, I’m getting my flow and I’ve discovered a few things.

How to Make More Money as a Freelance Writer

Write What You Would Normally Write

This has worked to my advantage. I tend to write in personal finance, health, diet, social marketing, affiliate marketing, and more. There are plenty of people who are willing to pay for these things, as content is something *every* company seems to need. When I’m writing about personal development, finance, or another ‘common’ subject, I see whether I can sell those articles to someone else.

Pricing Matters

You can tell how much a person values their writer by how much they’re willing to pay for the job. When I first started, I got a client (who I still have) who we’ve gone back and forth over the pricing. He has me do a number of things, including move websites and learn SEO. This person, though, wants to pay me at least 1/3 of the rate that I normally charge. He doesn’t necessarily value the writer, but he gives me consistent work. Being aware of the sweet spot is important.

Subcontract if Necessary

My mother writes great SEO furniture articles. I recently got a small bunch of articles about bathroom vanities. It didn’t take more than a few minutes to make the call to my mother to find out if she would write these for me. It was for linkbuilding, so there wasn’t particularly a need for consistency, just to get the stuff out there. Though I could have written these on my own, I took them off my plate and made a fraction of the cash without the whole of the hassle.

Pick Your Jobs Carefully

In the beginning, I would take anything that came my way. These days, I’m a little more picky about the jobs which I take, because they play to my strengths. I would write one-offs on Textbroker, but now I take the group jobs on iWriter or another place. This is because I can justify the two hours of research in a spin job for 10 articles.

While I’ve not conquered the world as far as freelance writing, I have discovered these tips which have really helped me. Sometimes I wish that I wasn’t hard-headed and had to learn these things by experience, but I’m hoping that you can make something of them. These discoveries have really boosted my bottom line, and I hope that they have the same effect on yours!

Photo courtesy of Kirsty Hall on Flickr. Used under the Creative Commons License

Little Things Matter in Personal Finance

Amazingly huge things happen in your life only once in a while. These events might include landing that big job, marriage, closing on your dream house, or purchasing a car – and those things affect your personal finance. The rest of the events which occur are small, incremental events, or ‘white noise’ as some folks might title them. The small events, like getting a new client or receiving an email from a loved one, are more common and should have more notice taken from them.

I was reading Why Should I Make a Budget? by Haru over at I’m Bleeding Money, and I was thinking about the wisdom in the statement, “the thing that most people don’t realize is that it’s the minor expenses that really bite you in the A**.” He goes on to talk about the widsom in noticing each of the tiny expenses, elaborating about how they can expand into giant monsters of bills.

Even though your expenses can add up, your income can add up, too. The $50 here, or the $30 there can truly make a difference on the bottom line for the month. By the end of the month, you might have more money than you think because of the little dribs and drabs which are flowing into your bank account. This is especially true for a freelance writer, like myself.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Expand Your Income Stream

Those who have a single job can do this. Look for that extra couple hours of overtime, or see if there’s anything extra which can be done within the company. There’s usually a small amount in a company’s budget for those who want to take on those extra tasks and stay a little longer. The best part is that you’ll be seen as a team player, come review time.

2. Create New Income Streams

Every new client is an income stream. While the money that you make might not be enough to make the rent, it still might be enough to pay the water bill or let you go out to lunch once again. These income streams can be made from advertising or pay per click campaigns, but they can also be made from your products.

3. Take a Second Job

There are always the little bills which need to be taken care of. Look at the bills that you’ve got this month, and see whether a second job would be appropriate. If you’re a writer, you don’t have to leave your house to make the extra money, you can get a job working at iWriter, The Content Authority or Textbroker. The money is immediate, and, while it probably isn’t much, it can still make the difference between surviving and thriving.

4. Get Higher Paying Jobs

In any field, there is an evolution between the ‘crap’ work and the more lucrative endeavors. Very few individuals start out with the high paying, high responsibility jobs where they’re billing out at $200 an hour. Seek out those higher paying jobs as you grow into the one that you have, and you’ll find yourself eating ribeyes instead of cube steak.

5. Odd Jobs

One might consider the entire freelance writing gig to be an odd job. I’m talking about one-off jobs where you can make a little extra cash and not worry about the long term responsibility of having the job. These things might include moving a friend or fixing stuff around your neighbor’s house, or perhaps even babysitting. None of these jobs should interfere with your current ‘real’ job, and they’ll bring in a little extra cash to the household.

The most successful people in the world do not discount the importance of the little things. They realize that the little things are the ones that matter, because they are more frequent occurances over the large ‘big name’ events. Examine your own life to see if more ‘little things’ can be added, to battle those minor expenses that can bring you down.

How to Save Money on Spaying and Neutering

Recently, we got a little fuzzy friend. He’s a little orange fellow who’s awfully adorable with his love of chasing laser pointer lights and curling up in my arms while I’m typing. He’s about five months old, and it’s nearing time for the great betrayal. I understand that getting him neutered is a no-brainer, but I’ve been intimidated by the costs of going to a clinic or vet hospital to get the job done. Here is how to save money on spaying and neutering.

Options for Spaying and Neutering

Petsmart, or other pet store
This was more of an emergency clinic, taking care of sick dogs and cats. When we asked about this routine surgery, we were quoted a price of $250 for spaying and $200 for neutering. While we are striving valiantly to make that kind of money, we haven’t reached the point where we can spare that kind of cash in the budget for an indoor kitty.

The vets in our local area are rather cagey about posting their prices online, though an informal survey showed that the prices were just a little bit under the ones offered by Petsmart. While this is definitely an option for developing rapport with one of the vets in the area, we don’t want to break the bank with our cat’s needs.

Humane Society
The Humane Society offers low-cost spay and neutering to people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it. They offer links to organizations who are able to help out here.

Through the Humane Society website, we found out that Friends of Animals offers spaying and neutering certificates, offsetting some of the costs of taking care of our fuzzy friends. Their certificate costs are:

  • Female Cat Spay – $65
  • Male Cat Neuter – $51
  • Female Dog Spay – $90
  • Male Dog Neuter – $64

To save money on spaying and neutering, the best option would be to go to the Humane Society and examine the resources which are available there. When you have a little extra cash and wish to give to a worthy cause, donate to any one of the organizations listed by the Humane Society. They do wonders for animals, making sure that they stay healthy.

This picture courtesy of Maarjaara on Flickr and is used through the Creative Commons license.

What resources have you found for cheaply spaying and neutering your fuzzy friends?

How to Make Money on Elance

All of the tips and tricks that you read about will never be effective if you don’t implement them. It’s true that 100% of the shots that you don’t take don’t score, and it’s true that merely sitting back and waiting for things to happen isn’t a proven way to become awesome. Your awesomeness stems from doing the things necessary to become awesome. Those eleven minutes that you spend pursuing your goals aren’t fruitless, because they’re part of the learning process.

Risk taking is a part of life. Not all of those tips and tricks are going to work for you and you must overcome your own personal fears to at least try to make it work. For the longest time, I feared success and the rewards that it would bring me. I didn’t want to seem too uppity to the rest of the world, and didn’t want to truly pursue my personal goals. I wasn’t taking my life and my direction seriously because I hated the unknown.

I recently talked about getting a job on Elance and the general steps which must be taken to get a job (or be successful in any pursuit, really). Here are some tips about how to make money on Elance.

How to Make Money on Elance

1. Objective View

I took an overall objective view of the image that I was presenting on Elance. I read my objective, examined my sparse portfolio, and noticed the lack of skills tests. I was effectively telling the world that I didn’t take this site seriously, and that I shouldn’t be hired. Granted, I think that I should be hired on the basis of my charm and the fact that I need a job, but I’m incredibly biased on this matter. When I took the more objective view, I found that many changes could be made.

2. Overview

The overview is where you tell your client about your capabilities. It is the first thing that they see when you apply for one of the jobs on Elance, and forms the first impression. My overview, to be honest, was a first draft filled with pithy, pedantic tripe. I rewrote this overview to be more confidence-laden and specific about what I could offer a potential employer. I removed the passive voice and clearly stated my experience.

3. Experience

Getting a job is much like trying to get a loan. You have to prove that you don’t need the job in order to get the job. My experience field was (again) half-assedly put together with very little meat on the bone. I looked at the sum total of my writing experience and revamped my experience to better demonstrate that I was capable of anything that an employer threw my way.

4. Skills Tests

I took a few of the skills tests to demonstrate that I am capable of speaking and writing English, that I am proficient with editing, and that I know how sentence structure works. I know that an employer puts more credence in an objective piece rather than my own personal blather. I’m still taking the tests to flesh out my resume and offer pinpoint accuracy as to what an employer can expect.

5. Portfolio

I had two items in my portfolio, and both of them were … well, rather dry. One of them was very obviously a first draft, and the other didn’t quite live up to its expectations. I erased those two pieces and added five diverse and solid works to my portfolio. Each of them are in PDF format, making them easily read. I added pictures to some of those pieces to add graphic impact. These are not the last things which will be added, but they do provide significant examples.

6. Details in Proposals

The proposals that I entered in the past were one paragraph first-drafts which merely stated that I could speak and read English. Unfortunately, that didn’t set me apart from the rest of the pack, it just gave the impression that I wouldn’t take the time or effort to really shine with a customer’s work. I felt that it wasn’t presenting the best image, so I made the promise to myself that I would write more on the proposals. This includes providing timelines, possible articles, and what the employer could expect if they hired me. The more details added, the less fear that a client will have about hiring me.

