Where’s My Reset Button?

It’s no secret that I’ve had problems with consistency on this blog. Back in May, I attempted to revive it. Then I had to go back to Wound Care and keep my foot up for another month. On Friday, I was discharged from Wound Care (again) and now I’m back to the blog.

The difference this time is that I am actually working on a content plan instead of winging it. I discovered a couple years ago that just winging it doesn’t work for me in writing, so why did I continue to expect that it would with blogging? I don’t have an answer for that other than to say I’ve been lazy.

Consider this my reset button. We’re being more consistent and having better (I hope) content from here on out. I’ll be talking about writing, books, creativity, planning, and more. I’ll post articles, directed posts, tips, photos, and even a few videos. (There will be a video coming up next week, in fact.)

I will be posting three times a week minimum. Those are the planned posts. Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. The Saturday posts will be a week-in-review type, so if there’s anything that happened that you missed because I didn’t blog it, it will be there on Saturday.

By the way, I mentioned that I will be talking about books. Just as a quick heads-up, I want to let you know there is a new one available. Create Your Own DIY Planner. It’s available on Smashwords (in your format of choice) and Amazon (because for some reason it didn’t auto-populate to Amazon and I had to do it manually). Check it out and let me know what you think. I am planning on a print version by the end of August.

That’s it until Wednesday. I’ll see you then.

5 Ways to Market Yourself as a Freelancer

Note: The other day, I was going through some files and found a few articles that had been assigned to me by a website but were never published. This is one of those.

business cardsSuccess as a freelancer, whether writing, graphic design, etc., depends on self-promotion. Many of us were taught as children that it is considered impolite to brag about ourselves. However, that is exactly what we need to do as freelancers.

Here are five ways to promote yourself as a freelancer:

  1. Develop (and maintain) a web site. An outdated website does you no favors. Take the time to keep your site updated. Include a list of projects you completed in the past, with links when possible. You might think no one looks at your site, but it is a valuable tool you can use to let prospective clients know what you can do and see examples of your work.
  2. A web site is basically static. A blog is regularly updated. Ideally, keep your blog relevant to the work you do. Prospective clients use search engines, such as Google, to search for people who work in the field. Their search could lead to your blog. Keeping it updated regularly, at least twice a week, and talking about your freelance work can push your blog higher up in the search engine rankings. The higher your ranking is, the more likely it is someone will find, and ultimately hire, you. There is a caveat here: Never complain about clients on your blog. They will find out and word will get around. Keep it friendly yet professional.
  3. Create an e-mail signature. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you have a computer and an e-mail address. Even free e-mail addresses allow you to have a signature file. Include your name, preferably both first and last, a title, and a link to somewhere people can see samples of your work, whether a web site or a blog. Put it at the bottom of every e-mail you send.
  4. Network online and in person. If you work primarily with local businesses, join local civic organizations and consider joining the Chamber of Commerce. Go to meetings and Chamber events to network. Take business cards with you and hand them out. Remind people of what you do. Even if you work with local businesses, network online as well. Web sites such as Twitter provide opportunities to network with other professionals in your field, learning opportunities (there are numerous chats on Twitter, for example), and interaction with potential clients.
  5. Invest in business cards and brochures. Even in the Internet age, every freelancer needs business cards for self-promotion. Brochures might be able to be replaced by web sites, but only if they’re current. Sites such as VistaPrint offer free business cards if you pay shipping. Business cards are necessary to have on hand for civic organization meetings, Chamber of Commerce events, and professional conferences. Include your name, title, web site address, and best way to contact you on the cards.

There are more ways to promote yourself as a freelancer. Word-of-mouth also works well. The above are five of the most effective methods of self-promotion and can bring you success if you use them and follow up on any leads and assignments you receive.

Frequency and Looking Forward

Image used courtesy of The Public Speaking Project under a Creative Commons license.
Image used courtesy of The Public Speaking Project under a Creative Commons license.

Now that the ProBlogger Get Your Groove Back Challenge is done, I’m left thinking about frequency, topic coverage, and what’s next.

First, frequency. I know I cannot keep up a pace of posting on a daily basis. I would get bored with it and I would quit. It has happened before. I don’t want to do that again. Plus, I figure if I’m bored, you’re bored. That’s not a good combination any time. My current plan is to post a few times a week.

Right now, it’s Sunday evening. I’m going to go ahead and post this tonight, but in the future, posts will go live on Monday. I will also schedule things for Wednesday and Friday. We’ll see how that frequency works for a while. If it needs changing, I can certainly do that.

Next, topics. I still stand by what I’ve said before that this blog is about my path along the creative journey. It is. It will be. However, it will be a little more focused. It will include my main topic areas of writing, creativity in general, and planning/bullet journals. As I know you are aware, this will allow for a wide range of subtopics.

I’m planning on another fountain pen first impression soon. I’ll actually have the fountain pen in-hand tomorrow. It’s a Pilot Metropolitan Retro in orange. I got some Private Reserve Orange Crush ink to go with it. Stay tuned for that.

Now, what’s next? That’s a good question.

I’m working on a couple books. One is further along than the other. It will be an eBook, probably costing less than $2. I think this book has the potential to be very helpful and I want it to be affordable. The most helpful book in the world isn’t worth anything if you can’t afford it.

