Friday, January 31, 2014

Use "Add-Ons" to Enhance Your Blog

You may have noticed that A Guide to Profitable Freelancing gets by with articles that only has written text. That's because that was how I chose to differ from all the other blogs out there about freelancing.

But I would also be among the first ones to say that for the majority of blogs, "add-ons" are needed, to improve the clarity of the blogger's message, to drive home a point, even to provoke or catch the attention of online readers.

A word about add-ons, though: use them sparingly. Their main purpose is to enhance the blog's layout, not distract your readers from reading your articles.

Any of the following can be considered an add-on:  


Some bloggers choose to upload color photos that they have taken themselves, while others come in black-and-white. Color photos can brighten up an otherwise dull or monotonous background, while black-and-white photos tone down the mood of bold and bright color templates.

Keep in mind that since it's your blog, you own the copyright to whatever you choose to publish. So needless to say, you should not steal someone else's photos and use them as your own.

Drawings, illustrations, or caricatures

I'm not just talking about graphic or multi-media design, but drawings rendered on pen and ink, or colored pencils, or even paintings. Blogs that lean heavily on marketing or deal with the subject of art and its impact on society may use these.

Video clips

I have seen plenty of online marketers record videos of themselves and then upload them in their blogs. Usually, these videos run for only a few minutes, and the one "hosting" the blog will air a message welcoming new readers and then get them in on the basics of his business.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Make Your Blog Stand Out by Creating Quality Content

Even with on-going innovations in technology changing the way most people read, online users are still looking for material that is engaging, informative, and insightful.

Nowadays people are leading busier lives than ever, to the point that buying and reading newspapers and magazines may already prove to be a rare luxury. So a netizen's next best bet is to log online to get his fix of articles.

Blogs are especially useful to the netizen with a mobile lifestyle. They are easily accessible to the person with a computer, tablet, or phone, which can be taken almost everywhere. 

Traditional media appeals more to the mainstream audience, but bloggers get their fair share of readers and followers as well, if they regularly publish content that meets the needs of their target audience.

You don't have to be gifted in writing literary prose if you aspire to blog. You do have to be fully familiar with the topic about which you chose to write, and communicate with your readers in a conversational tone.

Here are some of the most common ideas that got most blogs started:

  • The blogger aimed to solve a problem, or offer feasible solutions to make it more manageable.
  • He raised awareness about a current or pressing issue (e.g. parents of kids with autism, cancer survivors, soliciting calamity funds, etc.) to get people in on the bandwagon.
  • He advertised the products or services of a business in its growth and expansion stage.
  • He wrote about a popular hobby or sport (e.g. scrapbooking or photography, basketball or football).

Now we're done with content. In my next article I'll talk about enhancing it with "add-ons."

Monday, January 27, 2014

Increase Your Blog Traffic by Knowing How and What to Write

You have now been fully oriented with the basics of blogging. I also gave a simple explanation why it works on a 70/30 basis.

Thousands of blogs are competing with each other in the blogosphere for the attention of netizens. This includes blogs that are published only as a hobby or an outlet to rant or vent as well as blogs that try to make money.

Bloggers come to the blogosphere willing to share their opinions, thoughts, and personal expertise. And since each of them have different backgrounds, they will most likely attract the types of readers with whom they share a lot in common, or who rally for the same cause about which they're writing, or those who find what they write amusing, humorous, or entertaining.

Even if two stay-at-home moms blog, it's almost a guarantee that you can immediately spot how one differentiates from the other. One mom may be taking care of a toddler, and blogging is her way of sharing her struggles and triumphs. The other mom may have opted for a work-life balancing act and chose to set up a home-based business so she can devote time to her kids. The latter also has a wealth of experiences to share that may spark the interest of plenty of readers. 

Now, if I may use this blog as an example, I had Filipino readers in mind when I was just starting out. I'm aware that the majority of Filipinos have above average to excellent oral and written communication skills in English, and an increasing number are gaining access to computers and the Internet. 

