On a roll?

Yesterday a Biznik colleague asked me asked me how things were going and I replied, mentioning that I haven’t been doing much networking within the group because I’ve discovered the best clients for my web writing services are mid-size (50 -100 employee) businesses, not small ones.

It’s just a year since I left Apple to put together a freelance webwriting business, and I’ve discovered quite a bit. I’ve had some great contract gigs, and some disappointing ones. Because I’m underwriting 2006 and 2007 from my Apple savings, I still have the luxury of picking and choosing my contracts, focusing on people and areas I like or new opportunities I want to explore.

I check several freelance and contract listings daily, and have learned to recognize the lousy pieces of work. It’s easy to spot the obvious ones — the advertiser has no idea what he or she wants, or expects to get writing work for peanuts. But some of the least desirable pieces of work (for me, at least) are the ones where the job description has been written by someone in an HR department: The ad’s about two pages long, sternly describes the job duties in a long list of jargon-laden bullet points, asks you to submit a resume that goes back to your summer jobs during college, and requires that candidates have “min. two years experience” working with a piece of web-publishing software that most bloggers could master in 15 minutes. My blood runs cold at the thought of interviewing with, much less working for, this type of organization.

Late yesterday afternoon I spotted a job posting, five sentences long, in which the head of a Seattle-area company was looking for an experienced web content writer. The ad clearly defined the work. I replied (in five sentences and some hyperlinks).

I’ll report later in the week about what happened next.

Remember fact-checking?

In the late 1970s I co-authored an article for Psychology Today magazine that was rigorously fact-checked by someone at the publication. Every person I had interviewed was called, the spelling of their names confirmed, and their ages and other identifying information verified. Dates and sequences of events (we were writing about the aftermath of the war in Vietnam) were checked as well.

Print magazines are still known for their rigorous fact-checking, or at least some spot-checking; most require writers to submit contact information on all sources. Webzines, by contrast, follow the newspaper tradition of minimal fact-checking. As this Slate article explains the system, “writers are responsible for the accuracy of their pieces, editors do their best to backstop them, and more often than anybody will admit, copy editors save all of us from embarrassment with their last-second interventions.”

Slate, however, has a self-appointed fact-checker who’s been sending in corrections to the website since 2000. I’m proud to say that the fact-checker, profiled by Slate last week, is my cousin RM “Auros” Harman.

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