Category Archives: Entrepreneur

A “Typical” Work Day…


I’ve been asked more than once what a typical workday for me is like.
Well, short of taking you on a Periscope trip (which I might do when it gets warmer and I’m on the road more), the best way to describe it is to show you a picture of my desk at any given moment of the day:

20160222_115345[1]This is what three businesses on one desk looks like. At least when I dump it all out like this to take a picture so you all can see what three businesses on one desk looks like. 🙂

I took this pic this morning while I was determining what all I had going on today. The receipts represent the mystery shop reports I have to complete. The jewelry supplies are for jewelry orders that I need to complete this week, and the notebook (far right corner) has a list of my writing assignments for the week.

Now, when I’m *actually* working, my desk looks more like this:

Writing

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Jewelry making

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Working on reports…

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There ya have it…a peek at my desk and a glimpse into my work day. So, what does YOUR desk look like?

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Running Away From Home


Working from home definitely has its advantages. First of all, you can’t beat the commute. It takes me all of five minutes to get to work, and that includes a stop at the bathroom and the coffee maker. 10 if one of my dogs is tap dancing at the back door.

Then there’s the dress code. I do typically get up and get dressed (I usually take a shower before bed), but instead of dress slacks and a blouse, it’s sweats or shorts and a t-shirt, usually with a cartoon character emblazoned on the front. And no dress shoes — flip flops or cow slippers. I know the Fly Lady is frowning about that, but hey, slippers ARE shoes, and yes, sometimes I actually do wear them outside the house.

And let’s not forget about the hours. Wait, I actually work more hours now than I did at my last brick and mortar, but I LIKE what I do now, so it counts, yet it doesn’t. But then again, I can work pretty much when I want, so it’s still one more item in the “plus” column.

So, overall, working for myself from home is pretty awesome.

But sometimes…you just need to run away.

The last few weeks, my productivity has slowed, and not because of a lack of work. With each passing day, I’ve spent more and more time staring at a blank screen. Or I’ve been playing Hidden Chronicles. Or playing on Facebook. Anything but writing. I had deadlines looming, but I couldn’t get any real work done to save my life. I was facing having to do something I usually don’t have to do — ask for extensions.

So, yesterday, I decided that I was going to run away. I packed up my laptop, and headed for a new location. I was hoping a change of scenery would help.

And it did. I got more done yesterday than I have in weeks. And it carried over. When I finally came home last night, my productivity continued. I’m now pretty much caught up, and with tonight’s work, I’ll actually be ahead of my deadlines. Feels good. So good, I just might do it again tomorrow!

So, the next time you’re just staring at a blank screen, try moving that screen to another location. Try a coffee shop or McDonalds. Or the patio, weather permitting. Even moving to a different room in the house might be enough to get you going.

So, lesson learned: Exercise some flexibility. Remember that you can work anywhere. Staying chained to your desk flies in the face of working for yourself. Enjoy the opportunity.

 

 

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Good vs. Bad Clients


One of my goals for 2012 was to have a better class of clients. I don’t just mean better paying clients, I mean clients who have a passion for their business like I do for mine. My other business has that built in — people request a piece of jewelry, I create it, they’re happy, they pay me and then I’m happy because I made something beautiful, and I got paid to do it.

I wanted that same feeling to carry over to my writing business as well, so that’s why I set out to get new clients. So far, so good. I’ve got 4 good clients, and I’m working on adding more daily. But there are still some bad clients in the bunch, and that annoys me.

So, what’s a bad client? Well, that’s really a personal assessment, but for me, a bad client:

* is a client who cannot tell you what it is they want. Some can’t tell you what it is they do. Seriously.

*is a client who promises to have info. to you on Tuesday, but doesn’t get around to sending it to you until Friday. Gives no explanation, but still wants the completed project the following Monday.

*is a client who balks at your rate.

*is a client who never pays on time. Once or twice is one thing, but consistently late payments is never a good thing.

*is a client that accuses you of stealing or outsourcing your work.

Now, granted, I have a lot less of these clients now than I did, say a year ago, but I still have a couple and I am taking steps to divorce myself from them. I have finally learned that I don’t need bad clients to be successful. I can hold out for the good clients. The clients that remind me why I’m in this business. The clients who make me want to stay in this business.

