March 23, 2015

Increasing Your Earnings Per Job

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Increasing Earning Per JobI have recently started reading posts from the WriterAccess blog which is written by both staff and contract writers from the site. The most recent post, Graduating from Writing Press Releases for Pennies, resonated quite a bit with me, and I thought that I would talk about the concepts here. I do recommend that you read the original post, because I am not going to repeat it here.

There were really two ideas that I want to discuss. The first one is that we all start out on the bottom rung of the ladder in the freelance writing business. Just like any job, writers need to pay their dues. However, as we grow in experience, it behooves us to relinquish the lower paying jobs and pick up more and more higher paying jobs.

A good example is free writing sites which many of us started out on. The truth is that we all need to make a living. There is no shame in it. That also means making the most of our time. If you have a choice of a guaranteed $50/hour job and a free article that may make you $1000 down the road, it is better to take the guaranteed $50 now. Not only will you get the $50, but you may also get future $50/hour jobs from this current job. The $1000 sounds good but it is potential. If you have time, then work on that job afterwards.

As beginner writers, we are thrilled with any pay, but as experienced writers we deserve and should get paid more. Take the time to cultivate jobs and clients that can pay more, so that you can earn more money from the time you spend working. Then you won’t have to work so many hours. There is no question that I am a more knowledgeable and better writer than I was when I started working online in 2008. That experience and knowledge is worth something.

The second idea that struck me was that you cannot put all your eggs in one basket. This concept is one that I cannot repeat enough times on this blog. Smart investors spread their money out into several types of investments. You, as a freelance writer, need to do the same with your income. It is great if you are earning a lot of money from one source right now. However, with the constant changes to the Internet, laws, search engine technology, what works today will not work tomorrow. This means having more than one client, more than one site, more than one type of income, whatever fits your model of earning. Watch trends and know your market. Think of new ways that you can use your existing skills to make money.

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Where to Write Going Forward

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Many online writers like myself started out writing on article sites such as Squidoo and Hubpages. These sites, which are now being referred to as sharecropper sites, are slowly being phased out to some extent as the Internet changes what is acceptable to write, and Google continues to expand the technology that seeks out and destroys spammers.

While there will always be some spam and junk online, Google is trying to limit what rises to the top of the search engine which is where most activity takes place. Therefore, sites like Squidoo are adapting to the new reality by asking for a more personal, storytelling type of writing which in the end will not pay writers as much as straight curated sales pages will.

What that means for those of us who make a living writing online is that we need to rethink our strategy. While we can continue to work on sites like Squidoo and share our earnings with the site owners, they are other ways to earn via writing.

If affiliate marketing is the main way we want to earn money, then we can set up our own sites, and make a higher percentage from each article we write. This is a long-term strategy as any new business takes time to build. I began working with this strategy two years ago, and have found even with a small amount of effort, I can earn income this way.

Another way to earn money right now is to write for content mills like CloudCrowd, iWriter, and This is a path that I was introduced to last fall, and I have slowly been learning the ropes of writing for other people. It means that you may be writing articles that you don’t love or about topics that are not interesting to you personally, but it is a way to earn necessary income now. Many of these sites require tests, resumes, and approval before you are accepted.

Lastly, you can build your own clientele list by becoming a true freelance writer through sites like Elance and oDesk. These are sites that give you a chance to bid on jobs related to your experience and knowledge base. Once you hook up with a client, you deal with them directly and get paid directly by that client. Once a freelancer becomes experienced, they can often get hired through their own website bypassing any referral fees to the third-party site.

I used to advise people not to put all of their eggs in one basket meaning one of the sharecropper sites. That strategy is not really enough anymore if you want to earn a living wage. Earnings from these sites are no longer reliable, and though they will continue the money will not be enough to live on. It is time to move on to bigger and better things, and try some new writing sites to fill in the gaps of your income. This can be a safety net for now, and become a true source of income later as search based income continues to change.

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June is the Time to Begin Your Christmas Sales

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Most people do not start thinking about Christmas until November.  Some do not even think about it until December 15th.  However, I start thinking about Christmas in June every year, and that is because I am a retailer.

June is also a great time to start thinking about how you are going to make money online during the biggest selling season of the year.

As a retail seller, I need to plan ahead to decide what I will sell, what I will order, and to allow for time for my vendors and artists to manufacture and deliver what I need to have in my shop by October.  By October, customers start talking about looking for gifts, so having the gifts in stock will give them ideas, and may also trigger sales early.

