Software Tools for Niche Websites

Part #4: Freelance Writer’s Technology Month
[Want to start a successful career as a freelance writer?]

Yesterday, in Post #3 of Freelance Writer’s Technology Month, we discussed niche marketing. Specifically, we covered how to choose a profitable niche to start making money online.

Today we’re going to examine some software tools for niche websites that make it easy and affordable to get started – and drive traffic sustainable traffic to any niche site.

When most think of online presence, they think “website.” But, blogs have become all the rage, especially in the last three years or so. Because they are, for the most part, free to start, it’s a really affordable way to test drive ideas for making money online.
Want an easy, proven way to make money online? No money, no experience and no skills needed. Go to “Promote Products” to get started!
The really neat thing to come out of this is that large companies are realizing the power of blogs and are hopping on the bandwagon to help customers make money, ie, the eBay Affiliate Blog System (aka the eBay Blog Builder).

What is the eBay Blog Builder? Essentially, it’s a wordpress blog that’s pre formulated to conduct business as an eBay affiliate. According to the sales page for the system, it also offers the following features:

Features of the eBay Affiliate Blog System Software

A system that shows you how to quickly find profitable eBay niche products you may have never thought of before;

Details on adding relevant eBay RSS feeds to blog posts.

Instructions on setting up an autoresponder for each of your eBay affiliate blogs; and

Information on how to create and oversee multiple eBay affiliate blogs at one time.

Cost: $17.

Want to Build an eBay Empire? BuildaNicheStore.com May Just Be the Answer

Another piece of software along the same lines – but for eBay websites, can be found at BuildaNicheStore.com. What does it do?

This software lets you churn out custom, niche eBay websites in no time at all. Billed as a software for the technically challenged, it offers features like:

Multiple Product Display: You can display up to 100 products per page.

Different Template Layouts: There are three to choose from.

Various Search Features: Eg, you can search by product description, product title, price, etc.

SEO Features: Pre-populated title, meta and header tags; keyword rich product content descriptions; search engine friendly URL pages, and more.

Cost: $97.

Make Money with Niche Sites: Just Site Build It!

Don’t want to be an eBay affiliate, but still want to get in on affiliate profits. Site Build It! might just be for you. It’s an easy way to create an online presence that can start making you money almost right away. What exactly is Site Build It!?

What is Site Build It! and how do you make money with it? In essence, Site Build It! allows you to create a niche site without having any technical knowledge (eg, search engine optimization, programming knowledge, coding skills, etc.).

You focus on content. Site Build It! focuses on the “behind-the-scenes” processes that drive pre-qualified traffic to your site.

As explained on their site, “Your site deliver[s] great content on a particular set of topics (all related to your site’s theme). People find your content through your high rankings at the Search Engines (and other techniques). They click on your related merchant links. Your merchants pay you commissions for the sales …”

Cost: $299.

Many tools exist to help you succeed at making money online – especially if you decide to go the niche market route. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Do some online research to figure out what works for you and your financial goals.

Eg, if you’re just aiming for a few extra bucks a month, then you might choose one program; if you want to make a full-time go of it, then you will be looking for something different in a program.

Keep this in mind as you do your research.

Disclaimer: At this time, I am not affiliated with any of these programs. ]I’m seriously considering becoming an affiliate for Site Build It! Reading their case studies section makes me want to try it myself!]


UPDATE 11/30/07: Following is a link to all of the posts in the Freelance Writer’s Technology Month series.

Intro Post: New Series – Freelance Writer’s Technology Month
Post #1: The 4 Fundamentals of Making Money Online
Post #2: SEO Content Development: How to Drive More Traffic to Your Website
Post #3: Niche Marketing: How to Choose a Profitable Niche
Post #4: Software Tools for Niche Websites
Post #5: Turn $1/Day into an Online Empire: How to Make Money with Minisites
Post #6: 4 Controversial Ways to Get More Traffic for Your Website
Post #7: 5 Ways to Get a Job Writing SEO Articles
Post #8: How to Determine What to Charge as an SEO Article Writer
Post #9: How to Optimize Your Website to Get More Traffic
Post #10: Social Bookmarking Software & 9 Money-Making Conclusions from Freelance Writer’s Technology Month

Read more.

Niche Marketing: How to Choose a Profitable Niche

Part #3: Freelance Writer’s Technology Month
[Want to start a successful career as a freelance writer?]

Part #1 of the Freelance Writer’s Technology Month series, I outlined the four fundamentals of making money online. To recap briefly, they were content, online presence, search engine optimization and choosing a monetizing model. Read the full article here.

In Part #2, we talked about content development, specifically, how to write SEO articles.

In this part, Part #3, we’re going to move on to developing an online presence. As I said in the introductory article of this series, developing an online presence doesn’t necessarily mean a blog or a website. Although, it usually does. So, that’s what we’re going to discuss.

Which Do You Need to Make Money Online – a Blog, a Website or Both?

To be honest, whether your online presence is a blog or a website or an affiliate squeeze page is irrelevant. Making money online depends on which monetizing model you use, to a large degree.

Here, we’re going to discuss what you need to make whatever online presence you choose successful.

Read here how I routinely make $250+/day as an SEO writer – and how you can too!
Most of the research that I came across when trying to figure out how to make real money online preached niche, niche, niche. As in, develop an expertise in a certain sector and go wide and deep.

This was a relief, because it was something I’d always believed in. The key to profiting from a niche however, is to pick the right niche, which is where many online entrepreneur go wrong.

3 Steps to Choosing a Profitable Online Niche

Some of this is going to run contrary to what you may have been taught about business. But remember, the goal here is to make money online (real money).

a) Online research: This is one of the first things you’re going to want to do. How do you do this? By researching what people are searching for online. This can be done using online search tracking tools like Google’s HotTrend, PopularSearches.com, Yahoo! Buzz, or my personal favorite, SEOmoz.

I like SEOmoz because it gives you a look at popular searches across a myriad of sites, eg, Google, Technorati (blog tracking site), Ebay Pulse, etc.

Once you gauge what’s popular, you can start to build a niche around it.

b) Ignore your “unprofitable” interests: This is very, very important. Many business experts will tell you to go with your passion. And, to a certain degree, I agree with this. If you have a passion and it turns out that its in a niche that you can make money from – then great. No problem.

BUT, if you have a niche and discover that it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to make money from it with reasonable hard work, then by all means – leave it as a hobby. Making money online is hard enough without choosing an unprofitable niche.

I speak from firsthand experience here. My niche – the business of freelance writing – is not profitable when compared to others. But, you may be thinking, “There are plenty of wannabe freelance writers out there. Certainly you can make money from them somehow.”

My response: “Popular is different from profitable.” My blog and its accompanying website are labors of love. They don’t bring in nearly the income they should considering the time I invest in them.

That was one of the reasons I started writing ebooks and producing freelance writing seminars. When I say that this niche is not as profitable – I don’t mean from the finding work standpoint. Freelance writing is a relatively simple way to make good money.

When I’m referring to profitability, I’m referring to passive streams of income, eg, affiliate marketing, making money from ads, etc.

Why this niche is not as profitable as it should be – I don’t know for sure. My guesses are that it’s oversaturated, it’s a field where everyone who can write considers themselves an expert and finally, it’s a field where a lot of information is given away freely.

If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t choose this niche. But, I’m one of the lucky ones in that I have built up someone of a reputation as an expert in this field, so I don’t struggle like someone who’s just starting out might.

c) Assess the Competition: As mentioned above, some niches are so saturated that it would be hard for a newbie to enter and start making money in a reasonable amount of time (eg, 2-3 months).

Most experts agree that some of the most saturated markets have to do with web hosting, making money, ringtones, domain names, adult, loans, refinance, gambling, pharmacy, etc. Getting recognized online in these markets would be tough – not impossible, but tough.

Some markets you might want to look at are dieting, game cheats, freebies, recipes, etc. Still saturated, but not as much as the others.

For more on assessing the competition, click here to view this thread on DigitalPoint.com’s forum.

NOTE on entering a saturated niche: Just because a niche is saturated, don’t let that stop you from entering it IF you have a definitive, workable marketing plan.

The reason sites dealing with making money online, web hosting and gambling are so popular is because there will always be an audience for these. You only need to capture a tiny slice of the online pie to make it profitable for you – you don’t need to be an industry leader.

I often think of Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show when I think of this. Could the market have been more crowded when she started her talk show in 2003? I remember thinking, “Great, just what TV needs, another talk show by a comedienne.” Remember Rosanne and Whoopi’s stab at it.

BUT, Ellen has managed to bring something different to the table – old format, new twist. You can do this too.

So, do your research, stick to ideas that are profitable and assess the competition.

After doing all of this, then it’s time to decide how you want to get busy creating that online presence, which we’ll discuss tomorrow. 


UPDATE 11/30/07: Following is a link to every post in the Freelance Writer’s Technology Month series. 

Intro Post: New Series – Freelance Writer’s Technology Month
Post #1: The 4 Fundamentals of Making Money Online
Post #2: SEO Content Development: How to Drive More Traffic to Your Website
Post #3: Niche Marketing: How to Choose a Profitable Niche
Post #4: Software Tools for Niche Websites
Post #5: Turn $1/Day into an Online Empire: How to Make Money with Minisites
Post #6: 4 Controversial Ways to Get More Traffic for Your Website
Post #7: 5 Ways to Get a Job Writing SEO Articles
Post #8: How to Determine What to Charge as an SEO Article Writer
Post #9: How to Optimize Your Website to Get More Traffic
Post #10: Social Bookmarking Software & 9 Money-Making Conclusions from Freelance Writer’s Technology Month

Read more.

Freelance Writers: The 4 Fundamentals of Making Money Online

Part #1: Freelance Writer’s Technology Month
[Want to start a successful career as a freelance writer?]

As I announced on Inkwell’s blog yesterday, I’ve declared November “Freelance Writer’s Technology Month.” For a full understanding of what follows, I advise that you read this post first.

Now, on to the first post in the series. . .

