Staffing Agencies

Pencils

A new potential way to find work has, odd as it sounds, found me. Here’s what happened: I was online, applying for projects and I applied for one through what I now know was advertised through a staffing agency. The agency is a creative staffing agency that happens to be local for me. A representative called me and I have an appointment to go meet with a recruiter next week. I can’t really say much on if this will work or not, but I can say that initially when I hung up the phone I wanted to call right back and cancel my appointment.

Here’s the thing, I am a freelance writer, I charge a decent hourly rate, I work from home and I like (really I do) looking for my own work. One red flag when I spoke to the staffing agency was that most of their work is for on-site projects. This I’m willing to try only IF it is a job I really want to work on. So, right there we might have a problem. The second red flag was that they really didn’t seem to care so much that I have an online portfolio. Umm, when working with “creative” people and trying to help them find work, an online portfolio is pretty important.

However, aside from those two red flags, I’m very willing to give them a try. What can it hurt, right? Plus, I stumbled upon these two posts on staffing agencies: Why I’ve Lost Faith in Creative Staffing Agencies, by Susan Johnston over at  The Urban Muse and 6 Ways You Can Add an Agency to Your Arsenal of Work-Generating Tools by Jesaka Long over at a.k.a. Writer. They have further spurred my curiosity in staffing agencies.

Have you ever tried a staffing agency? What are your thoughts?

Happy Anniversary to Us!

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Four years ago today, I wore a white dress and walked down the aisle while nearly 500 people watched as I said “I do” to the man of my dreams. In the four years that have followed, we have had much laughter, joy and tears, we have seen loved ones get sick and loved ones be born, we have endured financial difficulties, furloughs and career changes and not once have I doubted that we belong together.

He is calm and steady and keeps me grounded. He is collected where I can be completely scattered. He keeps me focused and makes me laugh. When I get caught up thinking that the glass is half empty, he is there to point out how it is half full. He is patient where I can be completely impatient. He is fun, exciting and adorable. He is my other half, the part that makes me a better person.

I never thought it was possible to love someone more than I loved my new husband on our wedding day, but today, I can truthfully say that in four years I have grown to love him even more. How lucky am I to have a man that supports all of my dreams and aspirations, who accepts me for who I am, and who so flawlessly accepted my need to change our situation in life in order to pursue my dreams? Here’s looking forward to another four happy years and the many new and exciting things it will bring our way. Cheers!

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What happens when you depend too heavily on a content site?

LaptopI started my freelance writing career years ago with clients here and there, but if I’m really honest my writing career actually began earning me a livable wage when I began writing for several content sites. In fact, the work I was getting from several content sites allowed me to save enough money to leave my full time job in July and pursue freelance writing full time. As you can imagine, I have a lot of love for content sites. But this post isn’t about how happy I am with content sites, it’s more about how they can make you lazy.

Writing for several content sites gave me a base in which to grow my talents and my income. That being said, soon after I left my full time job one of the content sites I had been writing for dried up and eventually went away. Then I was left with just two – one that provided more than enough work and one that was hit or miss. I still write for both, but the one that was providing more than enough work has started to fade. Now all of a sudden, I have a slight problem. You see, part of my work load is in the form of private clients and part is from said content site. So what happens when this site doesn’t provide as much work as it once did? Well, I have been forced to re-evaluate and look at what I’m really working towards here. Do I want to work for content sites forever? No! That was never my intention, but the content sites have made me lazy.

I have always struggled with putting myself out there and finding more private clients. I would think to myself, why should I when I can make quick money writing for a content site? But the problem is that my work isn’t really being recognized – frankly, it’s not my best writing and it’s not like I am reaching for better by being stuck in the content site rut. Nor does writing for a content site give me much networking opportunities. What started out as my safety net has turned into the thing that is holding me back.

It has become very apparent to me in the last few weeks that while I have a steady flow of private clients, I haven’t been putting myself out there, I haven’t been networking like I should, I haven’t been searching for new opportunities and I haven’t been reaching for better. All because I can sit at home and churn out article after article for quick pay, but at the cost of zero networking opportunities, not many usable clips and no improvement to my writing skills. Plus, when those articles become less available, then I am left struggling to meet my income goals.

While content sites will probably never go away and I could probably find another one tomorrow that would supplement my income, I don’t want to rely on them anymore. I want any income that comes from content sites to be extra income – not depended on income. My solution? Tomorrow I start hitting the job boards again, I start networking more than I have been, I start querying magazines again and I put myself out there like I used to before I got comfortable and lazy working on content sites. My new goal is to fully support myself on private clients. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Breast Cancer Reflections

Breast Cancer Ribbon

I’m not sure how this is going to come out and I’m not sure if I will be able to convey how I feel right now, but bear with me while I try. Tonight I went to a breast cancer survivor dinner with my mom. If you didn’t know, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer May 18th of this year. She had a lumpectomy followed by six weeks of radiation therapy and now she has five years of hormonal therapy ahead of her. That being said, physically, her treatment wasn’t the worst it could have been. Yes, she has scars, yes, she was tired during radiation and yes, she has been poked and prodded in almost every way imaginable, but the hardest part about this for her and for me was more on an emotional level. To be honest, I have a hard time even writing this without crying.