So, if you’ve got bad clients, keep looking for the good ones. Trust me, you’ll know ’em when you find ’em.

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Freelancing — a Primer


It was brought to my attention yesterday that not everyone knows what a Content Site (or Content Mill) is, so I’m going to take the time to explain what a content site is, and the general process of working with one.

A content site is a company that hires freelance writers to write content for them. The content might be used on their personal site(s), or sold to another site or private customer. For example, Demand Media hires freelance writers to write content for sites they own (eHow, Cracked.com, etc.) and for partner sites such as Local.com.

Content site pay varies, but most sites pay between $8 and $20 for an article. Most articles are in the 400-500 word range. You can find a variety of things to write about, from medical conditions to legal articles. Some sites also pay on a revenue sharing platform — for every visit to the website your article generates, you get a share of the profits.

Now, for why some in the writing community refer to these sites as “content mills”. There are two reasons: first the pay is lower for a content mill than it would be if you sold articles in the traditional manner (something I’ll go into in another post). Second, the quality of the articles are not always as high as they could be. Part of this is because of the ease of being accepted to write for the site.

Which leads to my next point — to write for a content site, you apply directly to the site. Each site has a different method they use to approve writers, but most require a potential writer to fill out an application and submit a writing sample. There may be a grammar test involved as well. If your writing sample is acceptable, you’re approved to write for the site, and can select articles that interest you. Once you’ve written the article, you submit it to the site for approval. Some sites use editors who review your work, other sites send work directly to the client and they either approve the article, send the article back for revisions, or reject it. This is another area I will go into in a later post.

If your article is accepted, you get paid. Most sites pay via Paypal, though there are a few who direct deposit pay into your bank account.

And there you have it — a brief explanation into content sites. In my next post, I’ll examine the pros and cons of working for content sites. As always, if you have any questions, leave a comment or shoot me an email.

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How To Make Money Writing for Content Sites


We’ve all heard the complaints — content sites (or content mills) are screwing up the industry. Content sites provide poor content. There’s no money to be made writing for content sites. Google all but killed content sites.

Blah blah blah…yadda yadda yadda.

Now, I’m not a fan of content sites, but I also don’t believe in biting the hand that fed me, and for several years, that’s exactly what they did. If it weren’t for some of the articles I wrote for content sites, (And I wrote some damn fine articles, I might add!), I would not be in the position I’m in now.

(Yes, it’s a good position, more about that in a future post.)

Even though the Google Panda has stripped much of the leaves from the content mill eucalyptus tree, you can still make money writing for content sites. Here are a couple of tips to help you out.

1. Focus on what you know. Choose topics you can write about in your sleep. Take full advantage of the search feature each site has, and find titles that are easy for you. It will take less time to write the article and since it’s a topic with which you are familiar, you’ll enjoy it more. If you run into a bunch of articles on the same topic, grab as many as you can. [There is an art to doing several articles on the same subject without tripping the plagiarism flag. I’ll come back to that.]

2. Branch away from your comfort zone. This may seem to counter what I said above, but it doesn’t. While writing what you know will bring in the bulk of your writing income, picking up one or two titles out of your comfort zone will help you in the long term. I mean, you weren’t always an expert in your main topic, were you? Of course not. So pick a title or two that you are interested in learning about more, and do the research and write about it. After a few articles, your comfort level with the topic will increase (and if you’re like me, you’ll read about it every time you get a chance). Before you know it, you’ll have TWO topics that fit the “Focus on what you know” category.

3. Share your work. Some people who write for content sites don’t like to admit they write for content sites. Sometimes it’s because of the reputation of the site, or maybe an editor screwed up an article and the writer doesn’t want to be associated with it. Well, that’s nonsense. Here’s the thing about the writing/publishing industry: Everyone knows that writers are edited, and everyone knows not every editor should be an editor. A few bad articles are not worth burying your byline and losing the exposure, especially when you’re starting out. So share your articles with your friends on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Post links to them on your blog. But if you’re that concerned about the quality of your articles, write a post explaining that the errors were introduced through an “editing oversight”. Of course, my solution would be to not write for the content site, which leads me to…

4. Choose your sites carefully. I know that when the economy is bad, you have to do things you normally wouldn’t do to put food on the table and keep a roof over your head and clothes on your back. However, you have to think long-term here. If you plan to build a career as a writer, you want your clips to be respected, and sometimes you have to consider the source. Some sites have better reputations than others, and some sites have NO reputation. Before you agree to lend a site your byline, take a careful look at the content that is already there. Is it stuff you would read, or did you cringe during the first sentence? Does the site present itself well? Take these factors into consideration before you publish with them.

5. Take your work seriously. You might “just write for a content mill,” but you never know when an article will attract someone’s attention. I have landed several well-paying gigs because someone was surfing through eHow or BrightHub and happened across one of my articles. I’ve also had people contact me for work because a friend of a friend of a friend saw an article I wrote shared on Facebook. Don’t devalue your work by just throwing up crappy content. Take pride in it. Do your best, because you never know who’s watching.

Now, about that plag flag. Here’s how I used to write 10 different articles on the same subject, using the same sources and never NEVER got a plag flag:

1. Write article #1. Save as a draft.

2. Write articles #2 – #10, saving each as a draft.

3. Submit each article, one at a time, an hour or two apart. If you’re writing for a site with quick approvals (such as how DMS used to be and how Textbroker can be), wait for the approval before submitting the next one.

Or if you have the time to spare, submit one or two a day over several days.

So, there you have it — how to make money writing for content sites. Do you have anything to add? Questions? Comments? Let me have ’em.

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My Path…


is being laid out in front of me. I have felt like I has headed toward someplace for the last several years, and being that I’m a rather Zen person, I allowed myself to just go with the flow (for the most part). But I think my path as led me to the door I am supposed to open and walk through. It might mean the closing other other doors, but I really think I am where I am supposed to be, doing the things I’m supposed to do.

I’ve picked up skills that I really had no reason to learn, considering my career path, but they were of interest to me, and the opportunity was there, so I took it. Those skills led me to other interesting avenues and now I find I spend a lot of time using those skills, which I didn’t even think I needed at first. More to the point, no only do I use them, I enjoy using them. And since I made a point of stating here that my goal is to work smarter and be an expert, I believe it is time for me to practice what I preach.

I know this all sounds cryptic, but for those of you who have been around awhile, you know how I am. When everything is ready to be revealed, I’ll reveal it. I’m really only writing this because…well…because. LOL

As soon as I am ready to make the big reveal, you all will be the first people I tell.

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New Year – Day 1…


Well, it’s the first day of 2012, so you know what that means…

You’ve got a clean slate. There are 364 days ahead of you, and they’re just waiting for you to do something with them. What do you plan to do?

Me? I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing. 2011 was a pretty good year, both personally and professionally, so I plan to build on what I accomplished during the last 365 days. I just plan to do things better.

My motto: work smarter, not harder.

I made a list of goals for 2012 that spans two hand-written college-ruled pages, but I won’t torture you with the list. I’m just going to summarize it in three sentences.

1. Be the Expert. I spent most of last year making others look good, and I intend to continue doing that this year — but to a lesser degree. If I have the knowledge and skills to make others look like pros, I really need to apply those same skills to make ME look like a pro. To that end, my relationship with content writing is all but ending. I still have a few private clients through content sites, so I will work with them, but my days of writing from the content pool are limited at best. I never close a door completely or burn a bridge (well, not ALL of them, anyway), but I don’t anticipate working with them nearly as much as I have in the past. I have three solid clients, and a handful of periodic clients. Between those and gigs I pick up here and there from job boards and bid sites, I should do okay, only working half the hours I worked last year.

2. Me Me Me. I’m going to make time for me this year. On average, I worked 96 hours a week last year. Ninety-six. I’m not doing that this year. This year I’m going to actually do things that don’t require an Internet connection. I might even, *gasp* date. Baby steps, though. Baby steps.

3. Indulge my passions. I have been a crafter since I was a kid. Crochet, jewelry making, plastic canvas, looming, needlework are all things I enjoy doing, but over the last few years I’ve stopped, with the exception being the jewelry, and even it has taken a back seat to other things. Well, this year, I’m going to reintroduce myself to those passions. Might even pick up a couple of new ones. We will see.

And that, ladies and gents, is how I plan to spend 2012. What big plans you do have?

 

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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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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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