Category Archives: freelancing

Beating Writer Burnout

It’s Monday morning. You’ve had your coffee, your avocado toast, and your obligatory half hour in front of the TV before it’s time to shuffle across the house to your desk. But for some reason, you just can’t do it.

Or maybe it’s after dinner, when you normally take a break from the real world to work on your novel. But as soon as you grab your laptop, you know your eyes will cross if you have to read your own story yet again. It isn’t bad writing, you just can’t do it.

Dog Sleeping after Studying

You may have writer burnout. This isn’t quite the same as writer’s block, because in that situation you want to write but can’t.  When you’re burned out, you don’t even want to pick up a pen.  It happens to all of us, whether we’re getting paid or not. For me, I freelance for a living and write my own stories when I find the time. I’m always writing. Most of the time I’m thrilled to be doing so, but there are days when I just want to sit around in my fuzzy pink bathrobe and watch Star Trek.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help stave off burnout:

Give Yourself Goals: It’s too easy to just not write, even if it’s your livelihood. Give yourself a goal every month. If you’re writing for yourself, make it a word count or a certain number of stories. If you’re freelancing, make it a dollar amount. When you reach your goal, treat yourself to that video game that you’ve been wanting or a new shirt. People working “regular” jobs get bonuses, so why shouldn’t you?

Buy a How-to Book: There are tons of books out there on writing, and they can be just the inspiration you need to get back on track. Find one that deals specifically with the type of writing you’re trying to do, whether it’s crafting the perfect murder mystery or learning how to boost your freelancing business. This also gives you an excuse to go out to the bookstore and get some coffee!

Take a Break: When you just can’t do it anymore, don’t! There are lots of techniques for working through writer’s block, but if you’re burned out its a good idea to walk away for a little while. It gives your brain a chance to focus on something else, and maybe come up with some great ideas in the meantime!  Just make sure you go back and hit the keyboard after an hour or so.

Balance Your Checkbook: If your freelance work seems like the last thing you want to do, balance your checkbook and look at upcoming bills and expenses. For me, that’s usually enough to get my head back in the game!

Work on Something Different: There’s no written rule that you can’t have more than one story going. Tired of trying to figure out what your main character is going to do in chapter 5? Go find a new character to stalk!

While these methods aren’t going to be perfect for everyone, it’s important to give yourself scheduled breaks and avoid working too hard on one project.  Find what works for you, and keep it going even when you don’t feel burned out.  It’ll prevent future episodes and make sure those words keep coming.  Good luck!

* * *

Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Filed under freelancing, On Writing

Guest Post: How to Write an Effective Resume, by Chloe Sunstone

How to Write an Effective Resume

Let’s face it; Resumes are a necessary evil in the job search process.  Yet, there’s no way a piece of paper can truly reflect who you are OR the value of your skills.  Nonethless, it is generally required in the process. 

So if you are going to write a great resume, DO IT RIGHT. To do it correctly, you need to understand the true purpose of a resume which is (drum roll please) To Get an Interview! I repeat the goal of a resume is to get an interview.

As an HR professional, I’ve had countless friends, family and strangers ask for advice on their resume.  Below is a complete overview of the key tips on how to write a resume.  I have organized these tips by questions that I’m commonly asked relating to resume writing.

1) How long should my resume be?

Let’s get started. Keep in mind your primary goal — USE YOUR RESUME TO GET AN INTERVIEW! Think of your resume as an ADVERTISEMENT.

To do so, your resume should be two pages or less (NO Exceptions). Write a one page resume when you have LESS THAN TEN years of work experience.

For my readers who have more experience, I understand it can be a challenge to summarize twenty or thirty years of work experience into two pages.  Remember the average recruiter/ HR professional spends ten to fifteen seconds reviewing your resume before deciding on the next step – Interview or Reject.  Less is more.

In order to keep your resume at two pages or less, focus on your work experiences that are most applicable to your dream job.  In addition, do not list the same job responsibilities over and over.  For each job, focus on the most relevant job responsibilities.   Below are two excerpts from the professional experience section of a resume that demonstrate this concept better.   Both are from a resume for a management role.

  • Example 1 (Let’s call the imaginary candidate John Smith) repeats the same responsibilities over and over.
  • Example 2 (Let’s call the imaginary candidate Jane Doe) shows growth in experience by stressing different items under each job.  Jane Doe’s resume shows a variety of experiences thereby reflecting a more desirable background.

Professional Experience
Example 1:  John Smith

XYZ Company (Most Recent Employer)

  • Managed a team of ten finance professionals
  • Performed performance reviews, coached employees and provided managerial support
  • Recruited and hired team members
  • Coached, instructed and led major team projects on financial systems

ABC Company (Prior Employer)

  • Managed a team of eight finance professionals
  • Performed performance reviews, coached employees and provided managerial support
  • Recruited and hired team members
  • Managed major team projects

Professional Experience
Example 2:  Jane Doe

XYZ Company (Most Recent Employer)

  • In addition to leading a team of ten finance professionals, managed large team projects
  • Managed a company wide project to revamp the financial reporting system.  Partnered with an external systems vendor to design, develop and implement the new system
  • Saved the company $5 million due to the system implementation

ABC Company (Prior Employer)

  • Managed a team of eight finance professionals
  • Performed performance reviews, coached employees and provided managerial support
  • Recruited and hired team members
  • Managed major team projects

Do you see the difference?  Jane’s background reflects additional skills such as costs savings, vendor management, systems implementation etc…

Additionally, here are some more tips on how to write a great resume:

  • For experienced job seekers, do not list all of your experience.  Go back ten to fifteen years MAXIMUM and move forward from there.   Again, ensure your resume is no more than two pages in length.
  • For entry-level job seekers, focus on the experiences MOST relevant to the job. Keep your resume to one page.
    • TIP: To all college students; do EVERYTHING that you can to get an internship in your field of interest.  This experience is of immense value in your job search.
  • For those looking to make a career change, break the experience section of your resume into two parts:
    • Relevant Experience (for the experience most relevant to your desired job)
    • Additional Work Experience (outlining other work experiences)

Now, for those of you who work as Freelancers or Consultants…you may be thinking — “How do I keep my resume to a maximum of two pages? I’ve worked for so many different places.” Keep reading! The answer is below.

2) What type of resume format should I use?

There are 2 commonly accepted formats for resume writing.  Each is briefly described below with recommendations on the ideal situation for using each of these formats.

  • Chronological: A chronological resume lists your work experience in chronological order most recent role first by employer.  This is the most commonly recognized and accepted format by employers.  Although the most recommended format, it is BEST when an individual has a solid work history.  If you have changed jobs frequently or are attempting to make a major career change, I would not recommend this format.  It will unnecessarily draw attention to your job changes.
    • Click here for a Chronological Resume Example. Again, this is the most commonly used format.  A good chronological resume will demonstrate a variety of experiences within your field and relating to your dream job.
  • Functional: A functional resume lists your work experience without reference to specific employers but listing it by experiences or functions performed within the job.  These resumes are best used when an individual has a poor work history (i.e. changes jobs frequently).  Since the actual jobs are listed last on the resume, you are able to draw the reader in based on your functional work experience and hope that they do not focus on your frequent job changes.
    • Click here for a Functional Resume Example.  The bold items in the example (such as Project Management and Business Analysis) are the functions.  Generally a good functional resume will have four to ten different functional areas listed (depending on your level of experience).  The best functional resumes use the key words in the job description as the functions.

Please note: the two resumes examples are provided solely to demonstrate format.  They are “fake” resumes for an IT Manager role.  Remember, although the chronological resume is the most widely accepted by employers, format is a personal choice based on your situation.  Please pick the resume format that you think will work best for you. 

  • NOTE: The functional format is the BEST format for Freelancers, Consultants, Independent Project Managers etc...

Businesswoman Holding Contract Paper

3) Can you give me some writing tips for a resume?

In the case of any document, certain writing “rules” apply.  Universally, resumes should be written using the following rules:

  • The writing style should be consistent.  In other words, if you bold the name of one employer, you should bold the names of ALL of your employers.
  • NEVER use words like I, my or we.
  • Choose a readable font style (i.e. Arial, Times New Roman etc) and ensure that your font size is READABLE.  Please do not use a font any smaller than 11 point.
  • Use Action Verbs – In order to get your resume recognized, you need to grab the reader’s attention ASAP.  Action verbs allow you to do so. Using action verbs also allows you to be more concise.  Avoid using passive words such as “Responsible for”.  Instead explain your achievement/ outcome and how you did it OR the benefit of the action.  Please compare the 2 examples below.   Assess for yourself – Which has more attention grabbing language?
    • Action verb example: Reduced technical training costs by $3.5MM (a 64% decrease) through strong negotiation techniques.
    • Passive words example: Responsible for the technical training function of a software organization.  Responsibilities included working with vendors and negotiating new training rates.
  • Be concise as you describe your experiences. As mentioned earlier, an employer will only look at your resume for ten to fifteen seconds, so don’t over-complicate things.  You need to catch their attention FAST.
  • Use Spell Check and ask someone to proofread your resume.  There must be no spelling or grammar errors.
  • Avoid acronyms, abbreviations and overly technical jargon UNLESS widely accepted.  It is unlikely that your reader (usually an HR person) will know the meaning.
  • Ensure white space.  If your resume is too “over-crowded”, it will be hard to read.  If difficult to read, the quick ten to fifteen second scan will miss the key items that you want noticed by your reader.  As a result, keep some white space.  
    • The 2 easiest ways to ensure white space are:
      • Use bullets in your resume
      • Keep your sentences short and concise.  The longer the sentence, the less white space.

4) How do I get my resume recognized?  What makes my experience sound better than others?

The best advice is NO gimmicks when writing your resume.  There was a time where people used colored paper, included their photos on their resume to be pulled out of the pile.  Today, there is no pile. Most resumes are submitted through an on-line tracking system.  Most of these on-line systems automatically “pre-screen” your resumes for certain key words relating to the job posting of interest.   This automated screening process provides the resume reviewer with a ranking for each candidate.  The tips below are ways to be ranked high.  Your audience will review the highest ranked candidates first.  As a result, the best way to get your resume recognized/ ranked highly is to do the following:

  • Use Key Words — As mentioned above, most of the on-line resume submittal systems do automatic searching for key words and will “rank” the resume for the recruiter/ HR professional doing the initial review.  As a result, review job descriptions of your desired job.  Be certain to include key words (of importance) from those descriptions in your resume.  The use of these key words will rank you at the top — above the competition.
  • Include Accomplishments (results of your actions): Generally accomplishments are measurable, therefore use numbers (or percentages) to demonstrate and/or quantify the impact (or benefit) of your actions.
  • Target the job:  Be sure to think about the job and customize your resume to the position by highlighting relevant experiences.

5) If I really want a job, is it OK to exaggerate on my resume?

ALWAYS be honest about your experience:  You want your resume to sound good but not “too good to be true”. (When too good, Employers become suspicious). I’m not saying you can’t slightly exaggerate or be clever in the descriptions of your experience but don’t LIE.  Background checks are becoming increasingly sophisticated so you could easily get caught which could be immediate grounds for termination. True story below!

With over twenty years of HR experience, I’ve fired people for this exact thing.  One case was particularly sad.  An individual didn’t have a college degree but had seven years of financial analysis experience.  He had a decent paying job with a competitor. Then his wife was diagnosed with cancer spurring him into a job search to increase his salary.  He applied to a job posting for a Sr. Financial Analyst at my company.  The job posting said Bachelor degree required.
Now we can debate all day whether it should or should not be required but it was for this job.
He didn’t have a Bachelor degree so he lied on his resume and application. Additionally, he verbally stated he had a degree during his interview.  He was an impressive candidate and was offered the job contingent on his background check.
He gave notice at his current employer who walked him out because he was going to work for a competitor.  He started with us the next Monday.  He worked for a week when his bacground check uncovered he hadn’t completed his degree.  We had a firm policy about terminating for misrepresentation or lying on an application, no exceptions.  As a result, the company had no choice but to terminate his employment.
When confronted, the gentleman emotionally divulged the truth and shared the details of his wife’s cancer. We empathized. Outside of policy, we called his former employer to see if he could return to work there.  Unfortunately, they wouldn’t rehire anyone who had left to go to work for a competitor (even if only for a week).
This tragic situation demonstrates the importance of being honest on your resume and application.

6) What are the best parts/sections to include in my resume?

Each resume can be unique but most resumes contain the following sections:

  • Contact Information: Includes your name and pertinent contact information.  If possible, be sure to provide an email address, a link to your professional networking profiles (such as Linked In) and most importantly two numbers where you can be easily reached by phone.
  • Objective: If you do not have a cover letter, I would definitely recommend an objective.  This is statement of intent (i.e. what type of role, company etc.) that you are seeking.    Customizing this for each job to which you apply will generally yield better results.
  • Career Profile/ Summary: The summary includes briefly highlighting your skills and relevant qualifications to the target job to encourage continued review of your background.
  • Education: This is an overview of educational history including information such as school name, date of graduation, GPA, major field of study etc…
  • Qualifications/ Computer Skills: Includes qualifications relevant to your field as well as computer skills used frequently throughout your work experience.
  • Professional/ Work Experience: Your employment history such as employer name, dates of employment, job titles and specific work experiences belong in this section.  Remember, this area is where to use your action verbs and key words to describe your professional experiences.
  • Professional Organizations/ Associations: If you are a member of an organization and/or have held an office in a professional organization, this information should be provided under this heading especially if the organization is related to the target job or industry.
  • Awards/ Honors: If you have been honored in your professional or academic career and have been formally recognized in some manner, this is the perfect place to include that information on your resume.

Additional sections that are less commonly used include:

  • Military Experience: Highlights experience in the military. Many companies are targeting individuals with this experience so it can be particularly helpful in attracting an employer seeking these skills.
  • Publications: Although uncommon, if you’re fortunate enough to have any professional works published, this is the opportunity to put a spotlight on the relevant accomplishments.
  • Volunteer Experience: Highlighting volunteer and community activities can be impressive to employers dependent on the role and culture of the company.
  • Hobbies: Although not commonly provided, on occasion, individuals will provide a list of hobbies that they think may be relevant to give a sense of them as a full person OR to add additional length to your resume in order to complete a full page. (i.e. you have ¾ of a page of a resume and need to fill in the remainder of the page)
  • References: Rarely included on the resume any longer. Usually added to the job application instead.

BEST PRACTICE ALERT:

  1. Update your resume even when you’re not looking for a job.  Things can change at work (i.e. layoffs, new boss etc…) impacting the overall dynamics and turning your dream job into a nightmare.  As a result, update your resume at least once a year to highlight your most relevant experiences.
  2. Clean up your Social Media presence.
    • Ensure your LinkedIn profile is updated (Employers do double check)
    • Clean up your other accounts (i.e. Facebook, Twitter etc). Many people believe these are personal accounts but employers will check your profile. Be sure to remove blatant inappropriate post including profanity, nudity etc…
      • True Story: I worked for a company with a strict ‘NO SMOKING’ policy. A Recruiter checked a potential candidate’s Facebook profile and saw multiple photos of the candidate smoking cigarettes. The candidate was not contacted for an interview.  I know it may not seem fair but everything is open to judgement, Be Smart!
  3. Apply to jobs that match your background. For example: If you have ten years of customer service experience, don’t apply to a job for an Information Technology Director because you’ve used a computer. Be realistic in the jobs you select.

If you follow the tips above and you meet the qualifications for the job, the employer should notice your resume.  Once noticed, ideally you’ll be contacted for an interview.  It is a numbers game (i.e. you will need to submit lots of resumes- follow the old adage, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket). 

Think positive!!! With a great resume and you’re on your way to your dream job!!!

* * *

chloe sunstone

After over twenty years in HR, Chloe sprinted back to her first love, writing. Combining her love of the written word with a unique take on her HR background, she peeked behind the corporate veil to write compelling mysteries with a twist.

Chloe lives in the greater Cleveland area with her husband, Mike. 

Contact the Author:

Email: chloe@chloesunstone.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ chloesunstone

Website: chloesunstone.com

Publisher:

Silver Summit Software, LLC

5900 Som Center Road, Suite 12-161

Willoughby, Ohio 44094

chloe book

“The Mentor”

Chloe Sunstone released her first novel, “The Mentor” today. Chloe takes the reader on a fun and provocative ride of corporate intrigue.

As evidenced by the “Me Too” movement, corporations today are met with countless challenges when powerful people abuse others. Power can breed corruption. This book puts an intriguing spin on unchecked corruption and unspeakable revenge.

About the Book

When nerdy Arthur gets the chance to mentor the beautiful Sage, he’s instantly smitten. But things change when she becomes a target for a deranged killer.

As other young women are murdered, Arthur’s fight to protect Sage–and his own dark secrets–leads him down a path where he comes
face-to-face with an elusive assassin. 

Will Arthur emerge a hero or become the next victim?

If you love gripping thrillers, grab Chloe Sunstone’s, “The Mentor”. 

Readers can enjoy this thrill ride at The Mentor by Chloe Sunstone

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Building Your Writing CV

Just like any other job you’re applying for, your potential clients will want to see what you’ve already done and what you’re capable of doing.  While I don’t want to go into the differences of a resume versus a CV here, let’s just simplify it by saying that a CV focuses only on the writing work you’ve done and not every job you’ve held in your adult life.  Ideally, your CV will be part of a portfolio, but that’s another post.

If you’re new in the field, then you might not have a lot to put on your CV.  So how are you supposed to build it up if you don’t already have credits on there to show what you’re capable of?  Here are a few tips that may help.

Submissions:  Having your work in a publication is a great addition to any CV.  If you’re into fiction, set your short stories free in the world and start submitting them to literary magazines.  You may spend a bit of time doing this and tweaking your work before you get accepted, but it’s really worth it in the long run.  Keep in mind that smaller mags are often more likely to accept new writers, but the credits aren’t necessarily as prestigious.  Send out to any place you feel your writing would be a good fit.  Landing guest posts on blogs can be a similar way to show that your work has been accepted by others.

Local businesses:  It can be easier to get in touch with someone local than to find a client online who’s willing to hire you.  Reach out to businesses in your area and let them know just what you can do for them.  Are you great at social media marketing?  Many small companies don’t have the time for it.  See a pamphlet that needs proofreading?  Give them a call and offer your skills.

Trade deals:  When working with a local company, you may find that they’re unable to afford your services.  Consider offering them a trade deal, where you provide writing services for the business and they provide their services to you.  Be sure that the deal can benefit you; if you aren’t interested in what they can offer, then you’ll only be frustrated.  Also, it may be helpful to draw up a contract that denotes exactly what services are to be exchanged and how often to ensure that all parties are happy with the deal.  If you’re making programs for a theater but aren’t interested in free tickets, move along.

Local charities:  While you won’t get paid for doing work with charities, it’s still a great listing on your CV.  You might be able to write a newsletter for an animal rescue, type up flyers for a homeless shelter, or draft emails for a children’s hospital.

Keep in mind that it takes time to build up your CV.  You won’t hear back from magazines right away, and you may have to call numerous businesses and charities before you find someone willing to talk to you.  Be patient and persistent!

* * *

Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

 

Interested in having your work featured here?  Contact me.

 

 

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Finding Freelance Clients

Starting a freelance business (or thinking about it) and wondering where to find clients?  I found myself in that same situation when I decided to make the leap from a “real” job and pursue freelancing full time.  I’d already been doing it part time for a few years before that, and even though I felt confident in my writing skills I wasn’t sure just where the money was going to come from.  Here are a few tips for finding clients for your freelance writing business:

Freelance Platforms:  I’ve had my best luck on Upwork.  I started when it was still eLance.com, before it merged with oDesk.  While some freelancers don’t like the fact that a fee is taken out of their pay, consider this:  Those fees keep you from getting ripped off.  Your client must have the money to pay you put into escrow, so they can’t skip out on the bill.  And if there are any disputes, they all go through Upwork.  I haven’t used any other freelance platforms, so I can’t attest to how good or bad they might be, but I’m an Upwork fan all the way.

Business man with binoculars.

Local Businesses:  This is a great place to look for clients, especially if you’re working on building your CV.  (There will be another post on this topic later.)  Call up local businesses and ask to speak to the manager or the office manager.  What you can do for them will depend on your specialty, but they may need help with social media posts, blogs, or editing their pamphlets.  It may take quite a few phone calls (or in-person visits) to get a business on board, but I can honestly tell you that I have one local client who has been using me steadily for four years.

Little Gigs.  Take something small, even if it’s not exactly what you want.  Yes, I have taken an $8 job on Upwork before.  It might not have been worth the time I put into it, but it gave me work history on that platform when I badly needed it.  That job let others know that I did good work, so it was worth it in the long run.

Work for Free.  I have seen so many arguments about this on writing forums, and people seem to be on one side or the other.  Some believe that you should never write a single word without getting paid, while others believe that doing work for free is where you build your chops.  Sure, we all want money, but you’ve got to be able to prove you’re worth being paid!  Ask your local charities if they need help with their monthly newsletters or creating flyers.  Small businesses who don’t feel they can actually afford to hire a writer might be willing to work out a trade deal.  Either way, you’re getting credits on your CV!

will work for books

Be Flexible.  If someone offers you a job that isn’t entirely in your wheelhouse, take it!  (Of course, my advice doesn’t stand if the job is something you can’t do.)  When I was offered my first ghostwriting job, I really didn’t know what I was doing.  But guess what?  Almost all of my freelance work is now ghostwriting.  That first job helped me find something that actually worked out better for me than I ever could have imagined!  So even if you’re a little scared, go for it!

Follow Up.  When you’ve finished a job for a client, let them know you’re available for more work.  Tell them you’d be happy to work with them again if anything comes up.  If they’re happy with the job you’ve done, they’ll come find you again!  Sometimes, they’ll also refer to you to others in the industry who could use your help.

Remember that freelancing basically means you are constantly selling your skills.  Don’t be afraid to get out there and tell someone what you can do or even point out how you can benefit them.  When putting in a proposal, be sure to include your CV and any clips that might be applicable.  Good luck!

* * *

Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

 

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Tips for Starting a Freelance Business

If you’re thinking about starting a freelance business, then you probably already know that there is a ton of information out there about it.  I started freelancing full time four years ago, but I had been doing it part time for quite a few years before that.  I’ve learned an awful lot from trial and error.  While everyone is going to have a different experience depending on specialties, interests, and even location, here’s a little bit of information that may help you get started:

Office Space:  You need a place to work, right?  For most freelancers, it makes sense to work in your home.  You don’t have to pay a separate fee for rent, and the commute is always a short one.

