I will be breaking a number of important style rules in this article — like using the made-up word stikitivity, which is far easeir to write than sticktoitiveness — so if you are going through our boot camp to become a professional writer for the Guardian Liberty Voice, think of this as one long lesson in “what not to do.”
Some time ago, during the dark days of Obama’s third year as president, the economic landscape was becoming a barren wasteland: Jobs were disappearing, incomes were stagnating and “opportunity” was fast becoming a thing of the past. Those of us who were self employed, desperately hoped things had reached bottom so we could begin the work of getting the economy back into some semblance of shape. I am in the Marketing business, an industry which traditionally thrives in a down economy. I help local businesses reach out to their potential clients in innovative ways, helping to keep them afloat. Which, for me, includes a lot of writing: Sales letters, web pages, fliers, blogs, press releases and anything else with words attached to it.
However, even for people with longstanding reputations for making things happen, money was very tight. “A rising tide lifts all boats” they say. They always fail to mention that “a drought beaches them all” just as surely. Consequently, I found myself struggling as a professional writer, doing piece-work for foreign nationals, just to keep the lights on. Which also means I had plenty of free time to surf the internet, looking for distraction. Fortunately for me, writing is a joy as well as an occupation, so I spent my time posting opinion pieces and hubs on a number of social sites. It was a great time to complain about the government (when is it ever not?) and offer insightful commentary on current events.
Somehow, I stumbled onto a little known website for an even lesser known newspaper, which was looking for contributors. “Write for us and show the world how great you are” or some other slick come on. I’d seen hundreds of them and written on at least a dozen, already. This one, however, was run by a singularly energetic fellow, with a name apparently designed to be spelled wrong. “De” something or other. He wrote me personally to thank me for posting a blog to his paper, then asked me if I would like to see exactly how many people were reading it. Sure. Why not.
About 30 minutes after I submitted my second piece, this “De” something guy asked if he could call me, because he liked my style. Flattery works evidently, because we spent the next two hours on the phone. This guy told me about his vision; his need to change the way the world got its news and information. His plans included a network of talented writers in every city in the English speaking world, reporting on life as it unfolded. Those writers were going to need managers and editors, so the people who got on board early were destined to be & do great things with his organization. Press badges, journalist credentials, responsibilities, areas of focus and a pay program designed to keep people writing.
I believe he may have come up with that last bit about a pay program, on the spot. During our conversation, I had relayed to him my frustration with being offered a grossly meager pittance for Cadillac quality work. Content farms were offering “As Much As” two cents a word, for original articles written with flawless grammar, witty prose, deft insights into the topic at hand and amazing SEO.
“$10 for 500 words, submit your willingness to divorce yourself of all human dignity, for consideration.” I had actually written to one such demanding “potential client” that for $10.00, whoever wrote his piece on “approaching, talking to and dating beautiful women” would not have the first clue about any of those things. As evidenced by their willingness to accept $10 bucks for the work. But I digress.
The guy on the phone understood; he got my frustration and promised a better way. So, I started writing regularly for the Las Vegas Guardian Express, despite all that aforementioned “cool stuff” being somewhere just over the horizon. I remained an unpaid contributor for quite a while, collaborating and communicating with the publisher quite a bit. As things like this happen, we hit it off on a personal level; recognizing the strengths and commonality we each brought to the friendship. This guy was a walking dynamo of personal energy. Exactly the kind of man you want in your corner, no matter where that corner happens to be.
Sadly, this is where my story takes a dark turn… Kind of. A young man whom I had consulted with in the past, approached me with an interesting offer: Would I mind taking over the marketing and sales end of his new, local marketing firm. The product was awesome, the price point was perfect and the people who were already on board as clients, loved it. No more “free” time for me. Money was out there waiting to be made.
Of course, I could have exercised a little stikitivity and written a few articles a month for the Guardian Liberty Voice to stay in the fold; but I had other lessons to learn, it seems. So, almost a year passed without my friend and I ever touching base.
My life became a bit more interesting when an old school chum informed me he would be running for mayor of Reno in 2014, and would I be so kind as to edit his campaign stuff. I got it in my head to contact that Las Vegas paper and see if they were still in the news business. I was thinking it would make a great place to post a few press releases or maybe offer a position piece. Again, it was phone call which lasted two hours.
Money was being made! Support staff, editors and managers numbering in the dozens, with more being added every month. Oh, and; would I be available to go through a Writer’s Boot Camp so I could qualify to have my own column? Qualify?!? Moi? I’ve got so much digital ink on the internet, the chances are every single one of you reading this article, have read something I’ve written. Not to mention the print ads I’m responsible for, all over Seattle and the Bay Area. OK, so most of it doesn’t have my name anywhere near it, but the commission checks certainly did. What could a group of “newsie” writers have to teach me? However, DiMarkco (oh yeah, Di, not De) was his usual energetic and enthusiastic self, so I accepted his offer.
Have you ever been sailing along, feeling like you had it all figured out, then have a large rock rip the keel off your boat? No? Just me? OK. There are things I learned in boot camp, which I did not have any way of knowing I did not know. I was pleased to see that a lot of the suggestions I had made over a year ago were included, but DiMarkco had expanded on my meager offerings and put it all into a neat little package. The “white hat” SEO he uses to keep the big players like Google and Yahoo listing the articles our people write, are nothing short of genius. The hand-picked team of editors and collaborators he has put in place, easily rival the talent and experience of any news agency on the planet. I was, and remain, absolutely gobsmacked.
Here now, comes the saddest part in my little cautionary tale; please listen well, because you should never let it happen in your own life. One pleasant afternoon, not too long ago, DiMarkco and I were once again on the phone, discussing his plans for me within the organization. I made the mistake of pondering aloud how much money I had cost myself, by failing to exercise a little stikitivity and write a few articles a month for the Guardian Liberty Voice. You know, because it wasn’t really paying me anything at the time.
“Whadda ya think, DiMarkco? I must be out what… 10, maybe 12 grand?” He laughed politely, paused for a moment to mentally check the figures (he’s great at calculations like that), then quietly said “More like $60 thousand, Ben.”
By Ben Gaul
If you feel like finding out for yourself what stikitivity can earn you, click here.