Miss Cleo

If you read this blog at all, you probably know that I have two dogs, but what you probably don’t realize is that I also had a cat. I say had because last night I had to have her put down. She was suffering from acute kidney failure and there was no way to keep her alive and comfortable without the use of a home IV. So to pay tribute and to help me with the whole grieving process, allow me to share Cleo’s story.

I’ve had Cleo for 10 years  and she was the very first pet I’ve ever had that was all mine – not a childhood pet and not a family pet, all mine. I had just moved into a house full of girls I didn’t really know that well and I was living in an attic bedroom about the size of a closet – in fact a closet didn’t even fit in the room. I had just met my now husband and our relationship was new so we didn’t yet spend all of our time together, plus he was in a fraternity so he was always on the go and I was lonely. One day instead of going to the gym I found myself in the parking lot of cat welfare. An hour later I walked out with a two year old gray cat with white feet. I forget what her original name was, but I named her Cleo, Miss Cleo officially – after the psychic lady on TV that I thought was hilarious at the time.

Taking over Bella's pillow.

We took an instant liking to each other. When I was home she was with me either in my lap, next to me on the couch or following me from room to room. Even when I took a nap I would wake up to her curled up next to me or often on my stomach staring at me. Since I lived on campus, I moved a lot and Cleo moved with me. I can’t even count how many places we lived. Then when my husband and I moved in together she moved with us several times until we finally moved into our house.

As a timid cat she was terrified of the dogs when we got each of them. But she soon learned to adjust and push her way in to get her way. We even joked that she was the boss. And while the dogs demanded more of our attention, Cleo was with us constantly. She still followed me from room to room and slept curled up next to me until everything went down hill three days ago.

They eventually worked it out.

She had some funny quirks. She used to sit at the window and bark at birds. She took to drinking out of the dog’s water bowls and she loved to sprawl out on their pillows. We would have to put our cups up high otherwise she would drink from them and her favorite food was soft served ice cream. In fact every time we came back from Dairy Queen there she was instantly stretching out her little paw for a taste. She used to chase imaginary things. We would hear her romping around all by herself and when we looked there was nothing there. She also did this cute little butt shake right before she pounced on anything. I could go on and on, but before I bore you let me just say she was the sweetest little cat ever.

This morning, our house feels oddly quiet and empty without her. For 10 years I was used to her always being in the same room with me and now she won’t be. I keep thinking I’ll turn around and there she’ll be or that I’ll feel her rubbing against my legs purring as I sit here and type.

It’s very sad and she’ll be very much missed.

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Private Clients vs. Content Sites

I’ve wanted to weigh in on this topic for some time, but haven’t gotten around to it. I’m also a little hesitant because I know there are huge debates raging out in the Internet land about this very topic and I really don’t want to get involved in the battle.

Let me first say very clearly that I have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING AGAINST content sites. In fact, when I first started freelance writing most of my income came from a well known content site. Having been on both sides of the debate allow me to share my opinion.

Content Sites

I’ve worked for several including Demand Studios (DS) and have to say that there are many benefits to content site work plus, if I ever need to I will do more work for them. It’s nice to simply have them around to fall back on. Here are my pros and cons with content sites:

Pros

  • Plenty of work – for most sites, there is always work. At DS they have thousands of titles available every day.
  • Fast Pay – content sites offer weekly or bi-weekly pay. DS even pays their writers twice a week. This meant that my PayPal account always had money in it.
  • Quick Work – articles for content sites typically range in length from 400-600 words. This generally means the articles are fast and easy to write.
  • Little Commitment – for most content sites there is no commitment required. I haven’t written for DS in a few months, but I could sign onto my account today and churn out several articles without being penalized for not writing in a while. Additionally, once an article is written for a content site you can forget about it and move on. No thinking about work when you’re not working.

Cons

  • Low Pay – To me the pay rate at content sites always seemed low. This isn’t to say that you can’t make a living off of them – I did for several months when I had nothing else, but I worked long hours and made less than half of what I make now.
  • Picked Over Titles – If you like to write about popular topics like weddings or pets your choices in titles are limited to non-existent. Sometimes I found the only titles left didn’t even make sense.
  • Inconsistent Editing – All the content sites that I worked for employed many editors. The problem was, what one editor found acceptable, another didn’t. I was constantly getting contradicting feedback from editors. At times it got very frustrating.
  • No Personal Connection – DS has a forum and that’s great, but for a content site that only pays me $15 per article I don’t want to have to go hang out in the forum for a personal connection. There is no “good job” or exchanging ideas to improve projects that you get with private clients.

Private Clients

For the past few months I have made my living solely from private clients and I have seen a huge improvement in everything associated with my career from my income, to my time, to even my mood. I love my private clients and feel very fortunate to have found all of them. There are a lot of benefits to private client work and very few cons. Here are mine:

Pros

  • Personal Connection – With private clients, I have immediate access to the client, the company and the editor. If I have a question I can fire off an email directly to the client, not visit a forum. Plus there is a lot of feedback and even some “good jobs” sprinkled in. And editing is done the same way, by the same person and guidelines every time!
  • Higher Pay – The pay with private clients is most definitely higher. As I transitioned from content site work to all private client work I saw my monthly income rise while I worked the same or even fewer hours.
  • Better Quality Work – I do my best work for my private clients for several reasons. First they pay me more so they expect (and rightfully so) to have perfect work turned it. Also due to the personal connection I feel more accountable for my work. Finally the work I do for my private clients is work that I intend to use as clips (with their permission of course). Clips from private clients hold a lot more weight and get me much more work than clips from content sites.
  • In Depth Projects – Rather than writing a short 400-600 word article my private client work tends to be more in-depth and more researched work – the type of work I can get involved in and really care about versus an article I write and then promptly forget about. Even when I write 400 word articles for clients they still require more thought, creativity and research that really gets my brain working.

Cons

  • Juggling Clients – When it rains, it pours. In other words, when one client needs me for a big project, it seems like they all do. Not that I’m complaining, its good to get needed! But sometimes my schedule gets tight and some days I juggle several projects and deadlines because of the commitments I have made to my private clients.
  • Accounting – I actually have to create the invoice, keep track of my hours/projects and bill my clients. Then I have to wait for payment. I’ve been lucky so far and all of my clients have paid me consistently and on time, but the whole process tends to be a bit slower than with content sites.

Overall, the benefits of working for private clients far surpass working for content sites. I would gladly take on more private clients than more content site work and I feel so lucky that I have had a full schedule for the past few months that has kept me away from the content sites. Fingers crossed – hopefully it will stay that way.

What about you – who do you prefer to work for?

Adventures with Dog Training

For the past five days, most of my time and all of my mental energy has been taken over by DOG TRAINING. And let me just say, for the record, there are a lot of other things I would rather be doing. Here’s the story:

Coco

We have two dogs, Coco who is a four year old  chocolate lab that we got when she was eight weeks old as a wedding present, and Bella who is a three year yellow lab mix that we adopted from the pound two years ago. Coco was a wild puppy – she ate everything, got overly excited and was extremely hyper all the time – think along the lines of Marley from Marley and Me. We took her through training where she learned to walk on a leash and most commands (although, making her do them with other people around was a challenge). Once she hit two years old, she settled down dramatically, however, she was still, and still is a ball of energy.

Bella

Coco’s constant energy prompted us to adopt Bella. We thought if she just had a playmate it would be so much better for her. And it is! The two instantly took to each other and are pretty much inseparable. They adore each other. And the hours they spend playing together is truly a blessing. Bella turned out to be the sweetest, most calm dog – in fact she was the complete opposite of Coco. She doesn’t get hyper and crazy like Coco and she loves to sit calmly while you pet her. But she also loved to romp with Coco – so we thought it was the best of both worlds.

About a year after we got Bella we started noticing some things were off. Having never liked strange males, she started growling, cowering and peeing when my husband’s male friends would come over. She also started charging other dogs when we were out walking. It got progressively worse to the point that she was snarling, snapping and then turning around and snapping at us for holding her back. We started trying to work with her in the house and yard. She had never been trained, so we thought we would try with the knowledge that we had learned from Coco’s training. As we started training her she started becoming aggressive with us. If we put her in a command she didn’t want to do, she would growl and snap at us. To make matters worse, she started acting out when we took her with us to visit my in-laws. She began growling, barking and snapping at my husband’s uncles when they were around. She also started reacting badly to children – which is a huge no, no for us since we would eventually like children of our own. Unsure of what to do, we sought professional help.

Recently Bella spent two weeks in an
intense overnight behavior training program. We had hoped that she would come out completely trained, but we knew that we would have to work with her when she came home. As it turns out Bella now has the foundations of training. She now knows commands and what is expected of her, but she thinks that she can get away with her old behaviors at home with us. For the last five days we have had to work with her almost constantly to try to teach her that we are in charge, not her. This has been completely draining as we have now seen the worst in our sweet little dog. And it continues to be a challenge everyday. We are told that once we push through this and she knows she has to listen to us as her leaders it will be much easier, but until then this power struggle must continue. To be blunt, it sucks, but we will keep pushing through it. We have follow ups scheduled with the trainer and have already invested time and money into it, so there is no turning back. I see a lot more work ahead of us, but hopefully it will pay off.

Oddly, through all of this with Bella, Coco has grown into the best dog one could ever hope for. She follows our commands, she is incredibly calm – and trust me I never thought I would say the words Coco and calm in the same sentence – and she is gentle with kids, other people, other dogs and even our cat.

Dancing to My Own Beat


Lately I’ve come to a very profound realization – this may be a deep one people, be warned. I’ve come to realize that I no longer care about doing what everyone else is doing or “keeping up with the Joneses’” as the saying goes.

I’ve never been one to stand out from the crowd or dance to my own beat. I remember in high school and even college when I so desperately wanted to be like everyone else, I wanted to fit in and I did for the most part. I completely shied away from anything that would make me remotely different than my peers. It’s funny to me now because I no longer care about fitting in – I’m totally comfortable in my own skin.

Maybe this started a while ago and I’m just now realizing it, because if I cared about fitting in I would never have had the courage to leave a full time job and pursue a career such as freelance writing. I guess my realization is that this new feeling of not having to fit in and not even caring to fit in is very freeing. Now instead of focusing on what others are doing or what others have, I’m much more focused on what I’m doing and what is right for me, and what is right for me may not be right for anyone else in the world. I’m not just talking about writing either. I no longer care if my yard is planted exactly right and looks just like or better than my neighbors, I no longer care if I wear the “newest” fashions, and I no longer care if my husband and I make as much money as our friends or if our house is bigger or our cars as nice. I’m done comparing and I’m done doing what is expected. I’m free of the entire crowd thing and I’m ready to be me, do what I need to do for me and I think I’ll be a hell of a lot happier doing it.

Writing has taught me this. See, writing for different clients on different projects, and meeting writers from all walks of life, has really opened my eyes to so many different people and so many different ways of life, cultures, careers and just knowledge. Through writing, I have discovered that I have different tastes and interests than the next person and I have different dreams and aspirations that will make me truly happy. I no longer feel the need to be like my neighbors or to be like my friends and I’m secure enough with myself to realize that I will still be loved and cherished even if I’m different. This career choice and my ability to pursue my dreams are truly a gift that have transformed me into a confident person able to stand alone or stand out and not care what people think. Writing has also given me the strength to trust my instincts and believe in myself because in this business there is no one right way. I’ve learned to do what’s right for me, not what’s right for everyone else.

Maybe this is just part of growing up (can I still be growing up at 28?), and if this is what being an adult feels like I’m in it for the long haul. The freedom to just be me, quirks and all rocks and I’ll continue to dance to my own beat no matter what others think!