Hi. This is an old, unmaintained blog. You may find these sites more to your liking:

Carson Brackney: This is my primary site.

Ad Astra Traffic: Content production/article writing service.

Ad Astra Traffic Team: For those who'd like to get writing gigs with Ad Astra.

Monday, June 05, 2006

According to this test, I'm an idiot...I beg to differ...On freelance writers' sites...

Some of you may believe that the freelance content writers cooperative has fallen off the radar, but we are still making progress... Design expenses and other little bugaboos are probably going to force some compromises in terms of features. However, we still want to offer something valuable to freelance writers. To that end, I was thinking about what kind of "must-have" characteristics were necessary.

While thinking, I was researching. I found an article by Susan Daffron of Logical Expressions--"How to Create a Freelance Writer Web Site that Gets Read."

Daffron has a series of recommendations. I think the main Content Done Better site is in violation across the board.

DAFFRON: Concise information about your writing specialty. What do you do? It's not a good idea to try and be everything to everybody. It's a recipe for confusion, so pick a specialty and focus on it.

CONTENT DONE BETTER (ME): "I consider myself a generalist, able to write on a wide variety of topics. One of the best parts about being a content writer is the opportunity to research and learn about new things, and I take pride in CDB's ability to fill orders of all types." [that's not even on the main page, it's in the FAQ!]

DAFFRON: A list of writing credits. Now that a lot of magazines are online, you can often link directly to your articles. At a minimum, you can usually link to the main publisher or client homepage.

CONTENT DONE BETTER: No list of credits. A few client testimonials on the main page and an additional "hype" page with other examples of effusive praise.

DAFFRON: Samples of your writing. Some editors want to see articles that haven't been edited by a pro. Why? A really good editor can make bad writing almost unrecognizably good. Editors know that someone else could be cleaning up your writing so it never hurts to show a few clips in an unaltered state. This may sound like extra work, but it's really an opportunity for you to write some original material that you can reuse later.

CONTENT DONE BETTER: No samples. On the FAQ page I mention, "Content Done Better generally relinquishes all publication rights to the materials we produce. As such, we do not post sample materials on this site. You can feel free to use the form on the Main page (or you may email directly) to receive sample materials that reflect the type of work done for projects like yours."

DAFFRON: Your complete contact information, pricing or payment policies, and if you are collecting e-mail addresses, your privacy policy.

CONTENT DONE BETTER: Rates vary. Email only (form and address provided). Oh, and I guess I should finally get around to adding a note about the utter sacredness of all emails sent to me.

So, based on the Daffron Criteria, my site is a Giant Loser.

Reality tells me something else. I get an average of 5-10 very solid inquiries per week via my site (and a slew of others I just won't touch). Of those, about half turn into paying jobs. I stay busy, have no complaints, and keep on booking work through my seemingly faulty site that no one should be reading according to the experts.

What does that tell you? Susan Daffron is wrong? Nope. Instead, it tells me that freelance writers aren't alike. Those who are looking to get their articles in print publications are serving a different client base than those who focus more upon online efforts. Those who specialize in precise niches aren't the same as generalists to whom one can go to get "good stuff" on any topic.

Why does this matter? Because many freelance writers believe they can take ideas and approaches from one aspect of this massive field and apply it with an equal level of success to all areas. I am NOT saying Daffron was doing that--I think her article was intentionally aimed at someone other than yours truly. However, I know there will be some web content writer who sees that article and starts rebuilding his or her site to comport with those recommendations, even though it might not be necessary. Likewise, someone is probably going to see a site like mine and assume it will help them get into Harper's or something, which is unlikely.

The moral to the story: When someone tells a writer what a freelance writer should be or do, he or she should think about exactly what he or she is trying to do within the field first and filter those recommendations through personal experience and aspirations.

Oh, and it also shows just how tricky launching the cooperative and constructing something valuable to a diversity of participants is going to be.