Tag Archives: Blogging

Professional Blogging: Lessons Learned The Hard Way

Lessons learned the hard way

After working recently as a journalist/editor/manager for an on line publication run by a dubious flimflam man who was more con than pro (as in conman versus professional) a swift exit was made from the grasp of “Frackle Media” who owe hundreds of writers monies for articles written.  It was decided that lessons learned from working for the “seasoned” SEO publisher and professional con artist should be applied to my own “blogging” site.

It should be pointed out that it was the “white-hat” SEO techniques that were utilized and not this nefarious individual’s unethical use of self promotion and lack of promised payment to writer’s/editors and managers hired. It should also be pointed out that some of the SEO used by this man were also “black-hat,” and also not used on this site.

Taking a leap backward, it was further decided that all the time devoted to a website designed to rip off everyone else should be spent on mine own site, owned, operated and published by myself via the auspices of WordPress.  Professional blogging was the catchphrase and like most other things in this life, it was done the hard way.

Firstly; WordPress.com do not support advertisements on their hosted blogs. For that to happen, one needs to deviate from the norm and go with their .org side of things.  In essence, the blogger is still using the familiarity of WordPress but with additions that include Jetpack, plugins, SEO and picking the right hosting site to power your blog and ensure that your hard work, and the advertisements attached are seen.

This is not, amazingly, very straight forward.

Awareness of the pitfalls brings us to the first word of warning.

Beware which domain purchasing/web hosting service you use.

All offer similar low starting prices, per month (which usually equate to a one-time payment versus a monthly one) and domain name registrations and ownership vary in price but not too much.  Terms like VPS, Dedicated Server, Shared Hosting and so on all help to muddy the water in the decision making process.

What is the difference between VPS and Shared Hosting, do I need to know? Should I care? More importantly is more expensive or cheaper better?

In terms of expense, the best indicator of who one should chose really revolves around two important factors.

  1. The host’s ability to keep their servers up and running (preferably 100 percent of the time, or as close as possible) is perhaps the most important factor.
  2. Running a close second is the support features offered by the host. If your site goes down, or views suddenly drop through no fault of your own, can these providers quickly and efficiently fix your problem.
  3. In essence, expense is not the most important factor in the decision process, although it may become the mitigating factor.

Lost views equal lost revenue via advertisers.

Regardless of whether you have made a penny from your new site or not, lost views equals lost revenue.  This is the “bottom line.” If a hosting company is so inefficient that your site suddenly becomes invisible, several things immediately happen.

Firstly you are silenced. Your voice cannot be heard because the net is not displaying  your articles and fans of your site, or work are not able to find your articles.

This silence means that regardless of whether you use Google Adsense or some other form of revenue generating advertisements on your site no one is being given the chance to help your site earn money.

*Sidenote*

Beware SEO strategists who want to sell you “tricks” designed to bring views to your site.  90 percent of these are black hat techniques that Google hate and they will penalize you; causing your site to lose credibility and ranking.  The best “SEO” will be basic and consist of properly writing your articles and having content that is unique, original and not a watered down copy of someone else’s work.  The basic SEO package offered by WordPress will suffice, more often or not, and while “tricks” may work for awhile, Google will catch on to you and the site, both will suffer accordingly.

Blogging “professionally” means basically that you are using advertisers to earn money for your hard work. It allows you to put your “brand” out there for others to see and your aim is to get revenue from your website while proving that your writing skills are worthy of payment. This will also help you show that, as a freelance writer, you can generate income.

It also means not writing for other sites for free.  Claims that your article will drive traffic to your site are cheap folderol tactics designed to keep money in the publisher’s pocket while you sweat out an article to their specifications.  A friend on Facebook advertised for writers on her website with the proviso: “I can’t pay, but it will drive traffic to your site and there are lots of freebies.” I responded that the only site I write for “for free” is mine own.

Although, that is not entirely true,  when using advertisements for recompense, there is “eventual” payment if one’s site garners enough views. These views, however, can not reach their true potential if the web hosting site you have chosen is not up to the task.

Bluehost.com, the first, and for a very short time current, provider for my site, should be avoided at all cost.  This hosting provider has poorly trained techs for support and if using live chat (prepare for a 30 minute wait on average)  your problems are attended to along with several others, there is no “individual support” here. With their phone support, expect either platitudes, condescension, inept/incorrect responses and a problem not completely fixed, even if it appears to be sorted.

Their pricing is very reasonable, but this is a ploy to lure you in.  Once your site starts taking off (Mine reached over 22K views per month in four short months and was in the process of climbing higher.) problems will ensue.  A mate of mine, a couple of mates actually, hosted their website with Bluehost and ran an average of 500K views per month, after Google changed some policies these numbers fell and it was only later that my friends discovered that part of the problem was with Bluehost.

This will be the first of many articles written that will attempt to point out pitfalls and issues with hosting one’s own website and blogging professionally.  For all those who have made the move already from amateur to pro and have any recommendations of web hosting companies that should be tried or avoided, please do so. Do not, however, include links to said recommendations as these show as spam and will end up in the bin.