People also look online to get ideas for gifts.  In the United States, many families not only buy gifts for their children, and spouses, but also for teachers, friends, gifts to take to parties, co-workers, bosses, subordinates, the list goes on and on.  My sister-in-law buys gifts for her kids, her siblings’s kids, and her sibling-in-laws’ kids.  And she isn’t the only one.

As an online writer and marketer, I want to have my articles ready and in place by October, which means getting started on them in June.  If I write my last Christmas article by October, people still have three months to find them, and purchase from them in October, November, and December.  If you wait until December, you are missing out on a lot of traffic and sales.

I urge you to really take the time necessary to plan out your next 6 months.  What are your goals?  How do they compare to last year’s goals?  What do you need to accomplish to get there by October, or December?  What should your interim goals be?  Can you do it alone, or do you need help?

These questions can help you define your plan of attack, your methods of implementation, and your guide to tracking how well you are doing.  With time, patience, and perseverance, you can reach the goals you have set for yourself.  Just start now.

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Making the Sale: How to Increase Sales to My Affiliate Vendors

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Making the SaleI often hear comments about how impossible it is to earn money with affiliate vendors.  Those comments are usually from people who have tried to earn money through affiliates, and have not put in much effort, or people who do not understand that both quantity and quality are needed to earn.

First off, it is completely possible for just about anyone to earn money from affiliate vendors.  However, it does take work.  So if you are adverse to work, then this is not the job for you.  And yes, it is a job at the very least, or even a career for some of us.

So what does it take to earn money from affiliate vendors?

It helps if you are referring people to products that you are familiar with and understand.  Then you can write a much better referral page that will encourage a real person to buy a product or service.  You do not have to be an expert, but if you can give advice with feeling, then people are more likely to follow your referrals.

It takes quantity of referrals.  You will never do well with just one page linking to an affiliate vendor unless that page is so supremely amazing, and at the top of all charts, AND you have a dedicated buying audience.  Even Gwen Stephani has to pay for advertising to sell her children’s clothing line.  When you take into consideration all the competition you are up against, you need to have a large quantity of links going back to this specific vendor.

Link to individual products, instead of to the site homepage.  People are interested in the specifics.  They do not want to have to search for themselves.  That is a service you can offer them.

The more articles, pages, and sites you have linking to an affiliate, the better chances are that you will get more sales.  It takes a lot of work, but if you continue to follow this path, it will pay off in career level income.


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Making the Sale: How to Choose Vendors to Refer

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Making the SaleChoosing vendors or products to refer when you are an affiliate is not something that you should do on a whim.  This is a concept that I didn’t understand fully when I started affiliate marketing.

Depending on what kind of set up you are using there are essentially two ways to link to products that you refer.  You can use modules that a platform provides like Squidoo or Wizzley modules.  Or you can link directly to the company that you are referring to.

By using modules on a platform like Squidoo or Wizzley, you will automatically be losing some money on each sale.  However, the power of the platform may make up the difference by gaining you more traffic.  This is a decision that you have to make for yourself.

However, from my experience, I have found that if you have enough material to create a website about your topic, you will do just as well or better than you would in sales and traffic on a platform like Squidoo or Wizzley.

So where is the best place to refer people to purchase products?  Part of the calculation of how well products will sell is based on trust.  This is an intangible factor that you have to guess at when you are choosing a vendor.  If you yourself are new at referring products online, then your readers will not have built up trust in your referrals yet.  That means you need to use a vendor that they can trust.  Vendors that they can trust are companies that they are familiar with.  This is especially true if you are selling an item over $25.  $25 seems to be a threshold where you need more trust to sell an item.  Under $25 is not a lot of money to most people, so they are more willing to try something new.

For most products, price is an area where a small time person like yourself cannot compete.  Price competitions are for the big guys like Walmart and Amazon.  So you should be selling items because of other reasons.  For instance, in this article The Best Printer for College Students, I am selling a printer based on size and convenience for a college dorm room.

While it is often convenient to refer customers to Amazon, I recommend that you only do that for about 1/2 or less of your referrals.  One reason is that Amazon is one of the lowest paying affiliate vendors, and the other is that you are often competing with Amazon for placement in the search engines.  It is also always a good idea to spread out your income sources.

