Category Archives: Professional issues

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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What are you worth as a freelance writer?

Today I found the blog of Ghostwriter Dad… and I found myself wondering what I was worth as a freelance writer.

My best client currently pays me 15$ per 500-word article. These don’t usually require more than a cursory Web search about the topic, and I can write them in about 30 minutes. That gives me an average of 30$ per hour. Not bad as far as I’m concerned–probably the best salary I’ve ever made in my life.

However, assignments from this client are somewhat limited and as I need to transition from graduate funding to making a living on my own, I need to find other sources of revenue.

So, what am I worth?

If the best I can get right now is 15$/500 words, is this what I am worth? Could I ask more? Ghostwriter Dad argues that you can easily get 1$ per word as you gain experience and a reputation. His blog is really inspiring and I plan on keeping up with it from now on.

In the meantime, however, how do I deal with the measly-paying jobs where I make less than 5$ an hour? Do I see them through for the reputation? Do I give them up to find better-paying assignments?

What did you do as a beginning freelance writer? Did you accept pennies and dimes in the hope that it would bring dollars in the future? How did you move your pay scale from cents per word to dollars per word? What kind of assignments should I seek out?

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The vagaries of style

Up until now I really only used (and knew) 3 different styles of writing: academic, the 500-word Web article and personal blogging.

I may be a good writer in those three categories, but now I am facing a potentially unhappy client because I don’t k now how to write informational/publicity brochures.

In composition and rhetoric theory, this is called the rhetorical situation. Who are you writing for? Why are you writing? What information, emotion, etc., are you trying to convey? I understand the rhetorical situation for this assignment, and yet it’s really difficult for me to match the language.

Once I read an article that said that when people don’t know a topic in depth, they tend to write badly. This seems too true now.

How would you manage a situation where your style doesn’t fit your assignment? How do you learn new styles, how do you adapt to new rhetorical situations?

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The role of the writer in web content strategies

I stumbled upon this post from Six Revisions this morning, and I thought I would share it with you.

I have some thoughts about the topic of web content strategies, even if I’m only beginning to understand the complexity of the field I chose to work in.

The post is addressed to web design companies. It describes the advantage of adding writing services to your package. Why are writers useful, you might wonder? After all, most of the stuff on the Web is dross.

Well, that’s exactly why you need good writers. People like me who work hard to write good articles with well-researched content (academic deformation I suppose) and good grammar. This makes your content stand out from the sea of ordinary stuff.

Using ghost writers has this advantage that companies can take all the credit for good writing done by others. My name never appears in anything I write for ghost writing projects. (Happily I found one place to use a byline!) Writers are probably the most important part of a web content strategy because, well, without content, you don’t get much of a strategy. Writers are the ones who provide your content.

How do you interact with your clients about their content? Do you just follow instructions or do you try to improve their strategy? Referring to the post I wrote yesterday about keyword density, do you accept to write things that you know are not going to work just for the sake of doing the job?

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