Right now I am procrastinating. I should be working on writing a story about American Legion Baseball, but I’m writing this blog post instead.
I am not a serial procrastinator—in fact, rarely do I procrastinate. But when there is a story that I know I have to write on a topic that I’m not all that interested in, I tend to put it off. I KNOW that I will get it done, eventually, because I have to, it’s just hard to get started.
I’m sure many of you know exactly what I’m talking about. Whether it’s writing a story, balancing your checkbook, or working on your website design—when it’s not something you’re totally excited about, it’s easy to push it to the side.
I wrote a blog post last month that talked about how procrastination can actually be essential to innovation. I have never been the type of person to thrive on procrastination to get stuff done. Heck—I have a full time job, a part time job, and I freelance! I don’t have TIME to procrastinate!
There was a great article posted on FastCompany.com about how to beat procrastination and get down to work. Their tips can help freelancers as well as anyone who has a tendency to put things off until later.
Knowing and acknowledging when you’re actually procrastinating, and knowing what’s likely to trigger it, is probably your best defense against the monster that makes you feel busy without feeling productive. —FastCompany.com
Catching yourself in the act of procrastination is the first step in getting past it. Here are some of their tips: Continue Reading
Many freelancers have some dedicated space in their home in which to do their work. And setting up a great home office is key to your productivity, sanity, and professionalism.
Of course, some people don’t have an entire room in their home dedicated to a home office, but if you are serious about being a full-time freelancer, having this space makes business sense. Heck, I know people who have actually moved to a different home just so they could have a home office for their business. If this is something you are considering, read on… Continue Reading
I’m a believer that marketing materials will never go out of style. There’s something to be said when you have something really cool to give to someone else that characterizes you and your business.
I’m not talking about one of those squishy, stress reliever balls or a pen with your business name on it—I’m talking about clever marketing materials.
My coworker was at a recent business expo and came across a guy at a booth with cans and cans of corn. Corn? Yes, Del Monte corn. But these were no ordinary cans of corn—they were a business card.
Chris Quimby, owner of NachoTree, a print and digital design company, had created a very special label for these cans of corn.
“I bought a can of Del Monte corn, removed and scanned the label, then modified it in Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator,” Quimby says. The label on his can of corn was sharing information about a small local humor paper his company creates. Quimby, who also spends his time working as “Maine’s Funniest Clean Christian Comedian” thought the “corny” business card would get some attention. It certainly caught mine.
My coworker brought a can back to the office, and couldn’t wait to show it to me. It certainly caught her attention! But is it edible?
“My wife took a few cans of it for a recipe a couple of weeks ago,” Quimby says. “I was not pleased, because they were supposed to be used as marketing materials. Now we will have to buy more corn. The story ended well, though, as my wife cooked a delicious meal. I just don’t remember what it was.” Continue Reading
I am a lucky freelancer—I have my own home office and no kids (well, at least not yet) to worry about. And my job means I don’t have to sit in my office, day after day, until I can’t stand it anymore. I get to go out and meet interesting people to interview and take photos. However, not everyone can work this way.
Some of you don’t have a home office, or any office, to work in. You have to work wherever you can, be it the couch, the kitchen table, or in the basement. Finding a quiet space can be difficult if you have a family. And not having anyone to bounce ideas off of can be maddening, too.
That’s why I liked this article posted on Men With Pens about the best—and worst—places to write.
If you have to get out of the house due to cabin fever, loud teenagers, or you just need a new environment to spark creativity, there are places where you should and should not go. Continue Reading
When I saw this blog post on Gawker.com, I just shook my head. What else can you do?
Here’s the gist: a guy who is looking for a job created a profile on Monster.com saying he’s looking for a job in the Columbus, Ohio area. He’s contacted by a recruiter looking for an employee in northern Arkansas. One snippy comment made by the job seeker (who is called “Robert” in the post) sets off a barrage of crazy emails.
Since you got my resume off of Monster, I’m sure you saw in my profile that I’m only interested in jobs in Columbus, Ohio, because you surely check these things before firing off e-mails. —Robert
I’m no geography guru, but thanks to mapquest.com, I deduced that there are about 760 miles between northwest Arkansas and Columbus, Ohio. It’s far. Twelve-plus hours in a car far. So sure, perhaps the recruiter was stretching a little bit when he contacted Robert.
