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Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Copyright Primer

What I'm reading: The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor
What's on the iPod: Sign of the Times by The Clarks


Interesting day yesterday. I got a response to a Twitter referral. It was for a magazine I'd been hoping to get into, and my new Twitter contact gave me direct access to the editor. I've now sent out my proposal with fingers crossed!

I dug in to the tax forms and came up hours later with a tax bill reduction of $1,000. I intend to go back to it and figure my IRA deduction in once I make up my mind how much I can afford to invest.

Another interesting thing: got an actual response from our blog lifter. His first words were this: "First off, a more civil tone would help your cause greatly."

He fails to realize cordiality is reserved for people who aren't earning money off my labor without my permission. And of course he quoted to me his version of Fair Use, which says he can do what he damn well pleases because hey, he's only using a "snippet" and driving traffic to MY site. No mention of when I get a check for all that ad revenue my "snippets" have earned him.

I saw it for what it was - a clear attempt to deflect the facts by trying to chastise me for my tone and "educate" me on something upon which he remains clueless. So let me spell it out in case he's still linking:

Fact - you didn't ask permission. According to Fair Use, you are in violation for a few reasons; you didn't ask permission and you're earning money off my stuff. Unless you're going to share, you're taking my stuff down. Now.

So instead of biting back via email and prolonging the obvious, which is his attempt to validate his actions, I intend to send this snippet from the US Copyright Office's Fair Use Policy:

Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:

1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
2. The nature of the copyrighted work
3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

The distinction between fair use and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.

The 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law cites examples of activities that courts have regarded as fair use: “quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author’s observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied; summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report; reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy; reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson; reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports; incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported.”

Copyright protects the particular way authors have expressed themselves. It does not extend to any ideas, systems, or factual information conveyed in a work.

The safest course is always to get permission from the copyright owner before using copyrighted material. The Copyright Office cannot give this permission.
When it is impracticable to obtain permission, use of copyrighted material should be avoided unless the doctrine of fair use would clearly apply to the situation. The Copyright Office can neither determine if a certain use may be considered fair nor advise on possible copyright violations. If there is any doubt, it is advisable to consult an attorney.


So, blog lifter, to your notion that any lawsuit I file "will fail" - you sure about that?

Seems to be the week for these things, isn't it?

Writers, thoughts?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Worthy Tip: This Job, Not That Job

What's on the iPod: Yes, I Would by Frightened Rabbit

Got a good deal of work out off the desk yesterday, which feels good. I can actually invoice a respectable amount this month. I did have a wrangling with PayPal. Just try holding a joint account with someone while you have another account, and then try transferring your money into that other account. Not without six forms of ID, none of which appear to be acceptable to PayPal. The messages kept flashing: "This information is already being used in another account." Much of those messages were hogwash - I have one PayPal account with one bank account and no credit cards attached.

Still not loving how much technology improves my life, I called my bank. I still don't have my money, but I'm promised a password from my bank. Lucky me. That gets me into an account that I may not be able to link to PayPal. And thank you, PayPal, for charging me for everything imaginable. A charge to verify my credit card account? Seriously? They must not have enough money.

Yesterday's post drew a comment from Samantha, who asked my take on a content farmer (or lackey, as I put it), especially one with such a strong research background as she had. My take - you're underemployed. Even with a lower cost of living in Peru (it must be awfully low!), you can and should do better.

Here's how. Start looking at each gig you have with a more objective eye.

So in the spirit of helping a sister out, I'm bringing back the This Job Not That Job worthy tip of the week. Samantha, this one's for you.

Let's look at an ad I found:

"volunteer writings needed to help empower women (world wide)

My organization will be starting a free online magazine this year in June. The magazine will encourage and empower females in all areas
such as
inspirational writings
health
fashion
physical
finacial
The purpose of this magazine is to empower females with confidence in themselves. If you are able to volunteer in writing an article in any of theses areas please contact me with your name what areas you are interested in and a breif description of your self.
This is not a paid position it is volunteer worked. The magazine will be available for free online worldwide to all females

•Compensation: no pay"


It must be tough work to empower women. So tough, in fact, this person can't pay. While charity is a lovely thing, it does not translate into a writing gig. And that's precisely where this ad was posted - in the Writing Gigs section of Craig's List.

And either this person is an ee cummings wanna-be or has no concept of sentence structure. I'm betting the latter. It's pretty tough work, as I said before. There's no time to put the periods on the ends of the sentences, even. Or Spell Check. That's a tough icon to find these days.

Instead, try this:

"SELF Magazine

Self-confidence, self-assurance, and a healthy, happy lifestyle are pivotal to Self readers. This healthy lifestyle magazine delivers by addressing real-life issues from the inside out, with unparalleled energy and authority. From beauty, fitness, health and nutrition to personal style, finance, and happiness, the path to total well-being begins with Self. Monthly magazine for women ages 20-45.

1,500-5,000 words - Pays $1-2/word"


You're getting paid a fabulous rate. And yet you're empowering women. Wow, maybe it's not so tough after all?

What's the worst you've seen lately?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Curse of the Content Farm, er, Content

What I'm reading: Mornings Like These by Annie Dillard (found poetry)
What's on the iPod: Summer Nights by Rascal Flatts


Code in da node - I have one. You know that feeling you get the day after a bottle of wine? That would be me. Yesterday was brought to me by Advil and lots of water laced with vinegar (my mother's cure-all for colds and flu). It's a heinous combination, but it's my version of chicken soup.

Still really excited about how much fun Devon and I had with those who participated in our Webinar. I myself sat in this chair from 7 am to 5:30 pm answering questions and interacting. I didn't plan to, but I was caught up in the great interactions we were having. A HUGE thank you to Devon for being such a super co-host, and to Colin Galbraith for offering his time on a UK Saturday night to babysit our tech issues.

I was thinking back to my post yesterday, and maybe it was the post-codeine stupor, but I realized that the blog content I was referring to was nothing more than the blog version of content farm drivel. Here was someone taking other people's original work, rewording it, and calling it theirs. There was no legwork beyond going out and lifting it. And in this person's mind, that may actually seem legitimate. I don't know if the accused has worked for a content farm, but the method has all the earmarkings of it.

So if the precedent set by content farms - that writers think it's okay to just reword someone else's article and put their names at the top as author - is not challenged, does that mean it sets a precedent for all Web content? Egad.

So, content farm lackeys - if you want to know just how close to plagiarism and copyright infringement you are, here's a little guide:

Rewriting an existing piece does not make it original. It makes it a bastardized, sub-standard copy. And it could land you in hot water (notice I didn't say your content farm, for they're going to shift the blame entirely to you).

One source is not research. I write blog posts for companies, and I use online sources sometimes. I do not, however, use one source exclusively. That's the same as just rewriting something that isn't yours.

Ideas are not copyrightable, unless the idea is patented or the basis of someone's entire business model. How about just coming up with your own great idea? Here's the thing - you may think calling it "Guerilla Freelancing" or "Freelancing for Dummies" is so brilliant, but I think the companies/authors who came up with those ideas will beat you in court.

If your "research consists of rewriting each sentence, you're stealing. Seriously. Do I have to tell you that?

That said, Cathy sent me a link to what she thought was the offending website. It wasn't, but I was interested in what I saw. All my posts were there. They were attributed to me, but they were republished. Not sure how I feel about it. And a lot of you are showing up there, too. That the guy's name is Pariah is disconcerting enough.