 

 

200,000 Views and Making My First $10

Bags of $
With all the concentration on getting my blog, which will from now on always be referred to as my “website” set up with ads from Google and having made the switch from wordpress.com to Bluehost as my server, it came as a surprise when I finally hit the 200,000 views and on the same day, I realized that I had made my first $10.

Excitement levels soared, but not too far as, let’s face it, 10 bucks doesn’t go as far as it used to and I’ve been hovering around the 200,000 mark for a while now. Still, it proves that in this world, whether blogging or not, you have to prime the pump a little to get more exposure.

I’ll explain.

I made the decision this year to go outside my comfort zone and leave WP dot com and head over to dot org. The main reason was that I could put Google Adsense on my site. While I may never make enough to buy more than the occasional latte, this move puts me more firmly where I want to be. Self employed working mainly on my site and heading (very slowly) to Bing and Google News land.

After two years, or so, of folks telling me that I have “mad writing skills” (sorry that was not actually what they said, but merely my translation) and that I was being foolish by not concentrating on my own site. Since I’ve been blogging since 2011 and worked as a journalist for nearly two years, and an editor for the same amount of time, it seemed to be good suggestion.

Part of the reason for this move is to get rid of the nasty taste in my mouth from working for a con artist and the remainder of the rationale has to do with not having to write for any content mills. As I mentioned in my Inquistr article, there are plenty out there and while they seem to pay better than most, these…clowns, idiots people cannot seem to read a simple email.

*Sidenote* After telling me that my “sample” was not good enough and to write another one, I responded saying that with no specific feedback, I would not be writing any further “articles.” I got two more emails asking me to rewrite my sample article but neither one offered any feedback specific to the first one, as requested. My final email, which they obviously finally read, said bluntly “Stop wasting my time” and “read my previous emails.” *Long sidenote over*

Admittedly, I was not too upset about not being asked to write real, versus, sample articles as their requirements are 100 stories per month. Can we say Content Mill? With no proper Internet (I’m sure that Burger King pray for a day when I will have my own service to use and will no longer darken their towels.) I am in no position to work for any other publications that have that sort of workload requirement.

I have noticed that my recaps and reviews for TV shows and films are growing in terms of view counts and that a lot of show’s writers and creators are interacting in a positive fashion. On top of all this great news, I have also made money. My cup runneth over or at least it will when I have verified my address to get paid.

200,000 views on my blog (website) is a milestone. Back when I first started all this blogging stuff, it was a hobby meant to see if I could still write. It had been years since my journalism course and while writing classes were taken at University and as part of the courses offered via the USAF I did not submit much in the way of news articles and as for creative writing…

Time will tell whether this milestone will mean anything or not in terms of site growth. Regardless of just where this all ends up, I will continue my Bing and Google journey and keep doing the reviews and recaps while fitting in the odd film review. The only thing that will slow me down will be lack of funds or food, which really amounts to the same thing.

Life is interesting, although not always in a good way, and if I can just survive riding a schwinn bike 12 miles plus seven days a week at (almost) 57 in high temperatures or storms and not be hit by some octogenarian driver I may just start to make some real money…like $20.

I would carry on about this exciting event but there is research to be done about whether or not a “donate” button can be added to a page with Adsense ads on it…

Experience Counts for Little With a Writing Sample: The Inquisitr

Screenshot of The Inquisitr recruitment page
It is interesting to note that The Inquisitr, which appears at first glance to be a content mill which requires 100 plus articles per month from its “staff,” require applicants to provide three examples of work published and then ask for a written sample. When submitting your three urls of past work they then state that to save time you may want to write a sample article based on topics provided by them.

After submitting prior work they then inform you that the sample must be written anyway. Fair enough. It is, after all, their company and if they prefer to not mention up front that the sample article is a requirement, so be it.

At no time are any guidelines offered for this sample. After punching out a fluff piece on Heidi Swedberg, a former Seinfeld cast member, I waited over the weekend with no response from my contact at The Inquistr. No email stating that they had received the sample and no feedback. After following up my submission with two emails, the first was a one-word query, “Feedback?” The second asked if they had even gotten the sample.

After getting a response saying that they had and it was being evaluated, the very next day I learn that they do not like the sample and it has not “passed the quality” evaluation required. Could I please write another one.

Uh…That would be a no.

Since 2011 I have written 2478 blog posts for my personal site, I wrote just under 2000 articles for the Guardian Liberty Voice, where I worked as Deputy Managing Editor for Entertainment, 40 articles for Viral Global News, since December 2014, around 7 for Rogue Cinema, I left to work at GLV, and around 3 or 4 for another company called WhatCulture! the last two sites paid nothing to their writers. These stories include interviews, film reviews, television recaps and reviews as well as other types of articles.

I did mention that I’d worked at the Guardian Liberty Voice for 18 months, my position and even provided a link to the site, where I wrote my little heart out, for pay. Their response was that they still required the sample. Again, fair enough. Except for the lack of guidelines, apart from it had to be around 400 words, I had no real issue with the requirement.

Such a short bit of work was a “walk in the park” and took little time to put together. Ensuring that nothing was plagiarized (to the best of my knowledge) and that it contained the “trending” information relevant to Ms. Swedberg was not a problem. This was to be, after all, a sample article, not to be published but used, I thought, to show what I could do. A little something that they would use to provide proper feedback on what they were looking for.