I am also planning some videos for my long-dormant YouTube channel. Anything that’s on there is …. old. That will change.

I’m making more use of my Instagram accounts as far as writing, the writing life, creativity, and planning go. Some of those posts may be lengthened and transported over here. (Yes, accounts. There’s my main one and my bullet journal/planning one.)

There’s more still percolating, but I think that just about covers it for now. Except for one thing.

What do you want to see here?

Let e know and I’ll do my best to cover it.

Creativity RoundUp

DSCN3878Some of you might know I’ve been participating in a blogging challenge hosted by ProBlogger. It has had me creating more content than usual, which is a good thing. I did get a bit behind, but I’ve still done a lot more in the past two weeks than I have in a long time here.

Other participants in the challenge posted on a wide variety of topics. The ones I tend to gravitate toward are about writing, photography, and creativity in general. No surprise there, right?

Here is a link-up of some of the creativity posts. I hope you like them.

5 Books That Will Spark Your Creativity – Two of my favorite books are on this list: Wired to Create and Big Magic. You’ll have to visit the post to see what else is there. I’m not going to ruin the surprise for you.

Why Am I Not More Creative? – I’ll just say some of the ideas and theories presented here are closely aligned with some of mine, including the idea that we are all creative.

How to Find Your Creative Side – Good tips, all. I particularly like the advice about experimenting. It can be fun and it works.

Why Being Bad Can Be Good for You – Have you ever thought that you don’t have to be good at everything? Being a beginner is good.

Book Review: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert – We’ve already established above that this is one of my favorite books. She does a good review of it here.

Out of all of the posts about writing, creativity, photography, etc., it was difficult to narrow it down to just a few. I couldn’t exactly share of them with you. This post would be as long as a book. I think you’ll find something here you can relate to, though.

Let’s Talk Planners

Creative Commons via catchingcourage.com
Creative Commons via catchingcourage.com

The other day, I mentioned that I had been searching for the perfect planner. None of the traditional planners work for me, though, because of space and missing elements that are key to me.

I started thinking about that and I wonder: What are some must-haves that you look for in a planner?

I will start us off in the comments.

Inspiration Station

&copy 2014 Jen Nipps
&copy 2014 Jen Nipps

You know how it goes. You’re going along, keeping on keeping on, and you run out of steam. You feel like you’re going through the motions and not getting anywhere. You’re in a rut. Your get up & go finally got up & went.

What’s a person to do?

Get it back, of course. You have to be motivated to get work done. You have to be inspired to be motivated. Where do you get that inspiration?

The easy answer? All around you.

The hard answer? All around you.

It isn’t a cop-out. It really is both that easy and that hard. It’s easy because we don’t have to go far to find a source of inspiration. It’s hard because, since it’s always around us, we don’t always see it.

One of my favorite sources of inspiration is my youngest niece. We’ll call her Miss J. She’s 5. She’s cute (absolutely adorable, actually!), smart, busy, and curious. She asks questions about everything. (I know. All kids do, but she’s the one currently in my life doing this to me.) Sometimes, a lot of times, I will find inspiration in the questions she asks me. I will get ideas for something to knit or crochet because of something she says. I take a lot of pictures of her.

She wants to know how I feel, how my leg feels, why Gabby (my dog) is running around outside like that, where Papa (my dad) is, when Nana (my mom) is going to be home from work.

She’s worried about not being able to read “good enough” for kindergarten in August!

She is a huge source of my inspiration for pretty much anything I do.

 

Tips for Effective Interviews

Photo of reporter's notebook by grafixtek on Flickr and used here with Creative Commons license.
Photo of reporter’s notebook by grafixtek on Flickr and used here with Creative Commons license.

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned that I’m working with the local newspaper on some articles. I’ve been doing several interviews because of that. In the process, I’ve learned — or rediscovered — some things.

  • Have at least 10 questions ready.
    I have discovered that if I go in with fewer than 10 questions, I don’t get enough usable material. I struggled to pull articles together. Once I figured out that I needed to ask more to get more, it became easier. One thing, though: If you ask a closed question, one that can be answered with a simple yes or no answer, ask another open question where they have to elaborate. Or ask why.
  • Treat the interview more like a conversation.
    If you go in acting like this is a formal interview, your source will be stiff and uncomfortable. They won’t open up the way you need them to. If they don;t open up, you get short answers. Getting them to open up is key to getting them to talk more about the subject at hand. Don’t be afraid to let them go on a tangent. You might be surprised at how relevant it turns out to be later on.
  • Take notes.
    Taking notes is important. It shows your source that you take them seriously and believe they will have something good to say that you will want to remember. I advocate taking notes even if you are recording your interview because batteries die and — particularly with digital recorders — recordings can be deleted or become corrupted.
  • When possible, record the interview.
    When you take notes, you use abbreviations. Sometimes you don’t remember what those abbreviations mean when you go to transcribe your notes. It is also possible that there will be too much information to take adequate notes and you risk losing a good quote if you’re not recording. There will be times when your source won’t want to be recorded, though, and you have to respect that.
  • Be gracious.
    People are busy. Be sure and thank them for taking the time to meet with you. If possible, follow up with a thank-you note, especially if it was a “big” interview.

There you have it. These are just a few of the things I’ve learned/rediscovered while doing interviews over the past month. Hopefully you get some benefit from it.