Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Putting my Talents and Skills to Good Use with a New Business Venture

Okay, I'm not going to apologize for this but I know it has been over two months since I shared any kind of update over here.

Like I said, I won't say sorry because life and other priorities do sometimes get in the way of blogging, even when blogging is your life and priority! But what I will do is share with all of you the amazing things that have been coming together over the past couple months.

There has been a very good reason for why I disappeared.

I’m in the midst of starting a new business with a great friend and colleague, a fellow writer and blogger and I am really, really excited to finally share it with all of you!

But before I get to the good stuff let me ask you a question:

Have you ever had an a-ha moment?

That one moment in time that causes all of your everything to come crashing together in a collision that both expands your mind and pinpoints the exact thing you’re supposed to be doing with your life?

When I was about 14 years old I had one of those. I started writing fiction and it was like everything clicked.

I felt like I’d finally found the thing I was good at. The thing I could put my entire personality into. To me, writing fiction was like being sucked into a black hole where I’d lose hours of time but it never felt like a loss because I was living in another time and place. One that I invented.

Fast forward through my life and take a pause in August 2012. That’s the month I wrote my second book, Reckless Abandon. That experience – writing a book that seemed to flow so easily out of my mind and fingers - opened me up to my second a-ha moment:

I knew I finally had enough life experience to use all that fiction writing to become a big famous fiction author!

Um, I know what you’re thinking…

What the hell happened?

Trust me, I thought the same thing.

And I thought it daily.

My sales went nowhere. My marketing was pitiful. I had no clue what I was doing and realized that no matter how good I was at the writing part, all that other stuff was so much more important to being the big famous fiction author I wanted to be.

How did I find that out?

Plain and simple research.

That research led me to read about a lot of tips for marketing online. Tips for how to use a blog to my best advantage.

Then I learned I could write blogs for clients. For an income. That I could actually find people that would hire me to write stuff for them online.

A-ha moment 3.

I’d already been blogging for 5 years. Maybe some of you have stumbled across my Randomness and Lunacy. I loved blogging and always wondered if I could do it for a living. Apparently I could.

But it was going to take a small shift. I needed to stop blogging about my crazy inner ranting and start sharing useful information about my experiences. Then I could blog for myself and others and make some money while I tried to get my fiction stuff off the ground.

I took classes. I practiced. I got some clients to pay me to write for them. I got some longer term people to hire me to write lots of interesting content that forced me to research a lot about a lot.

I made some money. Money that even helped my husband and I complete some home renovations and take vacations.

Not enough to live on just yet but I listened to all those people who taught the classes and wrote the blogs I loved. They said to be patient and work really hard. That I too could make six figures a year as a blogger!

It sounded all kinds of awesome.

I was seduced by the cash. Drawn in by the promise of better paying clients with great work.

I kept waiting for that part to happen while writing and writing. I pitched, wrote consistently and couldn’t get anything going. I would make a tiny bit of money so I’d stick it out. This was my daily routine for well over 2 years.

And I left my fiction in the dust.

I shoved my passion in a drawer.

Want to know the truth?

I missed it. A lot.

But I had all these newly learned skills that I wasn’t quite ready to give up on. Mostly because I paid a LOT of cash to get them and I thought that meant I had to use them in the exact way they were presented.

That if I learned about copywriting I should be a copywriter. If I learned how to write success stories that’s what I needed to offer as a service.

The reasons I’d first started writing seemed so far behind me.

A writer with no purpose or direction, I simultaneously felt like I had far too many potential career paths set out in front of me.

I was struggling with my worth as a writer, struggling with financial independence and struggling with reasons why I shouldn’t just go get a job as a bagger at my local grocery store.

Then I went to my writer’s meeting last spring and every single a-ha moment came into clear focus.

They formed the true and total a-ha moment I’d been spinning toward for years.

My colleague Kate and I sat next to each other, ready to learn from the speaker.

But what we ended up learning that night was that we both needed to stop relying on clients for our income.

We needed to take control of our businesses.

We needed to use our skills to provide a useful service to people like us.

One a-ha moment to rule them all

By the end of the night we realized we needed to work together.

I won’t go into all the details of the creation, (if you want to read about that you can visit our About page) but long story short:

Kate and I found a way to draw on both of our experiences writing for the web as well as our background in fiction to start this business.

It's called Blogging Your Book!

Blogging Your Book is the culmination of the past 27 years of my writing life.

