Why Getting Paid with Stuff (Instead of Money) is Like Having a One-Night Stand

Bloggers: Don’t trick yourselves into thinking companies value you if they’re paying you in merch

I have a friend who makes stuff happen. She’s been interviewed on TV at least a gajillion times in the three years that I’ve known her. One of her pieces for Huffington Post has been on shared on Facebook 58,933 times. (When I said “gajillion” I was exxagerating. When I said that last number I was not.) She also has a regular blog column with a major, big-time national publication, founded a non-profit, and published two books.

But this friend (let’s call her “Sarah” because that’s her name) has a problem. While Sarah is awesome at getting exposure for her writing, she’s not awesome at getting money for it. Most of that stuff up there? Unpaid.

While she has managed to nab a couple sweet paid gigs this year, my girl is still struggling to make the rent. That’s super unfortunate because she happens to be a born-and-raised Brooklynite, and she reports that it now costs $25 just to walk out her front door in her neighborhood.

She recently called me to ask for help nailing down a paid monthly writing gig … and I failed her.

Why Buy the Cow …?

A few years  ago Sarah did a giveaway for a T-shirt co. She did it because she wanted a free T-shirt. She’s pretty crafty about getting free stuff that way.

The other day she called to say that she’d been emailing with someone at this company, and she wanted to know if I’d help her put a proposal together for a monthly blogging contract. She and I played phone tag for a bit and then finally ended up talking while I was in the car between appointments. We figured out a price and a scope of work with possible adjustments up or down based on what the company needed. Sarah was excited to send it over to them.

The company got back to her right away. Their response basically boiled down to “We dig your writing, but can’t we just give you another T-shirt?”

I wanted to kick myself. Of course they didn’t want to pay for blogging. Why would they, when they could get plenty of exposure by sending out a few T-shirts? That little detail that I had failed to internalize while I was multi-tasking was the only one that really mattered.

Sarah is a smart chick. But she fell into a trap that a lot of good writers fall into — especially bloggers who write a lot and are trying any which way to “monetize” their blogs. They often find that the path to monetization wasn’t as easy as they were told it would be, so they figure they might as well get some free stuff if they can’t get actual dollars.

Will You Be My Boyfriend?

Getting cool stuff without paying for it … well, that’s nice, isn’t it?

Except it’s not really free is it? Of course, there’s the obvious cost of giving away your time and your audience for the cost of a Tee-shirt.

As we discussed in the last blog post, you teach people how to treat you. You just taught this company that they don’t have to write you a check.

Even worse, you just taught yourself that you don’t deserve one.

Let’s equate this to sex and dating. As Hollywood has told us time and again, you can’t rewind and start dating after you’ve had a one-night stand with someone. (See how I attributed that to the movies so no one feels slutty? You’re welcome.)

It’s the same with clients. You can’t give up the goods for free and then later expect a company to take you home to meet their parents, er, pay you.

Stephen Pressfield, author of The Legend of Bagger Vance (which was later turned into a movie starring some guy named Matt Damon) also wrote a must-read book for writers called The War of Art. In it, he talks about going pro. “Professionals get paid,” he says.

Agreed.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Freelance shouldn’t be free.

If Sarah is going to plug a company’s product, she deserves a paycheck for it. So do you.

We haven’t done this in a while. Maybe it’s time to recited the PAYlance Pledge again? Stand up with me, boys and girls. All together now:

I hereby promise that I will no longer de-value my time and my skills by applying for jobs that pay a lower hourly rate than that received by fast-food workers. I will not write in exchange for ‘exposure’ unless I have solid proof that the website is going to build my professional credibility in a way that will eventually lead to dollars in my pocket. From today on, I will honor my skills and my talent by only conducting business with people who see my worth.

___

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The Art of the Schmooze: Why Freelance Writers Are Horrible at Networking

networking

The big, important thing freelance writers always forget about making new connections

Hello, lovelies! Apologies for the delayed post. Been busy with expected and unexpected family stuff, a work trip, frantic and sudden house hunting … and oh yeah, I got engaged. So there’s that, too. 🙂

But we have important freelance writing things to talk about, so let’s dig into those, shall we?

Why you stink at networking

Are you getting enough work? If you’re not, there may something that you’re doing wrong. Did you guess that I was going to say “networking?” You’re so smart.

Here are two ways to know if you’re not networking effectively:

1. You never leave your house.

2. Your networking game plan largely consists of tweeting at strangers until they notice you.

Right now, I can hear a bunch of you going “I became a writer so I don’t have to leave my house! Plus, aren’t virtual connections are just as important as in-person connections these days?”

To that last bit, I say yes and no. (Free free to read that “no” as NO, YOU SILLY FOOL.)

People hire people they know

Last year I was at the Contently Summit in NYC. During happy hour, I was chit chatting with the lead talent manager. He said something like “We have so many people looking for work. I’m much more likely to place someone I’ve met in person and had a beer with.” (Paraphrasing, obviously.)

As I’ve said before, I don’t know everything there is to know about freelance writing, but I do know this: Many of my most-substantial, long-term gigs have been the result of a face-to-face connection with someone somewhere along the line.

What you need to do (or) what’s worked for me

That doesn’t mean that I’m out rubbing elbows all the time. In fact, I only get to networking events or conferences a couple times a year. I’m a single mom. I have two kids and I have clients that expect me to, you know, produce stuff for them. Also, I live in the suburbs and I just can’t easily get into the city all the time.

So here are some things that I do that have worked out well. You may already be doing some of them, but if not, give ’em a shot.

Keep in touch with everyone you ever worked with. Easy enough through LinkedIN or Facebook. Hopefully you’re doing this already.

Go on writer dates. If you make a connection with a writer person who’s in your relative local area, ask him or her to meet you for coffee — even if the person is younger than you and less-experienced than you. Why? A few reasons:

1. Karma. Perhaps you’ll be able to help this person and that’s a nice thing.

2. You don’t know everything. There’s always something to learn from everyone if you keep an open mind. And I promise you, this “kid” knows stuff about content and digital media that you don’t.

3. This person may not have experience now, but remember: People love to hire 20-somethings over 40+ -somethings. This “kid” could be a powerful connection someday. Or tomorrow.

4. If you’re the “kid” in this scenario, asking someone to meet with you shows confidence and initiative.

Go to stuff — but not just writer stuff. Sure, there are a gajillion writers’ conferences. Some of them are good. But if you’re trying to get work as a freelance writer, is hanging out with a bunch of other struggling writers a great strategy?

Probably not.

That’s why it’s a good idea to get out of your house (and yes, out of your pjs) and hit up some events in industries you’re interested in writing about.

I’m lucky that Philadelphia is right down the road. Sometimes there’s a lot going on, like this week’s Philly Tech Week — which on the surface is about technology, but which also attracts bunches and bunches of media types and companies who need writers.

Because here’s something important you need to know if you don’t already: the writing world and the digital world are converging like crazy. Don’t be afraid of technology or you will make yourself obsolete.

We also have a great Content Strategy Meetup group, run by a guy named David Dylan Thomas. This dude is fantastic about creating events that relate to current trends in content strategy. I don’t always get to everything, but even just cyberstalking the speakers he has lined up is often a great way to keep on top of what’s going on.

Don’t overlook the obvious. Guess where you can make a lot of great contacts if you’re just starting out? Your local chamber of commerce.

A colleague suggested that I go to a networking event there months ago and I was all “Why didn’t I think that of that???” Everyone had to get up and give a 30-second pitch about what they did. When the event concluded — no lie — there were five people waiting to talk to me. They were not all the right clients for me, but it really opened my eyes to the fact that people are desperate for writers.

So what about you? Have any other networking tips? Let’s hear ’em.

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Anatomy of a Pitch Letter: How I Get Meetings With Potential Blogging Clients

Pitch Letter

Here’s exactly what to do to get companies to take you seriously as a freelance writer

Quick note: I’ve started getting questions from some  readers (THANK YOU!) about how to figure out what to charge, if it’s ethical to work for two competing companies, if grilled cheese is really so much better with or without tomatoes … and I want to talk about all of this. However, I think for now it’s best to keep plugging away in bite-size, digestible chunks so I can provide you with actionable, concrete steps to win clients and make a regular monthly income as a freelance writer. If I don’t answer your questions along the way, we’ll troubleshoot like crazy at the end of the series. (I’m so excited that you’re all anxious and raring to go!)

Having said that, this week we’re going to discuss how to approach clients. Let’s dig in!

____

Anyone who has attempted to survive as a freelance writer knows that getting work is a serious pain in the ass. In fact, it can be a job in itself. Obviously, it’s a much better use of your time to write and get yourself paid than it is to have to continually knock on doors trying to get people to buy your Girl Scout cookies.

That’s why blogging is the way to go. Blogging requires a steady, consistent stream of content. Most companies just aren’t set up to keep shoveling coal into the content creation engine. If you can make that problem go away for them, you can get yourself a handful of recurring monthly clients so you can cover your monthly nut without having to constantly hunt down new work.

Picking the right targets

Now if you did your homework from last week, you should have a pretty solid idea of how to match up your talents with businesses that may be interested in paying you to blog for them.

Hopefully you’ve done some research and zeroed in on a few companies that you’d like to target. As a reminder, these companies should meet the following criteria:

1. They already have a blog. That way you can have some assurance that they understand the value of blogging (or content marketing, which you probably know is the big catchphrase of the moment) and you won’t have to waste your time selling them on why blogging is a smart business move.

2. Their blog could be a whole lot better (i.e., more interesting, more reader-focused, updated more often). If their blog is sorta crappy, you know that one of their pain points is probably executing consistent, worthwhile content. They may be primed to outsource.

3. You have some expertise or experience in the industry you’re targeting, because you’ve worked in it, you patronize it, you’ve done volunteer work in it, or you’re very familiar with it for another reason. This is important because it will give companies a reason to hire YOU specifically as opposed to any old schmo (or any old content factory) that can fling some words together. If you can demonstrate some understanding of your prospects’ worlds, you will immediately be seen as having more value.

Ideally, you probably want to start out with small- or mid-sized businesses. There are a few reasons for that. As I mentioned last week, large businesses probably already have writers on staff so they’re unlikely to outsource.

Plus, you generally want to talk to the business owner or someone who has that person’s ear, so you can get a decision faster. Getting stuck in an endless decisionmaking zone when you’re a freelance writer is much like getting stuck in the friend zone when you’re dating. You know how it is: You *think* something *might* happen so you close yourself off to other options while you wait it out.

But playing the waiting game is not going to get you laid and it’s certainly not going to get you paid. You want to deal with companies that are going to shit or get off the pot with some expedience.

What your email should look like

Here’s what your pitch email should look like:

  • Greeting to business owner
  • Who you are and why you’re contacting them (i.e., an experienced writer who wants to be their personal blogging ninja)
  • Why YOU are the ideal person to write for them (because you totally get their business in a way that few other writers could)
  • A concrete example of how you could re-purpose an existing blog post to make it more enticing to readers (more on this in a minute)
  • An invitation to talk further

Here’s a letter that I have used:

Hello [business owner’s name],

I’m a former editor-in-chief of a newsletter on employment law. I was just checking out your blog and I wondered if you’d like to meet to talk about how to get better traction from it.

I have more than a decade of experience tracking and reporting on employment law trends. I’m highly skilled at taking “legalese” and translating into audience-focused terms. I’ve also recently done some ghostwriting for [known law firm], which resulted in placements in [known legal publications].

As for your blog, this piece [link to post] could be refocused to appeal to your prospective clients and to show up higher in search engines. Here are a few potential headlines:

[INSERT THREE TOTALLY KICKASS READER-FOCUSED HEADLINES HERE]

Please let me know if you’d to chat about opportunities for us to work together. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best,
Trish Sammer
[my cell #]
[my LinkedIn profile]

If you’re going to put time in anywhere, do it here

Now I can’t prove this for sure, but I suspect that the headline examples are one of the most critical components to this pitch. Why do I say that? Because the one time I neglected to write headlines was also the one time that I didn’t hear back from anyone. Could be a coincidence, but I doubt it.

The fact is, people may have a hard time visualizing what you can do for them unless you give them some examples to sink their teeth into. Writing headlines allows you to whet their appetite without having to rewrite an entire blog post.

Put some time into crafting great headlines. Remember that businesses want to blog so they can build trust with customers. Try to put yourself in the customers’ shoes and think about what would make them click on a link — and what would make them feel warm, squishy feelings about the company. (And for the love of Gawd, please check out Jon Morrow’s Headline Hacks for what I consider to be the ultimate guide to headline writing. It’s free, it’s amazing, and it will make you a better writer.)

Your homework for this week: Write some pitch emails but DO NOT SEND THEM. Why? Because you need to read next week’s post first so you can learn what to next — which is make an offer for the exact package of services you’d like to provide.

And hey … have you taken the PAYlance Pledge yet? If not, better do it before next week because that’s when we’re going to start talking about money. That’s right … it’s time for the much-anticipated and much-feared talk about how to set your rates. Oh yes, we’re going there.

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How to Get Paid to Blog for Companies: The No-Gimmick Strategy for Serious Writers

NoGimmicks

You can make a living as a paid blogger (spoiler alert: but maybe not in the way that you think)

Believe it or not, making money as a blogger is probably easier now than it ever was.

As I mentioned in my last post, where I told you how to take charge of your pathetic freelance writing career, regular monthly blogging contracts are how I make my baseline income.

I’m very, very happy to share with you how I do this. But first, let’s be very clear about what kind of work we’re talking about here and what kind of work we’re not talking about.

It’s time for some tough love from one writer to another.

We are not talking about you pursuing your dreams of creative writing while companies and/or your adoring public send you money every month for the pleasure of reading the words that you’ve strung together in only the way that you can. (Patrons of the arts can be hard to come by in the digital world, yo.)

Rather, what we’re talking about is you showing up like a grown-up professional person, learning someone’s business, and then creating content for them in a way that solves their business needs.

What we’re talking about is you becoming a business person.

But I don’t have business skills!

I know, I know. You’re a writer. You’re creative. You’re not a business type. You just want to write and get paid for your talent. Is that too much to ask?

Well for right now, yes, it probably is for most of you. Because no one wants to pay you to wax poetic about your morning meditation — that is, unless doing so can accomplish a business objective.

And therein lies a big key to what we’re going to talk about: Finding the intersection between what you already know about/are passionate about and what someone will pay you to write about.

How to match your skills to business needs

The 30,000-foot view is this: You pick something you’re interested in and then find someone to pay you to blog about it.

So let’s go back to that morning meditation for a sec. If that’s something that really interests you and you’re spending a lot of time thinking about it, I’d tell you to go find a yoga studio that needs a blogger.

Interested in holistic health? Find a healthfood store or a company that sells herbal remedies.

Interested in beer? Blog for a company that sells home-brew supplies.

Easy enough equation, right?

Now let’s drill down a little bit …

Did you do your homework from last week? That is, you were supposed to make a list of all the seemingly worthless knowledge you have and every industry you’ve ever worked in.

If you haven’t already made your list, make it now. Here are some things you should include:

  • Every industry you’ve ever worked in
  • Any topic you consistently google just for the fun of it
  • Any volunteer work you do/have ever done
  • Any sort of business that you feel you understand well, because you patronize it, grew up around it, or follow it for another reason

This is your starting point. Pick an industry associated with something on your list and start checking out websites. Notice which businesses have really great blogs, which ones have horrible blogs, which fall somewhere in between … and which don’t have any blogs.

Spend some time determining what separates the good from the bad.

Which ones are more fun to read? Which ones are a chore?

Which blogs seem more likely to build trust with current and potential customers?

Which blogs seem to have a personality behind them?

The upshot is this: That list is full of a number of opportunities that you could pursue.

However … I must caution you before you start pounding the cyber pavement too much.

Not every opportunity is a good opportunity

Once I realized that companies would pay me to blog, I saw opportunity everywhere: from the coffee shop down the street to any business owner I’d interviewed for stories or rubbed elbows with in the past year.

However, it’s really important to remember that all clients are not created equal. You want to build your client list with a certain amount of precision. Otherwise, you’re going to end up with a roster of clients that are going to waste your time and drive you nuts.

So how can you narrow your focus and decide who to approach?

Go back to your list and ask yourself if you have any specialized knowledge about any of the industries listed there. Because while you could probably write about any category on the list, you’re going to make a whole lot more money if you have something to offer that other writers don’t have.

What this looks like

As one example, I was the editor-in-chief of an employment law newsletter for 10 years. Blogging for an employment law firm makes a lot of sense for me. I’m already intimately familiar with employment law so I’m able to fill a need that other writers just walking in off the street might not be able to meet. I’m valuable to my client because I can come up with story ideas, do research, and write blog posts with very little input from their side. Basically, I’m saving them a ton of time that they can then use to work on their core business.

But I don’t just blog for them. I also blog about technology and higher education — both fields that I’ve written about in other capacities over the past few years. The knowledge base that I’ve built up means that I can ask for more money than a writer who isn’t familiar with those fields because I’m bringing more value to the table.

Separating the good and bad clients

Once you have an idea of what industry you’d like to target, go back and check out the websites associated with that industry a little more. You can save yourself a lot of time pitching clients if you’re strategic about who you want to work with.

Here’s what I do: I look for the company that’s already blogging, but is doing a poor job of it. Usually that means they’re not posting regularly, what they’re posting is poorly written, or the content is too high- or low-level for their potential client base.

If I see that, I can surmise a few things:

1. They understand the value of blogging enough to have given it a try, so I’m not going to have to sell them on why blogging is important

2. They’ve probably already figured out that blogging is more work than they thought it would be, so they may be frustrated enough to consider farming it out

Avoid these companies at all costs

Never, ever, ever pitch a company that has never attempted blogging. Even if they understand the value of blogging, they’re likely to be so far behind on the technology curve that they’re going to ask you to do all kinds of things you shouldn’t be doing. Next thing you know, you’ll be re-writing their entire website and trying to hunt down designers and programmers to fix all the other little issues they don’t like about their site. You’re there to write, not to be the website handyman.

I also avoid big companies because I assume they have writers in-house or that I won’t be able to get to the right decisionmaker. Pitching can be time consuming, so I want to focus my energies where I’m more likely to see a payoff sooner.

Yes, you have homework

It may be a snow day here in the greater Philly area, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have homework, suckas. (And you have to do it because I wrote this with two elementary school kids vying for my attention — you kind of owe me now.)

Your assignment: Take the PAYlance Pledge if you haven’t already done so! Then, dig into your list and start researching companies you’d like to blog for. Next week we’re going to talk about how to approach these companies so they’ll not only meet with you, but they’ll see your value.

Sign up to get posts from WriteWorks emailed to you. And please share this with your friends because there’s enough work to go around — I swear!

See you next week!

How to Take Charge of Your Pathetic Freelance Writing Career

The secret to making a predictable monthly income as a freelance writer

Writers are an interesting breed. Most of us are one-half idealistic dope and one-half pragmatic cynic.

When we get into this freelance writing thing we know it’s going to be work. Yet many of us still manage to kid ourselves into thinking how romantic and lovely it will be. We’ll work at our little desks in our quiet homes – no distractions but the smell of coffee steaming in our writerly coffee mugs, and little blue Disney birds chirping at us from outside the window. Ah, won’t life be grand?

Coffee mug

My writerly coffee mug. I call him Edgar Allen Joe.

Somehow we don’t quite envision the terror that will keep us awake all night while we worry about where our next gig is going to come from. We don’t imagine how bloodshot our eyes will be the next morning, or how we’ll want to wring the necks of the happy chirpy little birds outside the window because what are they so cheerful about anyway?

And then there’s the realization that it’s all on you. No one gives a crap if you succeed or fail. There are no guaranteed raises. No tenure. No benefits and no cost-of-living increases.

Clinging to the dream can be hard.

There is a better way

Bleak enough for you? It was certainly bleak enough for me during the years that having sixty cents in my bank account at the end of the month felt like a win.

However, it turns out that there’s a way to do this whole freelance thing without all the drama and tragedy and the murdering of imaginary cartoon birds.

This week is the week that I’m going to tell you my strategy for surviving and thriving as a PAYlance writer. (Did you take the PAYlance Pledge yet? You better get on that before you read on …)

And I have to be honest here: Once I share my seemingly simple strategy, you’re going to be all <facepalm> that you didn’t think of it yourself — because it’s actually not all that groundbreaking.

However, the key to success is in the execution. Little details can make or break your earning potential and significantly impact your peace-to-stress ratio.

