Monday, October 22, 2012

2012 My Year of Writer Transformation Part 2

Happy autumn and Happy Halloween! Fall is in full swing in the Hudson Valley, and driving back across the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, from Catskill to Hudson, the trees and mountains here are ablaze with red, orange and gold. It truly does look like a picture postcard and at times like these, I am reminded how blessed I am to live in this area of the country and New York State. It certainly provides plenty of inspiration for me as a writer.

There was so much going on in September, I didn’t get to blog. I’ve been devoting my time to writing my second book, a follow up to my “Soul Tripper” memoir.

My last blog post mentioned the importance of writing what YOU want to write, and being passionate about your writing. I’ve had some feedback about that and notice it struck a chord with other writers. In my personal experience, it is that passion for writing that will carry you through the ups and downs of the writing life, and help you find the motivation and determination to see your writing projects through to completion.

A burning passion to write, or a passion to complete a specific project, is like a beacon of light or driving force, fired up inside you. This all consuming passion is the missing link to explain why some writers quit writing and give up their dreams while others go on to publish their work and find creative and personal fulfillment as writers.

For instance, a few summers ago I had a glimmer of an idea to write a memoir. A friend supported the idea when I briefly mentioned it, so that gave me courage to outline my thoughts and write the first chapter. As I wrote, my passion grew, so I kept on working on my memoir. I did so in almost complete privacy and secrecy, just me and the writing, so I could only rely on myself for support and motivation.

I got distracted by things going on in my life and felt blocked for a while but I never gave up on the idea of finishing the work. It became a passionate dream! I suppose I needed to take a break and live more before I could finish my memoir, but as soon as the ideas started flowing again, I ran with them!

I spent all last summer writing and editing, then self publishing my book. Even though I was ill with an upper respiratory infection that July into August and my sides hurt and it often felt painful to breathe, I still wrote on notepads, scraps of paper and then the computer, to get the project done. I even had a mishap where I bumped my head in our basement, giving me a headache, but still I was driven to write whenever I could. Nothing could stop me from finishing my memoir, as I had a burning passion.

This summer into fall, it’s the same way. I had an idea for a second follow up book to “Soul Tripper” and I’ve been running with the idea, driven by a similar passion I exhibited last summer. This passion has helped me get halfway through writing the new book, and I continue to write during periods of upheaval in my life. I hope to be finished with my first draft by the holidays then publish my book sometime after the New Year.

At the same time I’m doing this, I’ve been trying to decide between working as a teacher assistant, or studying computer graphics or web design/development. Rather than trying to write a ton of web content I don’t care about in order to raise my revenues, I think I’d prefer a day job that is supportive but gives me time to pursue the writing I am passionate about, even if memoir doesn’t make lots of money.

I find that solution works best for me, because I’m simply not that enthusiastic about online writing anymore. I used to believe that if I published enough articles on certain writing sites, I could build passive residual income that would support me. In the wake of search engine updates like Google Panda, that doesn’t seem like a reality. I’ve been feeling a bit burned out doing the writing I’ve worked on for the past five years.

Importance of Diversification for Writers

When I began freelance writing a few years ago, the online universe was a much different landscape. I was making good money at writing sites. I was writing about topics I cared about but also creating articles that I thought would get me some page views or had popular keywords. As a result, my writer portfolio is quite varied. I covered topics near to my heart, like animal rescue and ovarian cancer awareness and I wrote arts and culture reviews and Hudson Valley travel articles, for the love of it.

But I also wrote stories about hot celebrities, like ins and outs of the marital breakup of Sandra Bullock as well as the ramifications of Justin Bieber’s new hairstyle (also his new celebrity perfume for women!) That wasn’t my passion, and I longed to express myself creatively!

The search engine algorithm changes that devastated writing income for many people are a wakeup call. Are you really writing what you love? And are you going to put your fate and revenues in the hands of writing sites? And here’s the big one: are you going to write stuff you aren’t excited about just to eke out a few pennies online?

Several years ago, I made a huge mistake of NOT diversifying my online income. I started working at only a few writing sites, depending on them for my passive residual income streams. Specifically, I relied on the old Associated Content, and Xomba. Back in the old days, I was very pleased with those revenues and could see them growing. I also had a nice payment from eHow and Demand Studios, which is now over.

All over the internet, on online writing message boards, I could feel the pain of writers when they cried out, how will I pay my mortgage with the suspension of eHow? How will I survive economically now that Panda has devastated my online earnings from writing sites?

The answer my friends, is to be extremely proactive! Diversify your income streams as a writer and create your own writing opportunities to control your own income! Don’t rely on one or two sources for your writing revenues; if one or both go under or cut your income, you’ll lose everything. Instead, diversify your income and generate your revenue streams from several varied sources: not spreading yourself too thin as a writer, but having just enough diversity to ensure you won’t lose all your income.

How to Make Money as a Freelance Writer 2013:

Here are some tips to take charge of your income and diversify your writing efforts now, and in the New Year:

1. Create Your Own Income Producing Web sites

Starting your own web site is an excellent way to take control of your writer revenues. One of my goals for the future involves creating my own niche sites for my local travel writing and photography. It is helpful to research high paying niches and keywords when considering topics for a site; however, write what YOU want to write. It’s all about passion! I believe if you are passionate enough about your topic and create great content, using good SEO practices, and make an effort to monetize and promote your site, you’ll get visitors and could make a decent amount of income.

2. Build and Monetize Your Blogs

If you don’t want to create an actual web site, set up a blog with high quality content, using good keywords and SEO, then monetize it with AdSense and affiliate programs like Amazon, and more! If you get proficient with blogging, answer ads on job boards seeking professional bloggers, as blogging can be a real money maker (look at Darren Rowse and ProBlogger!)

The wonderful thing about blogging at places like Blogger is: you keep one hundred per cent of your AdSense revenues and don’t have to share them with a writing site. The downside is: the writing sites may have more traffic than your blog, so it’s easy to get too comfortable publishing your articles to those sites and settling for a meager share of revenue. Careful research about blog promotion should help generate more traffic to your budding blog.

3. Sell Your Photography

If you are doing any kind of travel writing, you know that excellent high quality photos help sell your story to potential editors. All those photos, if you kept the rights to your work, can be sold as stock photography. There are quite a few stock photography sites on the internet that welcome good quality photos from semi professional photographers, so why not make extra money from all your pictures? (Things like stock photography and professional blogging can be real money makers; some people find the sale of photography a lot more lucrative than their writing.)

4. Write and Sell Your Own Books and eBooks

Take charge of your writer income by self publishing your own book and rigorously promoting your work! Do you have a burning passion to write that novel or book of poems or anthology of short stories? Then just do it! Modern advances in technology and publishing have made it possible for anyone to write what they wish and self publish their work, even for free!

I wrote and self published my first book entirely for free and you can too...but that’s a blog post for another day!

You can publish your work as print copies, but it is even more lucrative to make your book available as an eBook, for devices like Kindle readers. I self published my book with CreateSpace and my work is available on; I haven’t created the eBook yet, maybe because I’m old fashioned and I like to see my work in book form (Jane Austen is my idol and I’m pretty sure she didn’t have a Kindle, she read actual books).

5. Search for Higher Paying Print and Online Jobs That Offer Upfront Payment

I just got a copy of the new 2013 Writer’s Market Deluxe Edition, and it is fantastic! It’s a huge soft cover book of almost a thousand pages full of helpful information and articles, and writing markets to explore plus access to the online tools and database of

If you think writing for print publications is dead, think again, as Writer’s Market is full of markets that pay quite well. Just glance at the shelves of your local bookstore like Barnes and Noble, crammed full of magazines to buy, and you’ll see that people do still read printed magazines.

This coming year, I’m definitely exploring writing for higher paying print publications, as there is so much low paying content writing work out there. Browsing Writer’s Market, I notice that some specialties I’m interested in, like writing about animals, don’t pay as much as technology and science writing. I saw one magazine in the subject category of science writing that paid thousands of dollars for one article, even up to five figures! That’s a lot of money!

I’ll also scan online job boards for better paying work. I want to be paid a decent amount in upfront pay for writing jobs, not just settle for pennies. This doesn’t work for me anymore: content sites that pay solely through revenue sharing or page views only.

In 2012, I heard of writers making money online at these sites: Yahoo Contributor Network, Constant Content, oDesk, Writer Access and Squidoo. Some writers seemed pleased with the opportunities there; the only one I have personal experience writing for is Yahoo. I might look into some of these sites in 2013, but my plan to make money writing is a broad one, and they won’t be my only focus.

I’m not putting all my eggs in the content writing basket anymore!

In 2013, let’s find the passion in our work, drawing a sacred circle around our dreams to protect them from negative outside forces. Let’s look for employment or a second complementary career that allows us time to write, and when we do sit down to create, let’s write very passionately, from our heart and soul.

It can be hard on the spirit, to almost literally give our writing away to sites and places that simply don’t pay. So let’s look for ways to create abundance, to take charge and control of our writing revenues by working smarter, generating our own income producing opportunities, and diversifying our revenue across a variety of sources.

To borrow some words I’ve heard flying around the presidential campaign:

Are you in?

Hey if that politician in the debates has a five point plan, why can’t I? I’m not running for office, but this is my five point plan to help you make money writing--just because I love writers.

I wish you a very happy, healthy productive fall. Keep writing!

Monday, August 27, 2012

2012 My Year of Writer Transformation Part 1

I can’t believe the summer is almost over; September is right around the corner. Where did the time go? 2012 really flew by! There’s something about the year 2012 that created a sense of anticipation and a lot of excitement for many people; despite the dour economy, I kept hearing 2012 is a great year for transformation, new beginnings and major life changes.

How has 2012 been for you and your writing life? I like to call 2012 “My Year of Writer Transformation.” I’ve been working as a web writer for five years this summer; however, 2012 brought a significant change in my approach to writing and how I think of myself as a freelance writer.

Blame it on the devastating effects of the Google search engine algorithm changes and decreased online earnings, but this year I experienced a radical shift in my writing life. First, I weathered the 2011 Google Panda updates that really hurt my residual income from writing sites. This perfect storm of search engine algorithm changes affected how articles showed up in search engines, and my earnings went on the decline (this process is still continuing with Google Panda and Penguin updates).

Five years ago, my strategy for making money as a freelance writer pretty much centered on writing online and building passive residual income working for writing sites. In the wake of updates like Google Panda, I’ve slowly revamped my approach to freelance writing, searching for new ways to make more money with my writing skills (in a future post, I’ll discuss ways writers can earn more money in 2012 through diversification of income streams).

So the first part of my writer transformation involved shifting my writing focus away from working for writing sites. 2012 also brought an epiphany about the kind of writer I want to be. I think it’s useful for every writer at some point to sit back and evaluate how the work is going, and are you where you want to be in your writing life, doing the kind of work you really want to do? If not, what changes can you make to fulfill yourself as a freelance writer?

I realized in 2012 that I’m more of a creative writer than exclusively a journalistic one. What does this mean exactly? Well, the publication of my first book, the memoir “Soul Tripper: A Journey of Awakening” showed me that my heart is really in creative non-fiction such as memoir writing and personal essays. I still like to write “journalistic” articles that are objective and don’t really involve my opinions and emotions. But I’ve discovered I have a true passion for more subjective and personal creative writing that examines my feelings and point of view on a variety of topics (especially spirituality, authenticity and holistic living).

This is where I get the best feedback about my writing and where I feel I stand out and shine as a writer, so I want to focus more of my writing efforts in the areas of personal essay and memoir. I’ve also discovered that I have a deep desire to write books and not as many shorter articles. I’m already starting to write my second book, a follow up to “Soul Tripper.”

Here are some lessons I’ve learned after 5 years as a freelance writer:

Write What YOU Want to Write

I’ll never forget the day about four years ago that I posted an article full of my political views on a writing site. It was right before the last election, and boy, did I walk right into the fire with my article! I confess as a newbie freelance writer I couldn’t take the heat of criticism for my political views, so I quickly pulled my article. Then I endured more heat when people who wished to comment on my work and add to the discussion couldn’t find the deleted article.

I felt uneasy and unsure of myself, until a veteran writer at this writing site sent me a kind message. He told me to stand my ground, post my opinions and I’ll never forget this phrase he added: “Write what YOU want to write.” It was so simple! But often so hard to follow when we are pressured by others to conform. My article went back up and the storm blew over, as my piece wasn’t offensive just opinionated. I’ve learned it helps to have a thick skin on the outside, while retaining your sensitive artist soul on the inside. This will help you get your work done without letting external stuff drag you down.

Don’t cave into pressure to censor your thoughts. Stand your ground and write the kinds of stories you wish to write, whatever’s in your heart and on your mind. Be open to constructive criticism, but trust that inner writer’s voice inside you, the voice of your soul. I believe that by writing your truth, and writing often, you can develop your writer’s voice. My mantra is “write what I want to write”!

Art vs. Commerce (or Editorial Versus Advertorial)

I’ve always viewed freelance writing as an art and a business (it’s always a balancing act!) Will you write for personal fulfillment, commercial gain or a combination of the two? When I was just starting as a freelance writer five years ago, in my naivete I thought I could write whatever I wanted, and the money would follow. I had this misconception that if I had enough articles published, I’d pay the bills. I always tried to do my best work writing web content, but my income has fluctuated a lot over the years.

Over time I realized that what I enjoy writing (like arts and culture articles) isn’t always well paying, so I branched out into writing things like product reviews. It occurred to me that I had reached a fork in the road: I’d have to start writing really commercial stuff in order to survive, OR consider a supportive day job, hopefully one that meshed with my writing life.

I considered writing advertising copy and things like advertorials (advertising content that runs in magazines and looks a lot like a magazine article). I searched my soul and haven’t started taking assignments that are solely commercial, such as writing catalog copy. At this time, I’d prefer to do my creative writing and have a separate job that harmonizes with my creative work. Perhaps I’ll change my mind in the future, but that’s what feels right to me now.

I believe it’s a decision every writer must make: what kind of writer are you? Are you in the writing game for art or money, or the best of both worlds: a satisfying combination of the two? If the money isn’t rolling in from writing, will you write solely for commercial gain (toil away at writing work you might even HATE just for the bucks)? It helps in the writing game to know who you are as a writer, where you’ll draw the line for money.

Stay Up-to-Date and Sharpen Your Skill Set

As a freelance writer, you’re never done learning. If you are currently working at writing sites, take advantage of the writer training at sites like Yahoo Contributor Network. Check out books on all aspects of writing from your library and haunt your local bookstore to look for magazines that may be potential markets. Sign up for classes and join a writer’s group to flex your skills. Write every day if possible or as often as you can, and read a lot of varied material. I’ve often heard it said that writers develop their own voice through extensive, thoughtful reading.

It wouldn’t be a bad idea to eat, sleep and breathe writing, always have it on the brain. Writers put words together, but run on ideas. Did I mention if you want to be a professional writer you should write a lot? Or as the old adage goes: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, Practice, Practice!”

Find Your Niche (It Pays to Specialize!)

In the freelance world, it pays to be an “expert” in a certain field or topic. There is something to be said for the generalist who can produce articles on ANY topic; however, I believe the writing world favors the specialist who is an expert on a few “niche” topics.

Cultivating expertise in a few key topics and positioning yourself as an expert can definitely pay off in increased revenues. For example, I’ve decided one of my writing specialties is holistic living and how to live a more authentic life. I’ve written one book on the subject and am working on my second one, and if the books do well, I might gain attention as an “expert” in authentic, holistic living. This could open doors to write for magazines and websites that focus on spirituality and holistic topics, and I could also position myself as a speaker, or consultant on holistic lifestyles. My writings might even evolve into a recognizable “brand,” all because I have chosen to position myself as an expert in holistic living.

You could do the same with travel topics, or green living, or parenting or whatever your heart desires. The idea is to increase revenues by becoming the go-to writer in your niche area. It also helps to specialize in a much smaller niche where you won’t have tons of competition for writing jobs. The field of horse care is pretty saturated, but if you positioned yourself as an expert on holistic horse care or natural horse training, you could increase your writing opportunities.

Diversify Your Writing Income

If I’ve learned one key thing after five years as a freelance writer, it’s the importance of diversifying your writing income. In other words, I’d rather make one dollar at ten different websites than ten dollars at just one site. It helps to spread your writing revenues around and not rely on one or two clients for all your writing income. This something I wish I realized at the beginning of my writer journey.

In fact, the idea of income diversification for writers is so important that it deserves its own post! I’ll talk more on the importance of diversifying writing income in part 2 of this blog entry next month.

Enjoy the Journey

One of the most important things to remember as a writer is: enjoy the process, for it’s all about the journey. If you’ve been writing a while and not enjoying it, you need to ask yourself why. Is it the pressure of trying to earn income as a freelance writer, or are you stuck writing things you don’t like in order to pay the bills? I believe that the process of writing should be enjoyable, and if it’s not, you need to have a talk with yourself about how to get back on track, by turning away undesirable projects, or earning income in other ways that don’t depend on writing, or setting goals that excite you.

I like to set writing goals to keep me on track and have something to work toward. Getting my first article published five years ago was a huge thrill, as was the publication of my first book. It’s important to stretch and grow as a writer and always keep striving for your writing goals.

These are some thoughts I had to share after five years of online writing, and I hope they will prove useful for your writer journey. Wherever you are in your journey, I wish you the best of luck in your writing endeavors! Above all, keep writing!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Writer on a Budget: Earn Extra Income During the Recession Part 2

In my last post, I offered several ways to make extra cash during these hard economic times. I’m back today to offer a few more quick tips and money making strategies for the recession:

Sell Your Crafts or Homemade Products

If you are crafty and have created a handmade product, summer is the perfect time to get a booth at places like farmers markets, festivals and local craft shows. Sell your homemade crafts on Etsy, try the online auctions or set up your own website to sell your goods.

In the warmer months, our local communities have lots of street vendors selling arts and crafts from tables along the sidewalk, but as with street performing, look into getting the necessary permits. During summer into fall, I’ve seen people selling paintings, drawings, photography and beaded jewelry (handmade jewelry seems to be especially hot--see for beads and craft ideas.) Arty types can sit along the street or get a space at a festival to sell impromptu portraits of people and their pets!

If you don’t have a handmade product, try a Zazzle or Cafepress business. These two online vendors let you design products online (like T-shirts, mugs, and stickers) and have them printed for customers who buy from your online store. You probably won’t make a fortune, but I’ve heard about freelancers pulling in a few extra dollars each month selling “writer themed” goods they offer in a Cafepress or Zazzle shop.

Yard Sales and Flea Markets

A quick look around your house or apartment will probably yield some unwanted items. After cleaning out your attic, barn or old collections, you can sell these items by getting vendor space at a local fair, festival or antique mall, opening a booth at a flea market or holding a yard sale. More options to sell vintage items include Etsy and the online auctions. To raise some quick cash, sell all kinds of items from furniture to collectibles on your local Craigslist, but use common sense to avoid scams and problems (like safety issues that can arise when meeting up with potential customers from Craigslist).

Two websites I’ve heard about that allow you to sell your unwanted jewelry are: and

For another income producing possibility, consign your unwanted jewelry and clothing at the local consignment shop. My local area has several consignment stores and vintage clothing shops and they do a brisk business. Once you have some experience selling vintage items and collectibles, scour yard and tag sales for antique items to resell. Depending on your geographic area and the type of vintage goods you’re selling, this can be a real moneymaker!

Direct Selling

Avon and Mary Kay are two of the best known direct selling companies, but there are many other companies to try. Direct selling isn’t for everyone (and frankly, I’m not sure it’s for me) but if you are outgoing, enterprising and are passionate about the product, some people do make good money with this type of business. The direct selling possibilities in 2012 seem endless, from selling candles, to kitchen products, to costume jewelry.

One direct selling possibility that really interests me is: Barefoot Books. The books are beautiful; I love the idea of increasing child literacy and as a writer the idea of selling books appeals to me. Barefoot Books is just one of many companies out there, and it’s important to thoroughly research the reputation and policies of a direct selling company before signing on to sell with them, paying any fees or buying any merchandise (for more info, go to:

Note: I have no affiliation or material connection with ANY product or companies mentioned in my blog posts. These opinions are unpaid and my own. My blog posts are for informational purposes only and I accept no responsibility for your individual personal experiences with any of the companies or goods or services mentioned in my blog.

I hope these ideas will spark your creativity and get you brainstorming about ways you can make some extra cash during these tough economic times. Good luck with all your money making ventures, and as always, keep your writing dream alive. I wish you a happy summer!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Writer on a Budget: Earn Extra Income During the Recession Part 1

I’ve been thinking about writing a new series of posts called “writer on a budget” with tips on how to save money and make money as a freelance writer during the recession. Then I heard President Obama say the “private sector is doing fine.” The private sector and small businesses aren’t doing fine in the Hudson Valley, in my opinion. I would not choose those words for our local economy, as that implies some sort of economic health or rebound that just isn’t there.

Consider the very high rents in the Hudson Valley, the foreclosures, boarded up storefronts, lack of jobs with good salaries and desirable benefits, and the rising costs of everything. This has lingered on for such a long time; there are many hungry and homeless here. One of our more affluent areas upstate was asking for contributions because of overwhelming need at a food pantry; economic hardship is everywhere.

As for the public sector, I just heard that a respected local agency that helps senior citizens is shutting its doors after many years due to loss of funding, and this will be another blow for our community. I was surprised and saddened by this news.

So even if some indicators on paper like studies or statistics say things are looking up, in a very visceral sense on the ground here in upstate NY, things don’t feel that much better. That got me thinking about clever and resourceful ways that writers (or anyone else) can generate some quick cash or start a small home business to earn extra money during the recession. In such troubled times, every little bit helps!

And the money generated by a second job or a side business may be just what is needed to help writers over financial rough spots so they can keep on freelance writing. With this in mind I offer a few money-making ideas:

General Transcription

I like to browse a site called; I believe there is a fee to join but I haven’t signed up yet. I look at the listings posted there to see what kinds of freelance jobs might be available in categories like writing, blogging and web design. A job category jumped out at me one day when I was looking over the field of transcription. I always thought of transcription as very specialized, such as medical transcription or legal transcription that requires advanced skills and certification.

But there are also lots of jobs in general transcription, which is easier to learn and doesn’t require special training, just good typing skills and the ability to accurately transcribe audio files. For more about general transcription, simply do an internet search for the term "how to learn transcription" to find some free resources about this type of work. In my opinion, freelance transcription could be a great source of additional income for freelance writers.

Social Media and Internet Marketing

If you’ve been working as a content writer, you’ve probably learned about SEO (search engine optimization), internet marketing and social media strategy. Online writers are usually experienced in promoting articles on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter and optimizing articles for search engines. SMO (social media optimization) is hot right now, and scanning the online job boards, you’ll often see postings for positions like “social media strategist” or “social media marketer.” (Could SMO be the new SEO, like pink is the new black?)

If you’re not an expert on social media, become one through research, as there are lots of online resources to boost your skills. When looking for this type of work, it is vital to demonstrate your expertise with sites like Pinterest, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Then market your skills to earn extra money by helping businesses and individuals with their social media strategies.

Start a Service Based Business

Dog walking, pet sitting, cake baking, house painting, sewing and alterations are all great ideas for a home based service oriented business. I saw an ad on Craigslist for a dog walker offering $15 to $20 for each visit to the house to pick up and walk the dog, every other day! With a background in dog training or veterinary tech, you could earn higher rates, and possibly combine dog walking with pet sitting or house sitting services.

If you are enterprising and have a special skill, you can definitely earn extra cash by scanning places like Craigslist or placing an ad. Write a blog or put up a website that advertises your services, your rates and experience. Other work from home options include tutoring kids and adults in literacy, ESL, or prep for standardized testing like the SAT exams.

