Tags: content production success

Traveling to and fro, considering footprints, rambling and musing freely

The Tortoise Cat tree guarding in Oak Creek, WI, July 2013

OK (beginning this amid a long rumbling train of thought), I just read recent research indicating train travel leaves smaller carbon footprints than the transportation modes I use nowadays, while visiting and running errands for shut-ins -- (anything but taxies: airplanes, buses, shuttles and autos (so far, only shared Zipcars - BTW without any of the so-called "hidden charges" Zipcar was sued over in 2009 and 2011, a controversy covered under Fees in the article, which otherwise appears thorough).

Some days my colleague Tortoise Cat and I dream of prowling the country perpetually. But we would need a camping vehicle to shift to that lifestyle because cats cannot ride the rails freely. Though train rides take much longer than plane rides, possibly much much longer, rail fares still cost hundreds of bucks, according to my research.

Traveling by Amtrak from the Milwaukee airport to Chicago, then to Davis, California and back on the Hiawatha and Zephyr would cost $572.00 for just one coach seat. Coach-class airfare could cost less or more, depending on how far ahead I book, whether special deals apply and other complicated factors I barely understand, despite my years working for airlines. But coach class train seats appear as roomy as First- or Business-class plane seats, and I could hike between cars on the way.

How much smaller are apartment dwellers' (than vagabonds') carbon footprints, I wonder? Well, that's a new topic for further research. For now, we'll live here one day at a time simply with our bags perpetually packed, just in case.

Uh oh, worst case scenarios happen with trains and planes, the daily news reminded me!

Well, every day, day after day, mayhem unleashes dismay, agony and anger all around this world, spoiling, harming and destroying relentlessly. Three to eight periods a day I attend to the latest terrible stories that draw my attention, seeking meaning and visualizing relief (as shamanic shifting meditation-prayers). But I rarely comment, after reading what others opine and conclude. Because usually I feel there's been enough said already, so I hope for better and best in silence.

Tweets about the plane crash fell into five categories in my reckoning: Prayers, scoffs (critical to hateful), information (correct and/or not, with even a few conspiracies), personal drama grabs -- like "WOW, #SoScary, I flew (or was gonna fly or made plans to fly) there (or on that airline) five (or some other number of) days (or months or years) ago (or hence)..." -- and, of course, most outrageously uselessly, last and perhaps least helpful, the self-proclaimed experts' (mostly ignorance-based) explanations of anything related to the event, the news coverage, folks' reactions, and (sadly) more, on and on.

But, social networking is fun for me, still. Maybe I will ramp up and expand my participation, now that I'm retiring from Cloud-based freelance writing.

Freelance writing online reminds me of those independent-cuss dumpster-diving aluminum can and scap metal collectors I'd notice toiling long (longer, longest) hours in any freezing to steaming weather along the east side and downtown Milwaukee, stuffing worn contractor bags as full (and heavy) as possible with smelly pop and beer cans stomped flat and/or rolling temporary, rusting modern sculptures on discarded baby-carriages, then clanking their drippy or awkward loads to a recycling center on the south side to exchange all for a few bucks. True, these folks avoid punching a time-card, but I wonder how the major sweaty trouble they go to could be worth it. Still, it must be.

When I was content producing, I stuffed recycled words for long hours, then exchanged my throw-away (anonymous) articles for a few bucks and the end of each day. I made this repetitive task fun and educational for a year or so and made a relatively hassle-free shortchange-living off it, but the fun kept wearing off. There are many other tasks I could do for money, brokered by Internet startups that facilitate connections and handle the financials, so I'm reassured I could always fall-back on earning a seriously fun-deficient emergency living among the many Cloud temp-agencies and content-farms as an information superhighway plodder (while retaining enough freelancing freedom and everyday flexibility to keep my nose a few inches off anyone's particular grindstone).

But I have retired, that is detoured, from independent contracting along the I-bahn's slow lanes, because my space-time here on earth as LIFE is ultra-precious, as my singular YOLO sacred FUN, and I don't want to exchange any of my being and living fun energy (and matter that matters) for any span or remuneration. Mass producing web content for easy (lesser amounts of) money per piece didn't discourage me as much as finding increasingly annoying that repetitive tap, tap tapping of hundreds of "just OK" articles per month, mostly used in link-building to boost blah websites, mostly selling unnecessary services and stuff.

