With all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it can be hard to stay motivated enough to have productive holidays instead of just fun ones. One of the best things about being a freelancer is that you aren’t wedded to a set schedule. You set your own hours and can make special allowances for holiday events. It’s important to make a plan before the holidays get too hectic, though. Without one, staying productive during the holidays will be much harder. So, how do you do it?How do you stay productive during the holidays? Click To Tweet
Editor’s note: This post was written by Thomas A. Parmalee, a long-time member of our community. We’d like to extend our gratitude to him for taking the time to write this piece to share his experience with all of you. His story is one reason we continue doing what we do. We hope you get as inspired as we do.
It was 14 years ago that I visited FreelanceWritingGigs.com and stumbled upon a job posting from a book publisher.
They were seeking someone to write book summaries on the backs of books. As someone who loves to read, I thought it would be a great way to earn some extra income. [Read more…]
One of the things that I hear from many of my friends is that they are unable to find a job in today’s economy. Most of the people that are complaining about not being able to find a job have college degrees, but they lack the experience that many employers require. Because of our relatively high unemployment rate, it should come as no surprise that any employer can pick and choose when it comes to whom they want to hire. Because of the vast number of applications for most jobs, many of my friends are passed over for other applicants that have more experience. [Read more…]
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.
Ever since I started writing at Plagiarism Today and especially since I started this column, I’ve been hearing a lot from freelance writers who have been scammed or otherwise victimized by unscrupulous clients. Though the good news is that such bad clients are very rare in the big scheme of things, they are common enough that almost every freelancer, if they remain active long enough, will run into one or two over the course of their career.
So how do you avoid being taken advantage of as a freelance writer. As we discussed previously, clients have the playing field tilted to their advantage on most legal issues. As such, litigation isn’t often practical in these matters.
This means that the best way to protect yourself from these scams is to learn what they are and not step into them in the first place. [Read more…]
One of the biggest struggles I have in terms of my writing career is helping people to understand exactly what I do for a living. When I was a kid, I had dreams of becoming a “writer” – dreams I put on the shelf the moment I realized I didn’t have a fictionally creative bone in my body.
I didn’t realize I could really write until a few years ago. A friend had casually introduced me to one of the web’s many user generated content sites and I started submitting articles for a few dollars here and there. After that, I experimented with an Elance account. Imagine my surprise when one of my first clients sent me a message offering me regular, ongoing work. What started out as a few hours of work per week quickly grew into a full-time career.
Bye bye, desk job. [Read more…]
I get a lot of emails from people seeking freelance writing advice. One letter last week got me thinking about how much time writers waste on queries.
In the email, a new writer asked if I could read his query and tell him why it was rejected and point out any obvious problems. He went on to say he knew he didn’t miss anything because he had worked on nothing else but the query for two weeks.
Two weeks is a long time.
Queries are an important part of writing, especially for writers trying to establish themselves in the field. They should be given care and dilligence, but micromanaging a query is not the best use of your time. Queries are an introduction of yourself and/or your idea to a publication or client. The best ones are those that feel organic, are succinct and specific. When writers over-edit, the result is often long-winded letters that feel rehearsed. Here are three easy ways to get the query letter you want and the productivity you need: [Read more…]
Located within the first few pages of a publication, the masthead lists the important information you need – editor names, assistant editors, departments, contributing writers, etc. It is also helpful to find out the email configuration of the company – a not so secret tip on getting your queries to the right person without the SASE.
When a writer has a fantastic idea and an editor isn’t so sure, they will ask the writer to write the piece on spec or speculation. This means a writer will write the article in its entirety on the hopes that once the editor sees the piece they will buy it. There is usually no contract and writers should carefully consider their options.
When a writer creates a pitch they are trying to sell their idea for an article or project to an editor or client. This is also known as a query.
A specific website or booklet that shows a writer’s body of work. Most portfolios are online so they are easily accessible to editors and clients.
SASE (Self-Addressed Stamped Envelopes)
Way before email when writers use to send queries to editors by mail they would spend thousands of dollars addressing envelopes to themselves and stamping them in the hopes that an editor would send their thumbs up or down or at the very least return that query letter or manuscript using the stamped envelope. That usually never happened. Most editors would write back using company stationary and postage, wasting time, money and trees! Now, most editors shoot a reply via email, however there are still some publications that will only accept queries or manuscripts via snail mail.
Side bars are shorter bits of information that accompany a longer article. They can range in size and they usually are there to highlight or further explain important information.
In modeling, a tear sheet is a copy of the model’s work once published. In writing, a tear sheet works the same way without the pouty stare and 10 hours of hair and makeup. After the publication is printed, editors will often send a tear sheet to the writer as a courtesy for the writer’s clip file.
These are designed to give writers helpful tips and information about submission guidelines and what the publication accepts. While full of great advice and information, they aren’t always gospel. For example, many publication’s guidelines still tout mail in query submissions instead of electronic means.
Don’t forget to check out the rest of the freelance glossary!
We’ve talked at great length about why you should always have a contract for your various jobs and some of the terms you need to know when looking at a contract, but there remains an odd challenge when dealing with contracts, getting them signed.
The reason is that the process of signing a contract was not really designed for the digital age. Traditionally, signing a contract would involve two or more people sitting around a single sheet of paper, agreeing to the terms on it and signing their names. While that works great when the people involved are relatively close together and can get in the same room, it doesn’t work as neatly when the parties are half a world away.
However, as a freelance writer, that’s the exact situation you will often face, having to sign a contract with someone in another state or country.
Fortunately, the laws have been updated to help with this problem and new tools are coming online that make the process of signing contracts digitally much easier.
Passed in 2000, the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN ACT) was designed to help electronic commerce function by ensuring that signatures could not be considered invalid simply because they were electronic.
The law created a definition for an electronic signature that is the one used the most in the U.S. It reads as follows:
The term ‘electronic signature’ means an electronic sound, symbol, or process, attached to or logically associated with a contract or other record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.
As you can see, the definition is extremely broad and an electronic signature could be just about anything so long as it is somewhat unique to the signer and shows an intent to sign the document.
(Note: The ESIGN Act only deals with interstate commerce. If you are dealing with someone in the same state, your local state laws apply and may be different.)
Some, for example, have taken to signing contracts or other papers with a “/s/” followed by their name. Others scan in a copy of their handwritten signature and there’s also a variety of ways to electronically sign documents and email, including via PGP.
Despite this flexibility, for contracts most still prefer to have some form of a handwritten signature, largely because it completely avoids potential issues about “is it a signature or not” under the law.
That, in turn, creates a real problem. Signing a paper usually involves having a physical page in front of you and digital contracts are, well, digital. So how does one solve this problem without killing more trees? There’s actually several solutions to the problem.
The Old Way
Prior to more recent developments, and the Internet itself, the primary way to handle contracts with two geographically disperse people was to either mail it back and forth or, more commonly, send it back and forth via fax.
However, thanks to email, fax machines are much less common than they once were and even electronic fax services such as eFax don’t fix all of the problems. You could, as an alternative, email a scanned copy of the contract back and forth, but that required printing, signing and scanning the contract in order to get all of the signatures on it.
The problem with all of these systems is that you have to have a physical contract in front of you at some point. Whether it’s a fax you send back and forth or a scanned copy you email, paper is involved and paper, in the digital age is, at best a speed bump as you wait for it to print out and, at worst, can be a major obstacle if you don’t have a printer handy.
Clearly, there’s a need for an all-digital solution and, fortunately, several companies offer just that.
A Better Answer
There are several companies that offer digital contract signing. They include the following:
- RightSignature: Offers a free trial with up to five documents, paid accounts start at $14 per month for unlimited documents and 1 template.
- FillAnyPDF: Can be used for free without an account but a free account opens up more editing options and allows storage of 5 filled forms. Paid accounts start at $19 per month and allow the storage of up to 1,000 filled forms
- DocQ: Offers a free account for up to 5 signatures per month and a paid personal account starts at $7 per month and offers 25 signatures.
Though there are differences in how the systems work, they have the same fundamental principles. One of the parties uploads the contract or document to the site, signs it using tools provided by the service, which include the ability to handwrite your signature or use different digital signature methods, and then send it to the other person or people.
The entire process, from uploading the document to the server and sending it on to the next person is paperless and some services, such as Rightsignature, even handle the process of ensuring all parties sign.
That being said, you don’t really need these services to do it. There are dozens of PDF editors available that will let you add an image to a PDF. Simply scan a copy of your signature on a white background and then use the editor to add it in the appropriate area.
You can then forward on the signed PDF to the next party, who can sign it in a similar manner.
Best of all, the only cost for this is the cost of the PDF editor and there are free online options, such as PDFescape, available.
Contracts are a necessity but they can be a bit of a pain. Trying to get a paper contract signed in the digital age is, at best, kludgy and inconvenient. Fortunately, the laws have changed to enable this kind of electronic commerce and there are tools available to make it as easy as possible.
So, next time you have to sign a contract or fill in any kind of paperwork, give going paperless a shot. You might find that it works better than the alternatives and might save a little paper too.
Best of all, getting contracts signed faster means more business and more money as you get clients signed up faster. Plus, the less time you spend with paper, the more time you spend writing, it’s a true win-win.
Have a question about the law and freelance writing? Either leave a comment below or contact me directly if you wish to keep the information private (However, please mention that it is a suggestion for Freelance Writing Jobs). This column will be determined largely by your suggestions and questions so let me know what you want to know about.
I am not an attorney and nothing in this article should be taken as legal advice.
When I’m responding to freelance writing job ads, I don’t always have a contact name for the client. How do I handle the salutation?
Will Write for Money
Dear Money Writer,
E-mail is a little different from sending a letter by regular mail. People tend to be a little less formal when communicating in this manner. While that may be acceptable when you are sending a note to a friend or a family member, you will want to be more formal when you are communicating with a potential client.
If you have the name of a specific contact person, make sure that it is spelled correctly in the e-mail. (Copy and paste it into the body of the e-mail if you are concerned about being able to do so.)
In a situation where despite your best efforts you have been unable to find a specific name, then use a general greeting, like “Dear Sir or Madam.” You could even keep it really simple by using something like, “Good morning” or “Good afternoon.”
What should you avoid using as a salutation when you are sending an e-mail to a client?
How you doin’?
You get the idea. While the person you are making contact with may turn out to be a friend at some point, that is not the case yet. It’s better to err on the side of being a little too formal when sending an e-mail to a prospective client.
If you have a question you would like to see answered in an upcoming column, please share it in the comments.