by Jargon Writer

Writing my way to becoming a freelancer

It’s the Little Things

I’m always amazed by the small business owners who have made it eight or ten years without even the most basic of marketing. It always makes me wonder how much better they’d be doing if they’d invested the time or a minimal amount of effort in taking a few basic steps to make sure everyone knew what they were about. For example, a friend’s father does home maintenance and construction–is motto is that when the professionals mess it up, he can fix it. He installs bathrooms and floors, works on roofs, does some masonry outside… he’s a jack-of-all-trades handyman. Until this year he didn’t have business cards.ness owners who have made it eight or ten years without even the most basic of marketing. It always makes me wonder how much better they’d be doing if they’d invested the time or a minimal amount of effort in taking a few basic steps to make sure everyone knew what they were about.

For example, a friend’s father does home maintenance and construction–is motto is that when the professionals mess it up, he can fix it. He installs bathrooms and floors, works on roofs, does some masonry outside… he’s a jack-of-all-trades handyman. Until this year he didn’t have business cards….. FOR THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE, SEE MY NEW BLOG SITE, WWW.JARGONWRITER.COM.

April 15, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Link Round Up:

Check out yesterday’s post on Jargonwriter.comfour links for freelancers in the latest link round up!

Here’s a preview:

How What You Don’t Know Can Help Your Freelance Business – Ever turned a lack of knowledge into an opportunity? That’s what this piece is all about. As new freelancers, there is no way we’re going to know everything there is to know about freelancing in our industry. Well, when you find something you don’t know if you can do, you can give up and go home or you can accept it for the challenge that it is. (NOTE: I do not advocate lying to clients about your experience – pointing them to similar projects you’ve done and telling them you think you can handle this new assignment is fine – butdon’t promise something you can’t deliver. It will lose you a client and gain you a bad reputation.)

April 14, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On Networking and Newsletters

When I was working on my Masters in Publishing at Pace University I made a handful of good friends. Among them is Diana, who happened to do her thesis on a topic similar to mine and who I talked to on Facebook while pulling almost-all-nighters several nights in a row trying to finish that same thesis. I’ve posted before – many many times – about the importance of networking and collaborating with both other freelancers and, specifically, with other writers.

Well, completely out of the blue today…. For the rest of this post check out my new, self-hosted blog!

*All new posts will be posted there. Please switch over your RSS feeds.*

April 13, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

IMPORTANT

I’ve been talking about switching to my self-hosted site for a while now – well I’ve finally done it. This will be the last post on this web address. All new posts will be located at :   www.jargonwriter.com

Please check it out – it’s a much nicer (and cleaner) layout. It will still be me, talking about the same type of things; I’ve carried all the posts from this site over, so you can still look through my archives.

If you have me in your RSS reader or follow my RSS feed, please add the new site and remove this site.

Thanks again for reading what I write. I hope you like the new site as much as I do.

April 10, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Word.

Once a month, for the last 5 months (minus January where I was out-of-town) I have trudged 40 minutes out of my way to Greenpoint, Brooklyn. My destination? Word. Word is a great little bookstore located at 126 Franklin St. where I joined a book club some months back.

I first learned about Word through Marian Schemari’s blog, where “bookavore” aka Stephanie, Word’s manager, wrote a fantastic comment on Marian’s post. And the more I learned about this little bookstore, the more I wanted to support it in some way. This little bookstore was doing everything right – as a business to business writer, I really admire indie businesses who “get it.” Word gets it.

Unfortunately, a 40 minute trek is a little long whenever I want something to read, but fortunately, Word has a book club (and a ton of other AWESOME events). So I joined.

I had never been part of a book club before. The closest I’d been was my college literature classes, which, as an English major, I took many of–the first time I attended a book club meeting, I had only managed to get the book a few days earlier. I’d rushed through reading it, so that I could at least say I had read the whole thing. But that didn’t matter. I left book club feeling incredibly mentally stimulated and really … happy. I had found people who, like me, loved words.

And every time I go back, I leave with that same feeling. Being around people who love what you love, talking about it… it’s an incredible feeling.

In Parker’s book she writes that we should network with other people who do what we do–other writers–even though they are our competition. She says that doing so gives you someone to fall back on should you get sick, be unable to take on an assignment, or should some major tragedy befall you.

I agree that it’s important to meet people who are passionate about the same things you are. But not for business reasons. Instead, I think it’s important because being around these people reminds you why you love what you love, and why you do what you do, which isn’t always easy to remember when it’s Thursday, you have four assignments due at the end of the week and have already pulled two all-nighters since Monday.

Even though I don’t know how many, if any, of the people in book club are actually writers, the important thing isn’t networking per-say. Instead, its being about to talk about what I love in a pressure-free environment; and meet some great people while doing so.

April 9, 2010 Posted by | Freelancing, in practice, writing | 2 Comments

Hitting Send

My boss has commented once or twice, when looking over pieces he wrote in older issues of the magazine, “I wrote that? Damn I’m good.” When I do the same, I always feel the exact opposite–”I wrote THAT?!?! And they published it?” Almost every piece I work on, I fret about getting it right. And I have a problem–I can’t edit my own work. Every time I edit something I wrote, I end up starting from scratch.

Take exhibit A as an example: My boss constantly praises the writing of one of our editors; so today I decided I would take a closer look at one of her articles (see it here) her style of writing and figure out what about her writing impresses him so much. The first thing I noticed was her soft lead. So I decided to see if I couldn’t achieve something similar. So I tried it.

And now I’m a nervous wreck. My boss won’t even look at the piece for at least 2 more weeks–I still have to do several interviews and all I wrote today was the introduction–but I’m worried he’ll think my attempt to copy her soft lead is silly. It really felt like I was taking a risk.

This is how I feel almost every time I submit a freelance article for publication.

Most of the time when I finally finish an article and hit send, I immediately wish I could call it back. I worry that the person on the other end isn’t going to like it, or is going to want to edit it to smithereens and will hold back because they don’t want to hurt my feelings (or that they won’t hold back, but instead just won’t use me again).

My suspicion is that my insecurities go back to what I talked about a while ago or, more recently– that I’m faking it–that I still haven’t gotten to that point at which I consider myself a writer so I constantly worry about being exposed. I’m hoping that when I get my website up and functioning this weekend that that will begin to change. Then, when I finally order business cards and begin introducing myself AS a writer, that it will set in even more.

But only time will tell.

April 8, 2010 Posted by | Freelancing, in practice, writing | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hosting OR Where you Keep Your Domain Name

As I discussed in Monday’s post, hosting services are services that “store” your website files in a place on the web (or, really, on a server that is always connected to the web) so that anyone can find them anytime.

Now, the reason I said not to buy your domain name immediately once you find one that you both love and that is available, is because some hosting services offer a free domain rebate or free domain name with purchase of a hosting plan. My host, dsgnrhosting.com, offers said rebate. Godaddy also offers hosting – my roommate bought her domain name through Godaddy and uses them for hosting and has been very pleased with them thus far. As with any major business decision, shop around a bit. The following are some things to consider when comparing:

Price and Payment Plans – Some sites are more flexible than others. Do you have to pay the year upfront? Can you pay month-to-month? How easy is it to upgrade or downgrade your hosting package? Do they offer any coupons (godaddy offers a number of coupons, according to my roomie)? Remember, money spent on hosting and your website is money you are taking out of your bottom line. It is an investment, and having a good website is a good investment, but you want to make sure what you’re buying is actually what you need. In addition to looking at the price for hosting services, check for extra fees –set up fees and domain registration fees, especially.

Memory – Essentially, this is how big your cabinet is; it will decide how many files you can keep up and how complex your website can be. If you already have a website built, you can look and just see how big the files are. If you don’t have a site built yet, it may be a good idea to ask a friend or colleague whose site you like how large their site is – this is likely to give you a pretty good indication of how much space you’ll need.

Email – Most hosting services include email services @yourdomainname.com. For instance, that is how I have an email account mbreau(at)jargonwriter.com. Can you create unlimited email addresses at your domain name?

Hosted Domains – This is how many domain names you can have set up for that hosting service account. I plan on having at least 3 domain names – one with my company name, one with my actually name and one for my blog (which will be http://www.jargonwriter.com as soon as I get it set up).

Traffic – This directly effects how many visitors you can get per month. In addition to actual visitors, this number is affected by search engine spiders (“crawlers” that check your site and catalog it so that search engines know what the site contains), which run through your site on a regular basis. There is a complicated formula for figuring out how many visits you can get per byte, but the easiest thing to do is just call or email the services you’re considering and ask what those numbers are.

Downtime – Servers generally undergo routine maintenance, but occasionally things happen and they go down. While the server is down, people will be unable to access your site. Ask about average annual downtime and policies pertaining to downtime, like whether the site reimburses customers for extended downtime.

NOTE: There are free FTP services out there (firefox offers one, for example) which essentially make the need for a hosting service moot. Instead, your website is uploaded to the ftp site and web surfers can access it. The downside, is many of the free services are fairly easy to hack; if you’ll be using your site for any sort of monetary transactions you NEED to purchase a hosting services or you’re putting your customer’s accounts at risk. If you’re just setting up a basic website, you may be able to get away with using a free account – but hosting services come with many additional perks (like the email address thing) and a good hosting services is a lot less likely to go down than a free ftp site.

Once you’ve chosen a hosting service, signed up for a package and bought your domain name, it’s time to start designing your site.

In the comments, please let me know what hosting service you use, what your experience has been and/or what factors play(ed) into your choice of a hosting service.

April 7, 2010 Posted by | Freelancing, in practice, writing | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Shopping For A Domain Name

As I discussed yesterday, one of the first steps in setting up your website is choosing a domain name. The easiest way I’ve found so far to find out what names are available is to come up with one and then input it at Godaddy.com, which will quickly search for the chosen domain name with a variety of endings (.com, .net, .info, .us, .me, .org, etc).

This lets you know that the name is available. But don’t hurry into purchasing the name–some hosting services, including mine (dsgnrhosting.com), offer you a free domain name when you purchase hosting. This, among a number of other things, is something to consider when choosing a host for your site (a post on choosing a hosting service coming soon).

Personally, I favor having a domain name that ends in .com, if at all possible. Most people immediately think of a website as being a “dot com” so while other options exist, my recommendation is that you find a domain name that is available with that ending. For me, having a unique domain name is important enough that I am running each of the names I consider through godaddy before adding it to my list of possibilities.

If you have already established a legal business entity – you’ve registered your company name with the local business bureau and done all the government paperwork– then your domain name should in some way work with your established name. If your name, as registered, isn’t available as a dot com (many common words are in use already as domains for related products and if you’re using your name and you have a common last name that may be taken as well) many articles recommend you choose a .net, .info, .me etc. Other articles suggest adding words like “the” to the beginning of your name.

What I recommend instead is using a shorter, quirkier or easier to remember version of your name – an abbreviation, for example. For Melissa Breau Copy Company perhaps I’d do http://www.melbcopy.com, which rhymes when pronounced (mel – b – copy).

The trick is to make it both related to your actual company name in a way that will allow clients to create an association between the two mentally and to make it obvious and clear enough that clients will still associate it with your company.

When you’ve found a domain name that you feel is a good choice for your company and is available for purchase, your next step is to choose a host for your site (do this BEFORE buying the domain name).

April 7, 2010 Posted by | Freelancing, in practice, writing | , , , | 5 Comments

On the World Wide Web

You may think I’ve stalled on the Marketing Chapter (Chapter 7) of Parker’s book – and you’d be partially right and partially wrong. Marketing is one of the aspects of small business that fascinates me personally, in a big way–which is good, since what I’m interested in doing is essentially writing marketing materials for small businesses. But chapter 7 is also one of the longest and most diverse chapters in How to Start a Home-Based Writing Business. Therefore, I’m dedicating a significant portion of time to reading through it and beginning to apply the material within.

Well, the next section of the chapter is on setting up a website. In today’s day and age, it is imperative for you to have a website if you’re going to own a small business. It is also likely that you’ll need a twitter account, and there is a good possibility that you’ll want to develop a facebook account also (although I think facebook for a B2B company like mine is fairly useless but that’s a diatribe for another day). But, unless you’re a web developer (which I am not), setting up a website can be confusing.

At first it seems simple enough–build a site in something like dreamweaver, buy a domain name on godaddy.com and get the two hooked up, which will be the birth of a beautiful relationship ending in marriage, 2.5 kids, a car, a dog and fights about the dishes. Not so.

Parker lists 16 steps, which is way too much for one post. So today, I’ll share what I consider “the basics” then ill break down the rest over the next few days, peppering in my own experiences thus far for good measure.

