Choosing to become a freelancer is both a positive and risky decision. You are setting our on your own, giving up the safety net of a steady employer. You are taking a step to be dependent entirely on yourself and no one else. It is liberating and terrifying, all at once.
The idea of paying for typing classes is almost laughable to many freelance writers. If you’re a freelance writer, you know how to type! The more you practice, the faster your typing speed will get. Freelance writers should spend their time writing, not typing nonsense to increase speed. Your work gets done and you feel like you are typing at a fine pace. There has probably never been a time when you got frustrated and thought to yourself, “this would have been done two minutes ago if I were typing faster.” It just doesn’t happen. You get paid because of your ideas, not because you can type fast.
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?
Every month, the bloggers at FWJ work hard to provide quality and helpful content. Hardworking freelance writers click through looking for great leads and info, but let’s face it, some posts may slip by in the daily hustle and bustle. Here’s some great posts you may have missed:
Writing From Home: Warnings & Tips on How to Survive When You Have No Office by Robin Parrish
Robin captures the writing from home experience perfectly. My favorite:
Get Out of the House. As important as it is to guard your at-home work time, sometimes you just have to get away from all the around-the-house distractions in order to get anything done. So grab the laptop and head out to someplace where there’s free wifi, like Barnes & Noble or Starbucks.
How to Use Your Freelance Work Personality to Your Advantage: Know Yourself Before Applying for a Gig by Jodee Redmond
Jodee gives great advice on shifting your job search to looking for work that fits you:
When you are looking for freelance writing jobs, first consider your work personality. If you are someone who enjoys the relative security of working with a client over the long term, then look for someone who can offer a steady gig (or the potential for a series of projects). If you are someone who gets bogged down working on large projects, move on and apply for something that is a better fit for your freelance work personality.
How to Get Your Contracts Signed: How to Deal with a Physical Act in an Electronic World by Jonathan Bailey
Jonathan saved me time and photoshopping time by giving these great alternatives to the whole snail-mail-signature thing:
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.
I have several web pages bookmarked that explains the freaking lie and lay conspiracy in several different ways. *Don’t judge me* I’ve added Noemi’s to the top spot:
Let’s get the meanings of the words straight, once and for all.
Lay is a transitive verb and needs a direct object – a receiver of the action. It means to put something down.
Example: This bag of groceries is heavy. I will lay it down on the bench while I wait for the bus.
Lie is an intransitive verb and does not need a direct object. It means to recline. 2
Example: My back hurts. I think I’ll lie down for a bit.
Can Anyone Make Money Blogging? by Gayla Baer-Taylor
A great response to a timeless question:
First and foremost, the critical ingredient to blogging success is having staying power. The ability to not allow defeat due to setbacks. A successful blogger must be willing to put their self out there and put in the hours upon hours of hard work that’s the proven foundation for successful blogs.
Article Clip 911: Protect your career and back-up your work by Terreece M. Clarke
Not to toot my horn, this is great info for writers:
Not saving your clips, backing up your blog posts, etc. is like throwing money away. Why work so hard, research so thoroughly only to toss your work to the wind? Three steps will save you time and tears:
What were your favorite blog posts?
These are those all important dates that you never miss. It’s when an article is due, when the editor wants it in and when excuses will be tough to take.
A quickie summary of what an article is about, it usually is placed in the table of contents or under the article headline.
The theme and publishing calendar for a publication. Most print publications have calendars set far in advance, some as far as six months which is important to remember when sending queries. Writers also use an editorial calendar to schedule their work and organized deadlines, blog posts, etc.
The yummy, meaty articles that are ‘featured’ in the main part of the magazine. These articles are longer and are an impressive feather in the cap of any writer.
FOB (Front of Book)
Newbie writers are always told to aim for the smaller front of the book (magazine). These articles are shorter pieces designed to get a writer’s feet wet with the publication. Front of the book is sometimes used interchangeably with filler which are short pieces, but they can be located throughout the magazine.
