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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 Save Money the Easy Way

With the economy still struggling and many people still in very difficult financial situations, everybody is looking for how to save money. Unfortunately, many people don’t quite know where to start, as it is very difficult for most of us to prioritize costs and know where to spend, where to save, and where to invest. The good news is that these problems do not arise due to any shortage of opportunity – people who carefully plan and keep their eyes open can find endless opportunities to save in their daily lives. Here are some excellent money-saving tips which will help you keep more money in the bank.

Ignore brand names

This tip can apply to everything from buying new clothes, new appliances, or groceries. Those store brand products are usually just as good as the ‘name’ brands, and often sell at a fraction of the price.

Minimize Your Transportation, Minimize Gas Costs

While the best money saving tip would be to leave the car behind and choose public transportation, this is obviously not a choice which can be made in most areas. When possible, try to use your bike or even your feet. Instead of making the special trip to the gym, take a walk around the neighborhood. Remember, you are trying to save money overall, and every little bit that you don’t spend, you can save for later.

Cut Back on Bad Habits

Bad habits are expensive, and you are spending large amounts of money to sustain those habits. The average price of a 2 liter bottle is $1.50. The average price of a pack of cigarettes is $5. The cost for good alcohol is enormous. Minimizing, or even cutting out altogether, these bad habits will both save money and reduce the instance of the bad habit.

Get Stable Investments

The stock market is a roller coaster. The real estate market is in shambles. Give some thought to investing in gold, a more appropriate and stable safe haven for your money.

Sell Your Stuff

Many people have attics, basements, and storage units that are positively crammed with goods that are just collecting dust. Have a good garage sale, look toward one of the selling sites, or simply sell some of this to friends. You’d be absolutely amazed with the amount of money that you can earn, and you’re clearing the way to a more minimalist, frugal household. If you clear out your storage unit to the point where you don’t have to have it anymore, that’s an additional savings per month.

Keep your eye out for coupons and deals

There is nothing so tasty as a meal which is bought with a coupon. There is nothing which reads better than a book bought at a significant amount off of the list price. Keeping those deals in mind is easier than ever these days – there are sites, apps, the tried and true local papers, and more which have the frugal person in mind. Before you purchase something at retail, think about the deals which you can get on those products.

Photo is courtesy of Epsos.de and is used with permission under the Creative Commons Attribution license.

Online Coupons Done Right

Finding the best online coupons is a passing fancy for some, a mission for others. Me? I rarely buy anything more than groceries, but when I do purchase my books, music, or clothes, I buy them from online vendors. While I love supporting local stores, it’s often easier and cheaper to use an online retailer for those extras. Why is it cheaper? Coupon codes are available for nearly every major online retailer in the world, and that can save you a ton of cash.

Where do you find coupon codes?

The largest database of online coupon codes can be found at Coupon Chief. Basically, if you’re wanting to purchase something online and need a coupon code, start with Coupon Chief. It’s likely there’s a coupon for you in their expansive list of stores and listings. You can find offers for free shipping, money off your total purchase, as well as percentage discounts off of your total purchase. There are also a few surprises from vendors, so it’s worth checking out.

I’ve tried some other coupon sites, but they are difficult to muddle through. While they might have the coupon codes available, you have to jump through countless hoops or go through a pesky registration process to get to them. Personally, I see registration, even if the account is free, as a barrier. Coupon Chief is different. While they encourage you to sign up, it’s not necessary to register on the site to receive great deals.

How does Coupon Chief Get Its Codes?

That’s one of the great features. Many coupon places solicit their codes without anything expected in return. Coupon Chief has a program called Pays-2-Share where you can get 2% from any of the purchases that are made from the codes. In other words, if you’re one of those who scours the net looking for the best coupon codes, you can get paid for your efforts with an affiliate program. That’s the part which requires registration, but it’s worth it to get some money out of the deal.

As a result, countless coupon codes are submitted for review from everywhere on the web. When the database is added to, everyone wins. Coupon Chief harnessed the power of social networking in the interests of helping everyone save money.

Are these codes legit?

With such an overwhelming incentive to bring coupon codes to the site, some might get the idea that they can submit false codes in the hopes that they will receive money. Each of the codes at Coupon Chief is rated, commented upon, and thoroughly reviewed by its users. If someone submits a bogus coupon code, or the code goes to a sleazy vendor, it will be quickly caught. They have no tolerance for BS, they just want to bring you the best coupon codes around.

Whether you’re just dabbling in coupon codes, or you have a passion for finding the best deals and sharing, Coupon Chief is the best place to go. I know that I will go there before I shop at any online retailers so I can get a discount on already low Internet prices.

Disclosure

While this is a paid review, the opinions expressed herein are my own and not influenced by Coupon Chief or any other individual, entity, or corporation. Although I don’t go shopping often, when I pick up something from Amazon or Woman Within, I’ll be stopping there first. Picture courtesy of DMDonahoo on Flickr and is used with permission from the creative commons license.

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.