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Freelancing Your Way to a Job

Workshop Customer Service Contest alternate photo low resby Mike O’Mary

December unemployment numbers will be reported on January 8, and recent weekly reports on unemployment claims indicate that things are getting better. But it’s still a tough economy out there. As of the end of November, U.S. unemployment was 10%, and underemployment (a freelance writer bagging groceries, for example) was 17.2%. Pretty grim.

If you are freelancing by choice, my hat is off to you. I know some people who have very successful freelance careers and would never consider going to work for someone else. But if you’re freelancing because you’ve been laid off, I have good news for you: freelancing just might be the best way to find your next job.

Twice in the past decade, I was offered (and I accepted) corporate jobs from my clients. So my tip for those of you who desire a corporate job is to offer up your services as a freelancer first. I believe this is actually a better way to get a job than competing with the dozens (or hundreds or sometimes even thousands) of people sending in resumes for job openings.

In the two cases where clients offered jobs to me, I went to the client with no ulterior motive. I really was not looking for a job. I was looking for freelance work. I didn’t want them to give me a job; I wanted to give them some help. That difference in attitude made a difference to them. And in both instances, there was a definite sense that they had discovered me…their attitude was almost a joyful “look what I found!” (Compare that to the attitude of a potential employer during a job interview where all-too-often they are looking for reasons not to hire you.)

Bottom line: Don’t mislead a potential employer. If you’re not interested in freelancing, then don’t present yourself as a potential freelancer. But if you are interested in freelancing – and if you are also interested in the possibility of a full-time job with the right employer – then marketing yourself as a freelancer just might be the best way to get your foot in the door to your next job.

Mike O’Mary is founding dreamer of Dream of Things, a book publisher and online community for writers and other artists.

New Year, New Goals


Have you taken the time to sit down and write out your career goals for 2010? It doesn’t have to be an elaborate process…but I believe it is an important one. Setting concrete goals is something that keeps you moving forward, and I know from personal experience that it works. At least for me…

If you haven’t created a few goals for yourself, why not give it a try? Every year I set the simple goal of making more money than I did the year before. And I have yet to be disappointed. Doesn’t that sound nice?

So what are my other goals for the year? Here they are, for all to see…

+ Continue building my new dance blog.

+ Do more outreach to writers in the form of classes and seminars.

+ Each year I pick out a few magazines I would like to try and get published in. Then I work on query ideas for them throughout the year. Although I don’t have mine picked yet, I know I will try for at least 3 new, big mags. Perhaps an in-flight…

If you feel like sharing, you can list yours here. Either way, all the best to reaching them in 2010!

An Hour Per Minute

tortoise-hareby Mike O’Mary

“Why does writing a speech take so long?” That’s the question a former boss asked me when I told her it was going to take me 40 hours to write a 40-minute speech for our CEO.

I didn’t have a good answer to her question. “Because it does,” was the only response I could manage. And in retrospect, that was probably as good of an answer as she deserved. But upon further reflection, I had a very good answer. I knew from 20 years of experience as a speechwriter that it takes about an hour per minute to write a speech. Some speeches take less; some take more. But an hour per minute is a pretty good rule of thumb.

My boss’s perception—and the perception of many people who don’t write for a living—is that a writer should be able to dash off a 40-minute speech in an afternoon or two. And truth be told, depending on the type of speech, it is sometimes possible to write a speech in just a few hours. It would have to be a speech on a topic that the speechwriter already knew quite well, so it wouldn’t require any research or revision, which would make it a very rare type of speech. But it’s possible. In the past, I’ve whipped up short speeches on short notice. An example would be a motivational or inspirational speech to employees that is strong on emotional appeal and light on facts and figures.

But this particular 40-minute speech was to an external audience of industry experts at a trade show. And actually, it wasn’t really a speech. It was a presentation with a script. In addition to research and revisions, it was going to require preparation of a PowerPoint presentation. I wasn’t putting the PowerPoint presentation together (if I was, I would have added 50 percent to my time estimate). But it was still going to require time to gather facts and review the presentation, so an hour per minute was a fairly conservative estimate.

With a little math, the hour-per-minute estimate for speech preparation can be adapted for other types of writing. People speak at a rate of 100 to 150 words per minute. So if you assume a “median” speaking rate of 125 words per minute, you can assume for time-budgeting purposes that it’s going to take about an hour to write 125 words for a speech—or for any other type of communication. Again, that estimate includes research and revision time.

A disclaimer: I was not trained as a journalist and have never worked as a journalist. I offer this disclaimer because I know some journalists will scoff at the idea of taking an hour to write 125 words. That’s because some journalists have a superhuman ability to crank out vast volumes of words under tight deadlines, often after consuming quantities of caffeine that cause kidney failure in a normal human being. Of course, many journalists also experience a high rate of job burnout. So for my money (and my sanity), an hour a minute works pretty well.

Mike O’Mary is founding dreamer of Dream of Things, a book publisher and online community for writers and other artists.

New Blogger in Town

doorway low res

by Mike O’Mary

Hello Friends. This is my first post as a guest blogger on Freelance-Zone, so allow me to introduce myself. I am a writer, editor, publisher and producer. Didn’t plan things that way…that’s just the way it turned out. My experience includes everything from writing speeches and annual reports for large corporations (as a freelancer and as an employee), to publishing creative writing in Sunday magazines across the country, to producing sketch comedy shows in Chicago. Along that way, I may have (inadvertently) picked up some useful knowledge. I’m painfully aware of the things I don’t know, but I sometimes surprise myself with the things I do know. So in my guest blogs, I will endeavor to share some useful information with you, and discuss various aspects of doing corporate and creative work as a freelancer. 

Another thing I intend to do is to provide you with opportunities to publish at Dream of Things. So consider this a call for submissions: we are currently accepting essays for books on a variety of topics. Think “Chicken Soup” with wild rice, thicker stock, more meat, lots of veggies, and cilantro and tortilla chips sprinkled on top. Or, more to the point, “Chicken Soup” with a soul. Maybe that’s overstating things, but I hope you get the point…I’m looking for good stories with substance. 

A few words about “story” versus “essay.” Some people hear “essay” and think “term paper.” Or worse, they think self-indulgent opinion piece. I use “essay” and “story” interchangeably at Dream of Things. That’s because when I say “essay,” what I really mean is “creative writing that tells the story of a meaningful or humorous experience, or the story of an interesting or inspiring person.” It’s possible to pull off an essay built around your personal observations and insights, but you have to be very clever or exceptionally insightful to make it work. So when in doubt, tell me the story of that experience or that colorful character. 

You may already be writing the kinds of essays we’re looking for on your blog. And new writers are welcome. For details, see the Dream of Things Workshop Projects. Till next time, dream on.

Thoughts On Google Chrome?


by Catherine L. Tully

Is everything we know about computer operating systems about to change? If Google has its way–it is. Google Chrome is making a big splash, and people are saying that things like virus software and computer updates may well be a thing of the past if it catches on. The key will be having a notebook computer that has Chrome installed on it. Flash-based memory will replace hard drives and online storage will allow faster, more efficient booting and saving. While the manufacturers that Google will be pairing with are still a mystery, it is interesting to think about what may be down the road for us all…

Check out some of the FAQs from PC World and let me know if you’re excited.