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3 Pitfalls of the Freelance Lifestyle to Avoid

In this post, Guest Blogger Katheryn Rivas gives us a tongue-in-cheek look at some of the crazy issues involved in freelancing. 

Working from home won’t get you any sympathy. If you tell friends that you’re scraping together a living writing, nine out of ten times they think, “wow, buddy, you’re living the life!” Obviously it does have its benefits (if not in the HR sense) and unique attraction for you, or you wouldn’t be doing it. But if you’ve pursued this livelihood for any length of time, you know it’s not all cookies and warm slippers.

At times it can be downright maddening — the plentiful distractions and temptations, the “cabin fever,” the lack of separation between work and life. Here are a handful of the most common issues I’ve found with what ought to be a dream existence:

1. Sleeping in.

Set your alarm for the same time every day. Studies are starting to show that the regularity of your sleep schedule is as important as the quantity. And once you’re up, do something active. Go work out, preferably: all that sitting in front of a laptop screen is terrible for your posture and overall health. But at least take a walk around the block or to a corner coffee shop. Set up a morning routine that gets you showered, clothed and invigorated within an hour or two after waking. These are the easiest hours to let slip by.

2. Taxes.

This is a less intuitive concern for most (after all, you’re a writer, not an accountant) but it can cause a giant headache if you aren’t prepared. One of the great inconveniences of an unconventional work life is an unconventional tax situation. If you’re self-employed, you may be required to file on a quarterly basis. Everything also becomes more complicated in terms of health expenses. On the bright side, you may be able to deduct a number of common expenses if they help you write. (I’m not sure if liquor counts.)

3. Your life.

Chances are, you also have things you enjoy doing, or obligations you must fulfill, beyond writing. The nice thing about having an office is that you generally leave that stuff at home. But when you ARE at home, how do you handle the interruptions, the distractions: the spouse dropping in for lunch, the kitchen that really needs cleaning even though you have a deadline today, the TV you “accidentally” turn on and then get sucked into for 45 minutes? You have to have a mixed approach, I’ve found: some amount of hard, blocked-out time (using an alarm or a program like Freedom if you’re a compulsive web-surfer), some amount of going somewhere else (like a coffee shop with Wi-Fi), and some of the things you gotta just surf with. Indeed, this is not always a bug, but a feature. Enjoy the perks, but don’t let them take over.

If you can stamp out these and other snakes in the garden of Eden that is freelance writing, you really will be living the dream life your friends already think you are. If not, you might, like me, turn into Jack Nicholson from The Shining for a while…but you’ll get the hang of it eventually. The coal mines it ain’t.

Katheryn Rivas is an avid blogger whose true calling is researching and exploring the futureoflearning. For comments and questions, she can be reached at katherynrivas87@gmail.com.

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How to Build a Career and Business out of Freelance Writing

This is a guest post from Carol Wilson, and it talks about making the leap of faith that she could make a living with freelance writing. 

It takes a brave person to make a career out of freelance writing. I know this because I’ve personally done it. Before I was able to breakaway and start writing about topics that actually interested me, I was stuck in a nine-to-five office where everybody looked horribly miserable and the day went on painfully slow. Sometimes when I wasn’t staring at the clock or secretly online shopping, I’d dream of the day when I would finally take the leap and start my freelancing career. I felt selfish for wanting something different, but my intuition somehow knew I didn’t belong there.

When I had finally had enough of my boring pay-the-bills job, I took a bold risk and quit that miserable job. At the time I was terrified. After telling my employer I was done, I remember crying and shaking getting into my car with my box of personal items, thinking to myself, ‘What did I just do? How am I going to pay my bills? What will my parents think of me?’ I wish I could go back and give that young girl a pat on the back. What she did was incredibly brave, and in the end, her revolutionary act helped her find authentic happiness.

Starting out as a fulltime freelancer wasn’t easy, but once I got the hang of pitching and selling my work, I started making a suitable living in my dream career. If you’re one of those writers who aspires to build a career or business out of freelance writing, here are a number of tips and tricks that helped me on my path to success.

Create a Home Office

I remember how excited I was in the beginning to work from home. The idea of slowly getting out of bed, brewing strong coffee, and sitting on my bed writing was absolutely enthralling. I thought of my home as a business. Let me be the first to tell you that this was a horrible idea. You should never think of your home as a business office, let alone your bed, unless you have a proper space set aside. I’m not suggesting you go buy a ton of IKEA furniture, a new computer, and office supplies to create an expensive work environment. I’m saying you should have an area in your home that is dedicated to work only. Whether that’s a corner desk or a foldout table, it’s important you understand how to work in a professional setting from the comfort of home. Otherwise, you might find yourself surfing the web, texting all day, and getting nothing productive done.

