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Why is freelance work so hard sometimes?

This morning I stumbled upon an article about ego management for Web workers–both telecommuters and freelancers. Here’s one of my favourite passages:

Ego management was a general problem throughout her interviews as solo workers struggled without the supportive structure of an office “that creates incentives whereby you work even if you’re not motivated. Your boss is sitting there. Your co-workers are around you. You just work.” Take away that structure and questions about the value and meaning of work start to bubble up more frequently.

Coming from a largely unstructured system (academia), and now moving on to freelancing, I could understand the problem that’s described in this article. Whereas academia (under tenure, of course) provides you with a stable salary and is based mostly on research production and level of student satisfaction, freelancing is much more result-driven. The amount of money you make is directly proportional to the effort put in the work. Crappy freelancers make crappy wages.

Even though I would have liked a better description of what constitutes “ego crises” in freelance work, I still found this article to be a thoughtful reflection on the reality of home workers. When you’re your own boss, you can either be too lenient or too harsh on yourself (not that real bosses are always impartial); it’s hard to see beyond the bias of our own ego.

Thanks to Jessica Stillman for an interesting post; I will certainly look deeper into my motivation and the worth of my work to sustain my desire to work freelance. Because sometimes it just seems so much easier to just go and find a job where I’m paid just for showing up…

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How to find the right Elance job

Elance is a popular platform for freelancers. It brings together clients and contractors in different categories. While my specialty is writing, you can also find design, marketing, programming, admin support and other categories.

How can you find the best job for your skills with so many available? Here are some tips.

Stick to one or two categories

If you’re an individual contractor, you don’t want to spread yourself too thin with too many categories to manage. For example, I bid in the Writing and Admin support categories, but mostly in Writing.

Use tags and keywords

Some clients tag their jobs and use keywords in them. They are often skills or specific knowledge, so identify those that apply to you and bid for these jobs. You have a much better chance of getting a job for which you are qualified.

Don’t undersell yourself

Don’t fall into the trap of bidding low on interesting jobs. It might seem attractive at first, but in the end you’ll feel frustrated about working hard for little pay. Set up a minimum wage for yourself and stick to it.

One problem on Elance is the general lowering of pay; don’t contribute by bidding on jobs that are considerably underpaid. This will eventually force clients to raise their budgets to get qualified workers.

If you follow these tips, you have excellent chances of getting good Elance jobs that will help pay the bills. Read my post about how to write a great Elance bid for more Elance success tips.

Do you have any insights into the Elance system?

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How to get back on track after a vacation

Sometimes it’s hard to get back to work after a break or a vacation. Ever had trouble getting back in the groove on a Monday morning? Here are some tips to get back to work without too much mental struggle.

Keep a task list

Keeping a task list is not only useful for keeping your projects on track. It’s also a great way to refresh your memory after a longer break.

Look at your previous tasks and what you have to do. Do you remember the last thing you did before you left? Your task list should give you an idea of what’s next on your schedule.

Review and reread

If you write a lot, spending some time rereading your previous work can be beneficial. While it’s recommended that you don’t leave a piece of writing for too long, sometimes it’s necessary to do so.

Rereading a piece can help refresh your memory as well. You’ll remember the topic, the tone, the style. You’ll be in better mental shape to carry on your work.

Take a breath

Sometimes it might take a few days to get back on track. And that’s fine. Don’t let the pressure stress you out or paralyze you. Just follow your natural productivity rhythms and your work flow should come back to normal in no time.

What do you do to get back into the beat after a break or vacation? Any tips, tricks or rituals you find useful to get your mind back on the writing track?

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I am away

Hello folks,

I’ll be away for a couple of days, attending a (my very last) academic conference.

I’ll be back on Monday, June 6th, for fresh news, ideas, and tips. Hopefully.

Have a great week!

Anabelle

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What do you know? How to reflect on potential writing topics

Maybe you’re like me and you’ve been struggling with finding your place in the world lately. While I decided to drop my PhD in English, I’m still not sure what new path I should start following. While I’m trying to take my place in the blogging and Web content world, there is still much I have to learn.

One of the main things I have gathered from professional bloggers is “write about what you know”. Most of us know many things, but often we don’t know most of them deeply enough to write about them on a regular basis. But dig a little deeper and you may find that there is indeed something you know well enough to share with the world.

Here are some tips on how to reflect on potential writing topics.

What do you know?

In what field have you trained? What’s your job right now? Does it require any special expertise?

Think about the skills and the abilities you use every day. There must be something you know how to do better than most people you know. Look at your resume or make a list of things you know. Don’t censor yourself and freewrite about your knowledge.

After looking at your list, you may find something that sparks your attention. Put your knowledge list in groups and see if a topic gathers a lot of words. You may have a potential list of keywords for your next blog.

What do you like?

Sometimes it’s not so much about what we know but about what we enjoy. For example, while I’m not a knitting expert, I can certainly say I enjoy knitting and could probably find ways to build a blog around it.

Sometimes, focusing on something you like may eventually turn you into an expert. Think about when you chose your major in college (if you did go to college): did you choose it because you were already an expert at it or because you were curious to learn more?

What do you want to share?

Sometimes people want to share concerns and ideas that may have nothing to do with their knowledge or their hobbies. However, sudden interests can be turned into hobbies or knowledge.

Read plenty of news and blog posts about a variety of subjects. Something new might just be thing you were looking for. Sharing these new finds is often a great way to begin to take part in a community. Share everything you find interesting with your friends and peers and you might become a reliable source of interesting news.

Everyone has something to say. What’s your thing? How did you find out what you wanted to blog about?

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Why so quiet?

I see I am getting quite a few visits, considering that I am only beginning to keep this blog.

Despite this, it seems there’s a lack of communication between, well, us. I seem to be the only one talking to you. Why aren’t you talking to me?

Maybe some of you are just bouncing off. That’s okay. But those who actually read and stay, I’d really like to know your thoughts and comments.

  • How can I make this blog better?
  • What subjects are you interested in?
  • Do you have suggestions of topics to cover?
  • Do I need to change my theme?

I want to keep this blog informative, but also personal and useful. It won’t all be articles and lists. What else would you like to see?

Sincerely,

Anabelle

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