Blogging Your Book is an opportunity to help aspiring authors.

Blogging Your Book is the only thing I want to focus my energy and attention on.

Let me see if I can explain what this feels like…

Imagine a fully finished puzzle sitting on a table. Each piece is attached to a piece of fishing line. At the exact same moment all those lines get pulled into the air, flinging every piece into a state of suspended flotation.

But someone was filming the whole thing.

Now, watch that scene in slow-motion, in reverse.

Every single piece of the puzzle falling so perfectly into their proper place on the table. Like a bird’s feather falling back to the earth to land with a whisper exactly where it belongs.

Years of studying, cramming, practicing finally making sense.

Yup. It’s pretty rad, calming and satisfying.

We’re not 100% up and running yet, our official workshop launch is happening in about 4 months, but you can subscribe to our newsletter now and I really think you should especially if you’re:

  •          An author who doesn’t know where to go with your book.
  •          An aspiring author who hasn’t published yet.
  •          A writer considering penning a book someday.
  •          Someone who enjoys blogging.
  •          In need of inspiration on your own writing journey.

So what does all this mean for this blog?

It means some formatting changes are likely happening in the next couple weeks.

That posting is likely going to cut to only 1-2 posts per month while I focus on writing for BYB with Kate (blogs, workshops and webinars).

Posts here are going to move back toward Author tips (and I’m so thankful for having learned the craft of blogging for business so I can bring the best advice in the best way!).

And I’m pretty likely going to find some time to start working on my fiction again.

Because what good is it teaching authors how to blog their book and find their fans if I’m not doing the same?


Don’t forget, sign up for the Blogging Your Book newsletter now so you can stay on top of the great tips we’re already sharing as well as the details for our workshops launching next spring!

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

5 Ways to Look Like an Internet Idiot

It has long been said by many a famous and infamous person that listening is a far more important skill than talking.

Those people would have been mortified by the internet.

Because in today’s day and age, it’s less often we find ourselves in a room full of people having conversations and far more often that we end up “in” a little electronic box full of people’s typed ramblings.

So my question:

Is “talking” on the internet the same thing as an in-person meeting and does listening even apply to the internet?

In my humble opinion? It applies even more online than in a face-to-face setting.

Stephen R. Covey said it well (and you should listen!)

Here’s a quote I really like that kind of sums up exactly what I’m going to detail in this post:

"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply." -- Stephen R. Covey

Covey must have been talking about people who post comments on the internet! Because, more often than I’d like to see, people online run rampant with their opinions, bad attitude and complete disregard for the hard work that writers put in just to share their work.

These trolls essentially talk without listening.

People can be very self-centered, that’s human nature to a point, but that emotion is so heightened online because we’re in control of the words we write and no one can interrupt or cut us off from saying them. Isn’t that the way it should be?

If you’re trying to establish a real connection with someone, say for example you’re a freelancer looking to land a new client, then the answer to that question isn’t just ‘no’ but:

Oh HELL no!!!

Talking and talking about whatever floats from your brain into your fingers will never get it done. That’s because you’ll likely be making one of these 5 mistakes while doing all that rambling.

Take a second to stop focusing on yourself and think about how to have a perfect online conversation instead.

You might be an internet idiot if…

1. You don’t notice that no one’s listening anymore.

I’m not talking about newer writers trying to establish an audience with no comments yet. I mean seasoned writers who have lost their audience engagement (this could also be due to any of the next 4 points as well so keep reading).

We’ve all been at those parties where the annoying person keeps rambling on, oblivious to the fact that the people around them have checked out, stopped paying attention and maybe even walked away. Don’t be that person online!

If your posts used to get great engagement but of late you’re finding they have little to no traction then it’s time to go back to writing about what people wanted to read.

Engagement and conversation is the key to a healthy internet network. Listen to your readers by their clicks and comments and give them what they want to hear.

2. Your comments lack any connection to the original post.

This one is tricky because there’s a fine line between adding to the conversation and hijacking someone else’s post for your own gain.

There are going to be times when you read something that stirs some kind of emotion inside you. Your instinct will be to post a comment sharing your experience. Great! True connection is so crucial when chatting through the typed word.

What isn’t great? Taking over that post with your own thoughts and making it clear you never read what was originally written.

I mean this wholeheartedly - waxing on and on about your own thing, adding a link to your own thing in a comment box or elsewhere, and never even acknowledging the hard work and effort that writer spent to write their piece is just plain tacky.

