Don’t vote for me to win. Seriously.

October 11, 2011 § 3 Comments

I'm a winner on www.havealovelytime.com

This is a somewhat unusual post. Unlike the (seemingly) myriad requests to vote for someone for being the smiliest person in Berkshire, this is a plea for you to NOT vote for me. Well, ish.

I have been (ridiculously) lucky enough to have been Highly Commended in the Have a Lovely Time actual proper Travel Writing competition, and there is a special (secret) Reader’s Prize for the most popular of the eight Highly Commended entries.

And that is the point. It is a writing competition, not a popularity contest, so I don’t want you to vote for me because I’m lovely (I am) or because you think I am funny (haha or peculiar, don’t mind) or even because you have met my husband and feel sorry for me. You may think you’d rather not vote for a sarcastic old cynic (see * below)

But IF you think my entry is the most well-written, the funniest, the weirdest or the most Welsh, click away and vote for me.You aren’t even required to register so the ‘competition’ promoter can build themselves a saleable marketing mailing list afterwards*

And then we can all find out what the Readers’ Mystery Prize actually is…

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How long does it take you to write a blog post?

June 22, 2011 § 7 Comments

Blogging is a funny old thing. It can be cathartic, it can be controversial, it can even be lucrative if you build up a good blog that people want to read and be seen on. Like this one, *obviously*…

However, some people are not great at blogging (my own struggle is not for things to say, but for the time to say it) and they would rather pay someone else to do it- I have personally offered this service for a long time as part of my copywriting business.

I think paying people to blog for you is a great idea- everyone has skills, and things they aren’t so great at, and if I could swap blogging for someone cleaning my house, I’d do it in a heartbeat, but I do have this poser- how long does it take you to write a blog post?

My initial thought is that the answer is going to be that it takes as long as it takes, which is fine if you are blogging for yourself- some posts are easier and quicker to write than others. But what about when you are charging people? Or if someone is paying you to blog for them?

I recently saw a ‘job’ advert, aimed at mums wanting to work from home that was paying £7.50 an hour to write 2 blog posts an hour. And I’m not sure if this is a reasonable expectation and rate- I guess some people would think a £7.50 an hour job would be OK, but I doubt you could turn out good quality blogs at a rate of 2 an hour consistently. So the potential employers are either after low standard work, or (if a blog post takes an hour) they are expecting you to work for £3.75 an hour.

But perhaps it’s just me. I would appreciate your thoughts…

(photo by Michaelaw )

People per hour – worth a look or another way to devalue writing?

May 23, 2011 § 1 Comment

Hi. My name is Sam and I am a writer.

You wouldn’t think that would be so hard a thing to say, but, despite the fact that more and more of us are writing through the explosion of blogs, many people have a mental block considering themselves a writer.

I am fortunate in that I genuinely do earn a living from writing, both as a copywriter under Clarity, but I also write articles for various websites and magazines. Not quite brave enough to call myself a journalist yet mind. However, when I started out as a writer a few years ago, I signed up for all these freelance bidding sites hoping to get some work.

Back then, they were all US based, and being competitive against the exchange rate would have been hard enough, but with the number of bidders flooding these sites from places like India, where a $1 would actually be reasonable money for them, it was impossible.

Now, the UK site People Per Hour has grown to become a genuinely useful resource for those looking to supplement their income by doing some freelance writing (amongst other specialisms), is UK based, and many of the buyers are looking specifically for UK writers. You can join for free, and make up to 10 bids for work per calendar month. If you want to upgrade, prices start from £7.95 a month which allows you up to 40 bids. So far so good.

However, my problem with the site, as with all sites of this nature, is that it perpetuates the myth that writing isn’t worth much.

When you start out, you probably don’t know how much to charge. If you look on these sites you will get a distorted view of what writing is worth. Obviously, if you are just starting out, you will command a lower price than an experienced specialist, but according to People Per Hour, writing is not even worth minimum wage.

A number of job postings pay less than £5 per hour, and some even state this in the job description. While this is probably legal, the minimum wage regulations covering employment, rather than freelance work, I do not think it is fair or right.

Being as I am of a journalistic bent, and have developed a taste for asking questions over at Bitterwallet I thought I would ask PPH what they thought. I asked them if having such pitifully paid jobs devalued the site as a jobs board. They said “not at all”.

