Tag Archives: writing

Making Use Of The Holiday Slump

picture-6by Catherine L. Tully

This time of year is notorious for being slow. Editors go on vacation, people plan ahead for the holidays–and writers often find themselves with little to do from now until after the New Year.

Don’t let this get you down. Use the holiday season to re-vamp your online presence and get organized for 2014. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Re-tool your website/blog. (This is one I need to take my own advice on!) It’s easy to let your online resume lapse. The holidays are the perfect time to update your accomplishments.
  • Update LinkedIn. LinkedIn is like an online resume. Make sure it’s current going into the NY.
  • Touch base with contacts. Send out holiday cards. Make phone calls. Have lunch with people. You have time–get to that networking you are always putting off during the year!
  • Plan. Have a plan of attack for the NY so you can hit the ground running when people get back to their desks. Brainstorm article ideas. Gather publications you want to submit to and study them. And so on.
  • Get organized. Set up a spreadsheet for expenses in the NY. File old stuff. Clean off that desk, tidy up your computer and tend to all those housekeeping tasks that get shoved to the back burner. It’s now or never! :)
  • Relax. Take a little down time too–it’s OK! Resting and re-charging is part of the cycle–just make sure you don’t ignore the things above!

Do you have any tips for writers to make use of that down time during the holiday season? If so, leave them below!

Writers – Take The Superbowl Challenge!

Freelance-Zone Editor, Catherine L. Tully

Freelance-Zone Editor, Catherine L. Tully

by Catherine L. Tully

I think most writers have one.

An article, short story or novel that they keep thinking about, but don’t actually write. Or–they start writing and never finish.

I know I have several floating around up there in my brain. I think about them from time-to-time. Even jot down quotes that would go with the piece or rip out magazine photos that have to do with the topic. And then…well…nothing.

But I am making a pact with myself, and challenging those of you out there with a similar issue to do the same. I’m going to actually write one of these pieces and submit it before the Superbowl. Yep. That’s the plan.

Up for the challenge?

Here’s the road map I’ll be following:

  • The piece will be written during the holiday slump (between Thanksgiving and the Superbowl, where it is impossible to get anyone to answer you about anything).
  • I will work on it no less than an hour a week from Thanksgiving until it is finished. Even if I just sit there jotting down notes for an hour.
  • I will research a market and submit the piece promptly (read – within two weeks) of finishing it.

Now. If you know anything about these vague, dreamy pieces that float around in the head, you’ll realize that this is much harder than it seems. But I feel like these ideas keep coming back to me, so they must have some type of importance/value/potential.

And I’m determined to find out.

Are you in?

What You Can Learn About Freelancing From Vinyl Records

Josie and the Pussycatsby Joe Wallace

When I am not freelancing, I sell vinyl records on Etsy, Discogs.com, and on my vinyl blog Turntabling. Vinyl records is a passion of mine and also an additional revenue stream for me, helping me stay in business as a freelancer and remain generally self-employed.

Believe it or not, the two worlds have a LOT in common. The whole reason I turned to vinyl in the first place, years ago, was because of the freelancer’s need for diverse income sources. Clients come, clients go. Some pay on time, some never do.

So diversifying the income portfolio, as it were, is a must–you want to eat every day? Make sure you have three or more checks arriving at various times in the month. Save up a cushion to deflect the problems created by those late-payers. That’s the message the freelance life has consistently given me since I started in 2002.

But the most fascinating things I’ve learned about freelancing from vinyl records can really be summed up by that Josie and the Pussycats vinyl record you see here. Look at this thing! You probably laughed when you spotted it, right? But here’s a fascinating little piece of data–that record is, at the time of this writing, up for sale on Ebay (not by me) for TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS.

It’s sealed, very hard to find, and somebody might actually pay that $200 to get it. MAYBE NOT–but there’s actually a chance, because of that tricky combination of nostalgia, impulse buying, and the near-eternal appeal of vinyl records for some.

The lessons I take away from this for the freelance life? Pretty simple but very important:

1. Like the vinyl record, your services are worth what people are willing to pay for them. I have been paid $200 an hour or more for my work. I’ve given it away for free, I’ve bartered, I’ve cut people deals. But at the end of the day, you get paid because a client was willing to pay and you were willing to do the work. It can be counter-productive–at least for me–to view freelance work in terms of fixed, unchanging price tags.

2. There is a market for expensive services, and it’s harder to find. In the vinyl market, I have customers willing to pay large dollars for rare, near impossible-to-find records. But I have just as many who simply want good, decently priced vinyl they don’t have to scour the earth to purchase. Balancing the high-paying hard-to-find commodities with lower-priced volume income is key. When it comes to my writing work, some writing has much greater inherent value, and therefore costs more. Some is intended to keep Google’s attention focused properly through steady posting and dependable content. This lower-priced work is not the same research-intensive stuff as the high-priced material, not should there be an expectation that it be anything more than what it is.

3. Go where the market is. I’ve tried selling on Amazon, at fan conventions, on Etsy, eBay, Bonanza, and many other places. When one avenue isn’t working over time, I ditch it and move on to something else. If you’re pounding your head against the proverbial wall in one area of your freelance career, it may be time to look elsewhere for better results. This is a notion that has served me very well since 2002.

There’s more, there’s SO much more…but the last lesson I can impart from my experience selling and collecting vinyl records is knowing when you’re in danger of overstaying your welcome.

Joe Wallace sells vinyl records, writes about military issues and finance, and runs several blogs and social media concerns. Since 2002, he’s written for acres for magazines and the Internet. His credits include American Fitness, Indie Slate, HorrorHound Magazine, and is one of the many essayists featured in a forthcoming book about obscure and under-appreciated horror films. You can reach him by email at jwallace242 @ gmail.

4 Smart Budget Tips For The Writer

by Catherine L. Tully

dollarFreelance writing careers tend to have lean periods–especially when you are first starting out as a writer. Making every dollar count is something that you tend to get good at when you begin your career…

That said, there are some smart tips I can share that may be helpful for those who are on a tight budget–after all, I’ve been there too! Try some of these money-saving strategies on for size–and save!

  • Budget your cafe time. Most writers like to get out a bit and write, but this can add up quickly if you aren’t careful. Take a good look at your finances and budget out a set amount that you’ll spend at the coffee shop/cafe, etc. Then, if possible, buy a gift card for that place so that you don’t spend more than you should. It’s a good way to stay within your budgeted amount. When the card is empty–you don’t go out any more that week!
  • Walk. Sitting at a desk all day can add up to additional weight gain. Combine this with the fact that you spend money on gas when you use your car (and it’s not cheap!) and walking makes all the sense in the world! Walk to the post office, to do other errands, and anywhere else you can. Or bike if you prefer.
  • Save loose change. Keep a jar on your desk for loose change. I know it sounds silly, but this can really be a great way to get an extra few bucks together. I have a friend who picks up pennies/dimes/nickles everywhere she goes outside and she gets quite a few things that way that she wouldn’t otherwise splurge on. You won’t be taking vacations–but you might be able to spring for a new notebook or some computer wipes. It all adds up!
  • Buy in bulk. This isn’t blanket advice, but for certain items it totally makes sense. For example, I use a ton of paper for printing. If I bought the packet at my local convenience store, it would cost me a fortune. If I buy the big box at a “big box” store, I’ll save a ton of money on it. Don’t need all that paper at once? Split the cost with another writer and you’ll both save.

Do you have any good budgeting tips to share? If so, leave us a comment!

Why I Became A Writer

by Catherine L. Tully

Editor, Catherine L. Tully

Editor, Catherine L. Tully

Today’s post is simply a sharing one…

I’d like to tell you why I became a writer. (And, I’d love to hear why you became, or are becoming a writer in the comments section.)

Ultimately, at the heart of things, I became a writer because I have always been one. When I was little, I came up with a “newspaper” called The Little Town Daily News. I don’t really remember what I wrote about, but I know that I put a lot of time into making copies, and I sold it for about .10 cents each–which, for back then, was not that cheap!

I’ve always been writing, whether it was in my journal or coming up with a newsletter for my childhood club. I’ve written stories, articles, nonsense, letters, cards and countless other things. Even if I weren’t getting paid for it, I’d probably still be writing in some capacity. (Luckily, I’ll never know for sure!)

Not everyone makes it in this business, but some people really do hang in and stand the test of time. My hunch is that almost every one of the tenacious ones that breaks through and does this for a living–or even part-time for some extra cash–is somewhat like me.

So…what is it dear reader? Have you always been a writer in some capacity–even if you have just been composing poetry in your head or writing song lyrics that never made it to paper?

Drop us a note here and tell us your story!

 

Today’s Writing Tip: Question Marks In the Middle of a Sentence

sig2010Punctuating question marks in the middle of a sentence confuses the best of us. Our instinct is often to capitalize the word that follows the question mark, but usually that’s wrong. Here’s an example:

When I asked my teacher, Mr. Cotton, “What is the purpose of life?” this is the answer I received.

Note two things about that sentence. One, the word that proceeds the question and the question mark is lowercased. That’s because the phrase “What is the purpose of life?” is still part of a larger sentence, even though it is a complete sentence and can stand on its own normally, but in this instance it is only half of the sentence.

“This is the answer I received” is the other half and we need it to make our point. Two, there is no comma after the question mark. A version of our example which includes the comma is wrong, e.g., When I asked my teacher, Mr. Cotton, “What is the purpose of life?,” this is the answer I received.

Fortunately, your spellcheck will probably pick up the second issue and flag it as a problem; however, spellcheck may incorrectly tell you that you want to capitalize any word after a question mark. Don’t do it automatically; do so only if it is not part of a larger sentence and that includes dialogue. (“Is the purpose of life to love and be loved?” she asked. No caps for the pronoun and no comma after the question mark.)

Sigrid Macdonald is an author and an editor. You can find her at http://sigridmacdonald.blogspot.com/