Thursday, blogs got slapped by Google Panda

06 October 2011 Comments
panda cat
This is not a regular blog post for Teecup Limited. This entry does not discuss freelancing, writing or working from home. Consider it a sporadic burst of emotion.

Something weird happened today... apart from the fact that Apple's Steve Jobs passed away (may his soul rest in peace).

Is it just us or did Google Panda decide that the blogosphere is a pet peeve?

We were doing our rounds on Adgitize when we noticed that not just one -- but all of the blog sites we checked out lost their page rank from 1, 2, 3 and 4 to a measly N/A - ours included, of course.

How much is the charge for writing a 500-word article, blog post or sponsored review?

03 October 2011 Comments
sweet-looking kittyThere have been numerous standards published online on what should be and how much freelance writers should charge for their work.

Sad to say, there is a huge divide between the ideal rate and the actual rate that freelancers receive.

It's about time that we set the record straight, and find out how much or how little money you can really make from online writing.

If you have worked online or have received monetary compensation for writing web content (general articles, blog posts, sponsored reviews, short essays), can you participate in the poll question please and select the figure that best applies to you? The poll question is found at the bottom-most part of the sidebar and appears immediately after the Classic Subscription Box.

The million-dollar question is: On the average, how much were you paid for writing a 500-word article? The word count is approximately equivalent to one page of content.

Your answers will be of great help to aspiring writers and freelancing newbies who need a realistic estimate for quoting projects. Thank you ahead for your participation.*

How to Set Your Freelancing Fees

01 October 2011 Comments
kitties in a potOne of the inevitable questions that freelancers will encounter from potential clients has to do with money. How much do you charge to get the job done?

This blog post will walk you through the basics of setting your freelancing fees. No exact figures will be given. That part is for you to decide.

There are basically two ways to charge your client: by the hour or by the project. You may often hear the terms being referred to as "hourly jobs" and "fixed price jobs."

By the Hour

Some freelancing positions entail a variety of tasks and outcomes. Because the required output changes from day to day, clients pay you for the time you spend working for them. Many will expect you to commit to a few hours everyday to receive instructions. Most virtual assistant positions and data entry work are paid by the hour. 

The advantage of working on hourly jobs is that whether you can "deliver" or not, you will receive compensation. You need to convince the client though that you are a fast worker, and not a slacker. Most hourly jobs start out with a trial period.   

By the Project

Freelance work that requires a specific output are often charged by the project. Examples of the required output include videos, articles and web content.

Elance minimum rates down from $50 to just $20

30 September 2011 Comments
A Delayed Commentary on Elance Minimum Rates for 2011

shocked kitty
This may sound like sour milk to Elance providers, but I was shocked with the major changes to the Elance minimum rates for 2011.

The company apparently lowered the minimum from $50 to just $20 for fixed jobs, and from $5 down to $3 for hourly jobs.

The changes took effect some time August 2011 this year, so this commentary is a delayed reaction. I was away from the system for a long time to do a couple of off-line projects. I logged back in yesterday. Never in my wildest dreams did I anticipate one of the most popular job bidding sites online to take such drastic measure!

Like Opening a Can of Worms

The minimum $50 was already a pain to begin with for a lot of freelancers from the United States and Europe. Lowering the amount by $30 more was just horrible. It's just like opening a can of worms. How so? Read on.

Quick Fix - Google+ Not Showing on Social Sharing Buttons

28 September 2011 Comments
Good news: If you're on Blogger, you can easily show the Google+ button with one click. All you need to do is enable the Social Sharing buttons.

kitty with Google plus
photo credit: Geek Yard
Bad news: The technique works only for classic templates - the good but limited stuff including the ethereal, watermark, classic, and simple styles.

For those of you using different themes and modded templates (like Teecup Limited's theme from Dzignine), the Google+ button will not appear along with the rest of the social sharing buttons. 

You need to edit the HTML design to fix the problem. Below is a proven effective, step-by-step guide shared by Blogger Plugins. I suggest that you visit the site directly so you can view the illustrations, and copy and paste codes with ease.

A Day in the Life of a Freelancer and Her Cats

24 September 2011 Comments
This is a scheduled blog post featuring my favorite entries from the blog site Cat versus Human. The comic strips pretty much paint an exact picture of how cats and freelancers (and their partners) co-exist:

While you enjoy the comic strips, don't miss these two relevant posts on Teecup Limited. Caution: You might actually need to love cats in order to be "in the zone."


Is DoNanza any good?

21 September 2011 Comments
thinking kitty
Is DoNanza any good? Can you trust it? Is it legit or a scam? There were no complaints and violent user reviews (yet), so it's safe to say (for now) that you can include DoNanza in your circle of trust. The few reviews posted online only discussed the background of DoNanza. What is known:

DoNanza is a job search tool for freelancers. 

It gathers postings from different established job sites, so that you can browse online opportunities without limiting your search to just one or two platforms. Once you find a work-from-home opportunity that interests you, you will have to register with the respective site before you can apply for the job. So, the "Do It" button is really more of an "Apply" or "Sign me up" button. 

Pricing Advice for Freelancers Considering Long-Term Work

20 September 2011 Comments
lovely yellow cat contemplating
Many freelancers dream of landing a long-term stint with a favorite online client some day. When the chances comes however, very few individuals are prepared to answer one very crucial question: How how much should you charge for freelance work?

Today's blog post will not discuss specific rates but will arm you with some tips on how you can reach a price that will keep you and your client happy.

First Projects

Always charge the full price on your first projects. Whether you like it or not, long-term clients do expect discounts for future work. Giving them such incentive is one way to bring in repeat business.

Another way to phrase the advice is: Never low-ball your way to win a regular project. You start low. You'll end up receiving less over time. Stay financially safe by anticipating a slice price cut when you commit for more work.

Some Factoids on Writing and Procrastination

19 September 2011 Comments
kitty with yellow eyes
Writing is one unique activity that sets the human race apart from the higher forms of animals, and yet it is also a dreaded exercise in the academe... a necessary evil in offices... a chore for many.

Does this sound familiar? You bet it is. It's not surprising that 9 out of 10 people procrastinate with their writing work - professors, bloggers and freelancers alike.  On his May 5 entry at the APA Style blog, author and psychologist Paul J. Silvia explains why:

Protecting your work from content predators

15 September 2011 Comments
cute cross-eyed kitty
It's a crying shame that the world never runs out of copy cats.  For blogger, artists, writers and freelancers alike, nothing can be more disheartening than to find your work stolen right under your nose.