This was not the case. Their response? Write another one which may show your skills a bit better. There was no explanation of what I did “wrong” or what they were expecting. Entertainment pieces are not “real” journalism per se, I should know I’ve been writing these pieces for the last two years, so the bit I submitted should have been fine, on the off chance it was not, I expected a reason more forthcoming than “sorry, it’s not good enough.”

This “writing in the dark” process of applying for what appears to be a content mill site may work fine for them, and for other writers, but I am not playing this game. For one thing, it tells me that this is some sort of power play thing where they can tell then me I cannot write, ergo justifying a lower wage for my product. Either that or they surprised me and read my other blog post where I voiced my suspicions that they were either a sweat shop or content mill publication. I sincerely doubt the latter as they seem to have a system in place that does not recognize other work.

It seems that the requirement to submit three url’s of published work is nothing more than a chance to prove you have been published. The real part of the application is the sample article which does not include any guidelines.

Perhaps I am being picky here. They may be assuming that the basic journo rules that have been in effect for ever and ever, amen, are enough in the way of guidance. Fair enough, if that is the case, but when writing fluff, aka gossip, aka entertainment, the rules bend…a lot.

I already write for a site, which may or may not ever pay me anything. I do not contribute on a daily basis for a number of reasons which includes divvying up my time between memoirs, their site and my own personal blog all while trying to get my site monetized. On top of these time consuming things, I have no Internet, apart from my slow iPhone hotspot so I must ride to either the library or Burger King for Wi-Fi on my bike. Depending on which way the wind is blowing, the trip takes a minimum of 45 minutes one way.

Living on a pittance, and believe me it is a pittance, and trying to come up with money for Internet and still be able to eat is a challenge and one that I will not attempt until I can get a few more paying jobs under my belt.

I will end this long winded rant with one thought.

I worked for almost two years on a site that recruited new writers constantly. Hundreds applied on a regular basis and out of the stream of applicants who thought they could write, very few actually could string a sentence together and many of them knew English only as a second, or third, language. So thanks, but no thanks chaps at The Inquisitr. I’ll not play your game. Many will, I have no doubt, but I refuse to believe that my work failed a “quality” check and will not submit again (as I stated in my short email back).

Your loss.

9 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

A Trophy For Little Old Me

Wordpress trophyI do love how WordPress sets these somewhat eclectic targets (for lack of a better word) which when reached by the blogger gives them an automatic trophy. The first thought that goes through my mind is ‘Wow, a trophy? For little old me?’ *By the by, a single quotation mark by some authors is meant to convey thought versus speech anyone disagree with this method? Just curious, answers on a postcard please or conversely you can tell me via the comment section below.* Anyway, as shown by the image above, I now have reached 1,337, with a “real” total of 1,339 followers on my blog.

Cue fireworks, confetti and cheering, even if it is only my hoarse voice you can hear, in wild celebration. I do celebrate these milestone events, albeit rather quietly, since these follower counts mean that slowly but surely, I am building up a core group that like my meandering messages.

Here is where I insist that you give yourself a pat on the back for having such great taste! Seriously, it does mean a lot that either some of you have come back or others have enjoyed my ramblings enough to pay me the ultimate compliment. Thanks to both types of folks and to those who fall into neither camp.

For those still “on the fence” about my writing, that is fine too. I’ve not published anything yet, but I will. In this day and age of self publishing if I cannot get picked up by a publisher when I’ve finished, I’ll do it on my own. I know this is now the norm and quite successful for some folks, like the Winner Twins who I have met, interviewed and still interact with now and then. *On a side note, two nicer young ladies you will never meet and their work is entertaining and good.*

For those who have been here for awhile, thanks for being patient. I’ve veered off the path, most notably working for the content mill and sweatshop GLV where I had no time to devote to my baby. (But I did manage to attend some geeky type cons and meet some dynamite actors and in that aspect had the time of my life.) Now I am back and casting my hook around to see what other writing opportunities are out there.

Thanks to you all; I know that regardless of where my laptop and I end up there are folks who like my writing and will stop by to read and comment. Even though I do not get out and about as much as I used to, and those of you with your own blogs will know what I mean, but as soon as the Internet issue is sorted and I learn to be more organized, I will be more visible at other blog sites. I promise.

Till then, I remain humbly overawed that there are that many people out there who like my work. I think you all are the best. Thanks and I raise my metaphorical glass to you. Cheers and all the best.

7 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

A Trophy For Little Old Me

Wordpress trophyI do love how WordPress sets these somewhat eclectic targets (for lack of a better word) which when reached by the blogger gives them an automatic trophy. The first thought that goes through my mind is ‘Wow, a trophy? For little old me?’ *By the by, a single quotation mark by some authors is meant to convey thought versus speech anyone disagree with this method? Just curious, answers on a postcard please or conversely you can tell me via the comment section below.* Anyway, as shown by the image above, I now have reached 1,337, with a “real” total of 1,339 followers on my blog.