But I also recognized that Filipinos who aspire to be professional freelancers must adjust their fees if they want to appeal to a local clientele. Not everyone in the industry has the patience to bid for jobs in popular freelancing sites that charge a small commission and require applicants to undergo rigorous exams to gauge their readiness to accept online jobs.

The global community of professional freelancers usually get paid through U.S. dollars, British pounds, or euros. However, most local clients will find international rates exorbitantly high, so even if I would be the first to say that aspiring freelancers must do everything in order to not come out on the losing end of each project or assignment, they should also adjust their rates to make themselves marketable.

So I adopted the concept of freelancing, but provided guidelines with Filipino workers in mind. I did research on international rates and converted it to Philippines pesos. I then subtracted a certain percentage according to the scope and complexity of the project. And then I gave rough estimates when charging in local figures.

As a result, I made my proposition to get into freelancing as a potential career very feasible, and I shared many of my own experiences as well.

Stay tuned for more about blogging in my next articles.

Friday, January 24, 2014

In Order to Monetize, Learn to Optimize

You may have a lot of interesting things to share in your blog. You may have even uploaded photos that you think would enhance the lay-out and overall impact of your articles and make your readers take a second look every time they log online.

But here's a fact well-known among bloggers: writing quality content is just roughly one-third of the total equation when it comes to communicating effectively with netizens. And if you want to make serious money blogging, I think the following formula would be a fairly accurate evaluation of what you would need to do:

Thirty percent

  • Write quality content, which means articles that range from 250 to 400 words, are original, insightful or informative, and aim to meet the needs of target readers.
  • "Add-ons" like photos, illustrations, videos, animated tutorials, visuals, etc. should enhance your articles and not distract your readers. If you're going to use a good number of "add-ons," keep your lay-out simple, crisp, and use a black font over a white background.

Seventy percent 

  • Employ search engine optimization (SEO) as a tool to "get your blog out there," which means making it easier for search engines to find you by incorporating keywords to your blog articles.
  • Link your blog's URL to your Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter accounts.
  • Introduce yourself to bloggers who are writing about topics similar to yours, and ask if you can be a "guest blogger," which means you'll write one or several keyword-rich articles for your host blogger, and then provide your URL as a link so readers can be redirected to your blog.
  • When applying or bidding for online gigs, you can use your blog as a writing credential.
  • When querying an editor, provide your blog's URL in your email as proof of your writing experience.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Blogosphere: What Does It Take to Blog Effectively?

What does a stay-at-home mom, a technorati, a foodie who's also fond of cooking and baking, a sports nut, a pet lover, and a fashionista have in common?

The answer may surprise some of you: they are all qualified to write about their personal experiences and publish their own blog.

The majority of the tech-savvy prefer to turn to the Internet to read about the latest trends, do research, or look for any published tidbit that sounds odd or unusual. Gone are the days when readers are limited to newspapers, books, and magazines. In fact, through bookmarking articles, readers can now be more discriminating in choosing what they'd like to read.

And since blogs are relatively easy to navigate and posts are short, netizens turn to them, for updates or information, or just a way to pass the time.

But not all blogs are created equal. Even if you're fond of baking French macaroons for your kids or can write about fine dining doesn't mean that a lot of online readers will find French macaroons or fine dining interesting.

As with any other activity, blogging can either be a hobby or a job. People who make serious money from blogging are in tune with the needs and interests of their target market.

However, even with their target market in mind, bloggers each have a way of approaching their topics. In general, writing for a blog means doing it in a way that comes across as crisp, concise, and coherent, and yet, the bloggers who stand out have trained themselves to develop their own style.

In addition to publishing quality content regularly, being thoroughly knowledgeable with search engine optimization (SEO) is crucial for exponentially increasing one's blog traffic. I'll explain this further in my next article.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Can You Really Make Money Blogging?

The short answer? Yes.

During the last few decades, netizens have seen a lot of innovations over the World Wide Web. With the popularity of blog hosting sites like Blogger and Wordpress, a new group of online writers, ranging from stay-at-home moms to pet lovers, to fashionistas and travel enthusiasts, has been tapped and discovered.

However, while it's safe to say that it's relatively easy to start publishing your own blog, maintaining it is another story. And making money through your blog takes a lot of thought, planning, and hard work.

Let me explain how blogging works. When you begin posting articles, you need to get as much "traffic" as possible to your blog. The term traffic is simply netspeak for the number of online readers that will find your blog among the blogosphere. 

Online users are always looking for articles that are interesting, informative, or insightful. If you consistently create quality content, which means your articles are short yet concisely written, engaging, and appeal to your target audience, eventually you will build a solid base of followers.

Of course, there are other key factors in increasing your blog's traffic. Mastering the techniques of search engine optimization (SEO) is a must, and coming up with relevant keywords is crucial, too. 

Also, be informed that the majority of bloggers upload their own photos or illustrations. Some even put up instructional videos. However, photos and videos are mere "add-ons," which means they should be used sparingly. Otherwise, they will distract the readers instead of enhance the blog's lay-out.

In my next post, I'll talk about how different types of bloggers approach their work, and how you can find the style that best suits you. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Ever Thought About Hiring Yourself as A Profile Writer? (Part 3)

To round up this three-part article series, I will cite the last two types of potential clients to whom you can offer the services of writing a profile. Here they are:

Freelance writers and bloggers

Having a writer's web site is crucial for anyone in this field who is serious about making a decent living, and people will never hesitate to pay for high quality web content, especially if it means generating more income by having more clients contact them through their sites.

Also, if the writer wants to submit book-length manuscripts to publishing companies and make it as an author, a web site can serve as a strong credential and proof that the writer knows the principles of marketing. If he has narrowed down his expertise to a few topics or a few genres and provided links to his clips or PDF versions of his articles, it would be a lot easier for an editor to assess his potential to get published.

As a general rule, a writer's web site should have an About page with a photo and a brief biography (no more than three paragraphs), a page for Clips, and a page where he can provide his Contact information.  

Here's one last group that doesn't necessarily belong to any category of professionals, but you can easily turn into quite a huge client base:

Men and women needing a personal ad for the purpose of meeting people online.

This includes singles who'd like to try online dating through reputable dating sites, dedicated hobbyists who want to meet like-minded people with similar interests, and book lovers who are fond of writing rave reviews (or rants) about their favorite literary works.

Be forewarned that a large group of singles have serious doubts about meeting someone online who could end up as a possible mate, and for a good reason. Nearly anyone can assume and operate on a false identity when meeting people online.

However, there are some dating sites who have made it clear that being honest about one's identity and upfront about one's intentions for relationships and marriage are what kept their businesses afloat in the online dating industry.

If a single person comes to you and asks for help in writing a personal ad, can you give him a balanced evaluation about the maturity of his character? And aside from spending several years in a career (proof that he's responsible enough to hold down a job), it's also important that he has several hobbies so he can easily be matched with someone with whom he's compatible.

Stay tuned, because for the rest of January until February, I will be focusing on making money from blogging.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Ever Thought About Hiring Yourself as A Profile Writer? (Part 2)

I started this week by introducing you to the possibilities of writing profiles for professionals who need a strong sense of Branding and Identity to advertise themselves and the kind of work they do.

Here's the third group of people that could be a potential clientele for you:

Events planners, caterers, and hosts

These are the types who are extremely organized, meticulous, and have trained themselves to hone their interpersonal skills.

It's not a secret that there will always be people who will celebrate their birthdays, decide to tie the knot, celebrate a wedding anniversary or graduation from college. There are also a lot of corporate events that focus on team building activities to promote good will and camaraderie among employees and bosses.

However, in order for such events to be successfully implemented, one has to hire someone to oversee every detail. So you can just imagine the demand for professionals who can act as facilitators and entertainers, and imagine preparing for events that will last for only several hours.

With the the founding of Facebook and social media marketing, your best bet as a profile writer is to charge for creating an interactive and engaging Facebook Page for your clients.

Large corporations and organizations make up the bulk of events planners' clients. A host can either be male or female, or, in children's parties, he could be a clown or a magician.

For caterers whose aim is to keep their clients' budget in mind, they may offer several options with the appetizers, entree, desserts, and drinks while still keeping within a reasonable figure.

When thinking about crafting a profile, think about three things:
  • Something simple and crisp yet easily recognizable
  • Something extremely edgy and catchy
  • If your client is particular about attracting a specific type of market (e.g. those who'd like a host for bridal and baby showers), effectively utilize the lingo or vernacular that is popular among that crowd. This would make it easier for potential clients to find the host's Facebook Page.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Ever Thought About Hiring Yourself as A Profile Writer?

If you're the type of writer who can come up with tight, gripping, catchy, or even provocative copy, and you can give a fairly balanced assessment, why not make money writing profiles for clients who are looking for cost-effective ways to advertise themselves?

In our celebrity and media-driven culture, advertising and marketing campaigns can cost hundreds of thousands of pesos. Most freelancers in creative fields turn to self-promotion to avoid putting a huge dent on their budget.

You may have noticed the great number of freelancers proliferating in the blogosphere, or those who made personalized Pages on the social networking site Facebook, hoping to get noticed by their target audience.

However, without a coherent profile, these creative freelancers will only achieve modest success at best. So I'll cite the five categories of professionals to whom you can pitch your skills and talents.

Up-and-coming artists, sculptors, craftsmen, and illustrators

It would be helpful if you're knowledgeable about the art scene that exists in your area. If you're conversant with styles, you can immediately tell how the artist seeks to differ among his peers, who has influenced him, what sort of upbringing he had, etc.

The concern of most aspiring artists is to get as much exposure as possible, through exhibits, or getting support by writing solicitation letters to interested sponsors.

Having a website is also crucial. You can ask for the amount you usually charge for a flat fee, and then ask for PhP2,500-PhP4,000 for three web pages consisting of an About page, another one to serve as a "teaser" to introduce online viewers to his work, and another page for the artist's contact information.

Here's something to think about, though: art is not exclusive to a certain age. There are people who, after raising kids and retiring from the corporate world, suddenly get the urge to pick up a paintbrush.

There are also people who once led active lives but, due to an unfortunate twist of events (e.g. a vehicular accident), have been rendered an invalid and turned to painting and drawing as an outlet.

It's not unusual to find groups of artists who are invalids or have a disability of some sort, but were able to achieve financial stability, and, to some extent, fame because of self-reliance and persistence.

So the possibilities are endless when it comes to having a potential market.

Here's the next category:

Aspiring models and actors

While still on the early stages of their career, models and actors who have yet to make it big are always seeking out ways to cut the costs of promoting themselves.

It's a huge advantage for an aspiring celebrity to have his own website, where he can showcase himself in his best light, uploading photos of him in the most flattering angles and outfits.

However, images only make up part of a model or actor's marketing success. This group could use a lot of help when it comes to branding and identity, since potential agents would like to read a concisely written biography that briefly summarizes past modeling or acting experience.

Models and actors are not limited to statuesque men and women with perfect vital statistics. There are those who want to make it on theater or gradually build their resumes by accepting bit parts or doing cameos.

You can charge the same amount for the content of three basic web pages. You can also team up with freelance photographers, stylists, and makeup artists.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Have More Free Time This 2014! Here's How (Part 3)

I'm now rounding up this three-part series by providing these last few guidelines:

Schedule your appointments along with your other errands.

Set aside two days every month when you can be out of the house the whole day. If you need to see your doctor or dentist, or would like to seek legal counsel or pay your taxes, see if you can also do the groceries afterwards or claim your money from the bank to which your clients made a bank transfer.

This is also a good idea if you don't pay your bills online. In the Philippines, establishments have been set up for the sole purpose of accepting electricity, water, and telephone bills.

YOU SAVE: Two days a month 

Set goals and plan ahead. 

You may wish to achieve a few major feats each year (e.g. write and market an eBook, organize seminars, take a course, etc.), or spend a shorter time working on smaller yet equally significant goals.

