Bluehost White Screen of Death on WP: Simple Fix

I have hosted sites for over 13 years. I went to Bluehost in like 2009 I think, because I needed a simple service, offering me a cheap option for Linux.

This week, at least 5 sites I have hosted there got hit by the white screen of death.

I have fixed all but one- which had deeper issues…but all the rest, turned out to be due to a Bluehost thing.

The default permissions on a critical folder, are set to not write – so an update happening, would hit this folder and not update the files it holds. They will point out I could change the permissions here- but it is not something you do, unless very intentionally directed.

So the WordPress site, set to automatic upgrades, tried to upgrade, and did it, about 9/10ths of the way-  but one file in particular on Bluehost, does not update for sure: wp-includes/formatting.php

This makes the whole site white out, and makes it impossible to admin thru WordPress.

I found, if you take the formatting.php file from a clean version of WordPress 4.0 and overwrite the local on your whited-out site (there are no unique identifiers in this file, it is a core wp file), you are gold.

Sometimes, it may be a plugin issue- but in the sites I put back online this week, all of them were on Bluehost, got whitecreened by a WP upgrade to 4.0, and all of them needed this file update.

Happily, after the first one, which took a couple hours to find and fix, this makes it fast and easy. At least to rule it out.

But God- Bluehost can suck it: I am done with these losers. Sorry for steering anyone that way, ever. They made simple muddy, and ruined the things that made them good.

Maui Beach Fishing

Being spoiled, I just got back from 2 weeks in Maui on Kaanapali Beach.  Being me, I of course fished a lot of it: pretty much in fact every day there. Saw multiple sunrises and saw sunset every day I was there. Rod in hand, as is my M.O.

zach-sunset-fishingWhile I have never fished so far south, I had a general idea of what I’d find and got a lot of help from this one great thread about Maui fishing…yet artificial was not happening for me. Or rather, frozen squid was hitting for us every cast, so why argue with what works.

zach-fish-tinyYep- everyday was a pretty little postcard here – it is truly paradise as far as I could see. But beach fishing is different everywhere and our first plunk in, we lost so many rigs (like every other cast) on the reefs and rocks and the fish we did catch, were tiny and often weird to us. Cool to see in this regard…but not quite what we were expecting. They were all toothy and spiny, so hard for us novices to grab safely.

Not so easy to capture the beauty of some of the little fish either. But it was fun. When I finally did catch something bigger, it was a very nasty eel who had wrapped the steel leader around his own neck and made it really hard to grab him.


I tried to get him safely behind the head but he coiled around and tried to bite me a few times and was full-body-strong, like a shark. His jaws were pretty terrifying–coming at me with a clearly audible snapping noise that suggested a very powerful bite indeed. He was like a dinosaur that made it. Not that he made it past our encounter, but I’ll spare you the details.

And so thru trial and error and a few days of trying various things (which tended to result in losing a lot of stuff on reefs and rocks),  we found an egg slip sinker and pinch weight with a small hook holding frozen squid strips was perfect. Kind of like a pegged Carolina rig, but using egg weights pegged with a pinch weight, not bullet weights.

The huma huma nuka nuka apua’a bites back

humahumanukanukaapuaaIn no time, we met with the huma huma nuka nuka apua’a- a cool looking little bastard that is everywhere- and is Hawaii’s state fish. One of these guys I caught (and there were many of them) was about 3 pounds, so a fattie- I was rubbing his bottom lip to ease his mouth open and get the hook out, and  he bit me on the index finger. Hard.

red goatfish Maui beach fishingI yelled-I swore at him, shouting “You little f-bomb!” much louder than I had intended. Some old leather-skinned guy in cheap mirrored aviators and a faded bathing suit that I could sense, much like his baked alligator skin, reeked of cigarettes, said to me with disgust: “You know its the state fish and you can’t eat him, right? You gonna throw him back, right?” I mumbled something and tried to stop the bleeding- wanting more to club the old wallet built man with the stupid state fish who bit harder than a motherhummer. But of course he, like all the fish I caught on the beach except the eel, made it back into the water, unharmed. He drew blood and my finger hurt for days, so don’t take any of these dudes for granted. Because they eat off rocks and reefs they have super strong bites, and most have teeth, though more like molars than sharp ones.

All my other encounters with this fish, which were many, were very good. Made me learn how to say and spell it- and they get to be a few pounds and will hit quickly and fight, hard. I got to a point where I could feel them pick it up opposed to other fish- so catching one was something I did a lot. I saw this guy as Maui’s bluegill, and some squid would pull one out even if nothing else was anywhere close. If you beach fish in Maui/Kaanapali, you will catch the huma huma nuka nuka apua’a…it is a sure safe bet, and other than not keeping him (if you are looking for fish to eat) worth it for sure to catch a bunch. Made me popular with the tourists, who were happy to see me catching them a lot.

picasso triggerfish beach fishing MauiA close relative, is the Picasso triggerfish, whose stripes certainly had different shades working underwater. This little guy was pretty common, and super pretty underwater. The belly stripes on some, either reflect color or are colored differently- hard to say, but you can see it in a variety of the same fish.

Triggerfish, plain looking ones, are also really common little bait-stealers. I laughed, because the guy in the thread I linked up top, calls triggerfish “Hate” and I didn’t get it until after I fished there. But they eat your bait a lot, and compared to the excellent stuff you land are more of a junk fish down here.

And though I tried local jigs, it was frozen squid all the way, that really worked. The guys at All About Fish offered some great tips and inexpensive lures to try, but artificial was not happening for me.

The gear going down and what worked for me

Being a vacationing angler always presents interesting challenges in gear. You don’t quite know what to bring, what will work, and it can be very expensive for a thing like this…extra baggage on airplanes (like rods) cost now and we were already bringing a bunch of stuff for the long stay. So my wife and I figured out the smart thing to do, was pack a smaller tackle box and some reels and buy rods on the island. We did just that, going to Costco on the way in where I found 2 cheap Shimanos for about $18 each, which seemed perfect.

spotted fish in Maui beach fishingThis actually was a great way to handle it, though most of the lures I brought, I stopped throwing (and losing) pretty quickly. All my hooks and stuff were much larger than what I was using – there were hilariously small hooks down there, because a lot of these fish have tiny mouths. I hit All About Fish as a local bait shop on the first day there and the guy there helped me pick out a bunch of weights and rigs. But we had 3 reels and 2 new cheap rods to allow us to get lines in the water the first night.

maui goatfishI had a spool of 15 pound test, some braided line, and some 50 pound leader. I also had a lot of coated, pre-rigged steel leaders, hooks and weights from shark fishing in Hilton Head. However, the way they suggested to fish here used a 3 way swivel- which was a way I lost a lot of rigs. In trying different things, we came up with tying a steel leader straight on the 15 pound test, and using a large egg sinker over the leader. We added in a pinch weight to peg off the egg- so your bait (conceptually) would float the length you pegged…a few feet off the bottom was working for us. This rig did not catch up as often, and allowed us to get the bait in front of different fish.

We tried variations with the braided line, but it was very hard to use compared to the mono even as leader. When you pull on a snag with braid, the braid locks down where mono has a bit more give, and you are gonna hook up a ton here. Rocks and reefs are where the fish are, so you gotta figure out how to hit them and not shred or tangle everything doing it. Plus, the waves push things around so braid getting all twisty is a pain in the butt, comparatively.

Frozen squid was cheap enough, and the hooks we got there were smaller than what I have used for crappie or trout. The hooks and egg weights were cheap, and we broke more than one hook on rocks and reef- but they were better than what I brought down and worked more than not. I still went thru a lot of them- and tying them onto a 50 pound leader was not happening…the diameter of that leader was too much for the small hooks.Maui Beach fishing from shore

It is also important to note, we kept it to daylight shore fishing, and nights in Maui (as like most places) do bring in bigger stuff…I was unsure how our little Shimano rods would survive any true test. I have broken many rods, and besides- we konked-out early there every night after long days soaking it all up. But if you are after bigger fish, no doubt some of the same approaches in the right spots at night would pull out much bigger boys. I would suggest getting your lures there- the ones I had for stuff up here on the mainland, were not as applicable…but I am going to Florida soon, and the same box will be perfect down in the Gulf of Mexico.

What I did need, was a knife to cut squid, 15 pound test was good, egg weights and hooks by the score. Never used the bobbers I had, because the fish were down deeper than anything I wanted to put together with a float. Pre-rigged, coated leads were quick and easy, and avoided teethy cut-offs. Hit barracuda a couple times, and they simply bite off whatever was there- but I don’t think we had steel on, when we lost stuff to the barracuda. No fishing licenses needed here, which is super cool.

Maui Beach fishI found that a tide would affect the bite- and a faster incoming one, was better than others as it is in most places. I learned waves were pretty unpredictable, and could directly affect you- same for wind. Constant tension on the line helped a lot…had to feel the bite and set it, or risk some of them swallowing the hook pretty quickly or just missing them. The cheap, whippy rods were good for this…bigger stuff would have had less feel to it.

Lures, simply did not have the pull for me they typically do- squid brought everything out to play while lures never got me anything, so I did not stay with them too long.

I found places where rocks and reefs were, and fished them all up and down Kaanapali beach (can easily see them on clear days)…and caught fish, pretty much everywhere. If nothing else was there, a huma huma etc. would come and get it after a while. But the closer I could get to clearish sandy paths between rocks and reefs, the better the payoffs.

Our best day, we went to Kapalua on the suggestion of the guy in All About Fish. These were rocky cliff points about 20 feet over 20 feet of water more than offshore fishing, but they proved to be awesome to us and well worth the trip. The guy at the store circled where to park and where to go, and in Kapalua the fish were bigger and more varied- we caught them on pretty much every cast, too. Plus, there we saw some sea turtles swimming around, including a little baby one no bigger than a manhole cover…a huge plus to me.

The beach was great in the mornings and at sunset, but the Kapalua rocky cliffs were much more productive and exciting for daylight fishing.

Chartered fun

Maui charter fishingIn addition to beach fishing daily, we tend to hit a guided trip in many places we visit, and Maui definitely had some awesome charters to consider. They are expensive for sure, costing us about $200+ a man each time…but considering the opportunity to tie into really monster fish, it is what it is.

maui start me up charterWe went out on 2 of them, one being the Start Me Up out of Lahaina for a 6 hour effort. Leaving at 5:30 in the morning, we saw perfect, glass-like water as the sun rose over the volcano- which I did not realize was as rare as it was, until later. Made a very smooth ride, and we trolled about 30 miles out for pelagic fish- Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, Tuna and Marlin.

On a trolling trip, you put out huge lures on huge reels with crazy heavy line: but it is a lot of waiting, if you have never been. We got some mahi mahi a few hours in- a double hook up first, where one was landed but the other swam into the prop…and later, I got to fight a third one in. There were 6 of us on the boat, everyone with a number and if you got called, you fought the fish.Maui Mahi Mahi

Mine was a very jumpy 30-40 pound mahi, which was exhausting but fun as hell to land. My left arm was sore for 2 days because I choked up on the pole too much- I have landed much bigger fish that were not as strong and determined. It was totally awesome.
I just loaded the video of the catch- we boat him at 5:23 or so, if you want to skip to it).

I have seen varied stories on captains with the catch afterwards- but for us, it was incredible…we got over 10 pounds of fresh Mahi, which fed us all (4 of us) multiple times. I do know the other 3 folks also got all they asked for…and the captain still had a completely untouched, beautiful Mahi to sell to a restaurant, slightly bigger than the one we fileted.

At the cleaning station, we saw two 7-8 foot Galapagos sharks cruising about 12 inches under the surface–it was actually a little unnerving for us landlubbers. I did not like standing over them, even though it was no big deal- their bite radius was bigger than my head, so I was not getting any closer. The captain was super careful to ensure nothing went into the water from the fish carcasses- this is why the sharks are a problem in this docking area. But cool to see- I should have grabbed a pic.

Know that if you go out on a charter like this, there is much more waiting than anything. The scenery is awesome, and it is relaxing as hell- made better, if the folks you share the time with are fun to talk to (which worked out very well for us, indeed). If you catch a couple, it makes it seem all OK- catching nothing, will make you leave the boat angry, so try to avoid that by knowing it is coming.zach lamers eats sushi

My son and our pal Trey did not get a chance to catch anything, so we took another charter the next week where it was reef fishing. On the reefs, we caught a Soldier Fish, trevally, blue lined snapper, and more – you troll out to the reef (looking for big boys) hit the reefs for definite fish, then troll back in…no big boys here, but fun stuff on the reefs.

