Yet another way to fleece a freelancer

I thought that digital freelance market like PeoplePerHour was bad – high volume of low paid gigs, but more importantly, the site takes up to 20% of your earnings, was bad.

Then there’s ClearVoice that promises medium range gigs but never delivers: unlike PPH, I never got one in half a year although some of the topics were very relevant.

But Contena takes the piss to the next level. They promise you gigs but only after you paid for subscription  – a measly 6 Monthly Payments of $199.  And most of the gigs are not that well paid, so “will work for subscription”.

What’s next, charging for using “freelancer (TM)” in your profile?



How to Get Your First Client on People per Hour

pph_blog_logoIn People per Hour  (PPH) blog.  PPH is a British freelancer platform like elance.

To tell you the truth, I’ve  moved past it as finding a recurrent higher level gig directly is much less hassle. They charge a lot for providing the platform and most of the gigs don’t pay much, especially if you consider an effort to get the gig/payment.

However, it’s a good starting point for somebody wanting to try her hand in freelancing.

Upd after 3 weeks, the result of publishing in the blog:

  • one person who wanted a European sales person (20% commission on fabulous contracts selling his photography stuff; I never said that I do sales);
  • one person who promised in broken English to “do any job for me”;
  • two people saved me in their “favorite category” (didn’t know you can do it).

Follow the leader: Carol Tice and Linda Formichelli’s Pitch Clinic

As expected, I’m unable to republish my review about  Carol Tice and Linda Formichelli’s Pitch Clinic in the established blogs about writing. The market of “help for bloggers” can sustain only so many players. They all know each other, they all guest post and support each other, which is good for them.

I’d had a similar situation when I wanted to complain about a property lawyer who made a mistake. Nobody wanted to represent me, as they preferred a long-term relationship with the other  local property lawyers to a small potato case.

More unexpectedly, I was blocked from BlogHer – an aggregate blog where I tried to republish as they accept previously published pieces. They considered the review spam. When I tried to argue that it’s an honest review (which I consider neutral, maybe on a slightly positive side), they told me that sometimes paid bloggers write a push piece disguised as a review and apparently my post looks like one of those.

If it looks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck, it’s a cat disguised as a duck.

Carol Tice and Linda Formichelli’s Pitch Clinic (Autumn 2015)


While reputable periodicals shed their staff, the Internet is full of courses for aspiring journalists. While the content mills pay $5 for a thousand words and numerous “pay-per-click” just promise to pay when your post goes viral (at approximately the same odds as you winning a lottery), the courses promise to teach how to be paid $1 per word.

I’m usually skeptical about  “get rich quick” schemes. However, as a beginner freelance writer, I subscribed to blogs of the US authors Carol Tice and Linda Formichelli. They have great advice for aspiring writers in exchange for the ads of their products – books, mentoring and online courses.

Marketing of the course, Pitch Clinic, was a free lesson in itself.  I subscribe to both Carol and Linda’s newsletters.  I was bombarded by promotional emails:  “The course is coming soon”,  “registration open”, “you still have a chance”, “we have a great editor who will look at your proposals”, “and another great editor”.  At last, I was seduced by the offer that if I finish all the assignments on time, I will get all the money, $300, back.

How the Pitch Clinic works

You get access to a forum where you listen to pre-recorded lectures and collect handouts such as a flowchart how to write Letter of Introduction (LOI).  The forum software was irritating, the “watch this topic” bookmarks slipping all the time. But the support system was excellent,  correcting my mistakes such as posting in wrong places, changing the title, etc. almost immediately.

First, you submit your “pitch idea” The idea should be approved by one of the mentors, media professionals including Linda and Carol.  You can provide up to 3 ideas, but only the first one is approved. As a result, I was stuck with a topic, which the more I worked on, the more I disliked it. Continue reading

Writer Audrey Niffenegger On Art, Religion and Science

       Audrey Niffenegger                      (By Michael Strong, [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons)

I discovered Manchester Literature Festival via a newspaper. From the smorgdasboard of talks, I chose to meet two writers working in my favourite genre of “literary science fiction” – Audrey Niffenegger and David Mitchell.

I read only the first book of Audrey Niffenegger, “Time Traveler’s Wife”, which became a bestseller in 2003. Niffenegger – one of the few modern writers who represent the sub-genre of “science fiction with a human face”. It describes mainly not technology of the futur,e but mostly imagines how  recognisably modern people behave in unusual circumstances. Among other examples of this genre are “Solaris” by  Lem,  “The Left Hand of Darkness” by Le Guin, and “Shards of Honor” by Bujold. “Time Traveler’s Wife” was somewhat sentimental, but this was offset by realistic details and – this always pleases my heart – plausible biology underlying “The Time Traveler’s syndrome.”

Looking at the ticket, I saw that the meeting with Niffeneger  has a title “Gaia Sermon on Contemporary Issues” and was to be held in the  Manchester Cathedral.

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A Letter to Unknown Soldier:

War memorial Paddington Station in memory of over 3000 Great Western Railways employees killed in both world wars (By Charles Sergeant Jagger, opened in 1922). Note the informality – open military coat on the shoulders, unbuttoned, a scarf. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

When I came to Britain and started learning about British culture in situ, I was astonished by the place The World War I (WWI) had in it. It was a yardstick, a dark  but indelible part of national identity. Just like World War II was for Soviet Union.

My eventual explanation for why for people from Eastern Europe WWI was just another historical war, like Napoleonic and for the British – The War has two arguments. Once I waited in a government building, I think it was a post office. It had a plaque on the wall listing members of the same organisation who died in First and Second World Wars. The list of WWI was five times longer. Also, while the Russian Empire had two revolutions caused by WWI, which totally eclipsed the War and the successor government forced to sign an agreement with Germans, Great Britain won.

2014  is 100 years since The War started and the British Government prepared a number of activities to “celebrate” it (the word had caused some controversy, you cannot celebrate a begin of war some argued, and I agree with them, but the verb stuck). This trickled down to my local library where I picked up a leaflet advertising the writing workshop.

We were going to write a Letter to Unknown Soldier depicted as a sculpture at the Paddington Station in London. The letters are  on line for a year and then they will be preserved in the National Archive – forever. I would be highly ironic if my letter survives longer than any other contribution to culture: genetic, scientific or journalistic.

The Letter to an Unknown Soldier is open to submissions until 11p.m. (BST) on the night of 04 August 2014. 

Continue reading