My mom has always been the strongest woman I know. But when she got that horrible diagnosis, something changed. For a while there I really felt like we were living in a nightmare and that things would never get better. She was ashamed and felt completely scared, lost and broken. At one point she said to me “Raechel, I feel like my body has just let me down” this coming from a woman who has always been very healthy and has always taken great pride in taking care of herself. She also didn’t want to be seen as a victim or as someone that was sick. So admitting to people that she had cancer was almost unbearable to her.

However, tonight was a different side to breast cancer than I have ever seen. It literally took my breath away. First of all, there were so many women there at all stages of breast cancer, of all ethnicities and of all ages. It was shocking for me to see women there who were younger than me. They all seemed so strong as they discussed their diagnoses, their treatments and who their doctors were. It was hard to believe that they had all once felt like my mom had or that my mom had even once felt weak because of breast cancer. Tonight gave me a chance to listen to other people’s stories, but to also reflect on my mom’s story. I thought about May 18th and I am proud at how far she has come.

What I realized, was that when you have something like this happen to you and you survive, you come out stronger than you were to begin with. If I thought my mom was the strongest woman in the world before, now she has super human strength times ten. As one of the speakers said tonight, breast cancer does not take away your pride or your spirit. It can’t take away your relationships or your memories, it only makes them stronger. For the first time my mom and I dealt with her breast cancer without sitting in a cold and sterile exam room and it was a nice change to say the least.

Breast cancer or any cancer diagnosis that you survive gives you a whole new lease on life. It no longer matters quite so much how much money you have, how successful you are or even what you do for a living. What really matters are your relationships and how you cherish the people around you. What matters is how you live life and how you enjoy every minute of every day.

In ending I want to share a piece of advice my mom so often gives me. As I’m in hurry or I’m wishing the week would end so that I can enjoy my weekend, my mom will say, “Don’t wish time away and don’t rush through life.” How true is that?

Photo credit: Copyrighted by Bobbie Peachey, http://webclipart.about.com

My Progress

Progress

While I was out and about this weekend, a couple of people asked me how everything is going with my writing. Since I haven’t given an update in a while and the main point of this blog was to document my transition into the freelance writing world. So for those of you who are wondering here we go:

Clients
I have done pretty good getting new clients. I am still applying for 5-10 writing projects a day, although I have to admit that it gets a little old sometimes. I have managed to get quite a few projects this way and a couple of times lately, I have had so much work, that I haven’t had time to apply for jobs every day. Just last week I signed a contract with a new client that will keep me pretty busy through December which is exciting!

Financials
My money situation is better than I thought it would be at this point. That being said, I am only making about half of what I was making in my full-time job. One of the reasons for this is that I’ve taken some lower paying jobs, just to have something to fill my time and bring in some form of income. Now that I am having a lot more work come my way, I am trying to narrow some of the lower paying jobs down and only take higher paying gigs so I can hopefully bring my income level up.

Published Work
A while back I said that I was going to start sending queries to more magazines. That is still hit or miss for me. I feel like querying magazines takes a long time. It’s something that is worth it, but it’s certainly not paying my bills right now. However, I’m happy to announce I do have an article that will be published in November in a local publication. To see my name in actual print again will be awesome and I can’t wait!

Overall, I am finding my weeks more and more full –I even have some projects lined up for the future which is great! I am definitely becoming more comfortable telling people what I do, giving my rates to clients and in general with running my own business. I even have business cards now! Most days I really feel like I am on my way to success and that right there is an accomplishment.

Tips to Save Money

coach purse

Photo courtesy of Coach, Inc.

I’ll admit it, when I was in a full time job with regular pay I never worried about money. I’m a fan of brand names, especially in clothes and accessories. The Coach store regularly calls my name and I love nothing more than high end jeans. My clothes budget per month was needless to say pretty much limitless. For most of my adult life, if I wanted something, I bought it without hesitation. Now, you are probably thinking I’m spoiled, but the truth is, as part of a couple with two good incomes and no children, what else was I going to spend my money on? All that changed when I threw in the towel on my full time job and struck out on my own as a freelance writer.

What I realized is that while working from home has its perks – like setting my own schedule, deciding who I work with and not having to dress up every day, it has its downfalls too. My income – at least starting out has been greatly cut. To adjust to this I had to make some big changes. Here are some things that I’ve done to save money – maybe they can help you too.

Cut out coupons. I’ve never been one to cut coupons, but one of the things my husband and I decided to cut down on was our grocery budget. I am continuously amazed by how much money I save from using coupons found in the Sunday paper. Just this week I saved $30 at the grocery by using coupons.

Buy store brands. At the grocery, instead of buying the known brand names, I have switched to buying store brand items. The savings are as big as $2-$3. It’s amazing and with the exception of a few things, the food tastes just as good.

Use a store card. This is easy, but again I never thought of it. There are so many discounts offered at the grocery and other stores when you use their store card.

Don’t eat out. Okay, this one has been hard for me. I love nothing more than grabbing a bite to eat and washing it down with a cocktail. In the last few months I have gone from eating out three to four times a week to eating out two to three times a month. It’s getting easier, as I learn to cook and it’s starting to be fun to experiment in the kitchen.

Shop around. This applies to clothes and gadgets. Where I once would just purchase something on the spot, now if I see something I want, I shop around to find the best deal. There are a lot of deals that can be found online too.

Don’t buy brand named clothes. This is hard. I love Steve Madden shoes, Ugg boots, Seven Jeans and Express, but sacrifices must be made. Now instead of buying up the newest line at Express, I go to places like TJ Maxx where I am able to find good deals on clothes that are fashionable and fit just as well. Sometimes they even have brand names.

Sign up for mailing lists. I hate receiving junk mail, but it is worth it when I get great coupons in the mail. Stores like Bath and Body Works, and New York and Company regularly mail out great coupons when you sign up for their mailing list.

Don’t impulse shop. Nowadays, I never go to the mall or store without a clear idea of what I need. When I need something, I go shopping look for what I need and if I don’t find it I leave empty handed. I don’t buy things just to buy something.

Clean out your closets. I have never done this before, but last week I decided it was time to figure out what I really needed clothes wise for the winter and what I can do without this year. Surprisingly what I found was that I don’t need much. I literally had clothes with the price tags still on them or clothes that I had completely forgotten that I had.

Organize a clothes swap. My love for Coach purses will probably never go away, but fortunately, my friends all love Coach too. So we are having a clothes and accessory swap. We are all gathering a handful of things that we will trade with one another. This makes it feel like we are getting something new and fresh without having to go buy it.

These things have enabled me to work from home and do something that I love. What do you do to save money?

The Key to My Time Management Success

timerI know that I’ve covered the subject of time management, or my lack of it before. Well, today, I’m happy to share that I’m kicking time management’s butt! For a while, I’ve really been struggling with this, as I know other writers and freelancers struggle with it too. Let’s face it, when you work from home there are a lot of distractions and at times a lot of other things that feel more important than work.

Over the past few months I have done a lot of reading on time management and how other people tackle it and I am completely convinced that there is no one size fits all solution. I think that we each need to find the right combination of techniques that work for our unique needs. Now before I tell you the key to my time management success, here are some small tips that are helping me and may help you too.

  1. Schedule time to check your email. I could spend hours on end on email, so scheduling times into my day to check it is very effective.
  2. Create a to do list. As long as I have been a working adult I have had a to do list. Every day before I stop working, I make my to do list for the following day with the most important things at the top – and let me tell you, it is a great feeling to check things off of that list.
  3. Set goals. I set weekly goals, monthly goals and yearly goals in order to make the income that I need to make. In addition to having my daily to do list, I also have my weekly list of goals to keep me on track.

While these three things help me, I am happy to report that I have stumbled upon my own time management jackpot. Are you ready for this? It’s a kitchen timer. Now you are probably wondering why I have made such a big deal about a kitchen timer and I’m sure I’m not the first to discover this, but it has completely transformed my work life, I just had to share.

The idea came to me because I needed a way to track my time for clients that I charge on an hourly basis. So, I brought my kitchen timer upstairs to my office and here is what I have found works for me: I set it for one hour increments of time. During that hour I don’t check twitter, I don’t answer my phone, I don’t talk to my husband – I completely focus on what I’m working on for that hour, be it an article, a resume, etc. When the timer goes off whether I am done or not, I take a ten minute break. If I finish before that one hour is up, I immediately start working on another project until the timer goes off. I can’t tell you what a difference this has made!

It’s perfect for me for a lot of reasons. It allows me to track my time, to take breaks regularly and to ensure that I’m not spending too much time on low paying projects. In addition, if I have my timer going, everyone in my household knows not to disturb me. Literally, my husband won’t even try to talk to me when he sees it going and my dogs are now trained that they lay down until the timer beeps. Although, when it beeps, they usually jump up and run around.

During my ten minute breaks, I get up, stretch, make a snack, do small household chores, check my Twitter, etc. And I have found that I look forward to my ten minute breaks plus I get a lot of little chores done around the house which my husband loves.

Quite honestly, it’s gotten to the point where everything I do during my working day is by my timer. If I check my email I set my timer for an hour, if I’m doing my writing job search – you guessed it, I set my timer, if I’m checking my Google reader and networking, I set my timer and if I am doing bookkeeping, I set my timer. It works like a charm. I’m so excited with the results that I’m seeing, I just had to share!

I even finished this blog post in an hour. Time for a break!