The writer will wonder if you even took the time to read what they wrote or if you’re just a comment whore.

Finding you have a surprising connection to the material is wonderful but it takes no extra effort to type ‘I really connected to your point on {what stirred your emotions}, amazing job on this post thanks!’

3. You never promote anyone but yourself.

Hey, I’m a blogger and a freelancer and I get it. In this business shameless self-promotion is sometimes the key to getting your message out there. But what about all those useful things you read that inspired your posts?

Sharing, as they say, is caring.

If you don’t take the time to at least offer something useful outside of your own writing, what do you think your connections will think? They’ll think it’s time to walk away from your selfish ways and start promoting others who are more reciprocal.

Because making things happen online is all about scratching each other’s backs. If you never extend your arm to help them, why would you expect them to do that for you all the time?

4. You don’t act genuine, or, you’ve got two personalities.

For freelancers it is pretty important to portray a certain level of professionalism in all of your online correspondence. We leave our imprint on the world with the words we use in any given situation – our blog posts, forum posts, group chats, social media conversations and more.

But that doesn’t mean you should become someone else entirely. Just be you!

If “you” is a jack-ass then that’s what I expect to read in your posts. Don’t be flowery and shiny in your posts and a snarky bastard in your conversations.

That’s how you lose listeners.

For example, I’m sarcastic and swear in real life. You’re pretty likely to pick up on that shit over here too because it’s me (side note: I do not do this in client work because it’s not them).

I don’t put on another face to get readers. People who relate to my one face will read.

You don’t have to connect with everyone. There are far better ways to engage than to try and be fake just to reel people in.

There are way too many internet trolls out there already, don’t be one of them.

5. You have no connection to what you’re writing.

Sure as a freelancer it’s important to learn new things and experiment with new writing styles. We love to dive in there and do research then report on our findings through the work we do.

However, if you don’t care about your article, have no real interest in the subject matter and only write it in order to stay at the top of search engines, your words will feel impersonal and cold.

And like Goldilocks discovered, too cold is yucky.

If you don’t know enough about what you’re writing then do more research. If you don’t care about what you’re writing then write something else.

It’s much more likely people will listen if they feel you have a true understanding of the material you’re sharing.

Bottom line?

Stop being the person who talks and talks but never listens!

Listen to your readers. Engage in meaningful conversations in comment sections or forums. Actually read what other people write and congratulate them for the hard work that went into creating that post.

Listen to their words and they’ll do the same for you.

We’re all out here trying to fill the internet with better writing so remember – no one ever got anywhere on their own. Help them and they will in turn help you.

Listen to understand and then reply.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The 10 Sections of My Writing Contract

When Meatloaf sang “I will do anything for love” he wrapped it up by saying “but I won’t do that” and during the entire song I waited to find out what “that” was.

He never really told us but from the context I guessed it meant he’d keep doing the right thing and not cheat. I totally understand where Meatloaf was coming from.

Because, as a freelance writer, I would do anything for clients, but I won’t do that.

But instead of vaguely defining what I won’t do, I’m going to tell you straight out. Also, unlike Meatloaf who told his beloved that there were a handful of things he wouldn’t do, my “that” is one very specific thing.

Before we get to that though, let me give you a little background story about someone I connected with in a guest post on Be a Freelance Blogger and why this subject came up.

My guest post, in a nutshell, is about protecting your work with the benefit of copyright laws in your favor. Chris commented and asked if he could send a DMCA to a non-paying client and I realized there are probably a lot of freelancers out there, writing like maniacs and not getting paid.

I shuddered.

I would do anything for clients...

As far as running a business goes I struggle with some aspects – marketing in the right circles, keeping my desk free of crap, finding clients during dry spells – but the one thing I never had trouble with since I launched my first business was getting paid.

You’re probably asking if I’m some kind of anomaly, a figment of freelancing imagination, but the truth is I’m just like any other writer out there. I get insecure at times, question my abilities, feel like chucking the whole thing for a tiny house in the middle of nowhere to live off the grid.

So how do I manage to always get paid?

Because I always sign a contract before I start any work.

And this, my friends, is the “that” in my lyric:

…but I won’t work without protecting my income by signing a contract!

Sure you have to really speed up that line in order to fit it into the song’s melody but you get the gist:

          GET a contract!