Freelance Writers: How to Make Money Online – Going Back to Basics

It’s hard to forget what you know – especially when you think what you know has brought you some modicum of success. But, when you reach a plateau – as I feel like I’ve done in my freelance writing career, it’s time to re-examine systems and procedures so that you push through what’s holding you back.

So, here I am – back to basics. And, what did I learn?
Want an easy, proven way to make money online? No money, no experience and no skills needed. Click “Promote Products” to get started!

The “Oprah Way” of Making Money

I just took a quick lunch break and was watching E! Online’s show about the top money-making TV earners. Seinfeld was there ($60,000,000 last year), but Oprah made his look like lunch money. She earned a whopping $260,000,000 last year. Yes, that’s one year’s earnings!

As the show was signing off, the announcer was summarizing how Oprah makes her money. Eureka! This was just what I was going to write today in my post – more or less.

Oprah made her money in a systematic way. I don’t know if she had this plan from the beginning, but at some point in order to make real money, you have to have a master plan. So, what is the Oprah way of making money?

A) The first thing Oprah did was choose a career. She knew she wanted to be a journalist, so she did that. So, you’ve made the choice, you want to become a freelance writer.

B) The second thing Oprah did was choose a mass (think, popular) medium – TV. She didn’t choose to be a journalist in some obscure sector. This was perhaps one of the smartest things she did. You’ll see why in a sec.

C) Build a mass following: As she had the right medium (TV), she could now go to work building her following. How did this happen? She was spotted by some hotshot TV producer to host a morning show in Chicago.

Just being herself garnered Oprah a huge, loyal following (keep this part in mind). When she got her own show, she had a built-in audience.

D) Monetize the following: Oprah is the master at this. Once the Oprah talk show was established, Oprah deepened and widened her brand via tv, movies, magazines and radio and a host of other products and services.

Some of her holdings include producing the Dr. Phil show and The Rachel Ray Show; producing a Broadway play (The Color Purple); and hosting a radio show on Sirius satellite radio.

All Oprah has to do is mention a product on her show and it produces massive profits for the seller (think Oprah’s book club and O’s List of Favorite things (from her magazine)).

What if you could sit down, write an ebook and sell 10, 20 or 30,000 copies just by releasing it to your subscriber list? This is the power of monetizing a brand.

But, as you can see, it’s a systematic approach – and this is where most freelancers fail. Now, I’m not going to tell you that it’s going to take one, two or three years to make money online.

As my research has proven, it doesn’t. But, you have the big picture in mind before you can take “shortcuts” to make it work for you. This is the point of this post – to give you an overall picture so that you can pick and choose the best ideas – and take legitimate shortcuts to online money-making success. 

Now, that ends our Oprah segment.

Back to our lives …

The 4 Fundamentals of Making Money OnlineOut of some 100 or more hours of research (I’ve since put in more time that what I mentioned in my introductory post), I’ve learned that there are four fundamentals to making money online. They are:


1. Content: Before anything happens, you must have content. Why? When you think about how the internet works, it naturally makes sense. People use the information to find information.

Now, how they find and use that information will drive the two other points I’m going to discuss in a minute. But, you need the content first.

The Good News for Freelance Writers Who Want to Make Money Online

This is absolutely wonderful news for freelance writers because we are content providers.

So, you may be thinking, “Why then do so many freelance writers find it so hard to make money online?” Good question, and they are a myriad of answers to this question, which we’ll explore throughout the series.

Just keep in mind that content is the biggest piece of this online-money-making puzzle. And you’re the king of that jungle because you are a freelance writer.

2. Online Presence: Once you have content, you need an online presence. And, I don’t necessarily mean a blog or website. In fact, you don’t need either of these to make money online. But, you do need an online presence, which can come in many forms.

Again, we’ll discuss this later in this series.

3. Search Engine Optimization: Once you have your content and set up your online presence, you need to know how to get found on the internet.

Just because you have an online presence does not mean that visitors will start coming to your site. Many online web marketers find it hard to get a few hundred visitors a month – no kidding. You need much more than this to make any kind of sales, so you have to work on driving traffic to your site.

This is how many online entrepreneurs get sucked out of a lot of money. They spend money for get-traffic-quick schemes without fully understanding how traffic is driven to a site.

Understanding the basics of search engines and how they work will give you a leg up on 98-99% of online marketers. If you don’t first understand this, how will you be able to determine is PPC (pay per click); article marketing, or key word optimization is best for your business model?

Most online entrepreneurs are serious about making money online, but they are not serious enough to put in the serious time it requires to learn even the basics of search engine optimization.

Remember, search engines are the motor of the internet. They, for the most part, determine whether a user finds you – or not.

4. Choosing a Monetizing Model: The third piece of making money online involves choosing how you are going to go about it.

There are two basic ways to make money online: 1) create and sell products of your own; or 2) sell/promote the products and services of others (Affiliate Marketing).

Many subcategories fall under these categories – quite a few of which we’ll discuss as this series goes along.

NOTE: I’m not trying to be vague or string you along by telling you “we’ll discuss this later in the series throughout this piece.” Remember, this is an on-going tutorial. And, today’s topic is the 4 basic fundamentals of making money online.