But "in real life" many physical tasks that others readily pay others to do (as too mundane or menial or taxing or whatever) are really exhilaratingly fun for me naturally -- gardening, painting, moving, cleaning, many more (including many repetitive tasks, so long as the work is worth while) -- so IRL odd-jobbing is the perfect profession for me, though free exercise is the only perk.

Why this is true for me is merely another quirky mystery, probably connected to many un-fun early childhood experiences: Family life revolved around one especially esteemed member's apparently highly stressful "publish or perish" academic career, and Young-Me probably reacted to this, and all related domestic dysfunctions, by turning and tumbling, through momentary micro-decisions, towards this and away from that and so forth, eventually creating Adult-Me's complex and weird personality preferences and aversions.

Analysis wasn't any fun, I concluded after years of it, but flowing with what I want today yields the best and the most fun, and generates more and more, so that's what I do (between shrugs) -- indulge my weird complexity.

Well, I've rambled more than enough for now so now I'll recycle and re-purpose earlier sayings (by me and others, with permission) into a link-poem.

Again, what were those mottoes that helped?

SHIFTS happen...
Wonders never cease...
The stories of everyone's lives are changing...

The Universe rattles, drums, sings and dances until...
Always, ALL WAYS...

Blessings in disguise shift to gifts with laugh-medicines, revealing the fun of it ALL.

ZAP, ALOHA, YOLO...Be and live the FUN -- Don't believe,..
BE LIVE, with extras...

FUN Freedom (and/or Flexibility) Unfolding (Universally New) Now!
Jester me, Blogger

Writing is fun; shaman-stuff, not so much

Dead tree

Image via Wikipedia
This weird, dead tree reminds me of a wildly dancing shaman!

Given a choice between making a living as a shamanic minister-consultant and a freelance writer of any kind of content, from the deeply meaningful to the frankly banal, if success were assured either way, I would pick writing. I get lost in writing, and would willingly write free, if earning a living weren't so key to my well-being.. 

So, I need to leave "would" out of the sentence, and let all shamanisms go, except my own daily -- imaginary and artistic -- shamanic foolishness.

The only calling I still hear within my soul "from the spirits" is for daily shamanzing behind the scenes though outsider artistic expressions, and through re-creative "acting out" now and then -- and through fostering FUN and questioning, while I navigate this strange, wondrous planet..

The church of shamanic ways I founded to encircle my, and anyone's, right to explore shamanry as a way to weave life meaningfully, no matter what -- on the short list of essentials for a happy, healthy life: 
 
_has spread out; 
 
_connects through cyberspace and non-ordinary reality; 
 
_and its declared, known members practice as artists, entertainers and hermits. 
 
Providing staff support for it is hardly any work at all -- and it also doesn't pay at all. Making spirituality pay just isn't one of my comfortable niches. Our doctrine and method is: Everyone, be a shamanic shift center, wherever you are, as you go along, each in your own ways. So simple. Already I have stopped booking shamanic sessions and religious ceremonies, so I can concentrate on earning my living writing.

I admit, the cyber-reams of writing being outsourced these days shocks and amazes me with every login to claim assignments. It has factored into my disillusionment with shamanic ways as New Age, alternative and complementary WOO, too. (I hope anyone who practices shamanic ways that aren't like that won't be insulted; I didn't mean you.)

Companies are even outsourcing outsourcing, on every conceivable topic:
 
_get OK, legible, relevant content onto many ad-revenue pages, all with proper keyword density;
 
_link back with a tree full of so-so (i.e. cheaper) content.
 
_buy some slightly better-quality press releases, too, for an additional halfpenny per word.

Once a week, or so, I notice another personal development or prosperity "how-to" blog start up, with a clever, individualistic-sounding title. But, from my work, I know its words of wisdom are being pounded out by 100 freelancers sitting at keyboards, give or take five or ten, for a penny or two per word.

But I enjoy those writing assignments, anyway. I admit it. I just do.

I consider it research practice, writers' block busting and education about new topics, little known facts, and web writing itself.  

