The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 158
Another Full One
No reason for me to tell you anything other than we have another full bag of mail, so we best get with it so you can get your week started.
Thanks for joining in our community on this Tenth Day of July, 2017. You are appreciated!
From Janda: “Bill, I only found your "mailbag" a couple of weeks ago and haven't read many of your posts to it, so I apologize if you have already addressed this, and I really believe you're hinting here that you're going to do so quite soon, but if neither, please give us some info about monetizing a blog. (If this site is not paying as well as it previously did and might be in danger of folding, I'd love to find another option. Not that I expect to earn a lot of money from writing online, but even a little bit provides proof to IRS, etc., that I am indeed a "professional" writer and should be entitled to tax write-offs, etc.) I'd love your insight on this topic and those of your followers.”
Hi, Janda! I love your name, by the way.
Let’s tackle the IRS first. You actually don’t need to show a profit for the first few years as a freelance writer. Just keep your receipts and be able to back up everything you claim. Intent is more important than income the first couple years with taxes. The IRS takes your word for it when you tell them you are trying to make money as a writer. As long as you stay within certain parameters, and don’t get greedy, there is no reason to worry.
Monetizing your website or blog with Amazon is a waste of time, in my opinion. Pennies will trickle in, and I actually think it will be worse in the next couple years. A lot of bloggers will do the affiliate thing where you sign up to promote a company’s products, and in turn you get paid for it, or get free products for it, or a combination of the two.
If you can find a company that is willing to pay you directly for an advertisement on your blog, go for it. Cutting out the middle man i.e. Amazon, is always the best policy. However, this isn’t a viable possibility until you grow a decent-sized audience for your blog.
The best reward, though, from having a blog is the freedom it gives you to promote your own work….sell your own books there…promote, promote, and promote.
And don’t forget YouTube and the monetizing possibilities there. It’s all income, no matter where it comes from, and it all shows the IRS that you are a serious freelancer. Remember, intent is just as important, if not more important, than actual income the first few years.
From Linda: “Like Melissa, I did not know that there is a "letter pile" niche. I must look that up. Is there some EASY place where one can find out the names of all of the Hubs niches and what topics they contain?”
Linda, boy oh boy, are you ever asking the wrong person. LOL Let me go find out.
Okay, I’m back. Follow this link and you’ll see a list of the niche sites. There may be a more recent list, but this is the one I found. There’s actually an explanation of each site on that link too. Hope that helps.
HOW TO ASK A QUESTION
From LeaAnne: “Hey, Bill, how does one submit a question to the Mailbag?”
LeaAnne, you just did! LOL
Either add it in the comment section, or drop it in an email and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or you could just shout really loud. J
I’ll leave the light on for ya!
Another Irs Question
From Paul: “This matter of taxes is a bit confusing. How does the IRS know if you are seriously trying to become a writer? It seems to me to be a matter of good faith on the part of the government, and I find it hard to believe that the government will just blindly believe I’m trying to be a writer and my expenses are valid. What is your experience?”
Paul, I’m about to shake up your world, because it is exactly as you described it, good faith on the part of the government, at least for the first few years.
Of course you better be able to back up any expense claims, but my experience was this: eight years ago I declared myself to be a writer. I found a couple customers, started earning a little income, and the next spring I declared it all on my taxes . . . and the deductions added up and still do. I don’t try to screw the government, and I don’t pad my expenses at all. I take exactly what I am allowed to take, I faithfully report any earnings, and the government has never once questioned what I have reported.
And I sleep well at night! Even if the IRS did question me, I have the proof to back all of my claims up, so no worries, and besides, I have found the IRS to be very accommodating in the past on different matters. It’s not as scary as many think it is.
Anyway, get started. Be honest, be diligent, and declare yourself to be a freelance writer!
UPDATE ON COLORING BOOKS
From Stephanie: “Bill, how are the coloring books doing? Are sales still happening?”
Stephanie, thanks for asking. Sales are great, just not at farmers markets. I sell a lot of them online, so many, in fact, that I’m considering creating more. They sell well at special events like “Farm Day” at our son’s goat farm.
They are one piece of the Bill Holland puzzle, Stephanie. I will never get rich from coloring books, but they do add income, and income from several writing sources adds up.
From Tamara: “Bill,
My question is:
1). Is community now allowed to edit, or ask for editing on our posts?
2). What if there are those in the community who do not like us and they edit, or ask for editing of our posts just to be mean?”
Tamara, thanks for the question. It is my understanding that HP can edit our posts any old time they want to do so, and that we give them our permission by posting on their site. This is one of those changes that happened about the same time as the creation of the niche sites. For better or for worse, you are stuck with it if you are going to remain on HP.
As for your second question, I have been around now for almost six years, and I have yet to run across an HP staff member who holds a grudge, or who has done something out of spite. I think the reason for this is pretty simple: we simply are not that important to the HP staff. We write articles, we make HP money, and that’s the extent of our relationship with the staff and management. Emotions and feelings don’t enter into this gig.
More writing stuff on my blog
- Artistry With Words | Helping writers to spread their wings and fly
Helping writers to spread their wings and fly
A Note From Bill
This topic of freelance writing keeps coming up, and I see articles being posted which I believe are far too gleeful and deceiving. Making a career of freelance writing (making decent money at it) takes a long time to establish. This is Year Eight for me and I’m finally at a point where I don’t need supplemental income from other sources other than writing. Let me repeat: this is Year Eight for me.
Writers who want to make money in writing need to pay their dues. They need to lay the groundwork and build from there. Don’t skip steps. Don’t try to hurry up the process. Be diligent and be stubborn. Use the shotgun approach to marketing, especially if you have a limited marketing budget. Use guerilla marketing. All ideas are good ideas when marketing writing . . . until they are proven to be dud ideas, and then you try something else.
The writing business isn’t like it was eight years ago. Eight years ago using Google Adsense made sense. I don’t believe it does now. Eight years ago, writers on HubPages were making hundreds of dollars per month. Few do now. Eight years ago it was easier to get an agent or a publisher. Now it’s next to impossible.
Such is life. Either learn to adjust or find something else to do with your time.
HAVE A GREAT WEEK
Seriously, get out there and enjoy life. We are running out of time, you and I, and there is a whole bunch of love still left to share.
2017 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”