getting started freelance writing
If you’ve been following my tips and tricks on freelancing, then you’ve seen my articles on how to land clients and how to start your own freelancing business. At the same time, I hope you’ve been paying attention to how to avoid a scam.
If not, it’s time for Essa’s tutorial on DMCA and how to keep from getting your work stolen.
Unfortunately, there are scammers out there who are only trying to collect as many articles as possible so they can resell them or use them without paying. Let me explain to you how they do this, because these requests will actually appear perfectly legitimate.
Generally, the scammer will request a test job. A test job is not the same as a free sample. Instead, it’s a common, legitimate request when starting with a long term client. If the article is accepted, the client will pay for the rights to use it and you’ll begin a relationship.
In one of these scam instances, they will request the test job. Then, after you submit the article, they will just disappear. Sometimes, they’re just a normal client who is too busy to respond. A follow up email will usually get a response with a yes or a no from a non-scammer.
However, if they delay or start making excuses as to why they have not made a decision, chances are you’re dealing with a scammer.
Let’s be honest. Most of the articles you will write for test jobs are going to be around 500 words. If they can’t read an article of 500 words in under two weeks and make a decision, chances are they are planning on stealing it. Don’t let them.
The easiest thing to do is send an email withdrawing your application and asserting your copyright. Resist the urge to tell them to go fuck themselves. Regardless of how tempting it may be, after you’ve wasted hours of your valuable time writing for them, be a professional. You can never truly tell if someone is scamming you, or if they are simply an unresponsive client. Regardless, you don’t want to work with them. Scammers for obvious reasons and unresponsive clients because getting them to pay you is damn near impossible.
Just send an email thanking them for their consideration, but state ‘due to time constraints’ (or whatever cliched phrase you want to use) you will be unable to work with them. Then, make sure to add this sentence or something similar.
“I also assert all rights in articles submitted for consideration and not purchased per standard copyright law.”
To a non-scammer, this sentence simply tells them that you’re keeping the article for your future use. To a scammer, it tells them “I’m watching you. Don’t fuck with me.”
Standard copyright law isn’t complicated. You don’t need to register anything and you don’t need to file any legal forms. Simply stated, once you write something, you own it until you sell the rights to it. Never agree to transfer of copyright prior to payment. As long as you can show proof, either through a word doc or emails, that you wrote it first and that the copyright wasn’t purchased, you’re safe unless you have to take it to court.
Trust me, you won’t have to take it to court. There is a simple law out there to protect you and it’s scarier than any courtroom. It is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, aka, the DMCA.
After your close call with a scammer, sell your article to someone else ASAP. It’s much harder to steal something if it’s already posted online. Usually, scammers will sit on these stolen articles hoping that you forget about them. Before you sell it, check to make sure it hasn’t been posted by searching one phrase from your article on the internet, or checking the scammers website.
If you find your article posted somewhere, you need to act. First, use the contact form on the website to send a polite message reminding them that you own the article and requesting that they remove it immediately. Give them a limited timeframe to respond. Every second they’re posting your stolen article is a second they’re making money on your stolen article. In the past, I’ve given anywhere from 24 hours to 1 week, based on how likely I thought it was a scam over an innocent mistake.
If you don’t get a response, then it’s time to get aggressive. Find a formal DMCA notice of copyright infringement. Send a copy to them. Send a copy to their hosting provider and send a copy to any advertising partners listed on the site. Advertisers are making money off your scammers copyright infringement as well, so they are guilty by association. Ironically, they are usually the first people to do something about it. Generally, they’ll pull their ads and end their affiliation with the scammer.
Here’s where the DMCA gets scarier than a courtroom. Once you have sent proof of your copyright and the right DMCA form, the web host will either remove the content themselves or ask that the site owner remove the content. If the site owner refuses to remove the copyright material, or doesn’t respond, the hosting provider will shut the entire site down.
Not only will your scammer get their page shut down, if they do get it back up after removing the copyright material, they will also get a black mark on their Google record as a copyright violator. Any website with multiple DMCA notices gets tanked in the Google rankings. As their goal in stealing your material in the first place is to get an increased site rank, you just hit them where it hurt. Well done.
It is getting harder and harder for these scammers to swipe content. Thanks to that, those of us trying to make a reputable living doing this have a better chance of doing so. Never let someone make money off your work when they haven’t paid you for it. Instead, know your rights when it comes to your material.
And above all, know when to be an asshole.
You might be rubbing your eyes, trying to see if you read that title right. If you’re familiar with my page, then you’ll notice that I generally don’t give advice. I give long winded rants filled with profanity. However, I get a lot of questions posted and emails to me from hopeful freelance writers, who want advice on breaking into the field.
Now, as a disclaimer here, I’m comfortable, but I’m not millionaire. I live in an apartment and I drive an inexpensive car. I am the midlist of the middle class. I don’t have a lot of expenses, so the transition to full time writing was easy for me. Aside from my semi-regular illicit substance purchases, I’m a pretty low maintenance chick. The tips I’m going to give you might help you get to the middle of the pack, but they’re not going to make you a millionaire.