That being said, though, home can be incredibly distracting.  Kids, pets, spouses, and the sink full of dirty dishes can keep you from your work.  Find a dedicated space in your home for your office, and use it.  I love to work from the couch, but I’m not nearly as productive there as I am at my desk.  Headphones are also great for drowning out distractions and keeping you focused.

woman-792162

Polish your CV.  Just like when you’re applying for “real” jobs, you need a resume to show your skills to potential clients.  Have you had an article published somewhere?  Done any work for a local company that relates to your expertise?  Let everyone know just what you can do!

Brush up on your skills.  Spend a little time each week on continuing education.  It doesn’t matter if you have a degree; there’s still more out there to learn!

Have a plan for getting work.  Don’t quit your day job and dive into the freelance world unless you have at least some idea of where you’ll get clients and how you’ll get paid.  Determine what kind of work you want to do (copywriting, editing, ghostwriting, etc.) and where you can get jobs in those categories.  I’ll be going into more detail on another blog post about how to get clients.

Schedule your due dates carefully.  Got a gig?  Congrats!  If you’re just diving into the freelance world, you might not have an accurate idea of just how long it will take you to finish a project.  Give yourself more time than you need when making promises to clients to avoid running late.

Set a goal.  Just because you work for yourself doesn’t mean you can’t have goals, bonuses, and business hours.  Set a goal that works for you, whether its by how much money you make, how many jobs you land, or how many hours you put in each month.  While you’re in the beginning stages of your freelancing, you may just set a goal for how many proposals you put in or how many businesses you contact about your services.  Don’t forget to reward yourself when you meet that goal!  Personally, I like to buy myself something when I hit my monthly income goal.

But seriously.  You might find that others don’t take your work seriously, and you may have that problem yourself when you’re sitting at home working in your pajamas at three in the afternoon.  But this is still business!   Get up and get to work on time (whatever time that may be) and don’t just skip out on work because you feel like you can.  It’s great to have a flexible schedule, but that’s not the same as blowing off your work.

As exciting as it can be to make the jump to freelancing, remember that you’ll have good days and you’ll have bad days.  You may have a week where you get no work at all, followed by a week where you’re offered so much you can’t possibly accept every job. Don’t give up!  It can be a little difficult to get your career off the ground, but it’s not impossible!  As you get further into career, you’ll find clients who use you regularly and make meeting those monthly goals easy.  I’ll be making more posts about freelancing, so be sure to look out for them.  Good luck!

* * *

Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Filed under freelancing

Tips for a Successful Freelance Business

I’ve been doing freelance work part time for seven years, and I began doing it full time four years ago.  It’s been an interesting little roller coaster, with plenty of ups (This is amazing and I can’t believe I haven’t been doing this my entire adult life!), downs (Oh crap.  I’m going to have to get a real job again.), and smooth stretches (When was the last time I wore real pants?  Who cares?).

Beautiful blonde drinking coffee in her home office

I’ve learned a lot, and there’s far more than I could fit into any single blog post, but here are a few tips for keeping your freelance business running smoothly:

Take an admin day at least once a week.  Go over your due dates, pay your bills, organize your desk.  Do all the things you don’t normally have time to do because you’re too busy writing!  It doesn’t even have to be a full day, but maybe a couple of hours.  Just keep it scheduled every week so you don’t miss it.

Keep a spreadsheet of your due dates.  I always have them written in my desk planner, but it really helps me get a good assessment of what I’ve got coming up for the next couple of months if I can see it all laid out in front of me.  In fact, I keep a lot of spreadsheets!

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Always give more than you promise.  This applies to any job.  If you tell your client you’ll have their project in by the 10th, give it to them by the 8th.  Don’t let anything leave your computer without being thoroughly proofread, even if you know they’ll have an editor look over it as well.  Never think of your jobs as anything less important than your own writing, and give them your all.  The biggest compliment you can get is for a client to hire you again, and they’ll be likely to do it if they know they can expect quality work from you.

