Saturday, December 26, 2009

A New Year With New Resolutions




Most writers will make resolutions at the start of each year and promptly fail to keep most of them. Nothing new in that. It happens to the best of us. For 2010 however, I'm determined to start off small and remain focused. As a writer, some great resolutions to make include:

1. Write everyday
. Even if it's a single paragraph, find the time to write it. There's nothing quite like putting pen to paper (or hands to the keyboard) to inspire fresh output and get the creative juices flowing.

2. Learn a new word each day. Keep a dictionary on your desk and start at the alphabet A and work your way through it. Or pick random words as you go along. Either way, by the end of the year, you'll have 365 new words to include in your own writings.

3. Read everyday.
It could be the newspapers or fliers pushed through your mailbox. By making a conscious effort to read, you are automatically learning something new or refreshing an old memory.

4. Increase your attempt to work on crossword puzzles or mind challenging games. They serve to tone your mind and keep your thoughts agile.

5. Re-evaluate your writing goals. And make the appropriate changes as needed. Do this at least once every two months.

6. Keep promoting yourself.
Print up some business cards, join a networking association, volunteer at your local community centre. Find methods which you are comfortable using and then use them.

7. Take a course. Depending on what you can afford, sign up for a course on writing. If you can't afford to pay university fees, there are always online learning options. Invest as much as you can in courses throughout the year.

8. Overcome writers block.
If you face writers block, you know how paralysing this can be. Find out what's causing it and then take actions to overcome it.

9. complete unfinished projects.
Devote a couple of weeks, days or even just hours to completing any unfinished projects you may have laying about in your desk. Dust off old work and give it a new take.

10. Try something new. If you've never written an article for a magazine, make 2010 your year to try your hand at article writing. If you shy away from writing press releases, give it a shot. You may need to take courses to brush up any old knowledge you've had (or learn from scratch), but it'll be well worth your time and effort when you have a new genre to add to your writing skills.


Want to use this article? You can if you include this blurb:


Freelance writer Usha Krishnan Sliva has years of article and copywriting experience. To get more free tips and writing ideas, subscribe to her ezine-Getting It Write on http://www.writechoiceforyou.com or sign up for her course, Article Writing And Selling 101 on http://www.writechoiceforyou.com/WritingCourses.html

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Season's Greetings And A Big Thank You!




A big thank you to those who've signed up for my free ezine, Getting It Write! and for my course, Article Writing And Selling 101, available here: http://www.writechoiceforyou.com/WritingCourses.html

I appreciate your support and I've enjoyed working with you through 2009. Without your readership, encouraging comments and honest feedback, I don't think I would have come as far as I have.

As the year comes to a close, I'd like us all to take a moment to consider what we've achieved this year: the friends we've made, the clients we've helped and the lessons we've learnt. For me it's been a tremendous year and apart from experiencing a lot of personal growth and learning, my business too has expanded. I look forward to entering 2010 with bigger goals and loftier dreams. And I wish you all the best in achieving the same.

With love and success to you, your families and loved ones,
Usha

Friday, December 11, 2009

Ali Brown's Holiday Sale

I'm a big fan of Ali Brown. The way she's built her business up is quite incredible. And so I join her on her calls each month and wait eagerly to receive her magazine (currently, out to subscribers only).

Each year, Ali has a end of year sale. TODAY is the last day of her special 2009 Holiday Sale on her award winning products for business and personal success.

The sale just started yesterday, but TODAY, Friday, December 11,
is the LAST DAY. Eager to snatch your products right away?

If you are looking to treat yourself to a Christmas gift and have enough of coats, boots and hats, then try giving yourself one of her packages. They vary in price range and what they do for you, but I can guarantee that you'll find them useful. And what better way to start 2010 than with some information you can actually use!

Here's the link:
http://www.autowebbusiness.com/app/?af=992093

Which ones do you want to grab for 30% 0ff?

1. "Online Success Blueprint System" - Follow this easy 7-step
program system on how to use the Internet and information
products to skyrocket your profits AND your free time.

2. "Beyond the Blueprint" - Learn how to add multiple streams of
income to your current business, including teleseminars,
affiliate programs, masterminds/retreats and other revenue
generators.

3. "Business Building Blocks, Your Solid Foundation For Growing
A Million Dollar Company," - Get "back to the basics" and learn
the secret to running your business like a million-dollar
company.

4. "Simply Irresistible! How to Sell More From the Stage …
Easily, Effortlessly, and Authentically" - Learn the authentic
way of selling from the stage and generate greater income from
your speaking engagements.

5. "The 7 Mindset & Manifesting Secrets of Multimillionaire
Entrepreneurs" - Understand how to tap into faith to help
manifest miracles in your life over and over again -- whether it
be clients, sales, money, opportunities, or love.

Learn more and get your products here:
http://www.autowebbusiness.com/app/?af=992093

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Many C’s of Customer Service





Many years ago, I worked in one of the largest shopping malls in Dubai, the Deira City Center in charge of their newly formed Customer Service department. This was a unique job in that none of the malls in Dubai had a Customer Service department. Ours was the first to set one up and to offer a wide-array of services including simple things like gift wrapping, selling postcards and stamps and setting up customer service kiosks to answer any questions the mall customers might have. It was my job to hire and train the staff and work with the design team and architects to create the booths. Needless to say, it was challenging at the very least, and exciting at the same time. But thanks to this, Deira City Center suddenly became an ‘example mall’ which the other centers soon learnt to imitate.

From Dubai, I moved to Cyprus and it was a great shock to learn that the town of Limassol not only had no mall, but didn’t understand the term ‘customer service’. While I have a lot of happy memories of sandy beaches and blue, calm waters, I also recall a number of frustrating moments where I had to deal with appalling service and a galling lack of customer care.

When dealing with clients, you can’t laugh off poor service. And you don’t get second chances. Even if you have a sound business plan and a list of clients lining up at the door, you can’t afford to offer anything but the best when it comes to your services. Having read countless books on customer service and been in the field for a number of years, there are a few points I believe any provider offering a service should follow.

Want to read more about this article? Sign up for free to my thrice monthly ezine, Getting It Write! at the box to the right or on this link: http://www.writechoiceforyou.com/index2.html and receive this article, a free ebook on 'Becoming A Freelance Writer' and lots more.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

How Do I Hire You?

I've visited a lot of blogs and there's something that I notice in quite a few of them: no contact details! The only way a person can get in touch with the blog author then is via a comment, which can be made open to the public.

This is not a problem when the blog author is not a writer, designer or someone who is selling his services. This becomes a BIG problem when the person is open to receiving clients, does not have a website with a contact form and conducts all the correct marketing procedures to get an audience to visit his site.

If you are looking to attract potential clients or even are open to the idea of getting new business, ensure there's a way you can be contacted. Put an email or phone number up on your blog where it's visible. And don't make it complicated. There's nothing that's going to send a potential client running off to your competition faster than if he has to play 'search for the contact details' on your blog.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Cut to the straight and narrow





Want to get an audience to actually read your prose? Get off the meandering path and stick to the straight and narrow.

Strip it down
Along with being a writer you need to be an editor and this means, being brutal! Cut back on your word count dramatically by snipping off the excess word-fat and keeping it lean. This holds all the more true in the case of query letters where concise information is required, not a long drawn out account of how brilliant your article is. Check the ratio between the number of words you use and the amount of information you offer. A 50% ratio is good.

Get rid of relative pronouns: Avoid as much as possible using ‘that, which, who’ and their verbs.
E.g. The report that was submitted by Mr X is on my desk versus The report submitted by Mr. X is on my desk.

Avoid repetitions
It’s quite common while editing to find a word repeated, not necessarily in the same sentence but in an adjoining one. Getting someone else to give your work a once-over can help reduce this problem immensely as can taking a break and getting back to the piece to view it with a fresh pair of eyes.

Stop being passive:
Use the active voice as much as possible. Take action, tell your readers what they should (or should not be doing) and get straight to the point with doable advise.
E.g. I give versus You are given; Do this versus This should be done

Be animated: Start your sentence with an animate subject. Using animate subjects also allows you to select more colourful verbs.
E.g. We solved the problem versus The problem was solved.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Twitter Headlines Which Work!

I sporadically use twitter- when I have the time, I love browsing through it, when I'm busy, it's relegated a back-seat. Twitter however can be a powerful tool, not just to make friends and online contacts, but also to keep abreast with what's happening in the market, sell you products and services and gain new clients.

Because of the limited number of words you can use each tweet, try and keep in mind the following:

Your headline should be interesting. Funny too is good. Most people will retweet your tweets without actually clicking on the link, if your headline captures interest.

If you promise something, always be sure to deliver.

Ensure readers understand the urgency of action- Buy Now, Last Day Offer, Click Now- are all great ways to get readers to click on the link.

Stick to one topic. Tweeting on your restroom activities and what your dog ate is really of no interest to people. A well written article which offers advice, is.

Avoid blatant selling. I have to say I sometimes indulge in it, but it's never got me any hard core fans, just those who want to gain more followers. Keep promoting your work subtly and you'll find it a better way to capture audience interest.

Happy tweeting!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Read A Lot, Write A Lot

No, that isn’t my line but one borrowed from Stephen King in his book, On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft. Reading is essentially what makes a writer, write, and it always surprises me when people say- I love writing, but I don’t read much (actually, I haven’t heard anyone say that, but I have heard of it being told). How would you know of the mysteries of Egypt without reading about them ? (Please don’t say the Discovery Channel, though I do love it! ;) Or delve into murders aboard trains, planes and old English manors with an Alfred Hitchcock novel. I don’t read Stephen King’s books much, but I do know what he says about writing- and that comes because I enjoy reading.

Reading helps your writing to improve and here’s how:

It helps you understand your genre or niche: All writers should have a niche, even generalist writers. By reading about topics you are interested in and want to write about, you’ll learn how to create the required structure, sentence flow and particular terminology which may (or may not) apply.

It helps you build a better command of the language: Read in the language you will be writing and you’ll build up your vocabulary, learn to identify grammar and sentence syntaxes and improve your writing style.

It acts as an idea bank: Reading can stir up the imagination and allows you to come up with ideas you may not have previously thought of. Lacking blog ideas? Pick up a book or read through online blogging sites. Need to pitch an idea to your local magazine or newspaper? Browse through catalogues, brochures and online newsroom sites. You never know when or where an idea will strike, but reading certainly helps speed up the process.


Want to use this article? You can if you include this blurb:

Freelance writer Usha Krishnan Sliva has years of article and copywriting experience. To get more free tips and writing ideas, subscribe to her ezine-Getting It Write on http://www.writechoiceforyou.com or sign up for her course, Article Writing And Selling 101 on http://www.writechoiceforyou.com/WritingCourses.html

Monday, November 2, 2009

What Makes Keywords Important?

You've heard of the importance of SEO (search engine optimization)-http://writechoiceforyou.blogspot.com/2009/10/seo-tactics-for-site-optimization.html and often, clients will ask for the use of certain keywords in their articles. What makes keywords so special and why use them?

Keywords can form a very important tool to your writing process. For one, they are accurate. Used appropriately, they will provide you with the correct words for the correct context. They will also ensure your article gets a higher ranking on search engines. And finally, clients looking for research will be directed to sites which use the key words they've typed in.

Selecting keywords is simple and sites like Google are user friendly. All it requires is that you put in a list of options you're targeting and the site will spew out a number of relevant keywords for you to select from.

When selecting keywords from the given options, bear in mind that popular keywords are not always the best choice. You'll be fighting with hundreds of other articles which have opted for these 'popular' keywords. It may make more sense to base your selection on researched demand; i.e. a more narrow niche rather than a more popular choice.

So the next time you're writing an article, whether it's for a client or your own site, take some time to research the keywords you can use in it. And watch your page rankings rise!


Want to use this article? You can if you include this blurb:

Freelance writer Usha Krishnan Sliva has years of article and copywriting experience. To get more free tips and writing ideas, subscribe to her ezine-Getting It Write on http://www.writechoiceforyou.com or sign up for her course, Article Writing And Selling 101 on http://www.writechoiceforyou.com/WritingCourses.html

Friday, October 23, 2009

How To Exact Your Money...Or Revenge

Payment at times can be hard to extract, especially from oversees clients. We’ve all been burnt sometime or the other and mostly by applying to craigslist type ads which are perfect for scam-artists and clients who want all, for free!

If you feel you are not making any headway with collecting fees, contact Angela (angela@writersweekly.com). She’ll offer valuable advice and puts out warnings on your behalf.

I’ve also received ‘warnings’ from other members of a writing group to which I belong on the following two clients:

Warning One:

please, please, post something to your writers about this guy: mnsavage@yahoo.com . His name is Jordan, and he doesn't pay his writers. I have been in contact with several of his writers who have been burned by him!
From S.

Warning Two:

I would be wary of working for this company, Plutoz (ad which appeared in craigslist below) - I did a lot of work for them a few years ago and never got paid (I tried, of course, but with me being based in the UK and them in the US, I couldn't use my usual ports of call, such as resorting to Small Claims Court to try and get the unpaid money, so eventually just had to write it off). Back then, it was also supposedly a 'new and exiting' search portal launch.
From R.

WRITERS WANTED

Plutoz, an exciting new shopping and lifestyle search portal
(plutoz.com), is seeking web-savvy, motivated, prolific, and witty writers
to research and compose capsule reviews of websites. Write sincere,
unbiased, quick, and accurate copy for our online consumer audience as
well as producing short articles about various web consumer topics
(shopping, travel, lifestyle, home, fashion, entertainment, video games,
electronics, food and hundreds of additional titles and categories).
Please send a brief e-mail reply to the following questions:
• How long have you been writing web copy? What is your most recent
professional web/other writing experience (if any)?
• What are your web content areas of expertise/interest?
Past experience as a talented writer or editor for a media channel (print,
web, radio or TV) is highly desirable. This job can be done on your own
time but you must meet our deadlines and follow our editorial guidelines.
Please send us your resume and answer the above questions.
Compensation: Writers will be paid based on experience and the amount of content that they generate (following our editorial guidelines).
Reply to: job-mtqhx-1430259258@craigslist.org.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

SEO Tactics For Site Optimization

Someone new to Internet marketing may well ask, what is SEO and why does my site need to be optimized? SEO or Search Engine Optimization is the result driven process of increasing the traffic volume or audience flow to a website via natural or organic search strategies, as opposed to using paid marketing techniques (SEM: search engine marketing). SEO can be strategically targeted toward image search or video search or the most popular usage, keyword search.

Nowadays, most online companies will use SEO alone or in conjunction with other marketing tactics to draw in large audience numbers to their site. SEO may require certain HTML coding implemented, and if this is the case, it should be incorporated at the web design/web content stage. What is to be avoided is Black Hat SEO or unscrupulous methods to ensure your site gets high ranking. Black hat SEO includes article spinning, keyword stuffing and invisible text. Techniques which maintain the integrity of your site are considered ‘White Hat’ techniques and while they may appear to be more time consuming and resource needy, they are in fact the correct strategies to draw long term audience and ensure high SERPs (search ending results pages).

Search Engines (popular examples being Google and Yahoo) work by allowing spiders to crawl the web and locate sites and pages and index them. Without aiding and assisting them by using relevant SEO tactics, it’s likely that your site or page will remain buried and un-indexed. Your second priority would be to get your page as high a rank as possible. Surfers will generally not go beyond two pages worth of searching. To find your site or page’s current Google rank, visit, http://www.prchecker.info/check_page_rank.php

So, what are some of the organic SEO tactics which work?

Descriptive title tags and meta tags: It goes without saying that the URL of your site should be as descriptive and relevant as possible. However, your title tags and meta data should also be relevant. These use keywords to describe your site’s products and services not only to your audience, but to the search engines as well. Use free keyword search sites like http://nichebot.com, http://keyworddiscovery.com, http://freekeywords.wordtracker.com/ and http://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal to find out what word descriptions would work best for your site.

Site accessibility: Your site needs to load well and be accessible to visitor in seconds. This means, you will need to constantly check and recheck graphics, images and file sizes to ensure they are not too large. Visitors and unfortunately, search engines too, have short attention spans. Make sure your site is quick to download and graphically and visually pleasing to the eye.

