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 DupeCop.com and CopyScape.com 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.

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No call, no show freelance writing

I have been shocked and amazed at the lack of professionalism displayed in the freelance writing world. On more than one occasion there have been freelance writers who have accepted a project, confirmed that they understand everything and agreed to the deadline, yet they don’t deliver. Not only do they not deliver, but they disappear completely. Recently, I hired a writer to help out with 10 short articles (less than 400 words). The writer seemed like they were in it for the money alone (which perhaps should have been a red flag for me) yet they seemed to be interested in doing the work. They asked several questions to make sure that they understood the instructions (about 4 emails back and forth), so I assumed that they were serious about completing the job.

Nope, they disappeared. Not a single email after that day. No response to my email asking about the status of the work. No call, no show. It set back my project, and I lost money. Time and money. I was furious. One of my good writer friends had a similar situation happen to them. Why do these people think that this is perfectly fine to do to someone?

If you are new to freelance writing, or even if you have been in this business for a while, please don’t do that. It reeks of unprofessionalism, gives good freelance writers a bad rap, and it is down right inconsiderate. If you can’t do the work, don’t accept the project. If you take a project and find that you don’t think the work is worth it, or if you are in over your head, own up to it and do the responsible thing and notify the buyer immediately. Walk away if you want to, but don’t put someone in a position where the deadline is reached and they have no one to replace you.

Personally, I question the integrity of anyone who would act interested in doing work, and then quit without providing any notification at all. That is no way to run a business, and sooner or later, that kind of behavior will come back to haunt you. If you want to be truly successful as a freelance writer, the honest way, take your work seriously. Clearly, if you can communicate about getting paid and taking a job, you can communicate and end a job, too. It takes a true professional to admit when they can’t or would rather not do something, and it is simply courteous to let your client know it’s over.

Cheap Freelance Writing Needs to Stop

I just read a great post on Tumblemoose.com. It cited specific examples of the types of cheap projects that freelance writers have been willing to settle for, and notes that this is the reason why it is difficult to get paid well in this career (at least online). George writes:

As long as writers are willing to whore themselves out for less than one-half a penny a word,  things will never change. I know that there are folks bidding from other countries that are ok with that kind of wage, but in looking at the bidders, there are far fewer of those folks than one would think. I wish I could organize a freelance writer’s strike.  What do you think? Writers Opposed to Piss Poor Offered Rates (WOPPOR)  How about organizing Writer’s Tea Parties?  Maybe some folks could draft a Writer’s Declaration of Independence? – Alternatively, we could go to our windows and shout, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!!!”

Freelance writers have definitely sold themselves short. We should not stand for less than minimum wage, and far too many writers respond to $1 per article offers, and practically slave over articles for a few dollars per day. I certainly wish there was a way to revolutionize freelance writing and put an end to the insulting pittance that writers are offered. The problem is that we all work for ourselves, and some writers will simply take whatever they think they can get.

The only thing I can do is encourage writers to stand up for themselves, and refuse to accept tiny payments for their valuable work. If you are reading this, and you are accepting work that doesn’t pay your bills, STOP IT! You have to set a standard for yourself and don’t compromise it. Your talents are needed, otherwise there would not be so many projects posted out there. Freelance writing seems like the only business that has a high demand, yet there is never inflation. Writers work hard and should be rewarded for it. Freelance writing should pay the bills, and we should never have to settle for less than the average office clerk makes.

Do your part and consider the writing community: demand to be paid what you are worth, or at least say no to projects that offer less than a cashier at McDonald’s earns.

As long as writers are willing to whore themselves out for less than one-half a penny a word,  things will never change.
I know that there are folks bidding from other countries that are ok with that kind of wage, but in looking at the bidders, there are far fewer of those folks than one would think.
I wish I could organize a freelance writer’s strike.  What do you think? Writers Opposed to Piss Poor Offered Rates (WOPPOR)  How about organizing Writer’s Tea Parties?  Maybe some folks could draft a Writer’s Declaration of Independence? – Alternatively, we could go to our windows and shout, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!!!

Recovering From Mistakes

I just read a short post on Freelance Zone, and it was encouraging. It was about letting go of your past mistakes. Every writer makes mistakes here and there, and it is perfectly normal. No one is perfect, and you can’t expect yourself to be. Putting yourself down and reminding yourself of the mistake that you made will only wear you down and keep you from shining. Forgive yourself and let it go, as the post I read suggested. It was certainly liberating for me, as I make mistakes, too.

The sooner you learn from what went wrong and move on, the better. Take the lesson for what it is worth, and consider yourself more experienced for having made the mistake. You can’t change the past, but you can affect your future.

Academic Writing Online

Be very careful when you see an opportunity for academic writing online. I have yet to see a highly compensated opportunity that is not ethically questionable. Very early on in my freelance writing career, I stumbled across a website that paid up to $16 per page, required a college degree (which I have) and offered ongoing work. I quickly applied, only to be gravely disappointed. I was thrilled about the opportunity, until I found out that I was writing papers for students. I wrote all about the experience in my review of the website. Needless to say, I quit. It was purely unethical and the pay really wasn’t as good as it sounded. Even if the pay was higher, I would have left the position.