Busking and Performing

Do you have musical or performance skills? Summer weekends in the Hudson Valley, I see street performers (or “buskers”) in local parks, on street corners or wherever people gather. Ostensibly, they are performing for “free” but they usually have an open guitar case, a hat or jar available to gather cash tips from the crowd. If you’ve ever been to NYC, you’ve probably seen some entertainers busking in places like the subway or Central Park. Before busking, it’s important to check with your local city or town to see if there are any necessary permits required for street performers in your area.

After you’ve been busking a while, why not try getting some paying gigs? If you are a singer/songwriter, put an act together and team up with some musician friends to land paying musical work. People love to hear “oldies” and classic tunes, so cover bands are always popular. Summer is an ideal time for playing at weddings and outdoor musical events like picnics, fairs and festivals. I like to scan Craigslist for freelance jobs, and I spotted an ad looking to hire a singer/guitarist to sing some mellow tunes and entertain the crowd for a few hours at a dinner the night before a wedding. If you have musical skills, you can definitely pick up some work like this that will help supplement your freelance writing income.

There are many possibilities to generate some extra income as a performer. If you like art and are good with children, there are gigs out there as face painters, children’s entertainers and so forth. Over the past few years, I’ve become interested in storytelling, and I’ve learned that some writers and performers market their services as professional storytellers for fairs, festivals and events. You can even find “tellers” at your local farmer’s market on the weekends. I’ve written a couple of pieces I think would be great for storytelling; this summer, I’m getting my “act” together! I plan to perform for fun and experience, but eventually I plan to charge a fee for my storytelling expertise.

These are a few ideas to stimulate your thinking about ways to earn extra cash to supplement your freelance writing during lean times. I’ll be back with some more money-making ideas in a future post.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Favorite Words for May and Flash Fiction

I’ve always been fascinated by words and language. I’m the kind of word nerd who gets a kick out of stumbling across unusual words. If I’m looking up something in the dictionary, it’s fun to discover other cool words. So I thought I’d start a new series called “My Favorite Words” where I share a few of my favorites with my readers.

The other day I was reading a magazine and I came across something rather disturbing. I was holding a paper copy of this magazine; it was an actual printed magazine, not an eBook or tablet. How old school and rather quaint in these modern times, but I prefer magazines, not the digital versions! I was reading about trends, what’s “in” and what’s “out.”

I was astonished to learn that actual words are becoming a bit outmoded these days. More and more people are actually speaking in the shorthand used online for things like tweeting and texting. For example, instead of typing out BRB (be right back) people just say in conversation...BRB!

I also heard that some schools might stop teaching kids cursive writing. It is no longer deemed necessary to have good penmanship or to be able to write your name in script. Since we are living in the digital age, all that’s really required is the ability to type and speak in shorthand.

But whatever happened to a love of language, of literature? You think Jane Austen told her sister Cassandra she’d BRB? Did Shakespeare knock out a few words on his digital tablet before logging into Facebook and Twitter? I believe the digital age has been detrimental for words, and there’s been a real cultural shift in how we communicate as people live more of their lives hanging out online, spending their days in front of electronic devices.

In the spirit of keeping a love of language alive, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite words today.

5 Favorite Words for May:

Solitudinarian - One that lives a secluded, solitary life.

Kerfuffle - A commotion or disorder, an imbroglio or brouhaha.

Autodidact - A self-taught person.

Exsanguinated - Drained of blood.

Transmogrify - To change into a different form or shape, especially one that’s bizarre.

I don’t write short stories; except for script writing I’m pretty much a nonfiction writer. But for fun I thought I’d write some short paragraphs that combined my favorite words in flash fiction. Here goes:

The Cabin in the Woods...

It had been two weeks since Jack escaped to the deserted cabin in the woods, and though his girlfriend Jenny accused him of becoming a solitudinarian, he had to confess he loved living alone, seeing no one, and immersing himself in his writing. What an epic kerfuffle they had, one of their worst fights ever, when he announced he was retreating to the cabin to get some space and work on his novel.

