Sunday, November 25, 2007

What Is Freelance Technical Writing?

Technical writing requires the ability to write clearly, plainly, and accurately about extremely complicated material. If you can do that—and quickly—then becoming a successful technical writer is well within your grasp.

The most common clients for freelance technical writers are educational firms, training companies and manufacturing/electronics/software companies. All of these demand a high volume of documentation-style writing, and thus a high volume of technical writers to produce that writing. However, the nature of technical writing indicates there aren't many opportunities outside these industries. Tech writing is only warranted when there's something sufficiently complex to explain in a standardized way, and a mom n' pop software company may not have the money or the need to hire even an entry-level tech writer. So if you want to freelance as a tech writer, you'll almost certainly wind up working on contract for one of the bigger companies.

As with copy editing and journalism, a high degree of familiarity with as many style guides as possible is mandatory for any good freelance technical writer. Technical reports are frequently only a small part of a company's wider technical literature. Writing all of a company's documentation in the same style is a good way to ensure consistent quality and readability over a long company lifespan. The most commonly used style guides are AP (Associated Press), MLA (Modern Language Association), and Chicago. Strunck and White, although older, is still a classic, and commonly in use with certain firms. Pick up a copy of each and familiarize yourself with them. Knowing the popular style guides will improve your technical writing and you'll become more marketable to a wide variety of clients as well.

Once you know which style guide your client works with (and once your own style is clear enough to write effectively), you'll need to start thinking about how to approach your material. Contacting and interviewing SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) is often a huge part of effective technical writing. Without good technical information supporting your work, you won't know what you're writing about. Engineers, technicians and professionals who have to use the work you create won't know what you're writing about either. This leads to a severe loss of productivity and of money, and probably to the loss of your reputation at the company as well. So make sure you have enough data to write your report, and make sure you understand it as thoroughly as possible before you start planning your articles. No one expects you to know as much about, let’s say, a supercollider as a nuclear physicist (especially not on a deadline), but knowing the basic theory and how to use most of the technical vocabulary is beneficial.

The one principal rule of good writing in any field is "know your audience." This statement is truer of technical writing than any other form of freelance writing. Your audience, in technical writing, is going to use the processes, machines, and equipment you write about. If your audience can't understand what you're saying or follow the flow of your argument, you've failed as a tech writer. Clients likely won't hire you for future contracts.

Think carefully about whom you're writing for. Do the users have a background in the theory behind the machine, or do they just need to know how to pull the levers and push the buttons in the right order? Will the users have ready access to troubleshooting facilities (i.e. assembly line workers with a machine shop on the factory premises); or will they have to go to some lengths to fix any mistakes they might make in operation (i.e. people who've bought a new operating system and have to drive an hour to whenever their computer needs service)?

Take some time to think about your end users, their likely qualifications, their questions, and their overall needs. Structure your articles to follow their probable concerns in the order they'll come up. If you need to, talk to some of your prospective end users and ask them questions about what they find problematic in their jobs. It'll help you think of their problems more when you're structuring your work, and that'll make your work that much better.

Once you have your basic structure and some idea of the logical flow of your report, all that's left is the description. Be as clear as possible while still keeping a readable style, and be as accurate as possible. Don't be afraid of footnotes and additional information—unless it's specifically prohibited by your client's style policy. As long as you're thinking of your audience, and you've done the appropriate research and structuring work, this part should be straightforward.

If you can synthesize information from SMEs, keep your audience well in mind, and describe complicated processes clearly and simply, then you have the basic skills to be a successful freelance tech writer.

Watch the classifieds and make inquiries at engineering and training companies. You have a skill that's in high demand. If you keep yourself in the marketplace (and are willing to accept a "trial period" with lower pay, in some cases), it's only a matter of time before you establish yourself as a tech writer. Over time you can develop a reputation that'll win you contract after contract and keep your technical writing career alive and thriving.

Learn more about writing careers at

Sunday, November 18, 2007

2008 Adobe Design Achievement Awards

Adobe Systems Incorporated announced the call for entries for the eighth annual Adobe® Design Achievement Awards (ADAA). The awards honor talented and promising student graphic designers, photographers, illustrators, animators, digital filmmakers, developers and computer artists from the world's top institutions of higher education.

Reflecting the growth in the interactive design field and the importance of the integration between design and development, Adobe has added several new categories in three media areas: Interactive Media, Motion Media, and Traditional Media.

Students from more than 30 countries are invited to submit projects through the Adobe Design Achievement Awards website. From the website, visitors will also be able to access ADAA Live! an interactive website that allows visitors to see the participants submitting projects in real-time.

Submissions will be accepted online through May 2, 2008. The online submissions will be judged digitally in May and semifinalists will be asked to submit their source files and a physical aspect of their entry as it is meant to be viewed for the final phase of judging. Finalists will be invited to New York and win cash and software prizes.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

What Is Freelance Blogging?

Blogging (short for "web logging"), born from the Internet age, is one of the newer venues for freelance writing. The Internet has generated a lot of news about the financial possibilities open to bloggers: an audience of potentially millions -- along with possible corporate sponsorship, a byline, and infinite creative control -- captures the imagination of many prospective bloggers, and makes blogging seem like an infinitely desirable, lucrative field.

The truth is it is much more difficult to become a successful freelance blogger. A good knowledge of marketing, web design, and being consistent are skills you need to make a living (or a comfortable extra income) from this new form of media.

The reason for this is the low barrier of entry. Anyone with access to web space can start a blog. Sites like Blogger, Livejournal and even MySpace offer free web space to anyone willing to sign up. This has resulted in millions of blogs in existence today, many of them literate, many of them wildly popular, and nearly all of them free to read and browse.

That variety of free content makes it difficult to charge for access to your writing, no matter how good it is. You could be the greatest expert on foreign policy or nutrition known to man, and few people would be willing to pay $5 -- or $1, or one cent -- to read a blog post by you, the expert, when there are thousands of semi-qualified (but bright and engaging) writers giving away similar material.

So your main sources of revenue are going to come from advertising and from whatever paid content you can fit into the site. Luckily, web advertising is becoming less dicey than it was a year ago. Google's "AdSense" program is a good baseline for a page, providing targeted advertising based on your content and paying you, directly, per click-through (although the pay rate per click is low.) You can supplement that amount with other forms of web advertising, from the comparatively unobtrusive banner to pop-up animations that "float over" the text.

This brings us to the "double-edged sword" problem in web advertising. The most effective advertising is obtrusive advertising; that is, advertising that blocks valuable content until the user clicks on it either to make it disappear or to take you to a different website. However, obtrusive advertising also irritates your readers, which can lead to a lower reputation for your blog overall. On the Internet, reputation is the single best determinant of your web traffic. Using obtrusive advertising can significantly lower your traffic and make your blog that much less attractive to potential advertisers.

So you'll need to find a happy medium between heavy advertising (and light traffic) and little to no advertising (and high traffic, but little revenue.) Luckily, the instant responsiveness of the Internet, along with the commenting features available on nearly all blogging software, make it easy to ask your readers about exactly what level of advertising they'd be willing to accept. Reader connectivity is one of the most important features of any good blog: not only does it allow you to fine-tune your blog over time, eliminating features that readers find irritating or off-putting, but it also allows you to develop personal connections with your readers, the kind of connections that build loyal audiences.

There are other ways to make money by blogging, such as the following:

1) It's possible to sidestep advertising altogether by making some of your content unavailable, except to subscribers. For example, you might only keep your most recent five or six blog entries unlocked, and require a monthly subscription fee to read the rest of the archives;

2) Or you might keep your current posts and your entire regular archives active, but produce some longer or specialized entries or other content and charge a set fee for these;

3) You could even compile some of your best entries into a physical book, along with some new content, and offer it for sale. Even if all the entries are available online, you'd be surprised how many people are willing to pay to have something they can hold in their hands;

4) Additionally, you could go the route -- make all of your archives available to anyone willing to watch a short full-screen advertisement -- or you could rely on readers' willingness to support content that they find worthwhile by asking for donations outright.

Many prominent blogs and online content providers have done this and found themselves able to make rent and pay all of their bills every month on donations alone.

No matter how much advertising or subscription services your blog has, it's all worthless if people don't want to read you in the first place. And there are three simple rules to make your blog popular:

1) Write on something you care about
2) Write consistently and thoughtfully on a regular schedule (daily is best)
3) Read and comment on other blogs

People read blogs because they provide a source of information and analysis on topics that traditional media sources only cover sketchily and hastily, or don't cover at all. Don't try to figure out an ideal money-making blog topic and proceed from there. People care about blogs because blogs are about personal, in-depth viewpoints and thoughts.

If you can provide those to your audience regularly, and you can set up a minimally-intrusive but still worthwhile revenue system through advertising or subscriptions, there's no reason why you can't become a successful blogger.

(c) / Click here to learn more about writing careers.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

More Retirees Relaunching Careers

More and more Americans are beginning to realize that retirement isn't what it used to be. Rather than indefinitely leaving the workforce, many have discovered their retirement is really just a long vacation before they return to work. Choosing to make a career comeback, many of today's retirees prolong their stint in the workforce due to limited finances and boredom. In fact, 37 percent of retirees report having to go back to work after retirement, up from 27 percent in 2006, according to an April 2007 report by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

Although the decision to return to work is a common--and necessary--step in many people's lives, relaunching a career can be very challenging. Often retirees must overcome ageism and resume gaps to land interviews--let alone a job.

"Maybe you've been away from work only six months, or maybe for years and years. Regardless of the length of time, you are faced with some unique challenges in your job search and, more specifically, in how you write your resume," say Wendy Enelow and Louise Kursmark, professional resume writers and co-authors of Expert Resumes for People Returning to Work, Second Edition.

In their book, Enelow and Kursmark offer the following strategies for retirees looking to re-enter the workforce:

Present a strong 'Relevant Skills and Experience' section to draw attention to skills that would be needed in a second career.

Highlight skills using a functional-format resume. The focus of such a resume is on the job seeker's skills, qualifications, project highlights, and achievements. It's also beneficial to downplay previous work experience to avoid drawing attention to a gap in work history.

Consider eliminating dates and instead focus on and specific achievements or skills in a particular industry.

Include a 'Value Offered' section to outline key areas of expertise to interest employers.

Enelow and Kursmark's most important resume strategy of all, however, is one any retiree should bare in mind. "Whether you are returning to a previous field or industry, switching careers entirely, or becoming a free agent, remember your resume is a marketing tool written to sell you," they say.

Expert Resumes for People Returning to Work, Second Edition, is available at all major bookstores and from the publisher ( or 1.800.648.JIST). To speak with the authors, contact Natalie Ostrom.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

What Is Freelance Public Relations Writing?

Becoming a successful freelance public relations writer requires you to write persuasively and analytically. The key to persuasive writing is the key to good writing in general: know your audience. Public relations work requires you to address various audiences, such as:

1) Your customer base. Your customers already have some idea about what your client does;

2) Potential customers. Most won't know about your client directly, but they might be familiar with similar products, services, or programs;

3) The press. They are interested only in whether the service or product your client has to offer is worthy of mention in their publication.

When you get a public relations assignment, your job is to take in all the data related to whatever your client has to offer. Maybe your client is offering a new product line, a new community outreach program, or news about a change in ownership. Your job is to: 1) analyze that data for key points; 2) determine how the data might affect the marketplace and consumers; and 3) communicate the data in a clear, concise form.

Taking in the data is the easiest part. Your client should provide you with all the data you need, plus any contact information you might need to interview people for quotes, statistics, point-of-views, etc. You need to think about how to connect what your client is offering with the needs and desires of his audience.

Example 1:
If a high-end brokerage firm wants to distribute a press release about their response to a recent rise in gold prices, you may need to research the stock market to determine what that means to investors. If you know your target audience, then you know exactly where to look to find out their typical concerns. Typical research methods may include Internet searches, investor forum posts, guides to investment, etc.

Example 2:
If you need to generate PR aimed at a particular trade group or a segment of an industry, such as promoting a local cleaning service, then you need to brainstorm ways in which your client’s cleaning service provides cheaper or better care than his competitors.

Once you've done the background work, writing PR is simple. Your client should provide you with all the pertinent information about length and venue. What you need to do is communicate the details, connect it to audience’s desires, and present any information that links the audience back to the client with the use of contact information, store locations, event dates, and so on.

Since there's an expectation that PR is persuasive, advertisement-like material, you have slightly more leeway with the writing than you might with informative, research-based material; but again, the audience comes into the balance.

If you're writing a report on the release of a new video game aimed at a teen-centric gaming magazine, a dry style won't be of much use to you. If you're writing about the breakthrough of a new control chip for an overseas microprocessor, you don't want to make too many assertions about how this will "revolutionize the industry," or anything that a highly-trained engineering department can't back up. In general, stick to the facts as closely as you can. Your articles should have the blend of rational restraint and promotional zeal so you communicate effectively.

