Monthly Archives: September 2010

Writing about what you love

A quick example of how a young writer — and culinary school student — used her enthusiasm for cooking to find a job writing recipes for chefs and cooks. No, she's not getting a byline for it, but she's doing something she likes doing, and beginning to earn her living at it.??

It just made me feel, well, hopeful.

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Understanding the Small Business Jobs Act

When you're a new freelancer — or, sometimes, when you've been doing it for years — sometimes it's hard to think of yourself as a business rather than somebody simply scrambling to make a buck. However, it's your ability to think of yourself as a business that can help make you successful. And unless you do the things that businesses do — track your income and expenses, pay attention to your schedule, and treat your clients as though they're clients and not friends — then you may find yourself in difficulties.

All this is actually leading up to the Small Business Jobs Act, a bill that can affect those who are freelancers and other single-proprietor businesses. This article on the BlogHer site, written by somebody who is a for-pay blogger, helps to give some idea of how this new law can affect you. The author says, for example, that bloggers (and, probably freelance writers) should know about:

  • Starting this year, deductions on health insurance costs for the self-employed when calculating self-employment taxes

    ??

    Tax relief for and simplification of cell phone expenses

There is also a video and a link to a more detailed explanation of the various details.

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SEO Take Two

I've freelanced on and off since the late 1980s, and my second longish stint was after I left Ziff-Davis' flagship magazine PC Magazine to strike out on my own as a technology writer. I remained pretty firmly??ensconced in the Ziff-Davis (or ZD, as it became known) group for years, working either on staff or off, until the late 1990s, and I've never lost respect for their products.

All this is just as a prelude to recommending another source for information on SEO: This article from a ZDNet writer, Stephen Chapman, who offers some good information and links for people who need to attract eyes to their sites (which probably includes most of the people reading this).??

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Search Engine Optimization

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is touted as the way to get your Web site noticed by using appropriate key words, linking to other sites, using services such as Twitter, etc. Advice on SEO can very quickly descend into bombast and the attempt to get people to pay for services they don't need, but if you're running ads on your site, or have other reasons to want to maximize the number of visitors you get, you should pay attention to at least basic SEO strategies.

I found a current list of tools that can help — some of which are free. I would start with Google Analytics, mainly because they are mostly free, and Google tends to explain how to use its tools well. If you're beyond the basics, then maybe some of these can useful.

The MEGA List of Free and Paid SEO Tools the Professionals Use – Search Engine Watch (SEW)

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Ugh: the ‘free’ in freelance – Crain’s New York Business

Crain's New York reports on the Freelancers Union's campaign to help freelancers who haven't been paid for their work — which makes up a fairly large percentage of the self-employed. Unfortunately, freelancers haven't had a lot of legal heft to get paid — and some employers have taken advantage of that:

A first-ever study by a Rutgers University economist shows that 42% of the nearly 900,000 independent workers in New York state reported having trouble collecting payment for their labors last year, totaling an estimated $4.7 billion in lost wages.

I don't know any freelancers — including myself — who haven't come up against this problem. I recall one magazine that kept putting off paying me because they wanted a lot of changes on an article, and decided (without any evidence to the contrary) that I might not give them the changes if they actually paid me for the article. This was in the days that it could take months before an article was published, and it took a call from the Author's Guild to get my check. Another editor didn't pay me until I outed him in a public online discussion forum.

It's a problem, and I'm glad to hear that at least one organization is tackling it seriously.

Ugh: the 'free' in freelance – Crain's New York Business
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