High speed server: This links with the earlier point. Your site should be hosted on a high speed server to ensure it loads quickly. Given the competition you’ll be facing, visitors are quick to move away from slow-loading sites.

Linking (internal and reciprocal): When linking to an internal site map, ensure your links don’t blog spider navigation. By transferring your internal links to the bottom of the page, you’ll give search engines an unobstructed path through your page. When using internal links, try making them keyword dense for an additional pull. If you are considering reciprocal links, try and do a search to find out high ranking relevant sites and connect to them. One such paid site which allows you to track and find page rankings of competitor and relevant sites is PR Prowler : http://www.prprowler.com. However, you can also use free tools like PR Checker to find this information.

Captivating content: Creating captivating content will also ensure your pages get read more often. The more content-rich your site, the more likely it will be read by a larger audience and picked up by search engines. Do not get caught up however in article spinning which can result in your site getting penalized.

Strong starting sentences:
Begin always with strong sentences; these are the ones most important. Ensure they are audience captivating and search engine friendly.
Keyword density: Your web content should be keyword rich, but avoid keyword stuffing, which is considered black hat SEO and will result in search engines giving your site a miss. A good keyword density is between 2%-5%, depending on the length of the content. You can analyze your keyword density here: http://www.keyworddensity.com

So there you have it, excellent SEO tactics which are time-tested and proven to work. As with any tactics though, success does not come overnight and you will need to invest both time and energy resources if you want to get it right.

Want to use this article? You can if you include this blurb:

Freelance writer Usha Krishnan Sliva has years of article and copywriting experience. To get more free tips and writing ideas, subscribe to her ezine-Getting It Write on http://www.writechoiceforyou.com or sign up for her course, Article Writing And Selling 101 on http://www.writechoiceforyou.com/WritingCourses.html

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Thanksgiving With A Twist

Happy Thanksgiving Canada!

Since my husband and I were not born in Canada but truly love our adopted country, we celebrate all festivities with our own added flavours! So, Christmas is all about a Czech celebration: fish and potato salad, walnuts and honey and lots of Czech drinks; Becherovka, Slivovica and the ubiquitous Czech Beer!

Thanksgiving on the other hand will see us tucking into roast rabbit and authentic German Apfel Strudel (baked last night and already almost finished ;)! This is one day I can't wait for the sun to set!

With your writing too, think about giving it a twist to make it your own unique voice. Experiment with different tones, languages and grammatical options; perhaps an article written only in the passive voice? Or one using more colourful verbs to describe actions? Give it a go and see what you come up with.

And enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

English In South Africa

The last ezine issue of Getting It Write! dealt with the subtle and not so subtle differences between British and American English. And the response to it was tremendous. Quite a few people have written in about South African English. And so I also questioned my South African friend Dirk, who now lives in Vancouver. Here's what Dirk had to say:

"SA English is no different from other national languages, its evolution has been driven by other languages spoken in the region. I believe that French and English led to a bastardised French in France in the mid 20th C, so-called Franglais. Some may argue that linguistic incorporation derogates from the original culture but in fact it indicates the culture is evolving - very much alive and aware of what's going on around it.

I'm no etymological expert, but suspect that it starts with colloquialisms and slang. Whether or not they get picked up by popular society may be related to their value in describing something foreign to the language (for which no other word exists), or perhaps provide a handle that is cute or convenient.

Anyway there are some interesting sites consolidating South Africanisms / slang. Try this one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_South_African_slang_words

You'll note that where slang is concerned, the language of origin is listed. What's nice about the link above is it includes examples of African language words that have entered mainstream language in SA. "Hau" or "Haw" (pronounced "how") is a great Zulu exclamation, often used to convey disbelief or dismay. Eish and yebo are also goodies that have become quite popular in spoken if not written language.

There are also a few references to words originating from out of Africa. In that department there are plenty, since Afrikaans as a language is simply bastardised Dutch (also called kitchen Dutch). But some of the ugliest SA words - kaffir, for example, actually originated from Arabia."

Here's what Sandi, also from South Africa, adds:

"It’s good to know that your ezine elicited such a response. It’s an indication of how precious our own languages/dialects are.

I thought I’d tell you of a few South African terms.

What you would call a traffic light, we call a robot. (Believe me, that creates much mirth among visitors.) Our term for a sidewalk is a pavement and the trunk of a car we call a boot (those are similar to British English). On a glorious Summer’s day like we’re having today, our favourite meal would be a braaivleis, (pronounced bry-flace) the equivalent of your barbeque. One last seemingly nonsensical expression we use is now-now, which in fact means later, just the opposite!

How fascinating this topic is. As an aside, my sister-in-law and her husband have recently returned from a month-long camping holiday through Botswana and Namibia. They spent time with a 4th-generation Bushman woman, whose sister incidentally lives in England and speaks like a pukka Brit. The most astounding discovery for them was to hear this woman converse in pure Bushman language with the locals."

And Margie, also from South Africa says:

"Glad that we are opening up the topic of English in all its forms. South African English has its own vernacular with many words now becoming standard English usage, i.e. "braai" for barbecue. Many words that we use as standard are taken from the Dutch and also from Malaysian. On a trip to Malaysia we were quite intrigued to find words such as 'pondok' ( a word meaning a small outbuilding or shed) and commonly used here, 'busie' (bus) which is the Malaysian although the Afrikaans word is the same as our bus. Words in the Oxford English Dictionary like 'veld' (open plains) and 'stoep' (a terraced veranda or porch) and 'velskoen' (a soft leather shoe) come directly from the Dutch as well. And whilst on the veranda or porch - (veranda taken from Hindi and porch used in America), that can open up a whole new discussion. We find that our Afrikaans speaking and African speaking compatriots generally have difficulty with the correct usage of 'is' and 'are' and vowel sounds become distorted and changed. Isn't language fascinating?"


If you've enjoyed reading this post, consider signing up for Usha's thrice monthly ezine-Getting It Write! on http://www.writechoiceforyou.com

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

5 Steps To Start Blogging

Are you considering starting a blog, but wondering how and where to begin? The following is blogging made easy in 5 steps. Use it as a checklist, but don’t expect to make money from it. There’s a very small percentage of bloggers who actually earn a living from blogging. For most bloggers, blogging is a great way to share information and news with friends and family members, grow an audience interested in what they have to say or just have fun expressing their thoughts and feelings. Posts can be updated regularly, graphically enhanced and deleted when done with, which makes it a great medium to play with. Here’s how to get started:

1. Select a subject:
There are thousands of subjects being blogged about on a daily basis. Select one you are interested in or one that relates to your work, and you’ll be more likely to update it on a regular basis. Better still, research the market and come up with a topic that's lacking. Fill this need and you'll have visitors flocking to your site.

2. Come up with a catchy title: Your title should be a reflection of what your blog is about and easy to remember and type up.

3. Select a blogging platform. A lot of websites come with their own inbuilt blogging platforms which are easy to use. Word press is the most popular amongst them(http://wordpress.org). If you are going to use an independent platform, consider browsing sites like http://blogger.com and http://today.com


4. Find a flexible site design:
Designing your blog is important, more so when you want to upload pictures and images of products on offer. Select one that is easy to edit and which accepts images, links etc. both within the posts, and within the design structure.

5. Load a tracking widget onto your site
: A tracking widget will allow you to determine where your audience comes from, how long they stay, what they purchase, their feedback if any etc. Most sites will have some sort of tracking device already installed or as an option. If not, sites like http://statcounter.com are a good place to begin.

Once your blog is built, remember to update it with useful content on a regular basis and use other marketing tactics to draw in audience.

© 2009 Usha Krishnan Sliva

Want to use this article? You can if you include this blurb:

Freelance writer Usha Krishnan Sliva has years of article and copywriting experience. To get more free tips and writing ideas, subscribe to her ezine-Getting It Write on http://www.writechoiceforyou.com or sign up for her course, Article Writing And Selling 101 on http://www.writechoiceforyou.com/WritingCourses.html

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Word Play Of The Day

A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Rainy Days!

I guess I spoke too soon and the rains have begun! Or maybe it was my jig around the block when I landed 5 jobs in one day, that had the Gods mistake it for a rain-dance. Whatever the reason, it's begun to pour. And if getting up at 5am is difficult, so is finding topics to write on. I don't have a case of writer's block, just a burning desire to crawl back into bed and sleep off the rest of the day. Which of course is not going to happen.

So, what do you do when clients, unconcerned with the weather or your sleep problems, impose seemingly short deadlines, which you then have to meet? Usually I find taking a walk quite inspiring or at least, refreshing enough to clear the cobwebs from my head. But it's raining and muddy boots never did inspire me. There are many places online where you can begin your search, including Yahoo stories, www.askjeeves.com, www.askme.com, www.Dmoz.com and a whole list of other newsrooms and Q&A sites. If that doesn't work, try ezine directories such as www.ezinearticles.com or www.goarticles.com. Browsing forums and networking sites like www.twitter.com and www.facebook.com can also help spark a bright idea. If you are visiting the latter though, beware that it's easy to get caught up in chatting with friends and browsing irrelevant links. Set a timer or give yourself 30 minutes to surf these groups and jot down ideas, and then log out.

If staying at your desk is proving to be more stressful than helpful, a good cup of tea (or coffee, if that's your poison) and a magazine is a great way to regain focus. I tend to steer clear of books; if the plot is interesting, I begin to forget I'm supposed to be working. Magazines or newspapers work well in that they're easy to browse through and easier yet to put down.

An Exercise To Get You Going:

Perfect for a rainy day, this exercise gets you going no matter the weather. Take a magazine and at random, cut out an advert. from it. Keep it on your desk. Now set your timer (cell phone, watch, egg timer...anything works) for 15 minutes and begin to write about the picture. If it's a male model selling a cologne, write about the model: what does he look like? What is the message he's trying to convey? Is he young and trendy? Older and more sophisticated? Is he wearing boxers? A suit? Why do you think he's dressed the way he is? Try exploring other angles. Perhaps you can imagine a little bit about the model itself. Is he American? Italian? Does he live in New York? Paris? Milan? Have you seen him before? Do you think he'd be good on the catwalk? Now what about the cologne: Is the bottle design something that catches your attention?

Article Writing And Selling 101
Interested in learning to write for magazines? Anyone can. Click on this link to find out how you too can earn money writing for magazines and newspapers: http://www.writechoiceforyou.com/WritingCourses.html

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sunny Days

Speaking of procrastination; it's been a while since I got onto any of my blogs. Of course, I could justify it by saying that I do wake at 5am to work, pretty much 7 days of the week. Or that now school has started for both the kids, it's harder to get chunks of free time given the extra activities that parents are roped into. My daughter's doing a Terry Fox run this coming Friday (she's just 5) and my son is going apple picking with his preschool; parent participation required. And I've launched my new Article Writing And Selling 101, course online (http://www.writechoiceforyou.com/WritingCourses.html). All in all, it's been busy and blogging has taken a backseat.

But today is too perfect a day to resist. The second day of autumn and it's 27C. The kids are cycling in the front of the house and I'm enjoying what may well prove to be the last intense day of sunshine; netbook on my lap. Finding pockets of time to do anything lengthy is really hard; but with writing exercises, blogging and online social networking, days like today are a perfect Godsend.

So I shall forget about pending projects, unwritten assignments and payment collection and enjoy instead an evening with children's chatter, long glasses of lemonade and warm, sunny weather!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Stop Procrastinating! Start Writing!


Ask any freelance writer what one of the top challenges he faces is, and chances are he’ll talk about procrastination. Delaying or putting off writing by coming up with a number of excuses is something we all excel at, and dare I say it, can get very creative about! For me at times, an untidy desk or surroundings act as a perfect reason to put off editing or blogging.

If you find procrastination is becoming more than an occasional excuse to delay writing, the following may help:

1. Jot down a to-do list of your writing projects. Next, create a to-do list for your other tasks, such as sending out invoices, preparing media briefs etc. Once you have it down on paper, it’s easy to see just how much needs to get done.

2. Set a timer for 15 minutes. Then begin to freewrite. Freewriting is a great exercise to get the creative juices flowing. And once you begin, you’ll be surprised when the timer goes off to see just how much fun it can be!

3. Complete other tasks before you begin to write. If your desk needs to be cleared, shirts need to be ironed or the hockey game taped, get them done before you sit down at your desk. A mind which is full of incomplete tasks is never going to let you write.

4. Learn relaxation techniques to help you focus. The better your focus, the more work gets done. If you find yourself daydreaming or losing your creative focus, gently bring your mind back to the matter on hand. If you still find yourself getting restless, it may be time to take a break. By practising focusing techniques, you’ll find you are able to concentrate and get more work done in shorter periods of time.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Analyze Your Writing Process

Have you ever felt like you’ve spent a lot of time in front of the computer, but your word output has declined? And while online poker games and chat sites may be partly the culprit, a lot has to do with your writing process.

Your what?

Your writing process is the one that’s unique to you and which you use to create everything from business letters, sales pages, ezine articles and blog posts. However, most of us are so busy job hunting and once we have a job, then meeting deadlines, that we fail to think about our actual process. But each of us will write with an actual structure, even if we do so unconsciously. And certain components on this structure will exist, not matter the order in which we choose to do so.

• Generating an idea
• Creating a draft
• Conducting research and interviewing experts
• Revising
• Editing
• Submitting a completed piece.

How to draft, revise and edit a piece; in fact, how you create it from scratch, may differ vastly from how another writer in your same area of expertise does so. In fact, it’s this diversity which comes through in your article and makes it unique and a pleasure to read. However, it is understanding the process you use, and then streamlining it to make it work effectively, which will allow you to write with abandon, yet achieve the maximum through your efforts.

Once you recognize your writing process you will also learn to recognize which tasks take up time and which tasks you can breeze through effortlessly. I for example, love to write motivational pieces and ideas come to mind constantly on topics I can write about. On the other hand, give me a sales page to create and I will spend a lot of time on my draft. By knowing your limitations and strengths, you will learn how to juggle your schedule and work your limited hours to your maximum benefit.

So, spend some time analyzing your writing process. In the long run, it’ll be well worth the time and effort your put in to do so!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Word Play Of The Day

No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Where's My Calculator?






Over the years, I've written down just about every organizing tip I've ever found. I even studied to become a professional organizer in my spare time. And it's paid out 10 times over, though I mainly use it for my own personal needs. 'Where's the keys honey', I know the answer to that. 'Mum, I can't find my sticker'. I know the answer to that too. You ask me for something, anything at home and chances are, I'll know where it is. And that carries over to my desk too. If I don't find the time to file my invoices or put away cheque stubs, I will still know where they are and when they've been moved.

You don't have to be so overly conscious of everything in your home and desk, but as a freelancer, it's important to have your time and space organized. It's simple logic; the less time you spend trying to find a calculator or client invoice, the more time you have to write. And your organization has to cross physical boundaries to permeate your mental faculty as well. Jumbled thoughts are great when you have time and access to a computer or pen and paper to write them down; they are not so great when you are trying to meet deadlines and unable to concentrate.

Organizing yourself is much easier than you think. The key as always is to start small so as not to become overwhelmed by the chaos around you. I have on either side of my desk, a whiteboard and a pin-tack board. On the former, I write down my Statement Of Intent (how much I want to make for the month and how I need to make it) and my projects with their dollar figures besides them. This way, I see at a glance how many projects I've booked and how many more I need to.

On my left hand side, I print and tack out all the client briefs and project guidelines I need to follow. This makes for easy reading.

I also have a little folder with white cards in them. I use these to mark down project ideas and potential clients. You can have a number of these for different purposes. Or files with coloured tags to differentiate them also work well.

I tried having two schedule organizers; one for the family and one for work. But that didn't work well for me. So now I have one large one on my desk, which is divided into two halves each day. And I can see all my work deadlines and personal appointments at a glance.

And finally, it's also important to break up my day into portions, each of which has something specific for me to do. I write best in the mornings, so that's my 'writing time'. I also spend a part of my day hunting for jobs, updating blogs, writing my courses and coaching. And then there's marketing my work too. It all adds up to the limited time on hand. And so dividing it makes it more efficient a way to handle each individual tasks.

Reflect on your organizing habits. Do they align well with your work methods? Can you do anything to enhance your efficiency?

And write me what works well for you (and what doesn't).

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Top 8 Reasons Freelance Writers Fail At Their Career:

#8: Working for peanuts: Honestly, I love peanuts as much as any monkey, but to work for them? I think not. I did do that once however, when I first started freelancing. I accepted $5 per blog post for a site that was ‘just setting up’. It wasn’t bad in that I had the freedom to select my topics and post as much or as little as I wanted to. But then two things happened; I spent a lot of time blogging for this $5 cheque and I was hesitant to ask clients to pay me a very much higher fee. And then one day, it struck me; I have years of professional writing experience, I am a good writer and I love what I do. I really don’t need to be blogging for next to nothing. And so I stopped and demanded a higher fee from clients who not surprisingly, said yes. Deliver quality and demand a decent fee for it.

# 7: Failing to treat your writing as a full-time career: Working freelance doesn’t mean working part-time and it’s very easy to confuse the two terms. While you’d like to work your own hours and be your own boss, the fact remains that unless you put in a 9-5 time sheet and realize that your clients are in actuality your boss, you just won’t get paid enough to have a career.

# 6: Not seizing business opportunities: Freelance writers must also be business people and seize new and exciting opportunities to write for. If you write for blogs, then how about online publishing houses? Writing web content? Perhaps you can also specialize in biographies. There are tons of possibilities out there but the competition is tough. So acting quickly and effectively makes all the different between getting a job and losing an opportunity.

# 5: Not specializing in a niche: You could become a general writer and compete with thousands of other writers, or you could become a niche writer and specialize in a chosen field. Writers of the former category will spend more time and earn less money than those in the latter.

# 4: Getting distracted: It’s so easy to get distracted. It’s a nice day and a jog seems tempting. Also the laundry needs to be picked up and you did offer to do the cooking today. And yes, there is that thing called a marketing plan, which is waiting to be written. Which one gets priority? If it’s during your working hours, then there should be no question about it- your housework and fun-time can and should wait until you’ve shut off the computer and turned off your desk lamp.

# 3: Not having a marketing plan: Which brings me to this very important point. Most freelance writers do not have a marketing plan! They spend so much time job hunting that they do not have time to market their services. A percentage of your time needs to be spent each day marketing your services to both current and potential clients.

# 2: Chasing the wrong kind of clients:
If you find yourself chasing the wrong kind of clients; the ones who ‘do not want your services immediately but may need them in the future’, or the ones who are ‘just setting up and cannot afford to pay you much’, then step back and reassess your efforts. It may be better to give these clients a miss or put them on hold and begin to seek better paying projects.

# 1: Failing to set goals: This is one of the biggest problems with any business, not just freelancing. Your goals will keep changing as will your work methodologies and ethics. But the core values should always remain the same and it’s these values which need to be translated into short, medium and long term goals. Without them, your career will be like a ship set adrift without a compass; you cannot see the shore and you are unsure as to which direction to set sail in.

© 2009 Usha Krishnan Sliva
Freelance writer Usha Krishnan Sliva has years of article and copywriting experience. To get more free tips and writing ideas, subscribe to her ezine-Getting It Write, today.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Living Their Dream- A Day At The Allen Berg Racing School

Hello,

This one is for auto racing fans! It's also about networking and taking time out to enjoy something you love. It has nothing to do with writing (though of course if you are interested in racing, you could always pitch to car magazines ;), but it's something that our entire family is very interested in. And it's also for a little girl, A.M. who shared the day with me in the pouring ran, cheering her dad on. If you're reading this A.M, you were a star and real good fun to hang out with.

A little while ago, someone from the HOBN (networking) group sent out a general email about the Allen Berg Racing School. They have formula cars and this time, Allen was bringing them to Mission (BC). So of course, being big Formula One fans, I had to sign up my husband for a course. No, he didn't sit in a formula one car, yes, he had a lot of fun despite the crappy weather! Thanks Jason and Allen! It was a super success and I know we'll be back.

Enjoy!

Start of Round #1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eG1Fx-YwViU
Finishing 1st lap of round #1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qQz9dWoFvg
Start of Round #2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69sMjLZnUyY
Finished round #2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVJJrUcDSYA

For more information on them, you can visit their site at http://www.allenbergracingschools.com

Friday, August 7, 2009

Interview Writing 101

I'm so excited, I had to share this right away! I was interviewed by friend and author Brigitte Thompson, who recently released her book, Bookkeeping Basics For Freelance Writers. It's an honor to be interviewed by her, and you can read the complete interview here: http://www.writersinbusiness.blogspot.com



Speaking of interviews, they are great fun to give and write, depending on which end you're at. If you are researching a particular topic, interviews can be useful for getting the story behind the story. They can also be an excellent means of gleaning further information in a campaign or market survey, by interviewing participants and getting their point of view.

If you are conducting an interview, the following points may help you go from start to finish smoothly.

1. Give yourself plenty of time to prepare. A nervous interviewer will not make for a calm and stress-free atmosphere in which the interviewee can relax. Start your preparations in advance and practice your questions in front of an audience (or even a mirror) till you get them right. Preparation will also include having a pre-interview chat with your subject to lay out how, when and where the interview will take place. If you are videotaping it, or using a recording device, let them know in advance.

2. Opt for face to face interviews where possible. Conducting an interview in person allows you to get a stronger feel for interviewee’s personality, thoughts and emotions. This is particularly important if the interview forms the center of your piece. If you are using an interview as a filler, a phone or online interview would work just as well.

3. Never skimp on research. Researching your subject and the topic in advance gives you the chance to explore both in more detail. And this definitely makes for a more captivating story. And you never know what valuable nuggets of information you may pick up along the way.

4. Phrase your questions in a non-threatening manner.
You do not want to put your subject on guard and make him defensive or nervous about answering your questions.

5. Draft out your interview questions beforehand
. And then sleep on them. You'll be surprised at the new questions that pop up overnight or the ones that seem quite banal after a good think. If possible, go through them with colleagues or friends. They may have ideas and suggestions you never thought of.

6. Use open ended questions.
These are questions that don't allow the person being interviewed to get away with a simple yes or no answer. While a good candidate will always elaborate on their answers, it's the interviewer's job to make it as easy as possible for them tell their story. Some great ways to begin a question could include, "tell me about" or "how did you feel" or "what do you think"...

7. Accessorize your interview
. Add a photo or links to make it more personal.

8. Mind your manners
. The person you’re interviewing has taking the time and trouble to speak to you. No matter the final outcome of the interview, remember always to thank them for their time.

© 2009 Usha Krishnan Sliva


Freelance writer Usha Krishnan Sliva has years of article and copywriting experience. To get more free tips and writing ideas, subscribe to her ezine-Getting It Write, today.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

How To Spot a Scam - Part 2

If you've been scammed, have visited dodgy sites or just have thoughts or ideas you'd like to share, please do send them in. I'll upload them so other writers get a chance to avoid getting caught in the same trap.

In the meantime, here are some links to check out:

http://www.work-at-home-forum.com/14_7144_0.html

http://www.writersweekly.com/whispers_and_warnings/005525_08052009.html

http://www.freelancedaily.net/freelance-writing-scams/

http://www.thelightkeeper.com/wah/scams/writerscams.htm

http://www.writingworld.org/freelance_writing_scams/

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

How To Spot A Scam

With writers, we apply for quite a few jobs before we land some really good ones. And one example of a site with numerous jobs on it, is of course, Craigslist. If you've seen my earlier post, you'll recognize there are a number of jobs which don't quite make sense. But how about scams?

1. One way to recognize a scam is by the wording of the ad. If it's worded incorrectly and asks for a lot of your information without giving out some of theirs, you may want to avoid it.

2. Another is a 'paid only upon approval' type ad, which offers to pay you only if your sample is approved. If there's no legitimate website listed, you'll be unable to verify if they've used your work without paying you for it.

3. A third type is where the ad itself seems very legitimate and a site is given in order for you to browse through it. But the email address of the person in question does not sit quite right. Below is a response I received recently from a craigslist ad I had written to. The language used is questionable as is the email address.

----- Forwarded Message ----
From: "mridrjohn@aol.com"
To: usha_sliva@yahoo.ca
Sent: Sunday, August 2, 2009 4:21:00 PM
Subject: ABOUT THE COMPANY AND THE ARTICLE.

Hello,

How are you doing today?
Thanks for the prompt reply,Midwest Research Institute(MRI),wants you to write an article of 400 words about JOB OFFER.The company will like to offer you $200 for 400 words,the faster you write the better you get more topics of articles from us.
The company will be making payment to you as soon as you agree to make the payment.
We need you to write an article that will contain us offering people jobs,but before you preceed,i will like to tell you more about the company.

About the Company :
MRI was established in 1944 with a mission to supply needed research for industry and to encourage programs using regional resources. Today MRI is an internationally acclaimed center for applied research and technology development. Our accomplishments range from pioneering efforts in environmental and cancer research to cutting-edge work in drug development and high-precision automation technology.
That is little about the job,we want you to incluse that in your article,we will like to know more about you,kindly answer the questions,
And moreover

Where are you from?
How many hours will it take you to write 400words?
What kind of form of payment do you prefer?

I want a prompt reply,get back Asap.

Thanks
Dr.John Stanley
.


It's sent by a Dr John Stanley. I googled the company and there was a John Stanley in it, but his email address was different. So I wrote him and this is his response:

Usha,

Thanks for contacting me. The information that you received is a scam and has no connection with our company. We are aware of this activity which has taken many different forms over the past few months. We are working with the authorities to address the problem. I suggest that you alert your friends and colleagues that this type of activity is occurring.

Regards

John


So the next time you apply for a position or receive a response, always double check to see if it's a legitimate case before parting with any financial information, work samples or personal details.

Interested in learning more? Try these reads:





Friday, July 31, 2009

Don't You Just Love Craigslist!!

Explain to me why you'd want to hire someone who doesn't have any 'brains'???

WRITER NEEDED
Searching for creative writers with 5+ years of experience. Brains not
required, but a proven track record of writing bang-up copy is a must.
Paste all writing samples and resumes into the body of your email;
attachments will be deleted.
http://losangeles.craigslist.org/lac/wrg/1290888526.html
Compensation: DOE
Reply to: gigs-e2aqj-1290888526@craigslist.org.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Why Payment for 'Accepted Work Only' Is Unacceptable!


There are a lot of jobs out there which offer payment for ‘accepted work only’. What this essentially means is that the ‘potential’ client expects talented writers to write a piece and submit it, allowing him to select the one he likes best. How the client makes his selection is never clarified and after submitting a piece, you can only hope you’ll hear back from him. However, hope doesn’t feed a hungry mouth or fill an empty pocket. In order to do that, you’d need a guaranteed paying job.

There are two reasons why ‘accepted work only’ jobs don’t work. Firstly, there’s the fact that most talented writers have paying jobs on hand and don’t have the time to work on a possibly unpaid project. The second reason is simply that most clients who don’t appreciate the amount of time and effort it takes to produce a good piece will not pay market value for it anyways.

No matter your current income objective or financial status, it’s wise to avoid ‘paying for accepted work only’ listed jobs. Instead, if it sounds interesting, send it a query letter with reasons why you’re suitable for the position. If it’s a genuine client, he’ll take the time to read your bid and respond to it accordingly.

Another wise move on your part is to ask for an upfront payment. It can be a small percentage, but it at least shows the client you are serious about the project and time-commitment. By adopting this new policy, you can definitely wave goodbye to ‘accepted work only’ clients, but you will be saying hello to some serious money!

© 2009 Usha Krishnan Sliva
Freelance writer Usha Krishnan Sliva has years of article and copywriting experience. To get more free tips and writing ideas, subscribe to her ezine-Getting It Write, today.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Write A Poem...How About Two?

I am not a poet. In fact, I probably suck at writing poetry. Contrary to popular belief, a writer need not be a poet. And to the many people who've asked me what I do for a living, and in response to my 'I'm a freelance writer' go; can you help me write my wedding vows?; the answer is a resounding - no!

Having said this, I do find that at times, mostly at night and when I really do need to be asleep; inspiration strikes. I feel the urge to pen a poem! And so I dig out my pad and pencil from my bedside table and scribble away. And I fall asleep with no nagging thoughts of undone deeds left for the morning.

Most of us 'feel' poetic occasionally and despite the fact you might not be a Tennyson, I'd say, give it a go. It's wise not to try and stem this creative urge, and while you may not want to share your work with others (I certainly don't), writing poetry for yourself can be quite uplifting and even exhilerating. It's also a great way to recover quite speedily from writer's block.

If you do enjoy reading poetry, then may I recommend two of my favorite contemporary poets; AJ Johnson and Glynis Smy; both on blogspot.

You can view their work on:
www.writeandrewrite.blogspot.com
www.apoetsword.blogspot.com

Enjoy them, get inspired and give it a go!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Word Play Of The Day

The butcher backed into the meat grinder and got a little behind in his work.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Building A Writer's Portfolio

Want to learn more about how and why a portfolio is important? That's the subject of my latest ezine, Getting It Write!

To subscribe, please enter your name and email address in the box to the right of this post. All Getting It Write! issues are filled with tips, hints and advice from seasoned writers and best of all, they are completely free to subscribe to.

Hate what you receive? You can unsubscribe just as easily (though I promise you, this won't happen ;)

Thanks for visiting and looking forward to sending you our next issue.

Until then, happy writings!

Usha

Monday, July 13, 2009

Take My Survey Poll

Take my SURVEY POLL and help me tailor-make my upcoming course to suit your own personal writing needs!

Interested in being amongst the first to receive the course straight to your inbox? As a valued subscriber to Getting It Write! you will receive course material free and ahead of the rest.

Both the POLL and the SUBSCRIPTION BOX are located to the right of this post. Subscribing is free and you can unsubscribe anytime you like.

With thanks and warm regards,
Usha

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Are You Ready For A Multiple Income Lifestyle?

ARE YOU READY TO EARN EVEN MORE MONEY THAN YOU CURRENTLY DO?

Most successful freelance writers know that their money does not come just from paying jobs. They will earn their wealth through a number of additional sources.

Are you ready to learn what they do? Do you want to increase you income but don't know how to start? It's not easy and it does take a lot of hard work, but it can be done.

Learn how by subscribing to my free ezine. The next issue (out on the 10th July) will teach you how you too can make additional income.

Just fill in your email and click on the box to the right of this post and you'll automatically be subscribed. Don't worry. If you don't like what you read, you can just as easily unsubscribe!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Why Every Writer Should Also Be An Editor

My today's guest post is by Chesley Maldonado, a full-time freelance writer and friend. Chesley is also an editor and is gracious enough to share her knowledge via this post. So enjoy reading it!
________________________________________________________

Writing and editing go hand in hand. No matter how good you are at writing, you are bound to make mistakes. Not only will you make mistakes, but your first draft will never be the best you can do. It is so important to proofread your work, and to look at it objectively. Making changes to what you write is just as vital as doing the initial writing. If you don't think that it is important to have an editor's eye as a writer, consider the following.

Typos happen. I have learnt that it is quite easy to forget an "s" at the end of a word, or put an "f" in place of an "r" when typing quickly. Reading over my work, I often spot a missing or misplaced letter. Some of the typos that I make could change the meaning of a sentence entirely, and if I didn't edit my work, there would be careless mistakes in it all of the time.

Sometimes the best ideas don't come to you until after you finish writing a piece. Revisiting your draft and adding new ideas, strengthening old ones, and getting rid of weaker ideas will always make a stronger piece. Why settle for what you wrote when you can edit the work and make it that much better?

Editing can help you notice your writing habits. You might use the same word or phrase repeatedly without realizing it. Some writers have the habit of emphasizing the same point. Awkward sentence structure used to be a habit of mine. It was sometimes difficult to explain certain things or find the right words, so I would write out my thought in any way that I could. The trouble was that other people didn't understand. That is, of course until I edited.

Editing your own work will simply make you a better writer. Taking an objective look at what you have written will force you to see where you can make improvements. It will also allow you to take notice of what you do right. The changes that you create, big or small, will always make for a more polished piece.

Being an editor is an important part of being a writer. Even the best writers edit their work, or they pay someone else to do it for them.

Chesley Maldonado
is a full-time freelance writer (and editor) who posts regularly to http://dailyfreelancewritingtips.wordpress.com, a blog full of practical tips and first-hand (or researched) advice about the freelance writing career. She specializes in web content and works with clients and writers from all over the world. Her main interests are personal development, relationships, and personal finance. Visit her website to learn more: www.freelancebychesley.com or follow her on Twitter @writtenquality.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Magic Of Autoresponders

I’m back from a glorious Californian vacation, tanned and ready to start work again. Everyone should visit California at least once in their lives. It’s a city that’s full of marked contrasts, all of them larger than life itself! And the glorious sun shone down on us each and every day, so in the end, the kids and I came back looking and feeling healthier than ever (and yes, I do believe in the generous application of sun block)

While I was away, I relied on a wonderful thing called ‘autoresponders’ to keep my ezines going. Autoresponders are essentially, especially if you are the kind of person who is often away from your desk. They are also wonderful tools for those who manage to squeeze out some extra time in their day to prepare their ezines and sales pages ahead of schedule. They are essential to business growth and can be lifesavers.

Autoresponders can be free or paid for (aweber.com) and both have their pros and cons. When I first started out, I used the services of a free web tools company (bravenet). They allowed me to send free ezines as often as I wanted (though there’s a minimum daily clause attached). They did not however have an inbuilt autoresponder service to let me send out immediate pre-built in responses. Do I regret it? Absolutely not. It allowed me to build my ezine business from scratch. However, while free software may seem like a boon to those on a tight budget; beware. They are not necessarily easy to use and often have very limited applications, making them less user friendly than most of us would like. On the other hand, paid services can be excellent and usually, the cost is quite nominal. With unlimited amounts of newsletters and broadcasts that you can send, and easy to navigate site structures, you are sure to come up a winner.

So, before you begin to download your autoresponder service, consider the pros and cons and go in for one which works for you.

Usha recommends the following excellent kindle reads, based on your budget:





Friday, June 19, 2009

Five Tips for Beginning Freelance Writers

My today's guest blogger is an up and coming freelance writer. Here, she doesn't hesitate to share what she's learnt with others. Check out her advice!
________________________________________

You've made the decision to make a living as a writer, hopefully out of love for the art and the fact that you've been scribbling away in notebooks and on computers for most of your life. Here are a few tips that can not only get you started, but help you out of a slump if you are in one.

1. Get some career experience first


Freelance writing isn't something I would recommend doing straight out of college. Get a job, any job, for a year or so in order to understand the head space that your future customers will be in. Even if you are working in a related field, such as publishing or journalism, get in somewhere where you are exposed to an office and management environment. You'll learn how to be diplomatic when presenting ideas, you'll understand what "busy work environment" means, and a million other small things that you just won't learn if you work out of a home office forever. You can also use this time to build your portfolio part-time so that when you are ready, you come out of the gate with a strong showing.

2. Look everywhere


Don't restrict yourself to looking on Craigslist and online bidding sites for work. These are really the low rungs of the freelance writing ladder and good jobs await you in other places. Sign up with an agency for creatives, such as The Creative Group, Aquent or another high-end agency. While they may seem like temp agencies on the surface, these agencies are actually the source of some lucrative contracts that can result in a killer portfolio. Also, explore sites such as freelanceswitch.com, Darren Rowse's ProBlogger and Deb Ng's FreelanceWritingGigs.com.

I know that some will have fervent objections to my dismissal of online bidding sites such as Elance and Guru. However, my views are based on personal experience after giving these sites a good try for more than just a few months. Despite the opportunities that are available there after you spend a lot of time wading through the muck, you shouldn't have to pay a membership fee or commission for your job leads. The exception would be well-vetted sources like FreelanceSwitch.com, which provides excellent leads for their low membership fee. Freelance Switch, in addition, wouldn't dream of asking for a commission on your project.

3. Join a professional association


In Canada, we have an association called PWAC (Professional Writers Association of Canada) that offers its members access to premium job leads, a profile on its websites that prospective buyers look at, and seminars to upgrade your skills. There are similar associations in the US at both the State and the Federal level. These are sources of quality leads and excellent networking opportunities with your fellow writers.

4. Hone your skills wisely


I haven't had any formal training in creative writing since I left University in 1995. To keep myself sharp, I practice writing daily in my various blogs and read various books on writing from authors that know what they are talking about through proven results, like a long list of clients or a significant industry background. It is more important to write than read; start a blog journaling your experiences on Inked In, Blogger, or your own domain.

5. Learn Wordpress

Buy a domain name and hosting and start your own blog using Wordpress. This may seem like a huge step for most of you, but it is so vital that you have Wordpress skills if you want to get blogging gigs. Setting up your own personal portfolio site is the best way to start and it is dead easy. I recommend BlueHost.com for their one-click Wordpress installation, and the fact that you can host multiple sites on their server for $10-$30 a month, depending on the plan you choose. Blog owners will like that you recognize what they are working with and are much more likely to hire you.

Lastly, recognize that you are in an industry where writers are in demand, not the other way around. Low payers often like to put down writing and editing skills as being worthless in order to manipulate you into accepting low pay. Don't fall for this. You are the one who is in demand, not the other way around. Adjust your rates accordingly.

About the Author


Angela West runs www.freelancewritingjobs.ca and has found success as as freelance writer after a year and a half researching various methods of finding contracts. She believes that anyone else with a talent for writing also can and has set up her blog to help her fellow Canadian writers drill down on the jobs that they are eligible for. Her professional site is Working Web Copy.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Online Arbitration- It does work!

Now that my 'arbitration' case is behind me, I feel comfortable enough to write about it in the hope that others who are going through something similar will benefit from this knowledge.

This case is in particular reference to Elance. There's always been mixed feelings in the freelancing community towards this site; some make their living from clients via Elance, while others feel outraged that they charge not only a subscription fee, but also a hefty commission.

I enjoy working with Elance. I pick and choose my projects and submit bids I feel comfortable with. If they come through, then well and good; if not, there are other sites I also use.

If you happen to get into a tussle with a client (or provider) with regards to payment; then Elance has a fairly good arbitration process in place. This is how it works:

The provider (or client, as this is a two way street) needs to get in touch with Elance and file a 'Dispute Claim Form'. Someone from Elance will get in touch with you and you have up to three days to try and resolve the problem with the other party. If you cannot reach an amicable conclusion after three days, Elance sets up a Dispute Assistance conference call with the provider, the client and someone from the Elance dispute committee. Both provider and client are given time to have their say.

If you still cannot resolve this over the conference call, Elance then gives you the option of filing with an online arbitration company called, Net Arb (www.net-arb.com)
The party who had initially filed the dispute gets the first opportunity to file with Net Arb. Elance issues a unique registration code to file the case and transfers all documentation and Private Message communications over to net-ARB once both parties accept net-ARB's Arbitration Agreement.

Following net-ARB's registration process, everything is handled via e-mail only. The cost to file the case is $199.00 for a single arbiter or $399.00 for a panel. This cost is split equally three-ways, between each party and Elance. In the event an arbitration case is filed and the other party does not respond, the non-participating party’s account will be suspended and any funds held in Escrow will be released to the party who filed the case.

In the event the case is filed, then the arbitration process begins. Both parties get the opportunity to make an opening statement. Each party is then allowed to present evidence and ask questions of the other. All this is done only via emails. Finally, each party needs to make a closing statement. The arbitrator then makes a binding decision; which is communicated to Elance, and accordingly, the funds get released to the person who has won the case.

It's very straightforward; less intimidating than you would imagine; and there is no time frame or deadlines to be met. So you have ample time to prepare all your statements and evidence.

If you still have questions, do visit their site; www.net-arb.com or contact me and I'll be happy to share the information I have.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bookkeeping Basics For Freelance Writers



Networking is wonderful. Through it you meet so many other talented men and women, who will help you grow your writing business. Most freelance writers don't realize that in order to make a successful career from their writing, they need to treat it as a business. And what could be more important in any business than bookkeeping!

My guest today is Brigitte Thompson. Apart from being the President of Datamaster Accounting Services LLC; Brigitte has also written a book especially for freelance writers. We spoke a couple of days ago about the wonderful work she's produced.

Usha: Hello and welcome. Why don't we start by you telling us a bit about yourself.

Brigitte: I live in Vermont with my husband, three children, three cats and two dogs. I operate an accounting business, Datamaster Accounting Services, LLC, am an author of 8 books, and freelance writer. I’ve been self- employed for 17 years and am very thankful to have found a way to balance everything. I enjoy what I do and don’t consider it work.

Usha: When did you begin to think of writing a book specifically on bookkeeping for freelance writers?

Brigitte: The idea for this book was born in 2006 when I was answering questions from writers that were part of online forums I belonged to. Many of the same questions came up so I began to keep the answers in a file on my computer. As this file grew, the concept of writing a book about the financial side of a writer’s life became a reality.

Usha: Have you found that freelance writers require a very different set of bookkeeping rules by which to play?

Brigitte: Many bookkeeping rules are universal such as the requirement to record income, but there are some areas of the tax law that are more common to freelance writers. This includes dealing with royalty payments, bartering, personal property and agent fees. My book addresses the universal tax rules as well as the infrequently discussed rules that apply specifically to freelance writers.

Some writers may not see themselves as business owners which can be detrimental to their career. Learning what is reportable income and what deductions are allowed will give them the best chance at overall business success.

Usha: Does your book offer advice on issues such as difficulty in fee/payment collection? I know this is a topic that every freelancer must address at some point in his or her career.

Brigitte: I recommend writers work with contracts which are legally binding. There are copies of these written agreements in the book for writers to use. Unfortunately, even written contracts can be broken and eventually we will encounter a client who is not willing to pay us for the work we have completed.

I strongly encourage writers to utilize Small Claims Court and report the problem to the local Better Business Bureau. For more detailed information, I recommend Michelle Dunn’s series of books on collection. She shares a wealth of information on this topic.

Usha: Would writers living outside of the States benefit from picking up a copy of your book?

Brigitte:
Yes, the organizational information and tips included in this book benefit writers both in and out of the United States. However, the book is based on the Federal Tax laws of the United States, so the tax portions of the book would not necessarily apply to business owners outside of the United States.

Usha: You’ve interviewed a number of freelance writers while doing research for this book. What are some of the challenges they’ve faced with regards to bookkeeping?

Brigitte: The interviewing was one of the best parts of writing this book! It was so nice to connect with other writers and to learn about their experiences.

I found the most common challenge writers face is an understanding of what they need to do to organize legally as a business. If their first job is writing the school newsletter, is the money received really income? Do they need to do something with the Internal Revenue Service before they can be considered a business? How do they handle self- employment tax?

The second most common concern for the freelance writers I interviewed was related to proper documentation. What receipts did they need to save? How should they be kept? What information needs to be recorded to prove the expense?

These are all great questions and they are addressed in the book.

Usha: You've also incorporated different sections such as Writer’s Block and Tips for Success into your book. Could you tell us a bit more about these?

Brigitte: Yes, these two sections in the book were fun to put together. Tips were shared as part of the interview process and offered insight into the lives of a variety of writers. For example, one tip from noted author, Brette Sember states, “I think that it is very important for a writer to find a niche. You’ve got to find an area in which you have expertise or experience that makes you stand out from others. It’s also important to build a platform to create that expertise. Start with a blog, articles on Web site, maybe a Listmania list on Amazon, and build up to articles in national magazines. Eventually you will have created credentials for yourself in the area you’ve chosen and can possibly make the jump to selling a book on the subject.”

The Writer’s Block section was created to include questions from writers I interviewed and the answers offer additional insight. An example from the book is listed below.

Question – “As a non-fiction writer, my articles appear nationally in a variety of magazines. I am paid by check from each publication, but they don’t all send me Form 1099- MISC. Do I still have to report the income when the company paying me doesn’t bother to send me the tax form?” — Celia in MD

Answer – “Yes, even if the payer does not send you the 1099-MISC tax form, you are still required to report the earnings on your tax return as income.”

Usha: Thanks Brigitte. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Brigitte: That the most important thing you can do as a writer is to become organized. There are many books available on how to organize your writing, but this is the best book available, written by an accountant who is also a writer, that will help you organize the financial side of your writing business.

Usha recommends you buy this book:



© 2009 Usha Krishnan Sliva
Freelance writer Usha Krishnan Sliva has years of article and copywriting experience. To get more free tips and writing ideas, subscribe to her ezine-Getting It Write!, today.

Read, Spell, Write and Fix

Something I had to share..because apart from being a full-time writer and coach (and wife ;); I'm also a very proud parent.

This morning, my three year and five month old son (who in most ways is a very typical boy; into Nascar, Formula One racing and anything that moves fast) announced that he would spell jam for me. So he stood in front of me in his pyjamas and said, J-A-M. Being busy these last few months has meant that I've not devoted as much time to his reading/writing as I did my older daughter. So I was all the more surprised when he went on to spell CAR and DOG. The look on his face when done was incredible! Never have I seen someone look so proud or pleased with themselves. That look I have to say is very inspiring!

This evening and not to be outdone, my daughter (who turned five last week) read me an entire book from start to finish without any mistakes. It was a Diego's Level 1 reader; and while she's read similar books in the past, it's always been stop and go with a little bit of help from mum. Today, it was all go-go-go.

And so, their night ended with my son spelling HUG, giving me a hug and my daughter adding- what a clever family we are- you write, Vik can spell and I can read!

Ps- When asked what my husband could do, my son responded by saying-"Dad's a fixer. He doesn't really read or write (er, yes he does!), but he can fix things! ;)"

So there you have it, a very literary family, and a fixer too!

Facebook Link

I've just created a page on facebook for Write Choice For You.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

How To Make Your Money Work For You

For most of us, we will work hard throughout our lives for someone else, in return for a waged income. Think then of how profitable it could be to channel this working energy toward our own personal benefit. And then think of how much better it would be if the money earned began to work for you, 24 hours a day, each and every day of the year!

This is known as passive income; where the money you’ve saved or invested generates ongoing income, without you having to do much more. Freelance writers can make a great deal more money via passive income. You can earn passive income by uploading online, products or services, which sell by themselves. Millions of Internet top-end earners earn most of their income via this method.

Once you’ve understood how passive income works, you can begin to generate income from multiple streams- affiliate marketing, selling eBooks and reports online etc. are only some ways in which you can rake in the big bucks.

The following are four ways in which to make your money work for you:

Create a budget:
It’s often hard to hear the budget word, especially if you are not used to saving or living frugally. However, until your income generates more money by itself, you will need to create a budget and stick with it. Ask yourself; do I really need this product or service I’m investing in? And if the answer is a no; then postpone or defer it for a later date.

Dig yourself out of debt: If you are in debt, then your first priority is to get out of it. You will never be in the plus with regards to your finances, if you are still in debt. This debt becomes a heavy burden to carry, can be passed on to your family and will prove limiting in allowing you to move forward.

Save: You’ve heard the saying, saving for a rainy day. However, savings should be made not just for rainy days, but for all days in your future. Automatically funnel a part of your monthly wage into a separate savings account, so you have no excuse not to save in a particular month.

Invest: And finally, invest your savings. Your money lying dormant in a bank, earning minimum investment, is not going to work for you. Instead, put it towards a high-return investment. The stock market, though challenging for beginners, can provide excellent returns on your investment. So too can investing in real estate. You can also invest in a new business or purchase into an already existing one. There are a number of ways to invest your finances online to gain returns, which can then be reinvested. If you are new to investing, then it’s best to seek professional advice. You should also read up as much as possible, books on finances and investments.

© 2009 Usha Krishnan Sliva
Freelance writer Usha Krishnan Sliva has years of article and copywriting experience. To get more free tips and writing ideas, subscribe to her ezine-Getting It Write, today.

If you'd like to read books on Investment and Financial advice, then Usha recommends the following: