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Thursday, April 18, 2019

CYA Chitika and other Once-Popular Marketing Tools

Just got the notice in my email yesterday and I'm a little shocked.  The little ad revenue sharing company seems to have struggled behind Google Adsense for years but truthfully, I've never heard of many people making any money with them.  But then again, you and I both know that internet marketing techniques change frequently...and sometimes, without notice.

For the majority of my writing career, I found social bookmarking to be one of the best ways to promote articles and blog posts.  As long as it was tagged correctly and you showed some love to fellow contributors, it was all good...and fast.  This was also one of the ways that content marketing articles could generate noticeable residuals. Oh yeah, it also helped if they had decent rankings, as there were a lot of perpetrators out there...and some even wanted money to list links on their webpage.

Mind you, this was back in the early 2000s and I've been out of commission for nearly five years.  So imagine my surprise when I saw that Delicious, BookmarkSync, and a few dozen more are history in 2019.  Even AddThis, which once allowed users to add bookmarks quickly and for free, has changed their business model.

While the constant changes in digital marketing may be exciting for some, it's not the ideal career for those who like their day super-routine.  It seems like once a month, there is a new company to look out for or technique but it seems the real staying power is about 50/50.  Don't believe me?  Remember Periscope. In less than two years, it went from being the rage to 'Oh yeah...that'. The alternative was either Snapchat or Vine but this has changed at least three times since.

Anyway, the above video is the latest content I could find in regard to ad revenue sharing.  There's probably one company that was in full existence at the time of uploading but may be history by the end of 2019.  The only thing I can suggest for writers and content contributors is to keep a log of all social media sites and networks used to promote products and services.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Does Your Blogging Content Need Help?

If you've been doing this for a while then you know that the rules have a way of changing overnight ( or so it seems).  For newbies, or those who have been away for a minute, it seems like getting the right footing is harder than before.  It may be the timing, your mood, or even the time of day that's preventing you from writing awesome content.

Whatever it is, one thing is certain...BILLS NEVER GO TO SLEEP!

And when you don't have a lot of money to invest in pricey software that will need to be upgraded not long after you've installed it, your losing time AND money.  Something us freelancers can just give away at random.  When it comes to direct orders from clients, heading over to the library while the system buffers isn't an option either.

Another thing is that not everything that is popular is all it claims to be.  While Grammarly has saved me a few times, it has also failed me as well. Not just because it flags everyday speak (which is what most blog posts are about) but has also come up with some major grammatical faux pas that the writer just has to ignore.

Overall, there's no single tool that can be used if you're under the gun or proofreading isn't your thing. Even though it's best to go over things at least three times before hitting send, complacency is common with many veteran writers (especially if we're covering a topic we know well). However, there are a couple of free tools I've discovered that can limit the client rejections or make you feel more confident about your writing.

Hemingway Editor - this is great for getting rid of filler words or just being too wordy in general.  While there is one famous content writing company out there that hates contractions but pays weekly (but low for many who can't churn out SEO articles quickly...and no, I'm not bragging), writing without using proper punctuation and more words can kill a career before it begins.  This site has a lot of great suggestions.

Gunning Fog Index - many who've taken journalism in college are most likely familiar with this tool. It basically describes the audience suited to read your article or blog post.  While the standard is 8th grade reading level, some marketing and content companies may want something beyond high school.  It can also weigh sentence length

Writer's Diet - another tool that eliminates wordy sentences but the visitor can see the breakdown in a simple-to-read chart. All they have to do is copy and paste on the test page to see what can be eliminated.  This tool is great for those who want to break out of the content writing mill and move onto private clients that normally pay more.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Before You Pay For Another Online Class...Visit Your Local Library

Us freelancers are always looking for a way to upgrade or keep up with ever-changing technology BUT it seems like everyone and their mom is offering an online course of some kind.  You may have seen some of the steady players like Ed2Go (a.k.a Gale Courses), Universal Class, or Skillshare offer classes at relatively low rates compared to attending college.  But many library systems are offering many of these courses through the same entity for nada.

Now before you rush out to get your first library card since grade school, there are some things to consider.  First is that not all of these places teach at the same capacity.  As a longtime LinkedIn member, I'm always being encouraged to upgrade so I can take free courses.  Well, I can take these same courses for free through my county and city library system.

But I have to be completely honest with you...some of these classes have about as much worth as a two-headed penny.  One of the career paths I'm taking is taught by a series of industry experts.  While I don't doubt their knowledge, one expert looks as if she's reading from a prompter.

Also, I like my takeaways.  Even if I only use it once, having something I can copy or download means something to me.  If you're like me, visuals sink in better than someone simply talking in a constant monotone.

So far, I can access a number of online language tutors, diploma prep sites, and career assessments sites that require payment or enrollment through an accredited college.  These in addition to Universal Class and Ed2Go can make interesting learning.  But let me elaborate on the last two options.

Normally, these classes cost between $50-125 for about six to eight weeks of learning.  Both provide instructor feedback, as well as extensions for completing final assignments and online resources.  However, I've found that not all instructors update their lists or fail to remove those with dead links.  If you were to ask me outright Universal Class offers the better selection but recently, I found there's a catch.

If you want the full Universal Class experience, as in a wider range of affordable continuing ed online courses, they may want a paid account.  Recently, I found that they offer many writing courses (Platinum membership) that aren't available to library patrons.  I guess these older courses are intended to act as loss leaders.

While not all library systems are the same, even in large cities, some will allow users from other cities to become a patron.  Right now, I belong to four library systems and one good thing is that once I learned how to navigate (e.g.get the newer books before they're loaded with dried boogers or the pages have yellowed), it cut my Amazon book spending tremendously.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Etsy Sellers Watch Out - April 2019

Video courtesy of Crystal Witch Rise/YouTube
If you or someone you know sells items on Etsy, you might want to check this out and share accordingly.  Last night, I received two notices from Etsy's billing department thanking me for making two noticeably large payments towards my account. The first thing I checked out was the sender address and yes, it is real and not some scammer.

UPDATE: Less than 24 hours of this post going live, I got an email from Etsy explaining that an "error" had been made and of course, they apologize for any inconvenience. Uh huh😑

Since 2007, I've been a loyal seller with no issues but despite their promotional offering$ (that cost a nice penny if you're not familiar with (Google Analytics) but there's no reason for me to be charged almost $70 for listing a few handmade items that cost less than $10 each.

After writing them a detailed email (it's been more than 12 hours but they tell you to give them 48 before you can expect to receive a response), I got another charge before I deleted the payment accounts that are likely to have been affected.  My PayPal account is what I've always trusted but sometimes...things happen.  Between then and Smile Direct Club, I'm learning the meaning of "TMI about my $$".

Anyway, after doing an online search to see if any others were affected, it seems that in February other sellers were affected. Ecommerce Bytes and TechCrunch have some pretty horrid accounts about sellers who've lost hundreds of dollars or are in jeopardy with their bank.  While both articles indicate that a small percentage have been affected, don't wait to become a casualty.

Here are a couple of tips - 

1. If sales are weak and funds are limited, do NOT take part in any passive paid promotional activities.  They get you with a free trial period and you can even see the increase visitors but this alone doesn't guarantee sales.  You're much better off creating your own loss leader using items that are slow sellers or creating an online giveaway.  

2. Set aside a debit card that has a small amount on it.  If you have a PayPal account,  their debit cards are usually easy to get if you have no outstanding claims or a clean record.  Even a Green Dot card that has only $10, $25, or $50 maximum is better than giving these people access to the account you use to pay bills.  However, I know from personal experience that PayPal investigates all forms of fraud and will settle all legit claims in a short period of time.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Are SBDCs Worth the Time and Energy?

If a person is looking to start or upgrade their small business or microventure, they should consider going to a Small Business Development Center, or SBDC.  These have been around for a minute and for the most part, have a good reputation for helping anyone get their business aspirations off the ground - no matter how large or small.  The majority have a direct connection to the Small Business Administration (SBA) and most interact with local SBDCs in a given area.

The SBA is a good place to get information about SBDCs in your area but it is important to know that not all of these places operate in the same fashion.  To date, I've worked with about three in the past decade and a half.  One reason for the constant change is money.

While some offer free training courses that cover everything from getting off the ground to personnel matters to tax issues.  Others may charge a small fee for things like training in basic accounting or marketing techniques.  Where I live, no one has to live in a specific area in order to participate in training sessions.

However, some programs may require clients participants to participate in a series of workshops in order to be eligible for funding and support. Workshops may be free or a nominal charge and at least 90% (average) attendance are required in order to qualify for the full range of services. Attending classes voluntarily allows prospects to see how each center operates and gauge what type of businesses they serve the best.

One center I dealt with last year had a preference for food-based operations.  The person in charge made this clear during the intake orientation and it appeared that microbusiness or solopreneurships weren't their priority.  Prior to this contact, I dealt with one center that had an abundance of resources and they were able to get me the funding I needed.

Now, if you should happen to speak with a counselor and find they don't have your best interests at heart, this does not have to be the end.  If a person is living paycheck-to-paycheck and has a reasonable business idea, these centers can be a gift from heaven.  It's just a matter of finding a compatible center.

This is why I highly encourage checking out more than one simultaneously.  Even though most of the staff may know one another, it may be possible to get in on specific items needed to get going.  For instance, finding a quiet place to work and meet clients can cost a nice penny.  Not all libraries operate the same and most coffee shops are about as quiet as a major airport.  Some of these centers have business incubators, or shared workspace, with amenities for less than what most private (paid) places charge.

Although you may have heard about people starting their six-figure operation for a ridiculous amount, we all know that it takes some money to make money.  Even small things, like office supplies, add up and money helps with consistency while business is growing.  Since a lot of SBDCs are run by the government, this is one of the best ways to make tax dollars work. 

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Getting Away From Cheap @ss Clients and Into Six Figures

Normally, I'm a pretty chill individual but the one thing that I hate is when clients get something for nothing.  Someone to write code for an entire website for less than $1000.  Writing a 700-word article for less than $10.  I also get steamed at companies that demand a quick turnaround for articles (or other tasks) that require extensive research to be delivered in a matter of hours.

The good news is that breaking the pattern is not impossible, even if you have been freelancing for a short period of time.  Business 2 Community has some realistic yet simple tips for making the transition over to the big bucks.  While not every method is suitable for every business or individual work style, it shouldn't take long to find a pattern that doesn't involve working round the clock all of the darn time.

Here are also a few tips that have made the freelance life more sane for me.

Learn how to say no.  Sometimes opportunities may sound too good to pass up but there's a reason why good freelancers turn down unpaid tryout periods or give away too much information without guarantee of a reasonable return.

Create the right loss leaders for your business.  If you have a newsletter, what purpose does it serve?  Is it possible to create a dual purpose, like creating paid ad space for a specialized niche?  There are possibilities to re-vamp marketing products so they will do more than one job at a time.

Establish boundaries early.  If a client wants for you to put in extra time on a project, you have the right to determine the terms.  Although it is best for the client to create milestones early, sometimes the unexpected can mean more money for the freelancer.  However, if they want corrections that were not your fault, don't be afraid to add on fees for your time.  It's been my experience that some clients will do a bait and switch on those who are new to freelancing.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Considering Web Development as a New or Upgraded Career?

 Because just about everyone needs a professional website, it seems like the possibilities are endless...right?  Or mid-to-large companies as well as government agencies either need new pages or their directory updated.  Just from these factors alone, it seems like the perfect work-at-home opportunity that pays the big bucks.  Well, everything here is true BUT there are some things to consider.

While it may be too early to tell if web development is the new registered nurse in terms of career demand and salary, DataUSA reported more than 1.25 million developers in the States alone with an estimated job growth of nearly 18% over the next decade.  Other impressive factors are salary (though there's the big gender gap, as usual), locations with the highest demand, and the fact that it may be ideal for career changers since the average age is 40.
However, this field is not for everyone.  If your're a writer like me who's managed to learn enough HTML5 and CSS3 to tweak your website or create content for a client who wanted strong headers for an online article, this is a way different ball game.  But if you're curious about whether to invest in a boot camp or other training that costs from hundred to the ten thousands of dollars, sites like Microsoft Virtual Academy can teach you a thing or two without obligation.

If you feel that your creativity and/or organizational skills will set you apart from the competition (and it just might), then it may help to hone your networking skills while doing the free thing.  Why?  Because fellow freelancers or experts in the field may know of opportunities that may allow you to get paid while training or land a full-time job immediately after.

This is how some people manage to enter the field without a bachelor's.  While there are some college continuing education courses that are the happy medium when it comes to investing money and time, this is one career that demands you prove yourself upon contact. Having several sites and custom style sheets ready to show off are the real calling cards here.  Although having a badge or two cannot hurt either.

For those web writers who want to become developers, there's one problem that still exists.  People in other countries who'll work for much less.  If you have a specialty, this would be the time to upsell your knowledge of food, sports, or whatever your writing niche is.

Finally, the above video pretty much explains what newbies can expect.  If you choose to volunteer or work for less to gain experience, just made sure you've set career milestones and you're not just gigging.  For those who don't know, the gig mentality can be dangerous because for a number of reasons.  Although a person may be earning money, it's usually a fraction of what they can make.  Without setting milestones with a client or to build professional clout, a person can find themselves living from paycheck to paycheck, at best.