The silent voice that gives the zing to a piece without byline credit, but earns the income. Often writers sign a confidentiality agreement with their clients and the terms vary from project to project.
Jumping into a freelance writing career is very exciting. Bursting with ideas, writers sit down in front of their computers anxious to discover what this wide, wonderful world has in store for them. Unfortunately, they often find tons of advice full of industry lingo that can be a bit confusing. Here is the first in the latest Article Quickie series designed to help you hit the ground running:
AP Stylebook or AP Style
Called the journalist’s bible, the AP Stylebook is a listing of how things like grammar, religions, titles, times etc. should be written within the text of an article. It was designed to make writing simple, uniform and unbiased within the newspaper industry, however many magazines and websites have adopted the guide as well. It’s my personal fave and I like to thumb through it on a regular basis for entertainment purposes, yes I am a nerd.
One of the main reasons why we do what we do – that little line below the title or way at the bottom of the post that reads “By Terreece M. Clarke” or, of course, your name. Some sites will offer to pay you in byline, but I have yet to find a mortgage company that accepts bylines instead of actual government currency – go figure.
Call-out Box or Pull-Out
A killer quote will often be placed in a call-out box. Some will use the term interchangeably with “pull-out quote.” The graphics department takes the killer quote i.e. “Yeah, so then I shot the bastard for looking at me.” and makes it pretty using a larger font, different color, or literally a colored box. How they do it depends on the publication and writers usually don’t have a say in how it looks.
Chicago Manual of Style
A system of proper notation, citation, manuscript formatting that serves as a guideline for academics, book authors and publishers. Some magazines and websites do use the Chicago guide instead of AP Style and it would be wise for authors to have a working knowledge of both styles and more importantly, their differences.
The catch-22 of freelance writing: a writer needs clips to get a gig, but you can’t get clips until you get a gig!” A clip is an example of your published work. Whether a blog post or a magazine article, it is defined as work you have done for a publication a self-published piece i.e. personal blog is normally not accepted. *See Writing Sample
Magazines that are for the general public are called consumer magazines. Men’s Health, O, Cosmopolitan, XXL, Playboy, etc. are consumer magazines. They are also called ‘glossies’. For some, these are the Holy Grail of bylines, competition to get in is usually fierce, but it is a fluid industry. Magazines are born and die every week and editors change positions and places of businesses more often than soap opera characters change bed partners.
Content or web content to be specific, describes a genre that creates information specifically designed for websites. This work is different than paper articles. The pieces are usually shorter, smaller paragraphs and written to be high on keywords for the search engine rankings.
Copywriters write info with an eye on selling a particular product or service. The blurbs on the back cover of books, sales letters, eye-catching billboards – all copywriting. The length of the material depends on the project.
In school it meant a cheat sheet for the test, in the magazine world it means a listing of a magazine’s in-house style guide. For example, one magazine’s guide may require the magazine’s name always written in all caps or a tech journal may list their preference on how the word ’email’ is written (e-mail vs email).
Any A – C terms I missed? Let me know and watch for D – G tomorrow!
We are barely past the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday and here I am crashing through all the fun of the season by bringing up January. There’s no point sticking your head in the sand. The new year is coming and with it comes new responsibilities. To put a positive spin on it, it brings new opportunities to get organized and to create the cushy work environment of which you’ve always dreamed.
In my dreamland, all of my calendars – editorial, home, kid activity and husband, are perfectly synced and color coordinated. In reality, my editorial calendar clashes with the other calendars in a fight to the death, stomping over karate classes and movie nights with reckless abandon. It’s a mess. I somehow get everything done – well. But just imagine if I got them in harmony? I’d be completely unstoppable!
I won’t go into the importance of having an editorial calendar, we’ve got plenty of posts on that here, here and here. Those that have one, take this time to evaluate it. What worked? What could you do better? Do you need a different style of calendar? A different system of tracking? Do you need to place it in a different position? Sometimes, depending on the amount of work you have, placing it right in your face can be overwhelming or depressing. Other times it can be a motivator. In that case, it’s not providing much motivation behind your bookcase.
How about too many calendars? Do you have one to carry, one at home, one on each floor, one on your desk and one or two online reminders? How’s that working for you? Pare down and keep organization tools simple and easy to use.
Don’t force it.
I have a great smart phone. It does all kinds of cool stuff, including keeping track of appointments and due dates. It cannot replace my pen and paper calendar. I know it is completely old school, but there is something about writing it down and mapping it out that works for me. I tried going completely electronic. I was lost and or late for a week. Find what works for you and stick with it. I know a writer who uses the Post-It method. It would drive me crazy, but hey…
Pen in days.
There are days that should be set in stone. Add them in now because if you don’t you’ll likely find every excuse not to set them – doctor’s appointments (you can’t meet a deadline if you’re dead); holidays, administrative days – days you clear up the books, straighten the files, etc. Penning in days is important because it gives you permission to have a life outside of writing.
Editorial calendars are essential tools when used effectively. Take this time to tweak yours.
Making changes to your calendar/methods? Tell us or share what works for you!
PR Newswire’s ProfNet service has been around since 1992 and made it easy for writers to find expert sources for quotes, interviews, and more. Now, ProfNet Connect has launched and replaces the ProfNets Expert Database. It’s still free to join (either as a writer seeking sources or as an expert), and offers a more interactive approach to connecting experts and journalists.
With ProfNet Connect, you can search for experts and communicate directly with them through messages, forum posts, and blogs. Expert profiles include a lot more information than they did during the ProfNets Expert Database days. For example, a profile can now include multimedia, videos, pictures, white papers, audio content, and more. With the enhanced profile feature, you can gather enough information about a person to determine if he or she is the right person to contact to help you with a story before you go any further.
The new ProfNet also offers the ability to create groups, so you can easily find sources who have identified themselves as having expertise in specific areas. For example, ProfNet is still very new but already has groups for green technology, social media, keynote and guest speakers, cloud computing, and more.
ProfNet Connect also offers an event calendar, and another feature that you might find yourself visiting is the Job Board included in the ProfNet Connect Forum.
Rather than simply publishing an opportunity, you can search for experts and contact them directly. However, you can still submit queries through the ProfNet site or the ProfNet query form if you prefer.
I have used ProfNet in the past to find experts for articles and books I’ve written, so I can attest to the fact that it works. You can follow the link to find more free tools to find expert sources for your own stories.
Last week, I published an article called 5 Online Tools Freelance Writers Can Use to Make Life and Business Easier, which offered my suggestions for free and cheap tools that any freelance writer can try. One of the items on that list was Skype, which enables you to make free calls (including international calls) from your computer. Skype is free and not only helps freelance writers manage client communication, but it’s also an incredible tool for conducting audio and video interviews.
Want to see a sample of a video taken via a Skype call? Check out the videos I took using Call Recorder for Mac (discussed later in this post) for Newstex.com. The video recording feature in Call Recorder allows you to record both parties on the call (using a picture-in-picture feature) or just one party (which is great for those of us who work at home in our pajamas). You control everything on your end. The person on the other end of the call just needs a Skype account, a webcam, and a microphone.
Convinced these tools work well? Take a look at some of the great choices to record the audio and/or video of your own Skype calls.
I use Call Recorder and love it! It’s easy to use, cheap, and takes seconds to install. You can even download a free demo to give it a test drive before you buy the software. When you’re ready to buy, it’s only $19.95.
Total Recorder for Windows comes in three versions from $17.95 to $53.95 with the more expensive versions offering more capabilities such as video recording. Even the base version allows you to record online audio from any source, such as Skype, webinars, and more.
If you want a free, bare-bones audio recorder that works only with Skype, then the Pamela Call Recorder Skype Extra is a good solution for you!
There are some other options to record Skype calls, but the above are the ones I have used or have heard positive things about from others who have used them. Do you have a preferred tool for recording Skype calls? Leave a comment and share your suggestions!