First off, you’re going to have to learn to deal with some incredibly boring work. My main goal isn’t to be a freelance writer forever. It’s to make money from my books and the stuff I like to write. However, that’s not something that can pay the bills instantly. If you’re planning on uploading your novel on Kindle and waiting for the profits to roll in, you’ve got a long wait. In the meantime, that means paying the bills by doing some incredibly boring work.
Who’s giving you that boring work? Business owners. The biggies are lawyers, doctors, financial execs, real estate offices and pretty much any type of sales work. There are also possibilities available in the alternative health, computer programming and technology industries, but those require a bit more expertise. Rule of thumb; if it has a website, it needs content.
How do you get to be the one that provides that content? First, notice the word I’m using. ‘Content’, not articles. If you’re going to make a living freelancing, it’s not about magazines and newspapers anymore. It’s about the internet. I don’t care what you’re writing about, that webpage’s goal is to have hits from SEO. If you have no idea what the hell I’m talking about when I say SEO, we’re already getting off to a really bad start. If you do, feel free to skip the next paragraph.
SEO is about how a web page is ranked in a website. The big one is Google, which takes about 80% of the market share on searches. Google has an algorithm that crawls webpages, finds keywords and indexes them. When a used types a search engine phrase like; ‘hot anal transgendered amputees’, those search results come back with pages where those words were found. Of course, those search results will include every page, regardless of whether the page is about ‘hot anal transgendered amputees’, or whether it is a page like mine that has nothing to do with the subject. To make sure the websites are given proper credence, each one gets a relevancy ranking based on how related to the phrase they are. When someone is asking you to produce ‘content’ they are asking you to get them to the top of that list. That’s what search engine optimization, or SEO is for. Learn it, absorb it, fantasize about it in the shower. It’s your life now and it changes every fifteen fucking minutes.
Before you even consider hunting clients down like the innocent prey they are, you need a resume and writing clips. Freelance writing is a tough business, because most of your work is going to be ghostwritten. Trust me, my opinion is all over the internet, but it’s not my name attached. When you ghostwrite, you don’t get credit, you lose the right to your work, and you usually can’t use it as a clip sample. However, you can note you ghostwrote for a company on your resume, and if with their permission, link to the blog you worked on.
However, the easiest way to get clips is to hook up with a site that allows newbies to post their articles. The site I started out with was the Yahoo Contributor Network. I barely do work on it anymore, but it can really help boost your credentials. It’s also network central. I got approached by 60 Minutes following something I wrote for Yahoo! News. They are a fantastic place to start getting the clips you need for your resume.
As far as getting your feet wet, and for some immediate writing gigs, you can try a few of these sites; Text Broker, or London Brokers . Sites like these are commonly referred to as content mills. They can be great starting out, or if you looking to make a little extra cash. However, if you focus only your writing career on these, you will learn to hate writing. They don’t pay very much, but they’re easy to get into and you don’t have to apply for jobs. You just pick an article and start writing.
What’s the downside, besides the low pay? Let me give you a verbatim example of what you will be writing about.
Please write an informative and creative article concerning “BEST NY TRANSMISSION SERVICE”. Article must be interesting and informative. Please write 500 words, use keyword 11 times. Adhere to the exact mode of the mentioned keywords.
Yup, boring as fuck. You’re writing filler, keyword focused articles and you’ll need to do about 10 an hour if you want to make any real money. On the upside, it will help with your creativity, because it takes a magic fucking computer to make transmission service centers interesting.
Again, content mills are great for getting your feet wet or if you’re just trying to make some extra cash. I would not recommend building a career on them. It can be done, I know several people who do it. But they don’t like writing anymore. That’s why you need to move on a bit, to getting clients who allow you a little more creativity.
Again, unless your one lucky fucker, you’re not going to start out writing something you’re passionate about. However, at least write about something you can tolerate. Alternate professional Essa writes legal articles, alternative medicine articles, jewelry articles and programming articles because I find them interesting. I don’t force myself to look into sports writing, because, aside from competitive drinking, I fucking hate sports. I write for clients whose work already interests me. Because of that, it requires less research and feels less like work.
How did I get my clients? Well, I started out on Elance. There are other sites like oDesk and Guru that you can also use, but I prefer Elance. These sites are bidding sites, so you need to be careful. DO NOT ALWAYS BID LOW! In the beginning, you might have to bid lower, but do not try to beat out the guy from India, offering to write articles for 1.25 each, who speaks English as a second language. I both hire and apply for jobs on Elance. When I apply, I bid a fair price that is not nearly the lowest. When I hire, I pick the best proposal, not the lowest price. Bidding what your worth isn’t just about you. When people come into the market charging rock bottom prices, everyone starts to drop their prices and we all make less.
So in conclusion, if you plan on starting your freelancing career this year, I hope my tips can help you out. At the very least, they’ll get you started. Of course, the best way to get started is to buy several thousand copies of my book, so I can retire and you can get me out of the market. I’m heavy competition. ;)