And clearly, Robert was annoyed. But the entire chain of emails between these two guys are totally rude and unprofessional. Sounds like they both had a bad day.
It is so easy to misunderstand and misinterpret people when it comes to email. It happened to me just last week. Continue Reading
CareerCast.com just published a list of 200 jobs ranking them from best to worst based on the following criteria: physical demands, work environment, income, stress, and hiring outlook. They used info from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (along with other government agencies) to create this list.
I did a search for some words that describe my job(s) and here’s what I came up with:
- Publication Editor: Ranked 118
- Photojournalist: Ranked 166. I actually typed in “journalist” and this is the only thing that comes close.
- Technical Writer: Ranked 37. Again, I typed in “writer” and this is what I got.
- Reporter (newspaper): Ranked 196 (yikes!).
The top 10 jobs are as follows:
- Software Engineer
- Human Resources Manager
- Dental Hygienist
- Financial Planner
- Occupational Therapist
- Online Advertising Manager
- Speech Pathologist
The worst 10 jobs are as follows:
- Meter Reader
- Reporter (Newspaper)
- Oil Rig Worker
- Enlisted Military Soldier
- Dairy Farmer
Unfortunately for me, my skills have a lot more in common with the worst jobs than the best. And I have to say; I spent many years through college (and even for a while after) being a waitress at a restaurant outside of Fenway Park in Boston, and I LOVED that job! It was the fastest and easiest money I have ever made.
When I looked up “freelancer” in this list of 200, nothing came up. Not surprisingly, as that word can mean so many things. However, I’d like to put “freelancer” through the five criteria above anyway, for discussion sake. Continue Reading
I require my undergraduate journalism students to buy two books to keep by their sides at all times. One of them is the AP Style Book; the other is called When Words Collide: A Media Writer’s Guide to Grammar and Style.
I can’t tell you how much I love my When Words Collide book; I use it all the time. I’d like to share some information with you about one of my favorite chapters in this book. It’s called 10 Little Secrets, 10 Big Mistakes—and the information is useful if you aim to be a better writer.
Secret 1: Read
If you don’t like to read, you can’t possibly love to write. The two go hand in hand. I have always been a voracious reader. I love fiction as well as nonfiction and I’ve been lucky enough to study a handful of classics in literature in both high school and college.
Language is an amazing thing—and you can’t really work on building your own voice without listening to others. Other writers are the best examples of how to do things well—and not so well. Read widely and often. Continue Reading
Writing effective blog posts isn’t as easy as you might think. There are a ton of things to take into consideration, including creating a catchy headline, the length of your piece, even the words that you choose.
I’ve spent some time scanning the Internet to find some useful tips on how to craft a great blog post from several different sources. Read on to gain insights from professional bloggers.
Focusing on one topic or piece of information will keep your blog post succinct and easy to read.
It happens to me too at times. I start out with a single topic in mind – but then the post morphs into something else. By the time I’ve finished, I’ve added another five different bullet points, talked about related problems – and suddenly my post is long and, well, rambly. —Write to Done
Giving your readers many options and topics will make them feel overwhelmed. Plus, a blog post that has too much information is too long! No one wants to spend 20 minutes reading a blog post.
Tackling just one topic or point per blog post makes your job easier, too. If you find that you are coming up with other ideas while you’re writing, jot them down and use them to craft a whole different blog post. Many shorter blog posts are better for your search engine optimization than one incredibly long one. Continue Reading
In this economy, creating and sticking to a budget is more important than ever. Of course, not every freelancer has money problems, but my guess is that many of you out there are taking a very close look at your bottom line—especially with taxes due in just days.
Whether you are new to freelancing or are a seasoned pro, learning how to run your business on less money is always an appealing option.
I recently purchased a magazine title with two other business partners and we’re trying to stay as lean and mean as possible until ad revenue starts coming in. We’re lucky that we don’t have a lot of expenses—like office space—that we need to pay for, but we did take out a small business loan that must be paid every month. We also spend a fair amount of money on travel expenses, going to and from trade shows and bridal shows in our area, so we’re careful to count every penny.
I found this article on Inc.com listing three ways to grow your business on a budget, and I was intrigued. The author, Vanessa Merit Nornberg, has some great points, and I wanted to share them with you.
