Archive for the ‘Money’ Category

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I’m alive…alive!

October 20, 2009

“I’m like a big old hen. I can’t cluck too long about the egg I’ve just laid because I’ve got five more inside me pushing to get out.” ~ Louis L’Amour

1077250_bee_and_flower

I must apologize for my hibernation. However, I have a good excuse! I’ve been one busy little bee.

My start-up has started to really blossom and take off. After a two-month dry spell at the get-go, I’ve started picking up some regular and steady work. This is a huge relief and revs up my motivation. Not only am I starting to make a profit, but I’m receiving rave reviews. This is the best encouragement any new freelance writer can hope for. I know I’m pleasing my clients, which has promised future work and referrals.

Not only have I managed to secure guaranteed part-time marketing support and copywriting work through a local tutoring company, but I’ve also dug up a few other small corporate writing assignments AND my first magazine article assignment.  I’m genuinely proud of myself and my recent accomplishments.

This is way better than some lousy 9 to 5 office job.

I promise to get my act together with some fresh blog posts very soon!

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Invoking ‘Buffy-Power’ in the freelance start-up struggle

August 18, 2009

I thought it was gonna be more like in the movies. You know, inspirational music and a montage: me sharpening pencils, reading, writing, falling asleep on a big pile of books with my glasses all crooked because in the montage I have glasses. Real life is so slow and it hurts my occipital lobe. ~ Buffy

buffy

Here’s a little secret. I’m a shameless, obsesso-fan of the T.V. success that was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. When teenage life was sucking, the campy horror series was what I turned to–blood-sucking fiends included. It provided comfort when gooey, chocolate-chip cookies were threatening my waistline. Buffy was my hero (sorry Oprah). Not only was she athletic and resourceful, but she could be witty and pretty while kicking demon butt. Talk about girl-power!

Lately, I’ve been attempting to invoke that slayer power to deal with the struggle of starting up a full-time freelance career. I’m going to be honest and tell you that starting up this writing business has been hard work. I didn’t realize the perseverance, patience and motivation that would be required to rise up on two feet. I had visions of sipping on my morning cappucchino, bunny-slippers propped up on my desk, projects rolling into my lap. Well, maybe not rolling…more like dripping from a leaky faucet.

Instead, I’m sporting some lovely black circles under my eyes, using caffeine to combat a constant stream of anxieties–am I good enough, when will the next paycheck come, did my email to that editor fall into a black hole?–wearing 5-day old pajamas. That’s the ugly truth.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I certainly don’t regret turning to freelancing full-time after losing my steady office job due to the economy. Especially after reading Ed Gandia’s supportive words today:

So, for Gen Y’ers everywhere, here’s my (blunt) advice: Forget about trying to find a “job.” Forget about politicians’ promises to fix things. Forget about waiting this one out. (Even if you wait it out, you risk having even greater competition when younger rivals start entering the workforce en masse in two or three years.)

Instead, put your faith where it belongs: on your talents, abilities, creative capacity and ability to solve problems. Then, sell those abilities as a freelance professional. You’ll get back to work much faster. And you’ll have the freedom and flexibility you and your generation craves (we all want that freedom, but you guys have taken life-work balance to a new level).

Pretty promising words, don’t you think? And I agree with him. But I’ve also realized that being a freelancer is no easy choice. And even when I’ve been forewarned of the hardships, I always had some niggling doubt. Things will be different for me, I thought. Try again. I got quite the reality check in the past few weeks. Squashing The Sound of Music version of a writer’s life was necessary. But guess what? I’m still just as enthusiastic about pursuing my goals. And you can be too if you’re new to the game, like myself.

Here are some fundamental tasks I’ve completed within the past couple weeks to help launch my personal brand, which I’d recommend all newbie freelancers consider attacking:

  1. Website and business cards designed – Vital marketing tools. I’ve been using the website to start building my own online portfolio and handing out my business cards to family, friends and potential clients.
  2. Revving up the education– I know I’m competing with more seasoned freelancers, so I’ve been doing a bogus amount of reading to further develop and hone my skills. My reading includes blogs and books (check out Paul Lima, Michelle Goodman and the Renegade ladies for some killer resources to add to your shelves). I’ve also been taking a copywriting course so I can get more experience in the field, which is known to be the ‘bread and butter’ of many writers who also contribute to magazine publications.
  3. Setting up a home office– I realized that sitting in front of the T.V. in my living room doesn’t really inspire productivity or concentration. So I found a stylin’ used desk to set up in one corner of my room and purchased some basic office supplies to make it all schnazzy. I’ve got a great work space now that forces me to focus on my work without the typical distractions of home.
  4. Local marketing campaign – I designed a simplistic but professional brochure advertising my services, included a business card and pen (potential clients generally respond well to a small, inexpensive gift related to the services you’re offering), and dropped these marketing packages off at local houses. I’ve only done 50 so far and didn’t expect any response. I got one of my first official clients this way. You never know.
  5. Signed up for Elance – I was avoiding doing this for fear of falling into the rut of low-paying, dead-end gigs. I’ve decided to try it out. If nothing else, it’ll help me flesh out my portfolio and get some diverse samples to show future clients.
  6. Writing and researching queries – I’ve just started to take the query route. I have experience writing for newspapers, but would love to break into magazines. This in itself has been quite the learning curve. I’ve only sent one out and I’m currently in the process of researching and writing two more, so I’ll have to give updates on these as they become available.

This is some of the most challenging work I’ve had to do, I won’t lie. Yet I have faith in my skills and the passion to back it. Giving up isn’t an option. And just like Buffy, I plan on kicking some serious butt…only I’ll be doing it in the real world.

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The not-so-safe 9-5 office job

June 8, 2009

unemployment-line

There’s about a 95% chance I’ll be losing my steady office job at the end of August.

Don’t worry, I’ve already taken many deep breaths and clamped down on the muttered curses.

This isn’t an elephant-sized surprise.  I was hired on a 1-year contract with the potential for continuing employment.  And although my bosses have said they’d like to keep me on, budget costs are being cut and the company I work for can only afford to upkeep the tech guys.  The general research staff (aka…me) are being considered disposable unless things change between now and then.  They won’t really have the work available to keep me busy nor the money necessary to feed my wallet.

When I was presented with this tidbit of information, I didn’t freak.  Surprise!  Actually…I kind of breathed a sigh of relief.  Okay, well first I laughed about my assumption that my 9-5 grind was such a safe and secure bet.  And that there was no way I was disposable with such a solid education beneath my belt.  Shows me.

I’ll tell you why this wasn’t such a bad revealing though.

  1. I hate the job anyways. I’m getting paid laugh-worthy wages to do stuff I didn’t sign up for.  Most of the time, I have nothing to do.  So I spend my time staring at a blank computer screen.  I even contemplate stabbing my eyeballs out with two straws and blowing them like spitballs at office mates on occasion.  Yes, it really is that boring.  This job fulfills me about as much as that week I tried a coffee diet.  Think I’m joking?  I actually filled out an application to be an elephant groom at African Lion Safari just to escape its clutches.
  2. I have a back-up plan. My previous employer (whom I absolutely adore) has reminded me on more than one occasion that her door is always open.  Sure, it’s still in the research field, not completely in the direction I’d like to be heading.  But it’s something.  Whether I can get part-time or full-time work with her, at least I’m promised some sense of security with a paycheck for the time being.
  3. I have an excuse to aggressively pursue my true dreams and career aspirations. I can finally devote more of my focus and time to getting my freelance business off the ground.  When I gave the news to my dad about my potential job loss, even he said: “It’s probably the best thing that could happen to you.”  And he’s right.  Because I’m not happy where I am or with what I’m doing.  I’m not stimulated, I have no sense of self-progression, and all I’ve gotten out of the deal is a wallop of frustration.

Ed Gandia’s post at The Wealthy Freelancer made a great evaluation of the current economic climate and increasing lay-offs when he said:

That’s why I’m confident that a large percentage of these “funemployed” will come back (when their severance and savings run out!) as freelancers and solo professionals – not as corporate execs. They want the high pay, but they’re not willing to compromise too much to get it. Which means that in many cases they’ll have to settle for less until they build their solo careers.

But I think most of them will be OK with that. The freedom to design the life they want and live by their own rules will be the biggest reward. And it won’t be long before many of them are earning more (and doing more of what they want) than they did in their corporate jobs.

So for the rest of you facing a similar situation, here’s to working twice as hard for twice the rewards!  We’re all going to be just fine.

relief

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Nose-Diving into Economic Turmoil.

October 24, 2008

We are made to persist. That’s how we find out who we are. ~ Tobias Wolff

The economic recession. One could argue it’s the hottest topic on freelance blogs these days. Some are muttering low-toned warnings of hardships to come. Others are screaming – ready to abandon the freelance business like a bad date – unable to muster the courage to search for positive possibilities. And here I am, embracing it as I teeter on the tip of the diving board, ready to fall into a sea of uncertaintyI could sink or swim.  How can I even consider pursuing this career in its beginning stages when our financial grounding is so unreliable? I’ll tell you.

Men with Pens wrote this fabulous post about recessions being a good time to start up a business, and I agree with them.  So hold onto your quizzical stares and gaping mouths for just a moment.

I bet your current corporate job isn’t ‘secure’ either. Not only is the freelance business ‘iffy’ as far as financial security, but that steady office job you may rely on isn’t either.  In fact, you’re always at risk when your ability to work and make a decent income is dependent on someone else.  The economy has just served to worsen the situation due to increased lay-offs and more companies deciding to outsource rather than pay full-time employees that require extra compensation.  And in the freelance business, you can’t get laid off.  The only one in charge of your success is number one…you.

Freelancers generally have multiple streams and sources of income, not just one. If you work for a company that is going under, they’re all you have.  They sink, you sink.  However, most freelancers have multiple sources and streams of income…if one deteriorates, so what?  You will have other clients to rely on and in the meantime you can start marketing for new clients.

It’s cheaper for companies to hire freelancers than employees. In-house staff will decrease, giving freelancers more opportunities to get work.  Work still needs to get done, companies are still buying, and freelancers are the cheapest option.  More outsourcing means more work for freelancers, and more work means more money.

Freelancers aren’t new to marketing themselves, selling themselves, and relishing that entrepreneurial spirit. We’re flexible by nature, and marketing and selling ourselves is one of the biggest aspects of the business.  This gives us all an advantage over people who have been long-term employees and aren’t used to having to continuously search for employment.  Furthermore, many freelancers are taking advantage of the people in this situation by offering their resume writing skills up for grabs during a time when job-searchers desire any little extra ‘bling’ that will set them apart from the competition.

There’s a higher demand for marketing materials. Due to the recession, many companies are revving up their marketing output.  This will give copywriters a chance to increase their own business by helping struggling companies regain the cutting edge they need to continue being successful and rise above competing businesses.

So don’t push the panic button just yet.  Increase your marketing efforts, try to put a little more into savings, but take advantage of what opportunities are there.  And they are there…you just have to be open to them.

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Goal Setting.

October 1, 2008

Our ideals resemble the stars, which illuminate the night.  No one will ever be able to touch them.  But the men who, like the sailors on the ocean, take them for guides, will undoubtedly reach their goal. ~ Carl Shurz

 

I’ve noticed that, as of late, there has been a major focus on goal setting in the freelance blogs that I follow.  I sat back and realized that I was at a point where I really needed to establish some goals for myself.  Not just those up in the air, meandering thoughts that we all love to call goals and forget about two months later (My personal favourite is after Christmas when all the women on the face of the earth claim they are going to lose weight to console themselves for putting on five pounds in turkey and stuffing…I know, I’m one of them). 

I realized I needed something documented to follow.  Something that I would be more accountable for.

I’m starting small but hoping for bigger.  I think sometimes when people make goals, they overwhelm themselves with to-dos that are in no way realistic or practical.  Then give up because they didn’t reach them.  I’m a total believer in reaching past your limits, but I also think that these goals should be considered long-term ones.  Tiny short-term goals that are easily achieved with a little hard work and determination can act as better motivators.  And at least if you manage to complete most of your short-term goals, even if you don’t reach those epic ones, it won’t feel like a total loss.  You’ll just be that much more encouraged to make higher leaps next month or next year.

I will get over my fears.  I’m afraid to take the full-time leap into freelancing, despite support systems I have in place, because I am so used to my reliable if not exciting office job.  I get a steady paycheck.  All that paperwork, invoicing, and marketing is done by invisible hands that I’ll never see or touch.  And magically, at the end of the month, all that I predicted comes true…because it never changes. 

I am going to take some risks, make some sacrifices, and throw myself wholeheartedly into what I want to do and love.  No more excuses.

I’m going to market my butt off to get as much work and experience as possible.  I’ve fallen into the trap of doing a lot of researching into the business and industry and developing marketing strategies without concentrating on what I really should be doing…which is writing.  Yes, the other things are important.  But not as important as actually putting pen to paper.  If I want to write for a living, I need to actually write.  So rather than getting worried about having to know everything before inquiring about projects or sending out query letters, I’ve got to just do it.  Because the truth of the matter is, there is never a ‘perfect’ or ‘right’ time.  There is only now.

I want to make some money.  This is not a Scrooge perspective.  I’m not greedy and I don’t expect much in the beginning.  But I do want to achieve some profits.  If I plan on making a full-time living off writing, cash flow is an important motivator and gives proof that it’s do-able.  I’m not expecting $2k in one month, but even if I make $5 profit my first month, that’s an achievement to me.  That’s $5 I’ve just made doing something I love rather than a million doing something I loathe (not that I make a million now!). 

It may not be much, but I know that if I at least see I’m capable of earning money in the beginning stages, I’ll be encouraged to continue.  I’ll feel confident that $5 will eventually blossom into a better income.  I don’t care if it’s a slow climb…as long as it’s a climb and not a tumble.