Wild Musing

Writing – Diary of a Budding Freelance

Charge Me With Neglect! Elance Triumph

Well the bad news is I have been very remiss in keeping my blog entries up but the good news is that is because I have been run off my feet with decent (read no dodgy SEO) writing work. And without exception the work has come from Elance. So haven’t I come a long way from where I was?

I know I am probably sounding like an advert for this place by now and that was never my intention so lets have a look at the downsides of the Elance world. Their charges for bidding are just a bit silly. You pay nearly ten bucks a month for being a member of the site but for that you do not get unlimited bidding, only 20 a month. I have found that, this month at least, this has not been enough. I think most people starting out will experience the same problem. So you have to buy more ‘connects’ and already you have paid them twice.

They then charge you 8% of any fee you earn on the site. So this is the third time they have been paid. I am not sure how this goes if you are the provider but I figure they are charged somewhere so Elance is earning money four or five times on the pair of you. Genius! As a business it must work stunningly well for them and the thing is it is still popular. Why?

Well, for me the answer is that it works. Yes its charges are daft and annoying but it beats the crap out of having no work. I would rather have a nice juicy fee for them to take 8% of than nothing at all. Basically, like it or lump it, it is the sole reason I have not had to go supply teaching and have been able to sit the snow period out in the comfort of my own home, doing what I love. And making really rather decent money out of it.

I am starting to get a bit of work in through word of mouth and trust me I will not be crying about not having to pay Elance a big cut. But, bottom line, I would have had no word of mouth without them.

A quick summary of my recommendations for getting to this position. Do not work for crap money, in fact don’t even bid on those jobs, you cannot compete with those people coming from the countries with a much lower cost of living and you will just make yourself miserable. I no longer even look at $5 an article jobs (she says with what is probably supreme over confidence). Also, once you are slightly established only bid on jobs that are going to improve your current position i.e. they pay more or they are on something that you would enjoy writing about. I write an awful lot on video games now, which I love.

I may, in time, be in a position to move away from Elance but at the moment it is serving me very nicely. Oh and Guru? Probably works well for a lot of people but in the time period I have been using it there seems to more of the dross and less of the good stuff. May just be coincidence or could be something about the way it markets to or charges employers. If I notice a difference I will let you know.

February 5, 2009 Posted by | Elance, Guru, SEO writing, Uncategorized, Writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Confident Elance or Guru Pitch.

I was looking back over some of the templates I had created for these sites at the very beginning of all this and I was struck by how much they differed from the ones I send out now. In the early ones I was pathetic, I sounded like they would be doing me a favour throwing any ill paid rubbish my way. Here is an example

Thank you for the opportunity to submit my proposal for your project. Enclosed please find all information relative to my skills and experience.

I believe I could do an outstanding job of this project. I consider myself to be a very persuasive person who has an exceptional way with words. In my previous career as an English teacher I was often required to mock up advertising campaigns with a strong element of persuasion. Not to mention motivating the kids to complete the project which is perhaps the biggest challenge of all.

I gave up my teaching job to concentrate on my writing very recently, as a result I am eager and determined to produce a fantastic piece of work to satisfy your requirements.

Give me a go: you won’t regret it.

Please contact me on michellejbuss@googlemail.com to further discuss pricing and project details.

Regards Michelle Buss

How awful. And it elicited very few responses except the odd ” Do these really well for $1 each and I might have some more work for you” kind.

The type of proposal i send out now is much more confident. I know I can do the job well and expect fair pay for it. The bonus is that this is actually more professional and attracts a better quality of employer. If you come across as under confident you frighten the employer. Most of them are there because they don’t know how to do the job themselves, they are hardly likely to hire someone who comes across as if they haven’t got a clue either. Who can blame them? My bids now are more likely to sound something like this.

I was drawn to your advert because it sounds like you want quality articles, it seems to me a lot of employers are not the slightest bit interested in quality. It also sounds like a lot of fun and I gave up a fifteen year teaching career to write because I enjoy it so that is very important to me.

I write articles for an Australian gaming magazine. They are a journalistic endeavor as I decide each month what topics are hot in the industry and do the research and interviews to put the article together. They pay very well but there is not enough of this work to earn a full time living.

As I have great difficulty turning out rubbish low fee articles take me far too long to be worth the effort. Your project sounds just right for me. A chance to reflect the true quality of my writing for fair pay would be very much appreciated.

It is hard to give you a truly reflective price as you do not mention how much writing would be involved. I would be happy to discuss this with you.

Please visit my website at


This will give you a feel for my style and writing ability. I have also attached an article I had published in a gaming magazine. I can provide the contact details of the editor who will be more than happy to provide me with a reference.

I look forward to working with you on this.

That is slightly generic and clearly i respond to each project on an individual level so I would add the following;

– A few sentences on why I am the best person for their particular brief.
– If possible a pertinent question to show my understanding of the type of project they are asking for.

This has worked loads better and jobs do come to me quite regularly. An up date of my profile to include my new improved writing ethos has also started bring employers to me. So, at the risk of repeating myself my number one tip is to be confident, it is vital.

On another note if you found your way here looking for a view on these sites from a web designers point of view the following site is worth a visit


January 21, 2009 Posted by | Elance, Getting published, Guru, Writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

My Freelance Writing Ethos.

When I first started this caper I used to look at all the profiles of writers who knew exactly what they could bring to a project with envy. People were chucking around terms like value added and I really did not have a clue. I certainly had nothing approaching an ethos or a mission statement but as I have gone through the process I think I have started to develop one. I am quite sure that it is not fully formed yet but if I was pushed for an ethos now I think it would go something like this

I produce quality products. I do not copy sections from the internet or re word other people’s articles . Inserting a bit of spark and personality is my specialty.I love to write and anything I produce will reflect my genuine love of language.

I strongly believe that top notch writing can add value to a website or product and help increase profit. I also believe that poor writing can harm the image an employer is trying to create and therefore cost them money. That is why I will strive to give them a product that is of exceptional quality every time.

I don’t think I came into this expecting to have to convince people of the power of words. I suppose as a former English teacher I should know better than anyone that not everyone appreciates how important language is. But somehow I expected that if someone was hiring a person to write for them then they would understand this truth. Some people seem to think that any words will do. The way these people totally underestimate the power of language still astonishes me.

This freelance writing thing has really focused me on the pleasure of earning a living from something you are passionate about and so far I declare this career change a success.


January 20, 2009 Posted by | Elance, Gaming, Getting published, Guru, Uncategorized, Writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Small Victory For Me- Writing For Guru And Elance

It looks like there really might be something in this holding out for decent money and delivering quality. Yesterday I got this letter from someone I wrote for on Elance

Dear Michelle,

If it was possible, I would give you an eLance standing ovation. The article was exactly what I wanted. I decided to skim over the article late last night and all of a sudden my already exhausted eyes perked up and by the end of the article I was watching the trailer for World of Goo and looking where to play the demo. The only thing I need you to include is just your name at the end of the articles so my readers will know who to thank for such engaging articles. Keep up the excellent work.

If you think I am showing off, you may be right. It is just that I am a little proud of myself and my two Staffordshire Bull Terriers don’t seem to care. By the way I highly recommend the Indie game World Of Goo. A fabulous achievement by the little guys. Huge budget of $10 000 and second on the amazon best seller list at Christmas. Imagine the envy of the tens of millions of dollars game developers.

Anyway, getting back on track. Remember the people I politely declined for offering me a silly small amount of money for my writing (if not you need to read this post https://michellejbuss.wordpress.com/2009/01/14/silly-offers-for-your-writing-politely-declining-guru-employers/ Well, I’ll be darned if they did not get back to me this morning accepting my original offer. It just goes to show you sticking up for yourself not only feels good it can win you customers.

Of course my original bid was still pretty low because I need the experience in writing eBooks, and they need the whole sixty pages in a week, eek. I best get started, I will let you know how it goes.


January 17, 2009 Posted by | Elance, Gaming, Getting published, Guru, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Silly Offers For Your Writing-Politely Declining Guru Employers.

I have to admit that I am joining the ranks of the fans of Guru and Elance. I am well aware of their downsides but the bottom line is they facilitate a link between you and employers. What you negotiate from there is up to you. There is no doubt there are employers on there that think they are doing you a favour by offering to let you write and you should gratefully work for under minimum wage but no one makes you work for them. I now have $400 of continuing work a week through these two sites. Granted this is a recent development and I have not been paid but as this week’s money is held in escrow accounts I think I can be fairly confident.

I have one small job writing tiny blogs for a landlord. Another one that requires 3 articles on gaming a week and yet another that is currently a set 5 articles but looks like it shall continue beyond that. In each case I am being paid fairly. Two offered a fair price up front and one had to be given a gentle prod but all in all it is my ideal of fair pay for decent writing.

I think this has been bought about by my deciding and openly stating in my bids that I will not accept less. People still occasionally offer me silly money but I doggedly decline their offers and hold out for something better. It really is the only way. Just today I received a counter offer to my bid to write 60/100 page EBook, the gentleman wanted me to do it for $200! Apparently the hook is there may be more in the future, at that price I could not afford to do any more for him. Anyway, he received one of my thanks but no thanks letters. In each letter I try to set out how long a quality job would take and then put it into pay per hour for them. I am not being patronizing, I really think some of them just don’t realize what they are asking. Unless they actually write themselves this is understandable. I include a mock up of the type of letter I send to politely decline an unrealistic offer.

Sixty pages of well written, researched copy would take at least forty five hours including proof reading and editing. Anyone who tells you different is not intending on giving you quality. This works out at less than five dollars an hour. I usually work at a very low minimum of ten to fifteen and had only gone below that because your project sounded interesting. I literally cannot afford to work for you at that price and must admit my astonishment that anyone can. They must have much lower house payments than me.

So I politely decline your offer.

I recognize that we all do what we need to do and I wish you all the best.

I will admit to a small sense of satisfaction when I press the send button.


January 14, 2009 Posted by | Elance, Gaming, Guru | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Fair Pay For Good Writing- Good News Guru/Elance Update.

Just a short up date on how our two favorite writers for hire sites are treating me. To be honest things are on the up and up. Even though I spent today plugging the virtues of timeshare in Florida, I have some real hope of a job writing some quality stuff for a reasonable rate from an employer on Elance.

It is writing content for a new website that is not interested in SEO; they are interested in a good reader experience. Wow, what a novel idea. How refreshing is this statement?

Firstly, I am not looking for SEO writers who optimize their articles for search engines sometimes at the expense of the quality of their writing. Rather, it is precisely quality writing that I am looking for.

Wonderful. And for once that statement does not seem to be followed by rates that make it obvious they want this quality at the same price everyone else is paying for crap. Like we should be grateful that anyone cares about quality at all and should , in fact, perhaps pay them for letting us write it.

So the idea seems to be that I write a column three times a week in my own area of expertise, about 500-700 words. For the week’s work they will pay $100 USD if they agree to my quote which they seem to be doing. This is obviously not a fortune but it sure beats the tripe out of $10 for 1200 odd original words. now I am still a little sceptical that everything will work out as it seems to be but I am hopeful. If it all goes wrong I shall of course crawl back here with my tail between my legs and tell you all about it. For now though, it seems that holding out for a fair deal and continuing to stress the quality of your work may bring results on these sites. I will be pleased if that is the case.


January 9, 2009 Posted by | Elance, Getting published, Guru, SEO writing, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Seriously Bad SEO Writing- Funny Examples Competition

My post yesterday got me to thinking about all the examples of truly bad SEO writing I have seen in my time. Some of it is really very amusing. Either because the writer has completely lost control of what they are writing (overuse of thesaurus or just lack of grasp of the language.) Or, just occasionally, because you can see the bored to tears SEO writer behind the copy deciding to have a laugh.

There have always been examples of bad writing my personal favorite example currently is an opening paragraph that was recognized as one of the worst of 2006.

Her angry accusations burned Clyde like that first bite of a double cheese pizza, when the toppings slide off and sear that small elevation of the oral mucosa, just behind the front teeth, known as the incisive papilla, which is linked to the discriminatory function of the taste buds except, where Clyde was concerned, when it came to women.

I had to find a way to include that because it really mad me laugh. If you interested in some other creative writing train wrecks check this out http://www.ieplexusblog.com/featured/90-great-design-wont-mask-bad-writing/

Back on my original topic though, once I started to actually look for funny, bad SEO examples I found it quite time consuming and being so impatient I decided to kick off with the first two I came across.

Firstly, in the category of: Is There Actually Any Meaning Left In That Sentence?

Because the desire for a bigger penis is both a carelessness and a beginning of care for many men, the penis enhancement ‘store’ has flourished.

What? I apologize for using such an obvious topic but I just had a feeling it might throw up some examples.

Secondly, and my personal favorite category That Writer Is Having A Laugh: I Wonder If Anyone Will Notice.

(Before you read this you need to know the title of the article was The Three Products Most Likely To Be Top Sellers for Your Internet Business)

Hair loss products. No man likes to lose his hair, forget the old adage that baldness is a sign of virility. That phrase was coined by a bald man. The desperation men feel at losing their hair resulted in the invention of the comb over. If men were willing to believe that looked better than going bald then they will buy just about anything.

Classic. The, your customers are dumb and desperate sales pitch.

My idea is this. Let’s find the best examples of truly bad SEO writing and post them here. It will be good for a laugh if nothing else. If I start getting in some replies I will write up the best ones once a month or so and create a new page for them.

I may not get enough traffic for this kind of idea but if not I will continue to post any funny examples I come across.

Please be aware that I am not having a go at underpaid and over worked SEO writers, I feel their pain, just at the system as it currently is.


January 6, 2009 Posted by | Diggit, Elance, Gaming, Guru, SEO writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

SEO Writing- Is There A Way We Can All Make Money?

As I was ploughing my way through my present bread and butter work of SEO writing today, I suddenly had an epiphany. It is actually possible to write SEO quite well. You may mock but it is true. If you have a strong grasp of the English language and a bit of talent with words then SEO’s can sound quite professional and even show some personality and humor. They can flow well and actually make the product sound like it really would be worth checking out. Here is the bad news though. It is impossible to make a 500 word SEO article sound like real quality in half an hour. I do not care what anyone says; highly competent, compelling articles of 500 words take an hour to write and if there is research involved add at least another half an hour. So why is this bad news? Because most SEO employers pay about five dollars USD for an article. So that means SEO writers are on way less than minimum wage. I have got news for you SEO employers, the articles you are getting are not quality.

Now this may not come as a shock to most SEO employers but how about this for a thought; what if the articles you are publishing are actually damaging your sales? I have no proof of this except common sense but hear me out. If I was after a good or a service and googled the name of it to be taken to an extremely poorly written or uninspiring article, I would not click on the link, in fact I would look at the company name and warn myself it was one to keep well away from. I would not be the only one.

None of this may matter if you are selling some dodgy hair replacement or penis enlargement product (though come to think of it if I was the poor guy who had googled those terms I would probably really want an article that inspired some confidence, especially in the case of a penis enlargement) but if your product has some real quality to it you may actually be damaging your product image and therefore losing potential sales.

Even if you believe none of this, even if you think rubbish SEO articles will not hurt your reputation or your image there is still the fact that you are missing out on the opportunity to actually use the articles to really add value to your product or brand. Don’t you think a brilliantly written SEO that really sells the product could actually help you get sales over competitors whose links are attached to rubbish articles? Maybe you don’t, but I do. If you pay more for fabulous SEO’s but it increases your sales exponentially then everyone is a winner. We all make money.

SEO’s have the potential to actually be quality advertising but nobody seems to see that.


January 6, 2009 Posted by | Elance, Getting published, Guru, SEO writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Will SEO Be The Death Of Freelance Writing?

No, probably not, but it may be the death of me. Only joking, of course. Those of you who have been following my blog will be pleased to hear I am now back on track and being paid for my writing. It is mainly SEO at this stage though and that provides some unique challenges. I am not talking about any moral issues people may have with SEO writing ,I have done those to death, just the practicalities.

I think we would all agree that SEO writing is the bottom rung of the writing ladder and as a result not very well paid. Most of us starting out in freelance writing accept that and perhaps even see it as a way of paying our dues. The difficulty comes when you have some much higher value writing coming in and you have to balance it with your SEO stuff.

I am not ashamed to say I earn about ten quid for a five hundred word SEO article at the moment, I am not ashamed because it is largely what is keeping the wolf from the door and I am grateful for that. The good news is I now also have some ‘real’ writing starting to come in, in fact I have three articles to write this month at the much more pleasant rate of fifty pounds per five hundred words. This is great but it does present me with a bit of a dilemma. SEO employers tend to be very demanding employers (no offense intended). By the nature of their business they need you to be quick and reliable. The good news is they tend to pay quite quickly and that really helps the cash flow situation.

By contrast the magazine editor I am writing for is more relaxed about time and more concerned about quality. This sounds great but most editors also seem to be quite relaxed about when they pay you. A lot won’t pay before publication, and your article can be in a queue.

So this is my problem, to write my magazine article I need to take time out from my SEO writing. The worst thing that will happen is that the SEO employer will see me as unreliable and cease to deal with me (yes, they are a dime a dozen but writers are a penny at this end of the market). Even if that does not happen a couple of days out of SEO writing will seriously slow down my cash flow which, to be fair, has only recently started re flowing.

I think I may have to accept that the temporary poverty is worth it for the improvement in the quality of job I am getting. I will have to try to balance the two types of writing, because far from being the death of my freelance writing career SEO has actually kept me afloat long enough to start reaping some benefits.

I could just cease to sleep.


January 2, 2009 Posted by | Getting published, Guru, SEO writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Guru Update- Employers Who Don’t Pay For Your Writing

Well I think Karma may have got me. After all my moaning about the quality of the work my first guru employer had asked me to do it now looks likely he won’t pay me. I am not going to get into the whole blame game thing, suffice to say, he was totally in the wrong. I said I could do 4/5 articles a day every day this week except New Year’s Day (for obvious reasons). He sent me three sets of four with a note acknowledging that I would not be able to do them all at once. I polished off the first set yesterday and returned them to him within twelve hours, with a note reminding him that as I would not be working New Year’s Day, one more set was probably the best I would manage before the holiday.

I got up this morning and did two more articles, then sent him an email querying a minor detail in the assignment and received a reply stating that as I could not finish the assignment he had given it to another writer. I am left to assume he mean the whole 12 articles. So what about my first four? Gentle emails prodding him for an answer have had no response, funny that as the longest he took to reply to any queries yesterday was about ten minutes.

So… I think I can kiss goodbye to my articles and my money. Where does this leave me with Guru.com? Not in as negative a frame of mind as you make think. I figure this can happen anytime to someone who provides goods or a service up front. Look at the amount of people who skip out on motel bills or drive away without paying for petrol ( no-one I know,obviously, but you see what I am saying). I will even stick up for this Guru employer slightly, he may actually pay some of his writers. His mindset may be to use the first sign of a problem to his advantage. Or he may be an out and out scammer. It is not really important at this stage.

The question is should I allow it to put me off Guru.com all together? I think not. I have had some quite promising emails from people discussing far more interesting and lucrative projects than this one which is very encouraging. I think I will persevere and see where they lead me.

Though I must admit that another experience like this and even my sunny, Pollyanna style optimism may become slightly tarnished. I will keep you up to date.

December 31, 2008 Posted by | Elance, Getting published, Guru, Uncategorized, Writing | , , , , , , | 2 Comments