Ask Your Employers to Grab Coffee

When I first started out, I began pitching story ideas only by email. Yet when I noticed that a number of my emails went without responses or acknowledgement, I began to worry. Even though we live in a time where email is priority and person-to-person contact is so yesterday, I believe one of the best ways to get people to consider your story ideas is to personally meet with them and tell them a bit about you. It is intimidating to ask somebody you’ve never met to meet you for coffee, but I can personally say that it has helped my career in strides. Just sit down with the individual and tell them a bit about yourself, what topics you like to write about, and some ideas you have for them. Even if they don’t take your ideas at first, they’ll at least know who you are and have you in mind when it comes time to assign writing pieces. Plus, they’ll be impressed by your kind gesture of meeting with them.

Never Miss a Deadline

This goes without saying, but then again it has to be said since so many writers miss deadlines. When I first started out writing, I’d make it a goal of mine never to turn a piece in late, and I’ve maintained that habit. Employers and businesses tire of writers who drop the ball one too many times. In fact, they make it a point of not working with writers they can’t trust. Try this: When a person or business assigns you a writing piece with a deadline, turn it in the day before the deadline. It may seem tedious and annoying to do so, but I can promise that sticking to that habit will help you maintain a consistent pattern of turning in your work on time. Best of all, if the writing is good, employers and businesses will want to continue working with you.

Build Strong Relationships with Public Relations Companies

Coming up with story ideas on your own can sometimes be a pain. The good news is that there are a number of public relations companies out there who are paid to pitch story ideas to media and freelance writers. No, their ideas aren’t always the greatest, but they sometimes help us stitch together ideas we’ve been throwing around. In the greatest of circumstances, they even pitch a perfectly good feature that we couldn’t have dreamed up on our own. Seek out the public relations companies in your area and cultivate strong working relationships with them. Do learn to decipher what’s a good story idea from a poor one, but always be respectful when a public relations company sends you any and every pitch. If you don’t like the idea, simply say, “Thank you for this pitch; however, I won’t be using this story idea at this time.”

Getting started as a fulltime freelance writer can be both tricky and scary, but it’s a great job for those who make the most out of it. Use these four tips in transforming your writing into a career or business.

As a business writing freelancer, Carol Wilson enjoys giving her readers business insurance advice as well as enjoys giving some of the latest tips in the business world. She welcomes your comments at wilson.carol24@gmail.com.

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Five Easy Ways to Find Freelance Work

This guest post comes to us from Heather Smith. In it, she talks about some of the ways it is possible to find freelance work. I would add that there is work EVERYWHERE you look online or go in real life. Local, small businesses need to create an online presence for themselves and have no idea where to start. You can facilitate that for them and make a good living doing it.  I am putting together an eBook on online marketing for small businesses that I should have done in the next week or two, which will provide a roadmap for those writers interested in learning more about online marketing and helping businesses move into the 21st century, engage customers, and increase revenue. 

Whether you’re a novice writer trying to break into the industry or a seasoned professional looking to make a little money on the side, freelance writing is the way to go. Freelance writing can help you expand your writing base, improve your writing and editing skills, and put you in touch with more permanent writing positions. The problem lies in finding freelance work, which can be tricky at times; here are five ways to help you find freelance opportunities:

  1.   Contact publishers in your area– It’s likely that there are several publications in your area ranging from local newspapers and magazines to more prominent papers in a nearby metropolitan area that are all open to hiring on freelance writers to complete different pieces. Reach out to several different publications and pitch topic ideas that you feel would be relevant to their audience, and explain why your writing would be a good fit for their market.
  2.    Sign up for freelance websites– There are several websites out there geared at connecting freelance writers with different writing gigs around the web. Depending on the site it will either connect you to people who are looking for work or post available jobs that you can pick and choose from. The pay scale varies based on the length of the piece and how in-depth it is.
  3.    Blog regularly– One of the best ways to get your name out there is to start a blog and blog regularly. Interacting with other bloggers and guest posting on their sites is also a great way to showcase your work, and the more content you have around the web the more likely it is that companies will see your work and reach out to you to do work for them.
  4.    Network with other writers – You should alwaysbe networking with other writers in the blogosphere, at networking events, and through social media sites. By networking with other writers you open yourself up to a world of possible new writing opportunities, and other writers can suggest your name to publishers when they stumble upon a piece that would fit you well.

    find this at: http://freelanceswitch.com/finding/monster-list-of-freelance-job-sites-2011/

  5.    Reach out to online publications – Just like you should reach out to publishers in your area, you should constantly reach out to online publications and pitch ideas to them as well. You have access to hundreds of thousands of publications online, so it’s likely that at some point you’ll find a good match, and writing for them once could develop into a steady writing relationship.

Finding freelance work can be daunting at first, but after you’ve done a couple freelance pieces you’ll find that it gets easier and easier to locate new work. Getting your name out there initially is the hard part, but once you do you just have to keep the momentum going.

Author Bio

Heather Smith is an ex-nanny. Passionate about thought leadership and writing, Heather regularly contributes to various career, social media, public relations, branding, and parenting blogs/websites. She also provides value to become a nanny by giving advice on site design as well as the features and functionality to provide more and more value to nannies and familiesacross the U.S. and Canada. She can be available at H.smith7295 [at] gmail.com.

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