Inspiration Away from My Computer

As a freelance writer, I sometimes find it difficult to motivate myself to leave my comfortable home office and step into the outside world. And since I live in Ohio where the winter months can be brutal, I find it even harder to get out even to run errands. While this is good for my work and I am currently getting so much done, it also has its downfalls. Since I was forced to leave my office behind to attend holiday parties and I even left my laptop at home while traveling among three cities to visit family I noticed that there are a lot of benefits for writers to get out from behind their computers once in a while.

Networking

Holiday parties turned out to be the perfect place for me to network a little bit. When asked what I do, I was more than happy to explain to people. Some even asked for my business card. While I haven’t gotten any direct business from it thus far, it’s great to tell people what I do. Hopefully the next time they or someone they know is looking for a writer they will think of me.

One thing that I found surprising is that even some of my closest friends weren’t sure of what exactly I do and more than one person was very interested in the fact that I write resumes. This has me somewhat convinced that maybe I shouldn’t completely hibernate this winter and should actually make a point of getting out to see friends and meet new people.

Inspiration

View from my office window

When I used to work outside the home, there was a constant stream of other people to talk to. And while I wouldn’t trade in my home office to go back to a windowless cubicle, sometimes some of my best ideas came from talking to other people. As a freelance writer, I often miss the simple banter. Over the holidays, away from my computer I got to really talk to other people, find out what was going on outside my little writing world and I actually got much inspiration from others for blog posts and projects.

Even just a simple change of scenery was enough to prompt inspiration. Normally I stare out my office window onto our front yard and street. But by traveling, I got to see different scenes like a ski resort packed with people and an abandoned barn in the middle of a snowy field. While these scenes in themselves aren’t all that remarkable, they were enough to jar some inspiration.

As I write this post it’s snowing so hard outside my window that we probably have gotten a good three inches in the last hour. Since I don’t think I’ll be leaving my home office today, in the near future, I will be making a point to do so just to find the inspiration and stimulating conversation that I’ve been lacking.

What about you, do you find it inspiring to abandon your computer for the outside world?

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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?

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!

Working from Home Experiment

I decided to take the day off of work today, to stay home and see what it would be like if I were to work from home every day. It was pure bliss until about 10:30. I woke up at 8am. Made some tea and an English muffin and was at my computer by 8:15 happily typing away. I have just gotten a new web content writing job, so I was spending some time trying to figure out their templates and getting my first few articles together. About 10:30 is when it started to go a little downhill. I think that is what time people assumed that I was awake.

First work called with a question. I had to practice self control and not yell into the phone, “I took the day off!” Next a friend called wanting me to meet her for lunch. Okay, that sounded nice, but not a habit I should get into as a freelance writer starting out with little pay and a lot of work to get done. Then my mom called, four times to be exact. She thought she left her straightener on and since I was home, could I swing by her house and check. Really?!? My husband, god love him, called to see if I could stop by and pick up something to take to a dinner we are going to tonight. And finally, the dogs who, mind you can go for a whole eight hour day without going outside seemed to be sitting by the back door every half hour to be let out. Just because I am home does that mean their bladder shrinks?

I’m starting to see where this is leading. Apparently working from home translates into I have all the time in the world to do other things. I now realize, just from trying this one day that I am going to have to set firm guidelines with people about what working from home means: It means I actually have to work.

Not that the whole day was a total waste. Once I reassured my mom her house wasn’t on fire and silenced my phone I was able to get a lot of work done. I happily turned in two articles, claimed some more, did some edits on another article, worked on a creative piece I’m submitting for a book and looked on some job boards. All in all, it was a pretty good day and it has made me want to quit my full-time job even more. Plus, now I know I have to either never tell people I’m working from home or more realistically tell people my requirements when I work from home.

I look forward to practicing this again soon!