Focusing Inwards: How YOU time can help unlock your creativity

Things can get pretty hectic when you’re making your own schedule. If you’re anything like me there’s a tendency to keep over booking until just a glance at your upcoming projects and deadlines seems pretty overwhelming. And of course that means cutting out your TV binge watch date, or skipping out on your morning Yoga class.

While it’s great (and profitable) to be busy overbooking yourself can be super bad for your long term creative stamina. Not only will you become physically tired (…and irritable) you will feel stifled creatively, perhaps even become blocked which creates this vicious cycle of feeling overwhelmed and wanting to write or create but not really being able to find that special spark of inspiration to help you progress. The time ticks away, you struggle to get projects done, and then once you’re rushing you can’t devote the same amount of creative energy to each project. That means you’re less satisfied with your end product and that’s not something you want to make habitual because it undermines the unique quality of your work.

People often forget that creative endeavors are a lot like fitness goals. To really be able to continually grow and improve you must learn to pace yourself and set healthy standards for yourself. As you achieve them you can increase your output and before you know it you can sustain you creative focus and get those creative juices flowing with less effort.

Also I don’t know about anyone else, but I find that sometimes when I take that step back, and have the time to back burner a project and kinda let it simmer in the back of my mind while I go relax, do my yoga, meet up with friends, listen to music or whatever I usually come up with something either while I’m relaxing or soon after returning to my desk to work. I can’t tell you how many times a phrase in a song or a line in a TV show has sparked something interesting.

But..but…time is money right? Well lemme ask you this. How long can you sustain good quality work when you are burnt out?  Not long. See freelancing isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. The most successful freelancers know that there are times to work hard, and times to relax. They are true to their talents and they guard their creativity and nurture it. The better work you do the more attention you’ll receive the more proud and confident you will be with presenting your work to bigger more picky potential clients.

So take some time this weekend to decompress and reconnect.

How do you decompress after a really busy stretch of freelancing? Comment below!

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The Messy Desk: How Chaos Breeds Creativity

I have a slight confession…my desk…both  desks actually in my home office and at work…tend to be on the messy side, things are askew, I put seashells in my bonsai planter, I have a rubber duck AND whale stuck to the side of the computer, a colorful (empty) tea tin sits next to it just because I like it there. I tell people I have a system and they usually laugh at me because the papers strewn across my desk in haphazard piles look chaotic and unorganized…but they’re not.

I used to be a bit fanatical about having everything in my work space locked down, sticky noted, filed and stacked to avoid disapproving glances from parents, my boyfriend and occasionally my cat…but a recent study has given us messy creatives even more of an excuse to leave our creative spaces out of order. Why? Because someone FINALLY discovered scientific proof that chaos breeds creativity (I may or may not have sprinkled some confetti over my desk in celebration…I probably will clean it up…)

The study centered around how people structure their environments to achieve their goals…for example. If you want to do your taxes in one fell swoop it’s more effective to keep all tax information well organized…even more importantly to do said taxes sitting down to a clear clean area . Doing this focuses you and allows you to increase your productivity by limiting distractions.

However, (this is the fun part) put someone trying to concept and think creatively in the same space and that person will struggle with coming up with ideas. Why? Because the space lends itself to conformity, order, and more importantly a task that has a set purpose and a set way of achieving that purpose.

Creativity often comes from divergent thinking, from becoming caught up, enamored, distracted, having something catch your eye, seeing something at a new angle, in a way you hadn’t been able to before… the chance glance at something that sparks and emotion or an idea. Disorder can create an environment for fresh insight, taking a creative risk and trying on new ideas and new perspectives.

Pretty amazing, right?

So messy creatives, absolve yourself from some of the guilt surrounding your messy desk, maybe it’s our inner muse working to create a space for us that is conducive to new ideas. Embrace it…within reason of course. If you can’t get any work done because you can’t find anything…or you have…strange smells coming from your work space and half eatin bits littering your floor…invest in some disinfectant please (pretty please).

I just have to add this part because I find it super interesting. This same study also found that people who had orderly environments made healthier eating choices…my answer? Spotless kitchen, messy desk!

So get out there and make you environment WORK for you!

Anyone else have the same experiences? Share them below!

Here’s some links about this topic you can check out to learn more:

Clean Your Desk for Productivity (Keep it Messy for Creativity)

Say Yes to the Messy Desk

Freelance Reflections 9/26: Dry Spells. A Blessing or a Curse?

Freelancing is much more a hunter/gatherer type venture than the steady dependable 9-5 job. When it’s feast, there’s work everywhere and you can do quite well for yourself, but even the best hunters and lead finders come up empty once and a while.

The last few months have been a FLURRY of hectic activity for me. Clients from every angle, freelance applications here, writing tests there, blogs, calls to potential clients, answering emails, white papers, articles coming out of my ears until…it all abruptly halted Monday.