Parker shares that most of the writers she interviewed for the book use their websites mainly as a reference that they can point prospects to; in my experience with the web, that’s probably accurate. It’s rare that I’ll go “looking” for a service and stumble upon a fantastic small business. More often, I’ll hear about a small business and it’s mission and then go look at its website for more information. After all, as Parker writes, “Marketing and selling and usually about going to the prospect, not about waiting for the prospect to come to you.”

That doesn’t mean having a website isn’t important however. It IS essential to have somewhere for potential clients to go for that additional information – to look at your samples, to read about you, and to connect. A website is an instantaneous alternative to mailing out sales kits via snail mail. Which brings us back to setting up a website. How do you create a presence on that thing called the internet?

Parker’s first point discusses needing a “site provider.” In order to create a website you need three things. First, you need a domain name. Second, you need a hosting service. Third, you need to build an actual site.

That makes it seem easy, but unless someone breaks it down for you, understanding how those three work together can be complicated. Essentially, you need to buy a “name” for your website. This is your domain name. One of the best ways for checking to see if a domain name you want to buy is free (in my experience at least) is to look for it on godaddy.com. They have a handy search bar where you can type in any website name and they will look for it for you and, if it’s not available, they will suggest alternatives. Go Daddy also sells domain names, and offers hosting, but more about that in a minute.

Once you’ve found a domain name that is available and that makes you warm and gooey on the inside, you need to find someone to host your site. Essentially, hosting services are people who have lots of memory that is always hooked up to the internet, so that people logging onto the web can find your site at the same “location” all the time, whether you are online or not. A host stores your site for you online. So you must find someone to host your site and link your hosting site to your domain name.

Then comes the fun part–if by fun you mean tied up and being beaten by whips (hey, some people are into that). You have to build a website. This is the part of the process I’m currently at. I’m waffling between buying a wordpress theme (or finding a free one I like a lot) then essentially building a wordpress site, or building my own site from scratch and merely using a wordpress blog as part of the site. As I’ve mentioned before, I am not a techie but I do have some basic knowledge.

Finally, once you build the site you upload it to the host and the host connects it to the server and you’re live. But as I said, what sounds simple is really much more complicated. I’ll break it all down more tomorrow.

April 5, 2010 Posted by | Freelancing, in practice, writing | 2 Comments

Part I: Q&A With Andrea V. Lewis

This is part 1, the first part, of a multi-part Q&A with Andrea V. Lewis. Part II is coming soon – in the meantime, check out Andrea’s blog for more about her.

Jargon Writer: When/How did you first become a freelancer?

Andrea V. Lewis: I became a freelancer after I left the traditional advertising world. I knew I wanted to transition out of traditional (digital) media planning and buying and into social media. Since, my agency was a full-service agency, there was little opportunity to gain knowledge in experimental or social media initiatives, which is generally handled by specialized agencies or by the client directly.

JW: What kind of freelancing do you do and within that field, what do you specialize in?

Andrea: I’m currently freelancing as a writer at Demand Studios. They provide online content to several branded websites. They offer writing assignments on a number of topics. I specialize in marketing and advertising topics because that’s where my educational background and professional expertise lies.

JW: What about the idea of freelancing drew you?

Andrea: Freedom is what initially drew me to utilize freelancing temporarily. It would have been very difficult for me to keep agency hours, working anywhere from 9 – 12 hours per day, in addition to commuting, and find time to devote to job searching too. I’m able to set my own hours based upon my schedule for that day and work in accordance with my needs instead of typical 9-to-5, or in my case 9-to-7, rat race regulations.

JW: How long have you been working freelance and what’s the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome?

Andrea: I’ve only been freelancing for a few months. Three months to be exact. My biggest obstacle is reminding myself that just because I don’t have clients to service, campaigns to launch, or metrics to analyze, doesn’t mean I’m not productive. Going from a fast paced environment to a secluded home office has taken some time to get used to. Also, the nature of my work has also changed. Now, I get paid to write creatively and produce content, which is so different from buying media, maintaining campaigns, and providing reports on ROI to the client.


Based in Los Angeles, CA, Andrea V. Lewis has been working at full-service advertising agencies and marketing firms since 2005. Her writing has been featured on Brazen Careerist, eHow, and about.com, among others. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications with a concentration in advertising, from California State University, Fullerton. Say hello to her on Twitter or visit her blog, Hello. {Work}.

April 4, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment