Category Archives: advice

Today’s Writing Tip: Efficiency

sig2010by Sigrid Macdonald

One way I have found to be efficient in business and my personal life is to take the thing that I want to do least and do it first. Every morning when I get up, I assess what I have to do for work and what I have to do to keep my fabulous recreational life going. And I decide which tasks are fun and easy and which ones are a total bore or difficult.

I take the latter and knock them off right away. That means that by 10 a.m. or 11 o’clock, my day is filled with things I want to do because I’ve already completed the ones I didn’t want to do.

This works for writing as well. There are always some things we enjoy more about writing than others. This varies from person to person. Let’s say you’re writing a novel and you adore writing the action scenes, but you hate fact checking.

As soon as you tackle your work, devote a specific period of time to fact checking. It might be twenty minutes or however long you think you can tolerate. Then get back to writing your action scenes. You’ll feel so much better knowing that the task you dreaded is already out of the way.

Sigrid Macdonald is an editor and the author of three books. Her last book, Be Your Own Editor, is available on Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/c3az54r

 

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?

Chaos Theory

FractalAbout two weeks ago, I had a bolt of inspiration…or maybe it was lunacy. By this I mean turn my household (including my home office) upside down and reconfigure the way I utilize my work and living space. Not that it wasn’t perfectly functional,  it just didn’t make sense anymore.

It all began last December when my son Will completed his academic curriculum and entered the home stretch toward graduation in May. He already had a full-time job, and since he no longer needed to spend school nights at his dad’s to be closer to campus, I suggested that he come to live with me in my spacious, two-bedroom apartment.  At the time, the logical choice seemed to be that I would incorporate my home office into the larger master bedroom, and he would occupy the smaller bedroom.

At first, I liked the convenience of my integrated office and personal space, but over time, as my son and I got comfortable in our daily rhythms and routines, it became clear that we were both cramped in too-small spaces, while an absolutely lovely 150 square-foot living room went virtually unused. It’s decorated in a Japanese motif, with shoji screens framing a sliding-glass door that opens onto a balcony overlooking a wooded ravine with a creek running through it. Truth be told, I’ve fantasized about making it my personal space since the day I moved into this place eight years ago, especially since I don’t do much entertaining at home.

So…in that moment of inspiration / lunacy, I decided it was time to deconstruct my world. I had no trouble enlisting Will in the process, and the following Saturday, we set about the task of relocating every object we own: clothing, furniture, artwork, books, office supplies, computers, televisions, appliances…absolutely everything. Of course, this would mean living (and working) in chaos for a couple of weeks until all was put to rights; but it seemed a small price to pay for the reward of more spacious living for us both.

The following morning, when I awoke amid a sea of boxes and dislocated furniture in what used to be my living room, my first thought: “Good Lord!…what was I thinking?” As a Type-A personality, chaos makes me cranky, even if I’m the one who created it. But if there’s one thing I know about myself, it’s that I’m a firm believer in the divide-and-conquer method of task completion. My motto: I can’t do everything, but I can do one thing. And that’s what I’m doing…tackling the chaos one tiny task at a time until my well-ordered world once again approaches an entropy of zero.

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.

My Freelancing Motto

book and script editor for hire Joe Wallaceby Joe Wallace

My freelance philosophy is pretty simple. I don’t over-commit, but I do wake up at 5:30 every morning wondering how I’m going to get everything done. It all gets done, on time.

That sounds like I am a total workaholic, spending every waking moment of my day on projects, gigs, and with clients. But that’s not true. I spend plenty of time learning and attending classes. I also travel. But my workload is respectable and actually causes fear in the minds of less-busy people.

I’m happy with that.

The key is that I combine my interests with my work. I love collecting vinyl records, so I sell them online. This gives me a great excuse to buy more records. I love the internet, and a great deal of my work involves online research. I am addicted to cinema, recording, making music, and editing.

So I started working on independent film and video game projects in the Chicago area, doing location audio, sound effects capture, post-production and dialog editing.

To be fair, I have a background in these things. I didn’t start from scratch in media. But it’s not hard to learn what it takes and the world is full of independent film producers now. You can find a way in if you look hard enough. But having the persistence to stick out the lean times in that industry is the same as any other. A true freelancer finds a way to keep at it.