Cue fireworks, confetti and cheering, even if it is only my hoarse voice you can hear, in wild celebration. I do celebrate these milestone events, albeit rather quietly, since these follower counts mean that slowly but surely, I am building up a core group that like my meandering messages.

Here is where I insist that you give yourself a pat on the back for having such great taste! Seriously, it does mean a lot that either some of you have come back or others have enjoyed my ramblings enough to pay me the ultimate compliment. Thanks to both types of folks and to those who fall into neither camp.

For those still “on the fence” about my writing, that is fine too. I’ve not published anything yet, but I will. In this day and age of self publishing if I cannot get picked up by a publisher when I’ve finished, I’ll do it on my own. I know this is now the norm and quite successful for some folks, like the Winner Twins who I have met, interviewed and still interact with now and then. *On a side note, two nicer young ladies you will never meet and their work is entertaining and good.*

For those who have been here for awhile, thanks for being patient. I’ve veered off the path, most notably working for the content mill and sweatshop GLV where I had no time to devote to my baby. (But I did manage to attend some geeky type cons and meet some dynamite actors and in that aspect had the time of my life.) Now I am back and casting my hook around to see what other writing opportunities are out there.

Thanks to you all; I know that regardless of where my laptop and I end up there are folks who like my writing and will stop by to read and comment. Even though I do not get out and about as much as I used to, and those of you with your own blogs will know what I mean, but as soon as the Internet issue is sorted and I learn to be more organized, I will be more visible at other blog sites. I promise.

Till then, I remain humbly overawed that there are that many people out there who like my work. I think you all are the best. Thanks and I raise my metaphorical glass to you. Cheers and all the best.

7 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Freelance Writers: Content Mills and Sweat Shops Everywhere Oh My

Photo of author circa 2012
For those who want to be freelance writers working on the Internet it can be a tad depressing. There are content mills and sweat shops everywhere. After writing for at least one; the Guardian Liberty Voice (which qualified as both sweat shop and content mill) and cruising the net looking for other sites that advertise for writers it appears that publishers all want a plethora of poorly written articles cribbed from other more reputable sites. There are, of course, sites which pay nothing for the privilege of “working” for their site.

The sites that do pay, want to fork out damned little for your hard work. (If you don’t believe that cranking out 100 plus articles per month is hard work, the door is that way. Don’t let it hit you on the way out.) I hasten to add that a lot of sites appear to use article spinners in order to fill up their pages with poorly written rubbish that Facebook promotes.

Most sites also hide their intent to pay peanuts by quoting annual income figures. Sure 48,000 sounds great as a top figure. 24,000 less so when the 100 per month limit is factored in. This particular site, The Inquistr does not go into any “requirements” for the articles.

To explain, let’s look at the Guardian Liberty Voice. Each article was required to be a minimum of 500 words. For “breaking news” articles a minimum of 120, at last count, was needed with a follow up story to follow with a minimum of, you guessed it, 500 words. Since GLV does not, or did not, pay per article this meant a whole lot of writing for very little return for a lot of writers. Consider also that the initial contractual amount of articles per month was 128. I should point out that at my peak I was writing over 300 articles per month for ridiculously low pay.

The Inquisitr does advertise that their writers make good money and that they reach over 50 million viewers every day. Reading a rough sample of the site’s output reveals that in Entertainment at least, the quality falls pretty squarely in the “okay,” category. Granted, this particular area of “news” is not the most journalistic in appearance or nature. While it seems that most new writers in this category all want to be the next Perez Hilton, there are a few who are trying to put their own proper spin on reporting the “fluff.”

Just out of interest, I have submitted their employment “form.” They also ask, if you want to expedite the process, that you take a 20 minute test on grammar and rules. There are apparently 20 questions and the time limit, obviously, matches the questions. Interesting. I will not be taking the test, I really can not be bothered to prove that I have at least a rudimentary knowledge of Journalism via the 101 class taken in 1976.

Yes, it was that long ago.

I am still in the process of trying to learn how to get advertisers on my site. WordPress have, rather snootily, explained that my 4,000 to 6,000 views per month is not worthy of inclusion in their Adwords program. It is worth mentioning that whenever one inquires about the lack of response to their advert, they give a stock answer of, “Your site needs monthly traffic in the thousands. Get your family, friends, loved ones, etc to follow your blog to increase visibility.” When I pointed out that my blog already had “thousands” of views per month, and volunteered that perhaps he meant tens-of-thousands, the WordPress staffer grabbed that lifeline and said, “Yes, that is what I meant.”

However, if you look at other blogger’s experiences with “Adwords” you’ll find the same stock answer given to each applicant.

I’ve gotten offers before. One enthusiastic advertiser thought my site would be perfect and made an offer that I could not stop laughing at. The money was $100 per year. This was quite some time ago and the latest offer from a company has never gone past the “we think your site is perfect,” stage. Another low payment advertiser I am sure will eventually get back to me. They really should not waste their or my time.

The point behind the poorly paid advertiser anecdote is that no one really wants to pay you for your work. Whether it be a publication or a company wanting to purchase advertising space, the money offered is laughable.