I’m trying to divulge information in a systematic, organized, easy-to-digest format. This means staying tightly focused on the topic at hand, which leads to waiting to reveal information.

Series Tip: I can’t possibly cover everything in this series. I’m going to leave out things, forget to mention things and flat-out don’t know some things. So, if you have a question, send it in. The wonderful thing about making money online is that the majority of us wouldn’t be able to do it if we couldn’t easily log on and find information from others.

TODAY in Inkwell Editorial’s Newsletter: The new issue, which came out today, features ghostwriter Amanda Evans. She gives some great info on how to start, how she gets clients, what this niche entails, etc. Subscribe to read this and all previous issues.

Make $250/day writing SEO content: I’m doing it  and you can too!
Remember, at InkwellEditorial.com, you’ll find everything you need to know about how to start, grow and/or maintain a freelance writing career (eg, writing for the web, blogging, forum posting, seo writing, freelance writing jobs, newsletter writing, article writing, ebooks on freelance writing and more).

UPDATE 11/30/07: Following is a link to every post in the Freelance Writer’s Technology Month series.

Intro Post: New Series – Freelance Writer’s Technology Month
Post #1: The 4 Fundamentals of Making Money Online
Post #2: SEO Content Development: How to Drive More Traffic to Your Website
Post #3: Niche Marketing: How to Choose a Profitable Niche
Post #4: Software Tools for Niche Websites
Post #5: Turn $1/Day into an Online Empire: How to Make Money with Minisites
Post #6: 4 Controversial Ways to Get More Traffic for Your Website
Post #7: 5 Ways to Get a Job Writing SEO Articles
Post #8: How to Determine What to Charge as an SEO Article Writer
Post #9: How to Optimize Your Website to Get More Traffic
Post #10: Social Bookmarking Software & 9 Money-Making Conclusions from Freelance Writer’s Technology Month

Read more.

Freelance Writers: 3 Ways to Start Making Money Within One Week – Guaranteed!

If you’re a freelance writer, or thinking about becoming one, then you know that writing is the easy part. Finding places to pitch your writing, ie, marketing it, takes up the bulk of your time.

Well, there are a few ways on the internet where you can start making money right awayas in, within one week. Following are three.

1. Write for Pay Sites (2 Reviewed)

A. AssociatedContent.com: My favorite write-for-pay site. The beauty of writing for this site is that you write what you want and get paid for it – anywhere from $3 to $40 for a minimum 400-word article. They also accept photos and videos for payment.

The reason I like this site is: 1) as mentioned above, you write what you want. No editor guidelines to follow, no writing about subjects you have no interest in and/or tons of research to do. 2) No minimum pay out to reach (many sites have a minimum you have to reach before you get paid); and 3) fairly quick turnaround time. They usually take 5-7 business days to read your submission and make you an offer.

If you have a hobby, a subject you are passionate about, or a subject you want to take the time to write about – for whatever reason – simply set up an Author’s account with them and submit (it’s FREE).

NOTE: On rare occasions, your article will be rejected. However, the editors usually leave a note explaining why and you then have the chance to make changes and resubmit the content. As I said, to be rejected is rare, but on the few occasions I have been, I always rewrote and usually got a higher than normal offer by acting on the editor’s suggestions.

Since I’ve been a freelance writer for over a decade and have a large library of content, I made a couple of hundred dollars in a few week’s time by submitting previously published material.

Didn’t I mention that the material you submit doesn’t have to be original? You will be paid less for it, but as it’s already written and has probably been used for other purposes, it’s like free cash. They pay more for original material and material they specifically request (new topics are emailed from the administrator each Friday).

B. WriteForCash.com: With WriteForCash.com, it takes them up to two weeks to review your article and more often than not, you will have to make some revisions before your article will be accepted.

There are tons of ways to sell your writing online; these three sites are just to get you going and/or supplement what you may already be doing.

2. Start an Article Directory: This takes a bit more work, but is very simple to start. What do people look for on the Internet – information – lots of it! To start an article directory, all you have to do is put up a simple website and start soliciting writers to submit their articles to you – free of charge.

Most article writers are promoters of something – e-books, seminars, software, workshops, etc. They are constantly looking for free and/or low-cost exposure. Soon, you can have hundreds of pages of content.

How will you make money? Add Google ads (details below). Every time someone clicks on one of the ads, you make money. Many article directories take articles on many subjects; some specialize. Only you can decide which is right for you.

I personally prefer niche directories because as the web expands, I think users will revisit a directory that carries quality information on a specific topic more often than one that carries a lot of articles on everything. Even if you separate them out by category, I find the “all-inclusive directories” too overwhelming. Again, it’s up to you.

The real key to making money with an article directory is promoting it and getting good, quality articles for your site. To get excellent articles, surf the web using key words on your subject. Once you find an article you like, contact the author (most will have their contact info in the resource box at the end of the article) and ask them to regularly submit articles to your directory. They will almost always say yes.