In fact, it took me a day to realize I didn’t have any major deadlines and that all my clients had paid up and now I was officially in that “in-between” period waiting for my next set of jobs. At first I was nervous. But reflecting on this week I’ve decided that not all dry spells are bad.

In fact, quite the contrary. I think we all need those moments when work just stops. I took a gander around my apartment, and with freelancing, my full time job AND a whole bunch of family events the last few weeks, I hadn’t noticed that…well it needed some TLC. I think it’s so easy to get caught up in work that we forget there’s life in there too.

So this week I’ve cleaned my apartment, gotten my life in order, reminded my friends that I’m alive and well (and even available for drinks and chick flicks!) and will actually be going out Saturday to enjoy my favorite season! And I bet you I will be ready to hop back into the fray Sunday night and start all over again.

So don’t panic if you hit a bit of a dry spell, it may be the universe handing you a chill pill. So grab a glass of wine and take a deep breath. A well rested freelancer is a MORE profitable freelancer.  Here’s to enjoying a well earned rest!

Freelance Reflections 7/29: Writer’s Burnout. Is that a thing?

I just submitted the final assignment before I leave for San Diego tomorrow (thank goodness for vacations am I right?). Of COURSE the week before I leave everyone wants me to write for them. To be honest, I spent so many late nights writing this week I’m a little fried. You just get to the point where you just need a break and after 8 days and close to ten thousand words later I’m more than ready for a well earned rest.

I’ve heard other freelancers (more experienced than myself) talk about writer’s burnout, where you just can’t physically write anymore. It’s usually talked about in fearful hushed tones but the truth of the matter is I don’t believe in burnout. I believe in over-scheduling, overworking and under-recreating. Freelancers really struggle with the whole Work/Life balance because we are the new hunter-gatherers of the 21st century. We are out there foraging for work, networking, completing projects keeping up to date on the latest social media trends, it’s really much more than a full time job much of which goes uncompensated.

I think it’s important to remember that we need to take time to breathe, spend precious moments with our friends and family not just for their benefit but also for ours. I’m just as guilty of this where I get wrapped up in my work to the point where I don’t go out, I don’t do anything and then of course I feel strangled and grumpy, who wouldn’t?

So if you’re a workaholic like me I say make two days a week sacred, they can be floaters if you like, but make two days a week “NO CLIENT WORK” days. Do stuff around the house, go for a walk, write something FOR YOURSELF to keep yourself happy and the creative juices flowing, but stay away from the stress. I work on my manuscript, do DIY projects, and bake, just so I am learning something new, using other parts of my brain besides the writing parts and making progress elsewhere in my life. It’s been a great rule to follow, and it’s definitely prevented me from becoming overly frustrated.

On that note it’s time for me to pack and get ready! See everyone in August!

What Goes into a Writing Project (Besides Just Writing)?

Anything involving the creative process is never just the physical ACT of creating. Usually that’s the LAST step in the creative process. Some times people on the business end (clients, account managers etc) don’t always understand how this process functions. I always try to make potential clients aware of what is entailed with completing a project.

Besides writing creating a finished product involves:

  • Creating a concept
  • Carrying out Research
  • Initial Consulting with the client about the project
  • Proofreading and editing
  • Making Revisions to drafts
  • Communicating with you (phone, conference, fax, email, etc)

It’s important to remember that all of those steps are BILLABLE steps. Now you know honesty is the best policy. You shouldn’t spend two hours concepting and an extra hour Facebooking and call it three hours. That being said if you’re struggling to come up with a concept and it requires a lot of research it’s not unheard of to take two  hours to research a new topic, fact check, and then if it’s a toughy concepting an approach could take another hour or two…and you haven’t even picked up a pen to start drafting yet.

When giving clients estimates factoring in these extra steps will make sure that you’re being accurately compensated for your time and prevent overages that’ll cause frustration on both ends.  Plus it’s also important to keep in mind a few other things:

  • Building content “from scratch” takes longer (and therefore costs more) than just editing existing copy.
  • Writing content that is search engine optimized is more difficult and time consuming than web content writing that is not concerned with search results.
  • Complex projects, products, and services require more time to research and write.
  • Large sites with many pages, tabs, and nice little nooks and crannies that need to be filled with content will take longer and therefore cost more than simple websites.
  • Sites that are consistently changing may requires on-going web content writing to keep content up to date.

I actually include some of this important information on my business website to make sure that my clients are informed about what my rates include and to create an understanding of what they are asking me to accomplish. I think being upfront is the best way to do business because it builds mutual trust, and mutual trust leads to…repeat clients (and more profit! Yay!)

Did I miss anything? What about non-writing freelancers? What else is involved in your process besides the obvious?

Freelance Reflections 6/27: Freelancing for Free? Yes or No?

Recently I was approached to do a volunteer freelance project for a small charity trying to update and redesign their website.  I accepted and offered to do it completely for free. WHAT?! I know. Free. People said I was crazy, that I should have charged a nominal fee. As a first year freelancer I was immediately conflicted about this decision after the initial response I’d received from others about it. 

It got me thinking about how others might feel when asked to complete a project for nothing. After all, the adage, “Time is Money” is definitely true for freelancers. The more we work the more make and the sooner we can increase our rates as we collect more and more experience. 

In the end I stuck to my guns and completed the project for free and came to the conclusion that really it’s no one’s business if I offer to lend my skills out to a cause that I believe in for nothing. In fact, I did get paid but not in the way that most people expected. In personal satisfaction.

I know, I can’t live off of satisfaction and I wouldn’t recommend anyone offering to volunteer their services if they don’t have enough income to take care of themselves but once I’d finished the project I felt great. So often in freelancing we’re called to complete tasks for clients and we don’t really get to pick and choose who we write for and what we write. This charity happened to be something very personal to me and the opportunity to help them and make a difference is something I don’t come across often. 

Also, the gratitude expressed by the Director of the charity was extremely motivating. They were so grateful for the help, they gave me a fantastic testimonial, and I know for a fact that they will be getting in touch with me in the future for other work and recommending me to people as well. Good press is always good to get, and when it comes with feeling like a hero it’s hard to miss the money I would have made had I charged them. This will open doors to other opportunities down the line and establish professional relationships that will surely help my business grow. 

So Freelancing for Free? I say yes but depending on the project and what you’re being asked to do. Also setting up a boundary for revisions is essential. My maximum is three for paying clients but for pro bono assignments I would probably only allow two rounds of free revisions. After that I say my hourly rate kicks in which is a good way to keep pro bono assignments from dragging on for forever.

What do we think? Have you had any bad or good freelancing projects where you worked pro bono? 

6 Freelance Writing Websites You Need To Know About

I’m a firm believer in getting your foot in the door. As a first year freelancer that means you may have to take projects that don’t pay fantastically so that you can get the street cred necessary to build your freelancing business. A great way of doing this is by getting involved in some online freelancing websites and developing the habit of seeking out new clients regularly. Once Write Away Freelance LLC officially opened it’s doors in March all I wanted was to get out there and build my portfolio and gain experience with the whole three step process (i.e. 1. Find Clients 2. Write Stuff 3. Profit). Here are some notables that you should look into when you start writing as a freelancer:

1.) Freelancewriting.com – This website is your best friend. Not only do they have TONS of resources available, they also post jobs, tell you know when magazines are asking for submissions and have regular articles and job leads that are invaluable to freelancers.

 2.) Scripted.com – Great for newbies to the freelancing gig. They have good pay rates for first timer’s  they pay on time, there’s a lot of job diversity, the opportunity to become Favorited and receive specialized work from clients who like you, you can advance and become experts in certain criteria after a certain time, it’s great and the application process isn’t that grueling. They will ask you to do a grammar test, they will ask for writing samples but by and large their  process is pretty pain-free.

 3.) Onlinewritingjobs.com– Also great for newcomers, rates are a little low for my liking but I started with them when Write Away Freelance had JUST started and now I’ve got a regular client through them for work that’s pretty easy regular money in an industry that I want to get into more closely so I’d say give them a try too. They do require a writing test which isn’t too scary and expect to learn a lot about SEO there, they’re big on having their writer’s integrate SEO keywords which is a great place to start so you can learn about SEO without having to be an expert going in. Nice amount of job diversity as well.

4.) FreelancersUnion.org – I’m a firm believer in do-it-myself crafts but it’s nice to have someone to guide me through using tools so I don’t saw off a vital bit (i.e….thumb…or leg). Freelancing is much the same way, and one of the best resources that I’ve found for first time freelancers is Freelancers Union. I make it a point to read their e-newletters when they come out, they are always answering a question I have, or maybe one I hadn’t considered.  They also can get you insurance and other benefits so it’s worth checking them out if you’re looking for a resource for that.

 5.) Bloggingpro.com – Specifically, their job board here is active and there are a lot of posts for people looking for web content, content curation, social media specialists, really anything related to web writing. I’ve gotten some good leads from here. Unfortunately it’s not really helpful for freelancers in other disciplines.

 6.) Journalismjobscom – Another one primarily geared towards writers. I happen to love this website because there is a tremendous amount of job diversity here from PR to Non-Profits and a lot more. So if you want to gain experience in a certain niche area this is a good place to look.

 

Anyone else have freelance resources? Post them in the comments below!