Category: WAHM

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 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!

Maintaining Productivity in a Home Office

Notepad...

(Thank you to Jon for such a wonderful guest post!)


You’ve taken the plunge and decided to join the growing number of men and women who work at home. You’ve redesigned your work-space, updated your computer system, and put in a new phone line, and maybe a fax as well.

These are all important steps, but whether you’re a consultant, a freelancer, a student engaged in online education, or a contract worker doing something like medical billing, there are certain patterns you’ll need to set in order to remain productive when your commute is only a few feet, or a flight of stairs.

Here are some tips for staying in “work mode” during the work day, and maintaining your focus as well:

  • Keep Regular Hours: “Regular” in this case does not necessarily mean 8:00 – 5:00, unless you have a spouse or child who needs to follow that sort of schedule, in which case doing so may be easier for you. It does mean keep your hours consistent. You can work from 6:00 AM – 3:00 PM or 10:30 AM – 7:30 PM, or any other set of hours that works for you, but you’ll be most productive if you figure out a schedule that works for you, and stick to it.
  • Get Dressed: There’s no doubt that one of the more attractive elements of working from home is the ability to work in your pajamas, but you’ll be far better off if you actually get dressed every morning. Unless you’re meeting with clients or colleagues, you don’t have to dress in corporate drag, but you should make the effort to put on real clothing – it puts you in a “working” state of mind.
  • Make Lists: Whether you keep a simple list of goals for the month, week and/or day, or plan each hour of your day, keeping a list will help you stay on task, and account for your time, which is especially necessary if you bill per hour. If you forget to make a list in the morning, do it before you stop work for the day, and include things you already accomplished, then cross them off. It will help keep you feeling productive.
  • Close the Door: Even if you live alone, closing your office door when you’re working can help reinforce that “work mode” mind set, by preventing you from seeing the living room rug that needs to be vacuumed, or the big screen television that is calling you name. If you do have a spouse or children hovering, it reminds them – and you – that you mustn’t be disturbed. At the end of the day, closing your office door behind you also helps signal that you are “leaving” work, and reinforces the necessary separation we must all learn to make.
  • Turn Off the Phone and Instant Messaging: Text, Twitter, IM, and even normal phone calls are all time-eaters. If you routinely have calls to return, designate “call back” hours, during which you return messages, and list those hours on your outgoing voicemail messages, so you’re not constantly answering the phone. Keeping the text and internet messaging/social messaging tools turned off also keeps you focused on work. Give yourself a limited amount of time to interact online during the work day, rather than having things open all the time.
  • Music Helps: When you’re working without the buzz of water cooler chatter and other people’s conversations in your ear, the quiet can feel oppressive at times. Pop a CD in, or fire up iTunes and set it to shuffle, or even just turn on a radio. It will help you stay motivated, and also help make you feel less isolated. If music doesn’t do it for you, consider listening to podcasts, or talk radio.
  • Keep things Tidy: We may joke that clean desk is the sign of a sick mind, but the reality is that tidying your workspace at the end of the day, makes things seem much less overwhelming the next morning. Coming into your office to a clear desk allows you to get right into your work each day. Make end-of-day clean-up a habit. You’ll thank yourself later.
  • Exercise: A little bit of physical activity during the day helps boost energy. Whether you go to the gym before you begin working, or take your dog for a walk around the block during lunch, be sure to get some exercise in every day. This will also help you feel less antsy about being inside the rest of the time.

As we adjust to this economic downturn, many of us will be working from home, either to form our own niches, or to add secondary income streams to our existing jobs. Remembering that it’s still a job, even if the boss is you, and setting schedules and limits, will help you maximize your work hours, and minimize any stress.

Link love

rusty chain

Subscribing to others’ blogs is a great way to keep up with your interests, make new online friends, and learn new things. I’m subscribed to several, but hadn’t made the time (until today) to read through them.

As I peruse my feeds, I’ll let you know when I find some interesting articles.

There’s a wonderful list of resources, for any type of entrepreneur, over at Cath Lawson’s Tips for Success in Business & Life. I’ll be regularly checking her blog, since I seem to need lots of motivation to get my business(es) off the ground.

Stay tuned for more!

Working at your best

Arizona Sunrise

I often claim that I don’t want to work a 9-5 job because I’m not a morning person. But that isn’t quite accurate. I actually find that I’m most focused and energetic in the morning hours.

For instance, right now it’s almost 10 a.m. and I’ve cleaned my fish tank, cleaned up my daughter, done some research, caught up with my Facebook account, edited a few blog posts, and now I’m writing this post.

In the late night hours I’m beginning to find that I don’t concentrate as well as I used to. During my college years, I spent a lot of time doing my best work in the midnight hours, sometimes pulling all-nighters. But if you got a chance to read over my last few posts (all written at night), you might have noticed some unforgivable errors. (Hopefully I caught them all this morning).

While I do have more time in the evening, my mind can’t focus on details so well. Perhaps it makes sense to write drafts at night, editing them in the morning. Or maybe the midnight hours should be reserved for tasks that are no-brainers (like household chores).

When do you do your best work? Does it depend on the type of work? Has it changed over time for you as well?

Just ask

One of the life lessons that I keep relearning is to just ask.

When I had a problem with paying a bill on time, I called the company and just asked for an extension. When I was given a replacement laptop after my first one broke (before the warranty ran out), I just asked for an extended warranty (for free).

Now I just have to apply that fearless asking to my entrepreneurial efforts…and so should you.

How can you get new clients? Call or email them and just ask for their business. Or just ask your friends, family, and colleagues for referrals.

How can you get a magazine to take your story? Well they certainly won’t say ‘Yes’ if don’t ask them first.

What’s the worst that will likely happen? You’ll hear, “No.” Or maybe, “No!!” Personally, when it comes to most things I don’t take no as a final answer, but there’s always a point where you have to let it go.

My three-year-old daughter has certainly mastered the concept. She asks for things all the time, or for situations (like getting picked up instead of walking), and she’s rather successful. Hearing “No” doesn’t deter her much either.

So get out there! Don’t hold your tongue. Especially when it comes to everyday issues like bills and such. Just ask. You’ll be surprised how easy it is.

The speed of life

Working toward being a self-sustaining business owner is definitely not for the faint of heart. My journey recently included starting to substitute teach again. The goal? To make some steady money while not forgetting I really want to solely be an entrepreneur.

So far, it’s been pretty rocky. My last part-time gig was as a call center representative, and my poor throat has never been the same. Working with a classroom full of kids has made my throat injuries flare up again, so this gig may be short-lived. High school kids are easier (I just shut up and let them work), but the jobs aren’t steady yet (still early in the Arizona school year, though).

Though my 3-year-old likes her preschool, we miss being together, so we taken a few field trips during the week anyway.

It’s tough. Sometimes it’s difficult to keep up, so remember that it’s the journey that counts…not the destination. Life is a highway.

Blogging faux pas

If you’ve been around the blogging block, you’ve probably seen those lists of things blogger should never do. For instance:

1. Don’t fail to respond to your comments

2. Don’t fail to write regularly

3. Don’t stray off topic

4. Never apologize for, or explain, an absence.

Well I’m not one for following rules if they don’t fit my situation (unless they’re rules or laws handed down by the powers-that-be).

I do respond to many comments, but I don’t have time to answer every single one (thanks for being a talkative bunch!) But I definitely appreciate them all, and I look forward to them a lot. So keep commenting so I know you’re out there, and feel free to talk amongst yourselves sometimes. Conversations are a good thing.

Writing regularly is also something I aim for, but life gets in the way a lot. Luckily I have some faithful commenters who give me a kick in the rear if  I take too long between posts. :)

Staying on-topic is important, but it helps when you actually have just one topic. Crayon Writer is loosely about my journey as a freelance writer and single mother working from home, so there are a lot of topics I can safely cover (parenting, mothering, children, writing, working from home, blogging, and a whole lot more).

Finally, the one rule I think I haven’t “broken” is not apologizing for or explaining a long absence. Or at least I try to weave it into another blog post, like this one. I’ve been gone for a long time getting over my first (and hopefully last) bout of the stomach flu, and it really knocked me down for the count. Coupled with moving, I’ve gotten really behind with everything.

So, thanks for your patience, thanks for still reading, and enjoy my apologetic flurry of posts-to-come.

Do you follow all the blogging rules? Why or why not?