Saturday, September 29, 2012

Cost-Effective Tools Newbie Freelance Writers can Use

There is an overwhelming number of freelance writers today. You can't ignore the fact the many will even under price themselves to get a project. How much harder it is for these newbies to purchase freelancing tools then?

As newbies to the world of freelance writing, there are still tools that you can use to upgrade your services for free or inexpensively. These are my top tools for working more productively and write more effectively:

1. Netbook and wifi connection. These of course, are important tools for wandering freelance writers. Those who have a home office already set up, you may still want to consider getting a netbook for those times when you need some change of scene to boost you creativity and writing power.

2. Online Thesaurus. Aside from the synonyms and antonyms that you can use via MS word, there are other online thesaurus and dictionaries that you can use to help you as you struggle to find the right words. There are free sites but there are also those that require a subscription. The Visual Thesaurus for instance gives a free trial so you can decide if you want to push through with their monthly subscription.

3. Skype (YM, Gmailchat, etc). Skype has been one important communication tools that's cost-effective. When an Aussie asked me to become her VA for a short time, we used skype all the time. It allowed us to make calls for easier guidance and better work relations through effective communications.

4. Copyscape. This paid tool is actually my favorite. It helps ensure that my work is plagiarism or duplicate free. You can also subscribe to help protect your writing or type in a URL to check a specific document.

5. MS Excel, Google Spreadsheet. I don't have any invoicing device so I just use a spreadsheet to create my own invoice. Sometimes google spreadsheet is also an excellent invoicing tool where I update it and share it with my client so he/she can also check it and make necessary changes.

There are so many tools that you can explore to help you work more productively as freelance writers. With these simple tools you can upgrade the quality of your output and gain more satisfied clients. As you move along, you may also start more effective and extensive tools which require subscriptions and fees.

Great Tips for (Solo) Working Moms

Filipinos have close family ties and most families are very patriarchal, meaning the father is the head of the family and decides for everyone. Mine was a bit like that, but I was too mule headed to stay and listen. Like any new graduate, I wanted to discover the world and start a career to earn my own money. So, despite his non-acceptance on my decision to work, he wasn't able to do anything. 
Now with the freedom I experienced also came some sticky situations where soon I found myself on the way to motherhood. And with the very conservative culture of Filipino families, I decided to pursue a more stable career away from home. It was difficult at first, but I know many will agree, when you feel that little being slowly growing inside you, you'll feel utmost responsibility for it and find all means for both of you to survive - he will give you strength in body, mind and spirit.
As a young, solo, working mom, I implored other moms in my circle for tips to make working and mothering go well together.  It's no secret that single parents are sometimes looked down upon in many companies here in the Philippines, lucky for me, I got a welcoming working family who supported me all through out. Here are some tips that my "mommy's nook" gave me in my struggle to thrive and survive being a solo, working mom. 
1. Build a Network of Moms

This I did offline and online. Mother's where I work had been more than helpful with the things that I should expect as I progress with my pregnancy and even after I gave birth. I also started reading fora and mommy groups over internet along with my search for inexpensive hospitals and other baby stuff. I gained friends and confidants who made me feel stronger despite my situation. I received trinkets and useful advice and information ranging from breastfeeding, baby formula, food and a lot more! These moms from both online and offline worlds provided constant support all throughout. 
2. Build Stronger Family Ties

Despite issues that arise over my untimely pregnancy, my parents were insistent upon providing me all the help that they can. Yes, they were nagging, they have a right to be. Well, we are Filipinos and you know that your family will always be there for you no matter what happens. And we let bygones be bygones and started with thriving yet happy days with proud grand parents and strict tita doting over the first baby boy in the family (Welcome, Teloyskie!)

3. Find an Exceptional Yaya (nanny)

For those who don't have their families or relatives in close proximity, finding an exceptional nanny or yaya is very significant in being a career mom. Even if Teloyskie was with my mom, we were still lucky to find someone genuinely caring for him. Yaya Eden was someone that we can trust our home with and one whom we can easily communicate with. Having her during the critical 2-3 years was simply a blessing!
4. Set boundaries that you can stick to.

Work and family time should be well managed. When my son is with me, I try hard to finish work at 5pm so I can be home at 6pm. Once I get home, I won't be available for work related calls until my son sleeps. I guess I am also lucky to find a moderately demanding work where I can have some time off and it's very rarely that I need to work beyond 5pm. 
5. Do what you love and Relax

If you don't love your job, then you'll only be spending the day wishing you are home with your child. It's hard enough to be a working mom, so find something that you love to do so it feels more rewarding. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Freelance Writing and Location Independence

I wish I could easily claim to be location independent when it comes to my freelance writing job. Though I love to write, I still love my full time job so still I stay where I am. The biggest benefit of having freelance writing assignments for me is that it allowed me to take vacations, have the funds to pay for them and work tasks and jobs while I'm somewhere sunny and sandy - that's as close as I can get to being location independent i guess.

