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.

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.

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?

Better Writing: Avoiding Passive Voice

It is a good idea for freelance writers to avoid passive voice. Writers should not think that using passive voice is a grammatical error, but using active voice makes for better writing most of the time.

What is passive voice?

Passive voice is the phrase used to describe sentences in which the subject receives the action of the verb rather than the subject performing the action. For example:

The man was slapped by the woman.

That same sentence written in active voice would read:

The woman slapped the man.

Another example of passive voice is in a sentence where there is no specific subject performing the action.

eg. Research was conducted.

What is wrong with writing in passive voice?

Writing in passive voice is considered a stylistic “don’t.” While it is not necessarily a grammatical error, passive voice can sound awkward, leave out important details, and reduce the authority of a sentence.

Consider the following.

How can I avoid writing in passive voice?

Life as your Writing Muse

There is writing material in everyday if you look for it. Sometimes writing ideas can come to you when you are not looking for them. We should embrace the muse that life is, and write in whatever genre suits our personal expression.

If you are struggling with writers block or have trouble coming up with story ideas or topics to write about, examine your life. What is happening to you mentally, emotionally or physically? What is going on in your friends or family’s lives?

Writers who don’t find these sources inspirational, which is probably rare, can take to observation. Go out to a park, the mall, a parking lot, a restaurant, club, school campus, or anywhere there are people. There is nothing easier than making instant judgment calls about someone’s personality based on how they look or sound. Pay really close attention to the things that people are talking about, wearing, buying, carrying, or where they are going. Use all of this information to springboard ideas from. Feel free to make incredible assumptions about them since they have no idea that you are writing about them.

Animal lovers can gain inspiration from observation as well. The most basic of animal behavior can translate into human behavior. Run with the ideas.

How to Write an Effective Outline

Yesterday, I wrote about the benefits of using outlines as a freelance writer. Here are some tips on writing an effective outline:

-Take the time to do some preliminary research before you write the outline.

-Give your outline three major sections: Introduction, Body, and Conclusion.

-Create a thesis or a descriptive statement explaining the central point or purpose of the piece to head your outline. (Part of the introduction)

-Start by listing all of your general points and then add specific details that explain each point. (Body)

-List your major points in the order that you will write about them. If you are making an argument, use your strongest points first. You make be able to follow your topic chronologically; if so, start from the beginning and move forward. (Body)

-You can use short phrases or words lists (a topic outline) or express your main points in sentence form (a sentence outline).

-You may not have a conclusion at the beginning when your outline is first written. If your research is not concluded, speculate about what your conclusion might be and write it down. Remember that it is best to not to use brand new information at the very end of your writing. It is better to incorporate your major points already mentioned into a final thought.

-Make use of your outline during the writing process. It can be especially helpful in keeping you on topic, or reminding your of your original thoughts in case you get stuck. At the same time, don’t be afraid to deviate from your outline if you stronger points, or if the focus that you chose did not work out.

Using Outlines in Freelance Writing

Most people can recall writing papers for school. At one point or another, a teacher required an outline of a paper that you were (supposedly) planning to write. While many students feel as if writing an outline is a waste of time, freelance writers can benefit from such an activity.

Whether your project requires that you write an article, ebook, or webpage, having an outline can improve the first draft before you begin. It can also help writers to focus on the subject and keep the content relevant and cohesive with the main purpose of the work.

Another benefit to creating an outline for your writing projects is that it can impress clients. I like to provide an outline of my writing plans at the beginning of longer assignments (like ebooks) so that the client can look it over. First of all, this lets them know that I have begun thinking seriously about the project. Secondly, it indicates that I am organized. This also presents the opportunity for them to make suggestions or changes according to their preferences. Creating outlines simple makes the entire process easier for all involved.

Being a “Professional” Freelance Writer

Here are the six characteristics of a true professional:
1. A professional is courteous. A true professional may disagree with you, but they will never be rude to you. They will maintain their composure and always speak politely.
2. A professional is reliable. When you engage a true professional to do your work, you can count on the fact that it will be done. A professional takes their work seriously and will not abandon work or a client.
3. A professional is respectful. A true professional listens attentively to your suggestions and ideas. They will inform you if they thing you should do something differently, but they will not belittle or insult you.
4. A professional is honest. With a true professional, you know what you are getting. Their word is good, and they will honestly report all of their actions.
5. A professional is responsible. A true professional will acknowledge and take responsibility for their actions — even they occasionally make mistakes.
6. A professional is competent. A professional knows how to get the job done and is up-to-date with the most recent developments in his or her field.

I absolutely loved Wednesday’s article on Freelance Folder. It talked about what it means to be professional, and I totally agree with what they had to say:

“Here are the six characteristics of a true professional:

1. A professional is courteous. A true professional may disagree with you, but they will never be rude to you. They will maintain their composure and always speak politely.

2. A professional is reliable. When you engage a true professional to do your work, you can count on the fact that it will be done. A professional takes their work seriously and will not abandon work or a client.

3. A professional is respectful. A true professional listens attentively to your suggestions and ideas. They will inform you if they thing you should do something differently, but they will not belittle or insult you.

4. A professional is honest. With a true professional, you know what you are getting. Their word is good, and they will honestly report all of their actions.

5. A professional is responsible. A true professional will acknowledge and take responsibility for their actions — even they occasionally make mistakes.

6. A professional is competent. A professional knows how to get the job done and is up-to-date with the most recent developments in his or her field.”

What does professionalism look like to you?

%d bloggers like this: