Posts Tagged ‘facebook’


Naps, Netflix and Other Freelance Myths

time fora break concept clockI write in my pajamas, take daily naps, work four-day weeks, watch Netflix and play Facebook games all day. That’s what some of my friends think the freelance life is all about. “You’re so lucky,” they say with envy. But that’s not exactly how it works. Allow me to explain.

1)      Writing in my pajamas:  I write in my pajamas…sometimes, maybe 10% of the time, but only because I get up in the middle of the night to write down an idea before I lose it. After working on a story all day, I sometimes get stuck on the lede, but once I go to sleep, my creativity percolates and the lede writes itself. I have to capture it before I lose it, and that often happens when I’m in my pajamas. The rest of the time I’m dressed for the day, just like everyone else.

2)      Daily naps:  Yes, I take a nap almost every day, and I won’t apologize for it. I need my naps to recharge after the early morning dashes to my computer, and sometimes just to give my brain a rest from writing, editing, researching and managing the day-to-day tasks that go along with owning a business. In addition, I have to adjust my schedule to other time zones, which sometimes means I have to be up as early as 4 a.m. PST for early morning calls with my East Coast friends and colleagues, but still be available to editors and clients on the West Coast after 5 p.m. PST.

3)      Four-day weeks: Ha! I wish. I usually work at least a five-day week, taking Fridays and Saturdays off, but any freelancer knows you work when you need to. Some days I’ll put in 12 to 14 hours, others maybe only six, but this usually spreads out over at least five days a week, and often more. And let’s not even talk about vacations. What?!!

4)      Netflix:  I’ll confess. I do watch Netflix sometimes, but only after 5 p.m. PST and only if my writing and editing work is done. I watch old episodes of Mad Men while I’m doing my bookkeeping, filing, planning for the next day or other tasks that don’t require 100% of my attention. It’s my reward after a long day. Sometimes this down time even includes a glass of wine.

5)      Facebook games:  If I am in the office all day, I typically have Facebook and Twitter open on a separate monitor on my desktop. This allows me to monitor activity on my iLoveKent and Virtually Yourz pages, but also to keep up with the day’s news and to connect with my freelance friends (see my previous post on fostering freelance relationships). I play the occasional game, but it doesn’t amount to more than 10 minutes every couple of weeks. And when I’m writing or editing, I shut everything down – Facebook, Twitter, email, cell phone, etc.

To my non-freelance, non-business owner friends, I agree with you – I *am* lucky. I wouldn’t trade my freelance life for any “day job,” but it isn’t as easy as it looks. It requires long hours, the occasional sleepless night and a heck of a lot of work. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a date with my pillow…

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Dana Neuts
Based in the Seattle area, Dana Neuts of Virtually Yourz has been a freelance journalist for 10 years, specializing in business, feature and community writing. She is also the publisher of iLoveKent.net, which won a 2nd place award in the 2012 NW Excellence in Journalism contest for “Best Online Community Engagement.” She was named Regional Director of the Year in 2012, is currently serving as the national SPJ Secretary/Treasurer and will run for President-Elect in August 2013. Follow her on Twitter @VirtuallyYourz and @SPJDana.

 

Fellow Freelancers: Friends or Foes?

Connect with your freelance friends for advice, suggestions and contacts.Last night I attended a Media Bistro event in Seattle. There are usually two or three of these every year, and I’m lucky to make it to one. Not because I don’t want to go, but because I can make a zillion excuses of things I should do instead. I asked a non-freelancing friend to go with me this time to ensure I’d go…because my introverted side (yes, I *do* have one) was taking over, and I wouldn’t have attended otherwise. Last night’s crowd was more on the freelance writer/journalist side, and I had the opportunity to connect with about half a dozen fellow freelancers — all of whom I had met via SPJ at one point or another.

I am so glad I did. The crowd is usually a mix of editors, journalists, PR and marketing folks, and the conversations were lively and informative. We shared ideas, contacts, success stories, pitching tips and a few assignments-gone-wrong tales of woe. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed mixing it up with my peers.

From the outside looking in, my non-freelance friend didn’t understand how this was possible. “Aren’t you competing for the same work,” he asked me afterward. My friend was particularly surprised to hear me offer concrete suggestions to a marketing copywriter in attendance who wanted my advice on growing his client base. Why did I do it? Because that’s what the freelance community is like, at least in my experience.

Whether I’m in Seattle or D.C., I have found the freelance community to be one that is warm and welcoming. People are willing to share ideas, connections and advice freely. Why? Because there are so many clients, media organizations, publications, nonprofits and government organizations out there that need our talent, that we rarely compete directly with each other for assignments or clients. We have each developed our own niche. My specialties are business and community stories, Annika Hipple is focused on travel and hospitality, Crai S. Bower specializes in travel, adventure and humor. Even when our specialties do cross over, there are so many stories to be told that the prospect of two of us pitching the same story with the same angle to the same outlet at the same time are virtually nil.

Here’s an example. I’ve been wanting to write for Northwest Travel magazine. David Volk and Crai Bower both write for that magazine. The geographic area is limited, so there is some potential for cross over. When I told Crai that I’d pitched the editor a few stories last month, Crai offered to introduce me to the editor. I didn’t ask. He offered, and I’ll take him up on it because the “in” will improve my chances of my pitches getting read. Crai doesn’t expect anything in return, but if I can ever repay the favor, I’ll be happy to do it.

This is how the freelance world works. Fellow freelancers are not foes. Far from it. They can be our biggest fans and our greatest allies.

The takeaway:  seek out your fellow freelancers in and around your community, through organizations like Media Bistro and SPJ, and online on your favorite social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Linked In. You never know where your next great idea or introduction will come from.

 

Dana Neuts, Freelance JournalistFreelancer Dana Neuts share tips to keep writers motivated.
National SPJ Secretary/Treasurer
2013 Candidate for President-Elect

Based in the Seattle area, Dana Neuts is a freelance writer, editor and marketing pro. She is also the publisher of iLoveKent.net, an award-winning hyperlocal blog highlighting news, events and more in the Kent, Washington community. Most recently, her work has appeared in The Seattle Times, 425 magazine, South Sound magazine, Grow Northwest and Seattle Woman magazine. For more information, or to contact Dana, visit her website, VirtuallyYourz.com.

 

 

 

 

In social media, patience is spelled with five W’s

In a perfect world, our words shine like jewels the first time we write or say them.

The reality is, they demand special consideration before displaying them in public. For one thing, so many terms in English have multiple meanings; for another, so many readers own distinct perspectives and biases. Ask 10 people to read the same sentence, and they’re likely to offer 10 slightly different interpretations.

That’s why, in our electron-fast, social media age, extra seconds spent pondering our pedantry before tapping the Send button can prevent embarrassment and thus preserve credibility.

So, at a time we’re still weighing New Year’s resolutions, or wondering whether to uphold the ones we’ve made, consider putting patience high on the list. Armed with it, writers and editors more easily catch spelling errors, check or recheck facts, change tone, even adjust attitudes — particularly their own.

The trick, of course, is finding patience where none existed. Hours spent banging out social media posts as fast as they come to mind can cultivate writing that’s reflexive, not reflective.

It may help then to install social media speed bumps of a sort — a set of objectives that forces introspection. For this, we could adapt journalism’s famous five W’s:

Who — Think first, “Who am I trying to reach?” Though social media networks permit users to group their followers, most users don’t, and their networks are a mishmash of friends, colleagues and acquaintances. The result: just one post intended for a small group of followers could send others packing. Craft posts with the broadest possible appeal, frame edgier posts with self-effacing humor or courtesy, and restrict the hardest commentary to direct messages.

What — Make sure the point of a post is clear and consistent with the facts. Go back through other people’s posts, check associated Web links and references to see whether those people are interpreting the information correctly, and whether you’re doing the same and not relying on conjecture. Only then can you safely answer the question, “What am I trying to say?”

When — Speed is a drug in social media; we assume the faster we post, the more certain we are to ride the leading edge of news. Blame this behavior in part on traditional media, which instilled the belief that “scoops” or “beats” on breaking news were just as important as the information itself. In truth, no newspaper shut down and no TV station went dark from not having enough scoops. Today, the Web is rife with humor and shame over errors by news organizations that moved too fast to gather facts. Thus, the answer to “When should I post?” ought to be, “After I have all the facts.”

Where — The term “social media” is as broad as the horizon. It encompasses numerous networks, each having its own best practices and tolerances. Still, we consider Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and others to possess the same reach and intent. But there’s a saying: Facebook is for people you already know, Twitter is for people you want to know, and LinkedIn is for people you need to know. Learn the point and purpose of each social network, then you’ll be able to answer “Where should I post?”

Why — I’d like to think everything I say via social media is important. We all do. Nevertheless, each of us encounters users who think otherwise. That constituency dwindles though with solid answers to “Why should I post?” Whereas flippant or rhetorical commentary only attracts more of the same, social engagement founded on research and reportage is shared and re-shared more widely.

David Sheets, SPJ's Region 7 directorDavid Sheets is a freelance editor, Region 7 director, and past-president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at dksheets@gmail.com, on Twitter at @DKSheets, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Make a resolution to do better on social media

The Christmas decorations are coming down and the New Year’s fireworks are going up. Also around this time, long lists of New Year’s resolutions go up, too.

Diet and exercise top most lists, as do stronger finances and better personal relationships. One thing also worth reviewing among freelancers and maybe revising for 2013 is the way they present themselves through social media.

Numbers are why. As 2012 wound down, Twitter users churned out 175 million tweets daily. An estimated 625,000 new users joined Google+ daily. Facebook garnered about 850 million active users monthly. And LinkedIn added 50 million members in one year; it needed six years to get its first 50 million.

In other words, social media has skipped well past the point of novelty and entered the realm of necessity, especially for freelancers intent on attracting attention. So then, it pays for freelancers to paint a clean, clear portrait of themselves online, if they haven’t already, to keep that attention coming.

A few crisp strokes can do that. These should encompass:

Profile photos — There’s a reason it’s called “social” media. Nevertheless, a lot of serious people trying to do serious business still hide behind the faceless default icon all social media platforms employ, the result being they don’t gain digital friends or, more importantly, win jobs, says Nicholas Salter, a professor of psychology at Ramapo College of New Jersey. He led a recent study that found those people on LinkedIn with profile pictures are more likely to get hired than those without.

Susan Gunelius, a marketing communications executive who is the author of “Google Blogger for Dummies,” underscores the value. “It’s better to have 1,000 online connections who read, share and talk about your content with their own audiences than 10,000 connections who disappear after connecting with you for the first time.”

Headlines — In a newspaper or news website, headlines are concise declarations of pertinent information intended to announce, inform and attract. In a freelancing proposal, job application or social media campaign, writing with the crisp prose of headlines brings focus and adds clarity to one’s message. Studying the way headlines are written and following their form can do wonders at putting that message ahead of others.

Keywords — And speaking of headlines, keywords give those headlines punch. These keywords are the distinguishing terms lacing online business reports, blogs, and especially job postings, that search engines pluck out for categorization. Special attention paid to keywords helps turn heads and boost Web and social traffic. But keep them relevant; don’t trot out trendy terms just because everyone else has.

Research — Like the way a drip, drip, drip from a leaky faucet can be distracting, so too can social content designed to make more noise than sense. The best, most memorable content reflects an understanding of the intended audience and an appreciation for what that audience finds interesting. Invest time online in 2013 researching audience behavior and trends. Start by getting to know Google Analytics and Google Trends, and reading reports from Gartner, the Pew Research Center, and Poynter.

David Sheets, SPJ's Region 7 directorDavid Sheets is a freelance editor, Region 7 director, and past-president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at dksheets@gmail.com, on Twitter at @DKSheets, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Widbook: A tool for collaborative journalism

As the market for freelance journalism grows, so too has interest in the evolving tools for that job.

That interest is acute where collaborative journalism is concerned, because simply pitching PDFs of Word documents back and forth via email tends to be a clunky way of doing business in this demanding age of digital interactivity. Now, no matter the distance or purpose, teams of people with shared goals all want to work together as if sitting in the same room.

A relatively new website called Widbook tries to provide that goal-oriented environment and foster a social network to supplement it. Widbook is a writing and editing space that lets people alone or in groups craft book-length projects and shorter stories; insert resources such as photos, videos and animations; and add to or augment contributions by other writers.

Widbook also invites writers and readers to share and tweak favorite developing works, and create libraries of published works whether self-written or from other authors.

Early reports on Widbook, still in beta, call it a “YouTube for books” because of its heavy emphasis on interactivity. The central theme and interface are better suited for collaboration on projects. Writers who prefer to work alone can use Widbook as well, but they’ll miss out on many of its features.

And Widbook is free of charge to register for and use — surely the most attractive feature to freelance writers and hopeful novelists working with meager budgets. The only things that first-time visitors to Widbook need to get started is to create a user name and password. Options include creating a personal profile, linking with Facebook, and selecting favorite literary genres from which to build a library. Members also can send messages and “follow” one another through the site.

Because it’s in beta, Widbook has limitations and quirks. For one thing, it’s not possible to export a finished project to another platform, though that’s expected to come later as the site matures, and it’s not obvious to early users how the social media aspect will supplement the collaboration tools. The interface is also a tad balky with projects of more than a few chapters.

Still, for collaborative writers and editors, Widbook presents an intriguing new way for journalists to exchange ideas and bring far-flung talent together in the same room.

David Sheets is a sports content editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and STLtoday.com, and past-president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at dsheets@post-dispatch.com, on Twitter at @DKSheets, or on Facebook and LinkedIn.

 

Back to the Future: Advice for Those Who Hate the Whole Personal Branding Thing

By Carol Cole-Frowe

There’s so much advice out there these days about personal branding, also known as “Keeping Your Name Out There.”

You know what I’m talking about. You need to Facebook, Linked In, Google Plus, Pinterest, ad nauseum. Who has time for all that? I’m lucky if I can keep up with Facebook and play the occasional Words With Friends game with Alec Baldwin. Maybe update my website every other month if I’m lucky.

I get exhausted thinking about keeping up with all the social media sites, especially if you’re working crazy freelance hours and trying to have a decent family life. And when you’re freelancing –  trying to humor a few beloved pro bonos who think you can write their newsletter in no time flat? Every freelancer I know gets pitched at least once a month for pro bono. I don’t know about you, but I like to get paid when I write — except for when I don’t — and I prefer to choose those things, not have them choose me.

My advice is if you want to put yourself out there with the least amount of effort, I’d advise that you do these few things. First, I know what you’re saying. Gosh, Carol, I’ve never heard “get a website” before. But humor me for a minute. Here’s a couple of reasons you need these tools, and I’m just betting you don’t have one or you wouldn’t be reading this. In order of importance:

–       A Website is like leaving around a brochure about your wonderful self. It’s static, just sitting there working for you, and waiting for some lovely editor who’s interesting in reading your work. And then if it’s good, it will sell you while you’re napping. You can make one easily with GoDaddy.com,   FatCow.com or several other good hosting sites. I’m reasonably technologically challenged and I used FatCow and Drag and Drop Builder to build my website-work-in-progress at carolcolefrowe.com. And tracking my stats, I know a bunch of folks check it out. Categories to consider: About Me or Bio, Portfolio, Photography, Buzz, Blog, Contact Me. If I can do it, you can do it. Bare minimum — get a website.

–       List Yourself in the SPJ Freelancer Directory. It works.  In fact, I got a stringing job for the New York Daily News only yesterday from the Freelancer Directory that will pay my Society of Professional Journalists memberships for several years to come. List your new website on it.

–       Get Professional Business Cards. There are several sites on the web where you can get inexpensive business cards, like VistaPrint. Even better, see if you can trade out your favorite graphic designer some writing for their website for their talents on your’s. Or save up and get a really special individualized card. Make sure you note that you’re a SPJ member and your brand-spankin’-new website, mobile and fax if you have one.

–       Blog. I hear the collective groan from here. You don’t have to blog about stuff about your  job (unless your boss makes you.) Write about what you love, like hiking or recycling or gardening. Make it a habit to post at least once a week, then post the link on Facebook and Twitter (see below.) When I started seriously blogging at the first of this year about my gastric sleeve surgery and offering compatible recipes, I thought I was writing to myself for awhile, especially since I’m a newbie and still learning. Then all of a sudden I have thousands of visitors who’ve found me from several dozen countries including Russia, Brazil, India, Germany and Australia, and I was the most shocked person out there blogging. Then I monetized it and I’m actually making money writing a blog. Building it is easy and self-explanatory on WordPress or Blogger. Once again, pictures or graphics are key to keeping interest.

–       Suck It Up and Get on Facebook, minimum, even if you just use it to occasionally promote something your particularly interested in or your latest freelance article, book or blog. I’ve gotten freelancing jobs from people who wanted to find me and couldn’t figure out any other way than messaging me on Facebook. 160 million users? Not a bad potential audience. I recommend posting pictures, they’re the best point-of-entry into any article and that hasn’t changed. Folks love to look at pictures.

–       Twitter. I used to hate Twitter until I got the hang of it. It’s all in the hashtags, which is putting a number sign aka “#” in front of your key word, and you can find anything, complain about anything, reach out for any info, all in 140 characters. When I recently complained about an airline on Twitter, I got a personal letter apologizing for their “glitch.” Do I need to tell you to post pictures?

That’s the bare minimum for “Those Who Hate the Whole Personal Branding Thing.” Now go out and do it. In order.

What are your ideas for personal branding and marketing without sitting all day in front of your laptop?

Carol Cole-Frowe is a full-time independent journalist, based in Oklahoma and North Texas, and vice president of the Oklahoma Pro Chapter of SPJ. Her website is carolcolefrowe.com. Reach her on Twitter at @carolcolefrowe.

 

 

The keys to good journalism

The moment I thought “journalism” had died and I missed it came before speaking to a college class.

“Oh no, this isn’t a journalism class,” the professor told me moments before I stepped into the lecture hall. “This is media communications.”

“Not the same thing?” I asked. “I thought I was here to address journalism students.”

“Well, yes,” the professor said. “And no. Which is why I invited you.”

Confused, I asked for clarification, which she gave: “Journalism is incorporated in all we do; it’s an element in all we teach. But journalism by itself, we don’t do that anymore.”

And my job here this day?

“Maybe I wasn’t clear,” the professor said, sounding apologetic. “I was hoping you could explain what journalists like yourself do in your day-to-day routine — tell them how the theory comes into practice.”

This sounded simple enough. Problem was, the majority of the 45 students awaiting my sage instruction were seniors about a month away from sporting mortarboards. In my own college time, the “theory” we were supposed to learn came into practice almost immediately after freshman orientation. We all knew going in how to type on IBM Selectrics and use notepads, the professors presumed back then. Thus, their chief task was showing us how make something of the space between our ears, the most valuable news-gathering tool we had.

I doubted that anything I had to say to those 45 students would help them get a foot in a door at that point. Yes, they were savvy with networking and gadgetry. And yes, they probably knew how to knead an idea in as many ways as the prefix “multi” in multimedia allowed. But how much theory can anyone reasonably grasp when their eyes are focused on the space below the exit sign?

The key then, I believed, was offering the students less theory and more practicality. I didn’t know how much of the latter their in-class lessons provided. From my experience, the lessons I learned outside class were the ones still rooted in my mind. So, I opted to pass along some of the same tried and tested tips that no text or learned lecturer had awarded me at their age. If even a few students caught a clue, I figured, they’d be better prepared than a lot of their peers.

Among my hard-earned pearls of experience:

Read. Everything — We tend to reach first for whatever we like to read, not what we ought to read. Delving into assorted writing styles expands one’s mind for using words. It’s said that the best way to become a good writer is to first become a good reader, because you have to know and understand how words work before trying to make use of them.

Research. Everything — The habit today is to sift Wikipedia or the first couple of pages of a Google search for key sources, when the truth is that both of those venues are suspect. Wikipedia is vulnerable to prejudiced editing, while Google permits paid placement to influence its search listings. Real research — probing everything from pamphlets to databases and interviewing assorted subjects — takes time and effort, and is perhaps the hardest thing about being a credible journalist. Get comfortable with such sites as PACER and Pipl and Portico, and learn how to conduct advanced searches on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Listen. To everything — Rare is the interview when the subject gets to the point right away. Journalists may have to sit through speeches, musings, even homespun tales before the golden detail they seek rings clear. That’s fine — just listen. Chances are that other important information can be culled from what sources are trying to say.

Develop a strategy — Don’t go blindly into a topic hoping a story will somehow magically appear in completed form on your computer or tablet screen. In advance of pursuing a story idea, figure out how best to go about that pursuit. In other words, have a plan of action before taking the first note or conducting the first interview.

Develop living, breathing sources — The trend toward news aggregation is fine for those happy with merely repeating other people’s ideas. But for the rest of us intent on generating original content, it pays to talk with reliable experts, witnesses and trained observers to discover first-hand information, no matter who they are. And after that, it pays dividends to stay in touch and keep abreast of what they’re doing, find out what they’re seeing. Who knows: these once-used sources could provide insight to other story ideas later.

Ignore titles — Along this line, avoid depending too much on people with big or impressive titles. I struggled mightily in my first weeks of reporting by thinking the titled types possessed all the salient details when it was everyone below them — administrative assistants, clerks, servants, etc. — who had this information. I realized then that executives only make decisions; subordinates are the ones who make those decisions happen, and by extension know where all the signed documents are stashed.

Be skeptical — The saying among my college professors was, “If your grandmother says she loves you, check it out.” The point: Never take others’ word as gospel, for they may have less information than you. Furthermore, there are people out there whose job it is to mislead journalists. Don’t make it easier for them to do their job by trusting what they say.

Be compassionate, to a point — Understand that everyone has an opinion and the interview may be where the subject feels a need to express it. Let people vent, if it puts them at ease, but avoid getting drawn into an agenda.

Talk it over — It helps to talk about your stories with colleagues to get their input, though the solitary nature of freelancing can make that difficult. For journalists going it alone, professional organizations such as SPJ, the Online News Association and the American Copy Editors Society offer venues for discussion, as do the American Society of Journalists and Authors, Freelance Success and Freelancers Union.

David Sheets is a sports content editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and STLtoday.com, and president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at dsheets@post-dispatch.com, on Twitter at @DKSheets, or on Facebook and LinkedIn.

 

Seven Steps to Streamline Your Bookkeeping

A fellow freelancer posted this on Facebook a few weeks ago:  “Note to self:  Do NOT wait until the last two weeks of the year to enter/organize/categorize all of your expenses for your business. I am an idiot.”

Sorry for outing you, Ms. P., but you brought up a point that a lot of freelancers have to deal with. We’re business owners so, in addition to doing the work we love, we also have to do administrative tasks for which we don’t get paid. This includes paying bills, recording mileage and bookkeeping. Some freelancers avoid these tasks like the plague, while others hire someone to help.

I’ve tried both approaches – ignoring the paperwork until it threatened to take over my office and hiring a bookkeeper to help. I’ve finally settled on an affordable, relatively painless system to handle these annoying but necessary tasks. Here’s how I do it:

1.       I have separate bank accounts for business and personal expenses.

2.       I make deposits to my business account no more than once a week. This streamlines bookkeeping when it is time to reconcile my account.

3.       I pay bills once a month through QuickBooks so all of my business expenses are automatically categorized when I make the entries.

4.       Once a week, I record my work-related mileage in an Excel spreadsheet, using my Google calendar as a diary of where I went and why.  [Sample entry:  12/23/11, Met with editor at South Sound magazine in Tacoma, 42 miles]

5.       Once a week, I record all of my business-related expenses for the week in QuickBooks, and marking the hard copy as “posted” with a stamp and then filing them by month.

6.       At the end of each quarter, a bookkeeper reconciles my accounts and double-checks my bookkeeping and estimated tax payments.

7.       At the end of the year, my bookkeeper finalizes my accounting and prepares 1099s for subcontractors, when applicable. From there, I can prepare my own tax return or submit them to an accountant for handling.

This system takes me less than two hours a month of my own time and eight or so hours a year for my bookkeeper. If you can’t afford a bookkeeper, you can do those steps yourself. I prefer not to. I’d rather do a little extra work to pay her, freeing up my time to work on things I’m good at while avoiding stuff I’d rather not do.

With a New Year upon us, this is a great time to make changes in your recordkeeping. Try these seven steps to lighten your work load and free your mind for more creative pursuits. Good luck!

 

Dana Neuts is a freelance writer, editor and marketing professional based in the Seattle area. She serves as the regional director for Region 10 of SPJ and is the chairman of the national SPJ freelance committee. In addition, she is the owner and publisher of iLoveKent.net and iLoveCovington.com, hyperlocal blogs focused on cities in South King County, Washington. For more information about Dana, visit VirtuallyYourz.com.

 

How to stay productive even when you’re not working

Busy freelancers out there ― and you know who you are ― have the blessing of bounty on their plates with one or more projects stacked atop each other. But some of these time-challenged souls are pounding the keyboard one minute, interviewing and conducting research another minute, and plumbing the market for more work in between. A moment lost is a dollar lost, the thinking goes.

After a while though, this routine takes a toll and the constant churn can make one yearn to do something else ― anything else. Giving in to this feeling, however, may instill discomfiture, perhaps panic, if it’s believed that slowing down even a little could possibly reduce the steady stream of income to only trickle.

There are ways though to break the routine and still remain productive, because in truth there’s more to freelancing than incessant work. The key is to vary one’s routine during busy periods as well as slow ones in ways that actually are be beneficial to the creative and productive processes. At least three pursuits allow this to happen:

Taking classes ― No, this probably isn’t the first thing on a writer’s list of diversions; education and training require time and money. Still, acquiring a skill or honing a current one opens the mind to new ideas and possibilities and may also pave a path to new clients. As the freelance marketplace crowds with former newspaper journalists, the choices available to prospective clients varies and finer distinctions such as skill sets can become determining factors in which freelancers are hired and which are left hunting. Learning something new at every opportunity, whether in classes, seminars or online training ― particularly about the latest Web-based technologies ― can keep the mind and the client sheet fresh.

Social networking ― And no, in this case, we’re not talking about Twitter or Facebook; we’re talking about good, old-fashioned face-to-face networking. Sure, there’s the networking one does to find work, but there’s also the networking necessary to keep it coming. It’s this second kind that can be easy, laid back, with the investment of occasional lunches or dinners to show clients and valued sources they’re more than just tools of a freelancer’s trade. The result can be not just a better working relationship, but also more ideas for later stories.

Personal projects ― Here again, the question of time and money are bound to surface. Nevertheless, spending a little of both on projects not already on the assignment calendar, whether they’re hobbies, community services or pro bono efforts, can be restorative and salubrious, and they can enhance one’s portfolio.

A little diversity in routine, just like a little diversity on a résumé, affords more than a change of pace. Consider each non-work-related undertaking to be the buff and polish that a working life needs to maintain its shine.

David Sheets is a sports content editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and STLtoday.com, and president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at dsheets@post-dispatch.com, on Twitter at @DKSheets, or on Facebook and LinkedIn.

A one-stop shop for social media knowledge

The search for social media wisdom can be long and arduous, with trails and tips leading off in every direction. A frustrating day spent plumbing for facts can lead freelancers to believe they’re courting fiction.

A single source of reference would be better, and though no perfect thing like that exists Columbia Journalism School professor Sreenath “Sree” Sreenivasan has put together a generous, if not pretty, listing of social media links pointing to a wealth of information that includes basic as well as detailed information about Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and a host of other connectivity sites.

Included are links to strategies for best practices in social media and interesting multimedia demonstrating the use and misuse of it.

Today, effective freelancing requires also making a name, or “brand,” for oneself online. With Sree’s help, freelancers now can spend less time surfing and more time writing.

David Sheets is a sports editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and STLtoday.com, and president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at dsheets@post-dispatch.com, on Twitter at @DKSheets, or on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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