Category: Home Business

Sound the Alarm (or not)

tick tock 24

I haven’t used an alarm clock in many, many years.

Why not?

I hate them. They’re loud, obnoxious, and they wake me up! I know, I know. That’s the point of alarm clocks. But I find them an intrusive device, and I don’t use them anymore (except on very rare occasions).

You may be thinking, “The nerve of that woman! Alarm clocks are a necessary part of life. Just like wearing a watch.” Well, actually, I don’t wear a watch either, but that’s a story for another time (no pun intended).

My disdain for loud alarms may actually have its roots in high school. I went to a school that didn’t use bells. When it was time to change classes, we changed classes (when the teacher gave his or her okay, of course). We had to use our minds to stay on-time while stopping at our lockers or chatting with our friends.

Sometime during college, I started realizing that I often wake myself up before the alarm goes off. I must have started practicing this skill, and I tried my best to make sure I didn’t have to be anywhere super early. Also, I generally find that I won’t sleep past 8a.m. no matter what time I go to sleep at night.

Eventually I had my daughter, and that just solidified my habit. Babies wake up all the time, and my daughter especially can’t stand sleeping once the sun is up. Surprisingly, I can always go back to sleep when I want, but somehow I can still set my mental alarm for how long I plan to stay asleep.

Waking without an alarm doesn’t work so well when there is a schedule change, though. If I suddenly have to start getting up at 5 a.m., I will set the clock. But worrying about sleeping through the alarm generally wakes me up before it sounds.

Not having to rely on alarm clocks is refreshing. There’s something unsettling about being awoken from a sound sleep by a loud, scary noise. It makes waking up harsh and unkind. I highly suggest giving it a try, maybe starting with a weekend or during vacation.

What about you? Do alarm clocks play an important role in your daily life?


Happy 2010!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! I hope you had a productive 2009, and of course I hope this year goes even better for you.

I’m not one to make resolutions just because there’s a new year, but it makes sense to mark the beginning of something (day, week, hour, minute) with some sort of goal or plan. My personal goal is to work harder on doing what I need to be doing. Making myself “go” has got to be one of the toughest things.

What general plans do you have for this beginning? Do share!


Get it in writing!

To Sign a Contract 3

Recently I agreed to do an editing project for an acquaintance of mine. We agreed that I would be getting paid for my services, and I agreed to work for less than I usually do.

This may not be a problem on its own, but I made the HUGE mistake of not getting a written contract. Or even a spoken contract. I trusted the acquaintance and thought that I’d at least get paid a fair wage for my work.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. And I know the damage is done.

Being a nice guy is great, I suppose, but if you want to get paid properly you really need to get some kind of contract. By just letting things fall where they may you set yourself up to be used. You can be a nice guy by giving your friend, family member, or acquaintance a “nice” contract to sign. It may seem harsh, but it’s the only way you can (sort of) protect yourself.

Even with a contract there’s no guarantee you’ll get paid. This is one reason it makes sense to get some type of deposit up-front…at least you get something for your work. But without a contract you set yourself up for getting nothing at all.

What kind of contract should you write?

The simplest (and maybe nicest) contract is an email exchange. After you talk on the phone or in person and iron out the details, send a short email summarizing what price and terms you’ve agreed to. I did do this with my last client, but I didn’t do one more crucial step. Before you start working on the project, WAIT for your client’s emailed response. In that responding email the client should clearly concur with your summation.

Another method is to write up a general agreement that outlines your terms and the price you’re charging. You should sign it and then give it to your client to sign. Either make a copy of the signed agreement or just have two agreements for the each of you to sign. Once you have that in hand, go ahead and start working on the assignment.

Contracts that are spoken — oral agreements — are legally binding, but they’re difficult to prove and, therefore, difficult to enforce. Don’t feel like you’re being a bad guy by running your business properly. As a benefit, you’ll start finding that clients treat you with respect when you command it from the beginning.

What kinds of contracts have you used for your freelance work? Do you have any horror stories?


Google Voice for freelancers

Thanks to a good friend of mine I recently found out about Google Voice. And am I ever so glad I did!

Google Voice is a freelancer’s dream.

Here’s how it works. You choose a phone number you like. I chose one that’s local to my current home.

Say you don’t have long distance at home, like I don’t. But your cellphone reception is poor in your home, like mine is. If you’re online with your computer, type in the phone number you want to call. Like magic, your landline home phone rings! You pick it up, and your call is connected (for free) to the number you typed in.

