Writing Styles For Others – Subtitles, H Tags, Etc…

A couple of weeks ago I thought about trying to write for one of those sites that accumulates posts on a lot of different topics; nope, I’m not even going to tell you the name of the site because I don’t want to even give them the hint of new writers they can take advantage of. Anyway, that’s not quite how they had advertised themselves. What I saw was them looking for someone who could write on specific topics that I know pretty well. Once I went to look I saw that’s not what it was at all. Still, I thought I might be interested in giving it a shot to make a little extra chunk of change.

Smoking as Fiction
Creative Commons License Frederic Guillory via Compfight

That is, until I looked at the requirements for the site. In essence, it was formulaic, not unlike years ago when I was trying to write for Demand Studios. In essence, they wanted all this stuff instead of just an article, and they wanted at least 1,500 words for the honor; ouch!

What kinds of things did they want? Well, in general, for some folks it might not seem like all that much of a big deal. However, for me it was, and I decided that they didn’t just want articles, they wanted a lot of extra stuff that, for what they were going to pay, it just wasn’t worth the effort.

Is it worth the effort on your blog posts? For me, rarely. For you… let’s look at some of these things to see.

1. Subtitles.

They wanted multiple subtitles in the article, at least 3. Here’s the thing, at least from my perspective. Unless one is writing a list post of some type, like this one, or a monster post, you’re not always going to come up with at least 3 subtitles. Goodness, some of my articles don’t have a subtitle at all. Sure, I know newspapers do it all the time but how many of us want to write like we’re reporters?

2. H tags. For those who aren’t familiar with this, H tags are code you use before specific sentences that tell search engines what you’re supposed to be writing about. In essence, they look at what’s in the H tags and then match it up with your content; that’s the easy version of it all.

You can have H1, H2, H3 and, if you’re feeling really happy about things, H4 tags. You can even have multiples of each of these tags in your article. Frankly, that gets a bit goofy and, in my opinion, it can look like you’re trying to game Google.

Here’s the thing. Most articles use H1 tags for the title. That’s because that particular tag changes the size of your font. You can use other code to reduce it but if you’re using it for your title then you’re good. On WordPress blogs, the software automatically adds H1 tags so you don’t have to bother with it, although some people like doing it twice; ugh.

In any case it’s not really natural to writing, and if you don’t know coding all that well you could royally mess things up. You’d probably use H2 – H4 tags for your subtitles. Still, it’s another element that’s not really part of writing, which makes the process bothersome.

Immagine 120
en- ri gioca sott’acqua via Compfight

3. Images.

This one is interesting. We all know (lots of folks, including me, have written about this) that images can help enhance a page. For these people, because they wanted the articles long enough, they wanted you to find at least 3 images for each post, and you had to make sure they were allowed to be used. No problem in doing that except that it’s always hard finding the proper images to use when you’re doing something for someone else.

For instance, on my blogs, if I use my own images people just have to deal with figuring out how, or if, the image fits what I’m writing about. For these folks, they want it spelled out in a way that shows the image is related; that’s time consuming and, once again, not really part of anyone’s writing style. If you know how to create images and such maybe you’re ahead of the game; I’m not close to being that creative.

4. Authority links.

These folks requested at least 3 links that could support what you’ve written about. There’s two problems with doing something like this.

One, they want links from sites ranked pretty well. How many people know how to find links that are ranked well? Actually, it’s not overly difficult to determine link strength because when you do a search on Google they put things in order based on your search terms, thus they’ve determined the high links for you. The problem is that just because a link ranked high doesn’t mean what’s behind the link contains what you need. Thus, you might have to look through a bunch of links to find what you need to confirm what you wrote.

Two, what happens if you happen to be an authority on the topic you’re writing about? In that case you probably never considered looking for links because you knew what you were talking about. Now you’re in unfamiliar territory, looking for something that validates your knowledge.

What if it doesn’t exist? That’s what I ran into years ago with Demand Studios; I was writing on health care finance stuff, one of my specialties, and none of the confirming information was online because insurance companies like Medicare didn’t put that stuff online. The only way you’d know it is if you were in the industry. Ugh!