Above all, writing about diverse lucrative keywords has opened my eyes to the wide-ranging variety of shams being sold -- and bought, evidently, though it is hard for me to believe so many folks are so gullible -- as alternative or natural treatments for ailments, eco-friendly solutions for energy production, and financial success products. But all I need to succeed at this relatively hassle-free (except for copy-editors), work-at-home venture of selling my time, talent and energy for money, is more web content pounding-out speed.

Doable.

Unlike this guy, a real deal blogger who pretty much solves all the problems folks consult gurus about, without the hoop-jumping mystification, I have yet to find my blogging niche, the gig I will find will so fun it pushes all banal content writing for pennies aside.
Jester me, Blogger

The Content Authority & Digital Journal Win - For Now

A green leaf cup holds early June rain water; photo by ECP, a.k.a. Shamanic-Shift on Flickr.com

Does my opinion hold water? I've changed my freelancing energy-flow so often, I give a blurry picture. I'm experimenting cutting back - writing at places I feel most at home that have the fewest hassles. Also, if I can write for a site I like to visit for a read, so much the better.

Demand Media Studios is great for some writers, and I was trying to be one of them. While I do not consider the content on the company's properties to be of the lowest quality, as many claim, I have yet to find any I relish reading -- or have found useful.

Plus, with DMS...The computer-generated titles are often bogus or tricky - for example, an overview of "Idaho Stink Bugs" (when Idaho is one place this pest is NOT outbreaking); research and referencing take longer because content sites are blacklisted, and (rightly) DMS prefers .edu and .gov  to .com (but the rules get complicated and change frequently); the photo gallery (that must be used exclusively) often has no pic directly related to the subject (and while photos are optional, searching the gallery before giving up, or getting creative and hoping the CE accepts it, uses up more valuable time); and...well, what I am getting at (in this parenthetical ramble)  is how much this extra time I spend at DMS -- that adds up quickly writing $15 500-word blurbs -- is costing me (too much). I keep badgering myself to claim titles and work my way gradually to eligibility for better assignments. But...

But I find myself tossing the titles back and heading over to The Content Authority. I earn less per order there, but writing those blurbs is a simple, hassle-free business, usually. There are no reference and resource links or illustrations to fuss over. When the rare problem arises, the forum is often helpful and e-mailing the administration always brings friendly assistance within a day.

As I wrote before, the similar company Textbroker my be just as great (from what I hear), but I have not jumped in there, though I signed up. From a quick look just now, I notice most of the orders are for writers at the four- and five-star levels, that site's highest ratings (their lowest rating is two-stars). Unlike TCA's eight-hour writing window - which is provides a comfortable structure for me - I saw various deadlines, from one to four days. I just claimed my first assignment, so now I know that this is a one-at-a-time deal like TCA's system (and that is fine with me). [Update, later the same day: I have decided to stick with assignments from TCA only for a while longer and I released this order.]

What about my aspiring journalist self? Examiner.com and Digital Journal are still on my list. 

Examiner.com is going through its major overhaul, but changes to the payment system are being pushed back, month by month, so it is too soon to tell if E is a keeper. So far, I am muddling along, publishing one or two articles a week. But I do not go there to read.

In contrast, Digital Journal would be among my favorite news sources even if I had not resumed contributing there.
Jester me, Blogger

Miscellaneous freelance musings

Flowers and weeds overgrow the church garden in the 900 block of East Knapp Street, Milwaukee, WI. (Photo: by ECP, a.k.a. Shamanic-Shift on Flickr.com)

FREELANCE WRITING UPDATES 

LiveJournal: Why am I here? LJ must be one of the worst hosts for a freelancing writing and odd-jobbing weblog! I might discontinue and abandon this one, because the only reason I can think of why it's here is: This is a lifetime paid account, something I did before I knew better.

Here it is forbidden / impossible to run ads for carefully chosen affiliates to match reviews. All I can manage besides the in-house Adsense set-up is linking to Amazon from the sidebar. Content and sales go together on the best freelance writing websites I find (and list on this sidebar). 

