Buying a Self-Published Ebook? 4 Things to Look for Before You Purchase

The article Real Authors and the Paradox of Desktop Publishing inspired a spirited discussion on self-publishing.

I’ve self-published quite a few ebooks, with plans for many more. The author writes in the aforementioned post, “There’s a lot of crap content out there. Anyone can invest in a program or two, buy a few stock photos or clip art and throw something together.” And he’s right.

So this post got me to thinking about what to look for if you’re going to purchase an ebook from a self-published author. As both a writer and purchaser of self-published ebooks, following are four things I look for before I hit the “buy now” button.

1. Author Experience: My non-fiction ebooks* are all about freelance writing, small business and marketing, and all are written from first-hand experience because I’ve been a freelance writer since 1993; I’ve owned several small businesses (online and off) and got into internet marketing this year (2008).

So, this is the first thing I look for from a self-published author, ie, do they have experience in what they’re writing about.

I find that most books written and published via traditional publishers have a lot of fluff or expect you to follow the “rules” so to speak. Many self-published authors have managed to find a success formula without doing this (this is why they are self publishers) and share that experience in an ebook.

And, this is one of the main reasons I write and buy self-published ebooks. The author has experienced success on their own terms, which was learned from first-hand experience.

Ebook Marketing Tip: One of the most effective marketing methods I’ve used is the ebook giveaway, eg, sign up to my newsletter and get a free ebook.

*Update Oct 2016: I write fiction too; primarily romance novellas.

2. Author Background: This piggybacks on the above. I like to know a little about an author’s professional background. This is important to me because it clues me in as to their motivation for self-publishing – and their depth of experience. It tells me a lot about how they approach their subject matter.

As an example, I’ve been in publishing since 1987. I’ve owned an editorial staffing agency and have been a freelancer. So I know the ins and outs of freelance writing from an employer’s view, and from an employee’s (independent contractor’s/freelancer’s) view.

When I write, I bring all of that experience to bear on the subject matter. I can lay out scenarios, predict outcomes and suggest solutions because I have a depth of knowledge on freelance writing that only comes from having worked in publishing/editorial for many years.

3. Author Website: You can tell a lot about a self-publisher from their website. Following are three things I look for in a self-published author’s site/blog:

(i) Site Content: As in, is there a repository of informational articles on the subject matter of the ebook I’m thinking about buying? Is it written by the author of the ebook, or are the articles pulled from sources like article directories? Is there a blog? Is it updated regularly, or was the last post three months ago? Are first-hand stories recounted, or is the information very general?

All of this lets me know how well the author knows his/her subject matter.

(ii) Affiliate Programs: Affiliate programs in and of themselves are not a problem. But, if an author’s website is filled with affiliate programs and almost nothing else – especially when they are unrelated to the subject matter of the ebook I’m thinking of purchasing – then I’m wary.

If I’m considering purchasing a self-published ebook on freelance writing for example, I’d expect to see affiliate programs for things like ebook cover and/or logo design, web hosting companies (we all need websites), email marketing software and yes, even other ebooks on freelance writing.

Unrelated ads make me pause – because it makes me feel as if the seller is just trying to make money, not sell me a product that they really know about or believe in.

(iii) Site Updates: As I mentioned above, I look at how often the author’s site is updated. It doesn’t have to be daily, or even every other day. If a site is not updated at least two or three times a month though (or on a set, publicized schedule if it’s less), then I dig a little deeper; eg, are they on vacation, is the site currently being redesigned, has there been a personal matter the author is handling, etc.

My rationale for looking at how often a site is updated stems from the fact that self-published authors — who are actively engaged in what they write about — run a business. Businesses don’t stay “closed” (eg, are not updated regularly) for very long – not if they are legitimate.

4. Google: One of the last things I do is run a Google search of the author’s name. It’s amazing what you can find out about a person by just doing a simple Google search. Mainly, I’m looking to see if they’ve been around a while.

Can what is on their website be backed up by other stuff that appears on the web? Have they written and submitted content to sites like Business2Community or Medium? Have they guest posted, been mentioned, or discussed on other blogs in their niche?

All of this lends legitimacy to their “author status.”

Why Buying from Self-Publishers Is the Best Way to Get Information (IMO)

Self-publishing is becoming more and more mainstream. And as a self-published author, I know that the information received in ebooks can be some of the most effective, direct, hard-hitting information you will ever find.

Good ebook authors cut out the fluff and get right to the point, which is why buying from self-publishers is the best way to get information in my opinion. If you want to know how to do “x”, find someone who’s done it/are doing it – and wrote an ebook about it. Then simply follow their advice.

And this is the power of self-publishing – if it’s gotten from the right source. Visit the Inkwell Editorial bookstore for links to all of my self-published titles.

Wanna Publish an Ebook? Here’s a Valuable Tip. Make it an immediate download. My ebook sales jumped when I signed up with e-Junkie, which allows buyers to immediately download the ebooks they buy.

P.S.: Make Money Writing Romance

This is one of my most popular self-published ebooks. To date, I’ve written over 40 romance novellas. Here’s one of my most in-depth posts on the subject.

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Article Marketing Tutorial: How to Write a Resource Box That Increases Traffic & Generates Sales (Part III of III)

Learning how to write a resource box that increases traffic and generates sales is something I recently learned, and I’ve been marketing with articles since 2002. For years, I did it all wrong.

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Article Marketing Tutorial: Put Your Article Marketing Efforts on Steroids — Generate More Traffic with SEO (Part II of III)

This is Part II of III of Inkwell Editorial’s article marketing tutorial. Read Parts I and III.

Article marketing works. There’s no debate about that. But, it can be much more effective if you use SEO (search engine optimization) techniques in your online marketing efforts. What do I mean by this?

Following are three things I do to make sure my article marketing efforts produce maximum search engine optimization results.

3 SEO Steps to Take to Ensure Maximum Results from Article Marketing

1. Start with a Keyword: One of the first things you should do is to make sure your article is written around a specific keyword phrase or two. This does not mean that you give in to bad writing. What it does mean is that you tweak your article so that they keywords flow naturally. This is the hallmark of a good SEO writer, which more online entrepreneurs should become if they want to make money online.

If you just can’t seem to accomplish this task, then by all means hire an SEO writer. The money spent will be well worth it years into the future as keyword articles drive traffic. And, isn’t this what article marketing is all about?

2. Check Keyword Traffic: As in, select those keywords that produce a decent amount of traffic in your niche. The last three words are italicized because you should always choose keywords that will drive relevant traffic to your site.

Getting back to traffic, don’t shoot for the top keywords in your niche – unless your niche is so small that it can be easily achieved. I’ve found that targeting numerous keyword phrases that get a decent amount of traffic in my niche is better than shooting for the most popular keywords in my niche because it brings a broader base of traffic.

I refer to this is the shotgun spray of SEO, rather than the laser shot. Why? For example, my niche is freelance writing. Rather than trying to optimize for popular phrases like “freelance writing jobs” and “editing jobs”, I optimize for less popular keyword phrases like “seo copywriting jobs,” “newsletter writers,” “article writers,” etc.

The rationale behind this is that when people search for something on the internet, the more specific they are in their choice of keyword phrase, the more serious they are about purchasing.

Think about it, if you already knew you wanted to be a freelance writer, but you really want to focus on being an SEO writer, you might search phrases like “seo writing jobs,” “article writing jobs,” and “seo copywriter jobs.”

Remember, choosing less popular keyword phrases may drive less traffic, but will drive more targeted traffic. This is maximizing your article marketing efforts.

3. Check Popular Articles: One thing I’ve started to do recently in my article marketing efforts is to check the number of page views of articles in my niche. I will go to a popular article marketing directory, do a cursory glance of 15, 20 or 25 articles and see if any jump out at me as getting a lot of reads.

If so, I’ll then write an article around that subject for my site. Remember, no idea under the sun is new, but all of our experiences are. All you’re doing is putting your spin on the article topic.  It goes without saying but never, ever plagiarize the work of others. Not only will it eventually be discovered, it can ruin your reputation on the web – even if you do it just one time.

Article marketing is about dispensing relevant information to a targeted niche. Do this – in conjunction with a little behind-the-scenes SEO work – and you’ll be well on your way to driving continuous traffic to your site.

“How long should an article be that I write to submit to article marketing directories?” I receive this question a lot. The following is my take given my experience working with many internet marketing firms.

Most articles submitted to article directories fall in the range of 350-500 words. Some may be 600-750 words long, but these are the exceptions.

Therefore, if you’re trying to achieve a keyword density of between 3-5% (which is somewhat of an industry-accepted standard) then you need to repeat your keyword phrase at least 10 times in a 500-word article, for example. This is not a hard-and-fast rule, just a measuring stick to be aware of as you’re writing.

The Importance of Organic Search in Article Marketing

Finally, not to get into too much depth here, but natural search (aka organic search) is starting to be just as important as keywords in search engine optimization. So for example, if your site is about freelance writing and you have a lot of content that is not “keyword rich” but is about freelance writing in general, your site may still rank high when surfers type in certain keywords that have to do with freelance writing. Why is this?

Because your site has been identified by search engines as an authority on that subject based on its overall content. No one knows the algorithms of search engines and how/why they return the results they do, but backlinks, navigational structure, type and breadth of content, etc. all tell search engines something about your site.

As you can see, knowing just a little about SEO can go a long way towards helping you to get the most out of your article marketing efforts.

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Article Marketing Tutorial: Two Types of Content Every Website and Blog Should Utilize (Part I of III)

This is Part I of III of Inkwell Editorial’s article marketing tutorial. Read Parts II and III.

