Archive for March, 2008

19
Mar

The QRW Moves

Now don’t be sad, but I must sign off for a couple days. It’s moving time, which means headaches, backaches, big-ass-box-paper-cuts, movers cursing us for the inconceivable amount of books we have, and general anxious frivolity. It also means I’ll have limited access to the interwebs. The horror!

I will be back on Monday, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (or bleary-eyed and draggy-assed, either way). In the meantime, I’ve got a doozy of a link to keep you occupied:

10,000 Ideas and Resources for Writers and Bloggers: 100 “Top 100″ Lists.

I know, right? Enjoy, and see you soon.

Posted in Random Information by: Amy 
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18
Mar

Roundup: 7 Freelancing and Creativity Links

Hello QRW readers! And a happy Tuesday to you. This is a relatively slow work week here in the QRW headquarters, a well-timed slow week with moving day being Saturday. In addition to packing up all my belongings and purging six years worth of trash, I’m taking time to revisit my marketing plan and my daily processes. And nothing helps a marketing and creativity brainstorm like some timely and helpful links. Enjoy.

Free eBook! The Simple Web: A Philosophy for Getting What You Want:
(Thanks Skellie!)

As bloggers and webmasters, we want most or all of these things: more visitors, more subscribers, more comments, more money, more inbound links, and more people saying good things about us. Our wants aren’t in question. It’s the how that gets us. It’s the how that has us reading a dozen blogs a day, trying to find the answer (or at least a little piece of it).

Ways to Get More Customer Referrals for Your Freelance Business:

In the world of freelance, customer referrals are everything. The amount of customer referrals will often determine how successful one’s business can really be. As word spreads quickly, having customers refer others to you and your services is a wonderful way of gaining new business and making more money. There are a few distinct ways to get more customer referrals for your business.

Do You Recognize These 10 Mental Blocks to Creative Thinking?

So, rather than looking for ways to inspire creativity, you should just realize the truth. You’re already capable of creative thinking at all times, but you have to strip away the imaginary mental blocks (or boxes) that you’ve picked up along the way to wherever you are today.

The Time Vs. Task Dilemma: Why You Could Be Working Too Much:

There’s nobody telling us to go home at the end of the day, there’s no point beyond which our work is unpaid simply because it’s late in the evening, no time when the office lights start to go out, no pre-paid hours. We complete a task, we get paid, and we can complete most tasks at any time of the day or night, on any day of the week. It’s no surprise that many freelancers are overworked. The lure of “one more project, one more invoice” can be hard to resist.

13.2 Ways Not to Get Rich Online:

I began to think about all the ways people try to get rich quick online. Plenty of how tos and information exists. Rather than write about new methods of earning money, I’ll write about what won’t make you wealthy.

Write Just One Thing Today, and Write it Well:

I think sometimes we start writing with a fuzzy idea in our heads of what it is we want to write. For that reason, we might procrastinate on writing because we’re not sure what it is we want to accomplish — it’s just a vague, undoable goal (”gotta write my book today”) and that’s hard to wrap your head around.

How to Telecommute Successfully: 50 Tips and Resources:

Telecommuting is a beautiful thing, what with skipping traffic and wearing fuzzy slippers to work. However, working from home doesn’t come without its trials. If you’re not prepared for them, you may find yourself experiencing a serious drop in productivity and motivation. Not to worry though, here are some tips that will have you on the path to telecommuting success with just at little effort and preparation.

Have a great Tuesday!

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18
Mar

Phone Phobia: A Freelancer Conundrum

scream.jpg
I hate the phone.

Remember as a teenager when you liked the phone? Each ring represented possibility. It could be a friend you were dying to talk to about all that had transpired during the day, or it could be that boy you were hoping would ask you to some nameless dance, even though said boy had no idea who I was. (Yes, the change in pronouns just now was deliberate. Ugh. I hated high school too. Maybe even more than the phone)

Of course, just as often, the phone could be parents checking in, or telemarketers, or even, gods forbid, the school reporting on an unexplained absence or something otherwise suspect. Somehow that never seemed to bother. That whole stereotypical imperviousness, that insensible optimism or egotism ascribed to teenagers, held sway, and instead the phone became our own personal plaything, something for our pleasure.

As with so many other things that change with a bit of age, so goes the favored view of the phone. I can’t pinpoint when my hatred of the phone began in earnest, but I can specify the result. Today I view the phone as a leech, sucking away time and energy. It’s an insensitive beast, breaking into my concentration, taking me away from whatever paying or nonpaying project is consuming my mind. Sure, the unfamiliar number ringing on my phone could be a new prospect calling, or a current client with a compliment, or something else surprising and positive. But the cynicism of being older than a teenager holds sway now, painting that ringing phone as something surely to be a pain in the ass.

