Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Right and Wrong Way to Handle Artistic Setbacks

It is so easy for me sometimes to second guess my course in life, due to one little setback. For instance, I had a job I had been working on for almost a month. I had given this woman three different designs, representing almost a half week of my life. She agreed with every single step, suggesting improvements in each phase and applauding them. Not only that, but she kept raising the budget. Then she dropped the bomb. My time had been a complete waste. Her husband was going to build it, which I doubt he ever will.

How Not to Handle It

So, what do you do in these situations? I have some ideas about how I will handle it next time, but this time, I reacted badly and had a mini-meltdown. I forgot that I had almost nothing to do with this job showing up in the first place.

      I reacted as if it was a disaster, instead of remembering to just do the next thing
      I had plenty of other work to do, but I let my head get in a bad place, which slowed me down
      I started thinking of all the things that this job was going to solve, and let them fall in on me

After consideration this morning, it was my own doubts about the job that probably caused the situation in the first place. I had allowed this one project to shove other things aside. I was altering my plan to make it happen, because I liked the idea of the outcome I imagined from this project.

Examine Your Mistakes

The universe is on your side, and remembering this in the thick of things can be tough. In fact, as I said, the idea that I had to make this job happen was what was jacking with my ability to manifest the finished project in the first place. Instead of letting things I happen, I started being forceful.

      I had given more to the design than was warranted, especially since I had not been paid
      I started living in the future, instead of staying firmly grounded in the present, with ample work available all around me
      I was making it fit me, instead of accepting it as it was

I read something one time that really helps me a lot. There are never any problems in the current moment. There are challenges, to be sure, but once we face them and do the next thing, they are just that, the next thing to do. Problems exist primarily in the future, and most of them will never materialize anyway.

What to Do Instead

Life is not a jigsaw puzzle, but I consistently drift back into a mode where I try to make everything fit, try to make sense of it all. I have never been any good at predicting the future, but yet, I think I can align the present to give certain outcomes. Instead I should be focused on staying in the moment and doing what is right in front of me.

      It's amazing what you find when you just do the next thing. There is hardly ever a circumstance when you can't take the next step, and if that is you, it is time to give up and ask someone to carry you until you can. So, stop stressing.
      Stress kills creativity, or rather, scares it away. When you are stressed, the ideas you come up with are rarely your best.
      Thinking about everything at once is a great way to accomplish none of them. Focus, choose a course and trust the universe to supply the roadway, and the fuel.

I hope the next time I find myself in this situation, I remember this. I hope that I am wise enough to immediately drop it and move on, looking around, right there in that very moment for the next opportunity. There are always an infinite series of possibilities extending from every moment into the future. It is only our lack of imagination that leads us to believe that our options are limited, and that is exactly what happened to me yesterday.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Having Trouble Getting Content Seen? Maybe You Need to D.R.O.P. it!

Here is a content production work flow acronym that I use for blog posts and other content I publish, maybe it will help someone to get their content out there. So, get ready to D.R.O.P. Everything!

D is for “Develop”

This is a pretty big chunk of what we do, really, development. It includes ideation, curation, and referencing our material. This is where the creative work comes in.

Things to remember in developmet: work to develop content that is unique, but not TOO unique. If you can find a twist, or new perspective on something people are already talking about, you will have a built in audience. How?

      Take ideas from your social media news feeds
      Rip them straight from the headlines
      For content that is slightly more evergreen, go to the bestseller list for topics

Much like a quality paint job, the quality of your content lies in good prep, so don't skimp. If you're smart, you'll do your research and sourcing for more than one piece at a time, here's another hint, look for potential spinoffs into other related topics to develop later.

Use an outlining plan, like this one:  (link) to give yourself a template to build posts on. It makes it really fast and simple, gives your work a uniform look and makes it possible to work on multiple ideas at a time. If you are good with a word processor, you can set up an actual template to use.

R is for “Rewrite”

 Once you know what you want to say, it is time to figure out how to say it! This is the fun part. But why do I say re-write, instead of just “write”. Well,  first of all, it does not start with R, duh, but seriously, writing is rewriting. If you start into a piece with at least a second draft in mind, you will be more likely to take the time to produce serious, high quality work.

Plan on taking at least two passes at every piece, three is preferable. Here are the steps I use to edit my posts, when I am not rushing out the door and think, CRAP! No post yet today!

1.      Make a pass for obvious problems with spelling and grammar.
2.      Make a pass to edit for readability
3.      Make a pass to edit your work down to the fewest possible words that still convey your message
4.      Make a pass with this idea in mind, what links, or other content can I add to reinforce this message?
With most blog pieces (300 to 1000 words) all of these passes can be done in fifteen to twenty minutes, with practice, but here is the payoff, they make you look like a great writer!

O is for “Optimize”

SEO, what a fun little word. Search engines can be bane of your existence, or a golden ticket to the good life, depending on how you handle your content creation. There are several things you can do to make it easier on yourself.

Hopefully, you have already done good keyword research and have a nice list, of often searched terms that fit into your niche. If you don't, you should. Finding the right way to talk about the things you talk about is a huge key in getting traffic, other than friends and family.

      15 to 20% of your content, should, ideally, be keywords
      Integrating them into your text, so that they make sense takes times, but will give great results
      Using keywords in the right way is also important, especially in your anchor text and descriptions
      If you use Wordpress, get Yoast SEO plugin, it's free and will help a lot

In addition to keywords, you will also want to use good images, and other media to make your content sticky. The more value you give, the more likely the search engines are to index you highly, which is what you want.

P is for “Promote”

Location, locations, location! As the old adage goes, is the best way to build a successful business. The internet correlation to that is giving people great ways to find your location. There are too many great sites with awesome content around today to expect that your catchy domain name alone, will do this.