If you visit this site regularly, then you know I’m an avid fan of article marketing. My recent article marketing experiment just reconfirmed what I already knew – article marketing works – if you put in the work.

I increased my ebook sales by 166% during this recent article marketing experiment, which has made me start to do it again on almost a daily basis. And, this is where the title of this post comes into play. With all that being said, what exactly are the two types of content every website and blog should have?

Raising Rates Illuminates the Need for Two Types of Content

I was updating my seo writing website (an old site that has since been folded into this site) this morning, raising rates and fine-tuning some service offerings.

As I was updating my SEO Article Writing page, I realized that the two types of content every site needs is what I call “easy, breezy content” and “foundational content.” To illustrate, take the article I wrote and uploaded to InkwellEditorial.com yesterday, Green Tips for Freelance Writers: How Freelance Writers Can Help the Environment.

The article is over 1,100 words long. It is a foundational article in that it is comprehensive, unique, authoritative (cites numerous sources) and can only be found on InkwellEditorial.com.

I wrote a companion article (easy breezy content) to this article, entitled Green Tips for Freelance Writers and posted it to Amazines.com, an article marketing directory.  It’s a little over 600 words long, about half as long as the foundational article.

Even though it carries basically the same title, it’s 100% different but covers the same subject matter. This was done on purpose.

The Differences Between and Purpose behind Easy, Breezy and Foundational Content

Both types of articles are used to drive traffic to a site, but they do it in different manners.

How to Use Easy, Breezy Content to Drive Traffic to Your Site

Easy, breezy content can be distributed to multiple outlets, eg, article directories, forums, blogs, newsletter, etc. It is meant to whet the appetite of readers, giving them enough info to create interest so that they click through to your primary site.

Just because it’s “easy, breezy” does not meant that it shouldn’t be well written and insightful. This must be the case at all times. The real difference is that it is shorter than your foundational content.

How to Use Foundational Content to Drive Traffic to Your Site

Foundational content is your site’s unique content. It should not be distributed elsewhere and it should be extremely informative, highly valuable and make the reader come away with an “aha” moment.

This is the type of content that will garner repeat visitors because it sets your site up as an authority.  The article, How to Create Cornerstone Content That Google Loves gives an excellent tutorial on why this type of content is a must for every site. FYI, foundational content is also referred to as “cornerstone content.”

How to Effectively Combine Easy Breezy Content & Foundational Content to Create Sales

Notice how in the resource box of the Green Tips article on Amazines.com I include a link to the foundational article on InkwellEditorial.com? By using easy breezy content to drive traffic to more informative, in-depth content, you have a better chance of making a sale.

When you consider that customers have to see your sales message anywhere from 7-28 times before they will purchase from you, combining these two types of content makes sense.

Your easy, breezy article may appear on 5, 10 or 20 sites. Every time someone sees it, that’s another touch, another impression you make. By the time they click through to your foundational content, they are usually practically sold.

2 for 1: How to Create Easy Breezy Content & Foundational Content from One Article

Now that I’m back into article marketing with full force, when I write an article for my site (foundational content), I automatically create a shorter version to post to article directories.

I include a link back to the foundational content on my main site/blog so really interested readers can learn more. When someone is interested enough to click through to your site, that’s a pre-qualified customer – the kind every business owner wants.

Create Passive Streams of Income for Years to Come

Foundational content; easy, breezy content; and article marketing — the kind of 1-2-3 knockout punch that can create passive streams of income for years to come. And, if you’re a freelance writer, all it costs you is time.

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Green Tips for Freelance Writers

The Skinny on E-Waste, Using Recycled Paper & More

I’m probably the least green person I know – and I’m not proud of it. As I work at home, one day I said to myself, “It’s probably easier for you to be green than most people, so get your butt in gear!”

Hence, following are a few green tips for freelance writers – tips I’m starting to follow.

Green Tip for Freelance Writers #1

Recycle Electronics, Computers & Other Office Equipment. I was working with a client recently who is the owner of a computer services firm. One of the articles she had on her site was about how her firm was going green.

This is when I got the idea for this article. I was thinking, “How can a computer services firm go green?” Well, easily. By recycling electronics and other office equipment. Now of course you know you can refill your toner cartridges, which is a form of recycling. But, did you know you can recycle your computer equipment and other office peripherals (fax machines, scanners, copy machines, etc.)?

The Proliferation of E-Waste

Electronic equipment is one of the fastest growing segments of our nation’s waste stream. It’s referred to as e-waste.

The formal definition of e-waste is “. . . a popular, informal name for electronic products nearing the end of their “useful life.”” Computers, televisions, VCRs, stereos, copiers, and fax machines are common electronic products. Many of these products can be reused, refurbished, or recycled. [Source: http://www.erecycle.org/efaqs.htm.]

