Tag Archives: Joe Wallace

Stupid Words and Phrases You Should Never Use

freelance-writing-advice-3Drew Kerr’s article, Three Words Every PR Pro Should Ban at Ragan.com got my wheels turning. I didn’t even need to read the whole thing to know there was a screed coming.

There are words that add color to your writing, there are words you can’t live without, and there are words that violate the cardinal rule of good writing. In the Gospel According to Strunk and White, the all-time number one commandment is this:

“Omit needless words.”

So why do writers INSIST on using “additionally” or “furthermore” in their work? Why in the name of the great gods of the IBM Selectric do people bother writing “The sale is going to be held on Saturday” when “The sale begins Saturday” will do quite nicely, thank you?

Drew Kerr advises PR-heads to stop using the word “thrilled” in their press releases. I have to agree, as it seems to imply some kind of twisted sexual gratification–when you’re talking about breaking ground for a new condo or electing a new president for the Elk’s Club, that just doesn’t sound right. Ditto for Kerr’s other advice, which is to stop using the word “excited” in the same context.

Continue reading Stupid Words and Phrases You Should Never Use

Writing a Book? Google First

google-analytics1I just helped an old friend out, giving her what I’d call a narrow escape. I had just gotten back in touch with someone I hadn’t seen in years…when catching up, I learned she was working on her first three chapters of a novel that PublishAmerica expressed an interest in.

This set off warning bells as I’ve read many negative things about PublishAmerica–not the least of which includes an author testing PA by sending them a manuscript, reportedly containing the same 30 pages repeated ten times. PublishAmerica has gotten bad ink in respected places including Absolute Write.

Continue reading Writing a Book? Google First

Negotiating Freelance Rates for 2009

freelance-writing-advice-3An interesting article at FreelanceWriting.com includes this quote:

“Many individuals who lack writing skills drive down rates, way below what professional writers can rightfully charge. If the true professionals do not keep up their prices, this will become an even bigger problem. Just because writers from other countries want to work for eight or nine American dollars per hour, this doesn’t mean you should.”

That by Brian Scott, who in the same article advises writers to list their rates on a website and collect a retainer up front. I disagree with both of these suggestions for two reasons. I never list my rates on my website–it prevents me from being flexible with small clients who work on limited budgets. Let’s say you find a non-profit you believe in and want to cut them a break–listing your rates up front could scare them away before they even get in touch. In theory, you’re also committed to those rates regardless of how labor-intensive the project winds up being. Continue reading Negotiating Freelance Rates for 2009

John Pareles on Music Marketing: Insert the Word “Writer” Here

freelance-writing-advice-3Interesting reading over at the New York Times. This article by John Pareles is interesting enough to me as a very part-time musician and goofy music creator (ask Cath about her addiction to “Psychadelic Beige Orangutangs” available on CD Baby and iTunes).

But if you can read between the lines and insert the phrase “freelance writer” everywhere you read “musician” or “band” you get an idea of how this article could generate LOADS of great marketing ideas. What on earth does David Bowie shilling for Lincolns have to do with writers getting ahead of the game in a recession?

For a start, writers need to think more like musicians when it comes to plugging their work and talents. Writing isn’t as sexy as being in a band, but the marketing needs are the same–get your material in front of as many people as humanly possible. Could writers start pimping themselves out like rockers, doing endorsements and trying to create a bigger brand for themselves?

Why, I do believe the answer is a great big YES.

Freelance Pay and Your 2009 Taxes

calendarMark your calendars, April 15, 2009 is fast approaching. Tax time is hell time for most freelancers, but here’s a little hint that will make tax season 2010 seem like a breeze. Grab your pens, kids, this one’s a real brain tickler.

When you see how much you owe in taxes for 2008, make a mental note. That’s the minimum you should consider spending on your business in legitimate, legal expenses for 2009.

You’re going to earn more freelance money in 2009 than you did in 2008 unless you hit bad luck, give up and go back to your day job or just quit trying. Plan on spending more money on your business this year–what’s the point in giving it over to the government when you can take legit, IRS-approved deductions for upgrading your office, advertising your business or hiring casual labor to take some of the donkey work off your plate?

Why did I choose a 2005 calendar to illustrate this blog post? Because I wound up owing the IRS for my earnings in 2005, and if I had just planned ahead and made some crucial investments in my writing business I could have paid far less while giving my work a much-needed boost with a high-speed Internet connection, a GOOD cell phone instead of the crappy one I had put up with for so long, and several other upgrades.

Be smart in 09. Do the math and plan ahead. Make those purchases and promote your business. You should pay all the taxes you owe–but make damn sure you don’t owe as much as you could when there are legit deductions to be had.

The Future of Freelancing: 2009 Beckons

freelance-writing-advice-3In our current economy, more and more people are being driven out of the traditional workplace and into contract positions, freelance gigs and other arrangements formerly the exclusive territory of the full-time freelancer.

What’s going to happen to freelance writers in 2009? From where I sit, it will be a combination of  “more of the same” and a major shift to the Internet from the newsstand.

I remember when the dot com bubble burst back in the late 90s, and many net workers were out of a job after being paid staggering sums by overvalued .com companies. The dot commers killed themselves inthe late 90s because companies that had nothing to sell were getting mad startup money, tricking out their offices with pool tables and video games, and basically driving themselves into the ground.

Now we see the inverse happening damn near exactly ten years later–solid companies with much to offer are being pulverized while companies selling dollar electronic widgets (see the iPhone App store for a great example) are thriving. What does any of this mean for US?

Two big things spring to mind. If your website still looks like a web 1.0 dinosaur, you’ve got trouble coming. What is the sound of no mouse clicking? That zen riddle I just made up is something you’ll be pondering next year unless you get into web 2.0-land. Things are shifting to the net so completely that some people are actually discussing the “death of bookstores”.

The second thing–which is already happening to my fellow freelancer pals in some quarters–is that there will be a larger tidal wave of ridiculous freelance clients out there who actually expect you to take the penny-per-word rates they offer. Folks—one cent per word is what NOOB FICTION WRITERS make. Not freelancers who deal in non-fiction, e-commerce, SEO writing or other skilled areas.

There are plenty of people who will settle for these rates. I strongly urge you to re-evaluate your rates NOW and tell clients who want you to accept their peanuts for your hard work a polite version of the following:

“I understand your need to keep your overhead low and I am happy to work with you on a volume discout basis, but I also want to explain someting to you: with today’s SEO environment, you GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR. You will find a writer willing to write for a penny per word, I assure you. I can also assure you that NOBODY WILL TAKE THAT WRITING SERIOUSLY. You may get the right attention from Google, but when HUMANS read that crap, they will click away from your page.  Today’s market is not just about Google placement–it’s about CONVERSION. What good does 10,000 unique visits do you if you have 0% conversion from those visits?”

I could rage on about this, but why bother? Everything you need to know (in this context) is in those last two sentences.