Thursday, November 08, 2012

 

Interview with Connie Brentford: The Moonlighter's Guide to Online Writing for Immediate Income

We have a special interview for you today with Connie Brentford, the author of The Moonlighter's Guide to: Online Writing for Immediate Income. In 2008 at age 41, she sold her house and everything she owned and bought a one-way ticket to Thailand to start traveling the world, supporting herself with her writing. Four years and over twenty countries later, she and her husband have still not settled down. They're currently in London in the UK, where she's finishing up her fourth and fifth nonfiction books and researching a fiction novel set in London. Connie took time out of her recent London relocation and busy writing schedule to talk with us about her book, The Moonlighter's Guide to Online Writing for Immediate Income.

WOW: Welcome to The Muffin, Connie. We appreciate you coming by to talk to us about your book, The Moonlighter's Guide to: Online Writing for Immediate Income. What inspired you to write this book?

Connie: Thank you. It's great to be here! The inspiration for this book came to me over a two-year period of travel. I have been traveling the world supporting myself with my writing income for several years now; and in each place I visited, people would ask me how I do it. I was asked over and over again to teach people how to make money writing. Even if they didn't want to travel like I did, they saw the potential for extra income and were excited. These folks had a desire to write and make money, but very little writing experience. In these coaching sessions, we had to take it back to grammar school and go over things like sentence structure, paragraphing, and the difference between your and you're. Once that was done, I would teach them about up-front pay, residual pay, and the different types of content writing. I would coach them as best I could for the short amount of time I was there. This was the impetus for the book. I started thinking about how I could reach more people who would like to try freelance writing and what you really needed to know before you started trying to make money as a content writer online. Now when I'm chatting with a fellow traveler in an airport who expresses an interest in writing for a living, I just hand them my business card, and they can buy the book and follow up with me if needed.

WOW: Great plan! Who is the perfect audience for this book?

Connie: The novice writer, college student, the stay-at-home mom or dad who needs extra income, the retired person who has always wanted to write, or the person looking for a portable job. I make the point in my book that even if you've never written a word, it doesn't mean you're not a writer. So many people have the desire to write and just don't try. They don't realize they could potentially be a great writer, make a great income, and live the lifestyle they've dreamed about. I thought about writing for years before actually putting pen to paper. I want my book to be their excuse to try it.

The unemployed or underemployed would benefit from my book as well. You will make money as a freelance writer even if it's just a part-time endeavor. The Internet is the largest employer right now. It thrives on content, and writing content is a recession-proof job. One thing I don't hear on the freelance writing forums is there is not enough work. There are always writing gigs if you know where to look.

WOW: Well, that's good news! The second chapter of this book is "The Five Things You Absolutely Need." Can you share a couple of these with us now, and why they are so important for online writers?

Connie: A few years ago I read a freelance writing book that said you needed sharpened pencils, a filing cabinet, fax machine and billing software, among other things, to start freelance writing. This writer also mentioned that if you were unsure about your writing skills, you should start submitting articles to magazines and if you received twenty to thirty rejections, your writing might need some work. This is so daunting for someone just starting out, especially if it's a stay-at-home mom on a limited budget. The truth is, you don't need any of those things when you start. You should, however, take the time to brush up on your writing skills before you start. My book helps with that, and it offers resources for further reading and practice if you're still unsure. I personally owe a debt of gratitude to Mignon Fogarty for her Grammar Girl podcasts. If I had received thirty rejections when I started, I would have quit, not stopped to brush up on my skills.

Here are two essential things you really need when you are starting out:

Time to write: If you can't devote at least two to three hours a day in the beginning, this business won't be sustainable for you. If you don't show up and write, it won't happen. With six children, I know what it's like to have a busy home life, but writing has to be more important than a television show or an extra hour or two of social media surfing each evening. You are the only person that can change your daily patterns to make time for your writing career. Make the time to write each day, and you will succeed as a freelance writer.

Consistent computer and Internet access: When I started out, all six of my children were still at home. We had a few computers in the house, but they were shared. Even the one that was designated mom's writing computer was usurped at a moment's notice for a school paper or teenage daughter drama. You need consistent access to your computer preferably in a quiet place for your writing time. You will have deadlines so have a back-up Internet source like a coffee shop if yours is unavailable. It's important!

WOW: That's a fact--it's hard to do your job without the proper tools. I love that you mentioned your six children, by the way. I know that will be very inspirational for some readers. I'm sure someone is thinking: If she can do this with six children, surely I can do it with two (etc.). In your book, you also discuss the two kinds of pay: up-front and residual. Which should online writers seek and why?

Connie: There are good earning opportunities in both!

