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Building a Writing Business: Patience Is Key
Writing is a Journey, not a Destination
Well Begun is Half Done
Many people stop writing without giving their business time to get moving. Despite advertising to the contrary, there is no instant success. I have found it best to begin one thing at a time, giving attention to learning the ropes and doing the best I can to get established. Once started, I can then begin something else while maintaining and improving what I've already begun.
My First Experience Building a Small, Passive Income
I began my online writing at Associated Content. I did a few articles to learn the user interface, then tried to add an article every few days while I was in graduate school. I did the Featured Contributor program for a while as well, which gave me incentive to up my game and write more articles per week. Once I had a body of work of about 100 articles, I moved on to other things while adding a poem or an article occasionally. After a couple of years, I was surprised to see that just a few of my evergreen articles were bringing in $20 a month while I did absolutely nothing. As it became clear I had reached a steady state there and was not likely to break out and make big bucks, I turned my attention elsewhere.
I followed the same process with Squidoo and Hub Pages, working on a site until I had 50 to 100 articles. The online world is always changing, so one can never tell what site will be hot or what site will fold from month to month. I try to write about things I would be researching anyway, e.g. as I created my first e-book, I also wrote articles about the process as I went along. Integrating writing into your everyday life makes it less like work and adds a genuine quality to your writing.
Textbroker: Slow and Steady
Beginning writers at Textbroker take a test and begin at level 2 or 3. After writing a number of assignments for peanuts and receiving good reviews, a writer moves up a level and earns more per word. Even at level 4, the rate you earn is only 1.4 cents per word. Your patience is rewarded, however, if you persevere until you can request professional (level 5) status. This highest status does not happen automatically. You must make a request to be reviewed for professional status after you have written some level 4 assignments and consistently been rated at 4.
To get good ratings, you must adhere to their guidelines. The editors there are especially picky about commas, so be sure to follow their style guidelines to the letter. What I found most difficult was their rejection of the Oxford comma. I love the Oxford comma and felt like a barbarian when I omitted it. I was rewarded, however, by achieving level 5 status shortly after joining Textbroker.
- Important tip: I advise you to never accept jobs that are rewrites. Either the writing is so bad it will take you longer to rewrite than to write it from scratch or your rewrite will get caught repeatedly by textbroker's plagiarism filter (which is actually catching phrases your client didn't mean for you to change.) A rewrite has never been worth it for me. Just accept requests for fresh writing about subjects with which you are familiar.
Level 5 offers 5 cents per word: not bad considering Textbroker offers you easy access to assignments you can pick and choose. Some weeks are full of assignments, some are quite lean, but there is almost always something. You can also apply to join select teams that do certain types of writing, giving you access to assignments not available to the general Textbroker pool. Happy clients can also send you direct orders, for which you can set any rate you find mutually acceptable.
I would have missed out on some money if I had given up before reaching level 5. My patience paid off, so I really don't mind the cheap work I had to do early on to get those good ratings. Now I just have to keep those good ratings to maintain my professional status.
Fiverr: My Testing Lab
I am fairly new to Fiverr, but It has quickly become the laboratory in which I test ideas to see if there is demand or to see how much I really can do in a quickie assignment.
I began as usual: see if anyone is willing to pay for me to do something I already do well and enjoy. I offered to review a book on my blog (one $5 gig.) I also decided to test drive selling a knit hat. Yes, I know a hat is worth more than $5, but this is research and development! Also, Fiverr allows me to charge for shipping and I would be knitting anyway--I knit compulsively, like some people smoke or drink or crack their knuckles. I also knit and read incredibly fast, so these assignments don't take me as long as they might take a "normal" person. As a Level 2 seller, I also offer "gig extras" such as a pom pom on the hat, premium wool yarn, or matching mitts for an extra charge. Thus, some orders are for well more than $5.
My initial goal was to go from newbie to Level 1 at Fiverr as quickly as possible. That means getting somebody, anybody, to order gigs. It also means delivering the product well within the time frame specified and exceeding all expectations, culminating in 5-star reviews from satisfied customers. Now that I am at Level 2, I have some regular customers and have been able to add "gig extras" so clients can pay me more for a little more work. I've developed a list of gigs I enjoy and can do quickly and well. I'm on my way to the next Level, $5 at a time.
Test Results so Far
My most popular gig by far is my book review gig, in which I review a book on one of my blogs. Although it takes time to read the book, I do get a free book in addition to my fiverr fee. I offer extras like tweeting about the book or reviewing longer books for an extra fee. My gigs that offer to write blog posts are also popular. I charge by word count, so longer posts cost more and I earn a decent hourly rate. Again, extras such as linking to the client's blog from my own blog are easy and add to my bottom line.
As far as knitting goes, my basic knit hat gig has made several sales, with a few customers paying extra for a pom-pom on top. This gig works because the hat is a super-quick pattern and is extra thick and warm. I've had great reviews so far and will keep up the good work.
One of my Fiverr Hats
Endure the Dry Spells
Even after getting established, keep in mind that business fluctuates. Most of the time it is feast or famine. Get through those weeks when no orders come in by doing a few things:
- Stay calm.
- Use the lull to catch up on recordkeeping, spruce up your website with some new pictures, or otherwise do something you can't do in a week that is slammed full of orders.
- Keep doing what was working before and trust that the next week will be better.
While occasionally there is need for a major overhaul, e.g. the site you write for is closing, most lean weeks are just normal business fluctuations. Stay the course and don't give up.
What Works for You?
Decide today to commit to one thing and do it well for a sustained period of time--Fiverr, Textbroker, Smashwords, or whatever you choose. Really concentrate on learning the user guidelines for a site and practice using the tools at the chosen site. Your first goal is to get established, not to get rich quick. Well begun really is half done!
Many people just give up too soon. Be sure you give an opportunity your best effort and give it time to warm up and get moving.