Yes. Well the answer is a bit more complicated, but in the majority of situations a writer has the tools needed to start a blog. As a freelance writer who was continually reading guest blogging guidelines and talking with editors about offering a submission, I couldn’t help but think: I could do this. The most important aspect of a website is quality content (hence why we all have jobs), and no one can write quality content better than a trained writer. There are many different reasons that a writer could benefit from owning his/her own blog or website:
It is no secret that technical writing jobs pay well. Many freelance writers slowly slip into the technical writing sphere and get stuck. The jobs are plenty and the pay is good, and as a writer this stability is appealing. Other freelance jobs that seem to pay well are those connected with a specific company. For example, I used to write for a credit card website, so naturally my writing was centered on credit card tips and advice. There used to be a time when I would try and play around with my sentence structures and get fancy with metaphors, but the longer I wrote a certain way the less and less I felt the need to be creative.
Man, it just isn’t easy to be a freelance writer sometimes. Sure, you have the ability to set your own hours and rates. You can work from literally anywhere with an Internet connection and you are your own boss. Plus, if you ever need to take time away you can do so. All in all, it is a good career choice, but it still has its difficulties. [Read more…]
Freelance writing is now one of the sources of income for many moms dads and others alike. As a freelance worker, they are free to serve as many clients as they can. They build reputation by submitting works on time and providing high-quality work. The reputation built will then result into new job offers or job referrals from satisfied clients and writers will have increased income.
As a writer, you can collect positive reviews from your satisfied clients. However, many potential clients today, go beyond profile reviews. They have now started to dig for more information about you. Below are the tools you can use to monitor your online reputation as a writer. [Read more…]
Freelancing is a skill that takes some honing. While someone who has a knack for networking will find it easier than others, there are still challenges that you just have to work through. Much of it, in fact, is a matter of learning the hard way, and we all have our horror stories.
Of course, the risks and difficulties become more pronounced when working with people from countries other than our own. All communication is done via email or instant messenger, though some might occasionally ask for Skype. There is no real legal recourse when things go wrong. All in all, you have to rely on clients’ integrity, and they face the same problem with having to count on yours.
But despite that, the risk usually pays off. Working with a client from another country – or even continent – can be a rewarding and positive experience that you won’t want to miss. To make things a little less choppy, try following these guidelines for working with international prospects. [Read more…]
Freelancers have, be definition, a fluid income source. Projects come and go, clients don’t always have steady work, and new opportunities are just around the bend. There is also the somewhat unsteady foundation for many websites, magazines and experimental publishers, which make it hard to know when what payment will be coming when, and for how long.
In the past, I have spoken to dozens of other freelancers who seem to agree that this makes budgeting a near impossibility. As a consequence, they end up living from month to month trying to put their money wherever they can, and making up differences here and there when they come up short. Which happens often, because there is no consistent planning involved in the month’s finances.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. With a little forethought and planning, it is possible to come up with a valid budget that will work for the ever changing income of the freelancer.
This is a modified version of an old classic, which was once referred to as the Envelope System. You would pull everything in cash and out it into an envelope for each bill and then for extra or savings. You would only spend the cash you had available, keeping you accountable for each dollar.
However, times have changed and plastic is the way it tends to go. So use this adapted version to get the same benefits in a new age.
Step One – Getting Started
To begin, you want to put together a basic list of all of your monthly expenses. This should include costs that are not bills, but are still regularly deducted from your overall income. This might include childcare, eating out, prescriptions, medical co-pays or events.
In the end, you should have something that vaguely looks like this:
- Rent – $870
- Utilities – $150
- Groceries – $300
- Cable/Net/Phone – $120
- Gas – $60
- Childcare – $300
- Savings – 20% Gross Monthly
- Entertainment – $100
When you add your expenses up, you are given a monthly baseline for what it is you need to make. In this case, it would be $1900, plus the 20% of the monthly income for savings. This gives us financial context, and makes it much more manageable an amount to reach.
Step Two – Look At Average Gross Income
Next, you should look at what you realistically make per month. While this amount will be rather fluid, there should be a basic number that can be estimated by looking back at the last six to twelve months of earnings. You want to find the minimum that you absolutely know you can make, and put that up against what you have to make.
This amount is going to tell you what projects you have to conduct monthly in order to create a proper cushion. For example, if you are a freelance graphic designer, you will need to calculate the number of websites you have to make and see if it adds up to what is possible to gain in work per month. If you are a freelance writer, you would calculate it in regular projects and your ability to bring in extra work as needed.
Step Three – Organizing This Data
Now that you know what you need, it is time to find a way to keep track of it all. I am an old school kind of person, and so I prefer using little digital sticky notes on my desktop. But this can become difficult when it comes to keeping extensive records, which is why I have switched to a free version of Budget. Or, you can get the full version for $1.99.
With this program you can create envelope tabs, just like the old system. It gives you specific rules you can generate to match each one, such as percentages based on the whole. It will track your changing income and adapt the amounts accordingly. Or, you can select it to be a fixed amount to stay the same, no matter what you make.
See? Three easy steps to monitoring your finances as a freelancer, and all it takes it a little thought and a good software for the job.
It has been said that the two most sensitive people in the world are artists and writers. This is often proven in how the two groups take criticism, which is a regular part of our chosen professions. Perhaps this is because we all tend to put so much of ourselves out there when we craft our art. We are opening ourselves up to review, and we all want what we create to be well received.
As a blogger, you are even more vulnerable to negativity. Not only are you writing on a much more frequent basis, but you are doing so on a system that allows people to hide behind anonymity. This makes those who would usually refrain from cruelty much more willing to sling hurtful comments with no productive purpose.
Of course, there is also good criticism, and this is what we should use to further our own talent. Knowing what we are doing wrong might be hard to swallow, but it is a bitter pill that is necessary if we want to better ourselves. That makes learning to take it, accept it and use it so very important. But it is equally crucial that you know how to put aside your feelings and get the most out of other’s observations.
Criticism vs. Cruelty
The first thing you have to do is learn what constitutes constructive criticism and what is just nasty Internet shouting. I have had tiny typos turn into streams of angry readers eager to pick on me and others who have helpfully pointed it out for correction. There have been people hiding behind the anonymous posting button who have told me I am awful for no particular reason and even some who have threatened me.
If criticism helps you, then it is constructive. This means the posters will have a reason for their opinion, they will explain it to you, and they will provide a suggestion in which you can improve. This might be done pleasantly or unpleasantly, but it is still something you can use toward a positive goal.
Anything else, which is mindlessly malicious, angry or insulting, is pretty much just abuse and best ignored.
When you do get helpful criticism, you should be careful that you react in an appropriate manner. This is easier said than done. After all, just because you can use what they said doesn’t make it any easier to hear. Try these tips to keep you centered and reacting positively:
- Calm yourself before responding. If you immediately answer back, chances are you will lash out. You might even end up starting a flame war that could grow way out of proportion. Before commenting to your criticizer, take some time to get away from your keyboard. Go on a walk, take a bath, read, talk to a friend — anything that will loosen you up. Then go back and re-read it with a clearer head. You will probably find your response to be much less vicious than it would have been.
- Be objective about their opinion. My first thought is, “What do they know?” when I get a bad review. Sometimes that is followed by a biased, “They are complete morons anyway,” though in much more colorful language. But if I look at it honestly, I can usually see their point. This is a difficult process that takes practice and more than a little forcing to get done. However, if you can look at their side and find the truth in it, it will make you better at what you do, because you will be able to implement their advice and fine-tune your process.
- Thank the person who criticized you. Yes, the words may stick in your throat a bit, and it can be hard to speak past grit teeth. That is why it is fortunate we are talking about doing it over the Internet, isn’t it? Thanking them for taking the time and effort to address an issue they had with you is just polite and will also show that you can accept criticism with grace. Even if they were unpleasant, it will be a step toward seeing the value in their opinion. At the very least, it will be killing them with kindness.
- Learn from it. Even if you follow all of these tips, they will mean nothing if you just forget the lesson you took away from it. Take the criticism to heart, try to include it in your list of changes and then strive to be better in your everyday work. We are constantly evolving and should be dedicated to improving our own lives and work. Take advantage of this chance to make one of the improvements, even if it bruises your ego a bit.
Jennifer Moline writes about small business, graphic design, printing and freelancing for the PsPrint Blog as well as for other graphic design websites.