He grabbed another whiskey, wiped the sweat off his brow and pondered the blank page and blinking cursor before him. A hermit and an autodidact by nature, he stared at the daunting tower of books he had hoarded in an effort to teach himself conversational German and archaeology. Perhaps these pursuits would distract his mind from thoughts that plagued him in the dead of night, visions of horrible happenings in these woods that haunted his dream life and lingered like a bad taste in his waking mind.

Suddenly, he heard a hollow tapping sound...could it be Jenny? Could her Jeep Cherokee negotiate the rough terrain and would she even bother to come back after their war of words? But what was that awful, anguished howling? It made the hairs stand up on the back of his head. He had never felt so vulnerable and alone. Anxious for relief, he rushed to the front door and flung it open!

His face was exsanguinated; he trembled in awe at what stood before him.

It was not Jenny. No, what stood before him was something infinitely more horrible. The legend was true! He was face to face with the creature that had transmogrified horribly into something half monster, half human. The legendary ogre of these back woods, chased by a brave few, feared by many, but celebrated in literature.

His heart raced with terror and excitement; he didn’t know if he’d make it out of the woods alive, but if he survived to write the tale, what an incredible story!


That was 330 words for my short story, so I’m not sure if it qualifies as flash fiction, but it does have a 5 word title, plus an ellipsis for added drama! (Cue some scary music...) If you have some favorite words, please share them with me by posting a comment. I’d love to hear them!

Freelance Writing: Brush Up on the Basics

Whether you’re a freelance writer just getting started, or a more seasoned veteran with lots of published articles, it’s a good idea to brush up on the basics of freelance writing. Even though I’ve been working as a content writer for five years this summer, I’m always reading, studying and learning new things that will help me get to the next level in my writing career.

There are a ton of helpful books out there about the basics of freelance writing, and I’ve discovered lots of helpful free resources online. I feel that becoming a writer is a journey that really has no end, because if you are serious about your craft, you are always growing and learning as part of the creative process.

At the end of last year, I reflected on decreased revenues for 2011 that occurred as a result of the Google search engine algorithm changes (what is commonly referred to as “Google Panda updates”). As the holiday season went on, I thought a lot about new directions for my freelance writing. I vowed to diversify in the New Year (and I’ll talk more on the importance of diversification for writers in a future blog post!)

I suddenly felt hungry for information about how I could make more money as a writer and break into new writing markets. Over the years, I have collected quite a few books on all aspects of writing, and I started reaching for these books in order to arm myself with as much information as possible, to help me go in new, more profitable writing directions.

Since New Year’s, I’ve been reading books about writing, and visiting some fantastic websites that offer free information and tutorials. I’d like to share a few of my favorite free writing resources to help freelance writers brush up on the basics:

1. is a great resource for all types of freelance writing. This site offers tips and tutorials for journalistic type writing, such as nonfiction articles, as well as fiction writing. There is even a whole section about writing business copy. I find this site of particular interest because it talks about “creative freelance writing,” which is something I’ve become more interested in lately.

2. is one of my favorites because it is SO comprehensive. There are articles that cover freelance writing basics, as well as more advanced topics. Reading the information here, I’ve become enlightened about the many markets out there for my work, from writing movie and music reviews to personal essays to selling articles about genealogy!

3. offers helpful reference materials (called extended writers guidelines) for potential contributors to study before submitting high quality content to its site. These tutorials cover topics like proper grammar and style, and it’s a treasure trove of free information about writing. (If you’d like to submit to Constant Content, which can be a lucrative market for web writers, it’s important to absorb this information in order to have your articles accepted at this site).

Those are my big three favorites at the moment, but there are lots of other informative blogs and writing sites out there that provide free information for writers who want to brush up on the basics of freelance writing. As an honorable mention, here are two other sites I like: has a long list of instructive articles about freelance writing: offers a list of useful articles covering all aspects of building a freelance writing career:

I could literally spend hours at these sites, reading and bookmarking articles for future reference!

After a beautiful sunny weekend, it’s been raining nonstop. Rain, rain, go away! But rainy days are a good time to fire up the coffeemaker (I like hot, steaming and sugary Donut Shop coffee...) and settle in with some good reading about freelance writing. I hope you enjoy these free resources!