New Year, New Goals

Almost everyone makes a list of resolutions for the new year, and every  freelancer takes some time to set goals for the new year. It is after all the ultimate clean slate, the chance for us to actually put into words the hopes and dreams that a new beginning brings. While it’s easy to write down our goals and resolutions, the hard part is achieving them. In 2009, I was lucky and far surpassed my goals. I can only hope that 2010 will be as good!

Here are my freelance goals for 2010. Some are pretty hefty, some are simple and hopefully all will be met.

  1. Double my monthly income.
  2. Pitch to two to three magazines per month.
  3. Get at least three magazine articles published.
  4. Market myself to more local companies.
  5. Take on more regular (monthly) clients.
  6. Continue the wonderful working relationship I have with my current clients.
  7. Improve my writing through classes, workshops, webinars and creative exercises.
  8. Network more with other writers and work to create a more recognizable online profile.
  9. Improve traffic to this blog.
  10. Update my professional web site monthly with new clips.

And a few personal goals that I have set as well:

  1. Become more frugal.
  2. Live more environmentally conscious.
  3. Take better care of my body through healthy eating and plenty of exercise.
  4. Make more time for family and friends.
  5. Be true to myself and live 2010 to its fullest.

Happy New Year’s and here’s to hoping that all of your hopes and dreams come true in 2010! Cheers!

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Writing Reflections

As 2009 comes to an end, and the beginning of a new year is looming just a few days away, many people begin thinking about goals and resolutions for their fresh start.

But for me, this time of year would not be complete without remembering how far I’ve come. So today, before I write out my goals for 2010 I want to remember the past year. I remember waking up the first day of 2009 and thinking that I needed to change my life in a drastic way. I had told my husband that with the purchase of a laptop, I would find a way for it to pay for itself. I was going to get back to my roots and follow my dreams to freelance writing. At the time, I was thinking I would begin pitching to magazines again. After all, that was what I had done in the past. I never in a million years thought that by the end of the year I would be a full-time freelance writer.

As my husband sat around New Years day watching football, I typed into Google freelance writing and up on the screen popped a million sites. I spent hours that day researching and reading what knowledge and experiences others had to share. It was my first time learning anything about online writing. That same day, I signed up for Blogger and created my first blog (which I erased a few months later). A few days later, my research led me to sign up for Associated Content. I can’t tell you the thrill I got when my first story got bought. So I wrote more and at some point realized that I was never going to make a living there.

A few weeks went by and I stumbled upon Demand Studios. I signed up and had my first article published. Now that was better money. I became obsessed with writing for them and finding other online sources of revenue. I worked most nights late into the night after working a full day at my full-time job. A few months later, I started this blog. I began fantasying about quitting my job and those dreams started to look within reach when I landed my first private client. In July, I finally quit my job and went full time to freelance writing. By August, I was working for myself.

Today, I am proud to say that I have many private clients on a regular basis and many more one time projects sprinkled in a month. I am proud of what I have accomplished this year. It hasn’t all been easy. I’ve had to learn about accounting, contracts, technology, confidence in myself and more. But I have loved every single minute of it. I have many writers from around the world that I would now call friends and hope to someday meet in person. For the first time in my adult life I am living the life I always imagined for myself.

Without being too sappy, I want to thank all the people that I have met through writing this year that have hired me, given me advice or just lent me an ear to vent. I truly could not have made my dreams into a reality without such a warm and sharing community that freelance writers all over the world have created.

My goals will be coming soon, but for now, I just want to be proud of and thankful for how far I’ve come. What are you most proud of this year?

My Most Memorable Christmas: A Tree, an Ice Storm and a House

We’ve all had holidays that are more memorable than others. Maybe it’s a certain gift that you got or who you spent the holiday with that makes it memorable, but whatever it is, you remember it better than other holidays. Mine happens to be quite unique, so without further ado, here is my most memorable Christmas.

Five years ago around this time, my husband and I had just moved into our first apartment together. It was out first Christmas as an engaged couple and we were diligently planning our wedding. I had just graduated from college and was in my first full-time job.

We had both just worked our last day before the holidays and had decided to go out with friends after work to celebrate. At some point on the way home, we realized that it had started to snow and spit out freezing rain, but it didn’t seem that bad. What we didn’t expect was to be woken up at 4 a.m. with a frantic phone call.