Now… you decide to try to do all that and you’re successful and submit the article. Now you have to go through a waiting process while someone goes through to see if you’ve done everything right, and of course checks your article out for typos and language and all that other stuff. If they turn you down you have to fix whatever they don’t like… with the caveat that since that happened you can still submit your articles but you have to wait at least six months before you can apply to get paid for it.

If they approve you… you’ve just earned $20. Yup, that’s right, $20.

Before twitter and facebook...
Creative Commons License Beatriz Gil via Compfight

Let’s look at this more thoroughly. Luckily, I tend to write pretty quickly if I know what I want to write about. So, let’s say that it takes me even 10 minutes to write an article, which this one is probably taking me. To find 3 images their way might take me 15 minutes. To find links might take me 30 minutes. I know the coding part of subtitles but I’d have to figure out where to put subtitles, which means I’d have to be prepared to rewrite some of my copy to match up with them.

This would mean that, if I got paid, I was earning, if I’m lucky, about $12 or $13 an hour. Since this type of writing isn’t the kind where you could possibly pound out 5 articles a day, and since those articles would take time to put together, you end up basically having to work at least 12 or 13 hours a day.

How do you get there? Because writing isn’t just “writing”. You have to come up with an idea, maybe do some research (after all, even if we know our topics we don’t know it all…), rest, eat… rinse and repeat. All that and you could be turned down; ouch!

So, that’s writing for others. What if you’re writing for yourself? I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately by people saying we all should be trying to write these mega posts. Many of those articles are recommending some of the same stuff I mentioned above, only they’re looking for articles of at least 3,000 words; ooooo, I’m dyin’! lol

How many of you feel like you have that kind of time all the time? I mean, writing can be hard enough for some of you; are you willing to go through all that other stuff? Well, maybe if you’re writing only one article a week and don’t have anything else to do, and you’re actually making a living off your blogging it’s possible.

But in general… oy!

Maybe I’m crazy so I’ll ask you your thoughts on all of this. Meanwhile, I’d like to share this little video I did where, believe it or not, I compare Kool Aid to long posts. I know you’re gonna want to see this. 🙂



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10 Writing Tips In 2 Minutes

Three weeks ago I wrote a quick post here giving 10 blog tips that could be read in 2 minutes or less. Seems that was the 3rd most popular post written in the last 30 days; figures right? I figured that I write about more than blogging around here, and that I’d take a shot and see if I could do the same type of thing regarding writing. Embrace your writing like the kid in the picture has. lol Anyway, let’s see if it can be done (of course it can be done):

1. When the mood hits you, write as much as you can. You can always edit, and you might end up with more than one post or article.

2. Watch your nouns and adverbs. Some are okay, but go overboard and you risk the power of your message.

3. Spell check is your friend; use it.

4. Punctuation is your other friend; don’t forget about semicolons.

5. If you believe you can’t think of anything to write think about your last 6 waking hours. There’s always a tale somewhere in there.

6. Write in your own voice. If you try to sound too smart or too perfect your message will come across very stale.

7. When you’ve finished writing, if you need to read it out loud to yourself; mistakes tend to stand out better that way.

8. Long posts are fine but don’t keep repeating the same message over and over. If you said it once, leave it be and move on.

9. Never forget to give attribution to your inspiration, otherwise someone might think you’ve plagiarized them.

10. Don’t over-think. Write the best way you know how, feel your words, and others will feel them as well.

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Are You Sometimes A Prima Donna?

I have to own up to something. There are times when I’m one of the biggest prima donna’s in the world. I don’t mean Italian opera singer (or necessarily any Italian or singer for that manner, but it was the first definition in the dictionary) that has to be the center of it all. I actually don’t even mean having to be the center of it all. I mean the second definition from Merriam-Webster: “a vain or undisciplined person who finds it difficult to work under direction or as part of a team“. That’s a shame, but also a necessity; let’s talk about it.

One of my favorites,
Kelly Rowlands

Most of you know I do a lot of writing. Writing is basically a solo occupation, whether you’re writing for yourself or someone else. Unless you’re a script writer of some kind it’s just you and your resources; that’s pretty much it. Even though most of the time you’re writing for yourself, there are times when you’re writing for someone else because they’re paying you. In those times, you’ve actually negotiated whether you’re going to write for those people as much as whether they want you to write for them. It’s an important distinction to make, and I’m going to make it by telling a story.