I started out blogging regularly back in November 2011. I never intended to use this particular platform as a source of income. It was a way to work on my skills and build up a body of work. All practice for when I would begin writing my first book. I stumbled onto the GLV, and began an odyssey of learning that not all is as it seems and that I was a much better writer than I’d thought.

Working for that publication did result in things learned that helped me out. There were also things that burned me out. Writing up to 10 stories a day at 500 words a whack seven days a week is madness. It is also a good way to exhaust yourself. I struggle now to get out three to four articles a day.

At this moment in time, I am not being paid for anything I write. The new publication I’ve been writing for has not resulted in payment of any type. While I enjoy getting more views…sometimes…I do not enjoy grafting for naught. Perhaps a change of venue is in order here. I will keep you all posted as I continue my search for paid employment that does not require sweat shop or content mill environments. Working as a Freelance writer has been interesting, and fun at times, but it has not put a lot of money in my pocket.

The original boast of the publication I used to write for was good pay for good work. That never happened and it now feels like an uphill battle finding somewhere else to hang my hat. I’ve taken the first step in shifting my hosting to another site, not WordPress, but that is proving to be confusing and in some instances annoying.

Beware the marketplace sellers. Having stupidly purchased a template for my site which, I assumed, would allow me to download the format and set up my blog in the fashion advertised, I found that it did not. A further $100 was expected in order to format the style purchased. Asking for a refund was refused and I was told to act like a professional, which, pardon me for thinking so, I am.

Still, this journey is interesting and it is challenging. For those that are interested in where this ends up, stay tuned.

3 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Freelance Writers: Content Mills and Sweat Shops Everywhere Oh My

Photo of author circa 2012
For those who want to be freelance writers working on the Internet it can be a tad depressing. There are content mills and sweat shops everywhere. After writing for at least one; the Guardian Liberty Voice (which qualified as both sweat shop and content mill) and cruising the net looking for other sites that advertise for writers it appears that publishers all want a plethora of poorly written articles cribbed from other more reputable sites. There are, of course, sites which pay nothing for the privilege of “working” for their site.

The sites that do pay, want to fork out damned little for your hard work. (If you don’t believe that cranking out 100 plus articles per month is hard work, the door is that way. Don’t let it hit you on the way out.) I hasten to add that a lot of sites appear to use article spinners in order to fill up their pages with poorly written rubbish that Facebook promotes.

Most sites also hide their intent to pay peanuts by quoting annual income figures. Sure 48,000 sounds great as a top figure. 24,000 less so when the 100 per month limit is factored in. This particular site, The Inquistr does not go into any “requirements” for the articles.

To explain, let’s look at the Guardian Liberty Voice. Each article was required to be a minimum of 500 words. For “breaking news” articles a minimum of 120, at last count, was needed with a follow up story to follow with a minimum of, you guessed it, 500 words. Since GLV does not, or did not, pay per article this meant a whole lot of writing for very little return for a lot of writers. Consider also that the initial contractual amount of articles per month was 128. I should point out that at my peak I was writing over 300 articles per month for ridiculously low pay.

The Inquisitr does advertise that their writers make good money and that they reach over 50 million viewers every day. Reading a rough sample of the site’s output reveals that in Entertainment at least, the quality falls pretty squarely in the “okay,” category. Granted, this particular area of “news” is not the most journalistic in appearance or nature. While it seems that most new writers in this category all want to be the next Perez Hilton, there are a few who are trying to put their own proper spin on reporting the “fluff.”

Just out of interest, I have submitted their employment “form.” They also ask, if you want to expedite the process, that you take a 20 minute test on grammar and rules. There are apparently 20 questions and the time limit, obviously, matches the questions. Interesting. I will not be taking the test, I really can not be bothered to prove that I have at least a rudimentary knowledge of Journalism via the 101 class taken in 1976.

Yes, it was that long ago.

I am still in the process of trying to learn how to get advertisers on my site. WordPress have, rather snootily, explained that my 4,000 to 6,000 views per month is not worthy of inclusion in their Adwords program. It is worth mentioning that whenever one inquires about the lack of response to their advert, they give a stock answer of, “Your site needs monthly traffic in the thousands. Get your family, friends, loved ones, etc to follow your blog to increase visibility.” When I pointed out that my blog already had “thousands” of views per month, and volunteered that perhaps he meant tens-of-thousands, the WordPress staffer grabbed that lifeline and said, “Yes, that is what I meant.”

However, if you look at other blogger’s experiences with “Adwords” you’ll find the same stock answer given to each applicant.

I’ve gotten offers before. One enthusiastic advertiser thought my site would be perfect and made an offer that I could not stop laughing at. The money was $100 per year. This was quite some time ago and the latest offer from a company has never gone past the “we think your site is perfect,” stage. Another low payment advertiser I am sure will eventually get back to me. They really should not waste their or my time.

The point behind the poorly paid advertiser anecdote is that no one really wants to pay you for your work. Whether it be a publication or a company wanting to purchase advertising space, the money offered is laughable.

I started out blogging regularly back in November 2011. I never intended to use this particular platform as a source of income. It was a way to work on my skills and build up a body of work. All practice for when I would begin writing my first book. I stumbled onto the GLV, and began an odyssey of learning that not all is as it seems and that I was a much better writer than I’d thought.