They hooked into a 30-40 pound grey snapper that got eaten by a shark right up close to the boat – then later caught the shark, which was about a 5-6 footer that they got up close to see, then broke it off to save any risk. All our fish were fileted by the time we docked (I caught 5, Trey caught 2-3 Zach caught 1), so no pix- but we ate like champions, and out-fished the other folks on this boat. Trey says to always get the back of a party boat, which worked here.

Summing Up

If you are going to vacation in Maui and are a fishing type, you are going to be in heaven. Beach fishing is awesome, and charter presents world class experiences (but it is a gamble: these fish are not always so easy to find).

I found, bringing reels and buying cheapie rods worked well. Need a bait knife, 15-or-so pound test and you can get hooks and weights there…when you get frozen squid. Leaders were a plus…their locally popular 3 way rig was not so good for me, but a Carolina-style pegged weight was great. The number of different types of fish caught, was stunning: one of the best I have ever seen.



Clay Cooker Pork Loin Recipe

Clay Cooker Pork Loin

soaking a clay cookerThis week, a nice lady named Pam commented on a post in here somewhere, where I talk about making brisket and we talked about using the Romertopf clay cooker. I said I was a huge fan of mine, and had it now for about 20 years I think – but Pam said, she never cooked meats in hers. I was amazed–I think that is the thing these cookers do best, so I was inspired to make something in it.

I had a pork loin thawed, so rather than grill it as I was going to do, I aimed it for the clay cooker. pork loin

The Pork Loin was about 2 1/2 pounds, and they called it “extra lean” and it was in fact, very well trimmed so I didn’t have to do more to it.

While I got the meat ready, I soaked the clay cooker in the sink in cool water. You have to do this with a cooker, or they may crack on you in the oven. When you’re prepping stuff, a good 10-20 minute soak will do you well.

pork loin prepI dropped these into a hotel half-pan. As you can see, it is two nice pieces there- I could have tied it up, but leaving them flopping solo was fine by me.

For seasoning them, pork rubyou could do whatever you like to do with pork. I love playing around with spice blends and rubs– and had some of my own mix, a pork rub I made for a butt roast a few weeks ago. I keep empty spice jars, so when I have excess doing a rub, I can use it again.

This one had dry cumin, some cinnamon, allspice and brown sugar, salt and pepper, fresh ground sage & tarragon, chili powder and god knows what else. I can get a little nutty, trying to build really complex seasoning…but I did not coat it real heavy, just very consistently.

Layering it Up

One thing I like in clay cooking meats, is to layer up veggies under the meat. What it does is soak up, and add to flavors and texture of the cooking meat – it is a wonderfully self-contained meal when you’re done, too.

veggies I suppose I could have been more deliberate in which veggies I picked, but I was simply going with whatever I had here. I had some zucchini, so that was chopped up. I like the basic soup stock veggies, but did not have any celery–no worries, I used carrots and red onion anyway.

A new one for me on this one, was kale- I had a bag of frozen kale, shredded, so thought it would be perfect: pork loin and southern greens.pork loin stuff The way the cooker works greens like kale are really nice, because cooking them longer only makes them more tender.

I also like having veggies between the meat and the cooker, because I have had meats bake into the side of the cooker, then fall apart on me as I try to get it free. Not always a bad thing, but the veggies don’t stick like that for me, so it helps.

Plus, like I said, I was going for something here–so I put red onion and portobello mushrooms as my root layer. Then, the chopped veggies. Then, a bunch of kale. I figured the lower veggies would quickly cook down into a stock-ish blend, adding a ton of body to the pork and greens.

clay cooker pork loinOnce I had all the layers in place, I laid the two pork loins on top of it. Those little renegade zuke chunks, were because I had to roll it into place. But this was a nice, full cooker- ready to go in the oven.

Baking in the Clay Cooker

clay cooker porkThe key with the clay cooker, other than the pre-soak, is to put it in the oven, cold- and turn on the temp you want. You don’t want to pre-heat the oven: again, that may cause damage to the cooker.

Instead, the heat comes up in it gradually- and it steams, and bakes at the same time.

In this case, I set a low temp, because I was aiming it for when my wife got home from work…so with the 2.5 pound size, I gave it about 2 1/2 hours, at 325 degrees. an hour per pound, low temp- erring on the side of a little longer, likely is better (or a little more heat). It is a thing to learn, how to time and heat these things, so the meats come out as you want.

The beauty of clay cookers, is once it goes in the oven, you really are about done until you eat…it works better, if you never open it or have to mess with it. If your heat is too high, or you go too long, you basically turn everything in it into soup–it may taste wonderful, but it tend to lose a lot of color and body.


done pork loin clay cookerSo remember in that last paragraph, when I was talking about going a bit too long? Well, my wife was a hour late from work this night, so rather than stop it, I simply let it go another extra hour…same temp. Oops.

Not that I minded one little bit…the pictures do not do this justice, as it was really beautiful. You can see, compared to when the kale was uncooked, how it went down a few inches in there…and the aroma, was pure heaven–for hours, the house smelled simply fantastic, it was a very comforting thing. Actually (I made this 2 nights ago) this morning, there were still traces of the scent in my stairwell to the basement–yesterday, it was still very strong. Very cool side effect.

pork clay cookerSo looking at it, done, it seemed a silly amount of food for just the two of us…even with leftovers, this was a lot of dinner. No worries: I just lifted out one of the pork loins, shredded it, and immediately put it into the freezer for this weekend. I am gonna take it out, frozen, and cube it – then heat it up in a homemade BBQ so we get to love on it again.

pork loin dinner clay cookerFor dinner that night, I made some Basmati rice (1 cup rice, 1 3/4 cup water and a splash of olive oil. bring to boil, cover, lower heat- simmering for 15 minutes or so. Turn off heat, and leave covered to absorb water- perfect, every time), knowing it would be perfect with the greens and pork.

I did have thoughts about slicing it into roulades- but as soon as I touched the one to move it, I knew I was not going to cut anything. If I would have removed it when I planned to, I could have- but the extra hour really made this guy soft.

OK- I fork-split it up (eating all kinds of taste samples): both the one I froze, and the one for dinner. Took me one minute to mash the meat into the greens, so it was like a pork loin stew.

pork loin plated, clay cookerWhen I plated it, like the redneck I am, I added salsa and sour cream to it- but it needed nothing. I think I just wanted some red color, and I am a redneck, so salsa and sour cream make everything better.

The pork loin was wonderous though–super moist (clay cooking RULES!!!), the rub came thru with some great flavors and scents, and the greens were perfect. The non-freezer leftovers did not even make it past lunchtime yesterday…I may be getting into that freezer bag a little sooner than expected.

But that is a very simple, easy to replicate recipe for some really, really delicious pork loin in a clay cooker. Pam said her family was still in the throes of a well-cooked brisket: but I am betting, her clay cooker starts seeing a lot more meats. I thank her for the inspiration to do this anyway–any excuse, is a good one to bust out the clay cooker.

Later Add: To satisfy my own curiosity and make sure I was not messing up, I did one this week in the clay cooker using only a dry rub on it for a bit, about 2 pounds and cooked it at 410 for 1 hour. I pre-soaked the cooker, and did NOT add any extra liquid to it. It cooked beautifully- I took it out, and let it rest in the cooker to finish/cool a bit and temp leveled at a fine 168 for me. Held its shape a lot more, so if you want roulade-type cuts when completed, hotter, less time worked well for me. For shredding/cuban styled pork cook it long and slow- either way, you win.

Careers in Writing

Careers in Writing at KSU I was lucky this week, in that one of my favorite teachers, Dr. Margaret Walters of Kennesaw State University asked me to come and talk to her careers in writing class.

The pic here, shows just how intense I was…we were solving most of the world’s problems. 🙂

They were very nice folks, and I was happy to be able to get out of the cave for a while, and talk.

One thing I loved, was being able to sit in the class and hear Dr. Walters tell the folks what to do, in prepping themselves for a career. I agreed with everything she said- except one thing, regarding samples…

See, when you are young, and/or just starting out you need to collect samples of your work to share. That, with testimonials is how you find new clients and keep going. The problem is, as a student, you aren’t around a ton of “professional” types of writing- so they encourage you to use academic papers until you can swap them out. That is the thing I don’t exactly agree with, but let me explain why.

In my personal experience, I did just what they suggested – I did not have many professional samples after graduation, so I made up some. I did a couple mock articles (this was long before blogging was around), had a story or two, mocked up a couple ads and thought I had a decent little pile to share. I was pretty aggressive, so I was trying to get interviews with the agencies in Atlanta that hired freelancers. I was good at it too, and got in there…landing an interview with a leading agency here.

The agent was warm, and happy to meet me- we hit it off right away. We talked for a little bit, and things were clicking well…then he asked to see my samples. I had them all in a branded folder (I had all my stationary and folders branded, to look the part), so I handed it over to him.

I will never forget it- he opened the folder, looked at my top sample, and looked right up at me with a totally new, not pleasant look on his face. He thumbed thru my samples, and looked at me again, with the same expression (tired, bored) and said: “You’ve never really done any professional work, have you.”

I think I crawled under the table- maybe the rug…he definitely was not interested in me anymore – handing back the folder and standing up…our interview was immediately over. I was saying all the things I thought would help but it did not matter at all to him. I was under qualified, and now I was creating a bad impression in the agency I wanted to get work from. The agent simply eased me out of the office, clutching my folder that would never again see the light of day. It was embarassing, and pretty awful.

Learn from My Mistake(s)

So as you young ‘uns get out there to start hammering the keys for cash, know that people want to see PROFESSIONAL work. It is a lot easier today, than it was  when I got into this simply because of the online options.

If I were doing the same kind of thing today, I would go after professional writing gigs while still in school – not for pay mind you, but to get the clip published. I would do a newsletter article, a feature piece, blog posts – I would be getting posts/pages online, where a link could be shared with a prospective employer. I would donate my time and writing to organizations (on and off campus)I liked, for free, in exchange for the publishing and a testimonial.

I promise you, there are many easy places for you to offer work for free- free, sells. I always suggest to stay with something you love- I went to the Humane Society because I love dogs, so wrote some holiday newsletters for them and that started it all for me. I used the articles and testimonial to get more clients…each time, able to charge a little more, each time ensuring I could get work samples and testimonials.

The good news is, I did eventually work for that agency, too…though the agent who I interviewed with the first time was no longer there. I did a couple gigs for them, and then went my own way because I earned more without them. But I needed to work there a bit, or I would have had that albatross following me around more than I like.

So thanks again to Margaret Walters, and the class that let me come in and babble for a bit. That was a wonderfully influential class to me – so being on the other side of the desk when I can be is very special to me. If any of you guys need anything at all along the way, you have a friend in me. 🙂

P.S. I did ping one of my favorite authors, Dave Eggers, to see if he’d chime in for us- got an email from his assistant today, saying he is sequestered off writing…so we’ll get him next time! But I did an interview with another great writer I know, who self publishes young adult fiction…see my interview with SR Johannes here.


Finding Copywriter Gigs

Been a while since I have talked about how to find good copywriting gigs- be they for SEO or otherwise. But of late, I have been talking with writers emerging into it all – all the splendor and the glory – so thought I would do a post to be more of a conceptual overview of finding work…how to think about and approach it.

Assumptions here for proper perspective, do include that you are not pursuing writing in a part-time or full-time position in a specific place: you are approaching it from a more standard issue freelancing POV. I may do another post later, about the benefits of going in-house…because different times of your life may find different things attracting you one way or the other. Today though, we are focusing on independent freelancing.

So let’s just dive right in, shall we?

Step One: Identify the Work, and Your Own Power To It

Self target your work efforts in freelancingThis one, is really dependent on where you are in your career. Much more important to you when you are just starting out- but certainly something that you will consider multiple times as you march through the perpetual madness of professional copywriting. You need to target a type of writing, and see why you have power to bring it.

If there is a specific type of writing or a niche in which you are prolific, this makes the most natural and reasonable starting point. You have to be reasonable – if your passion is model airplanes, it is going to have a smaller range of professional options than if you are into women’s fashions or marketing. But passion always drives a tough bargain, in most areas…don’t discount your own power through passion.

Maybe you have a few years experience in shipping, or customer service and can write about it – or spent some time in a restaurant (much more common). In any case, you can use most any kind of experience and flip it into a more powerful position to find writing gigs. Since I spent a number of years in restaurants, we’ll use that one here as our example du jour.

