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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Before You Go Holiday Shopping...

Let's went to Trader Joe's recently, saw an abundance of pumpkin products and realized
the holidays were near, right?  Even though it's only mid-September, the retailers are looking to hook us working folk in with their food, gadgets, and anything else for that WOW appeal (like the holiday hybrid tree above).  And that's your cue to fire up that credit card...or NOT.

Maybe you had a good freelancing year and still gushing at the offers you probably received from referrals and project extensions.  If this wasn't a great freelancing year and your plastic outnumbers cash in terms of dollar amounts, why not splurge?  Either way, don't give in before speaking to a professional that can help manage credit issues.

In our business, the safe spots are few and far between.  It doesn't help to just have a cushion or mad money account stashed in a sock.  The days between clients, product management, advertising and promotions (and let's not forget rest) can merge together as a single 480 (as in 24 hours times 20 days) -hour blur.  By the time you come out of it and decide it's time to chill with a stack of homemade pancakes, your social media account is calling.

Even if you don't have money problems today, sometimes getting comfortable with existing debt can be a nuisance.  College loans are probably at the top of the list but finding out where a person really stands can make a difference in how they pay bills every month. I'm not saying try to get around your financial obligations but apply your good fortune to your future...and not something likely to be re-gifted!

Also, think about whether you really need to BUY everyone a gift this holiday. If you're not a DIY person, try something simple.  Like when you're visiting someone, bring a couple of bottles of flavored apple cider or French lemonade instead of wine.  Baking cookies and placing inside a decorative tin or casing is easier than dealing with holiday traffic.  A collection of your poems printed on heavy colores cardstock will resonate with the right person.

The possibilities are endless so it can't hurt to plan for something other than a strategy for navigating mall crowds.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

A Low-Cost Startup Opportunity that's Stood the Test of Time

You're probably like me where you drop into the exercise thing at least once a week. It's not that you don't want to do more but you can't.  There are a lot of women in the same situation but one common complaint that many people have is there aren't enough options.  Between the purple place that costs nothing but remains crowded (except between the hours of 2:43 AM and 5:21 AM) and others where the environment is less than friendly - one exercise program continues to dominate.  And get this, it's now 50 years old.

Yup, Jazzercise is still going strong and women (along with some men) find the high energy environment hard to part with.  For those unfamiliar, this was the first exercise program that used upbeat music to get the crowds going.  While Richard Simmons may be considered a pioneer of making exercise hella fun, Judi Sheppard Missett deserves some of the credit for breaking ground in an industry that was mostly ruled by men.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Being Your Own Reputation Manager

You've probably heard those radio commercials where they talk about how negative online reviews can damage your small business.  The voice and tone sound pretty intimidating but using these services isn't a must.  In fact, I don't hear these radio ads as often as I used to.  However, there are some freelancers that feel the need to spend their hard-earned revenue on something they can fix themselves.

No one ever wants to read anything bad about their business or work they put into servicing a client.  Whether it's through another person, review site, or testimonial left on an outsourcing profile that others are sure to read.  Companies like Yelp make it where businesses cannot alter or change reviews but this can actually be a good thing because you can manage reviews to work in your favor.

Reputation management comes in many forms and whatever a person chooses to do, the key is to do it quickly.  Offering a discount or comped item, apologizing, or requesting a direct message all have positives and negatives, depending on the factors.  Yet, this is also assuming the client really had a bad experience.

Yep...there are haters.  People you went to school with that have nothing going for them.  Former co-workers (or worse, the boss), someone looking for an insurance payout, or a simply miserable individual who just needs a hug.

Whatever the case, investigating early has its advantages.  The complainer should have the details fresh in their head when confronted and if possible, they can be coerced into deleting or changing the original review.  One word to the wise is to never be on the defensive or accusatory when reaching out.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

So You Wanna Be a Freelance Writer?

Good for you!  Being a wordsmith on your terms and getting paid for it is one of the best ways to make
a living.  However, it does help your bank account if you can read (don't judge know what kind of individual I speak of) style guides AND are willing to adhere to them.  But then again, why are some of the most grammatically incorrect blogs that walk the fine line of what a person can legally say in a public entity get paid the fat cheddar?

In short, it comes down to marketing and finding the right audience.  I can go on and on about today's intelligence levels but instead, I'll share with you some things I've learned.  While freelance writing articles like this are a great template for getting started, these truths I've experienced can make the difference between being able to make rent and being tempted to put on a paper hat and go slang some burgers, fried chicken, or whatever sells in your area.

What I Learned From a Decade+ of Freelance Writing

  1. Keep calm.  There's nothing worse than entering the process stressed out or wondering about the last rejection or job that didn't go as planned.
  2. Keep reserve cash on hand.  Even if it's as little as $500, it can buy a little time when a person needs a break from the screen.
  3. Diversity is great but generalizations can bite you in the butt.  Trying to know and write about everything is something I learned way back in the days of Associated Content.  Because they paid upfront and residuals, I felt that as long as knew I how to research I can write about anything.  Not only was I called out on my errors but it made my profile look strange when I tried to use it for branding.
  4. Have a set of resources outside of your browser search engine.  This line of work is getting VERY competitive and being original is hard.  Although you may realize that using Wikipedia can be a fail, know where else to look for the facts.
  5. Never, ever pay for resources.  There was once an individual in my LinkedIn group who was a self-proclaimed expert on content writing.  While his intentions may have been good, it was all to promote an e-book that costs $5.  However, the buyer needed a password to open the book and had limited viewings.  Unfortunately for me (I fell for the okey-doke), about half of the things mentioned were out of date (even the SEO algorithms and black hat techniques).  Of course, the leads were out of date but back then, it was typical for a content writing company to go out of business without notice and take their works with them.  Don't believe me, ask anyone who worked with Demand Media pre-2010.
This leads me to the bonus that very few writers today will do.  Keep copies of your work.  Even if it was rejected more than once, it's yours to re-tool/spin/repurpose.  If you choose to work with a content mill as a way to get started and build some bylines, be aware of the risks.  It may start off good but waking up to getting an Error 500 message and not knowing what happened to your work can be disturbing,

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Best Freelancing Tools for the Disorganized

To those who've been at it for a minute, it seems that freelance and organization go hand-in-hand.    Even if a person is naturally organized, they often need something that tells them what to do or how to do it.  While many say that freelancing apps that can be used on a smartphone or mobile device are the best, not everyone uses such as system.

As for me, I'm still old school as I like to write things down.  I've never owned a Blackberry or anything that required me to keep up with charging schedules before realizing that the LG is a pretty awesome brand.  Oh yeah, you didn't hear that last part from me😛

Anyway, this is the organizer I grew up with, except mine was probably some fluorescent since it was the later 1980s.  It was also filled with confetti-size pieces of paper that had random guy's numbers I met on the bus and really serious ish like 'Interview at Mickey Ds for 11:00a'.  I even managed to convert my senior name cards (WTF were those for anyway?) into business cards using a word processor.  How genius was that?

So, in my mind, I was a really busy teen out of school who's always loved the idea of being organized.  Even once considered it as a career.  But then came along those Post-Its, and while it seemed like a good thing for someone who was balancing phone calls from agencies back in the day.  However, I learned that not all Post-Its, just like not all organizers were made alike.  Some could stick for days or weeks but here's my latest discovery...

Now this little treasure right here, which costs about $9 at Office Depot, gives me everything I need without worrying about data loss, USB cables that suddenly decided to stop charging, and wondering if I need a connection to read it.  I just jot down my plans for the week, along with some important tasks that I might have neglected.  Trust me, my Kindle's To-Do List has been a Don't for more than two years now.  Don't let cool technology prevent you from reaching your freelancing goals...sometimes an oldie is more than a goodie, especially when you get paid on time!

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Create Presentations that Reflect You

Even if getting in front of an audience isn't your thing, knowing how to create a good presentation goes a long way.  Especially if you're a writer and want a break or a way to make extra income, like creating your own tutorials, a solid presence will take you far.

One thing that can make a difference is believing in the product or your brand  Speaking in a conversational tone is a lot better than trying to sound like a newscaster.  When people are themselves on record, their message is easier to receive than from someone who speaks in a perfect monotone.

While some will say to put some pep in the pitch, speaking too fast can come off as dishonest.  Like a used car salesman type of shady.  Just breathe and let the words flow.

MS Powerpoint can be a friend to those looking to create unique videos for promotional purposes.  It's easy to use and it can be uploaded fast on most viral video sites.  However, many tend to be lost when it comes to creating an engaging product.  Some forget to take advantage of MP4 imports, cool transitions, and the ability to make something unique.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Stay on Top of Studies and Your Money

If you work and go to school, time management can be an issue.  However, if you're a gig worker while trying to learn something, this can be a different kind of battle.  Although battle may be a strong word, it's not easy to realize that money can be funny as a contractor.  But getting an in-demand job while going to school can ease some of the pressure.

Why?  Companies go out of business (sometimes with zero notice), a merger can force out new hires or those without a strong history, and there's personal burnout.  Although these things can happen when working for a large company, having a severance package (or at least the ability to collect unemployment) can make the difference.

In the meantime, assessing skills can be the greatest timesaver.  Why?  Instead of wasting time (and losing money) listening to music or answering surveys for pennies an hour.  Anyone who knows how to type a little may be able to land a job as a transcriptionist.  Some companies even offer paid training.

There are many nice-paying gigs that also allow anyone to create their own schedule.  Genpact (formerly known as OnSource) is great for shutterbugs who can travel to various business and residential locations.  Mystery shopping is great for those who know their way around a store or want to hone their acting skills (the latter may want to consider getting a gold membership).

Many of these gigs just ask applicants to have an active PayPal account to get started, along with the usual documents needed to work.  There are also numerous websites on this page (see right panel) that have leads on jobs that pay weekly, allow background noise, or have full-time opportunities.