Category Archives: Work

Enjoy Your Isolation! Seriously!

It’s easy to focus on what we’re not allowed to do right now. Concerts and sporting events have been cancelled. Kids are missing out on birthday parties. Weddings are being postponed. It’s a little scary just to go to the grocery store.

But social distancing and staying at home doesn’t have to be a bad thing! I stay home most of the time, but even for me there’s suddenly a lot more time on my hands now that school is out. I’m going to do my best to enjoy it, and so can you.

1. Do That Thing You Always Wanted to Do – How many times have you said you were going to write a book? Or start a blog? Or learn to play that guitar you bought? There’s no better time than now, and we’re incredibly lucky that we have the internet to help us along.

2. Love on Your Pet – Our animals are probably thrilled about all this time with their humans! Teach your dog a new trick, brush your cat, or tame that bearded dragon! It’ll make them feel good, and it might just make you feel a little less anxious about what’s going on in the world.

3. Get Caught Up – Okay, so maybe this part isn’t quite as enjoyable for some. Personally, I really like having a clean house, but I don’t always have the time to make it happen. This is a great time to get caught up on all those laundry, dishes, and dusting!

4. Deep Cleaning – I really think this deserves a category of it’s own. Again, maybe not fun for everyone, but once you’ve organized that sock drawer you’ll never go back. Binge watch some Marie Kondo, and then start a stack of stuff to get rid of! (Just maybe hold onto those old t-shirts in case you can’t get any more toilet paper.)

5. Rebuild Your Relationship – We’re all stuck inside together, right? Dates at home can be just as romantic as going out, and they’re a lot cheaper! Have a candlelit dinner with some good music. Snuggle up on the couch and rewatch your favorite movie. There are plenty of possibilities!

6. Spend Time with Your Kids – Have you noticed how much time you’re saving by not having to pick them up from all their extracurriculars? Use that time to play board games, read books together, or have a family meeting. There are lots of museums and zoos offering free virtual tours, which could also be great to check out together.

7. Cooking – Have you always wanted to make bread from scratch? You’ve got the time, and you won’t have to go to the store!

8. Treat Yourself – Paint your toenails. Give yourself a facial. Tweeze your eyebrows. Take a long bath with a good book. You deserve some peace and relaxation, and you might as well get it in now.

9. Read! – Is your bookshelf groaning with volumes you haven’t touched? Are you longing to revisit the classics but never have time? It’s time to read! I’ll have a free book available each week for about the next month, and I know many other authors are doing the same thing.

10. Spread Love Without the Germs – You might be staying home, but that doesn’t mean you can’t call, message, and videochat your friends and loved ones. Get connected and catch up!

Yes, things are different, but we don’t have to hate it. We can deal with this, and we’ll get through it! Don’t forget to wash your hands!

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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 Keepingand The Graveside Detective.  Her short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, 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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Let This Be a Lesson to Us

It’s difficult not to think about COVID-19 right now. Life is changing for us, and even though that change is only temporary it’s potentially huge. Kids are out of school, people are working from home (where they can), and we’re concerned about the supply chain. Since we don’t have a time machine to undo all this, I hope we at least use this crisis to learn a little.

1. Disaster Preparedness – I’ve heard plenty of PSA’s about disaster preparedness over the last few years. I always think it’s a great idea, but it leaves my mind soon afterwards. We can come up with all sorts of excuses (finances, time, storage space), but the reality is that we need to be ready in case something happens. Take this time to evaluate your emergency kit to make sure you and your family (and pets!) will be taken care of. No, you might not be able to stock up on much right now, but you can certainly make a list.

It’s not that bad, right?

2. Working from Home – There are far more companies who offer flexible schedules and work from home opportunities than there used to be, but I hope this time will show both employers and employees how much they can get done remotely. This could be extremely beneficial for all concerned, especially those with families. Which also brings to mind…

3. Corporate and School Sick Policy – All of a sudden it’s okay to call in at work, but we all know it wasn’t like that. You had to be on death’s door to call in. The company needed you, and they’d much rather you come in and spread your germs to customers and other employees than stay home in bed. Schools weren’t any better, offering perfect attendance contests and prizes that had ill children determined to get to school. Yes, there’s always a concern of people abusing the system, but we need to be a little smarter. Wash your hands and stay home when you’re sick, no matter if we’re worried about a pandemic or not!

4. Believing Everything You Read Online (and then sharing it!) – Right as the U.S. started to fear COVID-19, a Facebook post showing the back of a Lysol container began circulating. It had coronavirus circled on the back and claimed this disease was nothing new. When I saw it, I immediately went to the CDC’s website to check it out for myself. I think we all know the truth now (that COVID-19 is within a larger family of coronaviruses), but now misinformation in general continues to spread. This makes it impossible to know what to believe. I’m not just talking about social media here, either. If your news comes from a site that’s obviously slanted toward a religion or political party, then it’s biased.

5. We’re Not Superman – Here in the U.S., it’s easy to believe we aren’t vulnerable. We’ve been on top for a long time. We have good lives, especially compared to many other places in the world. But we’ve come to rely on those good times of abundance to such an extent that many people don’t know how to deal with the threat of it breaking down. I really think we need to evaluate our vulnerability and see what we could do to improve it.

I’m definitely not saying the pandemic is a good thing, but if we have to deal with it then we might as well learn. Some of these ‘extreme’ measures we’re putting into place might give us great benefits by becoming the norm, and if we don’t learn our lesson then we’re doomed to repeat it.

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My most recent short story, Immunization, is available free for a limited time on Amazon!

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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 Keepingand The Graveside Detective.  Her short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, 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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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!

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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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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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My Own Ruler for Measuring Success

If you do a bit of googling (which you’re probably doing anyway), I’m sure you will find plenty of articles about success. It might be tips for how to succeed, stories of how someone else already did, or inspiring tidbits for those who aren’t feeling motivated.

This isn’t really any of those.

I had a conversation recently about how success is measured. I made this absolutely crazy statement about how I don’t equate money with success, and I got some major side-eye followed by an outright rejection of my theory. No, they said, they definitely wanted to get paid and get paid well in order to consider themselves successful.

I get that. I mean, money shouldn’t be everything, but it kind of is. If you want a new car or a nice house, you must have some way of paying for it, right? And nothing is cheap these days. So in this sense, yes, money is how you know you’re successful.

But what a terrible cage that puts you in. If you make good money but you hate your job, then you’re successful? If you make good money but you never have time for your family, then you’re successful? If you make good money but it’s killing you in the process, then you’re successful?

Don’t get me wrong, I like making money. I’m not interested in working for free, because I have bills to pay, children to feed, and Doctor Who merchandise to buy. But I don’t think it’s okay to be a slave to the almighty dollar while sacrificing everything else that’s important in life.

I’ve never had a lot of money. (I mean, seriously. If you know me, you know that I have never had money.) As a freelance writer, I’m sure not raking it in. But I do feel successful. How is my success measured?

 

I get paid to do what I love.

I get to work from home, which means I am always here for my family.

My clients come back to me for repeat business, which is a huge compliment.

My husband has done nothing but support and encourage me in this endeavor.

My stress levels are pretty low.

My schedule is flexible.

I’m happy.

 

For me, all of this adds up to something that is worth so much more than a six-figure job. Would I turn down a multi-million dollar book deal? Heck, no. But I don’t need one to know that I’m successful.

 

Measure success

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It’s Worth It

I settle into my burgundy leather office chair and pull myself up to my desk.  I love this desk.  It’s solid cherry with an attached hutch, which it gives it that study-carrel-at-the-library feel.  (I like that feeling, cause I’m a nerd.)  We even moved my desk recently so it would be at a ninety degree angle to the bookshelf, and give me just a little bit more of that secluded feeling when I’m working.  My laptop is open, my journal and ball point pen at the ready for any side notes I need to take, and my betta in his desktop fish tank has been fed.  I am ready to start writing.

Suddenly the MIDI version of the Scooby Doo theme song on loop starts playing in my left ear, rather loudly.  My comfy chair becomes slightly less comfy as my six-year-old decides to make it into a loveseat.  I remember why the no-sound-on-video-games-being-played-outside-your-bedroom rule was established.  I’m on a roll though, feeling creative and productive, and enjoying her company as she slowly puts my leg to sleep, so I let it go.

It doesn’t always work out this well.  There are other days when the  kids seem to forget that I work at home, and think I’m simply at home.  On those days, I have someone at my shoulder every five minutes asking for a peanut butter sandwich, or complaining about a sibling.  It can make it pretty darn hard (or impossible) to get anything done.

I started working from home so I could be with my kids more often.  Sometimes I find that I am with them too often.

But today I came back to my desk after a short break and dove back into editing the current chapter of my upcoming book.  Right in the middle of a sentence I find that someone has typed “i love mom.”

Yep.  It’s worth it.

2015-09-15 16.19.36

 

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For the Love of a List

Really.  I love lists a lot.  I have a continuously running grocery list, a list of book I have read, a list of story ideas, a list of blog ideas, and the cliché To Do list.  (Oh, look!  I just made a list of lists!)  Before I’d started my freelance business and my husband and I worked completely different shifts, I would have a list of all the things I wanted to tell him or talk to him about when I got to see him.  He would joke with me when I got home about checking my list before we started any kind of conversation.

Why do I love lists?  I love crossing things off of them.  Sometimes I even put things on my To Do list that I know I’m going to get accomplished soon just so I can cross them off (but don’t you tell anyone or I’ll deny it).  There is something so satisfying about that swipe of a pen or a pencil to let me know I’ve accomplished something.  It doesn’t stop with paper lists, though.  Even the lists on my phone make a beautiful little ding! when I check them off.  (Check out Wunderlist; it’s awesome.)

I started keeping so many lists because I can be forgetful.  My husband may ask me to make a veterinary appointment for our dog, and if I don’t write it down it will take me weeks to get around to it, if I ever do.  It’s not that I don’t want to do it or that I forget entirely, it’s that I don’t remember while the vet’s office is open.  Remembering at 11:30 pm is not especially helpful.

My lists help me plan my day.  Being self-employed, it’s tempting on some days to curl up and read a book instead of doing pretty much anything else.  (Okay, okay, that’s tempting every day, no matter what.)  But I can look over my lists, pick a few certain things that I know need to be done, and make a smaller list for the next day.  It sounds like a lot of work, but I promise it’s what keeps me sane.

I’m not the only list lover out there, either.  We know David Letterman loved his Top Ten lists.  You can find numerous fiction books called The List (which means I won’t be putting it on my list of potential book titles.)  There are even books you can buy solely to create more lists, such as List Your Self and Listography.  I also found a book called To-Do List Makeover.  (I’ll be adding these to my wishlist.)  Here’s a fun list of historical figures that are famous for things they didn’t do, and you can also spend some time on this list of controversial death masks.  Oh, and they tell me there are also several Best Dressed lists, but considering I’m sitting here in yoga pants and a sweatshirt that’s probably not the most important list on my list.

What’s your favorite kind of list?

To Do List

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Why I Still Shop at Hobby Lobby

Don’t get yourself all up in arms over birth control rights just due to the title of this post.  I’m not here to talk about whether employers should have control over their employees’ reproductive rights (they shouldn’t) or if people should have the right to choose what they do with their own bodies (they should).  I’m not here to spark a debate about what your religious beliefs are (your business, not mine) or what my religious beliefs are (my business, not yours).  I’m here to talk about how to get craft supplies when you are in desperate need of crafting therapy.

Okay, that’s a bit of a joke, but still kind of true.  (Truth makes it funny, though.  Right?  Right?  *crickets chirping*)

Here’s the deal:  When I’m not writing, or cleaning, or taking care of the kids, or studying, or catching a little bit of shuteye, I like to craft.  Sometimes that involves scrapbooking, or cross-stitching, or sewing.  Most recently, my favorite thing to play with is polymer clay.

Carrot Cake from Athena's Dream.  www.facebook.com/athenasdreamjewelry

Carrot Cake from Athena’s Dream. http://www.facebook.com/athenasdreamjewelry

As I stepped through Hobby Lobby’s doors last night, I remembered the snort of derision someone gave me in a recent conversation when I had mentioned I had been in that much-debated store.  I know that the flames have died down a bit, but it is obviously still a relevant issue for people.  But here’s why I still shop there:  They are a local store.  That’s it.  There’s the magic for me, right there.  I could get clay on Amazon or Etsy, but if I shop at Hobby Lobby I know I’m supporting other local people.  Despite what their corporate office has had to say about healthcare, Hobby Lobby still provides me with the instant gratification of a hunk of clay in my hands and the knowledge that I’ve supported a local store.  Sure, there are Hobby Lobby stores across America, so you can’t technically call it a local business, but there are local people that work there.  That’s the part I care about.

