Nick Daw's Writing Blog - Inside the writing world of Nick Daws
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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Opportunities for Writers in the New Age of Austerity


Here in Britain, we are in the final throes of a General Election campaign with an uncertain outcome (FWIW, my bet is that no party will gain an overall majority).

Whatever happens, however, after the election we can expect a slew of harsh economic measures, including higher taxes, job losses (especially in the public sector), cutbacks, and so on, as the long process of paying for the bailout of the world's banking system begins.

The same prospect faces many other countries, including - of course - the US. We may or may not be though the worst of the recession, but now the piper has to be paid. The trick, it seems to me, will be to achieve this without plunging the world into another, even deeper, recession.

So what does this grim prospect mean for freelance writers? On the downside, many businesses will feel the pinch as consumers cut back on spending, and some are very likely to go to the wall. Freelances who depend on a small number of regular clients may be hard hit by this.

On the other hand, I can see opportunities arising from this new age of austerity as well...

1. With companies laying off permanent staff to save money, I fully expect more work to be outsourced to freelances in the months ahead.

2. In tough times, businesses have to do more to promote themselves and keep sales ticking over. This will create more opportunities for business writers (and copywriters in particular).

3. And likewise, as the world of commerce becomes ever more competitive, I expect more businesses to come to appreciate the value of good quality writing, both on- and off-line. This should create more, better paid opportunities for writers who can deliver the goods.

4. I also expect that the flexibility and low overheads offered by freelances will be increasingly appreciated by cash-strapped companies.

5. The accelerating trend away from buying on the high street and toward buying online can only benefit freelances and other small businesses as long as they are 'web wise'.

6. The latest software makes it easier than ever for freelances to operate successfully via the Internet, set up professional-looking websites, use social networking to find new clients and collaborators, apply for work, and so forth.

7. And freelances are typically far quicker to adapt to changing circumstances than large companies, who become set in their ways and vulnerable to changes in the market that make their products and services suddenly less desirable.

I could go on, but I'm sure you get the idea.

Don't get me wrong - I have a lot of sympathy for people who are in conventional employment and don't know from one day to the next whether they will still have a job to go to tomorrow. But for a growing number of people, like myself, I'm convinced that the future lies in self-employment.

All of us, including freelance writers, are likely to suffer pain in the short term (at least) from the swingeing cuts that are surely coming. Unlike traditional jobs, however, I expect that opportunities for capable freelances will actually increase in the years ahead.

In my view, now is very much the time to be polishing and extending your writing skills, updating your website, seeking new outlets for your work, and ramping up your marketing efforts to ensure you have enough clients to replace any who fall by the wayside. If you can do that, you will be well placed to survive and even prosper in the uncertain times ahead.

Photo credit: Lets.Book on Flickr.



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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Writers Bureau Annual Poetry & Short Story Competition Now Open


My friends - and clients - at The Writers Bureau, Britain's leading creative writing home-study college, have just launched their annual Poetry and Short Story Competition for 2010.

The competition will be judged by Iain Pattison (short stories) and Alison Chisholm (poetry). Last year’s winners can be viewed at www.wbcompetition.com.

The total prize money this year is £4000. The first prize in each category is £1000, second prize £400, third prize £200, fourth prize £100, and there are six runner-up prizes of £50 each. The theme is open, so entrants can choose to write about any subject.

Poems must not not exceed 40 lines and short stories 2000 words.

The winners will be featured in Freelance Market News, the market research newsletter published by The Writers Bureau, and on The Writers Bureau's competition website, giving the winners a chance to showcase their work and boost their profile.

The entry fee for each poem or short story is £5 or $9 US, and the closing date is 30 June 2010. Entry can be either online or through the post.

The contest is open world-wide. Non-UK entrants can submit work via the website and pay the entry fee using a credit or debit card.

For entry forms or further information, visit www.wbcompetition.com. You can also write to The Competition Secretary, Dept Comppr, The Writers Bureau, Sevendale House, 7 Dale Street, Manchester, M1 1JB, or phone 00 44 161 228 2362.

If you enjoy writing poetry or short stories, in my opinion this well-established, high-profile contest is well worth a shot.

Photo credit: Lost in Scotland on Flickr

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Website Flipping: A Great Sideline for Freelance Writers


Today I'm very pleased to bring you a guest post from my online friend and colleague Russell Smitheram.

Russ is a young, up-and-coming freelance writer in South-West England, but he also makes a valuable sideline income buying and selling websites. I'll let him explain in his own words...

* * *

One thing you can say without fear of contradiction about freelance writing is that it's an unpredictable way of making a living. You can be stacked with work one month, but have only a couple of articles to write the next.