The real reason the phone irks me so? I think I’ve figured it out. It puts me at a disadvantage. I’m a person of the written word, most comfortable when I can say something ridiculous or uncouth or merely unfocused, and then rework it to make it presentable. I like drafts, of all my marketing and magazine projects, even of emails. The phone is so here and now. It won’t let me revise. And that makes me uncomfortable, nervous, and sweaty.

In my freelancing, then, I try to gently steer people towards emailing. I indicate to clients, for example, that I am much more responsive via email. I attempt to be as proactive as possible with them, emailing updates when they haven’t been requested, checking in on professional and personal lives, and making my emails clean, crisp and eminently readable. In that way I show how easy and preferred email communication can be with me. When it comes to marketing, I forgo the dreaded cold calling (ugh, I get nauseous just thinking about it) and make my marketing frequent and unique, with a different email or print communication method each quarter.

When it comes to the times when I simply can’t avoid the phone, I try to be as prepared as possible. I set up times to talk with clients and prospects, emphasizing how much better it will be when we’re both prepped and ready to speak about a current project. And that helps tremendously.

That’s my way of dealing with phone phobia. So what do you think: Am I a wuss? Do you have phone qualms?

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17
Mar

St. Pat’s and a Creative Kick

chicago-river.jpgWelcome to the week, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day! For all you Chicagoans, you know this past weekend was a people watcher paradise, with drunk people garbed in green falling on sidewalks, packing bars, and vomiting in restaurants. Ah, what a good time. My own weekend was spent around people giddy not from alcohol but from cheap furniture. Gods bless IKEA.

So how to get back into the workweek after various forms of hilarity and excitement? A little inspiration, of course. Beat the block with our Monday date: a creative kick in the arse.

Previously we’ve focused on killer writing as an inspiration. For me, looking at writing I love reminds me of what’s possible, why I want to write in the first place, why my freelance life kicks ass, and why I enjoy creating. Whether that writing is in book form, songs, films and TV, or magazines, the quality specimens push me to keep an eye on the future and focus on my creative dreams and goals, but they also prod me to get back into the work of daily living.

But who says we have to stop at writing? Not me. Although I can’t paint or design myself, looking at striking artwork can be just as awe-inspiring and thought provoking as reading something profound.

So for today’s Monday Date, we’ll look at some pretty (and disturbing, be forewarned) pictures, after the jump. Continue Reading »

 
 
14
Mar

Marketing Rant: Cheapening the Craft

Yes, gentle readers, there was a lost day this week. No posting occurred on QRW yesterday, but for good reason. Tales of that momentous occasion involving Chicago, exorbitant fees, and glorious new property, will be saved for another time.

But a lack of posting yesterday means a double whammy today. You get a two-for-one post, combining a bit of marketing maven discussion along with ranting goodness! And what is the topic that incurs this double trouble? Freelance writing ads, I’m looking at you.

In my two years of freelancing full time, I’ve experienced the ebbs and flows of the business. High times, low times, rich times, poor times. In the time of plenty, I’ve had clients coming at me left and right, the majority of which I turn into continual clients. In the time of not enough, I check with all my current clients, boost up my organic marketing efforts, and generally make myself as attractive as possible. But it doesn’t always cut it. And where does an erstwhile freelancer go then? Where anyone seeking a job goes: the want ads.

Freelancers and writers have the same options when it comes to those seeking full-time employment: Craig’s List, CareerBuilder, local publication ads, etc. And occasionally you can find some gems. But the majority of the time, when casting a hopeful eye through these sites, along with sites like Elance, Guru, and other bid sites, you find prices that are painfully low, and buyers that believe we’re getting what we deserve. Here’s a typical gem:

Content development firm hiring writers to write articles. The pay is $5.00 to $7.00 per 500 word article. This should be an easy gig for someone who knows what they’re doing.

Sucky pay, and patronizing tone? Sign me up!

This is nothing new, of course. It’s a trend that continues years and centuries of devaluing the written word, continuing the notion that anyone can write, that good writing is merely stringing some words together without spelling errors (or maybe with, who knows?), that writing as a profession is suspect and not worthy of respect. It encourages the egregious misuse of language, the mind-numbingly bad emails that require more time to decipher than to act on, the examples of piss-poor writing that you see everywhere.

One writer isn’t able to do much about this greater devaluating of writing, but by sticking to his or her principles and hourly rate he or she can slowly buck the trend. But that still leaves a quandary: what are our options when seeking some extra work? Is it worth the effort to sift through the penny-poor and belittling ads to find the few worthy options?

Occasionally, yes. I’ve actually found at least five clients through Craigslist, clients that were respectable, established, well-known companies, and clients that went on to give me scads of repeat work. They do exist, they’re out there, and they’re willing to pay proper rates for quality work.

They can be found by diligence, by maintaining your normal rates when quoting work, and by vetting the ads. Ignore the denigrators. Bypass the tiny pay rates, or the vague “work for exposure” offers. And of course – present yourself as someone worthy of the respect and pay. Write personal, tailored emails, and eye-grabbing subject lines. In short, persuade them by example, with a stellar, well-organized, well-written, and marketing-oriented message.

What do you think? Ever find success with writing ads? Think they’re a waste of time? Comment!

 
 
12
Mar

Self-Publishing: On the Wrong Side of the Revolution

snob1.jpgI like to think that I’m a pretty egalitarian sort of gal. I’m all about individual spirit and performance, the success of the underdog, the joys of meritocracy. But when it comes to publishing a book, I think I’m a little, um, elitist.

Personal enterprise and entrepreneurship are fantastic, but I can’t quite get behind self-publishing. There – I said it. The proliferation of independent presses where authors can pay as they go, bypassing the entire agent-publisher-editor nightmare, sounds like a great idea. Authors can get their name in print without needing to get approved by some official source in New York; they can make of it what they will, schlepping their books from store and store and reaping in their own profits independent of publishing houses.

But I just can’t do it. I need that official stamp of approval. I want that traditional prize-winning route of publishing, the route that all my favorite writers took before me. I want to be vetted, to make it past the insane odds of getting noticed by an agent and invited by a publisher, to have the title novelist because I earned it, not because I paid for it.

The truth is, though, that in today’s publishing environment self-publishing is a smarter and smarter idea. The vise placed on publishers for the next big multi-million seller means so many books with smaller sales potential get bypassed. Smaller presses and bookstores are being pushed out. The only real opportunity could be in the ubiquitous self-publishing houses. And more and more writers are getting behind it: many of the writers on my writing listservs, and many bloggers, hail these companies, like Lulu, for good service, good pricing, and the ability to realize their dream of being a published author.

So my snobbery may have to come to an end eventually. I’ll keep trying the traditional route with my novel, clinging to the increasingly old-fashioned notions. Maybe one day I’ll feel more comfortable with the concept of self-publishing. Until then, I’ll keep my snootiness to myself.

And, um, you.

 
 
12
Mar

Books to Read: The Year of Magical Thinking

bookcov200.jpgFor those of us, the lucky ones, who have never experienced the death of a spouse or significant other, it’s not something we like to think about. When I consider what would happen if I lost J, I focus on the practical. How I would have to sell our new loft and find a smaller place. How I would tell his parents. How our cat would grieve and whine.

Beyond that, it’s a deliberate void. The thought of someone that’s become part of me suddenly gone is a black spot in the brain that can’t be breached. Reading Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking stormed the ramparts and brought the possible out in the open.

There are two amazing things about this book. The subject matter is dark and forbidding: Didion’s husband drops dead one evening, and she commences a year of mourning, a year in which she can’t help but believe that he’s not really dead, that he’s merely absent a time. When she goes through his clothes, logically determining they should go, that they could help someone who needs them, she trips up:

I stopped at the door to his room.
I could not give away the rest of his shoes.
I stood there for a moment, then realized why: he would need shoes if he was to return.
The recognition of this thought by no means eradicated this thought.
I have still not tried to determine (say, by giving away the shoes) if the thought has lost its power.

During her grief, she’s also taking care of her adult daughter, severely ill at the time. Although the subject material is necessarily sad and even upsetting, it’s absolutely compelling. It’s a page-turner, a term usually applied to crappy paperbacks you find in the bargain bins or bodice-rippers. Instead, it’s a literate, delicate, but riveting read.

That leads to the other amazing part of this book. She writes so simply, so matter of factly, that taken out of context some parts could be mistaken for a how-to, a magazine article for a business audience, or other sparse and stripped down book. She’s a writer, of course, so she approaches her grief like a writer. And she presents her feelings like a writer. The result is accessibility, universality, and staying power.

One of the best reviews I saw of this book is on the back cover, from Lev Grossman at Time:

“An act of consummate literary bravery, a writer known for her clarity allowing us to watch her mind as it becomes clouded with grief…”

A fantastic summary of the power of this book.

 
 
11
Mar

5 Powerful Business-Builders: Link Round-up

This week’s links tackle the nosediving financial environment, freelance blog resources, types of freelance clients, ways to improve your writing, and (uncomfortable) ways to boost your income.

A much needed reality check for independents anxious about the tanking economy at Golden Pencil: Writers and a Slowed Economy.

Check out the Top 100 Freelancer Blogs for a nice compilation of good resources. I will humbly add QRW as #101.