When you're starting out as a content writer, your goals are to provide quality content for your client and put money in your bank account. You get a one time payment for your article from your client, and you usually relinquish all rights to that content, meaning you cannot earn money from it again and sell it to another client. That's called up-front pay. I actually don't like the term because it implies you get paid before you write the piece. In truth, you get paid when your client approves the piece.

Residual writing income is from articles you write and place on your own website or another revenue sharing website like Squidoo.com. You earn money from these articles month after month because in and around them, you have affiliate links and Google Adsense ads.

Each type of writing requires work beyond the writing of the piece itself. Those seeking consistent up-front pay must hustle for clients, query, and write. Good residual income comes from knowing how to create traffic for your own website or the revenue share site. You must know how to market these articles, so they are seen, thereby increasing their visibility and your revenue.

Because Amazon has opened up the indie writing market, many freelance writers, especially those that ghostwrite e-books, have successfully created their own e-books to sell on Amazon.com. Book revenue is just another form of residual writing income because you have to know how to successfully market your books in order to make income from them.

WOW: Makes sense. Thanks for explaining the two terms. Why is it important for writers to create a revenue goal? How do they do this?

Connie: When I was researching my book I wanted to use more than my own experience for an example, so I went in search of other content writers making money and asked them questions. One thing almost all of them do is make weekly and monthly revenue goals. For the most part, those I interviewed were hard-working, stay-at-home moms writing when their children were in school or in bed. Each week, they knew how much money they wanted to earn from each of their eggs. An egg is just another term for a writing gig. Their gigs were usually a mixture of writing for online companies, private clients, and residual writing for their website or a revenue share site. If one week underperformed financially, they would adjust the next week to earn more, so they still met the monthly goal. The trick here is to have enough eggs in your basket to call upon to meet your monthly income goals. If needed, they would check websites, like www.online-writing-jobs.com, for quick, one-time gigs. Clients and online companies go through slow periods like any other business, so collecting writing gigs is key to meeting your income goals. Some writers get stuck in a rut writing for content mills, which tend to be lower paying, so their income never really goes up. It's fine to write for these companies in the beginning, while you're learning the different styles of content writing; but once your skills allow, you must pursue private clients and other types of writing jobs to increase your income. Once you do this, you'll end up working less hours but for more pay.

WOW: I think that's the goal for most of us! A large portion of your book is actual online sites, where writers can find paying jobs. How up-to-date are these links? Can you give us a couple of sites here for WOW! readers to start looking in to?

Connie: I update the book at least twice a year. The companies and the writing markets open and close, rearrange their websites, and change how and when they pay; and I want the reader to have timely information. I don't always put the brand new writing companies in the update because I need time to see that the companies are offering solid work, and writers are actually getting paid.

I have heard good things about Remilon. They pay writers to write education-related articles, and they have a specific article format they use, which can be helpful to newer writers. Their starting pay is $8/hr; and as you improve, you get a pay raise. They require fifteen hours of work per week, so you get the value of seeing if writing at home is for you without it being overwhelming. What's different about this company is they pay you for the time you're researching, writing, and editing; so if you're new and a little slower, this works to your advantage. They have editors that work with you as well to improve your writing skills.

If you'd like to try a residual form of writing income, I would recommend Examiner.com. There is a learning curve that comes with hosting and installing your own website, and sites like Examiner allow you to post on a subject you are passionate about and earn money based on page views without having to learn webmaster skills. One of my favorite Examiners is Lynn Farris (http://www.examiner.com/mystery-books-in-national/lynn-farris). Her passion is reading and reviewing mystery novels, and she has created a great Examiner.com page that people in the mystery book reading circles love. She works hard and smart to market her writing on Examiner by using social media.

WOW: I didn't realize that's how the site worked. Thanks for sharing that! Readers will want to know how you figured out how to make money writing--in other words, a little bit about your personal story. Can you tell us how you got started writing online and creating a full-time income for yourself?

Connie: It really started years ago when I was a stay-at-home mom. My husband is a writer as well, and I would proofread his books and blog posts. I realized that I caught a lot of errors in other peoples' writing, and I should probably try it myself. My children were also leaving the nest one by one, and I admit I felt a little panicked about what was next in my life. I created a travel blog with the intent of making money as a full-time travel blogger. It was much harder and much more work than I thought, and I was hardly earning any money at all. So I started writing for a few of the online companies and learned how to write different styles of content, like press releases and SEO writing. I took that knowledge and started seeking out short-assignment, private clients on sites like Craigslist.com and Guru.com. I started to specialize in ghost blogging for travel blogs. Because of my travel experience, this type of writing didn't even feel like work to me, and there was plenty of work available. It became the bulk of my income; and over time, I was able to raise my rates to the point where I was working about twenty hours per week making a full-time income. One thing I learned as I went from new writer to seasoned writer is that there are clients at every level that are willing to pay your rates.