What have you seen that skirts the lines - or even crosses the lines - of plagiarism and copyright infringement?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Thievery, Deceit, and Copyright Stomping

What I'm reading: The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor
What's on the iPod: This End of the Telescope by Jakob Dylan


What a great Webinar! Thanks to everyone who participated. The discussions were great, and we had a great time.

I spent the weekend wondering if I should even post this. I'm more live-and-let-live than I let on, but there are some things I cannot stomach. I bring it up because it affects you all - someone has been lifting my ideas and putting their own spin on them. Worse, that someone has built a following, claiming these ideas as "original." Well, they are. They're original to me.

I'm not talking about ideas that we all share, like hatred of content farms, writing letters of introduction, or hosting online seminars. I'm talking about taking my original concepts - ones you've heard here first - and branding them as their own. And they're stealing from other blogs, as well.

How it affects you - I was inches from putting password protection on this site. I don't mind people blogging about the same things and mentioning this discussion on their blogs. I do that. It's called attribution, and it's the decent thing to do. We share ideas here and across the blogosphere, but that sharing doesn't mean taking someone's unique ideas and claiming them as one's own. Nope. That's theft.

Thankfully a friend talked me down or we'd all be logging in to view today. It creates a huge dilemma because now I'm reluctant to share like I've done all these years, knowing that the respect you all have shown (meaning everyone in the blogosphere) is now marred by someone who's only thought is to build a career off the backs of everyone else.

I could confront. I could out the person. But that starts flame wars, and I'm not interested. Besides, we are a close-knit community, even the bad seeds, and I'd rather not divide over something personal. My best approach, in my opinion, is to go on working as though the blogger doesn't exist. There will come a time - the right time - when this will be dealt with personally. Not here. Not right now. I need to calm down first.

I think the part that really irks me is that now this blogger is offering themselves up as the expert on all things writing-related. This from someone whose ideas are recycled from here and from gawd knows where else.

So I apologize if I go a little underground in my topics for a while. You may have noticed it already anyway. I pulled back a week ago when it became apparent. I hate that I felt the need to. You deserve better.

One thing is certain - my voice cannot be stolen or copied. That you'll always have, like it or not. The accused has been noticed by lots of people, some of whom have alerted me in private. There seems to be an undercurrent of aversion to this particular blogger growing. I've heard about a lot, and it started last year, when my initial response was "Who? Never heard the name." I can't imagine how many other writers are upset that I've not heard about. I will say from what I've seen, my writing is a lot cleaner and a lot less sensationalistic. (Allow me that snarky moment, at least.)

In the end the posers will falter. They always do. Those who spend time building their careers organically - by working hard, learning as they go, and building credibility - will thrive. So I suspect this will sort out on its own sooner rather than later.

A lesson for all writers, new or veteran:

Be yourself. If the accused had any idea how many people have seen what's happening, he/she may realize the damage already done. If you want to be original, be yourself. You have your own uniqueness. Share it - not someone else's uniqueness.

Teach, but do so from your own experiences. You can't stand behind statements made by others from their experiences. And trust me, even newbies see through it. If you don't have the experience to teach anything new yet, give it time. Expand your business and take note of what you've discovered.

Stop exaggerating your importance. You are not an expert in say e-book writing because you've written one. You can't call yourself an expert just because you want to be. Being an expert means understanding the topic from all angles and having the common sense to know that your approach isn't the only way to get the job done. You may suffer being proven wrong - publicly - someday. We all learn as we go, even us veterans.

Respect your community. You're surrounded by fantastic people who will support you like family. Don't screw it up by stealing from them or making yourself out to be their superior. No one likes a show-off, especially one with little to back the boasts with.

Attribute. If you can't understand the basic concepts of attributing your sources - all sources, including other bloggers - you have no business being a writer. Give credit and share ideas. Don't claim what isn't yours, or your audience, when they discover it, will abandon you. As will your community.

Don't be a blowhard. Don't offer unwanted advice. Don't brag incessantly. Don't put yourself above the rest of your writing community or you'll soon find yourself an outcast wondering how you got there.

Now let's see how long before this is copied.

Have you witnessed or been victim of theft or copyright infringement?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Things That Elicit Laughter

What I'm reading: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
What's on the iPod: Wishing Well by The Airborne Toxic Event


Tomorrow is the day! If you've not signed on for The Confident Freelancer Webinar, come on. Join us. It's a self-paced seminar, and Devon and I will be around much of the day to answer questions and interact. Plus we're giving away two free critiques - one from Devon, one from me - of any one manuscript up to ten pages.

I'm not doing too badly with my vow to give up bitching and moaning for Lent. In fact, I'm pleasantly surprised with how that little switch has lightened my mood. Let's face it - bitching can be fun. But it's so counterproductive and it can creep into your overall mood.

In that light, I'm going to avoid my usual Things That Make My Head Explode post for some lighter fare.

Man Blew Up Crowded Pub Bathroom. Okay, I shouldn't laugh, but no one was hurt and the headline itself conjurs up so many bad jokes.... It happened at my favorite place - Molly Maguire's - and there seemed to be no evidence of the damage on St. Patrick's Day. Then again, I didn't use the men's room. What cracked me up was the sheer stupidity of the alleged culprit, who had blown something up just across the street a week or so prior and had talked to the police about that one.

Leprechaun in Mobile, Alabama. You have to see it to believe it. I think my favorite part is the woman who thinks the leprechaun is a "crackhead who got hold of the wrong stuff."

John Williams Tribute. Super-talented kid, and his t-shirts are funny.

Dancing Paul. It's like an XBox dancing game in reverse.

Pulp Fiction in 30 Seconds. Re-enacted by bunnies. Seriously.

What's making you laugh these days?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

FYI - Confident Freelancer Webinar

I've been getting some interesting questions about the Webinar, which is this Saturday. I just want to make sure everyone understands - this is not an all-day commitment for you if you want to attend. You're able to sign on at any time during the day and sign off in the same manner. We're around for 12 hours, but you don't have to be! Come and go at your leisure, please! At the end, you'll receive the e-book with the courses, so you'll be able to refer to them without having to worry about expiring passwords or missing a chat session.

If you're interested, please visit The Confident Freelancer to register. And please, if you'd like to know more, ask!

Busy Doing Nothing

What's on the iPod: Pink Cadillac by Bruce Springsteen

How can a person be so busy and not have much to do? Yesterday, I did that by trying to learn new Web technology. In my attempt to get a dedicated site together where writers can gather and share ideas, I came across things with strange names - Drupal, Joomla, PHP....I'm glad my husband has a strong understanding of these things, but he was at work.

I dug in. After about six hours, I was slightly closer to understanding what I was looking at. Worse, he'd come home, saw what I was trying to do, and said, "I have that up on the site already."

Great.

It's why I stick with writing.

Got an assignment yesterday - the juicy one - and I'm digging into it today, mostly because it's so juicy, but partly because I'm avoiding the tech stuff. Also, I had a conversation with a PR person on the article (I give her first dibs because her experts are excellent sources). We got to talking about the upcoming conference. That led to a phone conversation and two more potential clients. She's connected to some big companies and she was eager to share. That's the second PR person in a week to offer that to me.