Keeping track of your projects and income and filing your documents should be your utmost priority. But consider purging any contract that has gone beyond three months after the date you got paid for your services, to avoid clutter. Enter the details into a spreadsheet and save it on your hard drive.

If you're a writer and you send queries, do it on a Monday or Tuesday. Editors are quick to reply to effective queries and may want you to submit your manuscript immediately. If you did a good job, you may earn at least several thousand pesos in a quarter.

YOU SAVE: One week every three months  

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Have More Free Time This 2014! Here's How (Part 2)

In my previous article, I have cited two ways a professional freelancer can have more free time this year. Here's the third one:

Determine which tasks can be delegated.

If you need to keep your records up-to-date, consider hiring a bookkeeper who charges at an hourly rate. If you keep track of every project or assignment within a two-week period, you should outsource accounting duties twice a month.

When you do so, have everything on hand (i.e. client's profile, nature of project, your rates, any receipts from expenses you've incurred, etc.), and then guide him by giving step-by-step instructions. Usually, two hours a day, two days a month is sufficient to keep your records in order.

When it comes to laundry duties, car maintenance (if you keep one to save on transportation fee), and other household tasks, you have the following options:
  • Incorporate your share of chores into your weekly schedule. Set aside a few hours every weekend for marketing and cooking food in bulk, freeze them, and heat only the right amount for every meal.
  • Stick to simple meals like soups or sandwiches on a couple of weekdays, and always have fruits handy.
  • You may want to consider doing the laundry no more than once week, since you don't have to think about getting your corporate attire in order. Ironing should be less frequent, too.
  • Consider bringing your bed sheets, blankets, curtains, and drapes to the dry cleaner.
  • Get some exercise by working around the yard. Occasionally, you can pay someone to clean so you can afford to give yourself a day off.
YOU SAVE: One hour a day

Monday, January 6, 2014

Have More Free Time This 2014! Here's How

If you're like me, who's been freelancing for more than 10 years, you already know that you have to continually adjust your work as well as personal habits in order to sustain your career.

While having the freedom to set our own pace and work around our preferred schedule are just some of the benefits we relish as professional freelancers, after some time we will mature to a certain level of expertise and be able to perform more efficiently, decreasing the number of minutes or even hours we spend on certain tasks.

In short, we can now focus on having more free time.

Why should freelancers care about setting aside blocks of time all throughout the week and own them as their free time? Here are the top three reasons:

  • To prevent burn-out. A healthy freelancer, which means being both physically fit and mentally sound, results to a more productive worker. Imagine having very few days where you lie in bed sick because you take time to eat right and exercise.
  • To have time for hobbies and recreational activities. This will make you more well-rounded and better adjusted.
  • To cultivate relationships and grow one's network, both professionally and personally. 

So, being able to work more effectively in less time creates a win-win effect for all of us. Here are some guidelines: 

Plan your weekly schedule by Sunday afternoon or Monday morning.

You can create a chart using Microsoft Word or use a desk calendar with plenty of space to jot down tasks. Let's say you spend the first few hours of the day reading email, or sending out queries or billing clients.

Choose to tackle your most difficult or tedious tasks first, and then gradually move on to easier, less demanding tasks.

Now, here's a word about sticky notepads. Only use them for writing down emergencies that deserve your attention before the day is over (e.g. a client makes a call and asks for a few revisions, or someone asking you for your price quote). 

YOU SAVE: One hour a day

Reduce the time you spend on social media by 50 percent.

I once heard about a magazine writer who confessed to spending roughly two hours a day on Facebook. That would add up to a total of 14 hours a week! Imagine the amount of time she could have spent on other activities (e.g. doing research for future articles) if only she limited herself to an hour a day on social media. 

For some of us who's freelancing, especially writers like me, having an account on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and SkillPages can be beneficial. These sites allow us the freedom to network with our peers on a regular basis.

But if you're the type who runs out of time because you need to check what all of your friends are doing and what all of them are having for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, this may be difficult. So pause for a while and think: "These details don't matter at all. And we'll probably be able to catch up over the weekend, or plan for a get-together."

YOU SAVE: Five to seven hours a week