Skiing and Writing: How do they compare?

Finally, I’m getting in some time for a blog post. It’s been a whirlwind of business for me for me since my trip and I’ve been absent from blogging for longer than I would have liked. But paying clients trump personal blogging. So anyway, about my trip – it was wonderful! Seeing my best friend and spending a whole week with her was awesome! We did some really cool things and I got to see a lot of Colorado. By far the best part was skiing in Breckenridge. Having not been a huge skier, I found that I did a lot better than I had hoped I would. And of course the time spent on the ski lift gave me time to draw some parallels between skiing and freelance writing. From my observations there are two types of beginner skiers and approaches:

  • The Jump Right in Approach: Those that hop on the ski lift and head right to the top of the mountain. Once at the top, they fearlessly attempt to fly down the mountain often falling, but when they do fall, they get back up and try to get down the slope again. Like beginner skiers, there are those people who decide they want to try freelance writing and they jump right in. If they make a mistake, they brush it off and move on. There is something to be said for that. Having the courage to keep trying is impressive in this tough career. However, in their haste, sometimes markets aren’t researched and money isn’t saved for slow times. Often they take on one time clients just to get by, but fail to build up long term clients.
  • The Slow and Steady Approach: Those that take a lesson before getting on the lift and when they do get to the top, they take their time and practice control as they go down the mountain. If they fall, they figure out what they did wrong to correct it the next time. In freelance writing there are those beginners that are planners. They research markets, they save up some money to fall back on during slow times and they consistently try to build up a good client base while learning from their mistakes so as not to repeat them.

In my previous ski experiences I have been the type to just dive right in to try to fly down the mountain. This as you can imagine caused me to fall a lot and lead me to believe I was not a good skier. This time however it was different for me. I took the slow and steady approach. I realized that it wasn’t a race to the bottom and that it was more important that I make it to the bottom without any broken bones.

I have taken this same approach in my writing career. I saved up money and worked part time freelancing to experiment with different markets before I quit my full time position. I have also worked hard to find long term private clients and to build a good relationship with them.

Even with all of that planning, money was tight and at the beginning – I was barely scraping by, but just as I approached this career in a steady manner, my income has steadily risen each month. I think if I had just jumped right in without planning I would have been much less successful. I would have gotten frustrated, lost confidence and probably by now would have been looking for full time work again. And just like skiing, I’ve made it this far unscathed.

How about you? What approach do you take and how has it worked for you?

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Confidence: Learning to Build and Project It

*Photo by Alicia Jo McMahan

Confidence is a difficult thing to come by for new freelance writers or any creative type. It takes forever to build up and only one comment from a client to destroy it. For me, I’ve always been a pretty confident person, but my confidence as a freelance writer can be downright fickle.

In a recent conversation with a fellow freelancer, I mused that when I feel confident I land more clients. It’s like the client can feel my confidence in myself and wants to work with me because my confidence builds their confidence. It really got me thinking. If I could keep my confidence levels steady and always portray a certain level of confidence, it would have an extremely positive impact on my career. Since then I’ve been looking at confidence in a whole new light and want to offer you some tips that I’ve found.

Build Confidence

I started to look at how I build my confidence and pick myself up when I feel down. Here are a couple of my confidence boosters that may help you build your confidence too.

  • Look at what you’ve accomplished – this is huge for me. I work hard at what I do and when I look back at the results I have created for myself, I immediately feel ready to conquer the world.
  • Go back over positive feedback – I keep a file of positive feedback from clients that remind me what I did right and how good it felt to be successful. Likewise, I often come to this blog and read the encouraging comments that you all leave me. It reiterates to me that I really can do this.
  • Reach out to others – there are certain people in my life who believe in me. They think that no matter what I put my mind to I can do it. My mom and my husband are two such people I heavily rely on when I start feeling down.
  • Take a step back – it helps me when I start to feel low to step back and figure out why. Sometimes this means going over an article to see why I was asked to rewrite it, other times it means re-reading my cover letter to a potential client to see why they might not have wanted to hire me. Going back helps me understand and makes me feel more confident that the next time I won’t make the same mistakes.

Project Confidence

Confidence is a great thing to have and once you have worked to build it up, you want to make sure that you project it the right way. Have you ever thought someone was arrogant or cocky? That is an example of over projection. You don’t want to be too confident that you turn people off – rather you want to project the right amount of confidence to make other people believe in you. Here are a few ways that I’ve learned to project confidence in the business of freelance writing:

  • Be honest – a lot of people think that telling a client that they can’t do something is a way to lose the client. I have found it quite the opposite. Sure there have been times where I haven’t landed a job because I wasn’t as qualified as the next person, but there have also been times where I’ve admitted that I wasn’t sure how to do something but I showed confidence in my ability to learn it which more than once has landed me a client.
  • Say what you mean – this is especially important when talking to potential clients. Be clear and concise in your communication. When you aren’t clear, you give off the impression that you aren’t sure what you’re talking about.
  • Mean what you say – the flip side to saying what you mean. When I negotiate price with a client and say I can’t go any lower, I mean it and will walk. The way I think of it is if the client really wants to work with me, they will take my offer. If they don’t I may be opening the door for a better opportunity to come along. Have the confidence to stick to your word.
  • Brag a little – I don’t mean go out and give a potential client a five page list of every compliment you’ve ever gotten, but do show them what you’ve done. I have a professional website that I’m proud of. There I list my best work and always share it with potential clients. I’ve also shared my work with former colleagues and friends. I’m not showing off, but I am confidently portraying my work so that they know what I’m capable of should the need for a writer ever arise.
  • Be positive – it’s a well known fact that people respond better to someone who is positive. If you were a client looking to hire a freelancer, would you want to work with someone that has a positive outlook or someone who is negative, moody and grumpy? Of course you would want to work with someone positive. A positive, optimistic outlook is something that a client will really value.

I hope that this gets you thinking about your confidence and how you can build it and project it. It really will help you with so many aspects of your freelancing life. Do you have any tips to add?

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?

What I’ve Learned from Freelance Writing

Roller coaster

When I decided to leave my full time job, I thought I had made a very planned out, informed decision. I had saved enough money to keep me going for six months. I had researched what jobs I could do, the type of clients I could take, how much I should charge and more. I thought I knew everything I needed to know. Boy was I wrong. After almost six months of freelance writing full time, here is what I’ve learned:

  • I will never know everything.
  • This is one big roller coaster ride with huge highs and incredible lows.
  • Accounting and book keeping take up a lot of time and is a lot more complicated than I thought.
  • There will never be enough time in the day to do everything.
  • Other writers are so nice and always willing to help out.
  • Being by myself all day is hard.
  • Making big decisions by myself is hard.
  • Success directly depends on how hard I work.
  • Success is what I believe success is.
  • The small things should be celebrated.
  • I shouldn’t get my hopes up until a contract is signed.
  • There are many good people out there, and just as many bad.
  • A livable wage means learning to go without some things.
  • Some people will never understand what I do, no matter how many times I try to explain it.
  • Opportunities are out there, I just have to find them.
  • There are so many writers out there.
  • It’s easy to be disciplined when I get to wake up every day and do what I love.
  • Not every project is something that I love.
  • I now know what other writers meant when they said you have to have a thick skin.
  • I thought I had worked hard in the past, but I have never worked harder than I do now.

With everything I’ve learned and am continuing to learn, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I love what I do. I love being my own boss, setting my own schedule and working hard to overcome challenges. I know that I have so much more to learn and that my journey may never be complete, but the journey is the best part.

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!

Do you get Enough Exercise?

exerciseAs a freelance writer, I find myself sitting behind my computer most of the day getting very little exercise. Don’t get me wrong, when I had a full time job outside of the home, I also sat behind a computer most of the day, but it was different. For starters, I had to park in the parking lot and walk in and out of work, sometimes several times a day as opposed to walking from my bedroom to my office which are side by side. Whenever I printed something, I had to walk across the building to retrieve my print outs rather than reach right next to me and if I had to use the restroom, I had to walk further than ten feet.

I remember thinking when I was getting ready to make the transition from working outside of my home to working at home that I would finally have time to go to the gym. What I didn’t take into consideration was that I would have to go to the gym to prevent myself from gaining weight. I pride myself on sticking to a healthy diet, but my consistency with the gym and exercise in general has always been poor to nonexistent until now. Working from home I have found it’s all to easy to just not get any form of exercise in my day at all.

As a solution, I have begun a strict routine of going to the gym first thing in the morning three days a week. I don’t spend a whole lot of time at the gym, but long enough to get in 30 minutes of pretty intense aerobic exercise. I have discovered that for me the trick to going to the gym is that it has to be the first thing I do in the morning. If I tell myself I’ll just check my email and then go, then noon rolls around and I still haven’t gone. By then, my chances of going are slim to none.

The other thing I have started doing is keeping free weights in my office. Now when I need a break I do a quick weight routine which leaves me feeling energized and more focused, plus it allows me to think through a project for a few minutes.

I have also become better about walking the dogs. Before, if I couldn’t fit it in, I would think oh well, but now I make it a habit of walking them every night after dinner. Between these three exercise strategies, I think I am staying pretty active, fit and energized throughout the day.

How do you make sure you get enough exercise?

A Busy First Week

I can’t believe it’s Friday! This week has just flown by. I guess the saying is true, time flies when you’re having fun.

This week I have been so busy, it’s not even funny. I decided that this was the week I would get a web site up and running. I researched several free web site building programs and after a few days of messing around with several, I finally decided that since I already know WordPress (WP) to go ahead and give it a try to see how it works as a portfolio web site. I have been presently surprised at the usability of it as a portfolio web site, since it’s mostly designated for blogs. There are still some kinks that I need to iron out, but I think it is almost ready to be revealed. I also had to research and select the best hosting service, which once I decided on WP, was quite an easy decision. WP strongly recommends several and I went with the option that got the best reviews from WP users and it ended up being one of the cheaper hosting sites.

Once I got started with the actual creating of my web site, then things moved rather slowly. I tend to be a little particular when it comes to design, and most of the kinks that need ironed out are more design issues. I don’t know HTML that well, so the going is slow and is more of a trial and error thing. The good news is that once the site is established, there is virtually no HTML needed. So probably sometime next week the site will be ready to be viewed.

On other news, I got a new client. Well, technically a client that I have worked with before that would like me to start working on another project for them. It looks like it could turn out to be a long term thing, so that’s good.

Unfortunately, since I was obsessed with my web site this week, I didn’t quite meet my writing goals, but no worries there. My old employer is paying me my vacation time on my last paycheck, so I should be fine for this month and not have to use any of the money I have saved up to get started freelancing.

On the financial front, I have not as of yet had to use any of the money I have saved, which is great! Next month will be the true test to see if I am making what I truly need to make without using my saved up money. After that I should be able to determine if I need to step it up looking for new clients.

I did search for new writing jobs this week and applied for about ten. Not much, I know, but it’s a start. I hope to apply for much more next week and hopefully it will be even easier with my web site up and running.

Overall, this getting started full time freelancing thing is a slow process, but a process that I have carefully planned for financially. Plus, I can’t complain, everything seems to be going as planned and I have truly enjoyed my first official week working from home full time. More on that later, but for now I have to wrap up a project and get ready for happy hour.

Oh yeah, I changed the look of this blog again. I think I really like this look and may stick with it, but then again, I am a classic Gemini and can never make up my mind!

Have a great weekend!