Category Archives: Freelancing

Napping Your Way To Better Writing

Credit/TheAwkwardYeti

Credit/TheAwkwardYeti

It’s okay to do nothing.

No, really. Sometimes you just need to give your brain a little rest.

I was spending a quiet Friday with my wife the other week, and I decided I should probably catch up on a little sleep. I readily admit that I’m a night owl and I am also, by necessity, an early riser. At times, this doesn’t bode well for my productivity.

I really enjoyed this article by Daphne Gray-Grant of Publication Coach. Ms. Gray-Grant has endured a number of sleep problems at various times in her life, and she came to the conclusion that among the extremely valuable health benefits of getting enough sleep, it does a great deal for your creativity as well.

You’ll come across articles all over the internet that say a staggered sleep schedule is best, and that Tesla slept for only tow hours a night. There’s absolutely no reason to burden yourself by employing an eccentric sleeping pattern just because it happened to work for someone else. Remember what happened to Kramer.

Whatever you do, whether it’s writing, answering phones or chopping trees for a living (especially then!), you need your sleep. 7-9 hours will really do your body a lot of good.

Going back to my quiet Friday, I dozed off on the couch and kept a notebook nearby in case I had any ideas when I woke. Not only did I wake up feeling recharged, but I had a bit of inspiration to work on a side project to boot. Even if you can’t sleep, I’d really encourage you to find some time in the day to simply rest and do nothing. Ideas tend to creep up on me in the quiet times.

Giving your body rest is crucial to creative success. Fuelled by a constant need to improve himself (and God love the man for it), best selling author Jim Collins once told the New York Times that he studied his sleeping habits over a period of time and found that if he didn’t get 70-75 hours a week, he could go about his daily routine, but creativity simply can’t happen.

If I don’t get enough sleep or am without the opportunity to catch up on much-needed rest, I’m not focused on my writing; I’m focused on nodding off.

While the image of a writer typing the next great American novel into the wee hours of the morning is romanticized, I don’t find it to be particularly true and agree with Mr. Collins and Ms. Gray-Grant both: the best way to sleep and maintain creativity and inspiration is to get a good, full night’s sleep. You may not be up and awake for as many hours as before, but the productivity you’ll achieve by being fully rested will more than make up for the difference.

What are your thoughts on sleeping and creativity? Discuss in the comments below!

Be sure to check out my portfolio and professional site here

My freelancing e-book, Dip Into the Ink Pot, is now available on Amazon by clicking here!
Don’t forget to like, comment and subscribe to the blog if you like what you see, and I’ll talk to you next week!

– Adam

Following Up 101: What to Say and When

success is in the follow-up

Credit/Oxygen.co.uk

Hello, my dear readers! I hope this post finds you well.

At some points throughout the month, work slows down, which gives me the chance to apply to jobs again. This brings up a question, though.

How do you handle the follow-up process?

Without further ado, here are my thoughts on how you can make the most of the art of the follow-up.

The key to effective follow-ups is knowing when to do it.

Generally speaking, I don’t find it especially productive or useful to follow-up on every single job application you put out. Then again, that depends entirely on how many you put out in the first place.

I could feasibly place hundreds of job applications per month. It would take more hours than are in a day to follow up on each an every single one.

I recommend placing the job applications in three categories:

1. Interest confirmed: If someone responds to your inquiry letter or application asking for a quote, send them one as soon as you can. If you don’t hear from them in, say, a week (maybe less if you deem it appropriate), it’s ok to send along a quick note asking if they have any questions about the quote, your work or just the status of the decision. It doesn’t have to be anything long; just something to reinforce the fact that you’d love to work with them and aren’t rushing them so much as doing what you can to gently nudge them your way.

2. Shows promise: This is really two kinds of client-freelancer interactions. First, this can mean jobs described as gigs that fit closest to your specific abilities. It can also mean clients who have expressed interest in your services – either you found them or, even more promising, they found you. If the client does not immediately ask you for a quote, follow up within a few days to see if they’re ready for more information.

3. General: If the client hasn’t yet confirmed interest or otherwise reached out to you, it’s ok to let it fall into this category. I find quite a few applications fall under this area, and I suspect you’ll find much the same. Please don’t let that discourage you! I’ve been a full-time freelancer for a bit more than a year now, and that status came after sending application after application after application. Keep at it!

Thanks to the Upwork team for the prompt!

Upwork is a great place to find clients and professional collaborators all over the world. I got my start on Elance and oDesk, and Upwork takes the best from both sites into one, tidy package. Their website also features guides for freelancers to help them advance their skills and connect with potential clients.

If you haven’t yet signed up with them, check it out today!

How do you follow up on job applications? Discuss in the comments below!

