Tag Archives: freelance advice

Freelance Multitasking From Hell: The Blog?

Joe-Wallace-Vinyl-Collector-and-authorby Joe Wallace

Sigrid Macdonald’s post this week about multi-tasking resonated with me in a major way because I’m about to dive headfirst into multi-tasking hell. Earlier this year I went round and round with a decision about going back to school and finally decided to take the plunge and dive into the Recording Arts For Film program at Tribeca Flashpoint Media Academy in Chicago.

The TFA program features an immersive, hands-on approach, and it’s not your traditional pick-your-classes-and-attend-when-it’s-convenient schoolhouse. Instead, your schedule is chosen for you based on your career choices and you put in an eight hour day. Which necessitates me having a night shift for freelance work.

Yes, I decided to stay freelance with my current work load, keeping all my current clients, shifting my work to the evening hours instead of first thing in the morning the way I’m used to working.

I won’t accept any new projects after Saturday, when the first official TFA event happens (a student/faculty mixer, but official nonetheless), but my current clients will never notice any difference in deliverables, quality of work, etc.

How do I know? Well, it’s simple really–I’ve done all this before. AND worked a second job on top of it. None of my clients ever realized I was doing anything BUT working on their projects. And that is the way I like it. It’s as it should be.

All this is terribly self-promotional–or at least it sounds it–but there’s a reason why I share any/all of this. I’m going to be blogging about the whole experience here as it unfolds. I may have done this before, but there are always new lessons to be learned, especially when you’re multi-tasking at such a type-A workaholic level. It can be done. In my case, it WILL be done…and I’ll write about it all here on top of everything else.

A freelancer’s most important asset is his or her flexibility. If you can’t bend with the circumstances, your skills are pretty much useless in terms of earning a decent living. You might be able to scrape by with a rigid, uncompromising approach to your work, but you’ll never get off the treadmill unless you can master the Judo of freelancing.

And that’s what I intend to explore once again in my experiences at TFA, in addition to all the film audio work I’ll be doing and learning. Foley, field recording, sound effects, game audio design, dialogue looping, post-production…a whole universe of sound and plenty of opportunities for a freelancer to move ahead in a different–but related–field.

In fact, even before classes start, I’ve found some interesting freelance fodder in the textbooks. One entire textbook is a guide for audio engineers on how to carve out a career as a self-employed person. Substitute your discipline of choice–writing, editing, marketing, coding–and this book still resonates. I’ll be running a review of it in the near future, but for now, suffice it to say that my journey begins here, on the threshold. I’m happy to bring you along for the ride.

Joe Wallace is a writer, editor, multi-media visual artist, and now a student again. He may be the only one in his classes outside the faculty who remembers Gerald Ford as President, but at least he still has most of his knee cartilage. For now. Wallace blogs about multi-media production and indie film making at www.now-sound.com and vinyl records at www.turntabling.net.

Today’s Writing Tip: Multitasking

Sigrid Macdonald
Sigrid Macdonald

Twenty years ago, the concept of multitasking was rare. Most people worked at one task at a time.

Writers may have been different; perhaps they turned on music in the background when they wrote to help their creative juices flow. But they weren’t likely to be watching the tickertape on the news, texting from their phones, and checking other open windows on their computers while they were writing.

Many studies, especially those conducted with the younger generation, have found that people who multitask believe that they are doing just as well, if not better, than if they had focused on one task at a time, but the hard-core proof indicates otherwise.

And who needs a study to reaffirm what we already know from common sense? Doing one thing at a time yields better results.

This is probably more true for rewriting and editing one’s work than writing. I often find that background music helps me to write, but I turn it off right away when I’m revising and polishing because using my creative mind is very different from using my meticulous inner critic.

Ask yourself how much of a multitasker you are. And see if it makes a difference to your writing and editing your own work if you buckle down and do one thing at a time. Easier said than done, I know, but well worth the experiment.

Sigrid Macdonald is the author of three books, including Be Your Own Editor http://tinyurl.com/7wnk5se and two erotic short stories, which she wrote under the pen name Tiffanie Good. Silver Publishing just released “The Pink Triangle,” a tale of friendship, lust, and betrayal. You can view her story here: http://tinyurl.com/6v65rgr

A Freelance Rant

By Amanda Smyth Connor soapbox_large_

Pardon me as I climb up on this soapbox for just a moment, but I’ve got a bone to pick.