Working for that publication did result in things learned that helped me out. There were also things that burned me out. Writing up to 10 stories a day at 500 words a whack seven days a week is madness. It is also a good way to exhaust yourself. I struggle now to get out three to four articles a day.

At this moment in time, I am not being paid for anything I write. The new publication I’ve been writing for has not resulted in payment of any type. While I enjoy getting more views…sometimes…I do not enjoy grafting for naught. Perhaps a change of venue is in order here. I will keep you all posted as I continue my search for paid employment that does not require sweat shop or content mill environments. Working as a Freelance writer has been interesting, and fun at times, but it has not put a lot of money in my pocket.

The original boast of the publication I used to write for was good pay for good work. That never happened and it now feels like an uphill battle finding somewhere else to hang my hat. I’ve taken the first step in shifting my hosting to another site, not WordPress, but that is proving to be confusing and in some instances annoying.

Beware the marketplace sellers. Having stupidly purchased a template for my site which, I assumed, would allow me to download the format and set up my blog in the fashion advertised, I found that it did not. A further $100 was expected in order to format the style purchased. Asking for a refund was refused and I was told to act like a professional, which, pardon me for thinking so, I am.

Still, this journey is interesting and it is challenging. For those that are interested in where this ends up, stay tuned.

3 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Happy Anniversary: Has It Really Been Three Years?

Author's photo 2013
Sitting here recovering from being forced off the road on my bicycle Tuesday, my Internet came up briefly to show I’d gotten a trophy from WordPress. My connection then disappeared for hours so I hobbled around and did dishes and continued to put frozen vegetables on my swollen legs and ankles. Later, it came up long enough to reveal a Happy Third Anniversary award had been bestowed upon my little blog and the first thing that came to me was, “Has it really been three years?”

Really??

So much has happened in that short time span. Injury at, my then, work, returning to work, heart attack, ill-health retirement, Guardian Liberty Voice, South Africa, USA, Las Vegas, Arizona…

Sadly, throughout the Guardian Liberty Voice and Vegas time frame, I ignored my little WordPress baby. There were so many people I met in the business that should have been written about here. Stupidly, I put too much effort into an organization that was never going to amount to its owners’ claims.

This is about my blog, however, and not about shysters conning writers into over producing articles in a sweat shop content mill that pays less than nothing. I did take one thing away from my experience that hopefully will make my little blog a better place to hang out, I’ve gotten better at coming over here and posting.

While I’d like to say that I am also a better writer, my ego will not let me make a claim like that without laughing so instead let’s just say my confidence level has increased exponentially and leave it at that. And as you can see, I still have a tendency to write paragraph long sentences, so that has not changed!

But at least one thing has. My profession has gone from Prison Officer to professional writer. While I never made a fortune writing for my former employer I was paid to write. On the same token, it tickled me to death that I was paid to watch films and review them, something I did for free before and I also got to interview some awesomely talented actors, like Tony Todd, Tiny Lister, Terry Kiser, Stephen Bishop, Jordan Hayes, et al.

I got to meet some great folks at conventions and I was not paid to do that, it was expected that I attend all the con’s scheduled days, meet and greet and write a minimum of three articles a day. That never happened, and, somewhat unsurprisingly, despite what had been agreed upon, which was one article per day, this was not where the publisher saw the paper going, it was content mill or nothing.

All the fun I was having being duped into believing that what I was doing was crucial in building up a solid entertainment section kept me from my own “words and music.” My reasoning was that if I was getting paid to write, I had no time to write for free.

This from a guy who was writing, for quite a while, 8 to 10 500 word-plus articles a day. Now I have made up my mind that the only thing which will keep me from stopping by daily will be lack of Internet or death. Although I probably should make an allowance for healing time, as I just now put another bag of frozen broccoli on my leg.

I will say, again, how much I appreciate all those folks who have come along for the ride. Those who started off with me, only to leave through frustration, and then came back; I thank you for returning. You must have been checking up on me occasionally. That pleases me no end. For those who stop by to comment I also thank you. I have learned a lot from folks who took a moment or two to let me hear another point of view.

I raise my metaphorical glass to you all and I will try to never desert you, or my little blog again. Oh, and if the editors of WordPress ever feel the need to award my little blog another Freshly Pressed, I wouldn’t say no.

Just saying…

Cheers!

21 March 2015
Quartzsite, Arizona
USA

Entrepreneurs: The New Con? Writing for the Internet

Robert Redford and fellow conman in film
1973 The Sting

In our computerized world with, almost, instant access to businesses, information and porn at one’s fingertips, the Internet is full of entrepreneurs. While this is nothing new, stories have existed for quite some time about the clever clogs who have made a fortune off the World Wide Web. A lot of these took place when dial-up was the norm and Broadband was still a dream. But are these new businessmen/women now part of the “new con?”

Many are.

It would appear that in some areas, dreams can still be bilked for big money. There is at least one website, the Guardian Liberty Voice, that is still singing a song of sweet success to those who write.

And to those who think that they can write. Back when the online publication was called the Guardian Express prospective writers were enticed to join the “paper’s” bootcamp and learn how to write for the Internet and Google.