Ebay is a good vendor to use when you are referring something unique or obsolete.  The other reason to use Ebay is you are recommending buying from Ebay to get a bargain.  People have the idea that items on Ebay are cheaper, even though that is not always true.  I think it is because Ebay started out as a second hand seller.  You can apply to become a seller for the Ebay Partner Network as long as you have a website of your own.

Third party vendors, or vendors who sell through a partnership with an affiliate company like Linkshare or Shareasale, are actually the best choice when it comes to individual earnings per vendor.  You can often find vendors who give you 10% or more from each sale.  The best vendors on in these situations will still want to see that you have your own website.  Many will not accept you if you only write on Squidoo, Wizzley, Hubpages or similar sites.

For new affiliate marketers, I recommend starting out with companies like Target, Walmart, Macy’s that actually have a physical presence in most states in the U.S.  These are companies that will not change their affiliate policies if the law changes in the U.S. regarding affiliates.  This is because they are already paying sales tax in the states that they are in.  An advantage of these companies is that they have a broad spectrum of products and low prices.

The next tier of companies are specialty companies that sell items related to a niche you are writing in.  For instance if you are writing about bedding, look for companies that specialize in bedding and specific types of bedding.  Once you choose a niche, you can sign up for all the vendors in that category with the assumption that some will reject you until you can prove yourself.  Then you can refer as much as possible to the vendors you choose to send enough traffic to them to get regular sales.  Selling is completely a numbers game, so the more targeted traffic you send to a vendor, the more sales you will get.  If you figure you will get about 1% of sales from your traffic, that is a good place to start.  In other words, 1% of the people who visit your site will buy something.  Although during certain seasons, or highly effective articles, many writers get more sales, this is a good rule of thumb to start out with for beginners.

The bottom line is that you need a lot of links and a lot of traffic to make this work with any company.


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Making the Sale: How to Choose What to Sell

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Making the SaleIf you have never been in sales before, and you want to make money by writing online, then I strongly recommend that you follow the steps in this post until you get very comfortable with the process of selling.

New sales people do the best job selling something that they wholeheartedly believe in.  This is because they feel completely comfortable recommending an item that they know very well, and can describe easily.

Choosing to sell the right product or service is extremely important to your success in making money from selling online.

If you follow these steps, you will be able to find plenty of items to write about and sell online:

  1. Take one week for this project.  You can do this as you go about your daily routine.  The first thing you need is a pencil and paper, and the second is your thinking brain.
  2. Keep your paper and pencil with you as you go about your daily routine.  One an hour or so, look up from what you are doing and observe your surroundings.  Write down anything you see that you like, admire, or that impresses you.  Start with tangible items like your computer, your ballpoint pen, your skirt, the wallpaper in that room, then you can move on to intangible, your boss’s leadership, your child’s ingenuity.  This is just a note taking process.  Jot down these items for about 5 minutes, then go on with your day.
  3. By the end of the week, you should have a pretty comprehensive list.  The next step is to organize your list into categories.  Spend about an hour organizing your list at the end of the week.  Categories can be anything, from toys to leadership ideas.
  4. You have created a categorized list of items that you are extremely familiar with in your day to day routine.  This is where you should start to choose items to write about and sell.  From your categories, pick the category that brings a smile to your face, and that you would enjoy talking about to your friends.
  5. After you have chosen your category, you should pick 10 items from your category list that you can talk about.  Pick items that you can describe easily, you know what they look like, feel like, and how to use them.
  6. Start with item #1 on this new list, and for that item, write down a 10 sentence description, 5 things you love about this item, 5 things that could be improve, how you use the item in your life, and why you think someone else would like it. Now you have the basis for a review or product description.  This is something that you already know about, and have feelings about.
  7. Write a 5 paragraph page about your chosen item #1.  Take the information that you have written down, and put your voice into it.  Pretend you are talking to one of your friends in person, and talk about your product.  Do you think your friend would be interested in checking out this item from your recommendation?

As you begin to work on items that you can recommend, move through your categories from most familiar to least familiar.  As you get used to the process, it will become easier to recommend items that you are less comfortable with.  You may never feel comfortable writing about items that you don’t use, but think of all the items that you DO use.  You will not run out of things to write about.

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Making the Sale: Let’s Be Honest About Making Money Online

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Making the SaleLet’s be honest and admit that we have become online writers and marketers in order to make some money.  After all, money is what pays our bills, feeds our family, and helps others when we donate it to a charity.  I have a daughter who has just started college, and we need to make sure that we can pay her bills in order for her to get the education that she needs for her career.

Needing money to sustain our lifestyle is a matter of fact part of life, and we need to come straight out and admit to ourselves that when we refer a reader to any company that pays us a referral fee or commission for something the reader buys, then we are selling that item.

Selling is nothing to be ashamed of.  This is a profession as old as bartering for goods.  And you should never feel that referring someone to a product or service is underhanded.  If you come right out and tell them that is what you are doing, then you are honestly referring them.  It is only underhanded when you don’t tell them that you are referring them to a sales site.

Sales in its basic form is recommendation.  If I tell you about a product and it is something that you need too, then on my recommendation you buy it, I have sold you that item.  The nuance in terms between referrals and sales is this:  A sale usually equates to a monetary transaction, and a referral does not.  But as you have experienced, the terms are just different shades of the same thing, and are used interchangeably.

Internet sales is not going to go away, unless the mysterious “they” out there comes up with an even easier way to buy products we need.  Selling online is very lucrative, and is a major support of most companies these days, especially if they can sell a product that can be shipped.  Shipping is the only drawback to buying online, and the fee that customers need to buy for an item to ship.

Making money through affiliate sales, by earning a commission on selling a product or a service, is an honest way to make a living.  It is not a scam, unless the person doing the selling is an unethical scammer.  And we all know that people like that exist in every profession.  That being said, becoming a successful online marketer takes hard work, and it takes time, just like developing any commission based livelihood does.  To be successful, you need to put in your time, learn how to do it right, and build your business.  If you are willing to do these things, then you can definitely earn a small piece of the internet sales pie, enough to make enough money for you to live on.

How much you earn depends solely on your efforts, and your willingness to do what it takes to make the sale.  This series of posts will teach you what you need to do, outside of the discussion of keyword research, writing, and building pages and sites.  We will discuss what to sell, how to sell it, and why you may not be making the kind of money you want right now.  As I write this post, it is October 7, and I have all my ideas of how I am going to make my money online for this Christmas shopping season planned out.  Do you?  While you don’t need to have every little piece of your strategy in place right now, you should at least be in the planning stages.  Planning ahead is one of the keys to making the sale.

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The Writing Online Team has had a break but plans are afoot….

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The thing is with Writing Online, that for many of us it is all part of a juggling act and life can take over. Our priorities are constantly changing.

There’s the need to manage our off-line lives, which generally include all or some of the following: raising a family, supporting our adult kids, looking after aging parents, dealing with health issues, managing our “paid work” and a whole host of other stuff that may take our time and energy.

Members of the Writing Online team have all had various issues to deal with over the past couple of months and I know I have felt I have just had to swim wherever the tide of life has taken me, so this site has had to be put on the backburner for awhile. However, plans are now being formulated to really get this site going once our holidays are over, towards the end of August.

We have a whole new set of articles planned and we will be contacting some potential Guest Writers. So please subscribe to the site feed to make sure you don’t miss anything new.

Here’s hoping that you have a lovely Summer – and Winter for our friends in the southern hemisphere :)

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The Debate Between Using Paid vs. Free WordPress Themes

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If you would like to really create websites of your own using WordPress as the base, the first big question you have to ask yourself is whether you want to use the free WordPress themes that are available for download from WordPress or if you want to buy a paid for theme.

Almost everyone in the world starts out using free WordPress themes because they are free, and because they do not understand why they should pay for a theme if they can get one for free.  And for beginners, the free WordPress themes are fine.

There are several good free themes, but the one I like the best is the 2010 Weaver, which combines the features of the 2010 and the Weaver themes.  You can customize the theme in several ways, and the theme does not have the hidden traps and links that many free themes have.  2010 Weaver works well with most plugins and also allows you to upload a custom header.  The theme comes with several already configured customizations, or you can add your own to make the site look the way you want.  For free themes, this one is the best one I can recommend, and if you need backend help, you can consult with Anne at SEOPraxis who is an expert on this theme.  This blog, Native American Totems, is using a 2010 Weaver theme.

For professionals, who are looking to put up several sites, who want the best SEO optimization built into their site, and who want a truly professional look to their sites, one of the best companies to deal with is StudioPress.

StudioPress offers you the ability to buy one theme or a package with all of their themes.  The package is the best deal if you will use more than one theme.  Once you buy a theme, you can use it on as many sites as you like; there is no limit.  So if you buy only one theme, you can use it on several sites, and many of the themes allow different colors or customization.  StudioPress themes come with the themes already set up for SEO, so you don’t need to add a lot of plugins, although you can still add plugins for features that you want to add.  Most of the themes come with specialized widgets that show up on the home page, making it look more like a site, and less like a blog.  And the themes are very professional looking, designed by paid professional graphic designers.

You do have to learn to use the themes, but once you do, they are easy to use.  I have installed StudioPress themes on several websites in the last few months, and I can attest that the themes are well designed, look great, and pages index extremely quickly on Google.  Here are two sites that are using StudioPress themes:  Cleveland OH Visitor, and Pro Hubpages.

There are other companies that create paid themes, but I only have direct experience using StudioPress.  I would investigate and use the one that fits your situation the best.  In essence, I think that if you are creating a blog for little traffic, and backlinks, then the free themes are fine, but if you want to drive commercial traffic to your site, then you should invest in a paid theme.

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How to Place Effective Advertising on WordPress Blogs

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For those of you who are creating WordPress blogs, either as separate websites, or to promote your lenses, there is significant money to be made from Google Adsense.  Recently, the question has come up as to how to earn money from Adsense, and I will address that in this post.

I have had a blog for my gallery for at least 5 years.  During that entire time, I had an Adsense account, but for the first two years, I made almost no money from it.  I think in two years time, I accumulated about $12.  Google Adsense requires a minimum of $100 for a payout, so you can see why I was not excited about the $12.

However, in the last 3 years, I have learned a lot more about how to earn with Google Adsense, and while I am not a complete expert, I can tell that I have made well over payout month over month for about 18 months now.  That is a significant change, and I would like to help you achieve the same using some simple methods.

Adsense is totally free to sign up for, although not everyone gets approved.  To be approved, you need to have a website or blog of your own, but it doesn’t have to be on your own domain.  There is no question that newer Adsense publishers get less valuable ads, and you have to prove that you can send buyers to the advertisers.  So don’t be surprised at first if your clicks only get you a few pennies at first.  This is how you pay your dues as an Adsense publisher.

Adsense works best on websites that have a clear focus.  And this focus can change from post to post, but at least each post should be directly focused on one basic topic.  Adsense will try to match ads to your content.  However, depending on what your topic is, there may not be a good match.  If this is the case, then Adsense will not be the best advertiser for you.

Just like any other form of marketing, Adsense is a numbers game.  The more and better targeted traffic you have, the better Adsense matches you will get, and the more paying clicks will occur.  Adsense is a pay per click program, so people have to click on the ads for you to earn anything.  Never, never click on your own ads.  This is click fraud, and will get you banned from Adsense forever.  Google is extremely unforgiving about click fraud.  It is actually best not to click on any ad on a site that you write on.  That way, your behavior cannot be questioned.

So how do you get people to actually click on your ads.

The best way to do this is to put your ads in what I call an umbrella pattern.  That means a banner ad at the top of your page, and an ad block to the right and the left of your content at the very top of the sidebars.  One of these blocks can also be inside your content with the text wrapped around it.  This is sort of an upside down U shape.  That means that the introduction or first paragraph of your content is surrounded by ads.  You can match the colors of the Adsense blocks to match your site or blog, so that the ads look natural sitting there.

Depending on your blog or site’s layout, all these three positions may not be the best place to put ad blocks.  If you look at this example on Eco-Chic Green Fashion, you will see an ad block at the top and right, but nothing on the left.  That is because I decided that the pictures were more important here.

That is also what I am doing on Precious Metal Clay, here. On Cleveland OH Visitor, the sidebars move around.  Here is a page with ads on both sides. The primary spots for getting clicks are at the top of the page, above the fold, or above the scroll online.  This is where your best ads should go.

As your blog matures, and your entire portfolio of Adsense income matures, you will get better ads, and better paying clicks.  I have had clicks in the last year as high as $10, although rarely, but the average rate is usually around $1-$2.  These add up a lot faster than pennies.

As to how large of ad blocks to use, I like to use the largest ad block that I can in a given space, and prefer the square and horizontal ads over the vertical ones.  They seem to perform better for me.  You have to see what will work on your sites or blogs.  Don’t worry too much about readers being put off by ads.  If they are not interested, their eyes will just skip right over the ads, and go to the part of your page that they are interested in.  You are allowed to put a maximum of three Google Adsense blocks per page, no more unless you get special permission.

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