My frustration comes when I read Facebook/Twitter updates from friends and aquaintances that read like this:

“Dear All, I’ve decided to start freelancing! So, send me anything you’ve got! I’m ready to write!”

Oh how simple you make it sound! If only it were so easy as to simply blast out an email or to Tweet your availability and to have a series of jobs and assignments lined up at your feet.

“My GOD,” you would think to yourself. “It’s just so wonderful and EASY being a freelance writer! Why doesn’t everyone do this?!”

Because it isn’t easy, you ninny! If it was easy, we would all be millionaires and we would be writing blog posts from our estates on the beach, and monkey butlers would proofread our work all day.

Do you ever find yourself defending what you do to others? This happens to me rarely, but I find that my defenses go up the moment a stranger suggests that freelancing is a dream job filled with all-day pajamas and working from the beach. I mean, sure, occasionally I have been found wearing night pants around 3pm, but that’s usually when I am in a blind panic about a deadline and showering was forced to become a lower priority.

Do you ever face critics regarding your career? How do you handle this situation? And what advice do you share with others who believe that jumping into freelancing is quick and easy?

Amanda Smyth Connor is a social media manager for a major publishing company and has managed online communities and content development for many start-up and Fortune 500 companies.  She has been a professional editor for more years than she can remember.

Top Digital Creative Jobs

Joe-Wallace-Vinyl-Collector-and-authorThis landed in the Freelance-Zone.com inbox this morning–the Onward Search Salary Guide for the 10 Hottest Digital Creative Jobs. No surprise that web developers made the top of the list at a median salary of $82K per year. Skip down to where the writers get some love and you’ll find copywriters coming in at $56K/year. Only one writing-related field in the top ten? True.

Management is obviously well-represented; project managers and art directors are earning between $70K and $78K per year, but far and away the most lucrative gig according to this top-ten chart is for information architects, who score a median $99K per year. Fellow writers, our wheelbarrows full of hundred dollar bills await, if only we’re willing to make the jump into a career field with the word “architect” in it.

Digital freelancing is obviously still hot in many ways, even for writers, but a crowded marketplace requires you to get creative, stay flexible, and outsmart your competition by being the most available and easy-to-work-with freelancer possible. That might not sound like “outsmarting” at all, but it’s shocking how often just being all those things is the key to success.

–Joe Wallace

5 Tips For Navigating Freelance Job Ads and Interviews

Joe-Wallace-Vinyl-Collector-and-authorI can’t speak for all hiring managers, editors, or managing editors, but I will speak from my own set of experiences hiring (and in some cases, firing) freelancers. If you’re looking for a freelance gig and feel intimidated by those job requirements, here’s what I personally think you should know.

1. Nothing Is Set In Stone

When I’ve listed calls for writers and other creatives in the past, I always put a laundry list of things I wanted my applicants to bring to the table. Some of them I included because those were the skills I wanted, others I threw in there just to test an applicant’s ability to read and understand the job ad. Whenever I had an educational requirement, I listed it with the idea that experience outweighs diplomas. A lack of a piece of paper doesn’t equal “no talent”. My insistence on degrees and such? Practically non-existent for the right candidate.

2. Ability To Follow Instructions Is Key

Whenever I put instructions in the job ad such as “Reply to job@jobsmart.com with ‘Freelance Job’ in the subject line”, it was always to weed out people who couldn’t follow simple directions. Hell, if you can’t do it before I even interview you, why bother hiring you? You won’t bother listening to a word I say…and you’ve just told me so by not following the instructions in the job ad. On the positive side, people who were able to do the simple things asked of them in the ad AND had good resumes got shortlisted quickly.

3. Marginal Resumes Require Good Interviewing Skills

If your resume isn’t as strong as you’d like, you can score major points by giving a really good interview. And by that I mean, come prepared. Research the company online, and find ways to let your interviewer know you’ve been doing your homework. I can’t tell you how great it is to have someone in an interview reference a month-old blog post or article. “I really thought that piece on the Photography Camp For Kids in October was a great example of doing your job at the same time you’re supporting the local community.” You can overcome a weaker resume with being a good people person and letting the interviewer know you’re ready to learn on the run.

4. Great Resumes Don’t Equal Automatic Job Preference

I once passed over a really strong candidate for a freelance gig simply because he was a drip on the phone. I had just interviewed someone I was on the fence about–he admitted to me his self-editing skills did NOT match his writing strengths, basically telling me up front I’d probably spend more time on his writing than on others in the office–but I pretty much hired him after talking to Mister Wet Blanket With A Great Resume on the phone. Why?

I liked the personality of the guy with the self-editing skills and felt we’d work really well together. I knew the other guy had talent out the wazoo, but I hated the idea of having to spend a lot of time dealing with his crap personality. The trade-off was worth it to me. A bit of extra work, sure. But you gotta stay sane.

5. Dealing With The Unexpected Can Get You Hired

I once hired someone based partly on their reaction to a very weird situation in the office that occurred just before the interview started. We were all reeling from a bizarre incident across the street that we had witnessed from the office windows when an interviewee turned up. She wound up getting the full story and by the time we had all finished laughing about it, she kind of already felt like one of the team–AND the interview went really well.

The lesson here is identical to a jokey old military saying: Semper Gumby. As in, “Always Flexible”. If you can roll with the punches, handle the unusual or be willing to take on odd requirements…you could be worth your wieght in gold.

–Joe Wallace

Resist The Urge

Joe Wallace Vinyl Collector and authorI can’t say I learned any valuable lessons today after reading some of my fellow freelance lifestyle bloggers, but I do feel I’ve gotten a good reminder to count to ten, hold my breath, check and double check my writing after ranting.

Not that all my fellow bloggers are ranters, just me.

I was reading a better-left-unmentioned freelance blog post about what freelancers can learn from celeb missteps in the public eye. Something bugged me about the article and I really, REALLY wanted to open fire with both barrels over it. But I’m sure (OK, I am HOPING) it was just poor word choice at work, so I decided to let it go.

Sort of.

The article mentions a famous person’s far-too-open comments during interviews and in social media–using them as an object lesson for freelancers on what not to do in the public eye. The article stated the celeb made “racial comments”, offered up too much sex life detail, and made “homosexual comments”.

The “homosexual comments” bit really bugged me and it took a good five seconds to figure out why. In a not-quite-a-laundry-list of ill-advised things this famous person did, “homosexual comments” stood out as being a negative and a bit singled out–the previous complaint had to do with sex life TMI, so why the attention on “homosexual comments”?

I can’t accuse the writer of being a gay basher, and that’s not my point. But a more thoughtful choice of words would prevent the impression–however fleeting (or not)–that there’s some anti-gay sentiment going on in that article. Note that I’m not accusing anyone of actually being a hater, but rather pointing out that poor word choice can lead to that perception.

My inner optimist wants to think the person who wrote this is only guilty of a poor turn of phrase and has no real bone to pick with consenting adults who spend their time in a manner of their choosing regardless of how intriguing or threatening that might seem to people unfamiliar with a given lifestyle.

But my inner pessimist thinks maybe sometimes some people somewhere make a Freudian slip (intended or not) and that slip can be a big red flag with regard to professionalism, EEO and a myrid of other things. Is that true in this particular case? I’m going to side with the optimist for fairness’ sake. I can’t honestly say there was malice aforethought here. But again, that’s not the point.

As professionals, our words are read, scrutinized, absorbed, made fun of, regarded as wise, and repeated. We’re all guilty of writing, saying, and doing insensitive things. But it’s a different sort of thing when you’re trying to give advice to other professionals and those aspiring to follow your lead.

Dispensing advice from on high is pretty damn easy to do (beautifully illustrated here by me), but don’t let a throwaway phrase knock the wind out of the entire presentation. Nobody likes to be excluded, but in this particular case one segment of the audience may have gotten a little taste of exclusion–whether intentional or not. “Homosexual comments” could mean anything to anybody. But it doesn’t sound good, and it’s not what the writer wanted that article to be remembered for.

And there’s the lesson.

–Joe Wallace