Monthly Archives: October 2011

No More Do-overs!


I have a game on my phone that I play a lot called Basketball Shot. Basically, you flick the ball in the hoop as fast as you can, and try to score as many points possible in a set time period. Each level has a score you have to beat to advance.

Well, being the geek that I am, I pretty much figured out early on that you want to pad your score as much as possible in the early stages, because as the game progresses, there is less time, but you still have to meet that level’s score. So, I have benchmarks set that I have to meet in each of the first three stages. If I don’t meet them, I reset the game and try again.

A couple of days ago, as I was about to reset the game for probably the tenth time, it hit me. I’m addicted to do-overs. If things don’t go well when I first start them, I either chuck the whole project and start again, or more in my nature, I move on to something else. Another way of looking at it — if it’s too hard, I look for something easier. Something I know I can accomplish without even trying.

I cannot tell you how many opportunities I’ve missed because of this mindset, and I’d bet you’ve fallen victim to it as well.

  • Have you ever seen an ad for a job that you would love to have, but one of the qualifications would take you out of your comfort zone, so you didn’t apply?
  • Have you ever turned down a writing gig because it would require you to do something you’ve never done before (interview a client, cold call business, write in a style format you didn’t know)?
  • Talked yourself out of doing something you really wanted to do because it might require a risk of some sort (relocation, pushing other work to the side, others might gripe about it)?

Sure, you had your reasons for why you walked way from these opportunities, but were they good reasons?

So, I’ve decided: No more do-overs. No more walking away from opportunities because of fear of the unknown, or because it might be hard or I might fail.

In my head, the only real way to fail is to not even try, or worse, to try and give up because of what might happen. This is no longer acceptable.

I decided several years ago that, I was really only going to pursue things that made me happy. I guess I should have included the caveat that some of these things might be hard, but to go ahead and do them anyway. But I guess its never too late to change ones life philosophy.

So, no more do-overs or resets for me. I will do my first three stages as well as I can, and play the game out to its natural conclusion. If I win, great, if I don’t, at least I can say I stayed in the game til the end.

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On the Horns of a Dilemma


Ok, not really — just always wanted to use that phrase as the title of a blog post. LOL

I am, however trying to make a decision — and I am enlisting your assistance.

In my writing life, I have three basic nonfiction passions: Small business consulting, social media and renters’/real estate assistance. I really enjoy writing about those three areas. There is some overlap between small business and social media, which is cool — it’s like killing two birds with one stone (I’m all about the cliches tonight, folks!).

So, I’ve been thinking of honing an area or two for my specialist bent, and I know it will be one, if not more than one of the three above-mentioned areas…

I just can’t decide which one would be the most advantageous.

So I’m going to explain my idea for all three areas, and then I’m going to ask you which area you think would be the best one to launch. Like I said, I’ll eventually write about all three areas, but I have to start with one.

Small Business Consulting

  • helping entrepreneurs develop their business ideas
  • helping entrepreneurs research and compose their business plans, marketing materials and grants
  • general advice on starting a business (licenses, locations, determining target markets)
  • Question and answer segments when readers have questions.
The format would basically be how-to articles, with the occasional blog post-type article.
Social Media
  • All things social media — how to advertise on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn
  • How to launch a social media campaign
  • How to find your target market
  • How to build rapport with your current and potential customers.
  • The dos and donts of social media
  • SEO education
  • Answering questions from readers.
The format would also be how-to articles, but more blog post-type articles.
Renters Rights / Real Estate Issues
This is actually more of a database of information regarding renter’s rights in all 50 states. I’d also include information about foreclosures, short sales, dealing with lenders and other helpful advice for people facing losing their homes — whether as renters or buyers. I’ll also take questions from readers.
And there you have it — my three ideas. I like them all, and yeah, I AM leaning toward one of them, but I really would like input from you guys so I know if I’m going in the right direction. So, please cast your vote and let me know what you think. I’ll share my decision once I get the results of the poll and decide.
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Just To Reiterate…


For the last couple of hours, I have been reading posts in a clients’ forum. Many of you will know of whom I am referring. Those that don’t, keep reading anyway, because, well, just keep reading. šŸ™‚

Anyhoo…today I’m reading such nuggets of wisdom like:

“The Internet is dead for writers. There is no longer money to be made writing on the Internet.”

“Blogs are dead. You can’t make money writing on or for a blog.”