Bring up the topic of green living and people think recycling and light bulbs. These are, of course, important parts of caring for the environment, but they are not the only things each of us can do to save, reduce and reuse resources.
The office presents several opportunities to lessen our personal impact on the world around us.
- Cut back on paper use. Writer’s use a lot of paper, including to hand -edit pieces. That’s why it’s important to keep a bin next to the printer to deposit used paper. The paper is can be reused for back-side printing, notes, lists and coloring for the kids.
- Invest in recycled paper. Prices are now more reasonable than ever. Keep an eye out for sales at your favorite office supply store and stock up when possible.
- Digitize bills, bank statements, invoices, etc. Much of our waste and clutter problems stem from incoming mail that can easily switch to electronic files. Often companies will give consumers a discount for the switch from paper to electronic billing.
- Ban pesky receipts. There are several programs that allow you to digitize your receipts – my fave is Shoeboxed.com – eliminating the need to keep bunches of paper. Make sure any app or service you choose uses IRS approved methods.
Put your money in green – products and services. There is a huge variety of recycled goods on the market for offices including file folders, organizers, calendars, etc. A little bit of research will go a long way to find products that fit in tight budgets.
Product control also means controlling the amount of energy electronic products consume. A quick way to keep energy usage low – plug all of your electronic devices into a power strip. At night, hit the switch and cut phantom energy use!
- Reuse ink cartridges. Instead of tossing a spent cartridge have it refilled. When a cartridge can no longer be refilled, dispose of it properly. Use local cartridge recycling centers and many ‘big box’ stores provide the service, free of charge.
- Donate old goods and electronics. Much of the waste in our landfills is electronic waste and things that could be recycled. Both office furniture and electronic goods can be passed onto shelters and thrift stores. Electronics not in good condition can be dropped off at any electronic recycling operation. These centers repair, repurpose and properly dispose of the hazardous parts of our gadgets.
- Cut the flushes. If you work from home this item is easier to implement. Save water and resources by following the old adage “If it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down.” It’ll also save loads on your water bill!
It doesn’t take a lot of effort or money to change your office into a green one. It’s almost as easy as putting on a “Kiss Me I’m Irish” pin.
What tips do you have for greening up an office?
There is perhaps no other topic in the freelance writing world that generates more controversy than the concept of writers writing for free. Bring it up and lines in invisible sand are drawn, commenting spikes and in the case of Harlan Ellison, a few F-bombs are dropped.
It’s understandable. Shady publishers and editors prey on vunerable writers who want to see their names in print. Writers are constantly burned by “write for free now and earn later” promises in which “later” never comes.
However, in the angry buzz of the debate something gets lost. Choice and education. There will always be writers who consider using their talent without traditional compensation. Instead of helping writers make informed decisions, we as a community often take the abstinence-only approach – IT’S WRONG, NEVER DO IT.
Is it really free?
The first step to weighing a work-for-free option is to look at whether the project has any compensation opportunities. Writers work in exchange for items and services all the time. A little web content work in exchange for a new website. A little PR work in exchange for lessons from a yoga studio.
Just be sure that you follow three simple rules when bartering services:
- Set clear boundaries. Define the services you will provide and the services or products you expect in return. This prevents misunderstandings and keeps either party from taking advantage of the “freebie” situation.
- Determine cost. It should be expected that your standard rates are used for services you provide.
- Put it in writing. This is not only helpful for tax and business record purposes, it makes the transaction official and binding.
Is it for the greater good?
Wielding a hammer may not be some people’s idea of how they want to volunteer, but wielding a keyboard may feel just right. Providing writing services to help a charity or organization is a good thing. Sweating over a keyboard or a hot stove both take time and effort and each can be a great help to someone in need.
Are you prepared for the lack of payoff?
Writing for exposure. *Sigh* That’s a tricky one. Certain publications swear by it, but when their blog only reaches 12 people and four of those are family members, the “exposure” doesn’t help a writer one bit. Then you have the Huffington Post model: huge reach and definite opportunities for exposure. However, when the publication makes a deal for a large sum of money, whether it’s for advertising or through the sale of the blog, there will be writers who feel slighted when left out of the monetary windfall.
There is, of course, the possibility that exposure may never come. Before you get into an “exposure” deal,
- Use metrics to define success. How many blog hits, how many subsequent work requests, book sales, etc.
- Recognize and get comfortable with not being able to eat, spend or pay bills with exposure. Exposure has to translate into dollars through other avenues to be successful.
- Have a time limit and exit strategy. Give the exposure enough time to produce results, but have an end date in place if it doesn’t show signs of panning out.
Can you afford to do it?
Whether working in exchange for goods and services, as a volunteer or for “exposure,” carefully weigh the costs of the commitment. There are time costs, including time away from other business-growing opportunities, i.e. querying, working on gigs for other clients, etc. There are also actual costs: electricity, Internet, the standard writing rate… This is one of those tough choices that a writer has to make from a business perspective, especially if the project will be ongoing.
Most of the time I’m against writing for free. It distracts writers from doing things that can both further their careers and enable them to pay bills. Writing for experience can be accomplished while making money – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. There are, however, situations in which free can work out for writers though they are not as common as “job” listings would have you believe. It’s a personal, business decision that should be made with research and with realistic expectations.
Have you written for “free?” Why or why not? What other things should writers consider when weighing a non-traditional pay option?
There have been many advances in the field of freelance writing over the last few years: for most publications it is no longer necessary to send in an SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) query; electronic payments outpace snail mail checks; social media has made it easier to connect to other writers and editors, etc.
The business side of freelance writing has gotten easier with more online applications streamlining mundane tasks many writers loathe. Shoeboxed is one great app that moves shoeboxes full of receipts out of the closet and into cyberspace.
Shoeboxed organizes and stores receipts, business cards and documents online. I signed up for Shoeboxed’s free trial and have fallen in love with it. I chose the ‘most popular’ $29.99 option that gives users:
- 150 items scanned by the company,
- 500 catch up scans
- 2-3 turnaround time for mailed in items
- Access to the Shoeboxed mobile app for smartphones
in addition to the unlimited self-scan option that is available on all of the other plans.
Initially, I worried about sending my receipts and precious contact info (via business cards) off to some random address. Fortunately, Shoeboxed provided their own cute blue SASE envelopes to send my items in AND I was able to track the envelope’s progress through the Shoeboxed system. The company returns all materials within a couple business days, which is great for buyer’s remorse or tracking rebates.
The turnaround time for my mail-in receipts was quicker than the plan indicated. Instead of 2-3 business days, I found my receipts online by the end of the next business day.
Using the app for iPhones was just as easy as popping the receipts in the mail and maybe even easier because I could do it as soon as I received the receipt. A couple camera clicks and a business lunch was logged and added to the expense tracker – it would make any tax accountant proud.
I do have an issue with the unpaid plan. The business card scanner app automatically sends an email to the contact information provided. Potential new client? Bigwig you want to impress? Shoeboxed is going to send them an email and the only way to disable this feature is to upgrade to a paid plan. This is one feature Shoeboxed should remove from the mobile app.
I really didn’t want to learn a new system and spend gobs of time reconciling it with the programs I already use for invoicing, taxes, etc. Good thing this program interacts seamlessly with other popular bookkeeping programs like Quicken and Freshbooks and all the information can be exported into Excel and CV files.
The open and self-explanatory interface makes it easy to find the information you need, while the reporting areas makes it easy to figure out where the money is spent. The program organizes your receipts by type and creates reports to show the amount of money spent on each category including online purchases – a great tool for any business owner.
The business card tracker is just as helpful. It puts the information from the card into a contact management system that you can edit. The front and back of the card is scanned so any info you need is available when you need it. The best part is the info extracted from the card can be downloaded to most popular contact management systems like Gmail, iPhone/AppleMail, Yahoo, Blackberry, etc.
Shoeboxed made it easy for me to keep my finances and contacts organized for the whole month. I didn’t miss my weekly input chore and I was able to access info from anywhere. Using the Shoeboxed reports helped me define a better budget for both my business and home. I don’t like spending money, but this app is well worth it.
What apps help you keep your business moving?
Full Disclosure: FWJ’s parent company, Splashpress Media, has an affiliate connection, however that relationship had no bearing on the nature or content of this review.