Why You Should Recycle Computer Equipment

You should recycle for three reasons primarily:

(i): Recycle Materials: Many electronics are made up of a variety of materials, eg, metals, that can be recovered for recycling;

(ii) Less Mining: Recycling electronics saves resources and protects the Earth because new metals don’t have to be mined;

(iii) Protect Earth from Hazardous Waste: Some electronics have elevated levels of certain materials like lead that make them hazardous to dispose of.

So do your part – recycle. For more info on where and how to recycle your old computer and other office equipment, visit, EPA.gov, specifically this link.

Green Tip for Freelance Writers #2

Create a Paperless Office. I’ve been doing this for years – without giving a thought to being green. In 2001, I moved my office into my home.

Living in New York City at the time in a one bedroom, there was, of course, a space problem. So, I decided to go paperless which meant no file cabinet.

I scanned all applicable documents and starting storing them as electronic files. And, where possible, I used email instead of fax. I was surprised at how easy it was to “go paperless.”

Green Tip for Freelance Writers #3

Plan Trips. Again, as I work at home, I plan my trips carefully to save on gas. One thing I do is try to schedule all of my running around during the middle of the day. There’s less traffic, so I use less gas.

I also make sure to bunch my destinations, eg, hit the grocery story which goes right pass the beauty supply store, which is right around the corner for the $1 store, etc.

The final thing I do with regard to planning trips is to stay home more. As I don’t have to go out to lunch or run errands for work, I try to move my car as little as necessary. Usually, during the week, it only leaves my driveway once or twice.

Green Tip for Freelance Writers #4

Unplug. I heard Carter Osterhouse, one of HGTVs stars say that appliances use as much as 40% of their energy when they are turned off, but still plugged in.

So, at night when I log off, I also unplug my equipment. Yeah, it’s a bit of a pain to plug everything back in in the morning, but considering that it’s probably less than a minute of my day, it’d be selfish of me to not do it.

Carter went on to say that all appliances around the house should be unplugged when not in use, eg, the coffee pot, the curling iron, the toaster, microwave, etc.

Green Tip for Freelance Writers #5

Use Recycled Paper. When you do use paper in your office, buy recycled paper. Look for paper that has the highest recycled content as possible. FYI, by federal standards, for a product to carry the recycled logo, it must be at least 30% pre-consumer content.

To make sure you’ll always have recycled paper on hand, order it in bulk from online suppliers, or buy it in bulk from your local retailer. The point is to be sure to always have some in stock so you won’t be tempted to use non-recycled paper.

Using Recycled Paper: The Effects on the Environment

Ninety percent of paper pulp is made from wood. The production of paper accounts for over a third of felled trees in the world.

Did you know? Some experts estimate that recycling one ton of newspaper saves about 4,000 KWh of electricity. This is enough electricity to power a 3-bedroom European house for an entire year, or enough energy to heat and air-condition the average North American home for almost six months. [Source: Wikipedia.com]

Green Tip for Freelance Writers #6

Use Cloth, Flatware and Dishes. Usually, when you work outside the home and run out for a sandwich, you’re going to get paper napkins, plastic forks and paper plates.

But, if you work at home use your nice dishes, real silverware and cloth napkin. Not only will you be helping the environment by contributing less waste, you’ll be doing something nice for yourself too!

Green Tip for Freelance Writers #7

Wash Less; Hang Dry. As you’re at home and are changing clothes less (ostensibly), wash less. Don’t forget to use cold water as much as possible. You can structure your days to do laundry once a week, instead of two or three times.

And, if you live in an environment that allows it, hang clothes on a line to dry instead of using the dryer. I vividly remember as a child growing up doing this with my mother. Nothing smells better than fresh clothes coming off the clothesline after having been dried by the sun.

Going Green Adds Up

There are many more tips that can be added to the list. These are just a few off the top of my head. While these may seem like little things that don’t do much, they do add up. Imagine if we all practiced these. We’d be doing Mother Earth a huge favor. Green tips for freelance writers are easy to implement – and you can feel good about doing your part to help the environment.

P.S.: Read here how I routinely make $250+/day as an SEO writer – and you can too!

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Freelance Writing Rates: And the Debate Rages On . . .

I recently read this post on the WellFedWriter.com’s blog. So, when I received the email below, it got me to thinking about all of this. …

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What’s the Difference Between a Website and a Blog?

The following is sage advice for anyone who’s thinking about getting a blog or website and/or those who are thinking about changing their web presence. If you are serious about making money online, read this carefully. It can literally make or break your earning capacity….

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Is PLR Content Dead?

PLR content may be on its way out the door. As an SEO* content provider, I have mixed feelings about this. Before I delve into why, let’s explain what PLR content is for those who may not know.

What is PLR Content? What are PLR Articles?

PLR is an acronym for Private Label Rights content. It is content sold to many different parties. Many businesses are built around the PLR content model.

For example, have you ever seen ads on the net that sell you on the concept of starting your own niche site? They promise you a website already loaded with pre-written content.