Back in December I was asked if I could provide some content for a site whose focus is the same as my main income occupation; not giving any details. Because I knew the guy, I said that I would set up a one month contract at a reduced rate so he could get an idea of the types of things I would write, and if he and his new company found them acceptable then we would negotiate a new contract based on my writing rates.

The assignment on the other side was tasked to someone other than my friend, and I have to admit that this guy kind of immediately got on my nerve when he told me when he wanted the content. It wasn’t at the same time I’d agreed upon with my friend, and I could have ignored it, but during that period I didn’t have anything else to do, knew the field anyway, and wrote 10 articles in two days. I thought they were pretty high quality articles, not my opinion but deep stuff, and I’ll admit I was proud of them. I was also proud at how fast I’d produced them, and felt that I had over-delivered for a client; that’s how small businesses should perform, wouldn’t you agree?

I sent them out earlier than they’d been requested as well, thinking the guy would appreciate it. Then… nothing. No acknowledgment of receiving them, nothing about what he or anyone else thought about them, and worst of all, no payment. Now, because it was my friend, someone I’ve actually worked with over the years, I knew he’d take care of me. However, it was now someone else I didn’t know, and I wasn’t pleased with any of it.

After 3 weeks I contacted the guy & asked if he’d received the articles, and then asked about being paid. He wrote saying he did receive the articles, nothing else, and said I had to send an invoice to get paid. I had never had to send an invoice to my friend before but this is kind of a newer business and I guess that’s how they run things. Still, I was irked that I hadn’t been told this beforehand; it’s not in the contract after all.

I immediately sent the invoice and then I waited… and waited… and waited… Nothing. I did finally hear from my friend who apologized that the company hadn’t paid me and that he’d just heard about it, and he said the check would immediately be coming, out of his private account yet; that’s just not right, but I appreciated his looking out for me.

Then came an email from this guy basically saying they wanted more articles, and that was that. Nothing about the previous articles, nothing about how many, and I didn’t like it one bit. I didn’t like it because I don’t see someone asking for more articles as telling me whether what I’d given them before was good, bad, or what they wanted. As someone who went above and beyond, I thought I deserved to at least have that acknowledged; come on, at least a thank you for what I’d done before right?

That part, the acknowledgment part, makes me a prima donna. In a way, writers aren’t supposed to care what people think about what they write. However, business people are supposed to care, and maybe that’s where things fell apart. So many people in business, especially those in leadership positions, don’t believe that they ever have to give praise to anyone. They feel that people go to work and if nothing’s ever said to them and they get paid, that should be enough. They have no problems telling people what they did wrong, but telling people that they do good… nada.

I’m not that guy. Y’all know I also do leadership and motivational training, and when I wrote this article on my business blog last year titled Why Positive Motivation Is Needed, I wrote this line: “Daily encouragement can make people feel good and make them want to work for you as hard as they can.” Who here doesn’t believe that if you heard that on a consistent basis, especially if it was true, that you wouldn’t feel good and work harder?

This is also why we blog and love blog comments. Whereas there are a lot of people that will tell you that it’s more important to get business than it is comments, which may or may not be true, it’s the camaraderie, the recognition of our hard work and dedication to our blogs and our audience that we’d like to know is appreciated. In a way, the want of comments makes us all prima donnas. This is why I’m thankful when I get “real” comments on this blog; I like knowing that in some fashion I’ve touched people, whether they agree with me or not. I’m betting you do as well.

Who else is willing to own up to their inner prima donna? Come on, you know it’s true. 😉

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Demand Studios, The Follow Up

Back in August, I wrote about trying to join, then finally being accepted to, Demand Studios as a writer. I thought I’d post a follow up to let you know how things are going.

Let’s start with this; I’ve made money. That’s a big deal, I must say. I’ve made $15 for every article I’ve written except one, where I made $7.50. I was doing really well with it until Mom got sick; then I just couldn’t concentrate on it. At some point, once a consulting gig I’m doing completes, I’ll get back to it.

Next, finding things to write on isn’t as easy as I thought it would be. They set all the titles, and you don’t get to change them up. In my field, there are some titles I haven’t touched because they just don’t quite fit, and I couldn’t figure out what kind of article to write about it. With others, I knew the information, but one of the things Demand Studios wants are links to places where people can get more information, and that I just couldn’t find. Well, some of it I could, but it’s restricted, which means no one else could get to it.

