Avoid Writing for Content Sites That Demand a Template! By Laura Bell

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Most of us think of a template as specific guides to where and how text will be laid out. It can also be anything that serves as a guide or pattern for any kind of materials. I went to dictionary.com to get this expanded definition. In this last experience it was strict adherence to a style sheet.

There is an increasing amount of content sites that want you to comply to a template. In some instances, it amounts to simple listings, titles and bullet points. In other instances, they may demand a Word layout to specific margins, etc. The problem enters when their content needs be their “style”.

Please keep in mind that no matter how legit or high end one of these sites might sound, use common sense rather than your emotions egging you on to get these people on your resume.

My experience started with me answering an ad on one of my writing lists. There was a long lag time before getting a response. In addition to template problems, the editor also changed her mind about the subject matter.

While she discussed the first proposed topic, she told me she had to send me a copy of their style sheet along with their template. I read her style sheet diligently. And in that style sheet lay the ugly twist to this story.

A couple of weeks later, she got back to me and told me she was confused about all the information about the flu (the topic I was covering) and wondered why and if we needed to get both vaccines. I pointed out that my journalism instincts were telling me experts needed to be consulted since this was medical information. This would require them being quoted.

“Well,” she replied, “if that’s what you feel you have to do, go ahead and do that.” I wish I had recorded that.

I turned in the article and the initial reaction was, “it looks like you covered all the things we talked about.” She then turned it in to another editor for review. Again the question of quotes came up. I pointed out that the style guide says “blocked quotes were one of the options that could be used in an article.”

Well, it would take her a few days for a decision as to whether they would use the article. (She did tell me immediately, however, that I was getting paid.) On the third day, I emailed her and she responded right away telling me the article wasn’t going to be used. And, oh yes, the reason was that even though we had discussed the quoting, it wasn’t in ‘their style.’ During one of the conversations, she wanted me to commit to two other articles. I wouldn’t not agree to that.

To add insult to injury, she didn’t seem concerned about getting a contract to me until the work was turned in. I had no clue that getting a signed contract to them, by mail, was a requirement for getting paid. Ugh.

There were enough signs for me in the beginning that I should have opted out of this situation. I let my emotions get in the way. The company that owns the website is a big business book publisher. I was thinking of it as a path to a future publisher for my book, when my first contract runs out.

These types of sites always have a string of editors that will be going over your work. Decision by committee makes for a miserable time for any writer. Some writers might have the patience to go along for the ride. I don’t and I’ve learned now to pay more attention to my instincts.

On to the next challenge.

With over 400 bylines to her name, Laura Bell has been writing about business for over 25 years. She has been published in the Los Angeles Times, the San Jose Mercury News, the San Francisco Examiner, the Los Angeles Business Journal, the Orange County Business Journal and many more. You can see her content at: http://www.bellbusinessreport.com