Not in front of your computer? No problem. Pick up your landline and dial your Google Voice number. You’ll get an option to place a call. Anywhere in the U.S. and it’s free!

Even better, give your new Google Voice number to anyone, like clients. When they call you, you can set it up so that both your home and cellphone ring. So you’ll never miss an important client call, unless you want to. And they’ll have a professional, local number to call, and you can answer it wherever you are. If you’re staying out of town for a week, you can set it to ring the phone wherever you happen to be residing.

I also like that you can block certain numbers, and you can even set it to make the caller give their name first. If you want, you can send them to voicemail (and even listen to their voice message as they’re leaving it).

Anyway, I think it’s cool, and I like not having to give out my real number to people. Their caller ID shows my Google Voice number as well. And if I ever need to make a change then poof! No one has my real numbers anymore. But call blocking should take care of any annoyances too.

The only drawback is that you have to request an invitation from Google Voice, and then you have to wait patiently (I waited about a month) for your invitation. I have no idea how many they’re giving out, or if it’ll always be free. But for now it is, so head on over and put in your request. But choose your number wisely. It costs $10 to change it later. You can enter a word you’d like your number to correspond to, or search through for certain numbers in a sequence.

One more perk…If you have an Android cellphone (like I do), you can automatically make all of your outgoing cellphone calls using Google Voice. So your cellphone number is still protected from folks, and if you’re calling local clients they still get that local number.

Do you have Google Voice? Let us know if you do, or if you plan to get it soon.


Well-fed challenge – Week one

Phone series # 4

When you need help staying motivated and on-task, it makes sense to issue yourself a challenge. And what better way than to publicly challenge yourself. If you’re game, join me and we can have a mini-contest.

The other day I started reading The Well-Fed Writer (I’m reading the ebook version until the hard copy arrives). So now I have a plan of action.

I started out with my local library’s business database. I did a search for companies in my local area with more than 20 employees. I also made sure they had web addresses, so I can do a little research while I make my cold calls.

Using a free database like this, though, I could only print/download up to 25 records per search. So that meant searching repeatedly. Anyway, I have a list of about 200 businesses now.

My goal is to make 400 calls in the next 20 workdays, starting tomorrow. That gives me until August 20, 2009. When I’m not able to call, I’ll send out cold emails at least, and I’ll follow-up with a phone call.

So that’s the first step in my quest to becoming a “well-fed” writer.

Reading the book re-motivated me, and it reminded me that cold calls aren’t really that scary. You just have to make yourself do it. I’ll report back next week.

Would you like to join me on my Well-Fed Challenge? How do you approach cold calling?


Well-fed Writing


Now that I’ve decided to make my freelance writing business really work, I realize it’s time to make some serious moves.

First thing’s first. I need powerful ammunition to stay on-task and motivated. The first book I read on freelance commercial writing was The Well-Fed Writer, by Peter Bowerman. His book laid out an easy-to-follow blueprint for success, and when I followed directions I really did make money. I had clients, a decent income, and I was on my way.

I do tend to get side-tracked (as you know), and Peter’s book was written mostly from his point-of-view. But he just published a new, updated, expanded edition. There are lots of anecdotes from other successful commercial writers, and I’m just so impressed with what he’s accomplished with this edition.

And his book came at just the right time. Right after I made my decision to get serious with my business, I got an email from him alerting me to his newest book. Serendipitous!

I’m also impressed with Peter’s willingness to answer questions. I’ve had several replies from him, though I’m careful not to overdo asking him stuff. Being personable has won me over as a fan. I’d buy and promote almost anything he writes since he takes the time to respond to inquiries.

Do you have dreams of becoming a successful commercial writer? Maybe we could start a writer’s group to motivate each other. Or if you already have a freelance writing business, maybe you need a good kick in the rear too.

Click on this link to check out the new edition of The Well-Fed Writer. You can buy it in ebook or hardcopy formats (or both), and there are a few other ebooks you should consider as well. I also got the Toolbox and Timeline, both of which are well-worth it.

When you buy it, let me know. I’d love to have others to discuss it with, and you can feel free to leave a mini-review in the comments.

What are you waiting for? Check out the 2009 The Well-Fed Writer and let me know if you’re as impressed with it as I am. His site also has a bunch of free things too, so if you’re even a little bit interested you should head over to The Well-Fed Writer.

