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
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...
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. 🙂



14 thoughts on “Writing Styles For Others – Subtitles, H Tags, Etc…”

  1. $60-150, minimum.

    Unless you’re bored. $20 is chump change.

    Now, having said that, “H tags” are simply HEADINGS and subheadings. For SEO purposes, the title should be H1 (and you should only have one H1 on a page – which would be kind of silly in a printed book, because you’d use just a Title style and have your headings – well, like an outline, and have as many as you need of each, but no more. So…whatever. YOU have headings here, whether you meant to or not; each of your steps could be formatted with an “H tag.”

    Back to #1 – THREE subtitles? Are they nuts, or are they looking for a choice?

    #3 – just hunting for the proper images and ensuring that they are licensed and may be legally used is more work than I’m willing to do for someone else for $20.

    #4 – “Authority Links” is just another way of saying “cite your sources,” right? Yeah, anyone who’s ever written for a professional law journal knows that even famous lawyers are expected to cite their sources. I wouldn’t object to this one. Unless it’s clearly an opinion piece and I am an ACKNOWLEDGED authority in my field. (I like links. Images are a bigger challenge.)

    Go to Fiverr. Hire someone overseas to do it all for $5 or $10. Check the legitimacy of those images and links, clean up the spelling and grammar, and throw it at the wall, see if it sticks. Or buy up some of those PLR thingies…

    I’m kidding, of course. This sort of thing could leave a writer feeling less than valued – as if people didn’t care if they were able to eat or keep a roof over their heads.

    1. LOL! You’re so crazy!

      The links thing is an interesting piece. If you’re writing about something you have to research and you’re using the internet, then I agree. If you’re writing about something you don’t have to research, links become problematic. What I did a couple of times back then was write something on one of my sites and then link to it as the authority, which I was. lol

      The thing about the H tags is that most people have no idea what they are. I tend to believe that’s not writing, it’s background formatting. To make that a requirement of a writer is idiotic. I understand how time consuming it might be for someone to have to do that for lots of articles, but those folks are actually getting paid and probably insurance, whether the writer is or not.

      It all definitely devalues writers; I hate that the most.

  2. I have to disagree with you, still, on those “H tags.” True, presented that way, a lot of writers don’t know. But headings – and, believe it or not, HTML – are not “formatting” so much as they are structuring. I control how headings appear on my blog through STYLE tags or CSS. That’s formatting: typeface, font size, color, weight, etc. I could make my headings big and bold, or force them to look exactly like the body text. HTML was never meant to be “formatting.” It tells you what’s a title, a heading, a paragraph, a link, an email address, etc. And most writers don’t know much about HTML, so they tend to THINK of it as formatting, but that is a corruption of its true purpose and, I believe, how we got saddled with XML. 🙂 (Actually, GML, SGML, and XML came first – HTML was more of a user-friendly little subset, if you want to get totally geeky about it. The others are more complex – and allow far less formatting.)

    Anyway, structure has everything to do with writing, and headings are a standard convention when doing non-fiction writing.

    As for citing sources, I am on a number of political and “cause” related mailing lists. I have unsubscribed from a few simply because they failed to cite sources and expected me to take their word for it. I do think they are “authorities” in their field, but adding supporting documentation for their assertions – especially when asking me to take some action or other on them – is a courtesy and adds to their overall credibility.

    You and I, Mitch, are experts on ourselves and our own life experiences. We may be experts on how to do what we do professionally, but other experts may have other ways of doing the same things that are not wrong or inferior to ours. So if we add links to show how others support our ideas or how they differ and conflict – it adds credibility. When we cite sources that disagree with us, it says we think we’re right but we’re not afraid to lay out all the cards and let the reader choose.

    The real issue here is the pay, and the devaluing of our skills and the time it takes to do the job RIGHT. As a professional writer, I’d insist on doing the job right and I’m not fast enough to make $20 profitable. At that point, writing this lengthy comment here – for free and for fun, on my own precious time, because I simply WANT to – and not for someone else’s profit – has more value to ME. It’s MY TIME to rent, use, waste, etc. – MY LIFE MINUTES. Money matters. To someone else, living where the cost of living is lower, or having no other paying job, it may be worth it.

    1. My point about H tags is that most people, let alone writers, don’t know what they are and leaving it in their hands to do it invites trouble. Your knowledge of them and mine don’t matter; it’s what others know. If you don’t believe me go ask 100 writers what a H tag is and see how many know. Can you teach them? You’d probably say “yes”; I’d say it depends. I’m still trying to teach my wife how to add attachments to emails… been working on that one for 15 years. lol

      As for the writing and compensation piece… we want to get our worth if we’re doing it for someone else, and people need to figure out what their worth is first. At the very least it’s worth more than $20 for almost 2 hours of work… if that’s all it takes. If it takes 5 – 8 hours to write, which many people say it does… they’re going to get creamed for their effort.

  3. Hmm. Well of course I’d say that I could teach them – assuming they could write coherent sentences and fulfill all those other requirements in the first place… 😉

    Did you get my emailed “template”? How hard is that? There’s your little formula. Fill in the blanks – H tags all pre-coded. If someone’s offering only $20, they deserve cookie cutter. I know editors who are paid upwards of $65/hour and are worth every penny and then some. Not all of us will earn that mythical six-figure advance or write a hit like Harry Potter. But to treat writing like dusting a piece of furniture is insulting.

    1. I got it and I get it. However, unless someone sent that to all writers they still wouldn’t know it. lol You must have missed one of my earliest videos on my IJS channel where I talked about how people don’t know how to value writers. Heck, I should have added that video to this post… maybe I still will…

  4. Man, for awhile there I thought you had lost it because H tags are so easy in WordPress. It wasn’t until I was reading the conversation between you and Holly that I realised you had to submit the articles to them and not have it on your blog. I know I should have grasped therefrom your post but it’s a little late down my end.

    Should have know you wouldn’t do paid posts LOL

    1. You’re right Pete, I’m not writing paid posts for this blog; no way, no how! lol

      Actually, it was more of a rant against folks who want to pay writers for doing a lot of work outside of nothing, and pay them poorly. Sure, you can make it seem like you’re benefiting me but you’re not. This is one of those things that I fight with all the time when people ask me to contribute to something (people who aren’t friends of mine lol) without pay, telling me how much it’ll benefit me when in reality it’s going to benefit them way more and I’ll probably be passed over. Nope, just not worth the effort.

  5. At least the last 2 paid posts I did paid $50 for 500 words with only one link required and no other stipulations required. Easiest 50 bucks I’ve made in a long time.

  6. Unless it is something you are an expert on, like in your case Mitch, leadership, then there most likely will be research needed. You are right. That certainly takes time. That lowers the hourly rate. So the question is, can this be sustainable? How many 1,500 words can one come up with on something they are an ‘expert’ in/on?
    then the idea of three images. Oh yes, that takes time. Then perhaps the images, once found on CompFight or whatever, may need to be edited. There is more time spent. UGH!
    I always thought H-Tags were basically subheadings? Say I was writing an article about how to care for dogs. My h-tags could be- ‘feeding’ and ‘exercise’ and ‘grooming’ and ‘training’. Right? Or am I still confused?

    1. Troy, the work it takes to put together something you wouldn’t mind putting your name on can be comprehensive. So writing a long article for just $20 really isn’t worth it. I mean, even if you’re willing to work for $10 an hour, for most people it’s going to take more than 2 hours to put something together, even with the research, that sounds and looks fresh and doesn’t in any way copy what someone else has said. Then adding all that other stuff… nope, not even worth thinking about.

      As for the H tags… I call it formatting because, at least with H1 tags, it changes the look of whatever’s contained within it and alters spacing. With my websites I found myself having to add extra code here and there to minimize its effect. Those other codes… well, they all have their purpose, but truthfully if you’re a writer why would you want to bother with one more thing based on how little you’re getting paid anyway?

  7. Yes, they’re just subheadings. I think Mitch was objecting to the non-standard terminology and/or the notion that a writer should have to add markup language to an article (I’d agree that’s too much like formatting for some, and the site editor should probably do it just to be safe – though the writer should certainly include appropriate heading TEXT).

    You know, you might just boilerplate some good sources on topic, so you don’t have to do a lot of fresh research for every article. Keep your own specialized directory of authoritative sources you like and trust, and refer to them as needed.

Comments are closed.