Copy and Paste “Freelance Writing”

To kick off the new year, I wanted to address an important issue regarding copying and pasting information from the internet and turning it in as “freelance writing work.” I am absolutely appalled by the fact that this is even a matter that is necessary to mention, but alas, there are some so called “writers” who believe that it is perfectly fine to copy and paste and get paid for it.

Freelance writing consists of research AND writing. This means that when you find the information you are looking for, you write about it. You don’t just steal what someone else wrote and try to write a few of your own words around it. You need to write it all by yourself. This is simply the ethical thing to do, and it would be even better if writers cited their references more often. In school, we all learn that plagiarism is wrong, but I guess that message just doesn’t seem to stick with some people.

The least freelance writers should do is use some talent and creativity and put their own phrasing to the information that they find. Add your own angle or twist…use a thesaurus for crying out loud! If you like they way someone else stated something, put it in quotes and cite the source. It’s that simple.

Copying and pasting is not freelance writing, and I consider it a supreme insult to the honest, hard-working freelance writers who make an effort to write original work and adhere to the copyright laws of the United States (you know who you are and I applaud you).

I hire help from time to time, and I will fire anyone who sends me something that they found over the internet rather than writing it themselves. I greatly appreciate websites like and because they make it easy to spot copying. Clients often use these services to check the writing work done for hire, and they should. You always risk losing a client and gaining a poor reputation when presenting someone else’s work as your own.

If you truly want to be a freelance writer, do the writing. End of story.

Sources are Crucial in Freelance Writing

If you want to be successful as a freelance writer, you need to produce quality content. Having valuable sources is an important part of producing quality content.

How do you find good sources?

Network and build bridges between yourself and people who are well versed in the subjects that you write about. Ask friends and family, ask around in chat rooms and forums (to find out who experts are, don’t use a chat room as a source), and search online. Interviews make for good articles and associating with experts will boost your credibility.

If you primarily use the internet as a source, make sure that you favor the sites of experts with credentials, government websites and .org sites that tend to be educational. See if you can contact the experts behind the websites via email or phone.

Go to the library. Do not underestimate to quality of hard copy information. Some facts change over time, so it is best to show preference to later additions. You may be able to fact-check online to make sure the information you are using is up to date, but don’t be afraid to crack open a book.

Using Sources Properly

The way that you use those sources is vital as well. An improperly used source can be worse for a writer’s reputation than not using any sources at all. Remember to always cite your references, particularly if you spoke directly with them. Be sure to use quotes and researched information within context. Always record interviews (unless the source totally objects) to ensure that your quotes are accurate. Make sure that if you paraphrase, the words still carry a similar meaning to what was originally stated.

A “References” or “Sources” list at the end of a short online article may suffice. If you are writing for a magazine, make sure you follow their recommended citation process.  Mentioning your sources within the content will strengthen your points. Familiarize yourself with a variety of citation styles and stick to one that you are most comfortable using.

Write from the Depths of Your Soul

I just read an amazing inspirational piece about writing something that is uniquely yours and as far from cliché as possible. The only way I can summarize it is to say this:

Write from the depths of your soul. Dig deeper and forget about everything else you have ever read or written before. Search within yourself for something that no one else can unleash. Let it be raw and unexpected. Don’t do what has already been done.

“Write what’s real and true to you. That’s what stories are made of.”

“The Write Stuff” by Charlene Teglia is highly worthy of link love.

Productive Business Calls

As a freelance writer that works primarily online, I seldom need to use the phone or skype with my clients. I do, however reluctantly, speak with clients directly from time to time. Knowing how to sound professional and make a positive impression on a client (or potential client) can make the difference between making money and missing an opportunity. Here are a few pointers that can help you survive the dreaded vocal exchange and somehow resonate competence and offer quality customer service.

Generally, you should speak clearly, concisely, and professionally. There is no real need to be totally formal if you are courteous. Some small talk is fine, as this can help you build a relationship with the client. Be careful, however, not to drag the conversation out too long.

Phone Call Etiquette

The greeting is important. Smile (they can hear that believe it or not) and say hello. You can start your conversation off  by saying your name or business name. You might say something like, “Hello, this is ____. How can I help you?” This assures the caller that they have dialed the correct number and that you are interested in helping them. It does set the tone for the rest of the conversation.

Once they let you know what they are looking for, it is good practice to ask questions for clarification. If you think you understand what they need, rehash what it is so they know that you understand. This can quiet the nervous type who feels like they need to repeat themselves. You are also demonstrating that you have good listening skills, which can inspire confidence in a potential client that you will give them what they ask.

It is perfectly fine not to give straight answers right away. I don’t mean ramble or avoid questions, but you don’t have to agree to a project over the phone if you aren’t ready. If they need a quote, make sure that you understand research requirements, deadline, piece length, etc. before you blurt out a price. You can always tell them that you need to call them back or email them within a day with a more solid answer. This is particularly a good idea if they caught you in the middle of something and your mind may not totally be in the conversation.

Before you end the chat, ask if they need anything else. Be polite and let them know when you plan to be in touch again. You might also want to be specific about the actions you will take before you speak again. For example, you might say something like, “I will have a more accurate quote for that ebook on arthritis you need by tomorrow night.” After that, it is up to you to deliver as promised.

For some freelance writers, it is much easier to type up a nice professional email than to actually speak to a stranger. Do you dread business calls like I do?

Overcoming Distractions When Writing

Every writer faces distraction from time to time. Email, Twitter, Facebook, phone calls, texts, television, family, friends, etc. Here are some tips to help you minimize distractions and stay focused on your writing.

What is distracting you?

The first step is simple. Figure out what your weak points are. What is distracting you and why?

Once you determine what is luring your attention from your special craft, you can begin to brainstorm a way to counteract it. Can you resolve distractions before writing time? For example, if social media is drawing you away from getting words on the page, set a timer and visit those sites first. Limit the time you spend updating statuses and check new posts of only a few select people. It will satiate  your curiosity temporarily while you work. If you can take care of whatever tends to steal your focus before your writing time, you will be less likely to stop writing because of those curious thoughts. This method works well if household chores or errands bother you the most.

Try using the distraction as a motivator. You can also use your distraction as a reward. Using the social media example, tell yourself that you can find out what is happening as soon as you write 500 words. Set some sort of goal that must be reached before you allow yourself to indulge.

Limit your writing time. If you are a writer, then at some point you must have decided that you love writing. Tease yourself and limit the amount of time you can spend writing per session. Once you get into a consistent habit of writing, you will enjoy it so much that you don’t want to stop when it is time. Take a few extra minutes if you have to finish a thought, but leave it alone. This will motivate you to come back again and dive right into your work next time.

Personally, my main distractions are household chores and family. What distracts you from your writing?

Wrestling with the Fear of Successful Freelance Writing

I have been dealing with some underlying issues that have affected my writing career recently. One of them is the fear of success. I was reminded of this when I came across a blog post about the fear of success and it talked about self-sabotoge and it really spoke to me. I must admit that there are ways that I have certainly self-sabotaged my writing subconsiously, and I am starting to realize why.

The fear of success can be paralyzing and distracting. I have found myself really wanting to succeed and yet I have really struggled at following through with my plan, purusuing the goals that I have set because I worry that I may not continue to be as successful as before or that if I do one thing well I will be exposed as some sort of fraud or someone will realize that I am not perfect and the clients will change their minds about me.

I am overcoming that fear now. I am ready to be successful, finally and I am not afraid of it anymore. I am ready to take the bull by the horns and just do what I need to do to make it.

Have you struggled with the fear of success?

Should you have a daily writing goal?

I read a blog post about Effortless Writing which offers some tips on how to allow writing to flow more easily. The first point struck me and made me think. The author, David Turnbull, suggested that setting high daily goals like thousand of words or sitting at the computer for eight hours can take away from the feeling of fulfillment that comes when writing occurs without pressure.

I can testify to the fact that a tall goal can take the fun out of the writing process. It is much easier to set a tiny goal and surpass it than it is to set an extremely challenging goal and barely make it. I can see how demanding a certain amount of writing from ourselves everyday can be a bit difficult, and dry.

So I wonder now: Should a specific amount of writing should be done everyday? Certainly we all need a certain amount of money, and therefore we must do a certain amount of writing to get it. Aside from that, what kind of writing goals should we set? I think a freelance writer should definitely set some sort of goal, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be the same everyday.

In order to truly enjoy the experience, it is important to relax and not be hindered by self-imposed standards that can remove the joy of writing. At the same time, we should aspire to challenge ourselves to improve the quality of our writing and be productive enough to keep the business growing…I would propose that one good way to approach daily writing is simply to “accomplish something.” Perhaps that can be a certain number of words, or a certain amount of time spent writing. It depends on each writer and what will motivate them.

For me, I think that focusing on the overall purpose of my business, and the broader goals of my writing business (producing high quality writing, helping others promote their businesses, and teaching others what I know) motivates me more than a certain amount of money or a goal of a certain amount of words everyday. That might be too general to motivate some freelance writers, but that works for me. Setting a word count goal or a dollar amount does not.

I work within my deadlines and think about why I do what I do, as opposed to how much I am doing.

What about you? Do you need a specific measurable amount or words, time or money to motivate you to write?

Self-Respect and Working from Home

Being your own boss requires a certain amount of self-respect. You might think that you are worthy enough to be your own boss, but your actions might reveal that you undermine your own authority or abilities. There are certain limiting thought patterns and behaviors that will hold you back from reaching your full potential while working from home, and it is vital that you avoid them. He are some common ways that you might disrespect yourself as your own boss.