You need a plan, and I highly suggest you take a look at this post here,  (link) about tools you can use, and pay special attention to the IFTTT section. This thing is a free powerhouse filled with wonderful promotional tools.

      Automate as much sharing of your content as possible. (yea, automated sharing is marginally less effective, but come on, were you seriously going to build those links manually?)
      Work to build sharable content to enlist your audience as “brand evangelists” who will share and link to your work for you!
      Integrate social media, your other websites, any listings you have for books for sale, etc, to include your blog address.

Every little bit helps and paid traffic from Google ads, Facebook ads, and the like are good too. Work every angle you can, on  a regular basis and you will see your audience begin to grow over time. The harder and more consistently you work, without giving up, the better it will be.

So, now you have permission to DROP everything, go do it!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Do These Three Simple Things to Start Getting Paid What Your Writing is Worth

I used to think that the good writing jobs were just too hard to come by, that I would probably never make more than about $20 an hour, a decent wage to be sure, but not really good money for a real grownup. That’s what I used to think, but in the past year I have begun to unravel the code and what I found out surprised me!

First, I was not really prepared for the good jobs!

I think I believed I was ready, skill wise, and maybe I was. But the truth was, I had an outdated resume that wasn’t getting me any bites, and no website other than an outdated blog that really had nothing to do with my writing. 

Hell, I hadn’t even gathered up what good samples and links I had, and there was a lot of my work out there to be found. But, when I was asked for portfolio samples, I always had to scramble. 

Second, I was following Einstein’s definition of insanity!

Einstein is quoted as saying that insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results. So, how many time have you done this? You have convinced yourself that you are really, really trying to break into lucrative freelance work, but really, you are just doing the same stuff that didn’t work the last time.
That was me. I was talking to the same few connections, going back to the same low paying sources, expecting them to have magically upgraded, and then getting discouraged when my Craigslist ad got nothing but trolls and cheapskates. But, I really didn’t see it! 

Last, but not least, I didn’t really believe I could do it!

Oh, sure, I could dream of the day that I was sitting in a café, on vacation, taking an hour out of my day to accept some really choice assignments that I could finish that night back at the beach house while my family slept, getting paid to vacation. But, I thought that there was something magical that would get me there, that my dreams were just a magic carpet ride away!

Then, I started paying attention to the guys who were getting work! No offense writer dudes, but you suck! I mean really! There were blatant typos in their work, and it was so basic I could have written it in my sleep in the eighth grade, but they were making bank! So, what was it going to take for me to believe I was worth that? 

So, here are three things I did and you can do them too!

First, I got busy and made sure I was ready. 

I updated my resume and put up this website as my calling card so I would have some place to send interested parties where they could see I was serious. I worked hard at making this my job and taking it seriously. Just because writing is a low energy way to make a living doesn’t mean you should approach it lazily!

Then I got out there and gathered up all of my samples and put together a list of just a few of the thousands of pieces I had written over the past six years, yes, literally, at one point I published over 3000 pieces for Demand Studios, mostly in home improvement, over the course of two years, so there is a  lot of stuff out there with my name on it. I put it all in one easy to find place!

Second, I stopped doing what I was doing 

And the first thing that meant was running back to my fall back trade of carpentry. In the past, every time a decent writing gig dried up, I would go back to it because I knew I could line up a thousand bucks work in a day or two and get the bills paid, but I hated doing it and dreaming of being a writer full time, consistently!

Then, I pulled the Craigslist ad down and started talking it up on Facebook with some new circles I was part of. I had made it a point to get some new Facebook friends. No, I didn’t abandon the old ones, they are my real world friends, but none of them hire writers, so I branched out!

Then, I started thinking about the kinds of job sources I wanted and started searching for them. I wrote down a list of what I wanted and one thing I put on this wish list was a site that incorporated ALL of the Craigslist writing jobs in one place, within hours I had found it! 

I determined to apply for every single position that I thought I was an even half decent fit for!  

This was a big shift in my thinking, since I had allowed my ill prepared portfolio and resume stop me from inquiring about gigs. Now, I had a decent list that was added to daily and I started plowing through it, applying for ten a day, at least, sometimes twenty. 

After a few days, some responses started to come back and most of it was crap. I got tons of recruitment for the Empower network, NO DO NOT GO THERE, IT IS A SCAM! Lot’s of links teaching me how to make money teaching people how to make money by teaching people how to make money, and lots of legit but very low paying work. We are talking less than a penny a word!

Before I knew it though, there was a legit offer from a guy who had a group of blogs he had monetized and needs regular content for. He was ready to pay a decent price and he liked my stuff! (my resume and samples had paid off!) then I got another call and another. Not all of them worked out, but enough did to call it a real job, within about a week. 

Now it’s mine to lose!

Now that I have it, the key is not to grow complacent. A few good paying clients will pay the bills, but even long term clients eventually make changes, meet new people, sell the business, retire, anything can happen. So, I make it a point to check my sources at least every two or three days and put in applications for everything I like. 

As I progress, I am gaining more high profile samples, in a wide variety of industries. Even the sites that reject my offers are quick to point out my experience, but I am not a fit for everybody, and I don’t want to be. I am working to diversify my client base. So, that when one quits me, I simply shift my focus to others until I can replace it. 

You can do it too!

You may be where I was when I started out and making $10 an hour to write from home sounds like a dream job. Or, you might be more like me, looking for that $40- $50 an hour paycheck and more. Wherever you are, these steps can take you to the next level. Work your writing like you would a job. Some of it is busy work, like checking the jobs lists daily, but more and more you will be able to have enough billable hours to realize your potential earnings. When you do, like me, you too will wonder what took you so long!