One of the most important things you can do as a freelancer is determine what kind of work you DO NOT want to be doing, and move away from it as soon as it’s financially possible. For some, that isn’t realistic for a variety of reasons. But you CAN work TOWARD doing that. It’s a financial tightrope, but as you become more skilled and confident in your work (and have results to show for it) you can make a determined move towards combining your interests and your work routine.

Joe Wallace is a freelance social media writer and audio professional based in Chicago. His recent projects include video game sound effects and music composition for Shedd Aquarium, location audio, dialog editing, and post-production for the web series Family Values, and location audio for the indie thriller Still. Wallace is set to release his own short independent film, 45 RPM, in early 2014.

In Praise of Failure

By Jake Poinier

If I’m honest with myself—and, yeah, that can be tough to do—I recognize that I have learned as much or more about the freelancing business from failure as I have from success. I’ve been at it for 14 years now, and have enough distance from some of my most major screw-ups to laugh about them. For others, the sting is a little too fresh and harsh.

You’ve got your obvious mistakes, when you bid too low, or let the client run you ragged with scope creep, or simply took on a job that looked boring…and it turned out to be worse than you imagined. But the main thing is to not make the same mistake twice. That’s not failure, it’s foolishness.

There’s another aspect of failure, though, that’s a little more subtle and a lot more under your control. In order to improve your freelance business, you need to try things that you haven’t done before. Maybe it’s experimenting with different industries and media types, or trying out different marketing techniques. (If you want a ton of low-cost, high-potential-upside failures, cold-calling is a great exercise.)

The bottom line is that we may expect perfection from our actual creative work as freelancers—perfect grammar, punctuation, turns of phrase—but the sales/marketing/management aspect of the business doesn’t follow the same rules. If your query letters aren’t working, perhaps it’s not that the story ideas are bad. If new clients are haggling on price, it’s not necessarily because your rates are too high. If you’re having trouble finding prospects, it could be simply that you need to take a different approach.

Normally, you think of January as the time to try new things, but I’m telling you right here, that there are freelance clients out there now, coming into the pre-holiday rush, who can be grabbed with just the right pitch or approach—and it might be different from your current methodology. Sure, you might fail. But what would happen if you succeed?

Jake Poinier recently published his first book about freelancing, The Science, Art and Voodoo of Freelance Pricing and Getting Paid. He runs Phoenix-based Boomvang Creative Group and blogs under the pseudonym Dr. Freelance.

Don’t Forget to Write (Creatively)

SignatureWhen I first started out as a freelance writer, my stories were mainly observational essays based upon things I’d witnessed or experienced in my travels. The story that opened the freelancing door for me was titled The Fox and the Foreigner, a humorous little anecdote about ordering a bowl of kitsune soba in an off-the-beaten-path noodle shop in Kyoto. Since then, my work has expanded to include interviews, film and book reviews, various forms of service journalism, and most recently, international recipes.

In a span of fifteen years, I’ve gone from: “The days were clear and polished, with enormous banks of snow-white cumulus clouds hovering on the horizon’s blue-purple hills.  At day’s end, in the long rays of the October sun, these cloud banks were transformed into glorious kaleidoscopes of color, soon to be subdued and soothed by the onset of twilight, sparked by the twinkle of the evening star.”

To: “In this age of global connectivity, telecommuting is a rapidly-growing option for businesses of all types and sizes. Some companies allow their staff to telecommute on certain days of the week, and work on-site the rest of the time. Others, especially web-based businesses, may operate with a staff comprised mainly of telecommuting employees. Although telecommuting has its pros and cons, it’s certainly worth considering whether it is a good idea for your business. So take a look at your staff and ask yourself how many of them could be working from home.”

And now: “Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté quickly. Add shrimp and sauté until just pink. Add wine and bring to a simmer. Add tomatoes, scallions and herbs and continue simmering for about 5 minutes, until tomatoes are just tender and sauce thickens. Season with salt and pepper. Add lemon juice and gently stir in feta cheese. Serve immediately. Serves 4.”

Regardless of its subject and content, freelance writing pays the bills; and for that, I am endlessly grateful. But lately, I find myself longing to return to my flowing narratives, creative imagery, engaging dialogue, and pithy conclusions. The only cure for that…is to tell a story. And I think I know just the story I want to tell.

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.