Category Archives: blogging

Freelancing In Crowded Markets

Joe Wallace Freelance Social MediaWhere I live in Chicago, there are record stores in practically every neighborhood. I can count ten that I go to on a regular basis from my local shop (the venerable Laurie’s Planet of Sound in Lincoln Square) to places wayyyyy out in the western suburbs. You might think this makes for a very tough market for record sellers to thrive in, and you’d be right. I myself sell vinyl records, but taking one look at the already-crowded landscape several years ago, I decided a storefront was a scary and probably ill-advised investment.

Instead I sell online and at conventions. My choices on where and when to market myself have kept me in business, however part-time, for many years. And that’s something I learned from being a freelance writer. Choosing where, when, and how to offer things in a crowded market isn’t something I was born with, I had to learn over the course of my career. And sometimes that learning was painful.

For a while, I struggled as a freelancer to make ends meet, and found a “secret” place to land gigs and pay the bills–creative temp agencies. But while the money was very good and the people I worked for equally so, I learned that I wasn’t that happy temping, even as a writer. Long-term clients and short term gigs are what I’m all about, but a good number of the creative temp jobs offered to me required on-site work, often out in those far-flung Chicago burbs where some of my favorite record shops are.

I found myself fretting over wasted time spent in traffic–time I easily could have spent actually working instead of driving–and dreading those rush hour commutes every bit as much as I dreaded not paying the bills. In the end, I ditched the temp work and found more long-term clients on my own. I work for plenty of people I have never met face-to-face, and the entire process is far more efficient when I’m not wasting two hours or more of my day behind the wheel waiting for the lights to change.

Finding the work in crowded markets isn’t easy–I’ve had to get very creative about the types of writing and social media work I can do. I realized I had areas of interest that hadn’t been mined to death in the freelance world and I started moving toward writing about them. I also found there are some topics that I have a unique perspective on due to experience and am very qualified to write about, and a great deal of my work lately is informed by those experiences and skill sets.

Mining my own experiences for freelance opportunities is one of the best things I ever did–looking inward to find my own expertise instead of trying to find editors willing to publish my work in other areas, hoping I might be able to tap into something I’m less experienced with has worked better for me over the long haul. For some, the opposite winds up being true. Which one are you?

–Joe Wallace

Good Blogging Habits

438223_86537119by Catherine L. Tully

If you blog, there are a number of “good habits” that you can cultivate. As with any type of writing, getting into a regular groove and doing simple maintenance tasks can be a great help. Today we’re going to talk about a few of these…

Hook up social media

If you haven’t already done this, it’s worth investing a few moments. Get your blog together with your social media accounts by either utilizing a site like Twitterfeed (which also hooks you up with LinkedIn and Facebook), or install a social media plugin. Social media is a great funnel for more readers and it gets more eyes on your words. You can’t afford to be without this.

Check periodically to make sure your content is indeed being fed to the social media sites. The nice part about this is that it is a “habit” that you don’t even have to worry about much once you set it up!

Update your plugins

If you have plugins installed, be sure to update them when you are notified there is an update ready. This helps to insure everything will work properly. Here’s more info on that.

Be social

Don’t forget that blogging is a form of social media. Keep the “social” in there by taking the time to comment on other blogs regularly. It’s a good Karma thing. 🙂

Google your blog

I’ve seen my posts turn up in crazy places–some good–some not so good. Keep an eye on what is going on with your blog content by checking the web here and there for your stuff.

Update things periodically

Freshen up your bio, update your copyright and make sure your navigation links are working. Schedule in some time to just make sure things are current and working. Think of it as “light housekeeping”.

Back it all up

I can’t emphasize this enough. Back up your site regularly. Make it a weekly or monthly thing and put it on your calendar. Here’s a primer for WordPress users. Here’s one for Blogger users.

Do you have anything to add to this list?

Freelancing and the Smartphone

SamsungGalaxy4GBlazeWell…I finally did it. I bought a smartphone. A Samsung Galaxy 4G Blaze.

Amid a confluence of events a few weeks ago, I noticed that I’d worn the numbers off the keypad of my old Motorola flip-phone, just as T-Mobile’s e-mail marketing announcement for their $50 unlimited plan landed in my inbox; and when I followed the link to investigate, I was seduced by their special price on the Blaze. So I took the leap.

It wasn’t that I had any burning need for a smartphone, and could easily have ordered an updated model of my old flip-phone. But I also believe that a key element of staying sharp through the aging process is to embrace and master any new technology that seems relevant and applicable to my livelihood and lifestyle.

I spent the first week customizing the aesthetics and functionality of my sleek new toy. I wallpapered my home screen with an alluring photo of a tropical beach; I added smiling headshot photos of family, friends, and clients to all my contact IDs; I created an upbeat ringtone for incoming calls; and I imported an MP3 of Joni Mitchell’s Chelsea Morning for my wake-up alarm. How could each day not get off to a fabulous start with her infectious exuberance to set the tone?

And then…Reality set in. The T-Mobile invoice arrived and smacked me upside the head like a mackerel. With the cost of the data plan upgrade, plus the price of my sexy new smartphone, I’ll be paying more than $800 a year for the next two years, which means that Miss Blaze is going to have to earn her keep.