I've used PR contacts in the past to get some work, but it's different this time because they approached me. I like that. When you find a good PR person, you rejoice. There are so many variations of PR reps - as there are writers - and the good ones stand out. Both these ladies have taken the time to understand my article needs and responded with great sources.

Today, more marketing and some initial research on the article. I have the questions lined up - now the research to get some answers. If I have time, I'll be back to Schedule C and put some agonizing time into it yet again. I'll find those deductions. I have to.

How's your week shaping up?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Confident Freelancer Webinar

Just three days left for you to register for The Confident Freelancer Webinar! If you haven't done so already, please consider joining us for the all-day event. We're open all day, and Devon and I will be present for much of it to answer questions and interact with you. Stay as long as you like/as long as you can.

The Webinar is self-guided and forum style - we'll post each course, then have a corresponding forum where we can discuss. We're loading prompts into each forum so you'll have something to talk about. :)

Remember, it's an investment in your business and your craft. And at $79, it's a bargain.

Stocking the Larder

What I'm reading upstairs: The Violent Bear it Away by Flannery O'Connor
What's on the iPod: Ten Thousand Words by The Avett Brothers


What a busy day yesterday. Devon and I have much, if not all the administrative stuff set up for our Webinar. I created a Facebook page for it, then went back and did it the right way. Facebook, to me, is just confusing to operate. It's not self-explanatory, and when I have a million other details to deal with, the last thing I want to do is read through a Help menu. But with the help of Colin Galbraith, I got something decent up (the link is to your left). Thank you, Colin!

I put the final touches on yet another project, and I'm almost ready to launch. I spent the afternoon learning how to create a download page, a password protected page, and all sorts of fun, useful tech stuff that would otherwise cause me great agita. I'm okay if I can take it in snippets and I have a practical application for the technology in front of me.

Heard back from an editor on a number of ideas I'd sent him. He had one, as well. I'm excited, for when he gives me the go-ahead, I'll be able to play in another new topic area. Still within insurance, but with a new twist.

Because of the work on the Webinar and the other project, I had no time to send out any more LOIs. I have to follow up on the five I received responses from. I need to firm up meeting times at the conference, and in two cases discuss projects.

I did hear from a Twitter connection. She's a PR pro I'd worked with in the past. Her client - Big Insurance Company - is looking for a writer with just my background. Best part - I know the insurance company and the person I'd be working with. Very well. It pays to go to the conferences, I'm telling you.

It will do little to relieve my tax bill this year. My daughter is now claiming herself, rightly so. She supported herself entirely this past year. So that deduction bit into what I thought was an adequate amount of tax payments. Joy. Rapture. I'm now on the lookout for more deductions. I've donated part of the contents of my closet to Goodwill, plus recycled a computer (and paid for the privilege), donated another one, etc. I may be able to get that bill down if I dig.

Today I tackle more tech learning and arrange some marketing for the newest project.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Faking It: Knowing Your Limits

What I'm reading downstairs: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
What's on the iPod: Moondance by Van Morrison


Yesterday was like slogging through mud. I had one small project in the morning, then the administrative stuff for this weekend's one-day Webinar. Hey, if you've not signed up, please do so. It's 79 bucks - a cheap investment in your business (and a tax-deductible one). For that, you get nine sessions from Devon and me. Nine new ways to look at your creativity, your writing, and your business. Here's the link - we'd love to have you join us!

As I said, slogging through mud. I'm trying to get a new site up and running, and it's proving more than I bargained for. I have next-to-zero knowledge in SQL, PHP, and other acronyms related to technology. So I'm downloading like I'm told, but with no idea what to do with any of it. All this for a free platform? I'm not sure I shouldn't just pay to avoid the complications.

And it wasn't the best time to realize I'd not reinstalled all my programs when I upgraded to the new computer. I'm still missing FrontPage, which means I now have to use the ISP's online version. That they have one is damn nice. They have a lot, including password protection capabilities. I'm loving this ISP (WebHost4Life), where my site has been for the last seven years.

I managed a round of blogs and forums yesterday, too. One thing stuck out - there are a good number of writers who are practicing what I call the "fake it until you make it" method of business development. Nothing wrong with faking like you're a big shot until you become one. In fact, I'm a big believer in adopting the attitude in order to attain the goal. The one thing I don't believe in - faking experience you don't have.

It's disturbing, but I've seen a handful of writers claiming all sorts of experience. Yet a closer look at their portfolios shows none of the so-called background OR expertise. Is that really the way you want to present yourself?

If it's not lying, it's damn close to it. Remember to inject a heavy dose of truth in your communications. If you're making claims, you can still sound great without stretching the truth. For instance:

Winner of Several Blog Awards versus Award-winning Writer. One says you're an excellent blog writer and presenter. The other muddies the water too much. Pulitzer? No, a top-ten blog award. Why disappoint your clients when they ask? Tell them the truth up front.

Business Writing for Consumer Markets versus An Extensive Background in Business Writing . This seems to be the worst offense I've seen - writers claiming business writing experience when in fact they're really used to writing business-related articles for consumers. For example, if you write about business career advice, you need to be very clear that the audience is the average lay person and that these are not the trade version of a business article. Otherwise, that client who hires you to handle an in-depth report on the state of workers compensation and how it affects mid-sized businesses may be sorely disappointed in your approach.

Working Knowledge versus Extensive Expertise. Writing two articles or blog posts for a technology company does not make you an expert, nor do you have extensive anything beyond a line of bull. If you blogged or published on say mobile applications and business use, you can't claim the same level of expertise as say a veteran technology editor who writes about the impact terrorism on the current state of IT security and risk exposure.

If you have experience, by all means tout it. Just be careful not to cross the line between fact and fiction.

What questionable claims have you seen?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Narrowing the Client Focus

What I'm reading downstairs: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
What's on the iPod: Nothing Like You by Frightened Rabbit


Don't forget to register for The Confident Freelancer seminar this Saturday from your very own computer chair! Devon Ellington and I have nine information-packed sessions for you covering fiction and nonfiction topics, plus two attendees will win one of two free critiques - a fiction one from Devon and a nonfiction one from me.

What a freakin' gorgeous day Friday! The weekend wasn't awful, either. We hosted our meditation monk on his way through to Haiti, then spent time outside getting the garden ready.

Anne Wayman has a neat post up about clients not knowing what they want sometimes. Anyone who's ever been on the receiving end of client upset that was caused by misunderstanding or miscommunication can appreciate the topic. As much as we may or may not like it, it's up to us writers to help them figure out what they want.

When I go into project discussions with new clients, I like to ask some pointed questions that not only help me understand what they're after, but help them come to that same conclusion:

What is your primary message? I like this because it gives me an idea of just how organized/scattered they are in their thinking. If they can tell me in one or two sentences what they're trying to convey, chances are I can give them what they want.

Who is your audience? Nothing is worse than writing the project to appeal to say consumers only to find out later they really wanted to target businesses. And yes, sometimes they're not even sure. In one or two cases, I've had clients who were combining their audience focus, which was resulting in some odd messaging. If you know ahead of time, you can suggest alternative approaches.

What outcome do you hope to attain from this project? Ever wonder if you're working on a white paper or a marketing piece? Maybe they wonder, too. If they're trying to show market expertise, white papers and thought pieces should be the project result. If they want to increase business, then a white paper may not have the impact they're hoping for.

Who has final decision-making authority on this? It may seem strange to ask it, but if you're working for Patti and suddenly at the end of the project you're rewriting to please Amanda, you get the importance of finding out who is in charge ultimately. And it helps them narrow focus because then you can have direct communication with Amanda to make sure the project goals are really the ones you need to embrace.

What do you hope to get out of our partnership? I ask this verbatim. It sends a clear message that they're not handing it over to me and forgetting about it - I'm expecting their input and their guidance as we go. By putting it this way, I'm also having them verbalize their expectations (and maybe having them think about it for the first time) so that I understand, as do they, what our final outcome should be.

There are other pointed questions I ask that are project-specific, but the questions above are always part of that process.

What do you do to help your clients narrow their focus?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Irish I Were Taller

Quick Note: Yours truly got her wires crossed and posted the wrong link to the Webinar. This is the correct link. Devon and I would love to have you join us.


Wow. Ten hours in one spot is something I usually reserve for this computer chair. But yesterday at 10 am I found a prime spot in the pub right next to the stage, and there I was until 8 pm. Through two bands and a slew of new friends (and a few I actually knew before yesterday), I did what I set out to do - enjoy.

From traditional Irish music to bagpipes to champion-level Irish dancing (two young men dancing were national champions), the entertainment was constant. So was the entertainment from the crowd. One woman's Irish jig in front of me was impressive, as was the spontaneous act of dance from an older man, to the cheers of everyone around him.

Sometime around 12:30 or 1 (can't remember), my husband tapped me on the shoulder. He and his coworker came in for lunch and, surprisingly, managed a table outside. One of my new friends saved my place so I could visit them, then back to my place. An hour later, my daughter came in, and she spent the next five hours with me, and we lifted our glass to Uncle Ray. Husband returned from work around 3.

Apparently, I'm hot. That's what the dude in the green mohawk said. Then again, he'd had several Guinness before making that pronouncement. He told daughter she'd be "smoking" when she hit 27. Interesting - a letch who has a conscience, for 22 is apparently too young for him (amen, we both said). Or maybe his hitting on her in front of her mother weirded him out even in his inebriated state. She's gorgeous with curly red hair and piles of freckles. Me, I was hot - they needed to open a damn door. I may have insulted him when he said what year he'd graduated and I said, "Lord, you're just a baby!"

Yea, that probably did it.

I met my two new "best friends" as they called themselves in the ladies' room - Tracy and Tammy, who were on temporary parole until their children's school buses returned in the afternoon. Other best friends - Matthew, his daughters and his wife Eileen, who saved my chair when husband came in for lunch. Then there was Diana, whose daughter graduated from my daughter's university. Then there was....

T-shirts. Lots of cute sayings that simply wouldn't work any other day of the year. Some really, really sick and disturbing sexual pronouncements I won't repeat, which made me think some people have absolutely no boundaries. But the waitress had a fun one - "And on the eighth day, God created whiskey to keep the Irish from taking over the world." Clearly it didn't work. :)

This one was cute, too - Irish today, hung over tomorrow."

One short girl came by with my absolute favorite - "Irish I were taller."

What a day off.

Today I have a little work to do, then I intend to enjoy the 70+ degrees this afternoon. The convertible top will be opened. It's Friday. I'm freelance. Life is good.

How was your St. Patrick's Day? Any plans for the weekend?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Faith, Begorrah, and Anniversaries

What I'm reading upstairs: The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor
What's on the iPod: Shipping Up to Boston by Dropkick Murphys


Quick Note: If you're trying to sign up for the Webinar, we've moved the sign-up page because the ISP is heinous. Here's the new link. If you have any more issues, please email me or Devon.

Five years. Five. Can you believe it? In 2006, on this very day, I decided to do that online journaling thing, that blog thing, which sounded more like something coughed onto a sidewalk. And what was my first post? Weirdly, I didn't know until I looked yesterday. It was about the worst sin writers can commit - devaluing themselves. Even then I was bitching about it. Jeez, have I beaten that drum a long time or what?

I don't want to read through all my posts, but if I did, I'd see my own progression as a writer. I'd see the things I used to think were great ideas that eventually I realized were kind of dumb. I'd see the mistakes I'd made - and learned from, thankfully - and I'd see the growing pains of a writer inching her way into a full-blown career.

Moreover, I'd see you doing the same. That's the beauty of this blog's history folder. We were together from the inception of a few careers, through the same struggles, through the successes, and always with the same theme - we genuinely like and respect each other, and we held each other up when it was most needed. Thank you.

Today I'm occupying a barstool at Molly Maguires, where I intend to have the damn time of my life with best friends I've yet to meet. I'll also be raising a glass to my dear great-uncle Raymond Gallagher, whose 95 years on this rock ended this past Sunday. He was one of two of my late grandmother's remaining siblings. As my cousin Eileen said, with Ray's typical Irish wit and humor he's giving Saint Peter a run for his money.

So let the official celebration and unofficial wake begin. I won't see you today (unless you stop by Molly's), so I'll leave you with some Irish humor:

------

Gallagher opened the morning newspaper and was dumbfounded to read in the obituary column that he had died. He quickly phoned his best friend Finney. "Did you see the paper?" asked Gallagher. "They say I died!!"
"Yes, I saw it!" replied Finney. "Where are you callin' from?"

------

Irish man walks out of a bar.
No really, it could happen!

------
Paddy Murphy arrived at Boston's Logan airport and wandered about the terminal with tears streaming down his cheeks. An Texan asked him if he was homesick.

'No, 'replied the Irishman.' It's worse, I have I've lost all me luggage.'

'That's terrible, how did that happen?'
'The cork fell out of me bottle.' Said Paddy.

------


Here's to our husbands and boyfriends: May they never meet. :)

------

And a blessing for you all:

May your home be filled with laughter
May your pockets be filled with gold
And may you have all the happiness
Your Irish heart can hold.

See you tomorrow. :)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Making It Happen

What I'm reading upstairs: The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor
What's on the iPod: Hey, Hey by Dispatch


Don't forget - sign up now for the one-day Webinar hosted by Devon Ellington and yours truly! I'd love to see you there. Here's the link.

Interesting day yesterday. Because I'm awaiting approval on one project, I spent much of the morning contacting prospective clients. I managed 35 letters of introduction, which netted me three responses in less than 30 minutes. One prospect thanked me for getting in touch and we're already talking about projects. The other two don't have immediate needs, but I've made a connection I don't intend to break.

I loved the wisdom of this community. Yesterday's conversation was no exception. It's why you're successful freelancers - statements like "No one calls the shots on my career but me" and "I think you have to be part bull dog to freelance."

Ashley said it best when she said this: "If you want it badly enough, you'll make it happen." Amen. Here's how I'm trying to make it happen:

Trade show folks. My resume work is drying up. Amen for the job market, but it's lowering my monthly earnings as a result. So now I'm trying to locate not another resume job, but work in another area entirely. I'm focusing on conference exhibitors, who usually need marketing and media packages. So far, so good.

Webinars. I've wanted to do it for ages. Thank God a conversation with Devon included her saying "I'd love to do a seminar with you." We took the idea and ran with it. I'm also developing my own site for ongoing Webinars and online courses. I get tons of requests each week, so I think it's time I put out the shingle.

