Monday, June 22, 2009

My eProduct Boycott

I'm a product junkie. I don't know what it is: hair products, skin products, makeup, books, ebooks, ecourses, teleseminars, reports -- I just can't get enough. Last week I got burned.

I paid for the webinar to learn something new

I paid to attend a webinar by someone I "know" on Twitter two weeks ago. It was not very expensive, and was supposed to help actually help me learn a skill that I really need right now. I found some online tutorials I was attempting to learn from, but I was completely hopeless. This webinar came into my life at the right time. It was fate; or so I thought.

The day of the webinar arrived and I was excited beyond words (yes, I am a geek). When I dialed in, no webinar. I received an email stating that the instructor was having serious Internet issues so the webinar was being rescheduled; same time the following week.

More problems

Next week came. Once again I excitedly dial in – about 10 minutes late, but still enough time to get the info I need. This time there was a confused fellow with a British accent also on the line attempting to communicate with the instructor, who obviously wasn't there. He became exasperated and announced that if she could hear him on the line he was hanging up to email her to find out what was going on. When I checked my email this time there was no message. I go to Twitter (she'd been Tweeting about the seminar for days to get more participation) I see nothing except a couple of Tweets indicating an impromptu trip to the beach three hours earlier.

I'm more disappointed than anything (which means I've matured a lot because back in the day I'd be hopping mad). I contacted her about it via email and she stated that for some reason or other she was unable to utilize the webinar system. Okay. Stuff happens sometime. She has assured me that I will receive my refund.

My revelation is not about people who fail to operate in a professional manner and do as they say. It certainly could have been, but it's not. It's about the fact that I have all of these FREE tutorials online and books available. I only need to take the time to read and learn this on my own. For FREE.

I already know that

The last ebook review I did here confirmed that I already a lot of the useful information that's out there about building a freelance writing business. Why should I bother buying another "how to" ebook," teleseminar or report? Why don't I just save my hard earned money and use the information that I already know?

The draw of most eproducts is the fact that the authors are giving you the information you want all wrapped up in a PDF so you don't have to worry your pretty little head about finding it yourself. The truth is a lot of what you want to know about freelancing and business can be found somewhere on the net; you just have to patiently search for it.

No more eproducts for me…for a while…

So from this day forth I vow not buy another information product until I start using the information that I already have in my head and on my hard drive. The only products I will purchase will be strictly for the sake of providing an honest review, and those are few and far between. Maybe I can save up enough to buy a new laptop…

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Freelance writers need vacations too

I confess: I haven't taken a vacation since I began freelancing in the Fall of 2007. But this summer my family is looking forward to attending a family reunion, and I'm busy making plans to handle my business while I'm gone. On the one hand I want to be able to relax and enjoy myself for a few days without worrying about business. I'll be away for less than a week, so it's possible; but realistically I know I won't be able to resist checking my email at least once or twice.

Finding the right vacationing strategy

I've heard two different schools of thought about how freelance writers should handle vacations. Some say you should outsource the work to another writer you trust and completely avoid telling clients you'll be away. That seems a little risky if you're pretending like you're still available because you'd still be required to stay on top of all email correspondence; and that's no way to relax and have fun.

Others advise telling clients upfront that you have a vacation scheduled. Let them know your return date, and if you like, supply them with the name(s) of another writer who can help them in your absence. The problem many freelancers have with this plan is that they are afraid of losing clients while they are away.

I firmly believe you need some sort of plan in place to successfully schedule time off. Few clients will be surprised to learn that you're taking some much needed time off. Here are a few tips that can make the planning process less of a pain:

Tell your clients that you will be unavailable.
Make sure to provide them with the necessary dates of your departure and return. Make sure you provide enough advance notice, which can be tricky. Some bigger projects might require a couple of month's notice, while 30 days notice works for others.

Work ahead of schedule if possible. Write and preschedule blog posts, spend a little extra time finishing up projects before your vacation so that nothing is left hanging until you return. Organize your office and files so when you return getting back to work is much easier.

Find a back up writer.
Just in case there is an emergency you can't handle while you're away, or as a courtesy for those projects that just can't wait. This could be viewed as extremely good customer service on your end.

I'm sure there are other several other good ways to prepare for time off I may have missed. How do you handle vacation time?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Writer Associations: Are They Worth It?

At some point many freelancers become aware of the many local and national writers associations out there. Maybe you belong to one or two yourself. But if you're just getting started, you might wonder whether paying regular membership fees to these organizations is worth it. You're already getting clients who are keeping you busy with projects, so what's the point of parting with your hard earned money to join one?

Membership has its benefits

Writers associations often come with a number of benefits. Many of these organizations support writers of various genres (e.g. magazine writers, fiction, science fiction, history, etc.). By joining a local association, you may have an opportunity to meet and mingle with members on a weekly or monthly basis. For many of us it's an excuse to get out and socialize. You get to meet others in varying stages of their writing careers. Many associations offer continuing education through regular workshops, lectures and annual conferences increasing the networking opportunities.

Other members only benefits include access to exclusive web pages and articles, member directories, private forums, newsletters, publishers, listings of publishers, book agents and even mentoring programs. Of course group membership could also make you eligible to join group health/dental insurance plans and prepaid legal programs.

Does it meet your needs?

If you can afford the membership fees, you might find that it's worth the investment. Before you join an association, make sure that the focus of the group meets your needs as a writer. For instance, if you're hoping for more help with the business side of things like creating contracts or tips for handling collections on unpaid projects, choose an association that can provide the support you need and helpful resources.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Staying on Task to Get it All Done

To say that last week was challenging for me would be an understatement. Multiple deadlines, kids at home for the summer, one very sick kid, and trying to find a new mini van (ours was recently stolen >:/) just about pushed me over the edge. I survived, of course, but realized that a lot of my problems stemmed from procrastination and allowing myself to entertain unimportant distractions instead of staying on task.

What happened to my mojo?

I don't know if it's the season change or what, but despite scheduled projects I've been having a difficult time concentrating on one thing and staying focused. I'm not burned out or anything, just very distracted. As a result, I procrastinated a lot last week and when an unexpected illness cropped up with one of my kids, I was left sweating to meet deadlines.

Even though I met my obligations as promised, I put unnecessary stress on myself, and also risked the quality of the work I produced. I certainly can't afford to lose the clients I've worked so hard to acquire, so I'm working on finding solutions to help keep me on task during the week.

Setting goals

Here's a big part of my problem. When I first started freelancing I set daily goals, monthly goals, six month goals and long-term goals. This might be too anal for some, but it gave me the eye of the tiger. Setting goals gives you a start line and an opportunity to create a strategy to reach the finish line.

Create a to-do list

I'm completely lost without lists because my priorities are scattered all over the place. When I make a to-do list, I accept the fact that everything listed may not get done. I assign priority to each task in order of importance and get on with the work of crossing things off.


I don't know about you, but the reward system works like a charm for me. Whether I'm slaving away on a client's project, dieting or buying a new car with my husband (trust me, it's NOT a fun experience), having something to look forward to helps me keep a steady pace and get things done. I'm a simple girl, so a treat for me is a couple of hours sans kids to see a movie, window shopping in Little 5 Points (Atlanta's version of New York's East Village), browsing around the library, my favorite book store or having lunch with friends. Rewarding yourself with something fun for all your hard work is essential.
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