Be sure to check out my portfolio and professional site here

My freelancing e-book, Dip Into the Ink Pot, is now available on Amazon by clicking here!
Don’t forget to like, comment and subscribe to the blog if you like what you see, and I’ll talk to you next week!

– Adam

Overbooking and the Prevention Thereof

work stress woman office

femside.com

Hello, my dear readers; apologies for disappearing on you again the last two weeks. I just wrapped up writing another movie for a client, among other projects. I’ve been busy, and that’s certainly not a bad thing.

Good thing or not, though, negligence is negligence, and for that, I apologize.

I have a confession to make. The last month, I’ve overbooked myself. I don’t know when it started or how it got there, but there it is.

I’m not proud of it, because it’s cost me a great deal of sanity and gained me a great deal of stress. I’m working it out and it is what it is.

As such, maybe it’s time to address that on my blog – What to do to prevent overbooking.

Here we go!

1. Create a waiting list

Generally what happens in a typical month for me is I end up taking on projects of varying scales, between 3 to 5 isn’t out of the question.

What you say yes to and when depends entirely on your schedule. Think about what you’ve done on a project so far. Do you think you can continue at your given rate and meet the deadline on time? Would taking on another project cause you to miss a deadline?

If the answers are yes and then no, respectively, don’t take on that project. Ask them politely if they would like to be placed on a waiting list. I did one for a week, for example, and the woman waited because she had faith in my abilities and I communicated honestly.

2. Renegotiate

There was a project I took on for one of my clients that increased in scale during my current overbooked phase, which caused additional stress for both of us.

As such, I wasn’t going to be able to meet our originally agreed-upon deadline. So what did I do?

I contacted my client to explain this situation – I overbooked myself, I still want to do quality work for him, but that’s going to take some time. It worked out just fine. Sometimes deadlines can be moved, and in this case, I had a good rapport with  my client, he had some projects to finish up anyway, and we’re set for a new deadline.

It might work out well for you; it might not. The worst thing you can do, though, is to not communicate; to fall out of the loop and disappear into your work cave without another word.

Keep the lines of communication open. Sometimes the deadline problem isn’t as big as it seems.

3. Keep Calm

I used to be pretty good about keeping my work and home life separate, but since they’ve become one in the same, this becomes quite a bit more difficult.

As such, since work stress bleeds into my home life even more than it normally would, I was a generally unhappy guy. It took me longer than I’d like to admit to realize that.

Day and night, I worked, I stressed about work, I complained about work, and I got called out on it.

It was like a slap to the face I needed. There will always be a level of stress I have to deal with – we all have to deal with – in our professional lives, but we shouldn’t let it take over us. We have to work through. Life goes on.

So in short, my advice is stick to a strict schedule, create a waiting list if needed, and above all, work through one step, one day at a time.

Thanks for reading! I’ll do my utmost not to disappear on you again.

How do you prevent or deal with overbooking? Discuss in the comments below! 

Be sure to check out my portfolio and professional site here

My freelancing e-book, Dip Into the Ink Pot, is now available on Amazon by clicking here!
Don’t forget to like, comment and subscribe to the blog if you like what you see, and I’ll talk to you next week!

– Adam

 

Lock Your Docs: Basic Writing Security

Credit/Iconfinder

Credit/Iconfinder

Hello, my dear readers! Hope your week is going well.

For a long time, I had a great deal of trouble figuring out how to protect my written work from possible theft (you know, when I wasn’t shooting myself in the foot while learning hard business lessons).

I realize that, yes, there’s a good chance at one point or another someone’s going to swipe my work to claim it as their that’s all but inevitable in some cases. Kudos to the many  sites and organizations out there nowadays protecting against plagiarism.

While there are those who devote a great deal of time to protecting the world from plagiarism one page at a time, I realize there’s something I can do on my busy schedule, too.

I recently came across a blog post I unfortunately can’t link to anymore that detailed certain programming you could put in your Word documents to help prevent other writers from unfairly using your work.

Here’s how it’s done (at least in Word 2007):

1. After you’re done with the Word file and it’s ready to be sent off to a client or prospect, hit Alt F11 to bring up Microsoft Visual Basic.

2. Click the Insert UserForm button. It’ll open up a dropdown menu. You’ll want to click Module.

3. Copy and paste the following code:

Sub EditCut()

MsgBox “Forbidden”, vbExclamation

End Sub

Sub EditCopy()

MsgBox “Forbidden”, vbExclamation

End Sub

Sub EditPaste()

MsgBox “Forbidden”, vbExclamation

End Sub

Sub EditSelectAll()

MsgBox “Forbidden”, vbExclamation

End Sub

Sub FilePrint()

MsgBox “Printing is protected”, vbExclamation

End Sub

This prevents the other person from printing, copying, selecting all, pasting and cutting.

4. Hit CTRL + S to save. A dialogue box opens asking if you would like to continue saving as a macro-free document. Click No.

5. You will want to save your draft as a Microsoft macro-enabled document, a docm.

6. Click either the review or the developer tab. Click Protect Document.

7. Under 2., Editing Restrictions, check Allow only this type of editing in the document. I recommend either No changes (Read Only), Comments or Track Changes to give the client or prospect the option to add comments (if necessary).

8. Click Yes, Start Enforcing Protection. Remember to password protect your work.

And you’re done! When I send in work in the .docm format, I offer the chance for the client to review the document and upon final approval, I will send the “unlocked” document in the form of docx, pdf, etc.

This doesn’t prevent plagiarism; if there’s a will, there’s a way to lift it, after all. Nevertheless, I encourage you to be part of the solution with these simple steps.

How do you prevent plagiarism? Discuss in the comments below!

Be sure to check out my portfolio and professional site here
My freelancing e-book, Dip Into the Ink Pot, is now available on Amazon by clicking here!
Don’t forget to like, comment and subscribe to the blog if you like what you see, and I’ll talk to you next week!

– Adam

The Typwrittr Experiment

Typwrittr

Good morning, my dear readers.

I’m writing this week’s post through a “typing environment” known as Typwrittr as an experiment. I want to test a new type of working environment than what I’m used to, hoping to find a virtual workspace to maximize concentration and efficiency. So far, it seems to be working well.
Typwrittr, for those of you who haven’t tried it yet, is a word processor of sorts. It has more atmosphere than the average Word document page in the fact that you can choose a background to provide inspiration or simply act as a less intrusive way to personalize your virtual work environment (it even goes so far as to offer “paper” design options – something I would have never considered). Additionally, Typwrittr has a cloud storage system that allows you to not only save your preferences but also a number of documents – called “books” – as you work.
As I type, I’m using the background you see in the picture above on full screen.
Additionally, I’ve come to realize it’s difficult for me to work in complete silence, and yet I’ve also found certain types of noise like music or YouTube videos, unfortunately, are sometimes more of a distraction than they are welcome sounds. As such, I’ve paired Typwrittr with white noise, and I’ll supply the link of specific white noise I used for this experiment here.
Having Typwrittr on full screen keeps my eyes on my writing and helps me not only to spot errors more easily and quickly, but I also find the words coming a bit easier as well. In this space, it’s just me, my words and the art of my choosing (though as I wrote this particular line, an email notification made its presence known, which is my own darn fault for leaving those on during the experiment).
The white noise is un-intrusive and just noisy enough to listen to something other than the sound of my own breathing and the clack-clacking of the keys on my laptop. I know some people care to work in more or less silence, but I happen to find it rather jarring.
The only negative side I can see with Typwrittr so far is the lack of basic formatting capabilities. On the other hand, that may be straying from the point of what Typwrittr is – a minimalist work environment designed to inspire writing and minimize possible distractions and irritations. Nothing more, nothing less.
In short, my makeshift writing cocoon proved to be an interesting experiment in virtual work environments, and I’d encourage those who are easily distracted (like myself) to give this a try sometime. I know I’ve probably written this blog post in record time (update: yes, in about half the time it normally takes) just due to the fact that I’ve more or less virtually isolated myself for the moment and just focused on writing out my thoughts. It may not always be what I’m looking for given my specific formatting needs, but for what it is, it works wonderfully (especially if you add white noise to it, too).
For now, I’d better get out of my writing cocoon and talk to you all next Wednesday. And by Wednesday, I mean occasionally on Thursday.

What are your work environment hacks? Discuss in the comments below!

Be sure to check out my portfolio and professional site here
My freelancing e-book, Dip Into the Ink Pot, is now available on Amazon by clicking here!
Don’t forget to like, comment and subscribe to the blog if you like what you see! 

– Adam

A PSA about Plagiarism

Credit/saspellingbee.files.wordpress.com

Credit/saspellingbee.files.wordpress.com

Throughout my journey as a freelancer, I’ve noticed a rather disturbing trend.

I’ve noticed more and more prospects and clients are my services as well as that of who knows how many others across the Internet to do their homework for them.

I recently had an encounter with such a client, but unlike others, I caught this particular client in an act of plagiarism.

My client had an order in the queue in Fiverr. Depending on the workload, sometimes I work a little bit on each project or sometimes I take the highest priority, closest-deadline project on before doing anything else. In this case, it’s the latter.

It was fairly late in the project by the time I got around to this particular project – a screenplay based on a short story the client wrote (or at least I’m under that assumption). I glanced through it and thought it could be a bit of fun to construct a comic screenplay out of it when I looked at the top of the paper, I noticed a rather large red flag – the client left his full name, what I assume is a student ID number and the name of the professor to which the work was submitted on the top of the paper.

I sent a message to my client asking whether or not this was part of his class.

At least he was honest.

At this point, I had a dilemma. This student might have served me his head on a silver platter. I had his name, his ID number, his teacher’s name and contact information…I could have reported him to his professor and who knows what could happen from there?

I mean, sure, that would teach him a lesson, but it could also ruin a great many things for him, and frankly having something like that weighing on my conscience, in retrospect, is not something I could live with.

Instead, I issued a severe warning, submitting this cancellation request.

This assignment was next in my queue and I planned to work on it today. However, I was not told up-front this was an assignment for school, and I have made it my personal policy to refuse service to anyone I catch trying to use [it] to unfairly further their academic efforts.
I find paying to have your schoolwork done for you dishonest and unfair to me, to you and to the [redacted].
I’m not going to report this to [redacted], but I need you to consider this a very serious warning. If you are caught cheating in college, depending on its severity, you could face suspension, course failure or expulsion.
Before you pay someone to do your homework again, I would think very, very hard about what you’re putting at risk.
“Types of Cheating
…However, plagiarism or using someone else’s words as your own is another form of cheating taken seriously by all colleges…Buying a paper online from a website or using a friend’s old paper also counts as plagiarism.”
So to the students out there, I issue this same warning. I like to think any other freelancer would take the same action I would, but maybe there are those out there who will catch you and will take more severe action than I did.
Plagiarism is bad, bad news and is always treated seriously, especially in academic settings. I don’t want this to be a lesson in how not to get caught but rather as a cautionary tale.
Having other people do your homework for you could ruin your academic and professional careers and it’s not a matter of if it will catch up with you, but when.
Do the right thing and write for yourselves. Thank you, and I’ll talk to you next week.
Be sure to check out my portfolio and professional site here Don’t forget to like, comment and subscribe to the blog if you like what you see. 

– Adam

Keeping a Professional Profile: Communication

Credit/Phonebooth.com

Credit/Phonebooth.com

Hello, my dear readers! Hope this week finds you well.

I like to think I maintain a fairly professional demeanor with my clients (and I’m sure you do, too), but it’s important to stress the value of professional perception; having your clients and employers see you as a professional with high standards. This is the start of a periodic series on enhancing your image as a professional and boosting your chances for business success.

If you haven’t already done it, take these communication tips into consideration:

1. Quick Communication is Key

In my research and personal experience, I notice quickly responding to job inquiries tends to impress clients. It sometimes comes as an unexpected surprise to some of my prospects and clients when I respond right away to their questions. In this world of instant gratification, sometimes clients will pass you by either out of annoyance that you haven’t responded yet or another client beating you to the punch by communicating first.

2. Keep Causal Language Down

Keeping your correspondence from straying too far down the small-talk and casual conversation road is a balancing act. On one hand, you’re not a robot (are you?) and you want to establish a good rapport with your customer, which involves getting to know them personally and vice versa.

However, you also don’t want to fall into the trap of getting too close to your clients, which is something I talk about in this post.

When it comes down to it, better to err on the side of caution and remain professional with little sprinkles of personal notes here and there.

3. Email First

Look, you don’t have time to waste, do you? Neither does your client. Generally, I find email or website messaging is the least intrusive way to get a hold of your clients. It doesn’t require an immediate answer, gives them time to think on their response and doesn’t take as long as, say, a Skype encounter (although if that’s your client’s perferred method of first meeting, you can read up on some tips here). It’s efficient and convenient and, as a writer, it’s my preferred way of ironing out details and maintaining communication.

4. No Means No

I’ve had my share of rejections for various reasons. Some prospects didn’t like my prices, sometimes it was deadline issues and still other times, they required me to live nearby (which, in all liklihood, I don’t).

Negotiating to come to a mutually beneficial deal on a particular project is fine, but there comes a point in negotiation where the client draws the line, and if you can’t cross it to meet them, that’s it.

No amount of pontificating or pleading will get your client to move the line closer to you or cross it themselves. When you’ve reached an impasse, cut your losses and move on. It’s possible for the client to come back to you with another project and you want to ensure you leave the conversation on good terms.

So in short, to keep on their good side, know what to say and when to walk away.

What are some tips you have for communicating with your clients? Discuss in the comments below! 

Be sure to check out my portfolio and professional site here!  Don’t forget to like, comment and subscribe to the blog if you like what you see. 

Happy freelancing and we’ll talk again next week!

– Adam