Magazines. Oddly, the magazine work is still there, and in the trade magazine world, they're paying very well. I'll stick with trades, but I'm reaching out to new-to-me magazines. The more in the mix, the better the chances of picking up a fast assignment.

Blog writing. I was lucky enough to be referred to a company that pays a good deal per blog post, and I picked up enough work to add $1,000 and change to the monthly invoicing. I'm hoping as people drop off the new site I can add a few more posts. At the moment, I do three posts a week. I can definitely handle more.

I was getting a bit exhausted with some of the repetition of my days in my workload, so I'm glad to be able to add these new things.

How do you make it happen?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The State of Freelance Mind

What I'm reading upstairs: Shopgirl by Steve Martin
What's on the iPod: Shut Up and Let Me Go by The Ting Tings


I'm getting a late start this morning. I don't know about the rest of you, but when the time changes, it always hits me on Tuesday - not Sunday or Monday. Weird. Beware the ides this time.

I spent all day yesterday bouncing between projects - first, the blog posts for a client, which had to be done. But then something even more exciting, which I'm pleased to be able to announce. Devon Ellington and I have teamed up and we are presenting a one-day tele-seminar - The Confident Freelancer! What I love about this partnership, besides getting to work with such a super person, is the mix of both fiction and nonfiction in ways that make sense. It's an all-day seminar, mostly self-paced, and we'll be around during EDT hours to answer questions. I'd love it if you'd join us!

Today I hope to get some more client projects done. It's been very quiet in my email - not a lot of client work coming in. I'm marketing, but the last two days have been busy with getting the course stuff formatted and the landing pages all figured out.

A friend sent a note forwarded through another writer who was blaming both the Internet and two recessions on the lack of good jobs for writers. I get where she's coming from, but I don't believe it.

First, the Internet did change writing. Did it kill our chances? Only if you're not using it correctly. If you're sticking with job listings and anything that chances along, yes. It's killing you. I use it in a different way - I research whom it is I'd like to work with, then I seek them out. Besides that, the Internet has brought us Twitter and LinkedIn, two great places to network and find new clients on a much more personal level. If anything, it's increased our chances of finding work.

Second, the recessions? I'd love to say it's killing us, but it's not. Again, opportunity is where you make it sometimes. I have worked very steadily through the recession - my best year being at our worst economic time. Why? Because even if you're laying off staffers, you need to find someone to get those projects done. Freelancers. And I teamed up with a resume company. What company is going to thrive in a recession? A company that writes resumes for the laid-off workforce. There were times the company's projects vastly outnumbered their writing team.

Our reality is always shifting. Today I write resumes, but I'm seeing them dwindle in number. That means there's some other area needing writing. I'm seeing a few more magazines eager to get articles. That's been a surprising area for me in terms of assignments - I would have figured the budgets were gone and the magazines in turmoil. Not so. I'm also seeing lots of blogs owned by corporations, and they're willing to pay good money to get good content. Amen.

What disturbed me about the writer's note to my friend is the willingness to accept conditions as they are. Can't find anything good because hey, it's a recession and the Internet is to blame. And yet many of us are making it just fine. Sure, we've had to change our client base a bit, but the work is there if we seek it.

How has your client base changed? Have you been tempted to blame the recession? How do you overcome the mindset that outside forces are calling the shots for your career?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Going Green

What I'm reading: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
What's on the iPod: Fear of Falling by The Badlees


Note: I've got a guest post up on About Freelance Writing, and I'm making an appearance on Susan Johnston's The Urban Muse blog. Give them a visit.

For some reason, I'm enjoying weekends more. Not that I don't enjoy them as they are, but the activities around pre-spring, pre-summer and all the energy in the air, in the people just bump up the celebratory feel of weekends. Despite some heavy rain on Thursday of last week, I managed to turn the dirt in the garden on Saturday and get my peas and spinach in the ground. Let's hope the deer aren't looking. We're fashioning a fence that covers the top of the plants to try deterring them.

The celebration begins. We went to the city for the St. Patrick's Day parade. Green everywhere. It was wonderful, even in the cold. We were able to sit in the bleachers across from the reviewing stand, but the wind and lack of sun had us numb within half an hour. We cut out early and ducked into the art museum for some tea and special exhibits. Sadly, he had hurt his back last week and wasn't able to manage the Chagall and Friends exhibit, so another time for that.

Home again. I was feeling somewhat domestic, so I dusted. Go figure. Then I grabbed the book I'm reading, The Jungle, and made some great headway. I'm liking the cadence of the story and the characters. I can see their situation, and Sinclair sets up the conditions in Chicago's stockyards with shocking frankness. I wanted to read it for a few reasons - a teacher in high school had told us how that book had influenced policymakers and affected change in working conditions/unions, and the collective bargaining debates going on in Wisconsin right now are calling for a look back on history. (And no, I won't argue politics - it's boring).

Today is a bit more of connecting with clients who have expressed interest in projects. I'm glad for the free time I've had this month to get some other things done, but I want to get some guaranteed income in. And I have to get my papers back to the bankruptcy court - the magazine that hasn't paid is under Chapter 11 protection. I now have to get in line for a chance to get my money.

I have a conference coming up in May, so my marketing targeting exhibitors is going to continue this week. Some final, administrative touches on another project and I'll be set up for this larger project. And Thursday - that's my holiday. I'll post, but you won't see me until Friday.

How was the weekend? What are you up to this week?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Things That Make Me Smile

What I'm reading upstairs: Shopgirl by Steve Martin
What's on the iPod: Pumped Up Kicks by Foster the People


Busy day doing nothing billable - yet. Worked out details with a partner on an upcoming project. Also put together a mailing list for an upcoming conference I'm attending. I'm trying to drum up business before the conference, client meetings at the conference, and business after the conference.

Because I've given up bitching and moaning for Lent (so far I'm still alive), I've decided instead of my Things That Make My Head Explode post, I'd switch it up with something more warm and fuzzy. Not too warm and fuzzy - we don't want to go overboard.

U2 Rattle and Hum: I could watch this movie a million times and still love it. There's something about watching a group of guys who love what they do in action. I'm in love with their lyrics and their personalities.

Once: A gorgeous movie with great music. Glen Hansard can be my broken-hearted-hoover-fixer-sucker-guy any day.

Ghost Hunters: Just stand aside and let me watch people hunting for things that go bump in the night, okay? Unless you've experienced something, you probably won't get this addiction.

Eddie Izzard He is by far the most quotable comedian ever. Just try taking a European vacation without at least a dozen Eddie quotes popping into your head.

Really bad jokes: My favorite -
How do you catch a unique rabbit?
Unique up on him.
How do you catch a tame rabbit?
Tame way, unique up on him.

Companies that get it: Thanks to Dan over at Newton Ideas for bringing the good news in my in box. A company that avoids paying like a content farm? I'm giddy.

What makes you smile?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Low-paying Rut

What's on the iPod: In These Shoes by Bette Midler

Yesterday was one of those "busy" days where I didn't accomplish much that anyone could see. But there was significant progress made on an upcoming project and more planning for yet another one. And I got a note from a client via Twitter - he's about to get in touch via a proposal I'd sent.

I had a conversation with a writer about rates, too. She has over 2 years of writing experience but was lamenting the lack of good jobs. Maybe it's because I gave up bitching and moaning for Lent, but I reached out. I had to. Here was someone who, by her blog posts, had all the markings of someone who knows how to write. I invited her to email. She did. We talked. Her dilemma - finding work. And isn't it the dilemma we all face or have faced at one point or another?