I would like to thank Allison Boyer for her post The Truth About Academic Writing Online because every serious writer should stand up for the ethics of the business. Don’t compromise moral standards for a paycheck.

Common Blogging Mistakes

A good blog takes hard work and dedication. There are several reasons why certain blogs fail. With out helpful and engaging content posted on a regular basis, blogs can end up with little to no readers at all. Here are a few common blogging mistakes to avoid.

Blogging about the same things everyone else is blogging about (try to be original)

Irregular Posting – post consistently

Clutter -don’t have too many buttons, widgets, navigation elements

Great Posts but Terrible Titles – be creative, catchy, and a little mysterious

Not Being Useful – blogs that meet needs and solve problems are blogs that people will keep coming back to

Read 21 Blogging Mistakes from Problogger

Publishing Complaints

As a freelance writer, you have to be careful about your online image and your client relationships. Everyone will come across a client during their career that they don’t get along with or just have a hard time pleasing. While it can relieve stress to rant about your client woes, it is not a good idea to publish them. What you post on a community board or on your blog could be seen by current or potential clients, and what you say could reflect poorly on you.

Make sure that you communicate directly with your client if you have specific issues with your work relationship.You might be able to resolve the problem.

If you must vent, type up your complaint in a file, and don’t save it. If you would like, you can print it out and tear it up, but don’t complain on your blog or in chat that is publicly visible.

You can get on the phone with another freelance writer or email another freelance writer who knows exactly what you are dealing with. Again, the point is to keep these issues private because public whining will only reflect poorly on you.

Don’t make that mistake.

Turning Down Freelance Work

There will come a time when you may consider turning down work. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. Under certain circumstances, it might be a good idea. In other situations, rejecting work can be a big mistake.

It is a good idea to turn down and assignment if:

-the pay is too low (less than a penny per word/lower than minimum wage per hour)

-the client is new and you are overwhelmingly busy

-the expectations are unrealistic (example: I need 50 well researched pages of content in the next two hours.)

-you suspect that they won’t be able to pay you (“We are a start-up company, so we have a really tight budget.”)

-the requirements are out of your skill set

You may want to take the job if:

-you are busy, but this client buys your work occasionally or on a regular basis (Repeat business can sustain you in tough times, so make yourself available when faithful clients need you.)

-the work can be outsourced (the assignment is easy to understand and explain, as well as paid at a higher rate than someone else would charge)

-things are slow and the pay is lower than you usually charge (Don’t accept pittance, but be willing to work with the client’s budget.)

-you have limited experience with the main skill required, but you are confident in your ability to learn quickly

Ultimately, you don’t have to take every assignment that comes along. That is the freedom of working for yourself. I am rather particular about what freelance work I will take, but I don’t turn down opportunities that will benefit me in the long run.

I have hired freelancers for ongoing work before and some of them have made the mistake of telling me at some point that they are too busy, but they hope to work with me in the future. To me, that shows in both a positive and a negative light. On the one hand, they must be a quality provider if so many other people are buying their work. On the other hand, I think it is poor business management and poor time management if a freelancer can’t handle one extra assignment from a faithful client.

Don’t get me wrong, I am understanding if things come up or if the freelancer can’t make a tight deadline. If they aren’t confident that they can do a good job with a certain subject or type of work, it is probably wise not to take the assignment. It is just a turn off when it seems that they simply don’t know what to do when things get busy.

What do you think about turning down freelance work?

Money Mistakes Freelance Writers Make

I read a great article on Women on Writing about mistakes that freelance writers make with regards to finances. They made some excellent points about debt, record keeping and diversifying your income sources. Some points I appreciated include:

Think twice before you incur debt to promote your book or push your writing, then think again! Not all debt is bad—just most of it.

Different clients in different genres will give you different (and more) paychecks!

Keeping records is like putting money into your pocket.

Read the full article here

Freelance Writing and Grammar

“Whatever type of writing you want to be successful in, accept that you need to work your way up in the craft by learning the basics, the rules. Writing is like any other profession in this way.” Bob Mayer

Novice writers often make the mistake of breaking the rules of grammar, or not knowing the rules of grammar. This is not to say that there isn’t a time when it is okay to break grammatical rules, but this is no excuse for not knowing them. In order to be able to break certain grammar guidelines, you need to know what they are. Good writing only stems from learning and practicing how to communicate effectively within the language. Once your skills have been developed in using words correctly, you will then be free to manipulate the language, break the rules, and still be an effective writer.

Successful writers who seem to “get away with” writing informally and with supposedly no regard for traditional grammatical practices have years of experience. These writers are not simply making mistakes, but are purposefully crafting the words in a certain way for a reason.

No matter how good you feel your writing is, make sure that you learn the rules of grammar and follow them. Don’t break ’em unless you got a reason. 🙂

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