The vast majority of these sites use PLR articles. The idea being that you will take over the site and build it out with fresh, unique content on a regular basis. Many never do, of course. Read more on how to make money with PLR content as explained in the article Turn $1/Day into an Online Empire: How to Make Money with Minisites.

Why PLR Content is Extremely Popular

Most PLR content is written for and by web entrepreneurs who run what’s known as VREs (virtual real estate) businesses. They may operate as many as a few hundred sites. Even if they only have 20 or 30, that’s still a massive amount of content that’s needed.

These sites make money by showing ads from programs like Google AdSense or affiliate programs from affiliate operations like Clickbank. The reason this is such an appealing business model is because “all” the site owner has to do is drive traffic to the site. All is in quotation marks because that’s the hardest part of any internet business. And, that’s where the need for loads of content comes in.

Why would someone waste their time on a business like this you may be thinking. Consider this: if a site owner has 25 sites and each one is making $5 a day, that’s $125 day. Keep adding sites and you can see why a lot of web entrepreneurs like this business model. But, keeping the sites up to date with fresh content is a big chore. And, this is why there’s such a huge demand for PLR content (and PLR content sellers).

How/Why PLR Content Providers are Discriminated Against

Following though is why there is a lot of discrimination against PLR content providers. I’ve experienced it firsthand.

3 Reasons PLR Content Providers are Discriminated Against

1. Article Directory Discrimination: If you write and sell PLR content, many article directories are not your friend. They won’t let you link to your PLR site – even if the link you provide is in the proper place – ie, the resource box of your article.

As article marketing is one of the top ways to market your PLR website and its services, this means a powerful avenue of marketing is shut down to PLR content providers. PLR content sites get about as much respect as porn and hate sites on the web as for as how they’re treated by some article directories.

Hyprocrisy at Work?

This smacks of a bit of hypocrisy to me, as article directories are basically PLR content providers. How? Well, they offer free content to millions of website owners, e-marketers, newsletter publishers, bloggers, etc. And, they make money off of this “free content” because many article directories are monetized via ads from Google AdSense and similar programs.

Hmmm . . . could article directory owners be policing the web for their own benefit?

2. Clients Don’t Want PLR Content: Many clients simply don’t want PLR content; they want original content. For me, this is completely understandable and is the law of supply and demand at work. The thing is, many want to pay PLR rates though. However, that’s a discussion for another article.

3. The Duplicate Content Penalty: Many clients worry about the possibility of being banned from powerful search engines like Google. This is what some attribute to what’s known as the duplicate content penalty.

If you don’t know what this is, read this article on the duplicate content penalty. It does one of the best jobs of explaining it so that it makes sense. And, it also happens to mirror the experiences I’ve had as an article marketer.

Now that you understand what PLR content is and why it’s not favored by many, I’ll give you my personal take on it and how to use it effectively.

Why the Death of PLR Content is a Good Idea

The web is progressing to the point where surfers no longer want regurgitated content that can be found on 50 other sites. They want unique, specific content. And, this is why the death of PLR content is a good idea. As the vast majority of PLR articles are so generic as to be practically useless, having less of this on the web can only serve to better search results.

End users will get a lot less crap when they search. But, as an SEO writer who produces PLR content, I hate to see its demise on the other hand. Following is why.

Why the Demise of PLR Content is a Bad Idea

PLR content has two good uses, in my opinion.

(i) It allows new web entrepreneurs to get up and going quickly. If you want to start a website, but have no writing skills or tend to procrastinate, starting with a PLR site is a good way to get up and going quickly. Then, you can build it out, adding original content on an ongoing basis.

While many may take issue with starting a web business in this manner, I know from personal experience that the thing that stops many from achieving their dreams is that they simply fail to start. With PLR content, you can have a complete website in minutes.

All of that frustrating, beginning, behind-the-scenes work is already done. This allows you to delve right into what you do best – building the site out with original content, marketing it, creating new products, etc.

(ii) It allows established web entrepreneurs to stay on track with their marketing: What I mean by this is, using a PLR article every once in a while is one of the best timesavers you can rely on. For example, if you have a blog that is updated four times a week, but you’re so busy that you only have time to update it three times this week. Rather than throw off your schedule – and disappoint your readers – using a PLR article to “fill in the gap,” so to speak, can keep your marketing efforts on track.

3 Keys to Successfully Using PLR Content

As a freelance writer and web entrepreneur who publishes my own blog, website and numerous ebooks, let me be the first to say, I’m a big proponent pf original content. I write all of my own content and don’t use PLR articles on my sites.

But for those web entrepreneurs who want to, the pros can outweigh the cons, if you follow these rules:

(i) Use Well-Written PLR Articles: As previously mentioned, many PLR articles are so generic as to be useless. It’s obvious that they’re stuffed with a certain keyword phrase and are only written as search engine bait.

