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    Supply-Side Freelance Writing

    A beachcomber, the Internet reminds me of the islands of Hawaii, where there are constant volcanic eruptions, paving the way for a landmass that increases in size every day. In the same way, the ever-expanding Information Highway's explosive growth keeps giving birth to new careers such as those of Internet writers or Internet content providers.

    AOL Chairman CEO Steve Case argues that the battle for content is the Net's biggest pre-occupation since websites need to update their content pretty much daily. That is why mergers and acquisitions will continue to roll on, and we, the content providers are just as well-placed to harvest from this constant growth much like railroad workers during the cowboy days.

    It's never easy, though, and I am talking from experience. If you think that the opportunities will simply knock on your door, you're living in a world called Virtual Reality. For even as the Information Highway expands under your feet like hot lava, being an Internet Writer is very much like walking on a circus tightrope.

    Writer's Digest claims that John Grisham used to send out 26 query letters daily in between attending court hearings before he became a famous writer. That is also how I began to lay claim to the post of an Internet content provider. I am not famous yet, but like Grisham, I have a plan how to get there.

    Indeed, the road is fraught with rejections; but it is also a numbers game. In other words, the more pitches you make, the more the chances of winning. Early on I decided to up the ante for myself, that is, 30 pitches a day, or more if I have the time! And I am still doing that everyday.

    For the fact is, not everyone will appreciate your wares. I remember submitting a story to one famous web site, only to be told that I should take English lessons! And that, in spite of the fact that I checked my grammar, punctuation and spelling before submitting the piece; putting my best foot forward so-to-speak. But like a door-to-door salesman, you'll make it soon if you try hard enough and if I may add, you're really good!

    I will leave the part about being a really good writer to you. I will concentrate instead on the strategies and work habits that I espoused to succeed. Right now I am fully dependent on my freelance writing business with no net under my feet! How did I do that? It didn't happen overnight. The first time I did my first pitch was about a year ago, here at Inkspot. The editor did not approve of my story but she did so graciously. You don't find an editor like that everyday.

    As I said, I just kept trying, sending out that endless stream of query letters. One day, I got a yes response and I couldn't believe it. I have been writing for more than a decade, but that was my first ever-successful foray into Internet writing. I got paid only $20 for a 500-word piece, but I was happy with that already. The editor was surprised that I charged him so little, he even wrote me a note with the check saying "are you sure you're charging only $20 for this?" I guess he had no idea at what stage I was in my Internet writing career! Nonetheless, the strategy paid off. I figured that once you had at least one published story on the Net, it wasn't going to be too hard to land the next project and so on. By the way, I got that first project from a classified ad at Inkspot!

    So my advice is just keep firing off those query letters, and capitalize on your works published on the Net, making sure you always include those URLs in your pitches. It also helps to have your own web site, which contains your resume, contact information, and samples of work. That way, there is one convenient place where editors sizing you up can go. Mine was just a simple one, which I crafted from a free HTML software and free webspace but it serves its purpose.

    Now here's how $20 grew into $50 and $100 and then $200 per story. I just kept pitching as usual, like a good salesman and my rate kept going up. Of course, I was still charging the same for, say, a 500-word simple piece; but for more complicated ones like the Future of Telecommunications I ought to charge more and the editors of those sites did not complain since I had to do more research.

    It helped that I was working as a Customer Service Specialist at Sprint Canada, one of the big telephone companies in Canada, so I knew a lot about telecommunications. How does this situation apply to you? Well, capitalize on a topic where you know a great deal about, and impress the editor with your knowledge!

    While you are regularly pitching, you also have to be surfing the Net as much as possible for opportunities. My daily surfing task entails checking the status for my project bids at OnVia.com, Ants.com, and ELance.com once you set up a free account with these sites, you are regularly updated by email on the status of the projects that you applied for. Imagine how much time you'll save with these tools!

    You ought to keep surfing because you'll never know what turns up. My favorites are WriteforCash.com and the freelance job opportunities at DotcomMommies.com, HomeWorkers.org, and WritersWeekly.com. Remember that these opportunities are gone instantly, so apply fast. If you don't, most likely there'll be at least a hundred other writers ahead of you as a rule of thumb. It would also help to have a well-crafted form letter for this purpose but I don't recommend this approach for pitches.

    Finally, establish a way of tracking your deadlines in your Filofax to maximize your billable hours. If, say, your target is to earn $2,000 every month from freelancing, you have to consider check cut off dates from the websites you work for. WriteForCash.com, for example, pays the first week of the next month after the month that you completed the work and they also have a 30-article limit.

    Making the most of these constraints mean that if you're paid $20 for each of the 30 articles, the most that you can earn in a month is $600 (i.e., 30 x $20/article)which means you still have $1,400 to worry about for your monthly freelancing. Also consider that you won't get your $600 check within the month that your articles got accepted.

    Here are more examples for anticipating your freelance income. If you write for WriteforCash.com it's not impossible to realize earnings of $400 per month if you write efficiently.

    Always do the math and you can never go wrong. Never waste you time on non-revenue generating activities such as sites that either don't pay or pay very little unless you are doing this to help advertise your craft or you have extra time in your hands. If however, you can't find sites that will pay you $100 per article or higher during any given month, aim your guns towards the small fry for the time being in order to cover your projected shortfall. You will notice that no month is the same as you obtain your earnings from many different sources, big and small.

    Of course, it never hurts to have some regulars up your sleeves the likes of Sloot.com where I cover the telecommunications beat. Though I am not allowed to discuss my rate here per article, I must say it's a pretty good rate and the editor that I work with is so professional. Work on developing these contacts which will provide you with a regular income stream.

    How to get these regulars? I must say the strategy requires a combination of good old detective work (translation: surf a lot) coupled with effective niching, which is concentrating on the kind of writing that you do best (i.e., How To's; poetry; Children's books, etc.). You have more chances pitching for subject you are an expert at rather than a subject where you currently have zero knowledge.

    Look carefully into the details of your pitch. Make your query letter look as professional as possible, which means you have to know the name of the editor; include your full contact information; and, make every effort to make your own voice come through (translation: your own style of writing, including the way you would express yourself if you wrote the article you are proposing).

    Let me end with what I consider the most important tip in pitching. Do your homework; always look for the writer's submission guidelines found in nearly every site that needs help with their content. I learned this the hard way. Plus, always read sample articles to familiarize you with the kind of content needed.

    If you write regularly, you do reach that point where it feels like somebody is whispering you the words to write. But if you put a sense of strategy into the task, you may be hitting the beaches in Hawaii more often than you think!

    Copyright © 2001 Archie Sicat

    Archie Sicat has been writing for the past fifteen years. His expertise lies in creative writing, journalism, and feature writing. He currently does webmastering for InternetMovieServer.com and CustomerServiceSchool.com.

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