Once your directory has been indexed by search engines, many will start sending you articles automatically. This is when your site should really take off. Once you have a few hundred articles in your directory (and this can literally take as little as a few weeks if you put in the time), slap those Google ads on each page, and voila – you have hundreds of pages of content carrying ads that, each time they’re clicked, is money in your pocket.

NOTE: There are many article directories online where you can automatically pull articles from to get started. Do a Google search for “article directory” and about 3.5 million (yes, million!) results pop up.

Article Directory Software: If you want to put out a little money, you can purchase software that will completely automate this process for you. Do a Google search for “article directory software” and close to half a million results come up. With most of the software, you can choose to buy and install yourself or have the publisher install it for you. Note: You have to be a real techie if you choose to go the self-install route.

Before starting an article directory, I recommend taking several hours and doing some reading on the subject. While it’s a relatively simple concept, it can be a lot of work up front – but can pay huge dividends over the months and years to come.

3. Start a Blog: This is becoming old hat, but is still new and fresh enough that if you have a passion for something and can target a highly defined niche, you can start a blog on it, add some Google Adsense ads, and turn it into a few hundred bucks a month without too much effort.

Want to make more? Like anything in life, the more time you commit to it, the more your income will rise. There’s even a new website, Scoopt.com, that acts as a blog literary agent. What do I mean by this? Specifically, they “help you license your blog for both commercial and non-commercial use.” In essence, they help you sell your blog’s content. See full details at their site.

Blogs are no longer just for ranting about your last bad relationship or the bad dye job your colorist did on your hair. They are professional outlets for making money now. Read this blog case study at ProBlogger.net for an example of how a personal interest can be turned into a popular, moneymaking blog:

If this link takes you to another page, go to ProBlogger.net and do a search of their site for “”Back in Skinny Jeans.” The article should pop up. It’s very, very interesting reading.

FYI, to start a blog, go to blogger.com, create an account and start blogging away. It’s FREE!

SUMMARY: These are not get-rich-quick schemes. My mission at Inkwell Editorial is to help creative and editorial freelancers earn a decent living. I will never promise you that you will “make thousands a month by just doing x”, as many will. Don’t believe the hype.

I have been in publishing since 1987 and have been a freelancer since 1993. Believe me, I’ve heard about and tried so many different programs. The only way to make money is to consistently plug away at something. It takes time and effort, effort and time.

The good news is that if you are determined to make a living as a creative professional, the Internet makes it easier than ever. And, it can be done “relatively” easy if you choose effective methods and consistently implement them.

To learn more about getting those Google ads you see on many websites, go to Google.com. Click on “Advertising Programs” (a plain text button right under the search box). Then click on “For Web Publishers: Google Adsense”. Finally, click on “What is AdSense? Quick Tour”. The program will be explained in detail and you can have it up and running in about 5 minutes.

Also, it takes them up to three months to get your article on the web. Another drawback of this site is that they own the copyright to the work (eg, you can’t resell the content) and you have to choose from topics they list on which to write.

To their credit, the list of topics can be wide-ranging and they pay from $10 to $15 per article. But, if you have a hankering to write about, for example, the World Cup, and it’s not on their list, you won’t get paid for it.

C. Constant-Content.com: With this site, you basically put your articles up for bid, setting your own price. However, a lot of writers there offer their articles for free, which diminishes your chance of selling one – especially if it’s in the same genre. Further, you have to keep your price pretty low to sell articles – anywhere from $1 to $5. Although, this can increase if you write for high-paying genres, eg, finance, technical, medical, etc.

On the upside, you can resell content here. So, if you are going to write an article anyway and sell it elsewhere, you might as well post it here. However, another drawback is that you won’t be paid until your account hits the $50 mark. Realistically, this can take months, especially if you are only posting one or two articles a week and selling them for $2 or $3 each.

Read more.

Gut Check! 3 Signs It’s Time to Quit Your Full-Time Job for Your Freelance Business

Written by Yuwanda Black

Publisher Note: This piece was originally titled, Gut Check! 3 Signs It’s Time to Quit Your Full-time Job for Your Part-time Business

It’s 6:00 p.m. You’re dead tired, but instead of an early night, you go to your second job — your freelance business.

Between meeting an impending deadline, logging deposits into your accounting system and marketing to new clients, it will be well past midnight before you can even think of going to bed. And, this doesn’t include time out for helping the kids with homework, fixing dinner and addressing household duties. How much longer can you keep this up, you wonder?

If this sounds familiar, maybe it’s time to quit your job and focus on your business full-time.

One of the best ways to ensure success as a business owner is to start part-time, while holding a full- time job. However …

How do You Know When It’s Time to Let Go of Your FT Job to Freelance Full-Time?

The following checklist will help you decide if it’s time to make the leap from employee to full-time business owner.

1. Money: If you started your business part-time with the intention of one day quitting your full-time job, then that plan should have included setting income aside for this day.

Do you have six months to one year of expenses set aside? Is your business bringing in steady income? If you were able to devote 15-20 more hours per week to it, could you at least double what it brings in now?

Looking back over one to two years of numbers should give you enough data to do some smart (read, conservative) projections. Don’t have at least 12 months of income data to look at? Then my advice is not to quit – unless the business is exceeding all expectations and you are really raking in the profits.