How I make money as a freelance writer

I make money in two ways:

  1. Contracts with regular monthly clients to provide X services for Y dollars. This provides a predictable monthly income and a predictable monthly workflow. This is what I think of as my “baseline” work. The real beauty of this model: I have ongoing, regular work, so I’m spending less time trying to nab clients and more time earning money.
  1. Individual projects with new and recurring clients. Keeping my baseline work to set a number of hours frees me up to take advantage of interesting and lucrative projects that come my way. (That’s right – I don’t go looking for these and yes, I’ll show you how to do this.)

So you might want to know why I don’t just fill up my dance card with baseline work and coast from there. That’s certainly an option and you can use my “PAYlance” strategy to do that if that’s your bag.

As for me, I know myself well enough to admit that I need a certain amount of novelty in my work. The baseline stuff is fine and good, but I also crave work that challenges me and feeds my intellectual curiosity. Plus, to be honest, the project stuff can pay really, really well.

For today, we’re going to focus on the first part: getting regular monthly clients.

Companies will pay you to blog for them

Any company that has a blog is in the publishing industry, whether they know it or not. Many of them start blogs with the best of intentions, only to find that a blog is a hungry beast. It needs fed all the time.

Because companies don’t know they’re in the publishing industry, they don’t know that they need an editor-in-chief to run their blog. So they ask Sue in marketing to take care of it, but she doesn’t have the time. They hire Bob the IT guy’s son who just graduated from college. But, doh!  Son of Bob hasn’t yet developed any business acuity and the blog reeks of amateur hour – certainly not the image that any serious business wants to project.

After a flub or two, someone in the company starts to understand that blogs are a lotta work.

That’s where you come in.

Companies are desperate for good, dependable writers who will take the time to learn about their business goals and how to connect with their customers. If you can come in and solve a problem for them, they will not only think that you are as magical as an ice-dancing unicorn, but they will also pay you money.

How it looks

As with any goal, I think it’s important to begin with the end in mind. (I’m sure someone wise and famous probably said that first, but no one is paying me to write this particular post, so research be damned.)

Let’s take a look at how this plays out like from a boots-on-the-ground perspective.

For my regular blogging clients, I usually agree to a certain scope of work for the month. For example, I might do two blog posts and five social media posts every week. I may provide the copy to the company so they can post it, or I may post it for them.

From there, we agree to a certain dollar figure per month. There’s obviously a lot to say about setting prices, and I’m going to cover that in detail in a later post. But for now, just know that I have a sliding scale based on the complexity of the work and how long I think it will take me to do it.

Why having an hourly rate is a losing game

Here’s an important key: With the exception of one long-time established client, I do not charge by the hour.

Why is that? I assume that I’m going to get faster at any assignment over time. If I charge by the hour, I’d be penalizing myself for becoming more efficient. Why would I do that?

I also don’t charge by the word. That’s a recipe for content bloat and in the end, content that doesn’t deliver a real message isn’t serving anyone. Plus, I try not to work for companies that view writing as merely making sure they have enough words to fill a space.

How I get clients

By now, you’re probably thinking something like: “That’s all well and good, but I how do I nab these elusive contract clients?”

For me, it’s a mixed bag of referrals and pitching businesses that I think would be a good fit for my skill set.

If you don’t have a strong referral pipeline built up yet, don’t worry. In the next post I’m going to walk you through how to identify and approach the companies that need your services. (Sign up here to get blog posts delivered by email.)

And now for this week’s homework. Two parts:

  1. Take the PAYlance Pledge if you haven’t already done so. Yes, I’m serious. You need to start believing that your skill set is valuable before we move into the next phase or you’ll never make any real money.
  2. Start a list of all the seemingly useless knowledge you have but aren’t currently doing anything with. For example, maybe you started going to school for something but you switched majors. Maybe you’re really interested in wearable technology and are the person all your friends turn to for advice. List anything you find yourself googling on a regular basis (yes, even celebrity plastic surgery) and any industry you’ve ever worked in. You’ll need this list for the next post.

Have a great week!

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Freelance Shouldn’t Be Free. Take the PAYlance Pledge

Can you really make a living as a freelance writer?

Are you trying to get work as a freelance writer, only to continually run into ads that say things like this:

As Much Work as You Can Handle: The project involves profiles of 500 to 1000 words. Samples are based off of our work log, so accepted ones will be compensated. Each accepted sample will be paid for at a rate of $12 each.”

Oooh. As much barely compensated work as I can handle? Sign me up!

It took me about three and half seconds to find a ridiculous job ad to post here because there’s such a depressing wealth of material out there.

So where else can freelancers go to find paying jobs? There are some sites where freelancers can hawk their services, but that begs this question:

Are Elance and Odesk a scam?

If you create a profile on a site like Elance or Odesk, the idea is that work should just come to you. People always ask me if these sites are scams. I can’t say for sure, but even if they’re not, there are plenty of other reasons to hate them.

On its homepage, Elance boasts that it has 386,500 writers. Let’s put that into perspective. Wembley Stadium holds a max capacity of 90,000 souls. So you actually have a better chance of being randomly picked from the crowd to dance onstage with Bono during a sold-out U2 concert than you do to get your profile seen on that site. (And in case you’re wondering who U2 is, here ya go). You might as well buy a lottery ticket.

Say it with me, peeps: F*ck that shit. (‘Scuze the profanity, but sometimes a “f*ck that shit” is called for.)

The high cost of unpaid work

No wonder so many writers are down in the dumps.

Continually coming up against absurd job ads or nearly insurmountable odds to make a few bucks — or in some cases, not even that — can take a toll.

The fact is, there are a lot of people who de-value writing. Since most people write all the time — emails, social media updates, etc — they argue that writing isn’t all that hard, so they shouldn’t have to pay out to get someone to fill some space on their website.

But listen, just because everyone can sing in the shower doesn’t mean everyone should cut an album. You and I know that there’s a difference between updating your Facebook page and writing a quality article that’s going to connect with readers.

There will probably always be those $12 job posts floating around out there. The key is to divorce yourself from that world entirely and start playing on a different level.

Why now is a great time to be a freelance writer

Most of the aspiring freelance writers I know fall into two groups:

  1. People who have professional writing backgrounds but can’t find/can’t land or don’t want a full-time job. Many of these people are scratching their heads, trying to figure out how to translate their considerable skill sets into paid work at a time when the traditional publishing industry is on life support and many businesses are only hiring writers at entry-level salaries.
  2. People who have never made their living as writers, but who write a LOT. These people have probably done unpaid work creating articles for various sites in exchange for “exposure.” They probably have their own blogs, which they may have tried to monetize through affiliate ads, sponsorships, or memberships. These people want to make the leap into serious PAID writing, but struggle to be taken seriously as anything more than hobby bloggers.

I have good news for both groups: You’re probably more employable than you think. You just need to know how to package your skills in a way that the right businesses will see your value (and let’s be clear: by “see your value” I mean “pay you money”).

Can we call it PAYlance instead?

Over the next buncha weeks, I’m going to post a new article every week showing you exactly how to get paid work. There’s a lot to say, so we’re going to take it all in bite-size chunks.

Since this is our intro week, I’m going to give you a deceptively simple homework assignment — however, it’s hugely powerful if you ever want to make a living as a freelance writer. (Can I just smack the idiot who coined the term freelance? Talk about a misnomer.)

You have to take to the PAYlance Pledge. And yes, I’m going to insist that you stand up and raise your right hand and say this out loud for the world to hear it.

The PAYlance Pledge:

I hereby promise that I will no longer de-value my time and my skills by applying for jobs that pay a lower hourly rate than that received by fast-food workers. I will not write in exchange for ‘exposure’ unless I have solid proof that the website is going to build my professional credibility in a way that will eventually lead to dollars in my pocket. From today on, I will honor my skills and my talent by only conducting business with people who see my worth.”

(Favor? I’d love to see this in action. Tweet me a pic of yourself taking the pledge @TrishSammer. Tag it #PAYlancepledge.)

Gettin’ down to the nitty gritty

Here are some topics we’re going to cover in the coming weeks:

  • How to best match your skill set to legit businesses that pay real money
  • Strategies for bringing in a consistent, predictable monthly income
  • How to identify the right (and wrong) companies to work for
  • How to figure out what to charge
  • How to network effectively (and in way that doesn’t involve tweeting at strangers until they notice you)
  • How to stop begging for work by building your referral pipeline so works come to you
  • How to wow your clients once you land them (and how to deal with the difficult ones)

Next week, we’re going to dive into something really meaty that you absolutely should not miss: The #1 way I make money blogging for businesses.

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Here’s to getting PAID for your work in 2015!