Let’s say, you worked in a restaurant for 8 years- both back and front of the house. Then you went to school and started writing. Or maybe you got a degree in English, or had a knack for writing and the degree never quite panned out, so you went to restaurant work, and just stayed there. In either case you are emerging with no true experience (but talent and training) as a writer, and lots of relevant industry experience in restaurants and hospitality work.

To find reasonable work then, you are not going to focus on the weak point, being your lack of pro writing experience…you are going to build more on your strengths as a knowledgeable industry insider and ability to weave the power of professional writing under it. You offer perspective the audience will see immediately, but your voice is better trained to communicate than most. So build up the portfolio while also getting more entrenched in your niche.

Staying reasonable, means knowing the potential of your reach. The well established, leading voices in the industry are not going to listen to you (as a rookie), unless you have something truly remarkable to share. That is really, really rare- and not something you plan for or can build upon. So maybe consider it a long term goal for reaching the top dogs- and never any harm in thinking like that, but do properly count the eggs you are putting into that basket. You should not expect to jump into a field and be at the top of it simply because you have industry experiences.

Yet the restaurant industry has so many diverse parts to it and it offers a very rich and thriving community both online and offline. Sticking to the example: if you have the restaurant experience and drive/skill to write about, find the places where people are publishing about restaurant issues. Right? Simple stuff.

It might be wine service, pairing foods and beverages, managing liquor costs, handling drunk clientele, hiring wait staff, doing fun promotions, menu planning, scheduling – there are a wide range of options for you to explore, and use as search queries. It would start with your own expertise or desires, and be loose enough to follow the paths illuminated by your queries. Refine, rinse and repeat.

By the time you go through this kind of free-thinking research a couple times, you will tend to find a direction coming out in your notes if it was still murky to you. And of course, you should be writing daily – if you want to get paid for it, you’d better start doing it.

Step Two: Identify the Places and Faces Publishing Work, and Buzzing

Knowing we are looking to write about our restaurant experience, we find the publications, websites, forums, online groups and anything else where they are talking about the things that interest us and allow the expertise to shine. Keep track of it- use something online, even as simple as a text file or spread sheet, where you can keep URLs, links and other notes of the community research.Google.png

In addition to finding the specific places where restaurant experts are discussing pertinent issues, we will find certain folks who are sparking discussions in certain parts of the topics- idea leaders, typically with passionate followers. Plug in to the ones that make sense here- start becoming more active within the community in which you hope to become a writer. Follow them. Key idea here, is to go out softly…and carefully, and truly add to the discussions. Become a part of the groups where you feel comfortable and can add value.

While you are gently but affirmatively participating within your communities, you are going to be able to see and follow (through links and referrals) different folks within them. Here are the seeds of networking- and getting your work out there. If someone has a great share, go see what they do in their own world- chances are good, you will find more things you like. Not always of course, but it can open up more diverse and active thinking in your subject matter.

The important thing is to not go after the top folks and push your pieces on them and ask for review – they get that a lot, and don’t pay any attention to folks who present their work that way, believe me. I have seen it- and it is sad, because the writer always has an earnest heart: just no experience. I did the same thing to Joyce Carol Oates once- she sent me a very nice postcard, and I learned not to do that again. You can nip it sooner than I did, haha.

Better is to study them- see how they interact, how they communicate and work- and why they are leaders. Emulate them, don’t inundate them. Don’t force your art on someone.  Put your work out there for sure: but let them find it, not be backed into evaluating it on-the-spot. The top folks will see anything in their niche, so you simply need to make it good enough to be better than most all of it, and the rest often handles itself. They will tend to come to you, if you write right.

While you are studying the top, and long term planning the reach of it, you need to keep busy. Plus, you need to be building up that portfolio, so when the top dogs do turn to look at you there is something there for them to see. We’ll assume you have a bunch of written stuff, and are looking to get it placed. We’ll also assume you have a little site with some samples or ways to get work in front of clients, and booked – because a freelancer needs that.

The type of work you are submitting and trying to get published matters a good bit here. Online work is much different than offline stuff and the folks who process it are typically different in the marketing department, depending on the size of the business. Let’s say you want to start blogging about restaurant work, but get paid to do it.

The target now, narrows further and you find the blogs and forums and websites chattering away about it all. You may even already be involved in some of them as your gentle community-joining outreach continues, but now, you begin to seek out the places where a LOT of work and a LOT of writers seem to be cycling.