Squidoo again: A serious drawback at Squidoo, for me, is having to update / republish lenses once a month or more for them rank in the paying tiers. I surmise Squidoo works best for content producers who create only there and open new lenses often.

But Squidoo HQ tweaks and re-tweaks the platform and rules, forcing loads of extra work on its best Squids regularly.  

Demand Media Studios: I'm still at the beginning stages of troubleshooting the editorial process and developing proficiency with the eHow format (a fill-in-the-blanks template). If I ever get comfortable there I could earn oodles.

Occasional reading on eHow convinces me DMS intends to publish useful, quality content there and on all its sites, beyond content farming for ad-revenue harvesting. Google appears to be recognizing the slightly better quality articles DMS stamps out (it seems more like a factory than a farm to me) because the algorithm updated named Panda failed to bite the site.

DMS has already started hiring their freelancers who stick it out a while (and produce hundreds of ordinary assignments successfully) to write much better paying features.  

The Content Authority: TCA is a favorite I'm counting on. It pays less than DMS -- with far less hassle and much better support. Writing rapidly about key words anonymously is the program here. (TextBroker may be similarly great, but I haven't gotten around to writing there yet.)

Examiner: There will soon be a tiered pay-scale, according to the site's news, with performance pay scaled to it, with the minimum payout dropped to only $1 (and no more local incentive dollars).

After last and this years updates, the front page still is dismal to look at, IMO -- sparse-looking, like it failed to load properly. Every visit I find myself asking same question, "Where's the news?" This site has only scratched the surface of its potential and possibilities and I keep hanging in there, gradually picking up my pace..  

Digital Journal: I resumed writing for DJ after a feature for claiming assignments and getting extra pay for completing them launched early in May. It wasn't the extra pay that drew me back, but the ability to claim stories with definite deadlines.

DJ is a great news site - usually stuffed with engaging reads and a special section for original, exclusive reporting.

Performance pay only counts for the latest 2 months of articles, with the "money-pot" getting divided among digital journalists by rank. So the pay-scheme is unique, weird and mysterious. A running earnings guesstimate shows at the top of the page when I login, rising or falling every two hours, as numbers of articles and their performances shift. 

HubPages:
I still cannot get excited about this site, though it looks better to me than Squidoo lately.

AROUND THE BLOCK

This location, in an office building on a busy city corner, has presented more security and safety challenges. The property management making an effort, but a few of the business-owners renting here seem to be lapsing into carelessness more often.  

I am considering many options for a move when this lease ends on October 31.

The church garden a block west is unkempt because this year the gardener is working at a factory full-time, because he was promoted. Imagining the perennials and weeds competing for fun, I watch the situation run rampant without intervening.

The Tortoise Cat sniffs the flowers and gnashes the grasses and does not grok the concept "weeds" -- or care.

When it comes shifting territories in October, I expect she will disapprove -- vehemently. 
Jester me, Blogger

Content farms? Maybe some are factories -- or gardens!

Turret lathe operator machining parts for tran...

Image via Wikipedia

Why call an enterprise one means to disparage a farm rather than a factory? Farms and factories produce necessities, so neither word carries pejorative connotations for me. A mill grinds grist, so even that sounds potentially helpful.

Because I earn my living producing written content as a freelancer, I choose to chalk it all up as freelance writing. Landing a job as a print media journalist is an old goal I rarely revisit, even during reflective moments. 

Still, I feel discouraged when: I come across a string of articles lumping together and dismissing under the label "content farm" many of the websites that pay me steadily. 
 
Also I feel bummed-out when so-so, sloppy or lousy writing gets published on those pages alongside my work, because I do my best to follow editorial guidelines and often add an original spin. Perusing Examiner.com, the citizen journalist site aiming to become everyone's favorite source for hyper-local news, reviews and information, I still cringe at style errors and other quality lapses I cannot get myself to overlook in otherwise useful, interesting articles.
 
But, I must quit wasting precious moments and energy mulling and moping over discouraging words and trends!

The earning potential at Examiner.com is growing steadily. Furthermore, I understand and enthuse over this company's mission, model and methods, blogged recently in detail.
 
