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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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!

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!

Week Two Roundup

It’s been a pretty decent week of writing for me, aside for my rant yesterday, sorry about that! I got much closer to meeting my goals. Mind you, my writing goals start out small and move up by the month as I hope to gain more clients or better paying jobs each month. I made myself apply for many more jobs and I ended up applying for over 25, which is over double what I applied for last week. I did get contacted for two that I am very interested in, so we will see how those turn out.

I couldn’t keep myself from working on my Web site last weekend, so it was pretty much finished by Monday. Here is the link to it if you want to check it out: www.RaechelConover.com. Any feedback would be great, and I’m sure I will be constantly making small changes, but there it is. I have to say that if you are thinking about creating a Web site, and you don’t know HTML, Karen over at Want To Freelance has some excellent information in her posts: Why Freelancers Should Know HTML and HTML Tricks for Freelancers. HTML is not hard to learn, but can seem daunting. Knowing something about it can help you immensely.

I finished my current series for the astrology Webinar I was working on for AltGlobe. Here it is if you want to take a look: Astrology Signs Webinar. If you want to read up on your astrology sign and the astrology elements it’s a great place to look, if I do say so myself.

I had my first experience of working out of my house. I was forced to go to the library because my neighbors were getting their roof replaced today and my dogs were barking at the workers every minute. The library was pretty uneventful, except that it was much louder than I remember libraries being. Note to self, take headphones next time.

My goals for next week include hopefully, fingers crossed, actually landing one of the many jobs I apply for online. I have also been keeping a list over the last few months of local companies that have shown interest in hiring a freelance writer and companies that I think might give me the time of day. Next week, now that my Web site is up and running, I plan to at least start sending my information to the companies on this list that I have a direct contact with. I also want to order business cards and I need to set up an email to my domain name. One job that I applied for, but didn’t get was nice enough to give me some feedback and said that this would make me look more professional. Well, if it will help me land a job, I’ll do it!

On a personal note, my husband and I have decided that we are way overdue for a vacation – we haven’t been anywhere since our honeymoon four years ago. So, we have been looking at exotic places to go this fall. We don’t have a ton to spend, but we should be able to swing some sort of all-inclusive Caribbean vacation. Hopefully I will start making a little more and I can always pick up more Demand Studios work so that it doesn’t take too much of a dent out of our savings.

Enjoy your weekend! I’m off to look at tropical beaches!

Feeling Better and Setting Goals

Happy International Happiness Day! Just saying that makes me happy!

Last night Jason and I took the dogs for a long walk and had a lengthy discussion about all these emotions that had popped up. He once again reassured me that we were going to be fine. We also for the first time discussed what was going on with my mom and how I can handle it best. It was a good talk to say the least. When we got home I vegged out on the couch, got a good night sleep and today I am feeling much better about things.

This morning I set my daily goals for the rest of the month in order to meet my writing income. Next week I will begin incorporating into my day’s, time to work on my website and time to look for other gigs, I have goals set for these two things too. There is something about setting goals that makes me feel settled, while helping me stay on track.

I have returned to Demand Studios after a few months off from them and am currently relying heavily on them. I don’t like to rely too much on one source, especially Demand Studios, but I’m not too worried, things seem to be going well there right now. I have a new post at AltGlobe on earth astrology signs, check it out if you get a chance.

I’m really looking forward to this weekend – I am staying low key. I need to catch up on things around the house and relax. Tonight, one of my friends is coming over for a “patio night” where we just sit on the patio, drink wine and gossip. And then tomorrow Jason and I are going to hit a movie. Can’t wait!

For now, in celebration of International Happiness Day, I will leave you with a few pictures of my two adorable dogs who make me smile daily.

Happy Friday!

Bella and Coco

Bella and Coco

Coco

Coco

Bella

Bella