Posting banners that read, "Do not copy" or "Do not plagiarize" eat up valuable space and do not often work. So, what do you do? You give the copycats a hard time stealing and claiming your precious content.

  1. If you must create a sample write-up, then craft a teaser only. Teasers are not full-length pieces of work. On the average, 150 to 200 words should be enough to show your writing style.

  2. Do not e-mail customized samples to a prospective client. Publish the work first on your online portfolio, and then give only the link. 

How to Stretch Time on Tight Deadlines

13 September 2011 Comments
How do you stretch time so you can beat tight deadlines? Quick answer: You can't. There's no logical way that any freelancer can extend 24 hours to become 30 or 60 or 100. Luckily, there are a number of ways that you can get a good head start with your project:

stretching kitty
photo credit: Mr. Puffin of That Cute Site
Begin early. "Do not put off until tomorrow what you can do today." Even when you cannot start writing yet, then at least start by planning how you can accomplish the work and by anticipating what may be needed along the way.

Set a working schedule and stick to it. It doesn't matter whether you work only 2 to 3 hours a day as long as you're really doing stuff related to your project. No TV breaks, chatting and Facebooking in between.

Think of the money. Sometimes, freelancing is not always about the money... but most of the time it is. Wouldn't you agree that money is a good motivator? The earlier you finish your work, the faster you can get paid.

Take advantage of the adrenalin rush. Do tight deadlines thrill you? Then think of everyday as your final day to turn over the work. You'll be surprised with how much you can really do in such a short time.

Declare a holiday from the house. Unless you really have no other choice, set aside strenuous household chores. The dishes, laundry and bills can easily shorten your head start. Delegate these responsibilities to someone else while you're busy pounding your key board.

Stay well fed. Don't memorize, skip or delay meals. Eat them on time. Your brain will need fuel to work efficiently. The last thing you want to happen is to get sick.   

Follow these practical tips, and you'll get used to beating tight deadlines in no time. In fact, maybe you won't even notice the pressure anymore. All it takes is constant practice to get your freelancing groove up and running. Do you have anything to add to the list?* 

4 Ways to Manage Your Freelancing Expectations

08 September 2011 Comments
kitty slumber"Manage your expectations." Many listings of second-hand items carry this all-around piece of advice, and from one freelancer to another, I'm all for it too.

I'm on to the final leg of one of the most difficult writing projects I have ever handled. I really feel like I could drop dead anytime. I can hardly wait to get the task off my chest. It's high time I get my perky little self back!

While a non-disclosure agreement prohibits me from discussing the nature of the work further, suffice it to say that the project took a toll on my health and sensibilities. I'm not whining. All I'm saying is that I learned 4 valuable lessons from my ordeal. As you can guess, they all relate to how you can manage your expectations as a freelancer:

  1. Prepare for the worst. Balance your optimism with a proper dose of Murphy's Law: "If anything can go wrong, it will." Keeping this kind of mind set will help you stay on track. It will help you plot a work flow chart -- complete with back-up plans and all -- for problems that you anticipate with your client, with the work flow, with the skills needed to execute the project and with payment.

  2. Know yourself fully. Affirmation is important. However, do not let other people impose their beliefs on you. Deep inside, you know fully well what you can and cannot accomplish. To work on your weaknesses is all fluffy and nice, yet it does not always apply to real-world freelancing. You'll end up messing the schedule, compromising the quality, and short-changing the client if you accept jobs that you find too difficult to handle.

  3. Think of yourself as a human being, not a machine. You're not always at your peak. Real people get tired over the long run. As such, allow a few days or a few weeks of leeway on your quoted delivery date. If you feel that you can finish something in 3 days' time, tell your client you'll have the product ready in a week. There are no rules penalizing early submissions. Missed deadlines are a different matter.

  4. When all else fails, accept the reality that crap does happen. Out of 10 attempts, only 6 or 7 are hits; the rest are misses. This is how life works. Regardless of how much you strive for perfection, there simply is no fail-safe way that you can avoid freelancing mistakes. Be careful, and yet be ready to take blows as they come. More importantly, make the most out of your mistakes. Learn from them. Grow from them. Be a better freelancer on your next project down the line. 

Freelancing should be done with zest... If it's beginning to sound like a chore, it means you're close to the burnout meter. *

Freelancer Unrest with PayPal to Unionbank Delayed Transfers

05 September 2011 Comments
Breaking news. There's trouble in paradise. Freelancers are fuming mad.

Check Unionbank's Facebook fan page and in the discussions board, you will unearth a mountain of complaints and rants regarding delays in PayPal to Unionbank transfers.

Where before it takes only 2 to 3 days for your PayPal funds to be reflected on your Unionbank statement, the processing period has lagged to 5 days and even 2 weeks for many.

What is strange is that whenever reports and issues of a similar nature are raised, Unionbank stays mum. It is understandable that newbies who are not familiar with the PayPal verification process may have (1) failed to indicate the correct bank code (2) mistaken the ATM card number for the bank account number or (3) used incongruent names for the PayPal account and the Unionbank account.
    The fact that the rants stem from old users indicates that something is amiss.

    Haters are now threatening to cross over to other banks. One user wrote, "Better na bumalik ako sa dating bank ko... kasi kahit may charge, na-rereceive ang funds on time. (I am thinking of reverting to my old bank because although it charges a service fee, I can receive the funds on time.)"*

    Free Advertising Platforms for Online Entrepreneurs

    02 September 2011 Comments
    stunned kitty
    Blog shops are not fly-by-night businesses. You need to tend to them with care and consistency as you would any  regular blog site.

    If you feel that you're not yet ready to set up your own web store and blog site in one, then one of the easiest ways to begin selling and making money online is to take advantage of free advertising platforms. 

    Unlike blog shops which require some commitment to writing and updating, typical online advertisements are easier to craft, are not text-intensive and normally expire within 30 to 60 days' time. A lot of them resemble brief landing pages where you are expected to post all the necessary details that:

    - would convert readers to buyers 
    - gain the trust of prospective customers
    - tell the audience how to contact you and how to make a purchase
    - inspire buyer confidence in the product that you are trying to market (e.g., posting actual photos)

    Ebay aside (since it deserves a blog post of its own), here are some conventional blog shop alternatives where you can list your online ads for free:

    The Blog Shop Bandwagon - Where Do You Begin?