Taken on Christmas Day 12/25/2004

Exactly five years ago today my mom called me at 4 a.m. and woke me from my peaceful slumber to tell me she feared the giant beech tree that had stood in the yard of my childhood home for as long as I can remember was going to fall on the house. Groggily, I flipped on the weather channel, saw that we were getting an ice storm and decided that it didn’t look too bad. I told her to go back to bed and I would call her when I woke up. An hour later I was woken up again. This time my mother was frantic and I could hear my sister screaming in the background. It sounded like complete chaos. All I could make out was “the TREE is on the HOUSE!” I was stunned. Then I heard through the phone someone pounding on their door. They were still in the house. A neighbor was pounding on the front door, trying to get them out. I heard my mom fumbling with the front door, trying to yank it open, but it wouldn’t budge. All she kept saying was “the tree is on the house!”

Suddenly, my mind clicked into gear. I yelled at her to hang up, get out of the house and to call 911. I flew out of bed and was out the door in two minutes with my husband trailing after me. I’m not sure how I got my car out or how I made it across town in eight minutes in the worst ice storm I have ever seen, but somehow I did. I actually pulled up before the fire truck. The sight that I saw, I can never even begin to describe. In the black of night, with snow still coming down all around, was a tree laying across my now flattened childhood home. The tree literally went from one end of the house all the way across to the other side and was almost completely covering the house.

The fire truck pulled up a minute later and immediately began going to work pulling my mom and sister out of the house. Both were unharmed, but badly shaken up. Apparently the front door that my mom had been trying to yank open was what was supporting the weight of the tree from crushing the house completely. Thank God, she couldn’t get it open. I guess they made pretty sturdy doors back in 1928 when the house was built. When the tree trimming company showed up later that day to cut the tree off of the house, they said it weighted six tons.

My mom's bedroom

The two rooms that were damaged the worst were my mom and little sister’s bedrooms. Apparently, my mom was woken up by the dog acting weird, pacing the floor and whining. After shooing him away several times, she finally got up and went down to let him outside. That’s when she realized how bad the storm was and started to hear the tree cracking. She immediately ran upstairs and woke up my sister who was home on break from college. After calling me and then huddling together for a few minutes watching the news, they heard the awful creaking that was the old beech tree finally giving out and collapsing onto the house. After that complete chaos ensued. I can only imagine.

My family was shown much kindness that day and the days that followed. Neighbors offered food, clothes, shelter and more. It was very touching and I still get teary eyed when I think of everything that people did for us that day.

We stayed on the scene the entire day and the house was eventually deemed unsafe to enter. But my mom, bless her, wanted to pull our wrapped Christmas presents out from under the tree so that we could still have a holiday, it was after all December 23rd. So we waited until all the workers left and entered tentatively. Not smart, I know, but if it was going to help my mom get through the holiday, we were willing. I remember there was water everywhere from busted pipes and stuff from the attic that we had never even seen before had landed on the dining room table. In short the damage was beyond shocking to say the least. But we managed to grab some of the wrapped gifts from under the somehow still standing Christmas tree and my sister grabbed the Christmas turkey from the freezer. We rescued our family cat that had been trapped in the basement and loaded up my car.

My mom, sister, dog and cat moved in with my husband and I. We had a tiny two bedroom, one bathroom apartment. It was small to say the least, but we didn’t care. I remember making that turkey we had saved from the house and sitting at our very small, two person table and being so thankful that we were together and safe on Christmas. It was truly a Christmas I will never forget.

My mom ended up living with us for six months while they repaired her house. It took a total of eight months before she could move back in, but the insurance company put her up in an apartment of her own for the last two months. She still lives in the house. My husband and I now live down the street. To this day, every time I walk into that house I remember what it looked like that morning and am thankful that I have a mother and sister to share Christmas with.

Happy Holidays!

Got Karma?

Karma as defined by Dictionary.com means an action, seen as bringing upon oneself inevitable results, either good or bad.

I’ve been thinking a lot about karma lately. It all started over Thanksgiving weekend. We were visiting my in-laws and someone in the family had just won money off of a scratch off lottery ticket – not millions or anything like that, but a couple hundred. Everyone was making fun of him because after he won, he proceeded to tip very, very generously at the bar. In response to everyone making fun of him, he shrugged and said winning is all about good karma.

Along the same lines, my in-laws are
avid gamblers. They regularly visit casinos and they nearly as often win, which they then proceed to share their winnings generously with family. Quite often my husband and I will get a random check in the mail because they wanted to share their latest winnings with us. This has lead me to put a lot of thought into how some people seem to be so lucky, they just have that “good karma” thing going on. I want good karma.

Even my husband is fairly lucky. Unfortunately, not in the lottery sense, but he always manages to get promoted while others are being let go and things always seem to go his way when he needs them to. I’ve studied my husband for long enough to realize that good things happen to him because he is a good person. He never has anything bad to say about anyone, he is always willing to help someone in need and in general he is very accepting and kind to everyone. He gets this from his family. The reason for their luck comes down to the fact that they are just such good and nice people. When they are in a bind, people really are willing to help them out, when they want to play the lottery, the universe smiles on them because it knows that half of it will end up in the pockets of someone who needs it more.

