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Guest Post: 4 Things to Consider When Designing Your Characters by Marielle Ann Suy

by Marielle Ann Suy

One of the most common challenges fiction authors face is creating “believable” characters. Take note, I said believable. Designing a character is different from designing a realistic character.

You may already be aware that your character needs life. You might have been searching the internet or reading books endlessly on how to make your characters feel alive. But it’s not enough.

Thankfully, I’m here to share with you the same technique I use to create realistic characters.

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  • The Personality

Every human has a personality.

I usually start with knowing their “type.” Are they strong and tough? Are they shy and timid? Are they preppy and fashionable?

The key question here is what are they like?

If you, by some miracle, get the chance to meet this character, what would they tell you? How will they act? Are they initiating active conversations? Do they gossip? Do they talk endlessly? Do they annoy you?

By meeting them, you learn more about them. Not just how they look, but how they act. The more you know them, the better you can craft them.

Here’s an example:

Coal Lockwood is a character from Disappeared (Quesnium). He is a medieval farmer who lives with his childhood friend, Christina Evangeline. Since he’s a farmer, he’s got ragged clothes and a pale skin from all that sunlight. He’s also quite muscular (farming requires a lot of effort) for his age.

Since he was exposed to the hard life of farmers, he’s very down-to-earth. Well, down-to-quesnium, in this case. He knows how to prioritize their needs. Say, there’s no more food in the kitchen and thankfully, he was provided with bread. What he’ll do first is break it into portions. He’ll give one, maybe two, to Christina, eat half of one portion and then store the rest. Afterwards, he’ll find ways to get more food for them.

  • The Goal

Creating your character’s goal is actually easier than you think. The goal is what your character wants.

It could be as simple as being accepted by their parents to as grand as saving the world before bedtime.

The point is that your character must want something. Otherwise, there’s no story.

Here’s an example about Coal:

Coal is a simple man. With his social status, his only goal was to survive the day and the next and the next. He’s devoted to farming. During harvest season, he stores some for himself and Christina, the others for sale. He uses the coins for various needs, like seeds for the farm, food for the livestock, and for future repairs.

The better you can visualize their goal, the better they will move towards that direction.

  • The Motivation

Motivation, in its simplest of terminology, is what inspires your character to reach their goal.

Every human has a motivation, whether or not they realize it. Say, your character wants to graduate. Their motivation is their family. Perhaps, they want to give their family a better life – a better future. That’s why they want to graduate. They want to work soon to be able to support their family.

  • The Humanity

Flaws don’t make us weak, only human.

Everyone has flaws. There’s no such thing as a perfect human (unless he’s a cyborg). Making a human with superhuman strengths and no weaknesses is close to impossible. Even Superman has a weakness.

Whether it’s an object, a hidden trauma, or a person, each character must have a weakness. At the same time, they must also have strengths. Try to balance these when assigning traits to your character.

For example, if your setting is a palace in the sky, your character may be afraid of heights, but they may also have keen senses. In a thriller, action, or adventure story, keen senses are necessary.

And there they are. Those are the 4 things you should consider when designing your characters. Happy writing!

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suyA lover of fairytales and the mystical, Marielle Ann Suy is a storyteller and author. She has published two short stories. Both stories are about the sun’s disappearance, hence entitled “Disappeared.” “Disappeared (Earth)” is about a solar eclipse and how it affects the world. “Disappeared (Quesnium)” is about the sun’s disappearance and how it affects lowly farmers. A novel based on the same characters and the same premise is on its way. Stay tuned in via social media or by subscribing to her newsletter.

Social Media Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/MariellesQuesnium/

Twitter – @suy_marielle

Blog – https://quesnium.wixsite.com/talesofworlds

 

Disappeared (Earth) Book Links:

Apple Books – http://bit.ly/DiniBooks

Barnes and Noble – http://bit.ly/DinNook

Kobo – http://bit.ly/2DinKobo

Scribd – http://bit.ly/DinScribd

Smashwords – http://bit.ly/2DinSmashwords

 

Get Your Free Copy of Disappeared (Quesnium): http://bit.ly/QuesniumFREE  

 

 

Interested in having your work featured here?  Contact me.

 

 

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4 Self-Publishing Essentials That No Author Can Publish Without

by Rosie Wylor-Owen

Self-publishing gives authors exciting degrees of freedom over their work. We can choose how long our books can be, what to put on the covers and *squeal* how much to charge for them. When we’re bound to publishing contracts, these important elements are left in the hands of editors and graphic designers who haven’t nurtured your manuscript the way you have. Despite this, in the hands of a publisher, all the costs of producing our book babies are covered. Self-publishing freedom is not without its expense.

Indie authors aren’t known for their riches, so sometimes we might feel tempted to cut corners. While we can take steps to be frugal, there are some things we just can’t sacrifice for the sake of cost. Before you self-publish your book, take a look at the self-publishing essentials you can’t publish without:

Editing

As indie authors, we tend to have a great network of author friends who are ready to beta-read our manuscripts for some cold, hard feedback. Ouch, right? While this is hugely helpful in creating a polished manuscript, beta-readers just can’t replace real editing by a seasoned professional. Without proper editing, you could quite easily publish an error-riddled book to your adoring fans.

No matter how many times you pore over your manuscript, something – nay, a lot of things – are going to slip under your radar. Editors may cost a pretty penny but the polished manuscript you receive from them is priceless. Even if you have to save a dollar at a time, hire the darn editor.

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A Professional Book Cover

First impressions matter more than we like to think they do, and that could not be truer than of books. The front covers of our novels are the first things our readers see and are the first excuse to say “no” to our books. You might be quite artistic, but the chances of creating a fantastic book cover without some real graphic design experience are slimmer than an intern’s paycheque.

Your book title plastered across a free stock photo in sans-serif isn’t going to wow readers who have probably seen one hundred better covers that day already. Investing in a good book cover is arguably even smarter than hiring an editor, because the cover is what gets your readers to the first page. Forget about Canva and Pixabay, and start researching some good graphic designers. Your manuscript deserves the best.

Reading

This question has bounced around Facebook writing groups since time immemorial. Does a writer have to read to be a good writer? The answer is yes. Is it possible for a musician to compose good music without listening to any first? Only if they have superpowers.

Some writers insist that their writing is often complimented and they never read. Here’s the thing: a good writer isn’t just someone who can write at an acceptable level and gets themselves a few hearty congratulations from Aunt Beatrice and Uncle Tom. A good writer is a writer who is constantly improving, and there’s no better way to do that than to read regularly and write regularly. The best dishes come from the chefs who do their homework.

Networking

This writing deal really does test us, sometimes. Writing is, by and large, an introvert’s profession. We like holing up in our studies and creating in peace and quiet; no people, and lots of coffee. Bliss. So networking isn’t at the top of our to-do lists, but if we want to get our books under the noses of our ideal readers, we need a helping hand (or several).

The good news is, since the marvelous invention of social media, we don’t have to meet anyone face to face. Don’t tell me that’s not ideal.

Authors need each other to help host their book launches, to share their giveaways and to recommend their books. Without a solid backing, indie authors struggle much more to get their work noticed. Go and say “hi” in a few writing groups, and write a thank-you e-mail to your favourite indie author. You might just find friendships worth keeping.

Whether you enjoy socialising or not, we need allies on our journey; a journey we can all make together.

Whether we like it or not there are some things that we can’t do without. Books, friends, and the dastardly red pen, among other things. If you want your writing career to be a successful one, try out these ideas and see if you can take the next step towards that bestseller list.

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Rosie Wylor-Owen was born in Worcester, England at the height of baggy jeans and boy-band popularity. Her work has been featured in the literary magazines The Fiction Pool, Anti-Heroin Chic and Ariel Chart, and the Manawaker Studios Podcast. Her short story “Arm-in-Army with Alchemy” was accepted for publication by Otter Libris for inclusion in the anthology “Magical Crime Scene Investigation.” In February 2018 she won third place in the Fiction Writer’s Global flash fiction contest for her story “In Exchange for Your Sins.”

http://www.rosiewylor-owen.com

http://www.welcometothesecretlibrary.com (blog)

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/rosiewylorowenauthor/
Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/rosiewylorowenbooksquad/
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Twitter: https://twitter.com/bates_rosie

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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!

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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.

 

Interested in having your work featured here?  Contact me.

 

 

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Guest Post: Writing a Humorous Murder Mystery by Robin Donovan

by Robin Donovan

Editing is always critical, no matter what you write. Editing a humorous murder mystery is considerably more critical than a non-humorous fictional murder because you can easily lose the empathy of your reader if the humor goes too far or becomes too macabre. Even if the victim was a vile person, there is still a line over which the protagonist dare not step. On the other hand, if you’re not into cozy mysteries, becoming too macabre may be your goal. Long live Stephen King!

The humorous murder mystery has to maintain something of a pathos throughout, while highlighting humorous components whenever possible. And there had better be enough tasteful humorous components or you will lose your audience to boredom.

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While my protagonist in Is It Still Murder Even If She Was A Bitch? can’t pretend to be sorry her horrible former colleague has been murdered, she does take the time to comment on her feelings of sadness for the widower and the now motherless child. In other parts of the story, through another character, we are informed that the clownishly large feet of the murdered woman were almost too big to fit in her coffin. Were these elements juxtaposed too closely and not timed perfectly, it might highlight the humor in a negative or cruel light, leaving a bad taste in the mouth of the reader.

That sounds like an extremely delicate balance – and it is. But hitting that sweet spot, that perfect balance of humor and compassion, can be so rewarding.

When I first started writing cozy mysteries, I took my cue for humor from the extremely successful Janet Evanovich. She typically employs about 6 different comedic incidents in every book. That’s harder than it sounds. Not to mention that a humorous undertone must work right alongside pathos when murder is involved, so the author must carefully interweave these elements with masterful timing.

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The husband of Is It Still has to make a somber decision to give up the woman he loves, his mistress, as it is in the best interest of his young son after his wife’s tragic death. At the same time, said mistress is having a laughable public meltdown as she decides that the dead woman’s mother is responsible for her being dumped. With these scenes, I hope to elicit respect for a man who is able to make a difficult decision to sacrifice his own needs for those of his son, and conversely, amusement over a woman who takes a completely self-centered viewpoint of a tragic event that does not directly involve her. If my timing misses, this whole scenario is likely to fall flatter than a pancake. But if it works, I will succeed in taking your emotions way down and then back up all the way to laughter. That’s a very heady feeling for an author.

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BookdeliverydayRobin Leemann Donovan is the author of the blog, Menologues, a humorous yet informative look at the trials and tribulations of menopause by someone who’s been there. Menologues has been republished on two commercial sites: Vibrant Nation and Alltop, and has won regional honors for social media at the AMA Pinnacles and PRSA Paper Anvil awards. Her first book in the Donna Leigh Mystery series: Is It Still Murder Even If She Was A Bitch? won an AMA Pinnacle award. Her second book: I Didn’t Kill Her, But That May Have Been Shortsighted, was released in November, 2015. And her third book: I Don’t Know Why They Killed Him He Wasn’t Really That Annoying, came out early last year.

Donovan was born and raised in New Jersey but lived and worked in Connecticut for a number of years before moving to Nebraska in 1999. Starting her career as a high school English teacher, Donovan moved into advertising in the early 80’s and became a VP Media Director working on brands like Duracell, Stanley Tools, IBM, Visa and Merck Pharmaceutical. In 1999 she accepted a job offer from Bozell, an Omaha based ad agency. In late 2001, she and three colleagues purchased Bozell from its New York-based parent company, where she is currently the president.

She has served on the boards of the Omaha Children’s Museum, the Omaha YWCA, and she was chairman of the Alzheimer’s of the Midlands board for two years, serving a total of six years on the board. She is currently the membership director for Kick for the Cure, an organization that raises funds for breast cancer through soccer tournaments.

Donovan lives with her husband and three bulldogs; Roxi, Frank and Sadie (Sweet Pea).

Be sure to visit Donna’s website and Facebook page.  Check out her book trailer, book page, books for sale on Amazon.

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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!

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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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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.

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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!

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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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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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