    30 August 2011 Comments
    shopping cart
    Take a look at Multiply sites, and you will see that the place has evolved from a mere blogging platform to a thriving online marketplace. People are posting less of personal photos and uploading more pictures of merchandise for sale. A lot of Facebook users have become hybrid traders on the social networking site.

    Setting up a blog shop these days seems like a painless process. Even teens and college students have eagerly ventured on the blog shop bandwagon with little apprehensions. If you want to join the fun, then nobody's stopping you. Here are some general guidelines and hints to help you out.
    1. Know what you want to sell and are capable of selling. Do you want to market goods or services or both? If blogging is something that you don't really enjoy or have time for, then you may want to set up a conventional web store instead of a blog shop.

    2. Consider your role in the market place. Are you a direct seller or a reseller? Buyers prefer to transact business with direct distributors over middlemen, but it's a given that the number of resellers far outnumber direct suppliers. Make your role clear to your potential buyers.

    3. Select where you want to put up your shop. Many considerations come to mind - Is the platform secure? Is it user-friendly? Does it allow you to customize the look of your shop or integrate other software? Is the site scalable? Are there any restrictions? We'll look into these options in the next blog post, so stay tuned.

    4. Choose an advertising medium. When you're just starting out, you don't have to think right away of paying for advertisements. Some communities allow ad posting. Oftentimes, the best way to start spreading word about your shop would be through friends and referrals.

    5. Anticipate your needs. As a seller, you might require order forms, shopping carts, vouchers, a phone line and flexible modes of payment. You might even want to upgrade your PayPal account from a personal account to a business account. At any rate, putting yourself in the shoes of the buyer will really help you anticipate your needs better.*

    Blog Shop - A Lucrative Venture for Sellers Who Love to Write

    22 August 2011 Comments
    kitties hugging
    Teecup Limited has been pretty quiet for a couple of weeks -- this is all for good reason. I've decided to take a detour from pure web content writing to a fun and lucrative venture called online selling. Simply put, I opened a blog shop.

    The Defining Elements

    So, what exactly is a blog shop? To put it bluntly, a blog shop is a hybrid of a web log and an online shop. It slightly differs from your typical e-commerce sites in at least two ways:

    • The blog is the heart of the blog shop. Fresh content takes the center stage. Without the blogging element, the site can easily pass for a traditional online store where you see shopping carts and photos of products for sale.

    • The home page of the blog shop is not static. Depending on how frequently the seller updates the site, the home page typically reflects your latest posts. Majority of the blog posts reflect the publication date, so that readers are assured that the shop is not one of the virtual white elephants.
    If you love to write and know how to sell things using your flair for words, then setting up a blog shop might be just your thing.

    You need not limit yourself to selling tangible products. You can also sell your services and use the blog shop to strengthen your online portfolio for a number of lucrative web content writing thrusts such as ad copy writing, product description writing, blog posting, and regular article writing.

    Judgment Call on Content

    Generic e-commerce sites all follow a similar pattern. Apart from the standard "About Us" and "Contact Us" pages, majority of the online stores devote a huge percentage of their space to displaying the items for sale, including the prices, shipping charges and a "check out" shopping cart.

    Blog shops may also have all of the above-mentioned features. When it comes to content creation, the seller has full creative control. It's not enough to include just the price updates. There are plenty of other things that you can do as a writer and seller:

    1. Include informative articles. Doing so can assure customers that you know what you're doing. Articles also help to build your credibility as a seller and help prospective buyers to get to know the product fully before making a purchase.

    2. Elaborate on the products for sale. One-liner descriptions are okay, but if you are selling electronic products, don't just copy and paste the specs. Write a convincing user review, especially when you have had first-hand experience with the gadget you're marketing.

    3. Give your potential buyers a choice. Press releases and testimonials are fine, but be careful of sounding too aggressive. Provide your customers the information they need to come up with a decision by themselves. Stating the mall price and your selling price is a very effective and subtle sales pitch.

    4. Establish your online presence. Provide a paper trail of feedback, as this builds buyer confidence in your blog shop. Respond to inquiries in a polite, timely and comprehensive manner. Responsive online sellers are twice more likely to succeed than individuals who stick to just text messaging.

    Profiting from Your Blog Shop

    Physical stalls and mall space all incur steep overhead costs for rental and maintenance. With a blog shop, you cut these operational expenses. Furthermore, by combining your online selling and web content writing activities, you benefit from the blog shop in the following ways:

    1. You get to hone and test your web content writing skills: ad copies, online articles, blog posts, product descriptions, user reviews and sundry. You will even develop the discipline to stick to the topic and to a schedule along the way. Your best critics are your own prospective buyers.

    2. You get to reinforce your online portfolio. There is no better testament to how good a copy writer you are than by showing to prospective clients that you run your own shop and that you've made a handsome amount of money by selling products with your crisp and convincing copies.

    3. You get to diversify your income stream. Churning out pure web content for clients may burn out even the most passionate writer. Online selling lets you take a fun breather from heavy deadline-oriented projects and allows you to make money from the web all the same.

    4. You get to socialize and network with netizens who share your interest in the same products. Depending on how open you are to making connections, you might well be on the way to establishing your own circle of trusted business partners, resellers and friends.*

      Why Freelancers and Banks Do Not Jibe

      05 August 2011 Comments
      fat kitty
      If the world were free from robberies, break-ins and all sorts of criminal tactics, there's no doubt that freelancers would choose a good old piggy bank over a real bank.

      Sad to say, the latter has become an integral part of any transaction imaginable.

      Whether you get paid for freelancing or for reporting to your day job, your earnings eventually end up in your bank account.

      Even PayPal funds are not exempt. To note, one of the primary reasons that you want to verify your PayPal account is not only to lift the spending limit but also to allow you to move your PayPal funds to your ATM or bank account.

      Financial Suicide

      The sense of necessity and the false assurance of security that comes when experts hold your money for you make the banking institution the necessary evil that it is. Other than these, entrusting your entire earnings with the bank is financial suicide:
      • When you think of it, the bank gets to use your money for free but will charge exorbitant rates to individuals who want to make a loan (out of the money you just deposited). Not fair.

      • Penalties are everywhere: from average daily maintaining balances to dormancy fees and annual service charges, and God knows what. You're always on the tiptoe, because the bank is ready to cash in on the slightest misstep you take.

      • Each time you move money, the bank slaps you with charges and fees of all sorts. There's no such thing as a free lunch, but can you imagine having to pay the bank a huge cut of your check deposit or incoming remittance from abroad? Even the oh-so-convenient online banking system is ruthless in this respect.

        • Most banks will still ask you to pay up for inter-branch money transfers initiated online. For instance, from one BPI account to another, 150 pesos (for peso transfers) or 6.50 US dollars (for foreign currency transfers) from the receiving party will be withheld by the bank as service fee deduction. 

        • Use the "wrong" ATM, and you get charged for every transaction you enter with the machine - be it in the form of a balance inquiry, an electronic fund transfer or a withdrawal. The average deduction ranges from 10 to 12 pesos per transaction type. This does not include other fees for international card holders and sundry.

        • Have your card "eaten" by the ATM machine, and get ready to shell out 100 to 150 pesos for a replacement card. Some banks follow a strict schedule for claiming the card and will destroy all unclaimed cards by the third day. You are at the bank's entire mercy.
      • When the bank files for bankruptcy and folds up, you're the last to know. You might not even know unless you read the headlines and until media will make a ruckus out of the event. As most depositors attest, getting your money back from the insurance company PDIC will be a long and tedious wait. Imagine having to wait for years to get your money back. Draining. 

      Local Fund Transfers from ODesk - Hyped

      In April this year, ODesk stepped up with a workaround: the local fund transfer (LFT). For freelancers signed up with ODesk, doing direct bank transfers may turn out to be pocket-friendlier than taking the ODesk-to PayPal-to your bank account route. The bidding site lowered the withdrawal fee from 1.99 dollars to 99 cents, and your first withdrawal comes free.  

      News has it that ODesk to PayPal to bank fund transfers normally incur a minimum charge of 1.99 dollars, excluding the exchange rate by the third-party vendor and bank fees for remittance (zero actually from PayPal to EON). With the LFT, you are able to cut off PayPal (and its exchange rates and fees) as the intermediary. Your two worries would boil down to:

      • revealing your bank account information, which is risky when it reaches the wrong eyes
      • dealing with your local bank's inbound remittance fees

      So, as you can see, the LFT eliminates only the middleman. In exchange, you would need divulge to the site your bank account details. The LFT option does little to resolve the freelancers' issue with the bank and its outrageous incoming remittance fees. To note, the following incoming remittance charges were reported by ODesk freelancers at a local forum:

      • Banco De Oro (BDO): 200 pesos
      • China Bank: 200 pesos
      • Land Bank: 50 pesos
      • Metrobank: 77 pesos
      • Philippine National Bank (PNB): 250 pesos
      • Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC): 100 pesos
      • Unionbank: 50 pesos

      Yes, you read it right. The bank expects you to pay every time you put money to your account. The fees are no different actually when you transfer funds from PayPal to your bank. The only exception appears to be Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) which does not charge any incoming fee for local fund transfers. This privilege can only be enjoyed under the umbrella of ODesk. Under normal circumstances, the bank is notorious for its steep 150-peso incoming remittance fee.

      Things to Remember
      1. If you're using PayPal, the only bank which collects no remittance charge is Unionbank.
      2. If you're doing local fund transfers from ODesk, the best choice would be BPI.
      3. Don't let all of your money sleep in the bank.
      4. To move your freelance earnings, choose the lesser of two evils.
      5. Always research your options before transacting business.
      Note: The photo of this piggy kitty of a bank comes from People's Daily Online. To view more photos of the adorably fat feline, check out the February 17, 2006 story. The feline is unnamed. What is known is that the super fat cat belongs to a Chinese man named Xu Jirong. *

          Cutline Writing - 8 Winning Tips

          03 August 2011 Comments
          In Teaching by Principles, Brown compared writing to swimming. Not every human being can swim. Similarly, if you want to learn how to write, you've got to study, practice and hone the skill. 

          big cats in a boxYou have got to do things the right way, because perfection is not achieved by constant practice alone but by correct and constant practice.

          Next to creating a humorous feature story, crafting a good cutline is one of the most difficult tasks for a serious journalist. 

          It is true that people publish photos everyday. A very small percentage of the images comes with effective cutlines and captions.

          We already covered how you can write good photo captions last week. This time, we'll move to cutline writing. You'll need 8 tips to do the job right. Are you ready to think inside the box?

          1. Mind the facts. Fact-check and spell-check your cutline. Any information you include must reflect the details published in the main story. Be careful about gender references, civil status and spelling of names. You want to be as accurate and as consistent as possible.

          2. If the photo is an accompanying artwork, be a tease. Don't reveal all pertinent information in one blow. Remember that your main purpose is to hook the audience to read the full-length story. Visualize the image and the cutline as the appetizer. You want readers to proceed to the main course.

          3. If the image is wild art, make conciseness your primary objective. Wild artworks are stand-alone images. They do not come with a full-length story. As such, it is essential that your cutline be as complete as possible. 

          4. Do not repeat the headline. Oftentimes, a single line or a short phrase is enough to help readers make the connection between the image and the main story. Don't risk writing a sloppy cutline for the sake of just having a cutline.

          5. Edit out your opinion. Traditional mass communication is very strict about objectivity, so you might want to omit adjectives, interpretations and fictional allusions. Include only the facts. It's not surprising that the journalistic cutline reads a lot like straight news.

          6. As with the case of writing good photo captions, do not mention the obvious. This will waste space and make your readers feel dumb. "As shown in the photo" "as mentioned" and "shown here" are common examples of trite wording, which is best avoided.

          7. Add context. Shots of emotional events and facial expression tell a number of stories. It is wise to mention a related detail which led to the emotional outburst. For instance, if you publish an image of crying women, talk about the catastrophe in the cutline to help explain what the picture does not tell. 

          8. Keep it concise. You don't have to use more than two statements. Express the first in present tense, and the second one in past tense. Experts also suggest that you establish the timeline so as not to confuse the readers. 

