Tag Archives: textbroker

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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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