7. Revision

I know that the process isn’t done. I know that there are more skills tests which can be taken. I also know that I can add more to the portfolio, edit more work, and add it to my Elance profile. Proving that I’m employable is a continual process, not something to be done half-assedly. I am going to leverage this one job into getting several more jobs because I have proven that someone wanted me once.

Fleshing out the proposals and becoming serious about my work landed me my first job on Elance. It’s not enough, of course, but I’m prepared to take the profile and revisions to their natural successful conclusion.

When you got your first job, what strategies did you employ? What, specifically, did you do when you made the jump from ‘just doing it’ to being serious? I’d love to know!

How to Make Money: Get Serious about your business

I got my first job on Elance! I had tried in the past, but never managed to make it happen. I was totally convinced that the only jobs which were awarded on Elance were for the cut-rate subcontractors who live in other countries, but I proved them wrong. The best part of this experience is that I can tell you WHY I got a job on Elance. Not only can I replicate the steps, but I can tell you how to make money.

I got serious.

Up until the beginning of the month, I wasn’t serious about getting the jobs. I would send half-assed proposals out to potential clients and I would be turned down. My profile and portfolio were sparse, and my overview was lacking what they needed. The day after I upped my game and decided to take the hunt seriously, I got a job paying my real rate.

Getting serious about the jobs is not about wearing a dour face. It’s not about taking each rejection as a brutal blow. It’s about doing what needs to be done and presenting an image to employers that you are trustworthy and capable of handling their assignments. I plan to leverage this single assignment to get many more.

Actions YOU can take to be serious about getting the job

1. Make the Decision

Making the decision to take it seriously is the first step for success in any endeavor. If you’re actually serious about getting the job, it’s going to take time and effort. It’s going to take revision upon revision of your resume, as well as a fervent dedication to hunt down your dreams, stab them, and drag them back to your lair. The decision to pursue a job is the first step..

2. Research

Research allows you to develop strategies for success. There are tactics which you can use to make you more tempting to employers. Since Elance is a virtual platform, you need to present a aura of confidence and trustworthiness. Read five of the websites about getting the job, and stop there to avoid contradiction and confusion. You’re ready for the next step.

3. Give Them What They Want

Once you have discovered what is needed to get the job, it’s time to actually create the necessary materials. At Elance, there is an emphasis on portfolios and skillsets. Beef up those two things and make an excellent overview which portrays confidence in your abilities. Look at this process objectively: what would make you hire you?

4. Emulate

Research is an essential part of getting the job. Take the time to find successful people within the field, study their path, and emulate them. Find the steps that would be best suited to you and follow through on doing them. If you know someone who is successful at the job that you’re wanting, dig deeply to find the steps which they took.

5. Put Your Heart Into It

People can tell whether you are paying something lip-service or putting your heart into it. They know whether you are presenting them with your first draft or your second, and they know what is ‘right’ for their qualifications. Since you have made the decision to get the job, make the decision to do it right. Polish your resume and your qualifications. Examine your portfolio. Pour your personality into it, and take it seriously.

6. Network

Develop of peer group of people who are going through the same process of finding a job. Use the forums if you are trying to get a virtual job. Use networking groups if you are trying to get an offline job. You’ll find that the more you network, the more that people will open opportunities within your life. Take the time, and those contacts will repay you with more contacts as well as jobs.

7. Disclosure

Tell others about your job history. Reveal parts of yourself which are absolutely unique to you. Tell the story, and others will be attracted to you because you are showing that you are unique. There are many applicants for the position that you want. It’s in your hands to show your potential employer what makes you different from the rest.

8. Strengths

Don’t throw your hat into every ring. Cater to the strengths that you have, and only apply for jobs which you can knock out of the park. If you find yourself wanting to get a job just for getting the job without regard to your personal strengths, you are setting yourself up for a disappointment. Look for the jobs that you can actually see yourself doing, ones for which a strategy immediately comes to mind.

9. Honesty

Be honest with yourself and others about your capabilities. Lying about your experience or fluffing it up usually leads to disappointments. Overselling yourself is quickly detected during the course of doing the work, and you’re likely to lose a potential client and reference as a result. This is part of playing to your personal strengths.

When you decide to get a job, pour your heart into it and make that your job. Devote as much time, care, and attention as it takes to make it happen. When you do this, you will find that employers take you more seriously, and more opportunities will open.

Photo courtesy of Sara G on Flickr. Used under the Creative Commons License.

What are you doing to take your job search seriously? What tips and tricks do you have? Please leave a comment below.

Are there REALLY a million ways to save money? That's the Experiment!