Being location independent allows web-savvy professionals to work anywhere they want by setting up a virtual office. However, not every job can be taken anywhere, thus I stay weekdays to report to my office. For those who have the capacity, training and opportunity start a mobile office, kudos to you.

Location independence greatest allure is the promise of travel and adventure while you keep your job. But I think it's not all pros of course. The shift into being a virtual worker should be taken slowly. Unlike me who keeps a full time job, freelance writers, web developers, researchers and so forth can easily tweak and turn their schedules to accommodate tasks and jobs even while they're exploring the ruins of Angkor Wat or testing the sweet waters of Maldives.

But freelance writing for me is more of past time, a hobby and a way of putting thoughts into words. I love writing and travelling, and I'd place a lot of consideration on being a location independent full time researcher if I lose my job. Presently however, I love my job the way it loves me, and I won't be losing it anytime soon.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Freelance Writing: Realizing When Less Means More

One of the worse mistake that freelance writers can probably make is to bite off more than they can chew. One can easily get hung up, (not to mention burnt out) with the lots and lots and the more and mores.

Big project are not always good especially if you talk about the quantity of the projects that you single-handedly write and edit. In many instances, fewer is actually better. But can fewer projects be better in terms of earnings? While most new freelance writers complain about not having enough projects, what many of us really need is a lot less but gives us more earnings.

Quality vs. Quantity
An online writer's monthly earnings can go for as much or as little as possible. Let's imagine that you aim to earn P25,000 in a month as a freelance writer(just a figure i thought of). There are many ways you can earn this in a month's time. Depending on the clients you have, there are some situations for earning that are more desirable than others. (Figures are on an average)

  • Short Articles. You can write 25-30 short articles (100-150 words) and earn around P60 for each.
  • Mid-size articles and blog posts. You can write around 10 articles of 300-350 words long for P150 each.
  • Full page web content and SEO articles. These articles range from P250-300 each and you can write at least 5 articles per day to achieve your target earnings for the month.
  • Many established freelance writer also offer bundles writing services and high-end-turn-key projects for 2-3 clients in a month and earns as much as P25,000 on each client.

But can you really handle all the requirements of the job to reach your desired earnings and more?

Until you're drowning with too many projects at a time, when you'll realize that having too many writing projects is in fact, bad. Having too many writing projects and juggling a number of clients at a time can -

  • Lower output quality. Because you're rushing to get things done and reach the daily quota you've set for yourself and earn enough, it's highly impossible for you to maintain your quality of work.
  • Less time to find high-end clients and market their talents. Freelancers working on multiple projects at a time are usually left with every little time for themselves much less for marketing their skills and talents to other high-end clients.
  • High Impact of break-ins. For freelance writers relying on their daily quota, missing a single day of work can significantly impact their targeted monthly income. 
  • Stagnation of skills. Because of a freelance writer's commitment to high volume of assignments, they also have very little time to update their talents.
  • Burn outs. Happened to me and can happen to any freelance writers churning out volumes of work everyday just to reach their goal. I can say that your target figure can work as a motivation, but for many it just ain't enough. 

Focusing more on the quality of work for quality clients is the better way of doing freelance jobs. You get a better working environment and you provide better work results for your clients. Many freelance writers choose to work on multiple project types in a month, but hopefully, more would be enlightened to work more for quality than quantity.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Researchers and Writers Don't Catch the Punchline Right

I work as a full time researcher and this puts my online writing on the side lines. I didn't realize recently how serious the role of researchers are in our field of work. Being one of the newest in the department and having no experience in research analysis at all, I find myself always at lost when the "older" ones discuss work matters. I think, if it wasn't for my writing abilities (which is actually more on creative and free-form) I wouldn't be placed were I am right now.

Just a few days ago, I was sent to start schooling for researcher analysts. The course will be an in-depth study of our systems and aims to create effective and efficient personalities from us. Their basic requirement of course is that the student must be a writer (yey! I think I'm qualified for this --- WRONG!)

Okay, a few days after we convened, my nose is all but bleeding. I have migraines every now and then and I dread the upcoming weeks where we'll most probably have our brains squeezed out! (lol) Well during one lecture on the basics of research analysis, our lecturer kept on hitting on jokes, and almost all of us stayed serious, no reactions - nada. And not until he explains himself do we all snicker and laugh - and yeah our lecturer kept on laughing at us and keeps on mentioning that researchers and writers don't catch the punchlines right every time. I know he's speaking from experience and I'm starting to believe that it might actually be true to most if not all researchers and writers.