I asked if they offered guidance to job posters on what a reasonable rate might be. They said

The fact is that many clients are uneducated about what certain services cost. We’re not in a position to set prices for the hundreds of jobs posted on our site everyday. That’s not our expertise – it’s the expertise of the freelancer who knows his or her industry, and the value of his or her service offering.

Hmm. So I asked them whether they thought it was right that jobs paying under what is, let’s be honest, a pretty measly rate anyway, should be listed*. They responded that

“Clients are terrible at guessing what most things cost unless they’ve bought it before. Our marketplace in fact educates people about that, if anything.”

So. People Per Hour educate people about how much things should cost. I see. Obviously writing is not worth minimum wage then-  take a look at this listing for a People Per Hour blogger, paying £5 an hour.

But there is some good news. On some jobs, more seasoned writers will tell the person looking for a whole book to be ghost written for £100 (for example) that their budget is unreasonable, and that they need to pay more for time and expertise. But the problem remains, while writers still bid at such low rates, people will still post jobs at that rate.

So my aim for this blog post? Whether you choose to go with PPH or not, I want to empower** you as a writer to seriously think before you agree to write 10 blog posts for £10. Without wanting to sound like Cheryl Cole (as that would be pants) you are worth it, so start believing it!

*that was my verbatim question. Including the word measly.

** I don’t usually use words like empower. That’s how strongly I feel about this.

Writing Tips for YOUR Business

January 23, 2010 § 2 Comments

As you may or may not know (although you probably do being as I have been almost famous this week with my appearance on the Guardian Careers forum and Enterprise Nation site. OK shameless plug over) I am a writer and have my own business Sam Thewlis Copywriting Solutions.

Recently, my good friend Joanne at Charlie Moos asked me for some tips on writing as she has (quite rightly) been asked to contribute to some exciting writing projects.

At first I was a little baffled, after all I don’t have a formula for writing I can share, I just write what comes out of my head, but with a little further thought, I have come up with some quick tips to share with you and your business.

  1. Before you start writing, have a clear idea of why you are writing, and what you aim to achieve with it. If you are writing home page copy, you want to keep your visitor and lead them to your (paying) services. If you are writing text for a flyer, you want people to read it (and not throw it in the bin) first of all, and then remember your name even if they don’t call you straightaway.
  2. Never assume that what you first come up with will be the best you can do. Put it down for a day, or even just an hour, and come back and look at it with fresh eyes, like your potential audience, and see what can be improved.
  3. If you are writing a personal piece, drawing on your own experiences, don’t try and over-formalise it; your readers will want to hear your real voice in your writing, although if your spelling and grammar is shocking, maybe ask someone to check it for you.
  4. Writing a blog or useful articles is a great way of building back links to your site and gaining renown as a helpful expert. Blogs don’t even have to be ‘useful’, just telling people about your day, or your feelings can suffice (so long as it’s interesting that is!). If you want to write article or guest blog posts- write about what you know, issues important to your business, or an area into which you would like to expand.
  5. Remember that writing is a skill and that not everyone can do it, or do it well. I can’t draw to save my life. But it is worth bearing in mind that if you are making a significant investment in a shiny new website, or thousands of brochures or flyers, it may be a foolish economy to think you can write it yourself if you can’t. A beautiful website will not have the impact you want if your copy doesn’t engage, direct and sell to your visitors. A badly worded flyer will be money in the bin if people don’t read it.

As a last point, more and more people are thinking of trying their hand at writing. Creative writing communties can be found all over the web, and one I recently joined is  Judith’s Room. But if you are thinking of trying your hand at writing or copywriting, then do it! Have a go! You can always use your own sites and businesses as guinea pigs before venturing into the paying market.

A tip for those who may be at that stage, is, in general, steer clear of bidding sites. The reason for this is that often, people posting projects on these sites are more concerned with price than quality, and even as a newbie you are unlikely to be competitive in that market; unfortunately £1 or £2 an hour does not go far for us, but its equivalent value can make it worthwhile for Indian or  contractors from similar cheaper economies, who are therefore able to place lower bids.

And if you think you are ready to take the plunge? I used to get so tired of searching lots of different places to try and find contracts or projects (before I was famous and they all came to me, of course 😛 ), I decided to set up a site dedicated to listing UK writing jobs. It’s called The Write Jobs – see what you think.

Hopefully you’ve found this useful and if you have, or if you haven’t, please leave me a comment below 🙂

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