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


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.


Start of Round #1
Finishing 1st lap of round #1
Start of Round #2
Finished round #2

For more information on them, you can visit their site at

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:

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:

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: ""
Sent: Sunday, August 2, 2009 4:21:00 PM


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.

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:


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.



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: