This November, we are so pleased to highlight construction industry expert, U.S. Navy veteran, and now, Verblio (formerly BlogMutt) writer, Tom Schwing.
A few months back, I was reviewing content from new writers and came across a couple of short, but really outstanding posts. Reading the writer’s bio, I came across this sentence, which simply could not fail to arouse my curiosity:
From 1978-1983 I served aboard the USS Francis Scott Key as a Trident Missile Technician with collateral duty as editor and cartoonist of the boat’s weekly paper.
Editor, cartoonist, and submarine missile tech?! I kept an eye on this writer, wondering where he had come from and how he had come to be writing for Verblio. Since then, Tom Schwing has gone on to create awesome content for many of our most niche and technical customers.
Life at Verblio for Tom Schwing
Here are some of the niche topics that he has covered:
- The acoustic advantages of Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) construction
- Responsible waste treatment techniques
- Matched wood veneer edge banding
- Differences between Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure
- Trenchless pipelining
He has written posts about the trucking industry, about web crawlers, and about CBD for MMA fighters.
So, how does he know about all of these topics?
Life Outside of Verblio
Well, he’s good at doing his research, sure, but Tom Schwing also has over 30 years of experience in industrial construction and owned and operated his own small business for over a decade.
Tom’s father owned an excavating construction business, so after his stint in the navy, Tom Schwing went into the profession he says that he was born into.
After the Navy, I spent 10 years running a precast concrete plant and worked as a welder, fabricator, carpenter, and industrial millwright. My last major industrial project was at Charlotte Airport, I’ve included a picture of the conveyor system we built, subcontracting with Pteris Global for Turner Construction.
In the mid-90s, Tom became a stay-at-home dad, and he started his own small business selling and shipping parts and supplies for radio-controlled model airplanes, as well as the model planes themselves.
We had tractor-trailers backing up to the townhouse garage when it was time to ship them out. Amidst the glue and paint fumes, and the tractor-trailers, you can imagine we were quite popular with the neighbors.
Tom also got into web development during this time and built some pages to support his business, also writing the online marketing materials and product descriptions himself.
Today, Tom lives in Florida with his fiancé and two rescue pups (as he says: “adopt don’t shop!”), and has returned to writing as his main gig. I caught up with Tom to ask him some questions about his life, his writing, and his experiences with Verblio.
1. What do you do outside of Verblio? What gets you excited about life?
Tom: My fiancé, Dr. Rena Hung, has finally decided to make an honest man of me after four years together. We’ll be getting married next April, so that definitely tops the ‘excited about life’ list. I’m an avid baseball fan so the World Series this year was a real treat, even without my beloved St. Louis Cardinals. My condolences to friends in LA, and for those ‘Houston Strong’ folks, my hearty congratulations!
As for domestic excitement, we’ve got two rescue pups, Daisy and Duke, probably the two most pampered pooches in Florida. Daisy is half pit bull and half beagle but all muscle, so every walk with her is an adventure, like being the wagon behind a Clydesdale whenever she spots a squirrel, duck, lizard, or wayward mailman. Duke’s a little corgi mix—our little gentleman—and the stabilizing influence for Crazy Daisy.
Here’s a cartoon that Tom drew about his adventures with Verblio, featuring his two pups. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the mechanics of our site, customers have the option to mark a writer as “preferred” which makes a paw print appear next to that customer’s name in the writer’s view.
I’m also pretty excited about the freelance lifestyle. It’s such a relief to be off the time clock and out of the rush-hour, meet-the-quota, clear-the-punch-list world.
At 57 I’ve traded in my steel-toed boots and hardhat for Chuck Taylors and a Cardinals cap and now the only time I work a 13-hour shift is when I lose track of time because I’m totally immersed in writing.
I’ve spent most of my life in construction and manufacturing, doing what my favorite author Robert Heinlein called “honest work”, and writing was always on the back burner. He also said that doing work you enjoy is the best form of play, and I wholeheartedly agree, but it is work. I’ve always been an avid reader, so I’m still working on the research vs. writing balance. I tend to get caught up in the reading when I should be on the other side of the pen, so to speak, but I’m getting better at self-employed time management.
2. Are you working on any special projects? I saw that you have a book published — can you tell us a bit about that?
[Rena and I] did self-publish a children’s e-book “Ace the Greyhound: Ace Meets the Wolf Clan”. Poor Ace has been languishing unpromoted on Amazon now since 2014, but he’s the fictional pup who got Rena and me together. We were both posting at a meditation group on Facebook and Rena took to my writing style and asked me to collaborate on the English version, even though I informed her that I had zero experience writing children’s books (Rena writes in English and Mandarin Chinese).
[Rena] based the Ace character on an actual rescued greyhound she was fond of, and we ended up falling head-over-heels for each other while collaborating coast-to-coast on the book via Skype. I ended up flying from NJ out to LA, but unfortunately for Ace, I got a very lucrative offer for a two-year airport construction job in North Carolina, and he ended up on the back burner.
I’m hoping to polish up the original and finish the series eventually, but at this point content is king, and I need to stay focused. Fiction is fun but it can be years before it feeds the bulldog, and I’m too old to do the ramen-diet, starving-artist-gig while royalties trickle in. The trunk novels will have their day, but for now, they’re staying in thumb-drive limbo where they won’t be a distraction.
3. How did you get started as a writer? As a Verblio writer?
It’s all John Boy Walton’s fault [from the TV show The Waltons, for those of you young pups, like me].
I’d like to be macho and cool and say I was originally inspired by Jack London’s Call of the Wild but the truth is I started journaling in 1974 when John Boy was doing the same in primetime every Thursday night. My kid brothers never let me hear the end of it when they found out.
“Hey John Boy, what happened to your freckle?”, and of course, the “Goooood night Jooooohn Boy” when they were sacking out as I scribbled away in my room. After I went into the navy, I wrote the ship’s paper, complete with comics page, which was a big morale booster on a Trident missile submarine isolated from the world for 72 days at a time.
I found Verblio on a freelance writer’s site list. I was looking for a platform with minimum pitching involved and a good reputation for paying the writers, and Verblio had both. It didn’t hurt that the logo reminds me of Daisy. We took it as a hint from the universe that here was a good place to make some milkbone money, and it’s worked out pretty well.
4. What type of clients do you write for at Verblio?
My very first article was about storage containers, and I continue to write for the company. Coming up with a fresh angle for them is still one of my monthly challenges. That led to being preferred by an agency and since then I’ve written a bunch of automotive and trucking industry articles. I love writing for Honda. They are such an innovative company in terms of high-tech safety and eco-friendly technology that writing about their stuff is a breeze. Autonomous (self-driving) trucking technology provided the grist for a bunch of posts, and now we’re facing an over-the-road truck driver shortage which is a hot topic in that industry.
I’ve written a slew of posts about CBD and its benefits. That’s the non-psychoactive cannabidiol from hemp oil. It heals without getting you high. (Which is why you never hear about anyone smuggling industrial hemp over the border.) The stuff works so well for so many ailments that it’s giving Big Pharmaceutical a run for its money as an alternative to antidepressants and opioids. The UFC and NFL are getting into the act because of its effectiveness in treating concussion trauma, and the FDA is taking notice of CBD as a treatment for seizures, so it’s a great time to be writing for those businesses.
I also write for a printed circuit board manufacturer and an IT service provider on the high-tech end. Then there’s a Canadian construction company, an insulated concrete form construction hub site, a plywood manufacturer, and two water treatment environmental companies.
I’ve also done a few meditation pieces, one artificial intelligence post, and some hair-loss treatment articles to keep things well-rounded.
5. What is the most niche subject you’ve written about on Verblio?
That’s got to be the sewage articles for the environmental guys. Did you know the three layers of sewage are:
That was quite a day for writing variety. I had just finished a post on the luxurious Volvo XC90 with its standard Swedish crystal champagne flutes before I, er, dove into this one.
6a. What advice do you have for beginning freelance writers?
For writers: Just keep writing.
When the current earnings are down the future earnings are up, and it all ends up in your PayPal account eventually… I try to keep at least a dozen articles in the queue. We’re in the retail writing business, and the more stock available on the shelves, the better your chances are for making a sale.
Forget about hourly rates (no clocks in freelancing!) and give each article the time you think it needs whether it’s a 250 or a 1200. We never know whether we’re writing for an individual company or an agency. If an agency prefers you based on a well-crafted 250 you may find yourself with 20 or 30 customers, all with you as their preferred writer.
6b. How about to Verblio customers?
For customers: Let us know what you want, and we’ll deliver.
The trend in SEO is moving toward “long-tail keywords” (those specific queries your customers are using to find your products and services). The blog posts we write are the answers to those queries. When you find a writer who suits your branding, take advantage of the preferred writer option. We usually have over 1,000 jobs on any given day, and one of our search filters is for the customers who have preferred us.
When you prefer a writer you like, you’ll always stand out from the crowd on that writer’s job list.
‘From missile tech to content writer’ is not a story that you hear too often, but to me, this is a perfect representation of our writing community. Our writers—and Tom Schwing is definitely no exception—come from an extremely diverse set of backgrounds and have an unbelievable depth of experience across the industry spectrum.
Thank you so much to Tom Schwing for tolerating all of my questions, and for being a part of the Verblio community. We’re so glad to have you as a write, and it has been a true pleasure getting to learn about your life and adventures.