NRALogoAs an example, I went to Google and typed in “Restaurant industry” and got a few good ideas in the first page alone. The NRA is an association of restaurant professionals – thru its site, you could find paths to more, similar minded sites and writers for sure. Or, aim at the NRA – they are a huge organization, and there are many places they will be needing fresh content and ideas. It may not be a place a rookie finds an easy in, but it likely depends on where you are trying to get in there. FohBoh was up there too, and had a ton of featured blogposts about all kinds of industry topics.

Let’s say that is not turning up what you want- add “blogs” to your query to refine the results, and boom – lots more to look at, and evaluate. You now find individual blogs in addition to more organizations – so the rest should be a matter of trial and error to find great, active places to target.

Step Three: Join In the Conversations

OK- now you have a variety of industry-related places where people like you get things published. By people like you, I refer to someone with the experience and training necessary to be considered – just because you WANT to write, is not enough reason for them to ALLOW you to write for them. Not for the better targets, anyway. You are better than that; you are above the rabble.

But start paying attention to your thought leaders, and watch how they are presenting ideas. See which of them have sparks that ignite deeper discussions. Join in when appropriate, and comment- but again, be wise here and add depth and meaning to the discussions. If you have nothing to add, just read.

In many places, the commentors actually have wonderful insights, and get their own traction from being a part of it all. I can speak to that from personal experience- I have both followed folks and had folks come to me, due to comments somewhere. Very, very powerful thing if you are not abusive with it. I think most of the folks I respect today, I found thru a comment somewhere. Or rather, a bunch of comments that helped illustrate deeper things they believed.

If you have a site, which as we said for an aspiring freelancer is not really an option, you can link to it in your comments. If you are adding value, people will follow the links, and look at your site. This makes a very subtle way to bring prospective clients to you- organically, as it should be. You are not actively trying to get the clients, per se, rather, you are simply being involved, honestly, in the discussions in the industry. If you have a strong voice and solid opinions you will be noticed much in the same way you are noticing others.

Granted, a passive approach like that may not be getting you work though, at least not right away, and this is in fact the goal. So you again, just count the eggs you put here, in this one basket. It is one strategy and pretty passive, but not the only effort you are gonna do.

Dig a little deeper on the sites where you are finding the best conversations and activity. Find out more about them and their editorial policies. Many times, there is a page or some content dedicated to explaining how they handle outside submissions, sometimes there is simply a contact form- sometimes there is only an organizational chart and you have to do a little sleuthing to figure it out.

You can often reach out to the successful leaders in the niche too, and ask them for any tips. If you are not an oaf, this can be very effective, depending on the people leading your niche. Simple rules of etiquette include to respect people’s time, and be to the point. They don’t have to give you any help, so don’t act like they owe you and you will find most people respond very favorably to being asked how they did something well.

Rinse and Repeat

The idea now, is to be landing some exposure on one or more of the sites you found, so your own voice can start to ring out more. Your activity and comments should have seeded the clouds well, and if not, then a more direct approach in the content of the site (not the comments) helps it to rain.

I would not look at this task as one where you are seeking the paid part of writing as your only goal. More, this is the means to find exposure, and bring new and interested people to your work, which is actually showcased better on your own site. You simply want to be heard, and put forth your ability to write/blog well about related topics. Your site holds the page(s) with the pitch so you don’t need to worry about having it in your work, which should be standing on its own merits.

This kind of interaction then, will simply continue for you- you will be putting out pieces showing your experience and insight, and have a site of your own to present work options to new clients.

I am not going to sugar coat it: these earliest times are financially tough. But you are building up your portfolio, increasing your trust and visibility in a niche so be reasonable. If you want to get paid to blog about restaurant issues, you have to prove you can do it before anyone will offer you compensation for the efforts.

However it is not all bleak, either. If you are entering a niche for which you have a true passion, your ability to write about it is a natural extension of your passion. Putting a saddle on that, is not always easy but if you persevere, and keep on writing it can work out for you for sure. I see it happen all the time.

Writing is about communicating, so if you want to do it for a living you have to get involved in it and build up experiences. The first ones may not pay much if anything, but they have a purpose because no client likes to be the first one you have. Showing them (not telling them) how you have worked in the past, helps you show your value and helps you hammer the keys for cash more often.