          How do you like the list? For an extra treat and more insights to cutline writing, please do read Professor Malcolm Gibson's site Making Words Work.* 

          Photo Captions and Cutlines - the Difference

          02 August 2011 Comments
          Kitty loves spaghetti
          The man on the streets uses the terms "caption" and "cutline" interchangeably.

          In journalism, the two terms do not mean the same thing. A cutline refers to any textual information that accompanies a photo, while a caption is the headline or title that precedes the cutline.

          Can you tell which is which?

          Pasta for kitty. Available in tuna or anchovy sauce, the pasta pack retails at $1.50. Royal Spaghetti launched the product Monday at a Feline Park press conference.

          As you may well guess, "Pasta for kitty" is the caption. The rest of the statements are the cutline.

          In the case of one-liners, the accurate term to use is "cutline." The distinction is not obvious to common folks, which is why today, it is perfectly acceptable to interchange both terms.   

          Some things to keep in mind:

          1. Most photos use a cutline.
          2. Cutlines may or may not have a caption.
          3. Notwithstanding the headlines, the cutline is the most read text in a broad sheet (or newspaper).
          4. Crafting the cutline requires careful thought.
          5. By journalistic convention, cutlines must be accurate, concise, complete and readable.
          6. Distinguishing the caption is easy. It is the first to appear and it is usually formatted in bold.
          7. When accompanying a cutline, the caption may consist of only a few words or a short phrase.
          8. The cutline typically employs complete sentences.
          9. Just like headlines, the first sentence is usually expressed in the present tense.
          10. The second sentence is expressed in the past tense.*

          Month 6 in the Blogosphere

          01 August 2011 Comments
          teecup tea cupIt's been six months that Teecup Limited has managed stayed up and running in the blogosphere.

          Other bloggers have done it longer, but considering how easy it is to get derailed from a pursuit that pays nothing and imposes no disciplinary action to force an individual to "deliver," it's worth mentioning that genuine passion in blogging drives a blogger to be an active blogger.   

          Fast forward 120 posts later, what really happened between Month 1 and Month 6 of Teecup's blogging journey? Read on:
          • The site got indexed by Google 24 hours after the first few blog entries went live in January 2011. Analytics showed an average of 4 to 5 daily visitors.

          • The blog became part of the Adgitize blogging network in February 2011. The move dramatically improved the site's Alexa ranking from 14M to 600k.

          • Because no posts were published for May 2011, a lot of visitors thought the blog had already been abandoned. The last few entries talked about blogging in absentia.

          • By June 2011 and 100 blog posts later, the site became a PR1 blog. The kitty blog which only had about 10 posts was also assigned a site rank of 1.

          • On July 2011, Teecup Limited joined the Adgitize network of advertisers - a move that brought the average number of daily visitors to at least 50 and further improved the site's Alexa ranking from 600k to 300k. 

          What lies in store for the next half of the year? One thing is certain: The blog site will be walking hand in hand with friends who share Teecup's passion with writing, blogging and freelancing. A very special mention goes out to Chin Chin, Midnight Cowgirl, Umihoney and Geri for their regular visits and comments.

          August is going to be a pretty busy month. Now, let's talk about your blogging milestones, shall we?*

          Photo Caption Writing - 5 Cardinal Rules from Old School

          29 July 2011 Comments
          Some lessons from old-school journalism are alive and well. Take, for instance, photo caption writing.

          When you write a blog entry and include a related online photo with your post, you are not obligated to add a caption. 

          For news stories, feature articles and other materials intended for print media publication however, using an appropriate and effective photo caption is essential. So, how do you start? You need to observe 5 cardinal rules:

          1. State what the reader will need to know. Images may indeed "tell a story," but make sure you don't leave everything to guess work. Many professionals suggest that you include one or two answers to any of the five Ws (who, what, when, where, why) and one H (how).

          2. Do not state the obvious. In the case of photos accompanying a main story, your central purpose is to highlight a specific detail. A lame caption for the photograph of a winning basketball team would be "basketball superstars." A better caption will mention the score or the point lead which led to the victory.

          3. Omit wooden descriptives. Some phrases are overused and too obvious that they are best deleted. You will save space and your work will have more impact. Wooden descriptives include the likes of "as shown above" "in the photo" "as mentioned below" "as stated in the article" and "smile for the cam."

          4. Keep things concise. You may use a phrase. Be careful that your photo caption does not sound like a telegram. It is perfectly alright to include the articles a, an and the. By rule of thumb, limit the caption to one to two lines only. The shorter, the better.

          5. Express verbs in the present tense and active voice. As with conventional news headlines, the use of the present tense commands more attention and conveys more actionable news than a statement in the past tense. When in doubt, use your common sense.*

          Cebu Pacific Citibank Card - a Risky Deal

          28 July 2011 Comments
          Cebu Pacific credit card
          Cheap and quality services  don't always go together. This is why I am very apprehensive and suspicious of the Cebu Pacific Citibank Card which the airline company is currently promoting. 

          The invite had landed in my inbox last Monday, and my stomach immediately churned at the sight of the screaming subject line: ""Be the first Juan to apply!" It's one thing to be fun and another to suck at word play. Anyway....

          The Offer

          It turns out that Cebu Pacific will be partnering with Citibank. To solidify the collaboration, the airline will offer a free one-way ticket for people whose credit card application is approved by the bank any time between July 24 and October 15, 2011.    

          The Cebu Pacific Citibank credit card will supposedly allow the holder to:

          • Redeem a one-way airline coupon for free
          • Utilize the one-way coupon to travel to any domestic or international destination 
          • Avail of points which never expire
          • Use the points to claim e-vouchers
          • Receive text alerts or reminders two hours before a promo goes live
          • Book without fare and destination restrictions

          The Catch

          Before you get carried away by sweet promises and sundry, be sure to read the fine print - yes, that inconspicuous link found at the lower right portion of the landing page - and you will actually feel like you're opening a can of worms. Here's why:
          • The return flight is on you and you cannot use the freebie in conjunction with any of the carrier's other seat sale or promotional offer. You must also use your credit card only to pay for the return ticket.

          • The freebie does not include taxes and surcharges. I'm not talking about a few hundreds here, but thousands. Hidden costs usually amount more than the ticket price itself, so be warned.

          • The one-way "free" flight stays free only when you remain a credit card user of "good standing" within 18 months. If for any reason you or the bank decides to cancel the card earlier than the stipulated period, you will be charged for the full amount of the "free" one-way ticket. Ouch!  

          • The "any domestic or international destination" clause is deceptive. In fact, you will not get to enjoy any free flight for the following destinations:   

            • Boracay, Philippines
            • Busan, Korea
            • Hong Kong
            • Incheon, Korea
            • Osaka, Japan

          3 Places to Find Free Online Photos

          27 July 2011 Comments
          delightful cats
          Who doesn't love good photos? Good pictures achieve several things: spark interest, tell a story and invite comments. You also need amazing images if you wish to stand out in online contests for creative people.

          While iStock Photos houses the best finds, not everyone really wants to shell out cash for using an image or two. Here are some alternative places to source eye-catching pics for free:

          Morgue File

          Don't let the name scare you. The tag lines "free photos by creatives for creatives" and "where photo reference lives" speak a lot about what you can get from the Morgue File: only the good, the better and the best. 

          What's more, you can download the images and use them without attribution. What does attribution mean? Source citation actually. The photographers would appreciate you dropping a friendly line to say hi and tell them where you used the image. In most cases, you're not obligated to include the photo credit or link back to the author's page which is standard practice elsewhere. 

          A lot of the amazing photos used in Teecup Limited come from the Morgue File. Check out the site. You'll be amazed at the generosity of many creative people who really share their talents and works of art without expecting anything in return. Note that some usage restrictions do apply. For instance, you can't use the pics as stand-alone images for commercial use in calendar and stationery printing.

          Public Domain Pictures

          The online repository of public domain images shares close to 15,000 photos. The images are considered "public domain," which means that the copyrights or intellectual property rights are not just owned by one entity but shared to and made available for use by the public. 

          For the most part, the site serves as a teaser showcasing the photographers' works. The upper part of the interface displays the free photos, the lower left portion the image specifications and the lower right area other works of the photographer featured on Fotolia (where you need to pay to use images).

          The best part about getting images from the public domain is that no commercial restrictions apply. Linking back to the site is encouraged but not mandatory if ever you feel like using an image or two. A few of the blog entries posted here include photos sourced from Public Domain Pictures.


          The spelling takes some getting used to, and so does the "stock exchange" ring to the name. As an online gallery, Stock Xchng currently has close to 400,000 free images. As a community, the site allows the photo creators and the users to meet and exchange ideas.

          The leading free stock photo site is owned by Getty Images and is manned by a team that makes sure that your file downloads are secure, reliable and virus-free. You will need to create an account and register with the site in order to download the photos in their original resolution. Right-clicking the image without logging on to the site will only allow you to save a downsized version of the pictures.

          The cat photo used on this blog entry comes from Stock.Exchng. Technically, the same image gracing this blog post can also be used to customize a stationery set or mug, or be converted to a postcard or calendar. This is the essence of stock photography. The "stock" label does not refer to the images themselves but to your stock of rights to use the pictures a couple of times and on a variety of media. Not all photos share the same license types, so be sure to read the license agreement.

          Now that we've covered three great places to source free online photos, it's now your turn to share what you know. Are there any other sites that you can recommend?*

          Cheap is not always bad... or is it?

          26 July 2011 Comments
          kitty on a fence
          Working within a budget isn't as easy as it looks, is it?

          The past few weeks had been stressful. A house contractor had bumped up his price estimate by at least 60 percent from what was normally agreed.

          While there was still room to renegotiate, a realization came to light: Just because you're the favorite does not mean that you're the only option.

          There are plenty of alternatives. As a freelancer, you're just one of the many others out there. In job boards, the superstar providers compete for the client's attention along with the newbies and the individuals with mid-level experience.

          Based on observation, online clients with limited budget (which is usually the case) are often the hardest to please, the pickiest and the most demanding. 

          If you're charging $75 an article, many will balk at your rates. If you charge too little, you raise suspicions that the content you produce will not be up to standards.

          These people would look past things that up your price such as a long line of positive feedback and many years of experience. They will always try to check if you're willing to slash your professional rates . Not a rosy scenario, but this is reality nevertheless.

          After all, what is the point of hiring somebody you cannot afford? Economics will drive the client to select the most practical and cost-efficient options available. In writing projects for instance, the most viable freelancers for the employer under a tight budget would be:

          • college students
          • fresh graduates
          • work-at-home moms

          Fighting the "cheap" stereotyping has not always been easy for these freelancers. On the brighter side, clients find a lot of college students, fresh graduates and work-at-home moms easier to work with, more receptive to changes in the job scope and less demanding when it comes to payment.* 

          More people will work in their pajamas by 2016, survey says

          23 July 2011 Comments
          cat in PJs
          How would you like to work in your pajamas? I don't normally repost news, but one caught my attention today and the article is worth a read. 

          The Business News Daily and Yahoo News Philippines recently published a story which predicts that by 2016, about 43 percent of the US population will be working from home.

          The prediction by Forrester Research is supported by data collected by Staples Advantage. According to the telecommuters surveyed:

          • They feel that they are leading better-balanced lives.
          • They are more willing to work overtime at home than in the office for an urgent project.
          • Their stress levels decreased by as much as 25 percent.
          • Their degree of happiness and job satisfaction increased by as much as 28 percent.
          • They would rather miss a favorite tv show or sleep late in order to keep telecommuting.
          • They do not mind choking a 10 percent pay cut off their normal (day job) wages.   

          It's not just the workers who are feeling the advantage of telecommute jobs. The Staples Advantage survey also mentioned that companies which allow their employees to work from home also save on overhead costs for space rental, equipment and office supplies. In fact, majority of home-based workers know that they won't be billing their online employers for electricity usage or Internet plans.  

          With home-based job prospects getting rosy in the US, should Asian providers be worried? Suffice it to say that competition is generally good as long as nobody uses low-balling to dominate the industry. The salary landscape is expected to change with the influx of Western freelancers into the job market.*

          Behavioral Patterns of Online Clients

          22 July 2011 Comments
          English poet William Cowper once said, "Variety is the very spice of life." The same variety applies to freelancing clientele. Dancing with a variety of personality types takes skill and experience. Although you may feel burned at times, it doesn't hurt to think positively of these occasional misgivings. 

