Monday, October 26, 2009

Put Another Nickel In...

After my second blog post last week, I earned my first nickel from Google AdSense. Yes, one of you apparently clicked on an ad!

A nickel didn’t sound like much, but then I looked at the daily email alerts I get from such freelance job listing services as oDesk and Donanza. A typical oDesk writing gig seemed to offer $25 for 500 words, or exactly a nickel per word! And 5 cents actually seemed on the high side for these listings.

But this sounded incredibly low to me, so I checked Writers Weekly to find typical freelance rates. Up popped a 2007 article from the mag’s co-owner boasting that Writers Weekly itself had raised its rate for freelance feature articles – to a dime a word! However, for freelancers' "success stories," the rate was a whopping 13 cents for 300 words, or $40 an article!

Any freelancer who would accept $40 for a 300-word article couldn't really be that successful, I thought. So I pulled up this week’s success story. The author still dreams of making $1 per word from national magazines, but feels she’s been quite successful with what she terms “pin money.” “Although not rich in dollars now, I am in new experiences and friends,” writes Polly Tafrate. “When I look at it that way, I'm a successful freelance writer!”

OK, I get it. And just this weekend, Mitch Joel, in a Six Pixels of Separation post titled "The Part of Social Media that Freaks Out Freelance Writers," elaborated on the many ways that a personal blog like this one also helps freelancers. Much more eloquently than I stated it two posts back, Joel concluded,The challenge is that you have to mentally get over the hump that you're writing for free, because you're not. You're writing to free yourself.”
So I shouldn’t dwell on the mere nickels coming into this blog. After all, having earned a solitary nickel over the past three weeks, this blog’s rate per word is a tiny fraction of a cent, making even five cents per word for outside work sound enormous.
Nonetheless, I’m thankful I can command much more than a nickel a word for my other writing – and that I don’t depend on writing gigs for the bulk of my income. Because, if the going rate for freelance writing is so low, the prospects of anyone reeling in really big freelance bucks isn’t so hot.

Then again, at just a nickel a word, I can afford to hire a ghostwriter! Any volunteers?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My World...and Welcome to It

(quick disclaimer: the estate of Sheldon Leonard has provided no financial compensation to this blog; ditto for James Thurber)

If you’re in the PR biz, you likely know a publicist who really dislikes journalists.

I’ll admit to occasional pique about individual reporters who are impossible to contact, who see through my spin, or who otherwise make my world difficult by doing their jobs. But you won’t see me denigrating the whole profession – because I’d also be damning myself.

Yes, I’m one those combo flacks/hacks, taking on journalism assignments as long as they don’t conflict ethically with my PR clients. And when I’m playing editor or reporter, nobody's a bigger critic than me of bad PR practices – whether a press release that makes no sense or a publicist unable to take no for an answer.

And now journalist Les is annoyed with PR again. Not an easy task when I don't even have any journalism assignments at the moment!

Let me explain. Earlier this year, I freelanced as a reporter for MediaPost’s Marketing Daily. The gig ended five long months ago, so imagine my surprise when last week a PR agency pitched me a story idea and interview op.

Some quick detective work deduced that this agency had responded to an old ProfNet posting. So some pitching 101:

1. If you’re responding to a ProfNet or similar request, note deadlines! While my post did cite an ongoing need, there was also a clear end date noted.

2. When you’re sending a personal pitch to a reporter, check to see what he or she has reported on recently! That simple, useful step of familiarizing yourself with the journalist – and with his or her media outlet as well – would have shown this agency that I had written nothing recently for this pub.

To be completely honest here, it’s not journalist Les who’s upset by this incident – after all, what’s one more email out of hundreds? – but publicist Les. As a sole PR proprietor, I rarely see how bad a lot of PR is. But when I work as a journalist – as the above PR agency thought I was last week – the dross comes pouring in. I get ashamed of my prime profession – and more cognizant of why some journalists might just cut us out of the picture.

It’s always been easier for my journalist side to criticize PR folk than vice versa because – since the ultimate goal of PR is to get press – publicists simply can’t succeed without journalist cooperation. A journalist, meanwhile, can ignore or simply go around any individual publicist.

So what’s really gnawing at me is that in the current social media world, PR people en masse are becoming two-faced. They’re both pitching and creating media. Now that I’ve started this blog, I’m a “journalist” again, right? Perhaps there's already some PR person out there itching to pitch something to More of Les (of course, this blog has no real focus yet, and doesn't include any contact info – but a good PR person should be able to figure out who I am in, let’s say, five minutes?)

So, to any PR person who blogs or tweets, you're now on the other side too. You're both the pitcher and the pitchee. Welcome to my world.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's a Good Life...

I never thought I’d do a blog. To me, blogging was akin to keeping a journal. And I’ve always resisted all calls toward that end, ignoring countless words about how the very act of journal-keeping would lead to personal growth, business success…the good life.

The idea of writing for my own amusement just never interested me. I was a journalist – I wrote for a living, and I required an audience. Since you’re reading this, I guess I’ve got the latter again. Income? I’m an entrepreneur these days, so chalk it up to the cost of doing business.

I’m an entrepreneur because I was invited this summer to become a charter member of Sprouter, a startup that connects innovators with each other. This interaction mainly occurs online, but I did attend an in-person Sprouter event (let’s call it a SproutUp!) where guest speaker
Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV encouraged everyone to turn their passions into online videos or blogs. His new book, in fact, is titled, Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion. It went on sale earlier today and, as I write, has just reached #23 on the Amazon best-seller list!

Alas, my passions range from writing and PR…to the TV, advertising and Internet industries…to music, photography and movies…to progressive the joys of New York in general and Brooklyn in particular. For now, I’m content to see where my muse moves me from posting to posting.

Of course, writers have always been told to write about what they know. But thanks to the research power of the Internet, what I know today could be something I had no clue about yesterday.

One thing I’m supposed to know about is how to use social media techniques in the PR world. So that’s another reason for this blog. I’m confident I’ve mastered Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, but my blogging experience has been scant.

That’s changing starting today. While tweeting in 140 characters can be trite, I’m hoping these blog posts prove both prosaic and bright. (okay, that may well be my very last rhyme.) In any case, each post should at least give me something to tweet about!

Stay tuned for more of Les…