Where do you get public relations jobs? Corporate PR departments are your best bet for well-paying, steady work. Some large corporations will have their own in-house staff of marketing writers, and may not be interested in taking on freelancers except at certain times. Another good choice would be local non-profit groups, political organizations, or social clubs. These rely on effective PR to grow and thrive, and you can pick up a good deal of work from just one or two groups. A drawback to non-profits or other groups is they may not have a big budget or they may not be able to pay consistently. Make sure you trust the group before you commit to full-time PR work.

Above all, be careful of doing PR for individuals. This type of PR can be among the most enjoyable assignments, depending on your interests. Individual PR projects may include promoting someone's self-published book or writing press releases for a garage band, and so forth. The downside is individuals typically have little or no budget for PR, and they often want you to work for free, alleging that "it'll be good for your reputation" or that "once I get successful I can pay you." Never do PR work (or any freelance writing work) for free. It wastes your time and it won't advance your career, except for building a portfolio of writing samples. At worst, it can lower average writing rates to the point that good freelancers go out of business. It's not good for you, for your trade, or for your fellow writers. So don't do it!

If you have the ability to analyze complex material quickly and convey it clearly and persuasively into words that your audience understands, then you are on your way to having a successful career as a public relations writer.

(C) Writing Career

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Call for Entries - 2007 Photoshop User Awards

The National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) announced today a call for entries for its 2007 Photoshop User Awards - the only worldwide competition exclusively for Adobe Photoshop users. The competition is open to any and all Adobe Photoshop users, at any skill level, and this year’s Grand Prize winner will be sent to Maui, Hawaii on an all-expense paid, five-day trip courtesy of Photoshop User magazine.

Contestants may submit a maximum of three pieces for consideration in any of the following categories (may not exceed three image submission total).

General Photography
Photo Restoration
Wedding and Portrait
Landscape and Travel
Photo Retouching
Advertising Design
Composites and Collages
Student Work
General Photoshop Design

Judging will be conducted by NAPP's creative team, including NAPP president Scott Kelby, and other noted industry experts. Winners will be announced February 1, 2008. The winner in each category will receive a special prize package valued at $2,500, and the winning image in each category will appear in a special issue of Photoshop User magazine. The Best of Show Grand Prize winner will be sent by Photoshop User magazine on a dream assignment to Maui, Hawaii. Photoshop User will provide roundtrip airfare, hotel accommodations, hotel transfers and daily expenses for the Grand Prize winner, whose work will appear on a future cover of Photoshop User magazine.

All entries must be submitted by 12:00 midnight (EST) on December 31, 2007. The Entry Fee is $35.00 (U.S. Dollars) per piece, and you may enter a total of up to three pieces. NAPP members may enter up to three pieces at $25.00 per piece. All entries sent via postal service must be postmarked no later than December 31, 2007. Images submitted for judging must have been created between January 1, 2007 and December 31, 2007. Third party plug-ins and other applications may be used to create your artwork, but the primary tool for the creation of your entry must be Adobe Photoshop. For more contest rules and the official entry form, visit

Call for Entries for 2008 Kauai Magazine Cover Photo Contest

Kauai Magazine, the magazine of the Garden Island of Kauai, announces a "Call for Entries" for its 2008 Kauai Magazine Cover Photo Contest. Cover photographers and artists (both professional and amateur) are invited to submit photographs and fine art images for possible use as 2008 magazine covers.

Contestants may submit as many/as few shots for each cover as they wish, and for any/all editions. However, each cover image should be representative of one of these six magazine Edition Themes:

1. Kauai Cuisine
2. Kauai Activities
3. Kauai Romance, Weddings & Honeymoons
4. Kauai Fashion
5. Hawaiian Culture on Kauai
6. Kauai Shopping & Gifts

Submitted photographs/images should emphasize the natural beauty of Kauai consistent with an Edition Theme. For sample past covers, visit

The winning photographer/artist receives the following benefits:

1. Front Cover Placement on the appropriate edition of Kauai Magazine.
2. Recognition in Table of Contents/Masthead in the same issue for which the winning cover image is used.
3. Free 1/4-page ad in the same issue for which the winning cover image is used, a $590 value.
4. Inclusion in the online edition of Kauai Magazine at
5. Free poster of the front cover of Kauai Magazine on which the winning image appears.

Format/Specifications: Only low resolution images (file size no greater than 90k) in standard digital format (.jpg, .pdf, etc.) should be submitted. A high-resolution, print-quality version must be available for each image selected for print.

Submission deadline: December 31, 2007.

Submission address: Email only low resolution (no greater than 90k file size) images to

Friday, November 2, 2007

What Is Freelance SEO Writing?

SEO writing is one of the newer forms of freelance writing spawned by the Internet Age, and as such, SEO writing is an excellent way -- if at times a frustrating way -- for budding writers to cut their teeth in the freelance writing scene. SEO writing takes a fair amount of imagination and some engineering grit, but if you like puzzles, then freelancing as an SEO writer will interest you.
SEO, or "Search Engine Optimization," has its roots in the early days of the Internet. Once early Internet marketers realized they could manipulate search engine rankings with meaningless content and keywords, a whirlwind of keyword-stuffed web pages swept across the Internet, all designed to push their content -- and the products they sold -- to the top of search engine lists. This sharply increased user traffic and potential profits. It wasn't uncommon to see web pages with only a few short paragraphs of copy with large, seemingly-blank areas of space. However, if you highlighted these blank areas of space with a cursor, it would reveal massive strings of invisible keywords. SEO writers used to embed invisible keywords in text to rank the webpage higher in search engines for nearly any remotely-relevant search term.

Fortunately for good web design, search engine programmers became aware of this flaw, and they refined their search engines to ignore such obvious "keyword stuffing." This major change has made search engines rank web pages more relevant of the actual content and not the stuffed keywords. Content providers responded to this by developing SEO writing, which ideally gets the same results as open keyword-stuffing, but provides a better-designed, better-written page as well. It's a "best of both worlds" compromise: content providers willing to invest in SEO writing get to keep their high search engine rankings and readers get more smoothly integrated and keyword-dense text.

There are bad SEO writers and good SEO writers. Bad SEO writers aren't aware of exactly how search engines work, and will try stuffing text with ten or twenty commonly-used search terms ("sex," "money," and the like) ten or twenty times apiece, without caring whether the actual text reads well. These days search engines are sophisticated enough to ignore these kinds of transparent keyword-stuffing efforts, a defense which only good SEO practice can get around.

A skilled SEO writer:

- Uses only one or two search terms per page;
- Uses unique, natural-language search terms;
- Integrates search terms smoothly with text;

The difference between a good and bad SEO writer are in the results. Good SEO writers can provide actual results in the search rankings. Their SEO writing talents keep the client's web pages on the first page of search engine results and create additional revenue for the client. Bad SEO writers don't keep client pages in the first page of search engine results; they create nearly unreadable, transparently phony text, and don't get paid well at all. If you want to succeed as a freelance SEO writer, you first need to learn to be a good one.

Writing integrated text is often the most difficult part of good SEO writing. The rule is you should use each search term once or twice in a 250-word block of copy. This is fine if your search term is something like "bond portfolio," but what do you do if your search term is more like "high-yield gold investment bond package bonds"? This is where the "puzzle" aspect of SEO writing comes in: no matter how cumbersome your search term, you need to find a way to make it sound natural.

Skilled SEO writers employ some tricks for awkward keyword phrases, such as the following:

- Enclosing the search term in quotes (making it seem like a precise technical term, rather than just clunky phrase); and

- Defining the term at the opening of the article and using it further on, or drawing comparisons between two SEO terms (requiring you to refer to both frequently).

There aren't any hard-and-fast rules to integrate keywords effectively; every keyword set is different and every article has different needs. But with imagination, you can get your prose to read naturally while still being SEO-worthy. Just remember the other principal rule: don't overstuff keywords in text, but rather space your keywords adequately throughout the text.

Who offers SEO writing jobs? Virtually any company with enough money and enough willingness to maintain a high web presence. Be careful of the keyword lists you take on. Generally speaking, if the client has a long keyword list and he needs many keywords in his text, then most search engines will rank his webpage low and you may not be able to achieve the results he wants. To establish yourself as a freelance SEO writer (and to get some much needed practice in SEO writing), you'll probably need to take some of these jobs at some point. Take a look on freelance writing message boards, such as, in classified ads, and make inquiries at local businesses who either have a web presence, or who you think are ready to develop one. Chances are excellent that companies with new websites can use a skilled SEO writer.

Keep at it, learn the tricks, and remember that SEO writing is a very in-demand skill. Once you build a reputation for yourself, you can command both higher prices and higher-profile (yet easier) assignments regularly.

Reprinted with permission from