Back in those days, the training lasted one week and consisted of learning about how to do images and where to find trending stories and the secrets of Bottlenose. There was meant to be a test at the end of the week’s training but I did not have to take part. My class consisted of me alone and my articles were packing views in at an impressive rate (according to owner/publisher DiMarkco Chandler) so at the end of my “hell day” I was immediately brought on board as a writer and editor for Entertainment.

I did edit as well as write but anything that kept me from hitting my 8 to 10 articles a day output was frowned upon and the duties of editor were taken away, but not the title. As my output soared (on weekends I wrote up to 15 articles a day) I was then made Deputy Managing Editor and Senior Entertainment Editor.

*As I’ve pointed out before, most of these articles were a minimum of 500 words and many were up to 1500. However you slice it, that is a lot of work.*

This promotion was soon followed by the information that I was being made a “late stage co founder.” Something that was made to sound quite profitable, eventually, and rather special. It soon turned out that being able to breath entitled one to earn this special title.

While having worked management positions in retail, I was not qualified in the world of journalism to run any paper’s section. Journalism was a class taken “millennia” ago and although being a manager does help to a degree in helping underlings to make deadlines, it does not immediately qualify anyone to work across the board. Managers should be well versed in the area they are working in.

I’ve written a couple of articles about my time at the GLV and Carol Tice wrote an incredibly well researched piece about the company last year.

This is not meant to be more recounting of an odd experience but a warning that there are other places out there that also take advantage of their writers and staff.

A few years ago, my daughter was approached by a website that specialized in video gaming news. She has her own YouTube channel and she hired on to do videos and write articles for this site. In a matter of days, the publisher had her writing up to 7 articles a day, although she was contracted for 3 to 5. The pay, however, was brilliant.

At first.

As time went on, her output was meant to go up exponentially and she was expected to do a certain amount of videos per week. Starting the job in her break from University she had to stop when the next semester started. After a short time, other writers and video journalists were being either fired or quitting.

The publisher did not take the departed staff’s names and titles down from the site. Thinking that this “established” site was still going strong, when the publisher approached her to do some more work she said yes.

Things were very different in her return to games journalism. The price for the videos had dropped drastically and she was not required to write many articles at all. To make a long story short, the publisher was now writing all the articles himself but putting them under the names of the departed staff.

One of the perks of doing videos and writing gaming news was getting early copies of new games and this became an exercise in futility for my daughter. There was no rhyme or reason in the way games were shared out and it was only after partnering with Sony that the situation cleared up.

In the end, this blogging site lost many of its original staff and left quite a few with lingering sense of betrayal. This video games blogging site was different from GLV in many ways.

There was never any sticking point like a contract, apart from a verbal one, and video walkthroughs and reviews were part of the package expected by its staff. The site, which is still up and running, continues to do its thing and appeal to gamers the world over.

GLV, despite its intent of having a TV channel on the site, never did proper videos and the channel never worked well enough to reach fruition.

Any interviews I did had to be uploaded onto the publisher’s YouTube channel and received a tiny amount of views (less than my own personal YouTube channel uploads). In fact, after the first “big” interview (a hastily put together Q & A with the incredible Marlon Wayans) no camera operator was sent to film these events.

The one thing that both of the sites have in common is that the owner/publisher of each were entrepreneurs. This appears to be the new code name for con men and women. It is not all about selling the unwary the newest thing in bridges, swampland or snake oil, it is about luring the creative into writing or vlogging for sites that have no intention of paying for work being done, despite promises to do so.

I will include one last thing about working for the GLV.

Taxes.

Leaving the company did not solve all my problems, for one thing it now appears that the president (who took care of all the forms needed by the self employed contractors to file their tax claims) has revealed in a confidential email to the publisher that the 1099s are incorrect. Mine, which I have yet to see, she refused to send out as the publisher is attempting to falsify my income by making it much higher than it really was.

As I sit here finishing this last Internet writers scam article, I am now worried to death that I will get a 1099 that is not only falsified, but, one that will leave me liable for taxes I do not really owe or can pay.

Beware the Internet children.  In this cyberspace medium there are creatures who prey on the creative and wannabe creatives. They are not above overworking and underpaying writers and they lie. Do not trust GLV and its expanding offshoots look around, start your own blog, write for experience and do not expect a huge amount of money when you are starting out.

Most importantly, use the very medium that is being used against you to learn if the snake oil on offer is really liquid napalm that is ready to burn you to a crisp.

Postscript: While polishing off this article, I was contacted by The Lyrical Elitist, a fellow blogger and, for a short while, fellow employee at GLV, who thanked me for my article and revealed another that he had just written, concerning a leaked email. One that I’d seen earlier today, that mentions me specifically.

17 February 2015

Entrepreneurs: The New Con? Writing for the Internet

Robert Redford and fellow conman in film
1973 The Sting

In our computerized world with, almost, instant access to businesses, information and porn at one’s fingertips, the Internet is full of entrepreneurs. While this is nothing new, stories have existed for quite some time about the clever clogs who have made a fortune off the World Wide Web. A lot of these took place when dial-up was the norm and Broadband was still a dream. But are these new businessmen/women now part of the “new con?”