Toward that end, I got rid of all the superfluous apps that came pre-installed on the phone to make room for a suite of downloads to boost my freelancing productivity. Of the hundred-bajillion apps out there to choose from, I managed to winnow the field to these five:

Dragon: I’ve conducted lots of interviews over the years with my Sony digital voice recorder. But reviewing and transcribing afterwards was always such a chore. So I’ll be using Dragon to record and transcribe my interviews with all those fascinating people.

Dropbox: The new darling for media creatives, this file sharing app allows users to access files of all kinds between their own devices, or with anyone authorized to access shared files.

HootSuite: I recently made a resolution to post more consistently and frequently to my professional pages on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. But posting in triplicate can be so time consuming and redundant. So I added HootSuite to my Blaze so I can manage all my posts with one app.

QuickMark QR Barcode Scanner: There was a time when I had no idea what those little square bar codes were, until I was asked to put one in a client’s ad layout. Although I’m now reading reports that QR codes are already becoming obsolete, I still downloaded this QR scanning app to take advantage of the technology while it lasts. And of course, once the next iteration goes mainstream, I’ll download an app for that.

Mobile Banking: For the longest time, I’ve been seeing television ads by various financial institutions for mobile banking, in which account holders can receive money by electronic funds transfer (EFT), as well as by taking a snapshot of a check, thus saving themselves a trip to the bank. Can’t wait to give it a try when the payment checks arrive for this month’s invoices.

Sadly, and much to my dismay, although I searched high and low for a mobile app to help me find and apply for freelance writing and publication layout jobs, there just isn’t one out there yet that fills the bill. Sure there are lots of apps that make the claim, but the reviews for them are all negative, and some are even tagged as virus infected. Yikes! So I still live in hopes of finding an app that will notify me of freelance job opportunities the minute they’re posted to the web.

The four apps I’ve chosen to add to my Blaze represent only a few that I felt would serve my immediate needs, but I have no doubt that I will soon discover lots of others. In the meantime, I’ve compiled a list of my search results for the best mobile apps for freelancers:

iPhone.Appstorm: 90 Awesome iOS Apps for Freelancers

LifeHack: 30 Essential Tools and Web Apps for Freelancers

MediaBistro: Top 25 Most Popular Apps For Freelancers

FreelanceSwitch: The 10 Best Web Apps for Freelancers

CertifiedFreelance: 9 Android Apps for Freelancers on the Go

SitePoint: The 10 Essential Apps You Need to Run a Mobile Freelance Business

GuerillaFreelancing: 10 Apps for running your freelance business

FreelanceFolder: 18 Plus Free Mobile Apps for Freelancers

CelesteHeiterFZBioCeleste Heiter is the author of Turn Your PC into a Lean Mean Freelancing Machine, the creator of the LoveBites Cookbook Series for Kindle Fire, and the author of Potty Pals , a potty-training book for children. She has also written ten books published by ThingsAsian Press; and spent eight years posting her recipes, food photographs, and film reviews on ChopstickCinema .

Visit her website, and her Amazon Author Page.



The New Hotness in Social Media: Twitter Vine

By Amanda Smyth Connorvine-twitter

My favorite pastime is researching and disregarding the new social media tools that pop up seemingly every day. More often than not, I find that they are re-purposed or re-skinned versions of tools I’m already using. I’ve got my social media favorites:

Hootsuite (for keeping all of my Twitter and Facebook accounts in one place.)

Radian6 (because I am a spoiled child who convinced her company to pay for this shiny and very expensive social media tool, although I maintain that this is Best in Class for social listening.) (It’s free and offers very quick sentiment analysis and mentions.)

But the latest hotness to come about is Twitter’s Vine app.

The new Vine app links directly to your Twitter account and creates a 6-second video, during which you can edit only so far as pausing the recording process. Check out some of the amazing videos users are posting already.

Why am I telling you about this new tool? Because this new social toy is becoming the new overnight hotness and much like Pinterest, it’s spreading like wildfire. If you are interested in furthering your social media involvement, or in adding a new line item to your resume of freelance skills, get creative and begin expanding your social media horizons with this new app.

Brands are already clamoring for ways in which they can engage users through this video feature. From stop-motion to straight videos, this is a landscape that companies are anxious to be a part of, so believe me when I say that it is in your best interest to, at the very LEAST, familiarize yourself with this awesome app. It’s going to be a great tool to have in your freelance toolkit.


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.


Add Value with Video

CelesteHeiterFZBioIn case you haven’t noticed…video is everywhere! With the abundance of affordable recording devices, from smartphones to digital cameras and mini-camcorders, there’s no end to the possibilities. And these days, nearly every OS includes basic video editing software.

If you want to go pro…there are dozens of options, including Adobe Creative Suite, which now includes Adobe Premiere, a full-scale digital video editing program with all the bells and whistles to enhance your raw footage and even create some amazing special effects. Best of all, the web is loaded with tutorials to help minimize the learning curve.

And when it comes to venues for your video creations, they run the gamut, from the free-for-all known as YouTube…to the news reels embedded in the lead stories of nearly every media website. So if you want to up the ante on your web-based freelance assignments, think video and start offering clips to sweeten the pot…and your paycheck!

Celeste Heiter is the author of Turn Your PC into a Lean Mean Freelancing Machine, the creator of the LoveBites Cookbook Series for Kindle Fire, and the author of Potty Pals , a potty-training book for children. She has also written ten books published by ThingsAsian Press; and spent eight years posting her recipes, food photographs, and film reviews on ChopstickCinema .

Visit her website, and her Amazon Author Page.

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