Now this isn’t to say I never wrote pieces to get work when I first started out. Because as a newbie, all I had to go on were my own blog posts. And I certainly wasn’t getting paid to write those. Well, not yet. After writing my blog for a long time with my common purpose of gaining experience I used those posts to garner a client.

Then leveraged those first client posts to garner the next, higher paying client. And so on until today.

My writing has changed since those early days.

I was writing lots of Green product reviews when I first started out. I interviewed Green artists and other people in the industry. Soon after that I transitioned into socially responsible company profiles and soon I was taking on blog posts and info products like eBooks for clients.

The one thing I’d learned after running a decorative painting company was that a contract is a crucial aspect of doing business. So with each of those clients I signed the contract that best represented both our interests and protected us.

The client and I were able to see each other in a more professional light.

Which one of us – me or the client – writes the contract?

This is something that’s evolved over time for me. When I first started out I was doing very minimal work for basically no pay (ad revenue only) so an email agreement was plenty to get the work underway. The terms were set by the client, not me, but I approved them and started working.

Later clients also set the terms, generally based on per-post or per-project depending what we’d decided in back and forth emails. I pitched these clients for short-term or contract work.

When a potential client contacts me directly (after seeing a portfolio or profile) and requests pricing / timeframes on a job, I take the specs they’re looking for and write up my own contract to do business.

Since I’m the one running the production, distribution schedule and (most of the time) the topic headline for whatever the piece might be (blogs, eBooks, web copy, newsletters, etc.), I need to feel comfortable with the terms. Because I need to be comfortable with the schedule of delivery of the work.

For example, let’s say a client is looking for a 1200 word article. Because I refuse to release crappy content into the world I’d require a certain level of research, outlining and writing/editing that will take a few days.

When I write the contract those terms are clearly laid out to the potential client and (although I’d have covered this in email upfront, for purposes of the example stay with me here…) then the client can tell me if they are on board with the work I’ll do for the money they will pay me.

My contract has the following 10 sections

Use this as a guideline only, your unique writing business will have its own challenges or issues that must be addressed upfront.

1. Rates – The specific rate you charge for each type of writing included.

2. Payment – How you’re getting paid (PayPal, check, cash [not advised]), due dates, late fees.

3. Point of Contact – Many freelancers have assistants and email flows through that person so she/he can take care of small tasks before they reach the business owner’s inbox. Others are a one-employee-shop. The name & email of the person the client should contact goes here.

4. Kill Fee – Are you protected if you spend time on a project and just before you’re about to send the edited work the client writes to say the job is off? That’s what a kill fee is for. It pays a little bit of your originally agreed on fee for the time you already spent. My kill fee is 50%.

5. Revisions – Do you do revisions? Are you willing to do one complete re-write of what you sent? Sometimes it’s hard to get into a client’s head so to get on the same page (and possibly get a referral or continuing work!) sometimes it’s smart to offer re-writes/revisions. I give 1 included in the price then charge an additional 30% of the originally agreed on price if more revisions are needed.

6. Scope – Define every aspect of the job here – exactly what you’re writing, how you’re researching, what you’re researching, how the copy will be delivered (pasted in email, pdf, Word doc, etc.), and what isn’t included (graphics, uploading, etc.)

7. Copyright & Portfolio – Because I ghostwrite most clients don’t want me to share links directly but there are times I’ll be by-lined. For ghostwritten posts I request the ability to convert the final to a pdf (taking out identifying information) and use in my portfolio offline only (when emailing pitches for instance). By-lined pieces I can link on my site as well as share freely as long as its online. As for copyright – exclusive rights are mine on all by-lined pieces and I grant first electronic rights. I retain exclusive rights to my ghostwritten pieces until acceptance is signified by payment. And I don’t release use of the piece until payment is made.

8. Deadline – When you told the client you’d deliver the work by.

9. Rush Work – if they need a quick blog post in the next 12 hours define what your fee would be in this section. I tend to shy away from rush work because I like to set my hours how I like them. If you’re open to working at off hours or on the fly then you’ll want to include that in this section.

10. Electronic Signature – I include the line “Typed name and date will act as an accepted approval of this contract to do business.” I know there are new ways to sign documents now, Adobe has a cool looking one called EchoSign which I’d like to try in the future but for now I just use Word.

But just like my writing business in general I’m sure my contract will evolve over time. For now these sections work for me and have protected my business as well as my income.

Do you use a contract when securing a client? An e-mail? Some other way of ensuring you can get paid? Share in the comments!

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