Don’t use these types of articles. Use PLR content that is well written and useful. You’ll have the best luck finding this from PLR content providers who only sell to a limited number of buyers.  

(ii) Use PLR Content Sparingly: This is perhaps the best rule to employ when using PLR content. Most of the content on your site should be original – preferably written by you. As mentioned above, if you find yourself in a pinch every once in a while, a well-written PLR article can be just the thing to keep your internet marketing efforts on track.

It’s the same as using a well-written article from a article marketing directory. But, if you start to use PLR content on a regular basis, you can hurt your internet marketing efforts because you lose your voice, your credibility and the trust you’ve built with your customers.

(iii) Add Your Take to the PLR Article: When you do use a PLR article on your website or blog, add a few lines to make it your own. What I mean by this is, add an introduction or summary, eg:

”The following piece explains why I believe “x”. Pay particular attention to the third tip discussed, as it goes into detail and gets to the heart of my belief.”

Just this simple intro injects your voice into the “conversation” of a PLR article. It maintains a personal connection with your audience, which keeps the trust flowing – and hence the sales.

PLR content is the black sheep of the web. But in my opinion, there is a place for it, if used correctly.

*SEO stands for search engine optimization. SEO copywriters provide copy that is optimized for search engines. Hence, it increases web traffic and sales for internet marketers and entrepreneurs. Need a professional SEO writer?

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Avoid High Gas Prices: 3 Easy-to-Start, Online Work-from-Home Careers

With gas topping $4 in some American cities, many are looking for as many ways to save on fuel as possible. This includes cutting down on commuting time.

Following are three easy-to-start, online, work-from-home careers. If you have a computer and an internet connection, you can get started today – and leave your car in the garage.

3 “Gas Saving” Career Options

Freelance Writing: Freelance writing is a viable career that can easily replace a 30, 40 or 50K/year job with just a little bit of elbow grease. And, it’s possible to make much more than that once you get the basics under your belt.

What’s Hot in Freelance Writing Right Now

One hot sector right now is SEO writing. SEO stands for Search engine optimization. And, while it sounds highly technical, it’s really not. SEO content is copy that is written to drive web traffic to a particular website or blog.

For example, if a company sells vintage cars, how do you think that ordinary web searchers would find that company’s site on the web? They would probably type in “vintage cars” or “vintage cars for sale.” These then become the main phrases (keyword phrases) the SEO copywriter would use in content on the site. This, in a nutshell, is what SEO writing is all about – and, anyone can learn how to do it.

Conservatively, it is estimated by many internet marketing firms that about 100,00 new websites are added to the web each day. Most of these are businesses. And, what do they need to get noticed? Content. The smart ones soon figure out that they need SEO content, ie, content that allows surfers to find them online.

If you provide it, you can quickly have an endless supply of web clients, save on gas and park that car in the garage.


Online Seminars: Web technology has advanced to the point where it’s easy to teach online. This can be done via a web-cam seminar, or where you simply dispense lessons via email.

Turn Your Current Career into a Seminar

Say you’re making $40K year as a marketing assistant at an ad agency. There are several seminars you could put together: eg, how to write an effective press release; how to get work from the marketing department of an ad agency; or how to promote your business online.

Undoubtedly in your duties as a marketing assistant, you’ve either done some these duties yourself, hired freelancers to do them and/or advised clients on how to do it.

The point is, you can park your car in the garage, save on gas and work from home.

Sell Information Products: The best information products to promote online are the ones you write from first-hand experience and sell yourself. And, it’ easier to do than you think.

Why Creating a Niche is Key

But, if that terrifies you or you don’t have the time/know how to do it, there are hundreds of thousands of information products you can promote as an affiliate.

The key is to create a niche. I advise staying away from “make money online” type products; and go with an evergreen niche that tends to have a dedicated audience.

Take children. There are all kinds of ebooks that cater to parents, eg, how to get you child to go to sleep, how to protect your child from online predators, how to tell which video games are violence-free, etc. Set up a simple website, find appropriate ebooks from affiliate providers and start promoting.

Oh, and this is the point where you leave the car in the garage and save on gas.

While none of these careers are going to make you thousands of dollars overnight (and don’t believe anyone who tells you that any career will), they will start bringing in money almost immediately – if you market yourself right. And, I can personally attest that with SEO writing, you can be making enough in 30 days to replace your income if you make less than $50,000/year, as outlined in this ebook.

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Advice for Freelance SEO Writers: How to Negotiate Rates When Clients Want You to Go Lower with the Promise of More Work

Last week, I received the following email from a freelance writer who bought my ebook on SEO writing. She was landing clients at one rate (after only a couple of weeks of marketing), and wondered if she should go lower for this one client who promised steady work….