Here’s a nice overview of the good and bad: Types of Clients you’ll Likely Encounter as a Freelancer.

A great reminder of trimming the fat: Just Say No to These Enemies of Clear and Direct Writing.

Reach outside of your comfort zone, and more business may be a result. Hard stuff, but check it out: 3 Uncomfortable Ways to Make More Money as a Freelancer.

And your bonus link of the week: An interesting (and sadly true) take on the rash of faked memoirs in Face It, We Love This Stuff.

 
 
11
Mar

Keeping the Pipeline Flowing

arctic_pipeline_t35591.jpgI often write for companies in the medical realm, where the term “pipeline” is all-important. Companies focus on the here and now, selling their products and increasing brand awareness and loyalty, all for the goal of making profit. But they also keep an eye on the future. They invest much time and money in creating the next product, the next big thing that will support the company and increase profits. They focus on the pipeline of new, business-building and sustaining products and activities, and therefore find success

The “pipeline” is also an important concept for freelancers. We may have full calendars now and in the weeks to come, but we can never stop planning for the future. We must ensure a continual flow of assignment and projects.

I just finished up a crazy week of multiple deadlines, sneaking right under the wire with the last one. I’d really like to take a break right now. But the problem is this – the pipeline is looking a little weak. I committed the ultimate freelancing sin – I sacrificed time from my daily schedule usually devoted to marketing so that I could make those multiple deadlines. So no matter that I’m a little burned out, and no matter that J and I are frantically prepping for a move next week, I gotta double-time it and line up some more work.

That’s one of the biggest adjustments people must make when they move to independent work. At your regular 9 to 5 you could count on one aggravating, mind-blowing, frustratingly constant thing – the work was always there. No need to go trolling the halls asking your peers for more to do (and if you did have extra time, the interwebs awaited). With independent work, with that constant that we continually bitched about removed, we sort of want it back. Because now we have to hustle and flow, make our own rain and pay our bills through sheer miracles.

Lesson learned, and lesson shared: always mind the pipeline. No matter if you’re busy, make time for consistent marketing, even just a little bit each day. I know it’s paid off for me in the past; it will again in the future. Poor planning and neglecting marketing, on the other hand, gets you where I am: mighty stressed.

By the way: tune in each Wednesday for ideas on how to fill your daily marketing time.

 
 
10
Mar

The QRW Makes a Schedule

schedule.gifI like knowing what to expect. Call me a creature of habit, but I like knowing that almost every Wednesday night I have date night with J, that Friday nights we’re probably going to order sushi, that Saturday afternoons we hit LaBamba for a burrito lunch and then go book shopping. Patterns and routines can be boring if you let them, and it may be surprising to see someone that enjoys being quietly rebelliousprofess a love for habit. But I find routine can be constantly made new and exciting, while still being comforting.

Same goes for my web reading and blog visiting. I like knowing what to expect. I like knowing, for example, that although the insights will change and tidbits differ, I will find something freelance friendly and helpful everyday at Freelance Switch or Freelance Folder. I will find snarkiness and feminist quirk aplenty at Jezebel. And the list goes on throughout my blogroll.

I want to offer that same sort of quiet joy and comfort to my readers here at QuietRebelWriter. My goal with this blog is to spark freelance success for writers and creativity for all, by showing ways to flout the rules and thereby enrich your life. I want to be on your daily reading list, zipping into your RSS reader through subscription and into your Firefox or Explorer. So I’m telling you what you can expect. I’m telling you now, clearly and decisively, with excitement and a little scaredy-cat flutterings, what you will find here, and when.

Need more background? Wondering where the hell you just landed? Here’s some help, and here, and here.

Quiet Rebel Writer List of Contents:

Monday: Mondays are tough: ease into the week with a Monday Date, using lyrics, excerpts, poems, scenes and more to break the block and get a creative kick.

Tuesday: Freelancing lifestyle, issues, frustrations and joys in Tuesday’s Freelance Frenzy. Plus, tune in for a handy link round-up. Some of the best and the brightest from the past week.

Wednesday: Live vicariously through my attempts to get that damn novel published in Publishing Aspirations, and learn about tips, resources, and more in your own efforts. Plus, find a book to add to your case with Books to Read.

Thursday: Marketing successes and failures in Marketing Maven. Read about the transcendent power of writing with Writers who Matter.

Friday: At the end of week, all restraint is gone. It’s time for a well-mannered Rant, plus the new crazy sweeping the nation (or at least my office): Word Porn.

Until tomorrow.

UPDATE March 14: Ah geez. So the first week of the schedule is done, and I biffed it. I missed a few promised postings. Stupid loft closing. It eats up some time to own a piece of Chicago, all 1600 sq ft of it. But at least you know my plan, dear readers. And I’ll do my best to stick to it. :)