I’ve been trying to apply good karma to my writing life. I volunteer on committees. I offer to help friends and family with things like their resumes free of charge. I go the extra mile for all of my clients. I try to offer what advice I have to give to help other writers. And, I have to say that getting clients, getting referrals and keeping clients has come way easier to me than I ever thought it would. Could this be karma? I don’t know, maybe I do have good karma after all. What is your experience with karma and the powers that be?

Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

If I had my choice, I would never leave my comfort zone – that place where I can work happily along every day without ever having to feel the least bit nervous or awkward. But, nothing is ever that easy. Over the past year, freelance writing has really pushed me to step out of my comfort zone on a daily basis and while going there is often nerve racking to say the least, going there is essential to improving myself as a writer and businesswomen. Here are five ways I’ve had to step outside of my comfort zone:

Talking about money. I hate discussing rates and giving quotes. I am always worried that I will quote a client too high and they will run for the hills never to be heard from again, or I will quote too low and then I’ll be unsatisfied with what I’m making. Either way, talking about money is terrifying to me, but in this career it’s completely unavoidable.

Following up. A close second to discussing money and rates is following up. This I find myself doing for a few different reasons.

  • First (and I’m lucky, I’ve only had this happen once or twice) is following up to get paid. You know those clients who you do the work for and then wait weeks to get paid. To me following up to ask for money is almost as bad as quoting my rates. It’s awkward, but completely unavoidable.
  • The second scenario is when I have to follow up after quoting my rates or when I do work on spec and hear nothing back. This too is awkward, but if I have learned nothing else, I have learned that persistence is a key to success in this field.

Cold calling/emailing. I know that I won’t get work unless I put myself out there in many different ways. That being said, cold calling makes me nervous, I’m always worried about saying the wrong thing or sounding stupid. When I cold call or cold email a business I always try to think to myself: What’s the worst that can happen? So they might say no, but they could also say yes. Or they could say no, but remember me a few months down the road when they need a writer. Or they could just say no and I can move on to someone else. No big deal

Saying no. Okay, this one probably sounds weird, but I am a yes person. I don’t like disappointing people. However, I have come across some really bad offers while looking for writing gigs. A potential client offering to pay me a whopping $2 per 500 word blog post – no way will I even consider that, but it’s still awkward saying no.

Writing on topics I have no experience in. I like a challenge, so I tend to take on challenging work and often that means stepping out of my comfort zone. If I’m not experienced in a topic, I’m always afraid that I’ll come off seeming like I don’t know what I’m talking about. But you know what? That has never happened. With good research, I’m learning I can write on almost anything. Still, that doesn’t mean I don’t get nervous with the unknown.

Like it or not, I can’t deny the fact that most of what I’ve learned has come from stepping out of my comfort zone. The comforting part is that the more I step out my comfort zone, the easier these things become, and while I may not ever be completely comfortable discussing rates or asking for payment, it is getting easier. I know that no matter how nervous or awkward I feel, it’s worth it in the end.

When do you step out of your comfort zone?

Lacking the Creative Juice

I haven’t been posting here regularly, I know. The reason is I’ve been busy – not just busy but overwhelmingly busy. I hate using excuses, but with the holidays and this being my first year as a full-time freelance writer, I’m finding it hard to do everything and be everywhere at once. I have also been pushing myself to work a little bit extra at the content site I write for in order to make additional money that will help with all the gift buying.

I am very thankful that I have the option to take on extra work, that I have been blessed with landing two new clients this month and that I’ve been given a big project by a current client. However, in all this rushing around (I was literally in three cities in two days at Thanksgiving!) I have realized that being overwhelmed is not good. Yes, having a lot of work is great, but a lot of work and too much stuff going on is causing me lose my inspiration and my creativity – so much so thatI haven’t even been able to think of a topic for this blog.

So what am I planning to do about this? Well, no one said this career would be easy and this is definitely one of the harder times I have experienced, so I may need to work a little harder this month. I’m going to try to get up an hour earlier every day and perhaps spend some extra time on work at night. I’m also going to turn down a few holiday party invitations to stay home and just relax with my husband. I won’t be volunteering to bring a dish to every party that we do go to and I may cut out making cookies for all of my neighbors.

As far as my writing inspiration goes, I’m looking into creative exercises now. I’m thinking of scheduling myself some time each day to focus on creative exercises, writing about what I want to write about and doing other inspiring things like reading my favorite blogs. I haven’t been keeping up with my favorite bloggers and that bothers me because a lot of my inspiration comes from them.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who is feeling pressed for time and as a result uninspired around this time of year. What do you do to combat the holiday stress and manage to stay inspired through all the chaos?