Bottom line: If you have six to twelve months worth of expenses set aside and won’t have to depend on your business to pay you anything during this period, then maybe it’s time to consider quitting, or at least switching roles (ie, working your job part-time and your business full-time).

2. Time: Does your business take up more than four hours a day of your time? Do you find yourself always having more to do with the business than a full-time job allows? Do you work six to seven days a week just to stay on top of orders, inventory, accounting, advertising, etc.?

If this is true and you see sales increase as a result of your efforts, then maybe it’s time to make the move.

Note: As a small business owner, there is always something to be done. However, you must see increased sales as a result of your efforts before you even begin to think about quitting your job.

A majority of what small business owners do in the startup phase does not result in increased sales – ie, setting up ordering procedures, making samples, writing press releases, etc. Wait until your efforts start to produce actual income before quitting. That’s the joy of starting part-time, you can grow at your own pace.

3. Quality of Life: If the quality of your life is suffering because there are only 24 hours in the day and you need 56, then it’s definitely time to consider quitting.

If you’re working all the time, not spending time with family and friends, then both streams of income will start to suffer. If your small business has been on training wheels for a while, then maybe it’s time to take them off and see how she does on her own.

What exactly does this mean? It means that you get up and put in a solid 8, 9, 10 hours (at least) a day to get her to the next level. If you decide to make a go of your business full-time, then this is where the gloves come off. This is where the real work comes in.

Here are some general guidelines to observe as you make the transition.

Leave your job on good terms: That means handing in proper notice, offering to train a replacement, be on call for finishing up any special projects – whatever it takes to let your previous employer know that you are a professional and won’t leave them in the lurch.

After all, you never know if/when you will need to return, or if your company will be able to refer clients or become a client themselves.

Prioritize: Managing yourself is a lot harder than being under someone else’s tutelage. Develop the habit of writing a list of things to be accomplished. What works for me is at the end of every day, writing in my day planner what I need to accomplish the following day. It usually doesn’t work out that way, but at least I have a plan if I start to stray, or feel like, “Now what do I do?

Eat right and exercise: After all, if you don’t take care of yourself, it jeopardizes everything you are trying to accomplish.

Good luck!

 P.S.: Learn everything you need to know to make the transition from full-time to freelancing seamlessly.

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Freelance Writing Tips: 10 Things I Wish I’d Known When I First Started in 1993

Previously Titled: 10 Lessons I’ve Learned from 19+ Years as a Freelancer & Recruiter in the Editorial Industry

If you’ve read any of my work before, you probably know that I’ve been in publishing since 1987, have been a freelancer since 1993 and ran an editorial staffing agency in New York City from 1996 through 2004.

Some lessons I’ve learned from this crazy journey are as follows:

1. Staying abreast of technology is crucial: Back in 1998, I was pushed to get a website for my company because clients and candidates were asking questions like, “Can I apply online? Can I download the contract from your site? Can I post a job to your website?”

Well, as we didn’t even have a website, I would embarrassingly say no. The “loud silence,” especially from clients, on the other end of the phone line got to be too much.

Going through the process of getting a website taught me the value of staying on top of technology. I learned that while I don’t need to be a hard-nosed techie, I had to know enough to be able to stay competitive. This meant not only getting a site, but learning how to update it myself.

One of the wonderful things about technology is that new tools are constantly being developed for those of us who are NOT tech-savvy, eg, FrontPage software for building websites, autoresponder software, listserv software for building mailing lists, etc.

2. Writing is a skill: “Obviously,” you mutter. However, many writers don’t treat their craft like it. I single out writers because, in my experience, proofreaders, copy editors, indexers, editors, graphic designers, illustrators, etc. all seem to see intrinsic value and take pride in their work.

Many writers take their craft for granted. Maybe it’s because society views writing as just words on paper. After all, once you know your ABC’s, you can write, right? Well, editorial professionals know better than anyone that this is not so.

One thing I advise all professional writers to do to combat this lackadaisical attitude is to treat their writing like a business skill. Just like being a professional coder, artist or web designer – when you put yourself out there, market and treat your skill like the highly valued commodity it is.  

Let it be reflected in your “perfectly prepared” marketing materials – eg, your website, brochure, postcard, etc. Also, when you speak with potential clients, be sure to use a professional tone. No one is going to believe that you write professionally if you don’t talk like it as well.

3. Freelancing full-time is not hard: It’s not easy, to be sure. But building a successful, full-time freelance career is not terribly difficult, if:

     a. You have experience within your discipline. Most successful freelancers I’ve encountered have worked full-time within their discipline at some point.

     b. You are willing to work fulltime and freelance on the side for a period of time. Many freelancers leave their jobs once they got too burned out doing both, or secure a big project that allows them to make the leap.

     c. You plan for it. Some freelancers (the most successful ones I might add) are more calculating about their careers.

What I mean by this is that they plan a year or two out – knowing that they are going to leave their jobs. So, they save 6 months or a year’s expenses, pay off credit card bills, buy equipment while working full-time, etc.; then, they make the leap.

