Friday, November 30, 2007

When people ask freelancers to work for free...

I think the name "freelance" writer maybe puts the cha-ching in folks' minds. Maybe using the word free is what gets people thinking that it's okay to take food out of your baby's mouth. Maybe we should change our names to "Paylance Writers..."

That being said I do some free work, prestigious non-profits like Ohioana. Shout out to Leslie! But just some random, "I'm going to get paid, but I want you to donate-type thing? No thanks." Even friends get charged. Oh I may not charge you money, but you better believe you're invited to painting/moving/watching kids party. Oh yeah.

But for those who are not ahem, sensitive to strong language. Harlan Ellison has a few funny words about the whole situation. Again I warn it's not for those offended by strong language, so don't email me about the strong language. Seriously. I'll sick Harlan on you.

Freelancing Rocks!

I'm having a great week. It's one of those weeks in which you rejoice everyday that you're a freelance writer.

I've blazed through work, the ideas are just flowing. AND the work is flowing in, everyday this week I've made a new connection, gotten a new gig, did a happy dance.

I'm exhausted, but the good kind. The kind in which you've gotten things done, felt appreciated and when you know you are doin' your thang.

When you do something you love, not just something you're good at it is so fulfilling.

As I work on more assignments today I type a little lighter, but still know that each day is a hustle, never get too comfortable, even with long term gigs. But still, this is nice...This is nice...

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Health and the Freelance Writer

Freelancers can be hermits at times. We sit, for hours, tapping away at our keyboards. Every so often we stumble out of our haze and tend to bills, children, the dog and then back to our seats.

Because we are tied to our chairs, we can make easy excuses for our lack of exercise: we don't have a company gym downstairs, we can't take time off because we're on deadline, etc.

Let's get rid of the excuses folks. The whole reason you became a freelance writer is so that you wouldn't be tied to a chair. And if you have a heart attack and die, you still won't meet your deadline - so get up and get moving!

The first thing I do in the morning is stumble to my computer and check email. WRONG! That just sets me up for at least two more hours of sitting while I scan for gigs, check more email, do some follow-ups, etc. Then it's hard to get the motivation to go and do something active.

When I get up and immediately put on my work out clothes, strap on the tennis shoes I feel ready to do something like go for a walk, run up and down the stairs, something...

We've got to take care of ourselves and each other. And if you think taking an hour a day out for physical activity will cost you money, think about how much money you are going to spend on health insurance when your BMI is off the charts.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Do you have an alternative plan?

Computers crash. Kids get sick. Things come up. Do you have an alternative plan for dealing with the little things that can turn your world upside down?

If your computer crashes, do you have a back-up system? Is your information backed up?

If your kids get sick or your babysitter flakes out on you, do you have someone you can call while you finish an important article or project?

Freelancers have to have a plan B and C. When the computer is on the fritz at work, you call up IT and the company pays the dime. Most freelancers don't have an IT department in their basement, so it's useful to have a couple experts on file in case you need them.

While someone fixes on your livelihood, do you have a back up system? I have a Window 98 HP - it's horrible & clunky, but it works and in a pinch I can hit up the local library.

Do you have back up blogs that you can whip out and post in a flash while taking a temperature? I don't for this blog, but for paying blogs you can bet your butt there are some great, timeless blogs cooling their heels in my online file folder accessible from anywhere.

Another way to help insulate yourself from disaster is to work ahead. I know there are writers out there that absolutely thrive on waiting until the last possible minute to finish an assignment. I know, I used to be one of them, until recently it dawned on me that every time I waited to start an assignment because I had a month or two to work on it, something came up during crunch time that made it a stressful, taxing task to get the article out on time.

Working ahead allows writers the luxury of rearranging their schedules if there's a hiccup in the plan. You can't prepare for every scenario, but you can be prepared for the common ones.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Do freelancers take a day off?

Happy Belated Turkey Day to All!

I'm waking up from my Thanksgiving induced coma and find myself sitting in front of my computer wondering - Do Freelancers Take a Day Off?

Working the day after Thanksgiving is usually a chore for those in retail, public services industries and recently, government workers in Jersey. But I know there are a small sect of freelancers who are taking a few moments to check emails, return phone calls and yes, blog a bit.

Unfortunately, there are very few instances in which you can get paid vacation time as a freelancer, travel writers excluded. Deciding whether to take a day off means decided which day you are going to go without pay.

The thing to remember is writers, especially the self-employed, need a day off just like everyone else. Everyone has got to be able to take day in which they put down the pen and paper, leave the emails to collect and recharge their internal battery.

Hopefully everyone got the day off yesterday and maybe even today - okay you can check but not respond to those emails. :-)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Organizing Your Freelance Finances...

As a freelancer, so many things revolve around money. Mostly, we writers focus on when we're going to get paid, how much we're going to get paid, how can we get paid more...

There was a time, and I'm not proud of it, when I would get a payment from a client, run and cash the check (you can never be too sure) and toss the paystub on my desk, or in a box or with a pile of receipts. I never separated my purchases i.e., work items and family groceries, nor did I bother with keeping track of mileage. Essentially, I was constantly throwing money away.

Now back during that time I didn't make enough for it to make a huge difference really. But still, the principle makes me shudder. All of those business lunches and dinners! My husband and I always strategize over a meal.

What about all of that ink and paper? Before I kicked the habit to save more trees, my editing process consisted of printing out my articles to review them. So, for Monday Monday - if I had a nickle for every blog that started out with that today, here are a few tips for organizing your finances:
  • Keep a log book in your glove compartment so you can log your mileage
  • Add a pen to that log book - come on folks wake up it's Monday!
  • Get a small accordian file, like the ones people use for coupons, and use it to keep your receipts; be sure to label each section: supplies, utilities, subscriptions, etc.
  • Write on your receipt what a purchase is for, i.e. business dinner, travel expenses.
  • Think about getting an accountant, claiming a home office, etc may be out of your realm of expertise, get someone who can not only make sure your deductions are legal, but they can also get you more bang for your buck.
  • Invest in some sort of billing software, I use Billable and it's fabulous. No more will I use a MS Word template and then try to keep track of what's going in and coming out, or setting a watch to calculate I work on something when I'm charging by the hour, my program does it all.
What financial organizing tip do you have? Come on, share with us!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Organizing Carried to Week 2 Due to Disorganization...

I crack myself up. Really I do. So blog posts have been scant this week. We still haven't gotten to query letters and our week long foray into organization has fallen flat. That's the bad news. The good news is that we will work through our issues to become better people.

So back on the horse people. Back on the horse.

Ah yes, organization. We talked about the importance of organization and how it affects your pocketbook/wallet. My pledge to have my entire office reorganized along with my closet has fallen short of my lofty goals, but I am proud of what I've accomplished so far. All of my papers/ideas/etc have been gathered, logged & are ready to file. I need to then organize the 3 ring binders that are staging a protest on my bookshelf. They shall be moved to the garage where they can give my husband trouble.

So things in the office have gotten off to a great start. I think by next week I shall have the beast that is clutter tamed in the money room of the house. As for my closets...I'm just happy the clothes are clean and put away, color coordinating the lot may be too anal right now...

So talk to me people, what organizing job have you been putting off? Do you even have an office to organize?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Organizing - The Key To Successful Freelancing?

What if I told you that the image of the successful writer banging away at the typewriter/computer surrounded by piles and piles of debris is a myth? I find it hard to believe that a successful freelance writer lives in such a mess. Wait, let me back track. Towers of organized piles in a code that the writer clearly understands counts as organization.

I'm talking about writers who have a room in which there is a spot that you could call a desk and a pathway lined with old take-out boxes, coffee grounds and various assorted junk. Someone who has no idea where the clips from their last article is and can't figure out where the email is that tells them their next deadline. Ah yes friends, even cyberspace needs to be organized.

Organization doesn't have to be complicated. You don't need to run out to the nearest Walmart or Container Store and stock up on a labels, color stickers and bins. The first thing you need to get organized is a bit of time.

Carve out a good niche of time in which you don't answer emails or the phone. Uninterrupted time will allow you to really see what needs to be done and what your organization tendencies are.

Think you can't afford to take time out and get organized? Think about how much time it takes you to find something from three weeks ago. How about if you're out and need to tell a spouse or a friend to grab an important document. Could you tell them where it was?

Being disorganized costs you money. Your time is precious and if an editor calls with a question about an article you wrote back in March, do you really think they are going to have time to wait while you go through months of invoices, junk mail and coupons?

This week is about getting organized. And I'm taking my own advice. I plan to organize both my office and my closet this week. So all this week we will have tips on getting organized -the freelance writer way.

Are you organized? When's the last time you did a clutter check?

Friday, November 9, 2007

Is it Possible to Freelance with Small Children?

I've got lots of work coming in. I'm incredibly excited and eager to tackle it all with a grin and giggle that I get paid to do this. One thing that worries me though is balancing my work with care for my girls ages 3 and 6 months.

One of the main reasons I became a freelancer is because I wanted to stay home with my children. I made this decision before I even had children and I continually turn down full-time writing jobs because I'm concerned about the impact it will have on my girls.

My family lives in another city and my husband's family isn't available to watch our girls while we both work from home so we alternate. I keep trying to set office hours and get everything done within those hours, but sometimes things carry over or pop up and then I'm juggling again. Anyone with munchkins know the drama of trying to check email while keeping baby drool off the keys. I wish there was a way to do a babysitting co-op with other writers - swapping office hours and childcare, like some freelancers co-op office space...

On really difficult days I wonder - is it possible with small children? Do you have to have outside childcare?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Apple's Slow Leopard Eats Entourage!

I feel like I'm waking up from my infatuation with Apple. After the Leopard Log In Debacle and the Apple Customer Service Caper I thought it would be pretty smooth sailing on the Apple love train. Sure I had read the issues with the firewall or lack there of and sure enough my firewall was not engaged upon upgrade, but I had decided to love my boyfriend Apple and Steve despite that. It was like an unsightly blemish that would be taken care of with a few patches.

Then as my system slowed to more of a turtle than a Leopard, I thought it was just me. Maybe I had done something wrong. Maybe I just needed to restart. I was leery of restarting when I had so much work to get through, so I suffered through Leopard slowing up every program I had going - Firefox, Entourage and Word. No games, no heavy graphics, just three of the base programs.

Every time I'd move from one program to the next I would get the spinning pinwheel of despair. This went on for two hours when I only had about an hour's worth of work to do. Finally at midnight I used my Entourage to send a project I had just finished. It took forever for the email to send and then I realized I had forgotten the attachment. I resent the email with the attachment and suddenly Entourage shut down!

Then it came back on as if I had just installed it and asked if I wanted to make it my default program - "Sure, maybe it's just a glitch," I thought hopefully. When Entourage asked me if I wanted to import my old contacts I really started to get worried and when it told me I had no old information I FREAKED OUT! Apple's Leopard had eaten my Entourage!

No editor contacts, no long lost friend emails, no saved "this is your registration information" emails, NOTHING. It was over. My boyfriend Apple had given me a line "this is it baby, you need me" just to get me into bed with him and Leopard and now he is acting like an ass and I'm confused and crying in the shower. Yes I dropped a tear or two. You know how it is when you find yourself banging away at search engines and support threads trying things that don't work and you realize you have to find help or drag your ass back to the store. I just never thought it would be the Apple store.

Am I still in love with Apple? Maybe, yeah, yeah I am. It's hard to let go of something that was so good. I just wish we could go back to Tiger when things were pretty sweet and Leopard hadn't come between us. I feel like I'm waking up from the honeymoon and realizing that my boyfriend Apple/Steve is just human, maybe more Clarke Kent than Superman. I'm hoping that Apple is just having some growing pains, rushing things because it feels it needs to live up to a certain bravado. I'm hoping that Apple isn't turning into a big fat jerk like that badboy Microsoft just because it finds itself the most popular kid in school.

So later on today I've got an appointment at the Apple store AGAIN and I hope they can find my lost info. If they can find old emails crooks have sent, surely they can find mine. If not, I think I may have them switch me back to Tiger. I'll consider myself a born-again Leopard virgin and wait until I'm really ready for it. Or should I say until it's really ready for me.

Anybody switchin' out there? Having any trouble?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Apple's Leopard Trick *Update!

OK. So I am back typing from my MacBook Pro. Whoo hooo! I would love to say that I got the Leopard problem taken care of quickly, but I'd be lying.

I spent the morning on the phone with Apple Support. The helpful phone voice said I'd be on hold for 15 minutes or more. Not a good sign. I put the phone on speaker and bounced off to answer the door. Got to talking with a friend came back to a phone making that annoying, someone has hung up on you sound. Nice...

Called the back. My VoIP decides to drop the call or is it Apple? Conspiracy? Nah....

Finally, after a feeding and diaper change - my baby not me - got on the phone with a live person. I told him the Leopard log in issue, added that I know he's heard about it all weekend and he says, "OK. I'm going to have to research that."

Huh? Really? The problem that's been burning up the phone lines, causing the 15 minute or more wait is something that has to be researched? His research took another 10 minutes, I swear. I watched the minutes click down on my phone.

The Apple rep gets back on the phone and has me going through the fix I found online 3 hours previously. Didn't I just blog that I don't think I should have to type in commands into a system that costs as much as MAC's does?

Well that didn't go as planned. I was typing, he'd go "Wait, there was supposed to be a space after that slash." I'd sigh, do as I was told and it still didn't work. He escalated me to an Apple product specialist or was it a Leopard product specialist, I never found out because after waiting another 20 minutes I gave up.

Luckily my brain and my hubby's ancient PC was working long enough for me to make a reservation at the Apple store. I showed up for my appointment with the Geniuses or Geni at the Genius Bar and after two attempts they got me going by doing an archive and install. By this time my daughter's out of school and the baby's awake looking for a snack.

Heavy one hungry ladybug and one miniature Snow White (it's Halloween) I wait for the system to get ta workin.' And finally, about an hour after we got there, we walked out of the Apple Store. I'm happy, so happy to have my buddy back. I am disappointed with the experience though and discouraged that no one followed up on a tune up for my buddy simply because I haven't paid for the Apple Protection Plan. So the money and productivity I've lost doesn't mean to much to Apple I guess.

Steve, why so cold? I thought we had something. I hope Leopard's a whole lot better than Tiger, enough for the trouble, but right now I can't even play with it, I've got deadlines!