That's scary when you rely solely on a writing income, especially when you have bills to pay, mouths to feed, and rent/mortgage payments to meet. Unfortunately, though, that's the reality when you are trying to establish yourself.

So what can you do when your writing work goes quiet? Well, it's time to think outside the box. Many writers I know have a sideline income that they can fall back on during quiet times. And, of course, during peak times the sideline income is still working for them, so it's cream on top, so to speak.

The sideline income method that I've adopted and use today is one that I'm going to share with you here. It involves writing a short e-book, putting up a simple one- or two-page sales site for it, and selling it as a package on a popular online website marketplace.

It does help if you have a little knowledge about domain names, hosting and the like but if not, don't worry. You can always outsource the technical aspects, which will leave you with the best part - the writing!

Depending on the package you put together, you can generate anywhere from $250 to $500 or more per website. Not bad for a few hours work! And once you've mastered the process, you could end up churning out 2 or 3 per week with ease.

Here's the step-by-step method I use and recommend...

Step 1 - I select a popular topic (the more popular the better) and write a short e-book that solves a problem.

Step 2 - Once I have written the e-book and decided on a good title, I register a domain name that will be the website address. Always register a .com name because they fetch a much higher price as opposed to .info, .net, .org, etc. (When choosing a domain name, try to include the name of the e-book.)

Step 3 - Once I've registered the domain name I write the sales copy that will go on the website's homepage.

Step 4 - I then go to www.scriptlance.com and hire a freelance web designer to create a simple two-page website with a graphic header and footer. You'll need a site that contains the sales letter and a download/thank-you page that will contain a download link for buyers. You shouldn't have to pay any more than $50 for a good design.

Step 5 - Once you have the website created, it's time to put the whole package together. You can either do this yourself or hire a freelancer to do it for you. You'll need to add your sales copy to the homepage, add a 'Buy Now' button that links to your PayPal account, and upload the files to your hosting server.

Step 6 - Now you have a complete money-making website that you can sell as a business-in-a-box type package. Website flippers (people who buy and sell websites) love sites like these, because they can buy them, market them, increase the site's revenue, and sell them again for 10 to 20 times what they paid. Go to www.flippa.com and put your e-book sales site on the market! You should be able to fetch at least $250 for a website package like the one I've laid out here.

Note: You can use templates and free website builders to get your site running, but you won't be able to sell them for such a good price because the design isn't unique. It's the uniqueness that people are looking for.

This might seem like a lot of work for $250 minimum, but - believe me - once you have mastered the process you will be able to sell websites whenever you want. The more popular the topic, the more bids you'll receive, which typically ups the price.

I like this process, and it's great to know that I can earn a quick $250-$500 whenever I need to.

I hope this guest post may have opened your eyes to the money-making possibilities of website flipping. If you have any questions at all, please leave a comment underneath this post and I will answer them personally.

That's all from me today. Thank you for reading, and I wish you all the best with your writing.

Russell Smitheram

Russell Smitheram is a freelance writer, web marketer and website flipper. He is also CEO at Spire Five SEO, and has a website property portfolio that consists of 27 established sites. To learn more about buying and selling websites for profit, visit How To Buy And Sell Websites to get started.


I'd just like to add my thanks to Russ for a very interesting article. It seems to me that website flipping is a field ripe with possibilities for freelance writers. If you don't want to create an e-book sales site from scratch as Russ describes, for example, you could buy a site from Flippa, use your writing skills to polish and broaden the content, and sell it on for profit. Or, of course, you could keep it as a money-spinning piece of virtual real estate for yourself! This is certainly something I plan to look into in more detail myself in the coming months.

Main Photo Credit: A Turkish Bazaar by Stuck in Customs on Flickr.




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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sponsored Post: Auctionscoop Blog


If you're interested in auctions, online and otherwise, Auctionscoop.co.uk is a site you may want to keep an eye on.

The blog was launched earlier this year so there aren't many posts yet, but already there is some interesting reading.

I was especially intrigued to read the latest post about penny auction bidding strategies, which sets out three strategies for profiting from this type of auction. Up till now I've stuck to using eBay, but if I ever decide to try my hand at penny auctions, I'll definitely be referring to this article.

You can read new articles as they are posted to the blog by subscribing to the site's RSS feed in your favorite feed reader.

* As stated in the title, this is a sponsored post via PayPerPost. I received a fee for posting it, but this has not influenced my description of the site in question or my opinion about it.

Photo credit: Keith Burtis on Flickr.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Review: Simple Task Timer

Simple Task Timer is a program designed to help anyone who works on a computer keep track of the time they devote to any project, task or customer. As such, it is obviously highly relevant to freelance writers.

I was invited to review Simple Task Timer by the publishers, AGWords Ltd, so here are my impressions...

I started by downloading the free 30-day evaluation version from the Simple Task Timer website, which was quite straightforward. Helpfully, the program gives you the option of installing it just for yourself or for anybody who uses your computer.

Before you can start using Simple Task Timer, you have to enter details of at least one customer, one project, and one task. Again, this is straightforward enough once you understand the logic involved. It did, though, take me a few tries before I cottoned on to the fact that you have to enter this data in the order customer - project - task, and save each one before going on to the next.

Once you've entered at least one of each of the above, you can start using Simple Task Timer. This is where the value of the software becomes apparent. Click on the small STT icon in the system tray and a box will open inviting you to select the project and task you are about to work on. Select the one you require and Simple Task Timer will begin timing you, and show how long you have been working and how much you are due (see my sample screenshot, below).


You can, of course, hide the display while you are working and call it back by clicking on the system tray icon. You can also pause the timer at any point, or set it to pause automatically if you haven't done anything on the computer for a pre-set period (the default is 10 minutes).

Those are the bare bones of Simple Task Timer, but it actually does a lot more than that. For starters, it will print out professional-looking invoices for you, including (if you wish) your company logo and other details. Invoices can be set to show exactly what hours you worked and what days, though personally I don't feel my clients need that much information!

Other features include reporting tools which - among other things - will reveal your most profitable tasks and customers, your average hourly rate, the current status of all of your projects, and exactly where your time goes.

Overall, I was impressed with Simple Task Timer. It is a powerful piece of software with many additional features - so much so that the name Simple Task Timer is probably a bit of a misnomer. Of course, not everyone will want to use all of the more advanced features.

My one criticism is that I did think more information could have been provided for new users, including perhaps a 'quick start' guide. As mentioned above, I had to use trial-and-error to grasp what was required when setting up the software, and went around in circles a few times as a result.

Nonetheless, I do think Simple Task Timer is a tool many writers could benefit from. I have therefore negotiated a 20 percent discount for readers of this blog on the full price of the program (value $9.99). And no, I don't receive any commission on sales!

To take advantage of the discount, download the 30-day trial version from the Simple Task Timer website. Once you have decided to buy the full version, run STT and go to the menu Help>License. On the license window select Purchase a license now and click on the Go button.

This will take you to the STT sales site. Enter the coupon code STT-ND01-201004-3443 and click on Go to secure checkout. You should now see the discounted price displayed, along with a message that this is a special price for readers of Nick Daws' blog.

Finally, enter your payment details and click on the Place Your Order button. You should then receive an email with instructions on how to download your license key. Note that the special discount code will only work for 40 days from the date of this blog post, so if you want to take advantage of this offer, don't leave it too long!

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Creative Doing vs Creative Thinking


I read an interesting post on Mark McGuiness's Lateral Action creativity blog the other day.

Mark was arguing the importance of 'creative doing' over 'creative thinking'. He wrote:
We so easily associate creativity with creative thinking that they are often treated as synonymous. Whereas, in fact, you can do a hell of a lot of creative thinking (brainstorming, lateral thinking, daydreaming, etc.) without creating anything at all.

On the other hand, if you start with creative doing - i.e. rolling your sleeves up and trying to actually make something amazing, the 'creative thinking' bit tends to take care of itself. If you're hammering away at a prototype in the garage, or the first draft of your novel, or the first iteration of your website, it's hard not to obsess about it, and keep thinking about it - even when you’re supposed to be relaxing out of working hours.
I was struck by the truth contained in this. I wouldn't want to take the argument too far - there is still (of course) an important place for creative thinking, in the planning stages of projects especially.

However, I do think it's a common mistake among aspiring writers and entrepreneurs to spend too long in the 'thinking' phase. The risk then becomes that you confuse yourself by trying to think through every aspect before you start (paralysis by analysis, as it's sometimes called). The result can all too easily be that you never start work on the project, and eventually abandon it.

Personally, before starting any large writing project, I like to have an outline to guide me. However, I know very well that this will be just a guide. New ideas and approaches will occur to me as I work, suggested by new things I learn and fresh insights I gain into the subject matter. The finished project will undoubtedly be different from my original outline, but almost certainly better as well.

I guess what I'm saying is that both thinking and doing are important to any project, writing or otherwise - but (as Mark says in his post) doing can be just as creative as thinking, if not more so.

So if you've been thinking about a project for ages but haven't got any further than that, why not make today the day you actually start doing it? Who knows, the results may just surprise you!

Photo credit: kwerfeldein on Flickr.

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