“Content mills are dead. You won’t be able to make money writing for content mills.”

And from a previous day, “Generalists are dead. You can’t make money as a generalist writer.”

Hum…

So, what, I’m supposed to pick a topic and go door-to-door and ask to write about it for the business? Are you saying I HAVE to return to print media?

Oh, wait — “Print media is dying. Soon you won’t be able to make money writing for print publications.

Uh huh…

Do you all know how utterly idiotic you sound? You are basically saying that soon SOON…a writer will not be able to make a living…ANYWHERE, ANYHOW.

Really?

C’mon folks, enough with the doom and gloom. As long as there are people who need to say things, but don’t know how to say them, writers will have work.

As long as things need to be sold, writers will have work.

As long as people continue to read, writers will have work.

(OK — so that last one if kinda iffy, but I still stand by the statement, for now.)

But my point is, just because the genre is changing and just because the format is evolving, this does not mean writers are going to go the way of the dinosaur. Sure, there will be businesses who decide they can “do it better, since, really, how hard can writing be? I did get a B- in English in high school after all,”…

But the savvy business owner quickly comes to his senses and hires a professional to fix what he created.

Now, yes, this does mean that as writers, you might have to develop a new skill set, but hey, researching and learning new things and writing about them is a large part of what you do as a writer anyway, so this truly should not be a daunting task.

Especially if you’re…*gasp* a generalist. (Or a generalist with a specialist bent.)

So, folks, don’t put down your pens or close your word processing software just yet. We aren’t going anywhere!

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It’s Time


Taking a break from my usual writing-related posts to discuss something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I’ll return to more writer-friendly banter tomorrow, but for now…

In the midst of Occupy Fill-In-the-Blank-with-the-location-of-your-choice-here, Tea Party rhetoric, and generalĀ politicizing, one thing still stands out to me: Everything is still a Republican vs. Democrat issue. Herman Cain is better than Mitt Romney, but both are better than President Obama. The Republicans are out to destroy the Democrats. Progressives are subversives out to overthrow the government.

Stop. Just. Stop.

When will we learn that this is not a Republican vs. Democrat issue. None of it. The political affiliation has noting to do with any of this.

This is a Us vs. Them issue, and the “Thems” belong to both parties.

The US is US. The average American who expects their elected officials to do what we sent them to DC to do.

Take a look around, people. Are ANY of them doing that? Any?

Name one. Please. Think about it. I’ll wait.

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

The American people have been sold a pack of lies. Doesn’t matter what political wrapper it’s in. It’s all rotten underneath the pretty foil used to sell it to us. We’ve been had. Plain and simple.

And if you don’t think they aren’t sitting in their respective war rooms laughing their asses off at us, you’re deluded.

Wake up people. Stop letting them divide us. As a friend posted earlier on her blog, we cannot in good conscience leave the politics to the politicians.

Every day, millions of Americans sit down with their checkbook and pile of bills and figure out who gets paid and who gets to wait til next payday. We don’t have the benefit of printing more money or creating a new credit card from thin air. We have to make do with what we have. We make it work, because we don’t have a choice.

And yet, our government, who has no problem sticking their hand in my wallet every April, cannot manage this feat.

And spare me the well, the Democrats/well the Republican crap. That’s not even the issue.

Our elected officials have probably never had to live within reasonable means either in their entire lives or it was so long ago, they forget how. Face it, you can’t be broke and run for political office.

So, we have a bunch of people who have never had to balance a budget, trying to balance the biggest budget in the world. Yeah, makes perfect sense.

I say we ban all attorneys (who are notoriously bad with money!), and people who have amassed wealth from holding public office. I think only bookkeepers and people who have had to live within their means for the past 10 years or more should be sent to Washington. Why we thought a bunch of rich,Ā privileged individuals could come together to represent us was a good idea, I do not understand. But obviously its not working.

So, I propose a third party. Call it the Real Party. The candidates are REAL people, with REAL issues and a REAL grasp on what life in America is really like.

Because this is no longer a Democrat vs. Republican issue. It’s a REAL one.

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Day 11, Post…er…


I don’t know. I’m not really keeping count. I’m doing good to know it’s day 11. LOL

Spent the better part of the day applying for new gigs. Some were for content mills, others were for, well, not content mills.

Still haven’t decided to re-try my hand at feature writing. As much as I enjoy creating unique article angles, interviewing people and writing features, I really did not enjoy the adminstrative end of it all.

And no, I don’t mean the query letter. I got pretty darn good at writing those. It’s the other backend stuff that drove me batty. Namely, the waiting. Seems like I was always waiting for something.

Waiting to hear about a query.

Waiting to hear if the article was accepted.

Waiting to get paid.

Waiting. Always with the waiting.

Bleh.

Now, I’d imagine, I’d hope the process has sped up a bit, what with email, instant messaging and even Facebook, but the one drawback to writing for content mills (or at least the ones I write for) is the almost instant feedback/results and relatively quick payment for my work has made me impatient. We are living in an instant gratification world, and I’m an instant gratification girl.

(Sorry, Madonna).

But really — having to wait days, even *gasp* a week to hear back on a query might send me up a tree. Of course, I would have other things to work on while I waited, so maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. And I did just spend a day applying for other places to write and I haven’t melted into a puddle of goo yet, and it’s been all of 12 – 14 hours…

Hum…

Well, I think I’m going to continue pondering whether I’m going to go the features route again. Until then, Imma just keep on doin’ what I’ve been doin’.

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Write What You (Don’t) Know


The past couple of days I’ve been extolling the benefits of being a generalist with a specialist bent. Again, as I’ve mentioned, to survive as a freelancer, you have to be able to write about a variety of subjects with authority. For the most part, the key to doing it is having decent research skills.

Now, I pride myself on my ability to find just about anything online. If there’s website, blog post or even a tweet about a subject, I can find it.

Until today.

I’m writing an article on troubleshooting a Kenwood washing machine. OK — first off, I didn’t even know Kenwood made washing machines. I thought they made car stereos and walkie talkies. Didn’t know they were into appliances as well.

Turns out, they are a big European supplier of household appliances. So, there was a new nugget if information for me.

So, now I’m on a mission to find an owner’s manual for a Kenwood front-loading washer. And I’m striking out.

Big time.

Blah.

Kenmore manuals. Everywhere. Whirlpool manuals. A plethora. Want a manual on the Neptune, Elite or Oasis? I got ya covered. But damn if I can find anything on a Kenwood washer. I barely uncovered that they exist.

So, I have a request. If anyone knows anything about these washers, could you tell me where I need to look? I’m not above turning over any stone, but I’m running out of them. So, I’m doing what any good researcher does when he hits a wall. I’m peeking over it and seeing if there’s anyone on the other side.

Help? Please? Hello?

Thanks in advance. Guess I’ll go write about gluing stainless steel plates to a wall now…

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Figuring Things Out


Being a generalist with a specialist bent should keep life interesting, and yet I sometimes find myself totally bored with what I am doing. But just because you love what you do, this doesn’t mean you will love it all the time. There are lots of things I enjoy doing that at times leave me cold and totally unmotivated. Not sure why I thought writing would be immune to that.

Like with anything else, you just have to find ways to keep it interesting. I’ve spent way more time on articles than I should have. Methinks it is time to branch out a bit. Remember what ignited my desire to become a writer in the first place. To that end I think I’m going to attempt NANO this year. Except I don’t think I’m going to do a novel per se. It’s going to be the shell of a screenplay instead. I also have a few passions I’m going to pursue as well, such as a website about eviction laws in the US. But that’s still in the planning stages.

So folks, the point to this ramble is this: do the stuff that puts food on your table, keeps the roof over your head, and gas in your car, but don’t forget to do the things that make you happy as well. Life is too short not to enjoy your trip around the sun.

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Not Doing the Work For You…


Remember yesterday I mentioned that one of my clients was scaling back and there was pandemonium and rioting in the virtual streets of that client’s writers forum?

Okay, so maybe that’s not exactly how I described it, but I should have…

Anyway, so now, some of the panic is wearing off and people are asking, “So where can I write now?” A few people are throwing out some ideas of places that are hiring others, but the vast majority (well, the majority that is responding to the posts. The vast majority of those reading the posts are keeping their mouths shut), are saying things such as “Google it.”

This is causing some a great deal of stress. Know what I say to that?

Dude, pick a new profession. If you can’t use Google to find work on the ‘net for WRITERS then maybe you should do something else. Like basket weaving. Or professional badminton. Anything but writing.

As I said in my last post, as writers we are expected to be able to research and write with authority. See, it’s the research part that’s important here. If you can’t (and I’m throwing out a bone here) type “write for us”, “needs writers” or “freelancers wanted” into a search engine and follow the links? How in the hell did you manage to write any article for anyone?

So, let’s just call it what it is: you want people who have spent hours upon HOURS searching for writing opportunities to just hand you that research because you asked for it.

Really? REALLY?

This ain’t The Waterboy. I’m not Coach Klein, and you ain’t Coach Beaulieu. I ain’t handing you my playbook (though I did have those pumps in several colors in the 90s…)

But I digress. If I did the work to find the leads to get me the jobs so I wasn’t in full-blown panic when I got the dreaded “We’re cutting back so maybe you should go with Plan B for your income needs.”, then you can too. Google IS your friend. So is Bing, and Yahoo and any other search engine that gets the job done for you.

So, go forth and be the good little researcher and writer I know you can be. And if you choose not to, that’s fine. That’s one less person in the freelancing pool.

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Long Live General Knowledge


So, I got an email from one of my regular clients yesterday, basically announcing that, although the sites I write for will live on, the opportunities to write for them are going to decrease dramatically. This email wasn’t much of a shock, because opportunities to write for this client have decreasing steadily for a while now.

Now, of course, I’m not the only freelancer who writes for them, so getting the email wasn’t a personal affront to me. However, others seemed to view it differently.

For months….months I have been preaching that it is folly and freelancing suicide to depend on just one client, or one type of client for your bread and butter. Companies fold. Companies scale back. Companies execs wake up one morning and decide they don’t like this group of people, and *poof* those people are on the outside, looking in.

I’m not going to lie and say that the scaling back hasn’t hurt. As I mentioned a while ago, I had grown too dependent on this client and other like it, so I’ve been working on branching out for a while now. So, although the news isn’t great, it’s not going to kill me either. I can find work elsewhere. I’ve got skills and enough general knowledge and experience in the freelancing world to make it work.

Which brings me to the reason for the title of this post. A few weeks back, a fellow writer made a statement that ruffled my feathers a bit. She stated that generalists were a dying breed and that the only way to make it as a freelancer was to carve a niche, and stick with it.

Uh, pardon me?

You’re trying to tell me that it’s not a good idea to have knowledge in a variety of areas? You really expect me to believe that it is better to stick to one knowledge base and skill set…as a freelance WRITER?

Um, that’s as suicidal as sticking to one client.

Now, I’m not saying it isn’t good to become an expert in an area and tout that expertise. I do it all the time with my small business knowledge and growing expertise in social media marketing. What I’m saying is that along with that expertise, it can’t hurt to be able to write on a variety of topics. So, yeah, I can write about small business startup concerns and how to launch a social media campaign with authority, but I can also explain how to troubleshoot a washer, how to get rid of a skunk smell in your furnace, and give men 10 reasons why they are still single. As writers, one of our strongest skills is the ability to research and write knowledgeably on a variety of topics. You cannot survive as a freelancer if you only write about one topic. Not to mention, it would make the freelancing gig incredibly boring…

And if I wanted to be bored, I’d go back to a brick and mortar job. To toss out a well-worn cliche, variety is the spice of life, and it’s a freelancers bread and butter.

So, to all my fellow generalists, keep doin’ what you’re doing, and ignore those who tell you that you’ll never make it as a freelancer. If they still want to argue, send them my way. It’s hard to argue with someone whose been doing it since 1996. And to those of you who are niche writers, good luck to you, and I have you have a niche B. And feel free to try and prove me wrong.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have three social media articles to write and then I need to explain how to hide an ugly bay window, remove scratches from a butcher block table, and detail the various sizes of dormers.

Diversity…it’s a good thing!

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Post Three, Day Six


Yes, I know, I’m already behind. It’s been a lousy week, and it has taken everything in my power just to get the work I needed done done. But I didn’t want to fall too terribly far behind, so here I am.

They say the sign of a true writer is his ability to write no matter what. Well I don’t know what that makes me. I met all my assignment due dates but it was like walking uphill with a fridge strapped to my back and my feet trapped in cement blocks. I completed the journey but it took a lot or of me.i know this all sounds pretty cryptic, but it’s all ive got on way of an explanation right now. Sometimes you can only do what you can do and keep moving forward.

Hopefully things will get better soon. Til then I’ll just do my best dory impression and just keep swimmin…

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