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Making the Cheese as a Freelance Writer – Lessons to Learn from “Who Moved My Cheese”

By Cadence Wu
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In 1989, Spencer Johnson published a motivational book entitled “Who Moved My Cheese.” The New York bestseller explains the different approaches people take in dealing with change in their work and lives.

So why am I telling you all this?

Back in 2007, when I first started as a writer for You The Designer, I had ZERO experience in online writing. Sure, I kept a blog here and there, but the nature of writing on the web is vastly different compared to my poor attempt of channeling the sensibilities of Lester Bangs on my lame blog.

As if high-quality and relatable articles should be enough when writing for the web. I as freelance writer am also required to observe “on-page factors” in the articles I write to increase their “ranking” on the “search result” for the “keyword” I am supposed to be targeting for.

God, kill me now.

With hard work and determination, I was able to overcome the initial challenge of becoming a freelance writer; I managed to change and appropriate my writing according to what is asked from me.

With hard work and determination, I was able to overcome the initial challenge of becoming a freelance writer

It all started with me heeding the advice I read from “Who Moved My Cheese,” which continues to resonate with me even today.

What is it all about?

The story begins when the two rat protagonists of the story, Haw and Hem, found out that the cheese they were enjoying at Cheese Section C has disappeared. In a state of shock and denial, both of them refused to believe that the cheese they had been consuming just “moved” all of a sudden.

Hem was the one most affected by the change because he has been accustomed to having the cheese around with him ever since. As a result, Hem sulked and refused to accept that the cheese is gone.

Haw, on the other hand, set out his way to a new section in hopes of finding new cheese to enjoy. Although Haw started out positive in his quest, his optimism was slowly being chipped away by the disappointment of every empty and barren Cheese Section he stumbled upon.

Despite the difficulties, Haw managed to carry on his quest for the elusive cheese. Eventually, after a long and arduous road, Haw’s perseverance and determination paid off by finding the section with lots of cheese.

Before he found the land of cheese, Haw was able to write the things he learned in his journey on a wall, hoping that his friend Hem would have set foot and will get to read what Haw just wrote. Below is the diagram:

Following the story above, it is impossible not to like Haw simply because it is necessary to be like Haw. Unlike Hem, he adapted to his situation and got the better end of the deal.

In my case, since I wanted to succeed as a freelance writer, I channeled my inner Haw.

Change Happens

You cannot expect to take up the same things over and over again. I cannot stress enough how important this point is.

Back then, the standard of becoming a professional journalist is for your work to be published on a newspaper or magazine. Nowadays, blogging and web writing have become legitimate and alternative professions for aspiring journalists.

Being a web writer also presents a different set of challenges, in particular incorporate SEO techniques in your writing. Toning down my language to a more conversational style is one thing, but learning about keyword research and search engine algorithm changes took the wind out my sail, the flux capacitor out my Delorean, and tachyon energy out my attempt at ruling the world.

Being a web writer also presents a different set of challenges, in particular incorporate SEO techniques in your writing.

Anticipate Change

Things will continue to change, much to anyone’s disadvantage. I will be forced to unlearn things to make way for new knowledge.

I’m sure every experienced writer out there had to endure vicious comments from various users about how they write on the site. I have, and I wouldn’t lie if I said that some of their comments got under my skin and got me to doubt my own writing. Such is the bane of writing on the web, where comments of all types run free – constructive criticism, be damned.

But behind the grim reality of change lies a beautiful challenge of overcoming the obstacles and succeeding in the end. Nothing’s easy in this world, and I have to accept the fact that the ever-evolving aspect of SEO is part of being a freelance writer. The only thing I could do to emerge victorious is to work on my craft, fine-tune my game, and keep an open mind about things.

Let’s just put everything that has been said in an easier and more digestible manner: if you don’t change, you die.

Monitor Change

As part of the ongoing process of change, I need to be updated with the latest trends, tools, and techniques used in writing for the web.

In order to keep on top of things, subscribing to industry-leading sites is a must.

Sites like Copyblogger and Men With Pens offer articles about how to improve the writing of aspiring web copywriters. On the other hand, frequenting Search Engine Watch and SEOmoz allows you to understand the intricate changes taking place in the field of SEO, which could only help you with optimizing your articles.

All sites mentioned offer a subscription option to readers interested in receiving regular updates on their mail, RSS reader, or mobile phone.

Adapt to Change Quickly

The need to adapt is not just a mindset – it is an act. And as such, adaptation requires the correct means to achieve the desired and necessary end.

Putting the things I’ve learned from the changes in the industry into practice is critical in getting the upper hand against competitors. Therefore, as a writer, it is best to have a place where you could test out the latest SEO updates and effective writing styles you’ve learned.

Use your own blog as guinea pig to see if the changes would yield improvement the readership of your blog. Much more important in terms of being tested are changes with the on- and off-page page factors. The correct placement of the page elements on the site can greatly affect how users will see your site.

There will be a chance that the particular changes you make on your site won’t benefit you in any way. This is the risk that you have to take when taking upon the changes, which is why it is important to pick your spots and expect the possibility of failure in your efforts.



After testing out the changes at your own discretion, gather the ones that worked and incorporate them in your skillset. If possible, master them to a fault.

To get a better idea on how effective the changes I’ve made in my writing are, I regularly access the Google Analytics of the site I’m handling to view how my articles are performing. This can be done by checking how many visitors viewed your pages, the backlinks of the pages on different sites, and the conversion rate of your pages to outbound affiliate links (if you ever have these).

I took the best performing pages on my site and determined the factors that made these successful. Was there anything in the title, topic, and the write style of the article that contributed to its high number of views? From an SEO consultants perspective, did the design and the placement of the site elements make any difference?

Enjoy Change!


This is perhaps the best and most exhilarating part of change. Once you’ve successfully assimilated the changes to your writing, you can expect a significant increase in site traffic and revenue (if you have set up banner ads on your site). Conversely, you will increase your online authority and create prestige around your blog and writing services.

If pulled off correctly, lesser bloggers will envy you; writers will want to be like you; and Perez Hilton…well, forget about Perez Hilton.

I have prepared for you things you could do to reward your efforts, in no particular order:

Be Ready To Change Quickly And Enjoy It Again

You’re seriously not expecting your job to be done at this point, are you? Things eventually will “move” and evolve into something else sooner than you think. And it is your prerogative to keep up with the changes to remain competitive and stay on top for as long as you can.

Writing is a vicious run to a finish line that doesn’t exist – the road just goes on and on and on. Some tire out and quit the race, while others struggle to keep up only to eventually drop out.

You, as Haw, must sustain the fire in your belly that inspires you to write. You must never give up chasing your own cheese.

In summary, if we are to diagram the writer’s search for his or her own cheese, here’s what it would look like:

About Cadence Wu: Cadence is a senior blogger at You the Designer, a graphic design blog that features news, tips, trends, and tutorials for designers. Her quest to share her knowledge about design and photography has led her to contribute articles for different sites and share some of her catalog printing designs at portfolio sites. Cadence also has a profound interest in the business and advertising side of things, being a wannabe marketer herself.


One thought on “Making the Cheese as a Freelance Writer – Lessons to Learn from “Who Moved My Cheese”

  1. As a freelancer, you can choose the clients you wish to work with and the projects on which you work, particularly if you have an excess of work. You can drop high maintenance or slow-paying clients or turn down undesirable projects if you desire.

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