As for Demand Media Studios (DMS), the place most often dismissed disdainfully under the content farm label: DMS offers chances at "real gigs" (as well as lucrative contests and generous grants) to writers who can produce a steady supply (or crop) of eHow blurbs up to their exacting standards -- or insane ones, depending upon the copy editor assigned randomly -- for $7.50 to $15 each for several months running. With DMS's templates and instructions, this is a fill-in-the-blanks task.
 
Citing acceptable references is the trickiest step, where I trip up (or give up) most often. Keeping up with frequent changes in procedures and policies is the second biggest challenge for me. When I visit the DMS forum to read the latest, I find myself drawn into the rants, complaints and horror stories also. The third is finding doable titles to claim quickly enough to make it worthwhile, because these are auto-generated and listed under the wrong headings, and many are simply absurd.
 
Nevertheless, I am amid switching almost all my Squidoo-ing energy over to Examiner and DMS (where I write under a pseudonym because I give up all rights to and control over the articles, yet they link back to my DMS profile). 

Afterthoughts: 
 
Last year I freelance gardened, also. I prefer smaller-scale images of me pacing myself and relaxing while working...planning, planting, and nurturing...then weeding and pruning...and appreciating...and cleaning up. Earning slightly less gardening than I have over the years on some much harder odd-jobs seemed like getting paid to have fun.
 
Earning many smaller amounts from writing the best titles -- with fun or education potential -- on carefully chosen content sites isn't such a blast for me yet. But it does seem like getting paid to avoiding overhead expenses and hassles: cold calling, selling, advertising, conferences, travel, unlimited revising, billing and collecting.

Plus: I learn wondrous facts and figures from researching, though this must be done quickly to keep the process worthwhile.  
 
Related spins:

Demand Media is still thriving post-Panda (by Freakonomics.com)...Content farms are not competing with or hurting journalism (by BusinessInsider.com)...Post-Panda SEO creates lucky losers (by SearchEnginePeople.com)...A laid-off journalist spends a week in Demand (in Columbia Journalism Review).
Jester me, Blogger

Reconsidering Bukisa after the site's revamp, revenue changes

This is one of the huge welcoming signs for Go...

Image via Wikipedia

 I signed on at Bukisa last year, but experienced many glitches even setting up my profile and decided to put-off contributing.

Today I received an email announcing the site's total overhaul and impending switch to the Google AdSence API for payments. When the changeover is complete in about a month, writers will earn 60% of the Adsense revenue from their content, through their own Google accounts.

The website appears transformed and more functional now. Published content lists were not showing on profiles or in RSS earlier today, but this is due to a soon-to-be-fixed glitch in the latest version, I learned by exchanging tweets

I encountered no difficulty integrating my Google Adsense account.

The site's blog explains the reason for abandoning the original Bukisa index payment scheme.

Certainly this venture is worth another look as a revenue share gig.

The new How-To template might provide a hassle-free eHow alternative and draw me in for that type of article, especially when a fully-loaded Squidoo lens seems too much.

Researching for this post, I noted Bukisa articles about Medicare changes, physical changes from old age and Ayers' Rock color changes showing at the top of Google's results for "Bukisa changes" -- meaning the site's content must be getting significant search engine attention. 
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Jester me, Blogger

TextBroker and TheContentAuthority

St. Augustine writing, revising, and re-writin...

Image via Wikipedia

A reliable freelance writer who has embraced "content production" (and anonymity) recommended TextBroker (TB) and TheContentAuthority (TCA) so I signed on with both, for future reference.

Busy with other work the past few weeks, I have yet to complete any assignments for either, but I have looked things over briefly.

For TB I had to submit a writing sample after registering. A short list of topics to choose from appeared with a form that greets new writers logging in for the first time.

The sample's rating determines a new writer's staring level at TB. Levels there range from two to five stars. Three stars pays 1 cent per word. A three-star writer who completes a two-star assignment gets paid the lower rate.

Deadlines are one or two days away for most articles at TB. TB requires a completed W-9 form to process payouts.

The application for the TCA included a request to write a short article on Salsa Dancing. TCA's levels, called Tiers, range from Tier 1 that pays $0.007 per word to Tier 5 that pays three cents per word (for Tier 5 orders).

