A while ago movie writer Drew McWeeny posted this to Twitter:
That kind of problem has plagued the freelance writing field to a growing extent in the last few years as one site after another has folded for one reason or another. Too many times, writers and editors have shared their stories of trying to log into the CMS for the site only to be greeted by an error message or by archives that are suddenly gone, only finding out later that a billionaire owner has decided he’s tired of funding a pesky little journalism project.
I’ve had this happen my own self. While neither AdJab nor MarketingVox, two blogs I wrote for back in the day, were shut down and dismantled quite as capriciously as others, it was only later that I realized I no longer had access to my own work. All of that writing gone, like tears in the rain.
Because I hate seeing this happen to anyone, especially given my own regrets, here’s a super-simple way to save all that work for the day when the website you’ve published it on goes the way of all flesh.
Step 1: Stop Using Word
No seriously. Just stop. A coworker recently asked me if I knew how to do X in Microsoft Word and I replied “Yeah…I don’t use Word.” Start using Google Docs immediately and create a folder called “Freelance for [Site Name]” or whatever your preferred naming convention is. Just make sure you are creating new documents for each and every piece and then moving it to that folder.
Even if your editor wants things sent to them in Word, use Google Docs and then download the document into Word before attaching it to an email. Even better if you can use Docs and then just easily share it with them there, collaborating on edits and revisions within that system.
Step 2: Setup a Free WordPress.com Blog
If you don’t already have a WordPress account, just go to WordPress.com and create one today. If you already have a WordPress blog, create a new one just for this. Either way, give it a name like “ThilkFreelanceBackupFTWOMGBBQ” and a corresponding domain name. This won’t cost you anything, as the blog will be found at ThilkFreelanceBackupFTWOMGBBQ.wordpress.com. Be sure to make the blog private if you’re just using it as a behind-the-scenes backup.
Step 3a: Install the WordPress AddOn for Google Docs
One of the neatest and most convenient recent developments in blogging has been the ability to publish straight from Google Docs to a WordPress blog post draft via an add-on extension you can install here. Once that’s setup you’ll be able to access all your blog’s existing categories from within Google Docs and save documents as drafts. If you make changes to the Doc you can then update the post, though doing so will overwrite other post elements like uploaded photos and such.
If you want to make sure you have exactly what was published, 1) Save the final document you send to your editor and then 2) Copy the final published piece into that document and update the post from within Google Doc.
Step 3b: Install the “Press This” Chrome Extension
WordPress offers a great Chrome browser extension called “Press This” that can be added to your browser menu. If you’d rather save your final published stories this way, you can go to the page with your story, highlight the copy you want to add to the new WP post, and then click the “Press This” bookmarklet. That will open a new pop-up window with the highlighted text as well as a link to the original in a WordPress editing screen. Make whatever adjustments you want – tags, categories, images etc – and then either publish immediately or save as a draft for later revisiting.
Step 4: Publish Your WordPress Posts
Remember that you’ve set this backup blog to “Private” so no one is going to see it. Just go into the post you saved from Google Docs and hit publish. Now it’s live on the site.
What You Get From This
That might seem like a lot of extra work, but consider the advantages to you, the freelance writer:
- You now have two copies of your work, one in Google Docs and one in WordPress
- That WordPress blog can be turned on and made public with about three clicks in less than 30 seconds, giving you a great showcase for all that work that has otherwise disappeared
- If you want to add those posts to another blog, just download the XML file from the private WordPress blog and import it to your other site
Take it from me, this will help you out in the long run. Suddenly you’ll have all of your writing just a few clicks away no matter where you are. With sites going under and platforms changing all the time, having your work where it’s not just available but exportable will give you peace of mind and help you use all that material to keep hustling for your next gig.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.