Procrastination. Everyone puts off work once in a while, but if you have made a routine out of placing other “priorities” over completing projects and taking care of important business tasks, you might be undermining the importance of what you do.

Mediocre or poor quality work. People who take pride in their career won’t settle for the products and services that are of poor quality or below the highest of standards. If you really respect yourself as a serious business professional, you won’t allow poor service or substandard products to carry your name or company name.

Undercharging. If you value your time and the effort that you put into your products and services, you won’t sell yourself short. Naturally, to be competitive, charging top dollar will not always work to your advantage, but you will charge a fair price that makes your labor worth while for you.

Focusing on mistakes or negative thoughts. Everyone thinks negative thoughts sometimes. Everyone makes mistakes. The truth is, however, that those negative thoughts and mistakes should not be your focus. Sometimes you need to work hard to think positively, but it is a worthwhile investment of energy.

Believing more in your limitations than your potential. Some people don’t believe that they truly have what it takes and are just “testing the waters.” These individuals often succumb to the thoughts that tell them that they just aren’t “cut out” for the job, even though they might actually be better at it than others. Have an accurate yet positive attitude regarding your abilities and don’t allow negativity to hinder your progress.

Published in: on February 27, 2010 at 11:34 pm  Comments (1)  
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Changing your writing atmosphere

Since writing, even non-fiction writing, is an extremely creative process, the environment in which you write is crucial. Creativity requires surroundings that are free of distraction so that you can relax, stimulate your mind, and think clearly. If you find that you have a lack of motivation to get your work done, or if you are constantly distracted, you may need to get into a different atmosphere.

I have struggled with this at home, since I live in a small apartment with my husband. With very limited space, it is hard to maintain a consistent “office” environment. While I do have space to work, the distraction of being home sometimes overwhelms me. When I start to think about household chores, television, video games, and the plethora of other things to do during the day, my environment just doesn’t help.

Sometimes I rearrange the furniture or work in another room. This is a temporary solution, however, because it does not work everyday. This might be enough if you have a full home office to use, but I have to share what little space I have with my husband, and  I have to move my writing station in order to exercise. The inconsistency can make it difficult to focus.

Getting out of the apartment works quite well for me. I will go to a café with free wifi, or a library. I am able to sit down and get right to work without a second thought. That simple change in atmosphere takes everything but writing off of my mind. Once I feel that I have accomplished what I set my mind to do, I can go back home and do some of those other things that would have prevented me from getting my work done.

It is important to have a consistent place to do your writing, because your mind will naturally go into working mode. On the other hand, surroundings can get a little too familiar, and this can either bore or distract you. Change your writing environment every once in a while to keep things fresh. Here are some places you can go:

  • bookstore
  • Café/coffee shop
  • library
  • outside (park, beach, back yard, porch, deck)
  • college campus
  • wifi hot spot/internet café

Where do you go when you need to write, but don’t want to stay home?

Freelance Writing after a Hiatus

Many people have a difficult time returning to work after a relaxing vacation. Some people may feel ready to approach freelance writing with a new perspective, a clear mind, and a new inspiring vision, but the enthusiasm isn’t there for everyone. There are also other life changes that pull us away from our work and these things can make writing difficult at times. A new baby, a loss in the family, moving into a new home, getting married, or getting divorced can change us and our writing.

The loneliness, stress of a hectic schedule, and demanding clients piling on assignments can quickly turn a writer off from the idea of diving right back into the full-time gig. Here are some things that you can do to make the adjustment as smoothly as possible.

Prioritize. Take time to look over what needs to be done and make a plan. Do a few important but simple tasks first, such as responding to emails. Delay other things that won’t directly affect your client relationships or your ability to meet pending deadlines. Plan to tackle less important projects or tasks in a few days once you have had a chance to refocus your brain.

Get serious. Play time, for the most part, is over. There is work to be done and there are bills to pay. You have to make money between now and your next vacation, so get your mind in gear. It may help to read some freelance writing blogs, articles, and forums. Commenting, chatting, and reconnecting with the writing community can help get your mind back into the writing groove.

Start writing. I would not suggest starting with a heavy research project, or work for a tough client right away. Free writing is a better idea. Sometimes it is beneficial just to get all of your random thoughts down on paper before you can truly focus your attention on writing something for someone else. Write about what is going on in your life or in your head. This is a great way to reflect on recent changes and prepare your mind for working again. Once you have given yourself this warm-up, tackle an assignment for your favorite client or work on the project that interests you the most.

Take it easy. Gradually work your way back up to the amount of writing you used to do everyday. Take breaks when you need them. Stay connected to your friends, family, and writing community because support and firm relationships make a difference. Your work is important too, but don’t forget that you are human.


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