          This article aims to bring to light some of the most common behaviors of clients that you will meet online:
          • Some clients don't have any inkling what codes mean and what search engine optimization is good for. They just want you to get the job done. If you get into specifics and start using jargons left and right, you might actually end up conducting tutorials to get your point across.

            Technophobia is a perennial challenge in the freelancing world. Not all businessmen are Internet-savvy and you'll be surprised that some still prefer to communicate ideas over the phone. Working for technophobes is not a chore when you consider the degree of creative freedom which you get to enjoy in a given project.

          • Some clients exhibit their very high standards through nit-picking. Unlike the technophobic individual, this type of client has considerable knowledge with what he wants and how he wants things done.

            Working with clients who see themselves as the authority in the business can actually be a straight-forward and educational experience. You go with the flow, you learn from your mistakes (which the client points out with gusto) and you feel a sense of accomplishment upon completing the task.

          • Some clients make you think that "Demanding" is their middle name. All the urgent commands and 10 pages of step-by-step instructions didn't just come from habit. The behavior probably emerged after hiring a freelancer who over-promised and over-charged but under-delivered.

            Dealing with this type of behavior can be stressful and limiting to your creativity, but it can also an opportunity for you to learn about effective time management and customer satisfaction.* 

          5 Types of Online Clients

          20 July 2011 Comments
          As with most things in life, the clients you will meet online rarely fall into either the good or bad department.

          Notwithstanding scammers, there are about 5 types of clients you will likely run into before you end up with the ones you really want to work for. Have you met all of them already? 

          The Picky Bargain Hunter

          Job descriptions that trumpet the following lines are strong indicators of the bargain hunter: "Anyone can do this job. We will award the project to the lowest bidder.... Willing to pay $1 for grammatically correct, high-quality articles.... Superstar writers only."

          Good quality and cheap pricing do not necessarily go together. Do yourself a favor and walk away. It's not even worth it to consider this type of client as a future business prospect - unless you have masochistic tendencies.

          The Wholesaler

          "Our previous freelancer charged half your rates. If you agree to our price, we can give you continuous business and maybe an increase."

          The promise of more work down the line has been a bait long used by many online clients. Freelancers are divided on this issue. Your best move would be to decide what is practical. If the "discounted rates" are still good enough for you, then take the offer.

          The Micro Manager

          Clients who obsess about very high standards, status updates, time-in and time-outs and job protocols can be very difficult to work with. You might end up spending more time over their projects than you normally would because of endless revision requests and instructions.

          On the upside, some freelancers get pumped just trying to please the micro manager. For the heck of experience, you might actually want to rise to the challenge.

          The Juicer

          As opposed to the micro manager who does all the thinking on your behalf, the juicer expects you to provide free in-depth consultation. The juicer is a lot like the content predator -- except that he steals ideas instead of your actual output.

          He might or might not hire you. What is certain to happen is that you will be milked for information on "related" concerns often raised in the guise of a job interview or follow-up. If you estimate to spend 3 hours only finishing a task and the rest of the day chatting business with the big boss, you've just met the juicer.

          It's high time you delineate your professional service fees from your consultation charges. Otherwise, dancing with a juicer might just hurt your business and your health. 
          The Perfect Client

          He doesn't treat you like rubbish and communicates instructions well. Revision requests and feedback are phrased constructively, and payments are delivered promptly -- with occasional bonuses to boot.

          Ideal clients are true gems in the business, and most of the time, they are keepers. Value them as you would your closest friends because they are very hard to find.*

          How to Get Prospective Clients to Remember You

          18 July 2011 Comments
          pretty kitty
          Freelancers know that rejections are a given in the business. Perhaps your application came in too late and the client has already hired someone for the job. Maybe the company does not need your expertise right now but may require your help in the future.

          The bottom line is this: Although every attempt ultimately leads to either a yes or a no, not all rejections are absolute.

          You can convert a "No, not this time" to "Yes, we want you" by communicating well with the people and companies that you want to do business with. The following are some savvy lines to get prospective clients to remember you or your application: 

          "Thank you."
          Majority of the bidders simply move on to the next contest or project in line. Stand out from the rest with this simple gesture. Apart from building rapport, you paint a positive image of yourself: courteous, likeable and hire-able.

          "Can you keep my resume on file?  I would love to work with you some day."  
          Send a clear message to the client that you're really interested in working for him - if not today, then perhaps tomorrow. Some companies are so daft at picking up hints. Never leave success to guesswork.

          "I understand that my rates do not fit your current budget, but should this change in the future, please let me know." 
          Do not regard companies that cannot afford your rate as low ballers. In all fairness, some just do not know how much freelancers really charge.

          "Feel free to browse my site for further information and drop me a line if you have more questions." 
          Invites like these achieve at least two things. First, you avoid being pumped for too much information for free. Second, your client gets to view your online portfolio or your blog site which may just be the key to having the company develop an interest in your services.

          "I previously expressed interest on one of your projects and would really like to work on this one."
          By citing your previous application, you reinforce your enthusiasm, commitment and persistence to be a part of the company's success. Clients will most likely remember you for following up.

            The next time you get slapped with rejection, do not be discouraged. One of the greatest failures in life is the failure to try. Oftentimes, this decision stems more from the fear of failure itself rather than from the inconvenience of taking tests or bidding at freelancing sites. Go ahead. Take your chances.*

            Instant Traffic Correction with Adgitize

            15 July 2011 Comments
            happy cat
            When Ken Brown said that Adgitize can immediately correct traffic problems for a flat fee of $14 a month, I was not convinced.

            I could not say whether it was my curiosity or the sense of community at Adgitize which drove me to give advertising a try.

            All I know is that after two weeks of being an Adgitize advertiser, I now fully agree with Mr. Brown. Adgitize network is indeed a handy tool for instant traffic correction.

            Before Adgitizing

            Before advertising at Adgitize, the number of absolute unique visitors to Teecup Limited would barely hit 20. 

            This is still a better figure than the daily visits of 2 to 5 recorded during the first two months.

            Word-of-mouth invites did not prove very effective as not all of my friends shared my interest in freelancing or cat herding or blogging.

            Some would like the fan page or visit the home page as a favor, but many do not become repeat visitors or take time to leave comments.

            Lesson learned: Getting others to notice a new blog site is hard work, and doing it manually is not a walk in the park.