The approach she was using was the problem. You know me - I'm an advocate for the active client search instead of relying on job postings to build a career. Anyone who's done this for any length of time (my new acquaintance included) knows it's not possible to survive like that. What was really upsetting was this talented writer was hoping to earn $25 a blog post. Something is seriously wrong here.

Her question on her blog was a cry for help: Where DO we find better paying jobs? I pointed her in these directions:

Resume companies. Maybe not a long-term solution, but a good supplement to the income. Look for companies that offer training (most should train you for free) and don't require you to back up any "free rewrite" guarantees.

Magazines. Start with Writers Market or even your own search. Look for magazines paying more than 30 cents a word. Anything less than that isn't worth your time. I'd say 30 cents is too low too, but if you're making $4 an article, it's a big step up.

Directly targeting your clients. You know whom you'd like to work for. Research their company, find the appropriate contact, and go for it. Convince them you can benefit their business.

Network and connect to other writers. Make your presence known on Twitter. Join a LinkedIn forum or two. Visit other writers' blogs regularly. Get to know those people in your profession and those clients needing your services. It won't pay off immediately every time, but building name recognition and future referral business is the goal.

I asked the writer to visit here for advice and camaraderie. If you were advising a new writer or a writer stuck in a rut, what would you say?

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Your Face Value

What's on the iPod: F*ck You by Cee Lo Green

Don't you love getting books? I'm not your Kindle type, so don't come singing the praises of yet another computer screen to me, but I appreciate that you buy books in any form. I prefer paper. But my son and his girlfriend sent a package containing some much-wanted books: Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck, and Go Down, Moses by William Faulkner. My two favorite writerly men.

Add those to the ones I picked up at Borders on Saturday: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and Jazz by Toni Morrison (my favorite writerly female). I'm buying a lot of books - as I was piling these on the coffee table (our visual reminder to build more bookshelves), I noticed the others I'd bought: The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor and Drown by Junot Diaz. Did I really buy so many books in one month? Now the dilemma - where to start reading and when to find time.

Busy, brain-filled day yesterday. Had some small projects in the morning, then a chat with a friend/potential client over some things in the works. She's also a marketing guru. As she looked at my site, she gave me the honest feedback I've been craving - my site is old-fashioned. It's crap, I know it. But her kick-in-the-pants sent me looking for sites to emulate.

Let me tell you - we writers are not design stars. I went through a bunch of random sites (none of yours, so don't panic), and the design makes my static site look like innovation. Worse, I've seen so many writers (women especially) describe in the "About" section their families, their pets, and very little about themselves that would translate into a writer I'd want to hire. And I'm not as picky as clients are.

How much business are we losing as writers because of our design or our presentation? I know I'm losing a lot if they head to that lovely, disjointed thing I call a website. There are writers I've talked to who get a lot of business via their website. I go there and think they must be attracting people on sedatives or those with sleeping disorders wanting a nap. We could do better.

Jenn Mattern has a great primer up on her All Indie Publishing blog. It's specific to publishing, but the lessons apply to just about any form of what I call persuasive communication - websites should be included.

Beyond that, I have to revamp my site to make it more consumer friendly. So I'm going to ask myself these things:

What's your sizzle? In marketing, we don't sell the steak - we sell the sizzle. I can tell clients all day how great I am. I need instead to show them how great I am.

Why should the client care? Again, who cares if I'm a fabulous writer? How does that benefit the client?

What's my value? This one's tough. What is my value statement, that thing I can tell every client that separates me from the rest of the pack?

What's the call to action? How am I getting them to buy? What's going to make them send that email or pick up that phone?

What does your website look like? Is it appealing or scary? What sites have you seen that are terrific? Overblown? Undercooked?

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Censorship v. Common Sense

What I'm reading: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
What's on the iPod: All You Ever Do is Bring Me Down by The Mavericks


It's funny what happens on a blog when you're not looking. I went back over the comments added to this blog over the weekend, and I found myself doing something I don't normally do.

I deleted a comment.

It took some thought and more than a little waffling on my part, but in the end, I made the right decision. The comment wasn't one meant to invite discussion or further any. It was meant to drive traffic to this dude's site.

I'm not against a little entrepreneurship and I don't delete comments randomly to suit my own taste. If someone disagrees with me - even vehemently - it stays. But this dude's comment was a link to his site, and in the one-sentence, eight-word comment there were errors. Worse, the link went to a blog post (let's call it a pseudo-blog post because there was no indication this blog existed nine days ago), and in that post, the poster first agreed with something I'd written, then in the next paragraph took an opposing view to something he says I'd said - but it wasn't anything I'd said at all. Worse, I'd never even thought those things. But there he was, using me and some trumped-up notion of what I'd been saying as his soapbox. Even more odd - he contradicted himself in his own post by saying that he believed we overcharge and should get used to the content farms of the world, but we need to be the ALPHA writer and charge more! Really?

My knee-jerk reaction was to comment back and correct him. But then I got the light-bulb moment. He wanted that. He wanted me to create a debate by responding, and he may have thought that I'd comment on my blog and send people to his blog to respond, thus creating traffic to that site. Problem with that - his site is oozing in commercialism. He wants to sell a book on copywriting. If getting people to that site by creating alternate realities is his marketing method, he's got nothing I want to buy.

It was obvious his leaving his link here was meant to send people there, who would come back and alert me, etc., etc. I wonder if he planned on the comments disappearing?

I'm telling you about deleting the comment because I don't want to keep anything from you. I don't delete comments normally, and I loathe bloggers who think they're judge-and-jury and delete what doesn't mesh with their own ideas. So there you have it. I deleted a comment. Two, actually. This commenter left another one here, as well. Both led to the same place.

Have you seen this type of traffic-driving weirdness? Have you witnessed bloggers who delete negative comments? What's your criteria for deleting a comment, if you've ever done so? How do you approach bloggers who do this regularly?

Monday, March 07, 2011

Is it Monday Already?

What's on the iPod: It Doesn't Matter Anymore by Linda Ronstadt

Had a great weekend thanks in part to a sunny, warm Saturday and an Irish sessions on Sunday. We managed Saturday to get the yard in shape for spring, and if I'd had seeds, there would have been peas in the ground. I've been wanting to plant spinach too, but haven't gotten around to getting seeds or plants yet. I'm a little afraid the deer will make short work of them - their tracks and "remains" are all through the yard. Who knew I'd need deer repellent in March?

Spent a wonderful afternoon at Molly Maguires listening to our favorite Irish sessions band and hanging out with new friends. He put the call out online for his Scottish comrades, who showed in kilts.

And of course I had time to buy shoes. I scored a nice pair of sandals. I had to get some t-shirts too, so I went on a search. If the recession is over, you can't tell it here. Last year this mall was stuffed with stores. I walked down one section where there were six stores - now, just the hair salon. The biggest mall on the East coast is now the shell of what it once was. Let's not mention that my Borders is going, that the Old Navy is closed (moving into the Borders space), and that there is more painted plywood on store entrances than there seem to be actual entrances. Depressing. But maybe it's a sign that local businesses can now get a toehold.