Stay in touch with your clients.  We’re all human, and things happen.  Maybe you’re sick, or your child is sick, or your gecko died and you just can’t even.  Things happen, and you might occasionally not be able to meet your deadlines.  Call or email your clients and let them know you’ll be running a little late.  Most of the time, you’ll find that they’ll be very understanding., and they’ll also be grateful to you for being upfront with them.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew.  It can be very tempting to take every job you’re offered.  After all, the more you work the more money you make!  But it won’t be worth it if you’re staying up all night to get projects in before the deadline, and you won’t be making as much money if your clients stop hiring you because your quality is slipping.  Schedule out your due dates carefully, and always add a little extra padding in there for emergencies.  As noted above, things happen, and it’s nice to know you can take a morning off to watch Star Trek now and then.

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Have any other tips for freelancers?  Feel free to share in the comments below!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Filed under freelancing, On Writing, Work-at-Home Mom

The Elusive CV – How to Get Credits on Your Writing Resume

When I wanted to get into writing professionally, it was instantly obvious that I had nothing to show to any potential publishers or clients.  Like most people who had found writing to be their passion, I had spent much of my life writing but had very little to show for it.  Nobody was going to care that my poetry had made it into a high school magazine back in the day or that I had filled quite a few notebooks with rhymes and short stories.

I read quite a few books on the subject, but I didn’t find a whole lot that helped.  I plunged in headfirst and did the best I could, and I managed to start building up a pretty decent CV.  There are still many more things I want to add to it, but considering that my freelancing business currently keeps me glued to my desk, I would say it’s doing the job.

Make a Portfolio:  Even if you don’t have any credits, you can still show off your writing skills.  Put together a portfolio that represents your best pieces in all genres you have worked in.  This gives a potential client or publisher an example of your abilities even if nobody else has given you a chance before.

Start Local:  Local businesses often need a little bit of help with brochure copy, web content, or blog material.  Call them up, ask for the office manager, and tell them what you can do.  It’s a great opportunity to get a little bit of experience under your belt, as well as a reference to throw on your resume.

Use Your Connections:  Do you know someone who runs their own business?  Have you noticed that your buddy’s website is consistently filled with typos?  Offer your services!  You can work out payments or maybe barter for their services, or even just do some work for free in exchange for using them on your resume.  (Please, please don’t ask your friend if you can use him as a reference without doing any work.  I know people lie on resumes all the time, but that doesn’t make it right.)

Freelancing Websites:  The first time I tried eLance (now Upwork), I was completely discouraged.  It seemed impossible to land jobs, and most of the listings I saw offered very little money.  I gave up and didn’t think about it for a few years.  When I came back, I had more motivation since I had quit my job and gone back to school.  I started out with several jobs that paid literally next to nothing ($5 or $10).  Don’t overlook these opportunities, because they show up on your job history on your profile.  They prove that someone gave you a shot and that you did well!  Soon enough, I was landing much bigger jobs and finding plenty of work.  Many people put down these websites, claiming that they are a complete ripoff for freelancers.  I have acquired several jobs that paid $1,000 and up, so I tend to disagree.

Start-Up Magazines:  If you’re looking for some publishing credits, start submitting to smaller, start-up literary magazines.  These are usually based online, require no reading fee, and have less competition for publication.  While they might not hold as much weight as some of the larger mags, they’re a great place to start.

Get Outside Your Comfort Zone:  Just because you have never done something before doesn’t mean you can’t.  When I got my first offer for a ghostwriting gig, I was terrified.  I had never done anything like that before, and now I had committed to writing an entire book!  I dove in and did the best I could.  My client was very happy with the work, and ghostwriting is now the vast majority of my freelance work.  If someone offers you a job, go for it!

Take every opportunity you can to build up your resume.  It’s going to take some time and lots of calling and emailing and submitting, but it will happen.

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Filed under freelancing, On Writing, Work