The ones I know who followed this path are, not surprisingly, the most successful – meaning, they have gone on to hire employees.
A few even opened offices and became “official” businesses because their client load demanded it.

Can you build a freelance business if you don’t have these three things? Absolutely! However, it is even more critical that you devise a plan of how you’re going to go about it. Having experience and industry contacts makes it easier, but the web makes it easier than ever today to start a freelance business.

4. Marketing is a skill that must be developed: When most freelancers start out, they may have two or three clients who keep them pretty busy. BUT, the day comes when the projects dry up (it always happens) and you have to scrounge for business.

It’s at this point that many panic and start looking for a full-time job again. When I was recruiting, I received more than a few panicked calls, eg, “I have to find something — quick!”

Invariably, I was unable to help them (see Point #5 below). It usually was a moot point though because within a month or so, some project would come along and they would no longer be interested or available for a full-time job.

It was during this time that I got interested in the whole topic of freelancing as a business. Most freelancers focus on their craft and not the business of freelancing. However, as I preach ad nauseam on InkwellEditorial.com, to be successful as a freelancer, you must, must, must learn how to market if you want a full-time, sustainable career as a freelancer.

5. Employers don’t like to hire freelancers for full-time jobs: It was my experience when I was recruiting that if you freelanced full-time for a year or more, employers were very hesitant to hire you as a full-time employee. Why?

Because most think that you are only seeking full-time work because you have hit a rough patch financially. Logically, it just makes sense. I mean, who gives up a successful freelance career to go back to the 9-5 grindstone? Most employers figured that as soon as the next big project came along, their new hire would be out the door.

I have seen it happen on many occasions – so much so that when I was recruiting, I would screen out those with a significant freelance history because the chances that they would leave was just too great.

I once lost a $6,000 placement fee because the employee quit – 10 days before the 90-day guarantee. [Most recruiting firms give employers a 60 or 90-day guarantee that the employee will stay put for at least this amount of time, or they don’t have to pay.]

6. You can’t change your rates every year: Charge enough that you don’t have to change your rate for three years. I know some make take umbrage with this, but I’ve found editorial (eg, writing, copy editing, proofreading, indexing, editing, etc.) to be a very static industry. It is not one where you can raise rates yearly.

Some of the companies I freelanced for back in 1993 still pay the same rates today – I’m not kidding! So, I advise all freelancers who are just starting out to start out charging enough so that they don’t have to change their rates for three years.

It’s been my experience that after this period, you can increase rates without worrying about losing even one of your clients. Putting forth the “argument” of, we haven’t raised rates in three years somehow seems to make it fair for them.

Working on this time schedule, I don’t ever remember losing a client. I think it’s a combination of clients being comfortable with your work and them thinking, “after three years, an increase is only fair.”

7. You must develop a niche: I’ve known a few freelancers who did several things successfully (eg, designed websites and wrote the copy for them), but this was the exception, not the norm.

Most successful freelancers niche it. What I mean is, they develop a niche and stick to it. In my opinion, it is far easier to become successful like this than being a generalist.

Trust me, those sites where you see freelancers touting that they do everything from writing to web design to illustration are not making that much money, or they are farming the work out to other freelancers.

Most clients like to know that they are getting a knowledgeable professional who has a history and body of work within the discipline they are being hired for. If it is a pharmaceutical company, they want a writer who has done this type of writing before.

So, develop a niche and market the hell out of it!

8. Patience is a virtue: Even after all of my years in the industry, I’m amazed by how difficult it can be to be patient while I grow my business. I have lists and lists of ideas that I want to implement and there just never seems to be enough time.

This is easily a career where you can work nonstop all the time. An idea for an article pops in your head and instead of jotting down the idea, you find yourself writing the whole article; you go online to do some research, and before you know it you have spent two hours surfing the net on an unrelated matter; you log on to check email, and in an instant, you find yourself redesigning a section of your website; the list is endless. 

This is an issue I still struggle with; although, I have gotten better about stopping. So, instead of browsing for 2 hours, it might be 30 minutes before I literally make myself stop and go back to my original task.

The best advice I can give to stop this kind of behavior is to think of your long-range goals – and ask yourself if what you’re doing this very minute is getting you closer to them. If not, stop and get back on track.

9. Retirement is not planned for: I can count the number of times on one hand that I’ve had conversations with freelancers about retirement. Most small business owners (and that’s what freelancing is, small business ownership) have an exit strategy, or a day where they envision doing something else.

For some reason, editorial and creative freelancers don’t think this way. Well, while you may be able to write or design websites from anywhere at any age, who’s to say you’re going to want to when you’re 70?

In my quest to get freelancers to think of themselves as businesses, one of the things I wish more would do is plan for retirement. This includes looking into 401K plans, buying investment real estate, building a sellable business, etc.

Again, just because you might be capable of churning out material long past retirement age does not mean that you are going to want to. So, plan for the day when you won’t have to.

10. Longevity pays: The longer you freelance, the easier it gets. My business mentor said to me once, “when you first start out, you are just greasing the pipes. After two or three years, clients will not be quite so hard to come by.”

It’s just like search engine positioning — the longer your site is on the web, the more frequently it is spidered by search engine bots, the more results it shows up in, the more popular it is, more people find it – and voila! – you have a popular site.

If you are constantly marketing and networking, eventually, it will seem effortless and referrals will flow in. That’s because you build traction just by being around. Many freelancers don’t hang in there long enough to get this type of seamless recognition.

In conclusion, freelancing is a wonderful career — if, like anything other venture you enter, you take it seriously enough to work it like a business.

P.S.: Find this post informative? Follow Inkwell Editorial on Twitter.

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Copyright © 2006: All material on this site is copyright protected and cannot be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without my written consent (linking to is fine).

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How to Write a Press Release

Written by Luan Aten

Publisher Note: Learning how to write press releases serves two purposes: 1) Press releases are valuable tools for promoting your freelance business; and 2) you can pitch this service to small business clients. They can garner you anywhere from a low of $100, up to $500+ each. Now, to today’s post . . .

Does the thought of writing a press release make you cringe?

Fear no more! After you have read this article, your press releases will flow from your fingertips… well, maybe not, but you will have learned the basics of writing a standard press release.

What Is a Press Release?

Let us begin by reviewing what a press release is. By definition a press release is simply a statement prepared for distribution to the media. The purpose of a press release is to give journalists information that is useful, accurate and interesting. Get it? Useful, accurate and interesting, it is that easy.

Press releases are in all actuality ‘cookie cutter’. Once you get the hang of writing them, all you have to do is fill in the blanks. Press releases conform to an established format. Journalist receive so many press releases a day, they have set standards and expectations that you must conform to just to have your release read, let alone published.

If your press release is printed ‘as is’, without changing even one word, then you know you have conformed to the journalistic standards of that particular medium. “Write on”, you’re doing a great job!

Formatting Particulars of a Press Release

Press releases should be printed on company letterhead. If this is not feasible, adding the company logo is essential. The companies name, web address, location address and phone number should be printed clearly at the top of the page.

PRESS RELEASE should be spelled out in all CAPS and centered in bold. The press release contact persons name should be underneath the wording and all contact numbers printed clearly underneath. If the press release is for IMMEDIATE RELEASE, say so, on the left margin directly above the title in all caps.

About the Headline of Your Press Release

The next essential component of the press release is the Headline or Title. It should be centered, and in bold. The heading of the press release should capture the journalist. The title of the press release should be short and snappy, and hopefully grabbing the attention of the journalist and impressing them enough to read on.

About the Body of Your Press Release

You are now ready for the useful, accurate and interesting BODY of the press release. The body of the press release begins with the date and city for which the press release is originated. The body of the press release is very basic; who, what, where, when and why.

The first paragraph of the press release should contain in brief detail what the press release is about.

The second paragraph explains,in detail: who cares; why you should care; where one can find it; when it will happen. Also, included in the second ‘informative’ paragraph is generally a quote that gives the release a personal touch. Touchy-feelies go a long way with journalists. Press releases and news stories are boring to journalists without a ‘human interest’.

The third and generally final paragraph is a summation of the release and further information on your company with the company contact information clearly spelled out.

The content of the press release, beginning with the date and city of origin, should be typed in a clear, basic font (Times New Roman, Arial, etc.) and double-spaced.

About the Length of Your Press Release

If your press release exceeds one page, the second page should indicate ‘ Page Two’ in the upper right hand corner. Journalistic standards have set basic parameters to define the end of a press release: ###. Three # symbols, centered directly underneath the last line of the release indicate the end of a press release.

The next time you are tasked with writing a press release for your company, have no fear, the basic rules are clear: useful, accurate and interesting information portrayed within the set journalistic guidelines.

Click on this link to view an example of a press release that was published ‘as is’ by two local media outlets that you may use as a reference to the materials outlined here. Good luck! Write on!

Press Release Checklist

•Company Letterhead, Name, Address, Phone Number, Web Address
•PRESS RELEASE in all caps
•Contact Person’s Name
•Immediate Release or Release Date (all caps)
•BODY-Date/City-who, what, when, where and why.
•Catchy Text
•Sum it up…
•Basic Font, Double Spaced, Page Numbers, and ###
•Action Plan/Calendar

Hopefully, once your biz has really considered the above, your marketing effect will be noticeable.

Good Luck!

Marketing with Press Releases: A Step-by-Step Guide

The following is an excerpt (a pullout) from the ebook, The Small Biz Owner’s Complete Marketing Kit! A Complete How-to, Shoestring Marketing Guide for Entrepreneurs.

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Marketing with press releases – one of the eight marketing ideas discussed in the above-mentioned ebook – is free and easy to do! And, it doesn’t require a big time commitment. Following is a step-by-step plan of how to market via this medium – the right way.

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A Realistic Day in the Life of a Freelancer/Small Business Owner

As I read again and again how wonderful it is to be a freelancer/business owner, I inevitably find myself murmuring, “Yeah, but you didn’t say this.” Or, “You forgot to mention that.” The joys of freelancing/owning a business are many. Here, however, I want to address the cons in order that a more realistic view be realized. …

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