I think we let the media get us so riled up about one little corner of the picture that we forget to see the rest of it.

So yes, I will continue to shop at Hobby Lobby.  And I will enjoy it.  And I will make cute crafty things when I get home.

Happy Pumpkin Pie Earrings from Athena's Dream.  www.facebook.com/athenasdreamjewelry

Happy Pumpkin Pie Earrings from Athena’s Dream. http://www.facebook.com/athenasdreamjewelry

You can find more of my craftiness at my Facebook page for Athena’s Dream Jewelry and Crafts.

 

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The Tragedy of the Working Mother

You’ve been there, haven’t you?  You’re rushing home from working late, hoping to squeeze in a little quality time with the kids somewhere between a thrown-together dinner and a high-speed bath before bedtime.  Your best friend calls.  “Oh, by the way, [insert name of stay-at-home mom here] says that her little girl is already counting to 50!  And she’s potty trained!  It’s a good thing she gets to spend so much time with her.”

It’s like someone just handed you a guilt trip right through the phone.

As a mom, I’ve really tried to deal with my guilt.  I always felt like it would really be best for the kids if I stayed home, but I couldn’t afford it.  I’ve slogged through life with my kids in one hand and my guilt in the other, and needed several more hands for cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, and maybe stealing a little time to read.  Or, heaven forbid, sleep.

For awhile I lived as a single mother.  I worked late many nights, and by the time I got the kids picked up and back home there just wasn’t enough time for everything.  I didn’t teach my babies sign language.  They never went to pre-K because the schedule didn’t jive with my work hours.  Violet absolutely refused to get a head start on numbers or letters before school started.

My youngest just started kindergarten, which is what got me thinking about all this, about all those other mothers who stayed home with their kids and gave them such an advantage over my poor children.  Claire is the youngest of three, which means she has always just been part of the chaos of a big family instead of a brilliant youngster with a dedicated mother.  Would she be behind?  Would she suffer?

Then I got her test results from the beginning of the year.

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You see those blue dots?  Those blue dots are my child.  MY child, who’s pre-school education mostly included a lot of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse while I was getting ready in the morning.

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You see that dot?  The one so far up there that it’s almost off the chart?  That dot means that I’m not a bad mom.  That dot means that somewhere along the lines I did something right.  That dot means that the weekend trips to the library and the discussions in the car about everything we saw around us actually meant something.  That dot means that I don’t have to feel so guilty.  And neither, fellow working mother, do you.

 

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Top Tips for Writing

It’s difficult to get all my work done sometimes.  There are so many distractions.  I need to be on my computer a significant part of the day if I’m actually going to have a successful freelancing business, but somehow I find myself outside weeding the garden or playing a rousing round of Go Fish with the kids.  I’m getting a little better at focusing, though, so here are my

TOP  TIPS FOR WRITING

6. Rig up some sort of system that will send you some nasty electric shocks every time you wander off to Facebook.

5. Encourage your spouse to play video games.  Then you won’t feel guilty about not spending time with him/her. Plus he/she will lose track of just how much time you’ve spent on that computer today.

4. Wear a hoodie, so you can put snacks and candy in the pockets.

3.  Wear earbuds.  These will deter people who may try talking to you, as well as drown out the sound of the kids watching the same episode of Phineas and Ferb for the umpteenth time.  Also very effective for pretending you didn’t hear, “Honey, what’s for dinner?”

2.  Get super comfortable.  My dad’s rule when I worked for him as a kid was to always get comfortable first, and I still abide by this.  The more comfortable you are, the less likely you’ll be to get up and run just one more load of laundry.

1.  Get a cat, and make sure it’s on your lap.  This kind of goes along with “get super comfortable”, because when you have a cat on your lap you can’t get up.  That’s the rule.  Really.  Just ask the cat.

trackpad

And yes, I was supposed to be writing when I made this.

 

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