            After Adgitizing

            I knew that I had to reach out to like-minded people in the blogosphere if I wanted to get my blog site noticed. I needed a crutch, an exposure aide... and Adgitize seemed to fit the bill. This is now how my site traffic looks like:

            From 10 to 20 visits a day, the site now welcomes 50 to 80 readers daily on the average! If it's not called instant traffic correction, then I don't know how else to call the spike.

            In all fairness, the system is far from perfect. See my post on Adgitize and Why Ugly Ads (Still) Get Noticed for starters. I also miss the low bounce rate during my pre-adgitizing days. Visits that consist of only one pageview and which typically last less than 10 seconds are considered by Google as a bounce.

            The effect of Adgitize to bounce rate is, in my opinion, almost proportional to the increase of visits. From 16 to 20 percent, this blog site's bounce rate increased to almost 90 percent! Who am I to complain? I wanted to expose my blog site, and Adgitize helped me do just that.   

            Lesson learned: Getting others to notice a new blog is now easy with Adgitize. The challenging part is to build reader loyalty.*

            How does Google assess quality?

            14 July 2011 Comments
            curious cat
            Wooing the search engine is not really my cup of tea. With the dreaded Panda slapping down the page rank and search engine position of content farms and websites, I felt that this list deserves a share.

            What is quality content for Google? As quoted by Web Pro News, quality will be screened by Google on at least 20 points:

            1. Can you trust the information presented?

            2. Is the author reliable?

            3. Can you say that the site is an authority of the topic?  

            4. Is the content shallow or in-depth?

            5. Can you trust the site with your credit card information?

            6. Are there too many factual and typographical errors?

            7. Was the content primarily created to rank in search engines?

            8. Does the content reflect original research and analysis? 

            9. Does the site follow content quality measures?

            10. Is the site rife with redundant articles with slightly different keyword variations? 

            11. Is the page of substantial value to readers when compared to other pages in search results?

            12. Is the article biased or fair?

            13. Does the content appear to be mass produced or outsourced to many writers?

            14. Does the site discuss the topic consistently and comprehensively?

            15. Is the information or analysis presented beyond the obvious?

            16. Is this content something that you might want to recommend or share to a friend?

            17. Is the site cluttered with ads which overpower the site content?

            18. Can you imagine the article published in a printed magazine or book?

            19. Are the articles short and unsubstantial?

            20. Will the site evoke reader interest or complaints?*

              8 Bidding Pitches Doomed to Fail

              13 July 2011 Comments
              cat with lopsided look
              Today, I thought I'd share with you 8 of the most common bidding flops that I spotted online.

              This is a free-for-all activity so we can all learn from our own and other people's freelancing mistakes.

              Join the fun and help me figure out why the following pitches are doomed to fail:

              1 "Bwing it on lets do this."

              The person probably wants to say, "Bring it on! Let's do this!" Tweety style. The level of enthusiasm is commendable, but everything else leaves much to be desired. There is no semblance of professionalism.  

              2 "Hi. My name is Adam. I am PhD."

              I am Sam and I am Number 4 are fine. I am PhD is not. It's not necessary to flaunt your academic track record unless your course relates to the niche that you're hooting to win. This one-liner bid is all introduction and no action.

              3 "I am article writing since one year and have a qualified team that can make it best for you."

              Teams are more likely to get the job then single providers on bulk projects with short turnaround time. However, it is obvious from the above statement that the client will prefer somebody who fully understands tenses.

              4 "My bid is $400."

              It is good to lay out specific numbers. Without adding any details though, you create the impression that you're making a run for the money without being realistic about the job or convincing the client that you reviewed the job description.

              5 "I can complete the job by tomorrow."

              Promises of fast turnaround time are bound to be broken and tend to take a toll on the quality of the work turned in. This statement might immediately attract clients who need the job completed as soon as possible though. 

              6 "We are a team of professionals with over 10 years of experience in article writing."

              The level of experience mentioned will draw attention, but with so many providers saying almost the same thing, the pitch loses its magic. The client will further lose interest if the bidder makes no reference to the project and continues to yak about the team's mission-vision statement.   

              7 "Pls. PM me."

              Brevity is the soul of wit. Text-speaking is not. Some outdated clients may not even know what PM (private message) stands for. It's not a good idea to riddle your bid with mnemonics and ask the client to contact you for details. It's not like you're the only provider interested in the job.

              8 "I have never submitted anything before, but please give me a chance."

              Touching honesty will be just as bad for the business as an outright lie. You will never be able to bid successfully at freelancing sites if you make your lack of experience the highlight of your bid. Sympathy votes might work for you in reality shows, but not in the freelance business.

              Why, oh why, do providers keep on harping the same ineffective sales pitches? If you were to bid on a project, how would you market yourself? *

                  Tested Skills Get You Noticed

                  12 July 2011 Comments
                  cat with fangs showing
                  Your exam days are far from over, sorry. Freelance bidding sites such as Odesk and Elance require providers to pass a qualifying test in order to register with the system. 

                  The test is really a clever way of letting you know about the protocols observed on site. Once you pass the initial exam, you have the option to take more skills tests. Should you take them too?

                  While a lot of people would scream, "Foul!" and tell you that exams are a waste of time and that test scores are not a true measure of your skills, you will find test taking itself an advantageous activity. Here's why:

                  How to Win Bids at Freelancing Sites

                  11 July 2011 Comments
                  You're smart. You're capable. You're eager to  freelance, but you've got one problem. Despite the number of bids you have machine-gunned everyday, you're not winning any clients and you're not beating the competition.

                  Luck accounts for about 10 percent of your success. The rest depends on your effort. Are you choosing your battles wisely and bidding competitively? Here are 9 practical tips for the win.

                  1. Polish your profile page and portfolio. Marketing yourself as a grammar-savvy professional and writing like a kindergarten kid will fool no one.

                  2. Write like you mean it. A bid with a sincere cover letter will build better rapport and draw more attention than a generic message or a numbers-only proposal.  

                  3. Customize your proposal. Show the potential client that you have reviewed the job specs carefully and that you are the right match. Avoid template bids. You will never stand out.

                  4. Follow special instructions. Some projects require that you mention a key phrase or keyword in your bid. Failing to follow the instruction might just kill your chances of winning the job.

                  5. Keep the praise release to a minimum. You have your portfolio for that. Talk less of what you previously accomplished and more of how you will complete the project.
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