Also, I did the totals for last year's income. It was down, as expected, but I'd seen a few clients drop off due to the R word. Plus there were four weeks interrupted - one for surgery, three for vacation and mothers' visits. Getting back on track in November proved nearly impossible as that's when it all winds down. The last quarter was pretty much a wash. So the taxes I've paid to date may be enough to please the IRS.

Speaking of the IRS, he's been getting a series of confusing letters from them, none of which are cleared up after hours on the phone. The first was sometime in May/June, when they suggested because of one of his income sources, he needed to pay quarterly self-employment tax. So he went through all the calculations - days worth - only to find that no, he didn't. Fine enough. Then the next letter came - a check - for a significant amount of money. A refund. Great! Three weeks later, the next letter came - he owed them that significant amount of money, plus interest. Huh? More time on the phone, and each agent he talked to made it less clear what he's to do. He was talking to a tax attorney and an accountant when the next letter came - basically "Forget everything; we're square; no need to take it further." Whew! Only.... the next letter came last week. Now they want that significant amount back including even more interest. More phone time, more confusion. Only this time the agent sent over all the calculations on their side and reams of files. Amen. Now he's got the joyous task of weeding through it to find what he thinks is the clerical, super-imposed-number error on their end.

If it had been me, I'd have sold my car and rented my kids as cheap labor to pay everything and make them happy. He's not easily swayed - his dad was in the Treasury Dept., so he's not scared off when the government comes knocking with their hand out.

Today I get back to the page. I have one project almost finished that will be announced hopefully this week. Also, I'm working on a few smaller projects and continuing the constant marketing.

How was your weekend? What do you have on this week's agenda?

Friday, March 04, 2011

Worthy Tip: This Job, Not That Job

What I'm reading: Late Wife by Claudia Emerson
What's on the iPod: Better Together by Jack Johnson


I have a guest post up over at About Freelance Writing. Give it a look when you can.

Oh, if I had a nickel for every lousy job offer I've come across, I'd have more money than the jobs themselves pay. This beauty comes by way of our very own Hugh McBride, who tweeted this knowing the dual emotional response it would cause me. It's a perfect starting point for this week's worth-inducing kick in the pants. If you're going to learn how to discern good work from bad work, let's do it together.

Here's the hilarious, yet tear-jerking ad:

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Freelance job, chick lit fiction writer for hire, payment: $3,000 for 70,000-word book (anywhere)

Need a work-for-hire writer (no rights reserved) to turn a completed, detailed book outline into an approximately 70,000 word book. Pay is $3,000 in installments. Time frame is flexible but ideally project will be completed in 3-5 months. Please email with any questions.

Location: anywhere
Compensation: $3000


Let's dissect. What's wrong with this ad? I think it would be easier to ask what's right with it - nothing. But since we're trying to figure out how to choose better jobs, let's figure out how to weed out the bad ones.

First thing - $3K for 70K words is not a good rate. Let's assume you charge $100 an hour for ghostwriting (let's call it what it is). That's 33 hours of work. Sounds reasonable, but look at the word length. There's no way you'll write 70K in 33 hours. That's under a week in "9-to-5" terms.

Second, it's a ghostwriting project. You're not getting your name on that cover. How do I know? You're writing from someone's outline, which means that someone thinks he/she has a fantastic idea and wants credit for it. And the words "no rights reserved" means you're giving up everything, including credit, for $3K. Moving on....

If you're ghosting, you should be compensated for your silence. Book ghostwriters generally charge in the ballpark of $20-25K, not $3K. That's because it's not always easy taking someone else's ideas and turning them into saleable copy.

Third, payment in installments on such a low-paying project indicates either A) an amateur who doesn't understand how to work with a writer, B) someone intent on withholding payment as a form of control, or C) someone who's going to stiff you at the end, thus getting the product for less than stated.

A better idea:

Need a pro Ghost writer

I am looking for a professional ghost writer to write a treatment from my narrative.

Must be experienced, professional, innovative, creative, however know what they are doing and have written, screen and teleplays in the past.
If your work has been published, or you have had a screen or teleplay bought and produced, you go to the head of the line.
Please ensure that I have your name, all contact information, and why I should hire you?
Please include your rate.


Why this may be better - This poster is using the jargon of the industry, so this isn't someone who is new to writing and could be someone who has hired a professional in the past.

Also, this person is asking for your rate. That's a big plus - the poster isn't telling you what you'll be making, but rather allowing you to set your own rate (as it should be).

That's not to say it won't be as disappointing as the first, but the odds are slightly better thanks to the reasons stated above.

Look at an offer you've received recently. How can you dissect it to find out the true value the job brings to you? And that's important - the job has to benefit you, as well.

What have you seen lately? Did you take the gig? If so, how did it work out? Did you turn it down? Why?

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Stealth Networking

What's on the iPod: She's Mine by Brett Dennen

Slow day yesterday in terms of projects being billed, but not so slow in terms of projects being developed. Two in the pipeline could be both lucrative and fun. How often does that happen?

I had time to read a CRM (customer relationship management) magazine that I've had sitting next to the desk for ages. The content was mostly about data storage and digital media, but one line in one article jumped off the page: we should be making marketing personal. To me, that means spending a little more time getting to know folks via networking.

I think too often the social media or IT-savvy crowd negate this aspect of marketing way too quickly, or if they do acknowledge the importance of personal connections via networking, they put it pretty far down the list of must-have attributes - if you're not selling, you're not marketing OR networking. Right. Actually, I think the cold, impersonal tweeting and networking and noise isn't doing anyone any good. Sure, companies may see results, but I'd wager on name recognition only. Imagine if you could get a message in front of your customers that does more than remind them of your name!

When I'm tweeting or visiting LinkedIn forums, I'm connecting to people. I'm not going in with the intention of selling. I'm going in with the intention of learning. I'm learning who these people are, what makes them smile, what keeps them up nights, and how they live beyond their jobs. To me, that's networking done correctly. Your product - the one that's the constant - is you.

Maybe that's why I had someone tell me recently that networking wasn't my strong suit. Interestingly, this was a conversation I was having over a new project I was about to undertake. Why was I tapped for this project? Because I was able to convince this client that I was the person for the job - without even asking for the job. Stealth networking. Gotta love it.

Maybe also the person telling me my networking isn't working measured my approach against his/her own. Completely different. I don't use Facebook to network with clients. I use other networking sites and apps, which this client may not be as familiar with. That's fine. In fact, what's fine is the mix that works for you, not the mix that works for me is the ONLY mix that works. That's just nonsense.

So here's how I network (and ultimately network as part of my marketing process). It may work for you. It may not. The idea is to try something, shift your approach, tweak your perspective, and get out there:

Make it personal. How well do you know your clients or those you'd like to have as clients? It starts with a "How are you?" and continues as you listen - and hear - the response. Get to know these people as though they're your friends. They're certainly colleagues sharing an industry or a similar business passion.

Keep it light. Rarely in any tweet or forum/blog comment do I sell. I certainly don't do the hard sell, nor do I plaster my link across the blogosphere in an attempt to draw in visitors. That may work in the short term, but I'd much rather build a following or a client base by sharing ideas and maybe a laugh.

Show what you know. I join forums to talk shop. The topics I write about I talk about with those industry people who know so much more than I do on these topics. In turn, I bring them new ideas and questions for them to ponder that could help them address something they may not have considered, and help me find ideas for articles and client projects.