Writers are given eight hours to complete orders at TCA. TCA does not ask for a W-9 form. About employment status the new writer orientation states only "For tax purposes, the company considers your services as an independent contractor and if necessary, you should consult a tax accountant regarding any tax payments at your local, state, and federal levels."

Clients of both services have three days to request rewrites or reject articles. Both claim most articles are accepted with no or minimal rewrites.

Common concept: With proper research and production tools, writers should be able to complete four or more orders per hour, easily generating hourly rates above $8.

My source said he can make the system at both places work, though the topics are nothing to write home about. So I may give both companies a chance when my schedule clears.

Updated, 9/2: I am finding that TheContentAuthority (The Content Authority) pauses the process of submitting the first five probationary articles after each submission for an editor's OK, which has been taking hours. My fourth of the first five has been awaiting the OK for over 12 hours (as I write this update). While any of the first five sits awaiting an OK, the site prevents me from claiming the next order. TCA sends an email upon signup urging writers to hasten to submit the first five articles and get set up for ongoing work quickly, but this slow, one-by-one approval process is keeping that from happening for me.
Second Update, 9/2: Whew! TCA has approved my fifth submission and now I can write there without restriction. I am not sure I will expend hours and effort going through this kind of process again with Textbroker. Writing more of the lower-rated, thus easier, orders might be the better way to make more money at TCA and TB (and any similar services), since there are far more titles available for claiming at the cheaper rates and content buyers at that level are being sold "basic" (by TCA) and "legible" (by TB).   
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Jester me, Blogger

Web content production success by my 'evil' twin

Two and Three Flying As One

Image by Shamanic Shift via Flickr

By now I have signed on at so many content websites I could choose a different one to write for every day for a month. Every day of my work week I must write somewhere for four to six hours to succeed.

My freelance writing business plan has two sides: Showing my face in my blogs and columns and hiding behind pseudonymity, or plain anonymity, through content production companies and ghost-writing.

For a while I was planning to quit writing for content sites. But this 'evil twin' (or unavoidable shadow?) of my freelance writing self can pay more bills, for now.

Like a seagull, I scavenge with gusto what others have tossed away and fly away free.

Seagulls swoop to scoop opportunity where others refuse refuse. 

Anyway I have determined that, for me, content production is more than a necessary evil or ineludible shadow, and better than selling myself short. The pay rates can rise and even low rates per word or piece can work out to an ample hourly wage.

This is true when I look-again through my "clever eye" and:
  • Work quickly, allowing no more than a half hour per 300 to 600 word article 
  • Factor in reduced overhead costs (no travel, office supplies or meetings)
  • Consider the self-educational value of researching unfamiliar topics
  • Revel in the flexibility 

And I know there are more advantages I have been overlooking or underestimating.  

Yes, this is work, but it can be play, too. And I can do this fun work at home as an independent contractor, living the liberty to call anywhere I can connect to Net my home office.

When I charge local customers $.50 to $1 per-word, as a flat-rate, based upon the project's word-count, research and other tasks or expenses required, the fee includes unlimited face-to-face or phone meetings and re-writes. After the space, time, energy and matter I expend working locally are reckoned, my net gain can drop almost as low as the highest content site payments.

Next: The Content Authority

Today I received a recommendation for The Content Authority so I am signing on there next. Their rate per-word ranges from $.0007 to $.003, by four Tier levels. New writers are assigned to the lowest Tier, with a review for an upgrade after getting five articles accepted.

The Content Authority's customers can buy articles staring as low as a penny per-word.

Even at Tier 1 pricing, I could make about $15.00 per-hour completing five or six articles an hour. I believe I could do that competently soon, and produce pieces with information value (not junk). Today, this notion is re-presenting itself to me as a worthy challenge. 

According to my anonymous tipster, this company has paid reliably (through PayPal). He claims he has received very few rewrite requests while rising to Tier 4 in a few months, claiming assignments sporadically, only during cash-flow dry spells. He added that writing for them is less frustrating, by far, than dealing with Demand Studios (which has changed its name to Demand Media Studios or DMS and made many more changes recently) which helps offset the the lower pay rates.

A possible drawback: Articles are due within eight hours (with 24 hours allowed to complete re-writes).

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