Tag Archives: elance

Writing Advice for Non-Native English Writers

I recently got a comment on my post about Why I Left Textbroker asking for tips on making money online through writing. I have literally made thousands of dollars through writing on Textbroker and other platforms (I’ve recently discovered the joys of Elance, as you know) and, rather than making a short and simple answer, I decided to write a post. Here is some writing advice for the non-native English writer.

First of all, I’m firmly in favor of everyone getting a shot at writing and following their passion for writing. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a non-native English speaker or not – I believe that there’s a place for everyone, and that the need for content is such that everyone can be employed. Good search engine optimization and avoidance of Pandalization drives many content seekers to places like The Content Authority, iWriter, Textbroker, and other content mills.

At these content mills, writers can ‘cut their teeth’ on learning the business of writing for profit. There are literally thousands of articles available for individuals to learn the ins and outs of SEO, article directory submission, and more. There are plenty of non-native English speakers which work on those sites, as well as on Elance, Guru, and Odesk. And they’re making reasonable money for their location.

Here are some tactics to boost your writing skills and get the better jobs.

Interaction

Interact with native English speakers and study their mannerisms and patterns of speaking. One great place to do this is at My Language Exchange, where speakers of your language and speakers of English are paired together to work on teaching each other their native tongue. If you are in more urban areas of your country, it’s highly likely that you come in contact with native English speakers. Choose those with whom you feel comfortable, and ask them to help you practice. Another place which is extremely exciting is Duolingo – it’s in beta right now, but it’s going to be a boon for everyone.

Read fiction

Read fiction written by native English speaking authors. By reading this fiction, you will see some of the dialogue which happens between the characters, and get to understand the nuances of the English language. You see, you’re at a disadvantage, just like every person who is learning another language – you might have the basic mechanics of the language down, but nuance takes longer to learn because it comes from cultural indoctrination. Reading English fiction offers a glimpse of this nuance-filled writing in its natural habitat.

Read non-fiction

Look at some of the copywriting books which are available. There are tons of them out there, though I admit a partiality toward Robert Bly’s The Copywriter’s Handbook. For stylistic issues, turn to Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. You can get a good round base of the mechanics of English, subject/verb agreement, and more. The first thing to strive for in the English writing world is the mechanics — then work toward the art and the passion which comes from learning a new language.

Translation

Find an article written in your native tongue that truly strikes home for you. Translate that article into English, and then show it to a native English speaker to see if they were able to get the passion and beauty of the original article through your words. If you don’t have someone available who will read and critique your English writing, I’ll be more than happy to read it over and tell you where the writing could be better.

Persistence

Keep writing. And writing. And more writing. And then when you’re done writing, write some more. Keep submitting that writing to the content mills and see if they will give you a true critique of your work, rather than telling you that you didn’t put a comma here or there. The only way that you’re going to get better, and the only way that you’re going to be taken seriously and make real money within the English article writing world is if you write. If you’re merely after a few bucks, that’s one thing, but if you want to make a real serious go at it, you have to keep writing.

Non-native English speakers have several advantages and disadvantages when it comes to competing against English speaking writers. Because of the cost of living, you can afford to charge content seekers less, but usually your work doesn’t compare in quality to the native English speaking writing. Push yourself into becoming better at English, study mannerisms, and get the technical work down cold. When you advance to the next level, it will be extremely rewarding.

Photo is courtesy of Zoetnet on Flickr, and is used with permission through the Creative Commons Attribution License.

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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!