Have you been bitten by the commercial writing bug?

Back to work (at home)

Parasail

Sometimes it makes sense to follow your instincts. In my case, working outside of the home while my daughter went to preschool just wasn’t feeling right. Besides, I was only working part-time (not near my house). And my brilliant 4-year-old figured out how to get sent home every other day or so (if she acts up, they send her home…great incentive to misbehave, don’t you think?)

So it’s back to working from home, which is where my heart is anyway.

I’ve got a few plans and ideas to make this work this time.

Blogging is a great way to make a little income, and for some it can be more than just a little. I’m going to get back to blogging basics, which includes article marketing, affiliate programs, and flat out advertising. I have to regain my PageRank so I can be more competitive. I will also take advantage of the various blogging classes offered online, some for free, and some not. I can figure it out all by myself, but it makes sense to also learn from others’ mistakes and successes.

My writing/editing business will be transformed into a marketing consultant business. And of course that means more cold calls, cold emails, and networking.

Speaking of networking, I’ll continue to enhance my brand using Twitter, and I’ll consider using Facebook and LinkedIn as well.

I’m also considering doing some in-home childcare, but that will take careful thought and planning. Babies are pretty easy, but they still require full-time attention. There’s an after-school crowd in my neighborhood, though, so maybe some latch-key babysitting and tutoring will work better.

Lots of work ahead of me, but being home for my daughter is worth it. Homeschooling is my ultimate goal, and with determination I know we can do it. Wish us luck, check back here often, follow us on Twitter, and tell your friends/colleagues to visit too.

What is your heart’s desire? Are you working toward that goal?

Another year for Crayon Writer!

Birthday

Crayon Writer is officially two years old! Happy Anniversary, Crayon Writer!

Though I haven’t been writing as often as I used to, I’m proud to have made it to the 2-year mark. Now it’s time to reexamine my goals, both for this blog and my life and hopefully that will help me keep Crayon Writer going for another year.

When I first started this adventure, I just wanted a place to talk about my life as a work-at-home single mother. But as my daughter grows and changes, I’m finding that I do too. Working from home is still my goal, but it may not be a reality in the near future.

My daughter’s already been going to preschool, and kindergarten is right around the corner. She’s turning into a lovely, independent child, who often prefers to “go somewhere,” preferably without Mommy hanging around. On the other hand, I’m still not keen on sending her to school for 10 hours a day, so I have to have some type of home-based work (along with a part-time job).

So join us in our next adventure(s)! This year, with my daughter as a 4-year-old, things are going to be exciting. There’ll be adventures in babysitting, possibly a move to a new state, interesting jobs, and definitely some freelance copywriting gigs.

Thanks for being part of our lives these past couple of years!

Getting referrals for your freelance business

Present 2

Working full-time for an employer may seem to put a damper on your freelancing business, but maybe it’s a secret weapon in disguise. Your employer may be a valuable source of referrals, little gifts that can go a long way toward enhancing your freelancing career.

Here are some tips for making your job work for you (as long as your employer doesn’t mind that you moonlight).

  • Your current employer may have hundreds of contacts, so be sure to ask for referrals. Even if you aren’t writing at your job, let your boss know that you are looking for new business. Give them your brochure, along with links to your online portfolio, website, and blog.
  • If your job doesn’t entail writing or editing, try to find opportunities to showcase your skills anyway. As a secretary, I’m often making copies, so I find time to scan outgoing documents for errors…a win-win situation for everyone.
  • Above all, do your best work, whatever it may be, at your current job. Even though you’re looking for writing referrals, your boss will be more inclined to help you if you went above and beyond to help them.

I also came across a great article over at Freelance Switch that discusses more ways to increase referrals.

How have you gotten referrals for your business? Has a current or former employer helped you?

Start at the very beginning

Running track 1

As “Maria” from The Sound of Music says, starting at the very beginning is a very good place to start.

Recently I wrote Anne over at AboutFreelancing.com because I realize I feel like my freelance writing career needs to start over. While I don’t have to start over from scratch (I do have a good portfolio), I do need to get started again.

One piece of advice she had for me was to start writing on Crayon Writer again, even if it’s just a little bit, so here I am.

Next, I need to figure out what’s holding me back from being the writer I know I am.

What about you? Are you living your dreams? Any advice for those of us who aren’t quite ready?