Many are.

It would appear that in some areas, dreams can still be bilked for big money. There is at least one website, the Guardian Liberty Voice, that is still singing a song of sweet success to those who write.

And to those who think that they can write. Back when the online publication was called the Guardian Express prospective writers were enticed to join the “paper’s” bootcamp and learn how to write for the Internet and Google.

Back in those days, the training lasted one week and consisted of learning about how to do images and where to find trending stories and the secrets of Bottlenose. There was meant to be a test at the end of the week’s training but I did not have to take part. My class consisted of me alone and my articles were packing views in at an impressive rate (according to owner/publisher DiMarkco Chandler) so at the end of my “hell day” I was immediately brought on board as a writer and editor for Entertainment.

I did edit as well as write but anything that kept me from hitting my 8 to 10 articles a day output was frowned upon and the duties of editor were taken away, but not the title. As my output soared (on weekends I wrote up to 15 articles a day) I was then made Deputy Managing Editor and Senior Entertainment Editor.

*As I’ve pointed out before, most of these articles were a minimum of 500 words and many were up to 1500. However you slice it, that is a lot of work.*

This promotion was soon followed by the information that I was being made a “late stage co founder.” Something that was made to sound quite profitable, eventually, and rather special. It soon turned out that being able to breath entitled one to earn this special title.

While having worked management positions in retail, I was not qualified in the world of journalism to run any paper’s section. Journalism was a class taken “millennia” ago and although being a manager does help to a degree in helping underlings to make deadlines, it does not immediately qualify anyone to work across the board. Managers should be well versed in the area they are working in.

I’ve written a couple of articles about my time at the GLV and Carol Tice wrote an incredibly well researched piece about the company last year.

This is not meant to be more recounting of an odd experience but a warning that there are other places out there that also take advantage of their writers and staff.

A few years ago, my daughter was approached by a website that specialized in video gaming news. She has her own YouTube channel and she hired on to do videos and write articles for this site. In a matter of days, the publisher had her writing up to 7 articles a day, although she was contracted for 3 to 5. The pay, however, was brilliant.

At first.

As time went on, her output was meant to go up exponentially and she was expected to do a certain amount of videos per week. Starting the job in her break from University she had to stop when the next semester started. After a short time, other writers and video journalists were being either fired or quitting.

The publisher did not take the departed staff’s names and titles down from the site. Thinking that this “established” site was still going strong, when the publisher approached her to do some more work she said yes.

Things were very different in her return to games journalism. The price for the videos had dropped drastically and she was not required to write many articles at all. To make a long story short, the publisher was now writing all the articles himself but putting them under the names of the departed staff.

One of the perks of doing videos and writing gaming news was getting early copies of new games and this became an exercise in futility for my daughter. There was no rhyme or reason in the way games were shared out and it was only after partnering with Sony that the situation cleared up.

In the end, this blogging site lost many of its original staff and left quite a few with lingering sense of betrayal. This video games blogging site was different from GLV in many ways.

There was never any sticking point like a contract, apart from a verbal one, and video walkthroughs and reviews were part of the package expected by its staff. The site, which is still up and running, continues to do its thing and appeal to gamers the world over.

GLV, despite its intent of having a TV channel on the site, never did proper videos and the channel never worked well enough to reach fruition.

Any interviews I did had to be uploaded onto the publisher’s YouTube channel and received a tiny amount of views (less than my own personal YouTube channel uploads). In fact, after the first “big” interview (a hastily put together Q & A with the incredible Marlon Wayans) no camera operator was sent to film these events.

The one thing that both of the sites have in common is that the owner/publisher of each were entrepreneurs. This appears to be the new code name for con men and women. It is not all about selling the unwary the newest thing in bridges, swampland or snake oil, it is about luring the creative into writing or vlogging for sites that have no intention of paying for work being done, despite promises to do so.

I will include one last thing about working for the GLV.

Taxes.

Leaving the company did not solve all my problems, for one thing it now appears that the president (who took care of all the forms needed by the self employed contractors to file their tax claims) has revealed in a confidential email to the publisher that the 1099s are incorrect. Mine, which I have yet to see, she refused to send out as the publisher is attempting to falsify my income by making it much higher than it really was.

As I sit here finishing this last Internet writers scam article, I am now worried to death that I will get a 1099 that is not only falsified, but, one that will leave me liable for taxes I do not really owe or can pay.

Beware the Internet children.  In this cyberspace medium there are creatures who prey on the creative and wannabe creatives. They are not above overworking and underpaying writers and they lie. Do not trust GLV and its expanding offshoots look around, start your own blog, write for experience and do not expect a huge amount of money when you are starting out.

Most importantly, use the very medium that is being used against you to learn if the snake oil on offer is really liquid napalm that is ready to burn you to a crisp.

Postscript: While polishing off this article, I was contacted by The Lyrical Elitist, a fellow blogger and, for a short while, fellow employee at GLV, who thanked me for my article and revealed another that he had just written, concerning a leaked email. One that I’d seen earlier today, that mentions me specifically.

17 February 2015