Seek Out Partnerships
This is something we do all the time at our magazine. We’re lucky that we have been able to trade some ad space to help pay for things we really need—like help with our public relations and web development.
We also work with our advertisers to make sure they have magazines to use for their needs. For example, there is a jeweler who has been giving out a gift bag to couples who have bought their engagement ring at their store. They asked us if we could provide them with magazines to put in these gift bags. Of course, we said! That’s target marketing for a wedding magazine, and we didn’t have to do any of the leg work.
We also trade web ads with some of our partners, which is a good way to get free advertising space online. If you can find partners who will promote you while you promote them, it’s a win-win situation. It’s also a great way to find new clients and revenue streams. Continue Reading
This blog post by Amber Rice on PRDaily.com tickled my fancy. Maybe it’s because many of my friends have toddlers, or maybe it’s because I’m pregnant—but I think adults can learn a lot from little kids. Below are some of Rice’s suggestions, as well as some of my own.
Be Curious and Ask Questions
What’s this? Why? How come?
Adults can become exasperated with the number of questions that come from kids. Sometimes we even make up answers just to get them to stop! But asking questions isn’t a bad thing for a freelancer—in fact, it’s a very good thing.
If you work in PR, you need to know everything there is to know about your client to represent them in the best way possible. Even if that means you ask them a lot of questions.
As a journalist, asking questions is a huge part of your job. Before I even call people for an interview, I do research to put together a list of the best questions possible. I don’t want to waste their time (or mine) asking questions I can easily find from other sources.
Practice Makes Perfect
Toddlers have to practice everything, from putting on their shoes to learning how to use the potty. They seldom learn a new skill on the first try and need to practice and reminders of how to do something. —PRDaily.com
Freelancers don’t need to practice to tie their shoes, but they do need practice in managing their business—especially with the speed technology is changing. What worked five years ago is probably not going to work the same way today.
Freelancers should try out this new technology—be it a social media site or a new way to invoice their clients—and discern if it’s going to work for them. With anything new, there are going to be bugs to work out and a learning curve. It’s easy to get frustrated with new technology, throw your hands up in the air, and give up. But that isn’t the answer. Neither is throwing a temper tantrum. Continue Reading
No one is perfect, and we can all improve upon ourselves to become better businesspeople. I really liked this article by Brad Lebo, one of the principals at Vital Growth.
He lists some challenges that each and every one of us can focus on and conquer in order to be better freelancers. These aren’t all of his tips, but the ones most suited to your needs. Read the entire blog post here.
1. Understand Your Values
Values influence every decision you make and the resulting actions. What you believe is important or valuable will determine how you interact with peers, employees, and customers, as well as determine how you react to lapses in effort, integrity and judgment. —Brad Lebo
Knowing what your values are will help you make decisions. Things pop up all the time that will make you pause and think—a client who wants something you don’t usually offer, for example. Have some firm guidelines set for yourself that you can fall back on. If not, you can hem and haw and make decisions you aren’t comfortable with. And when you lean one way for one person, what will keep you from doing it again for someone else.
I edit a yearly wedding publication that has a very specific niche. We only publish photos from wedding photographers who are located in our state. I have lots of photographers who come to our state to take photos of weddings and want their images to appear in our publication. I don’t budge. There are plenty of other magazines out there for these people. If I make an exception for one person, I have to do it for all of them, and I’m not going to open those floodgates.
Your values can also bolster your reputation. Sure, some people who don’t have the same values might not want to work with you, but there are plenty other people out there who will. And aren’t those the clients you want anyway? Continue Reading
When I read this article about how Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, leaves work at—gasp! 5:30 pm every day—I was both happy and annoyed.
I am a huge proponent for working smarter—not longer or harder. I can get done in a few hours what takes some people all day. I am lucky that I have the ability to block out everything around me and have a laser focus on the task at hand for a good amount of time. I hear that when I am doing this, I get a crazy look in my eye and I come off as utterly pissed off. I’m not—I’m just on a roll!
I make it a point to leave my office between 5 and 5:30 pm every day. Sometimes I can’t because I have an event to go to or something that must be finished. But, on the whole, I stick to my own personal deadline.
Keeping this schedule helps me in many ways. Here are some of them: Continue Reading