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Freelance Writing Scam: One Freelancer’s Tale of How He Got Cheated Writing SEO Articles — How to Avoid a Similar Fate; Also Other Freelance Writing Job Scams Discussed

Freelance SEO writer Roy Daniel DSilva sent the following (very long) comment to my blog post entitled, WARNING: New Scam Job Site Targeting Freelancers. I’ve broken up my comments by adding some tips on how to prevent this from happening to you with notes entitled, “My Take.”

Be careful accepting online writing jobs everybody. As freelance writers, we work hard enough without having to worry about being scammed.

Mr. DSilva wrote:  

The Biggest Cheat There Ever Was, Is And Will Be – Elliott Leee

I am sure what I am going to say now will shake off the socks of every content writer present in the world. This is the bitterest experience anyone can ever have, so be warned. I have been mightily cheated by Elliott Leee, and I call upon everyone to be very vigilant about this person. Here’s my story.

I am a freelance writer and this Elliott Leee contacted me through one of them (job site). His username is richuser2008 there (later I found out he has one more username richuser2009 also, on the same site). Okay, he contracted me to do 100 articles in 2 days for him. The articles were of 500 words each, and on various topics. The payment decided for them was $600.

Normally, freelance sites allow for escrow, and I prefer that mode, but this Elliott Leee said he will not escrow because he didn’t have funds. Still, I needed the money, so I accepted the work. I have a kid aged 1.5 years and parents aged 61 and 73 years to look after. So I accepted. That was my mistake number one.
My Take:
The poster is right, this was a huge mistake. What should have clued him in: (i) the large order; (ii) the crazy turnaround time (2 days for 100 articles – come on!); and (iii) the buyers inability to escrow (ie, follow prescribed guidelines as outlined by the job posting sites).

Scammers often use job sites for two reasons: (i) it’s the easiest way to target a lot of freelance writers quickly; and (ii) a lot of writers who use these sites are accustomed to working for pennies (no knock to the freelancer). Writers who charge more tend to stay away from sites like this (I know I do), or at least not waste their time responding to orders like this one.
I put all my other work on the backburner and started his articles. It was unreal work, but I knew I would do it. He was bombarding me with emails. He wanted 10 articles every hour. I employed my wife and brother on the job too, and between us, we did the 10 articles in the first hour. I mailed him those. He accepted, said they were good, and said he wanted the next 10 within the next hour. I kept on sending, and with every mail he only said ‘Send me the next 10 asap’. There was no thanks, no decency in this person, he was only swallowing the articles without a burp.
My Take:
Second mistake. If you’re going to work on spec and for such low wages as this, at least make them pay up after a few have been sent. This would have showed good faith. In this instance, a good idea would have been to send say 5 at a time, receive payment, and then do another five. That way, if you don’t get payment, at least you’ve only spent time doing a few articles.

And not for nothing, if this person seemed “indecent,” or unprofessional, that’s a big red flag. Most professionals don’t operate like this. There are so many thank yous flying back and forth between me and my clients that it’s a virtual lovefest.

After 50 articles were done, I indicated about the payment. I asked him to pay at least $300, which was the amount for the work completed. He refused outright. He said he would pay as soon as the 100th article was submitted. I had no option but to plow on.
My Take: Fifty articles in, I can understand the inclination to want to continue. But he should have stood his ground. Professionals understand upfront payments (heck, he’d completed half the job with no upfront payment). And honest client would have gladly paid something at this point. Reputable clients just don’t operate this way.

Red flag! Red flag! Red flag!

Anyways, I will get to the end now. I finished the 100 articles in the stipulated 2 days. This guy was awake day and night, and didn’t allow me to sleep either. He wanted articles every hour, and would allow only a few hours sleep. But, he refused to give me any chat ids. Email was our only conversation.

So, 2 days, 40+ emails and 100 articles later, I asked him for the payment. His emails suddenly stopped. After about eight hours, he emailed me about a problem. He said that some other writer had fallen sick or something and could not complete her articles. He said her 29 articles were pending. And since those were completed, he could not send the articles to his client and his client would not pay. I told him this was unfair. He was almost like a dictator in his reply – do these 29 more, or there can be no payment. Really, he was so brutal. I had to do those 29 more articles.

I took one more day to finish, not a whole day though. And I sent him those 29 also. The dues were now $780 and I was waiting for them. After a few repeated reminders from my side, I got an email from him.

He said he has paid on PayPal. I got a confirmation email from “PayPal” too. But the money did not show on PayPal. I waited four hours, thinking it might take time or something. But the money never came. And then I minutely scrutinized the “confirmation email”. It was a carefully planned out hoax. The email was a spoof. I reported it to PayPal immediately.

And then Elliott Leee stopped responding. No further communication occurred. In my last mail, I only told him how he was a criminal, and how I will expose him. He never replied to that. Three days later, I was checking my freelance account where I first found this fellow. I was shocked to see the site had deducted $30 from my account for this project with Elliott Leee. I opened a dispute ticket with them.

Let me tell you also what PayPal and the freelance site did (or rather, did not do).

PayPal never replied to my report on the spoof mail. How can they not even be concerned about someone spoofing their emails? What’s the security for us then, when the biggest online bank of the world is so laidback about such crime? A couple of days later, I only got an email from PayPal saying that there’s no transaction of $780 on the said date. And they gave me a litany of preaching on what I must do to avoid phishing. Fat help!

The freelance site obviously did not help. There was no escrow, and that was their excuse to wash their hands of the whole affair. No escrow, no help – that’s the brutal dictum of these freelance sites. They replied about the deduction of $30 in 3 words – Project was canceled. Yes, you guessed it right – after making me slog like an aboriginal slave, after killing my sleep and appetite for two days running, this Elliott Leee took all the articles and canceled the project.

I got no justice in all this, and the infrastructure of the Internet is such that I will never get any justice. People like Elliott Leee will rule. And we honest hard workers will always lose.

My Take: Honest, hard workers will not lose, if we are smart. Don’t ever, ever, ever start work without some form of payment being made first.

In my case, I break this rule, but let me explain. First, I don’t use bid-for-pay sites. The pay is too low and the time spent formulating queries is just too time consuming. By the time I do that, I could have sent out 50 email queries from contacts I’ve found on my own.

When I query clients online, I’ve been to their site. While this doesn’t guarantee a thing, at least I know they’re less likely trying to scam me b/c I approach them first.  Furthermore, I propose rates to my clients, not the other way around. With bid-for-pay sites, most of the clients post what they’re willing to pay for a project.

Finally, it’s just a gut instinct I use. I’ve been doing this long enough (since 1993) to get a feel for clients. I’ve only been burned once – and that was by a lawyer (go figure!) and it wasn’t web writing.

To avoid all of this, or at least until you develop that long-time freelancer “gut feeling,” just ask for 50% up front before you start on a project. It’s industry standard and if a potential client balks; then you walk.

Long live the phishers and scammers! The world’s online banks and freelance sites are there to help you do your thing.

PS: There is much, much more coming up on Elliott Leee as I am discovering more stuff from him. I have recently found out (without proof) that Elliott Leee is an alias – he has some other name. In fact, he has many other names. If anyone of you wants to discuss Elliott Leee with me, and even take a look at our email convos and things like that, get in touch with me. I won’t take you at your face value though. There are other instances of us getting cheated on my blog.

My Take: While phishers and scammers do stink up the internet with, this medium is full of opportunity. Don’t let a few rotten apples spoil what is an absolutely wonderful way to make unbelievable amounts of money. The key is to market smart, and trust ye ole gut!

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Why a Recession is a Good Time to Start a Freelance Writing Career

This article continues on the ideas expressed in this post on Inkwell Editorial’s blog, which was about why a recession is a great time to start a freelance writing career.

I was a little light on details. As I had I had some free time over the weekend, I took the time to flesh the topic more.

Why Freelancers Thrive in a Boom/Good Economy

Freelancing is wonderful because it thrives in a recession, or in a booming economy. It just thrives for different reasons. In an expanding economy, it thrives for all the obvious reasons: companies are spending money – on advertising, marketing, consulting, etc.

This means work for everyone – full-time and freelance professional.

3 Reasons Freelancers Thrive in a Recession

In a recession, the freelance industry thrives for three reasons:

(i) Because companies are laying off. BUT, work still has to get done. As there are fewer full-timers around, the services are independent contractors (freelancers) are relied on.

(ii) This also saves companies on employee overhead (ie, office space, healthcare, etc.). And,

(iii) Disenchanted, laid off workers start businesses. Many take severance packages and pursue a long-held dream to start their own business. Or, they just may be so fed up with being laid off “yet again,” that they vow never to work for anyone else again (been there, done that).

And, as they can’t afford to hire full-timers, many of these entrepreneurs turn to freelancers. To make a go of any type of freelance endeavor, you have to market, market, market.

I’m regularly billing between $1,000 and $2,000 in JUST SEO writing work (I do other types of freelance writing and blogging as well).

So, if you’ve been wanting to take the plunge, do some planning and jump on in. The freelance waters are always warm and welcoming! For more reading on this subject, check out How Will a Recession Affect Freelance Writers?

*FYI, SEO stands for search engine optimization. I apologize to more tech savvy readers; but every time I write an article using the acronym SEO, I get an email asking me what it is.


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coverP.S.: Get the ebook that pushed my freelance writing career to the next level – allowing me to travel and live abroad, get out of debt and really “live the freelance life.” One freelancer wrote:

Hi Yuwanda,

Just wanted to say thank you – as a result of the advice in your SEO writing e-book, I got my first order within 12 hours of sending out my first batch of 10 marketing emails.

P.P.S.: Want to start a successful career where you have the mobility to live and work where you please? Visit our freelance writing bookstore for a ton of opportunities (freelance writing and internet marketing) to get you started.

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