Titles are my worst problem, though. When you run out of titles in your topic, and you will, then you have to determine to see if you can write on topics you know nothing about. That’s where the research part comes in, and I’m not bad at that. What I’ve found happens often, though, is that there’s either no information about something or the information you find doesn’t conform to the article title you’re hoping to write. For instance, there was one topic on something that wanted an article on the side effects of this one thing I’d never heard about. I went looking for information and it turned out there were only two side effects; headache and nausea. Kind of hard to write a 400 word article on two things, so I had to give that one up.

Next, you find that trying to write to someone else’s style can be difficult. They require what they say are action words, not passive style words, and passive is the style I write in best. So, we’ve had some issues with that one. They also say they don’t like any throwaway sentences; in other words, you can’t set things up for the big hit. I find that hard to do also, since it doesn’t quite conform to storytelling, but of course this isn’t storytelling with them. And sometimes it’s confusing when you use a term that they pick out and say they need more information on it, when at another time they didn’t pick it out at all. Adding definitions helps you with the word count, though, so there’s no real gripe there.

I’ve had all except one of my submissions approved. On the one that wasn’t approved, I actually rewrote an entire article, just so the guy could tell me that he didn’t think he was learning anything new. Well, sometimes you’ve communicating information that someone else just might already know; that’s the title you selected after all. My thought is that not everyone else would know that information, but they have their standards. I’ll probably find a place for that article somewhere; have to work on that one, though, as it’s a topic that doesn’t fit here in any way.

If you can figure out a way to write at least one article an hour for 7 hours, you’ll earn $105 a day. That’s not so bad if you have nothing coming in. I haven’t tried to write any of their revenue sharing articles, which I mentioned in the last post, mainly because I haven’t seen a title that I feel I can research yet. But one of these days I will, if I need to. After all, it would be nice seeing some residual cash coming in from something I wrote.

These folks aren’t easy to write for at times, but overall, they’re fair, and it’s money if you can write at all. Of course, me being me, I’m always on the lookout for better paying things. As I find them, I’ll mention them; stay tuned.

Sounds True, Inc.

Learning More Lessons About Writing

As most of you know, I’ve been talking more lately about writing for others. Indeed, I have been making money writing articles, and I have some blogging clients also.

The thing is, there are two problems with my model. One, I’m not generating the kind of money I thought I’d be generating; two, some of the things I’ve been asked to write about have been, well, kind of impossible for me to write on.

That’s hard to admit to because when I first announced I would do writing services, I assumed there wouldn’t be a topic I couldn’t write on. What I hadn’t thought about was if there’s no information to research on, then I’m stuck. And trust me, not everything is on the internet, it would seem.

So, this weekend, I went to the Digital Point forum to ask a general question about how much research people do on topics that seem impossible to write on, especially when asked about specific keywords and the like. I got some responses, and they seemed, well, a little harsh. Still, I decided to write two of the people private messages to explain to them what I was talking about and what I was getting paid.

Both of them enlightened me. They both said that I’m basically giving my writing away; I was stunned. I did know I was underpaid, but I hadn’t realized by how much I’ve been underpaid. If I were getting paid the rates that I should, research time becomes affordable, and easier because people aren’t asking for stupid stuff.

It was something I needed to hear, and sometimes something we all need to hear. With my main business, or what up to now has been my main business, I knew how to price my services because I understood just how exclusive they were. With writing, I thought I had to compete with the low ball folks and scratch out my living by trying to write so many articles that my mind goes nuts. Nope; turns out that, based on what some of these folks have been doing, and are recommending to me, I could actually make a very good living writing as few as 10 articles a week.

Wow; that would be great! I could still write my blogs, still have blogging clients because I enjoy that, but I could drop all the low dollar writing gigs and concentrate on other stuff all around. Man, life would be sweet doing that.

I share this with y’all because most of us go along doing things that we think is the right way to do it, only to learn that someone else is doing it easier than we are, and succeeding. This doesn’t mean I’m giving up on my affiliate marketing either; I have plans for doing more of that, as well as plans for adding at least two new blogs into my repertoire. It does mean, though, that I’m ready to embrace a new mind shift towards bigger and better things.

Anyone got a problem with that? 😀

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