Talk about what you're doing. My own approach is to tweet a few blog posts and also update my what-I'm-working-on status. I did this once at LinkedIn and got an instant response from a client asking me if I'm available for some more work.

Send up a promotion on occasion. Once a week, once every two weeks, I'll send out a tweet asking if anyone is in need of a writer with my background and experience. That's it. I don't push it, and I don't retweet it 12 times an hour. Too much promotion, as we've discussed before, is just plain boring.

Help a writer out. I am blessed to know so many of you who are great writers and good chums. I've helped a number of folks out. In turn, I've been given a slew of referrals. While that was never my goal with helping someone, it's a great, unexpected side benefit of being good to others. Even if you get no referrals at all, do it. It makes you feel good to know someone is benefiting from your experience or your guidance.

How do you conduct stealth networking?

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Guest Post: Being Artsy Isn't a Career

What's on the iPod: Flame by Scott Blasey

Jenn Mattern is a virtual traveler. She's decided to go on a month-long blog tour this month, and her second stop on the tour is this very blog. Amen. I was thrilled when she offered to share her wit and wisdom with us, and the post below is thought-provoking and insightful. Thanks, Jenn! I hope you make guest posting here a habit.

Give her some love, folks.

Being Artsy Doesn't Mean You're Cut Out for a Freelance Writing Career

by Jennifer Mattern

"Writing is art."

I hear this often. And we all know that it's true. But it isn't always true, and that's why it frustrates me when I see new or aspiring freelance writers say things like this. It's happened more lately for whatever reason. There's this kind of entitlement floating around -- what you do is creative or artistic and therefore by default people should appreciate it, value it, and be willing to pay you fairly for it.

Um, no. It doesn't quite work that way. Here's why.

Freelance Writing: Being an Artist Isn't Enough
There is absolutely nothing wrong with writing for the sake of the art. That's fine. Start your own creative endeavor. Put together a collection of poetry. Write that novel you've considered for years. But if you want to write for art's sake, freelance writing might not be the right path for you. Freelance writing is frequently not about art at all -- it's about business.

Creativity has a place in freelance writing. There's no doubt about that. You have to be able to stand out. And you have to be able to make your clients stand out. But that doesn't mean clients want something "artistic." That doesn't necessarily have value to them. In many cases it's more about formulas.

You're expected to figure out what works -- what gets people to sign up or subscribe, what convinces people to part with their money, what convinces people to click a link, what ranks well in search engines, etc. And then you're expected to follow that formula to produce effective copy or content for the client. You can tweak it and get creative, sure. But it's a far cry from the "writing is art" mentality.

By all means, be an artist. Love the creative elements of freelance writing. But don't think for one second that the fact you consider your work "art" means anyone else should like it, respect it, or be willing to pay for it.

When you work as a freelance writer your work doesn't have value just because you've created it. It only has value if you know how to convey value to members of your target market. Your work is worthless unless you can convince someone otherwise. That's marketing.

In freelance writing being able to market your services effectively isn't some nice optional skill to have. It's essential. And it's even more important to your success than your ability to turn formulaic freelance writing projects into works of art that still get the job done.

Successful Freelance Writing = Creativity + Business Acumen
You can be a writer even if you don't know the first thing about business and marketing. But to be a successful freelance writer you need to be a business owner first. "Freelance" comes before "writing" in freelance writing for good reason.

When clients view you as just another writer, you're replaceable. Your work doesn't have much value (and your pay will reflect that). When you're a savvy businessperson you know how to make yourself and your writing indispensable. Clients will wait just to get on your work list. They'll refer you to others. They'll keep coming back for more. They'll pay you what you're worth. And they'll treat you with professional respect.

If you want to make it as a freelance writer you have to understand this going in. You have to build the necessary business and marketing skills. That is how you set yourself apart from the competition. You give clients what they want, and you show them that you're the best businessperson for the job.

If you can't do that, you probably aren't cut out for freelancing. And if you fall into the group that thinks all writing is art and therefore valuable just because it exists, you might not be the best fit for a freelance career. Value in business doesn't come from creation. It comes from results.

Where do you fall on the writing as art versus writing as business spectrum? Are you able to separate the different forms of writing -- creative pursuits for art's sake versus writing as a business?

Personally I pursue both options, but I keep them separate and I tend to focus more heavily on the business side. I write because it's a passion. That's why I pursue fiction. But on another level entirely, I write because it's how I choose to earn a living. That's why I freelance.

You can balance art and business as a writer. You just have to be able to detach yourself from one frame of mind occasionally to successfully pursue the other. And when the stars align, you may even fall into projects that let you do both (I know a few screenwriters who could probably say this).

Leave a comment and share your own stories. What's the most artistic writing project you've taken on? How successful have you been at the business of being a writer? Where would you like to improve? How can you find more balance? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

About Jennifer Mattern
Jennifer Mattern is a freelance business writer and professional blogger who writes about freelance writing, social media, indie publishing, and small business. Her own blogs include AllFreelanceWriting.com, SocialRealist.com and AllIndiePublishing.com. She also publishes e-books for freelance writers and is scheduled to publish her first nonfiction book, The Query-Free Freelancer, early next year.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Free Does Not Compute

What's on the iPod: Modern Leper by Frightened Rabbit

Yesterday was blissfully quiet - enough so that I managed to get the bulk of my article fleshed out. After a quick review today, the invoice goes out. I'm waiting for some quotes to be approved, and I've given him until noon today to get back with any changes. I'd rather not keep the editor waiting.

Kathy Kehrli, who for years has brought us some of the largest project wastes of time in her Ultimate Get-a-Clue Freelance Request posts, has found a gem. It's so bad, it bears repeating.

In the ad, the "employer" sets out the rules - you as the writer will write the first five test questions for free. Only after this guy decides you're worth your salt will you get any payment - for subsequent work (forget those first five freebies), and for the grand sum of 25 cents per question.

Why this ad disturbs me:

Free is all you get. Newbies, please don't ever fall for this one. They ask for free work to "evaluate" your talent, then promise they'll pay for ongoing work. Guess what? Those freebies are exactly what they're after and they have no intention of paying anyone, nor is there ongoing work. If 100 writers answer the ad, all supplying five freebies.... do the math.

The pay - if it were ever to come - is insulting. Twenty five cents? Per question? That's ridiculous and not worth considering.

The client is getting much, much more from this. I'm all for folks making a profit. However, I'm not into slaving like a dog so someone else can rake in huge sums of money (think content farms and you'll see where I'm going with this).

So what's fair?

Never give your work away. Free samples should be in the form of your already-published-and-paid-for clips. No one gets a freebie except your mother, and only if she's got a good reason for needing it.

Don't settle for less than the value of your skills. Be realistic, too. You might try reasoning that in order to earn say $50 an hour you could write 200 questions. No you can't. Not good questions, and not without killing yourself. Keep an eye on the work required to meet your bottom-line price.

Don't break your neck for a project you don't believe in. You have no vested interest in projects like this other than the paycheck. Why? Because the client has framed the entire ad to shift the onus of copyright responsibility/blame onto you, as well as insulted you by offering you at least 30 times under what is market value for the product (and requiring someone with specialized knowledge), and expects your first relationship encounter to cost you, not him.

Writers, have you ever been burned by an ad like this or requirements that meant you had to sacrifice something? How did it turn out?
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