WOW: Great advice, Connie! Anything else to share about yourself or your book?

Connie: I didn't start writing seriously until I was in my forties, so it's never too late to get started!

In 2010, I wrote my first book and self-published it on Amazon.com, and I have written three more since then, all with the theme of ways to leave your current job and work from home. I attribute the success of my books to the skills I learned as a freelance writer. I have stepped back from the freelancing a little to focus on coaching others in the self-publishing process. I just helped a friend in Belize publish his memoirs on Amazon.com, and it has provided a steady passive income for him that is practically unheard of in developing countries. It's a fine time to write and publish a book, and so many people have a story to tell.

I still continue to make money from my writing and travel with my husband. We've been traveling perpetually for almost five years now with no intention of stopping. The term used to be digital nomad, but now the term location-independent has taken its place. I am so thankful I have a job that allows me the freedom to live this lifestyle. The writing life can be hard in the beginning, but it's also grand; and I'd like everyone who wants it, to have it.

WOW: Thanks, Connie! I'm sure our readers can tell just from this interview that your book, The Moonlighter's Guide to Online Writing for Immediate Income, is going to be full of useful tips and great resources.

Find out more about making a living as a work-at-home writer by visiting Connie's website: www.themoonlightersguide.com

We have great news, too--THREE e-books to giveaway! 

Fill out the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win a copy of The Moonlighter's Guide to: Online Writing for Immediate Income! Open internationally.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Good luck!

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17 Comments:

Anonymous Tori said...

Not sure if I'm entered for the book give away. If not, I would like to be. Thanks, Tori

5:55 AM  
Blogger Margo Dill said...

Hi Tori:
I just checked and you are! Good luck to you. I had a chance to review the book, and it is full of great resources! :)

6:08 AM  
Blogger MP said...

Great interview! A lot of good info and inspiration.

One of her tips probably applies to a lot of us: "...writing has to be more important than a television show or an extra hour or two of social media surfing each evening." ;)

10:55 AM  
Blogger PatriciaW said...

I love to hear how others have culled together a freelance career. I've already recommended this book to a fellow writer who is getting started as a freelancer.

12:49 PM  
Blogger Connie Brentford said...

I appreciate you taking the time to do a recommendation, Patricia! Hope things go well for your writer colleague.

2:23 PM  
OpenID jszflanagan said...

I also enjoy reading about how others have found/put together their writing careers - it seems there are so many options. (I get overwhelmed every time I think about it.)

I know I'll make the leap when I'm ready and in the meantime I appreciate all the knowledge you've shared and keep sharing about it.

6:38 PM  
Blogger amy bates said...

The ebook ‘How to write your novel in 10 days or less’ is available for free from today till the 11th of November. Click here http://amzn.to/SXfBsX to grab a copy.

3:59 AM  
Blogger Angela said...

This is such an inspiring interview. Connie, you are amazing! Six kids! I have one cat and a hubby and even that is too much sometimes. ;)

Thanks for the great resources. I haven't heard of Remilon. Your book sounds like a wealth of information!

10:28 AM  
Blogger Connie Brentford said...

Thank you, Angela! I think Remilon is around a year old. I interviewed several writers that were quite pleased to work there.

I appreciate you taking the time to comment. Hope you win a copy! :)

1:07 PM  
Blogger Rose said...

I bought this book a few weeks ago because the title is very enticing. I wanted to see if I really could earn immediate income, and I did! I like how encouraging the book is, because it is easy to get discouraged when starting out. Thank you!

6:12 PM  
Blogger LuAnn Schindler said...

I'm interested in the book, but it sounds like a lot of the resources are content mills. Are there more offerings?

12:52 PM  
Blogger L Peckyno said...

I'm curious about the book and mildly optimistic I can leverage my writing skills to create new income for my family.

12:39 AM  
OpenID gothougeekly said...

Not currently a freelancer, but I'm always interested in ways to supplement my income!

8:32 AM  
Blogger Connie Brentford said...

Thanks for the comment, Rose. Most people are really surprised when they start earning money right out of the gate. :) I was too when I started.

8:00 AM  
Blogger Connie Brentford said...

Thanks for commenting, LuAnn. The content mills are a minority in the book. Most companies are specialty writing markets that that are always hiring writers.

8:03 AM  
Blogger Melissa O. said...

Thanks! I've done a bit of blogging for clients in the past, but my freelance gigs right now are mostly translation work and helping put together visa petitions.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Sherry Conrad said...

My daughter is trying to get started as a writer, I think this book would be a wonderful tool for her. Thanks for the chance to win.

8:15 AM  

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