Friday, May 29, 2009

It's 'Update Your Profile' Day!

Yes, I just made that up.

I was working on a blog today and realized that my Blogger profile was ridiculously out of date: It claimed I had almost three years of professional writing experience, instead of the real number, which is over four years. Whoops!

But that gave me a good blog topic for today: the importance of keeping profiles, bios, resumes, and other marketing materials updated. Obviously you'll want to be sure you are getting the proper credit for your experience and clips, but it can also be rather embarrassing to realize that you haven't updated your profile in over a year — and that clients and colleagues have been seeing outdated information for quite some time!

When is the last time you updated your profile? (Or bio, or resume, or...)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Reading as inspiration

Although I knew I wanted to pursue a career as a writer, I didn't actually get my degree in writing. Instead, my bachelor's is in English literature. This is a reflection of the fact that 99 percent of what I know about writing, I actually learned from reading.

I get a lot of my inspiration from reading. Here's a perfect example: I just recently finished reading Stephenie Meyer's Twilight saga (Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn). I loved them — you can read my book blog to find out more about that. But I also found them incredibly inspiring.

Part of it is that Stephenie Meyer's story is something of a writer's fairy tale — she's so normal, yet from her very first book, she was so successful. Part of it is also that she writes for young adults, an audience I'd also like to write for someday. But the biggest part is that there is something about these books — the creativity and addictiveness of them, perhaps — that gets my own creative juices flowing. I usually finish a book wanting to start on the next one on my stack, but I finished these books wanting to write. FICTION.

Unfortunately, I'm slammed right now with client projects, so my creative urges will have to wait a few more days before I can start fulfilling them. But in the meantime, I'm adding notes to several outlines and concepts — my head is exploding with ideas, which I don't want to forget before I'm able to get to them!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Copyright office backlog

Rumor has it there is a serious backlog at the U.S. Copyright Office right now. Registering a copyright is now taking 18 months, instead of the normal three to six. With the exception of big publishing houses who can afford to pay the expediting fee, of course.

I wonder what that means for writers who start the process to register a copyright, but then have someone steal their work before the 18 months are up? Since a work has to have a registered copyright before you can sue for copyright infringement, I'm sure this is probably going to be a problem for some people.

By the way, notice the story about the woman whose sample ad was stolen by an ad agency? That is why you don't write samples for a potential client. No matter how reputable they might seem.

Monday, May 18, 2009

This sounds familiar!

While at the bookstore Sunday afternoon, I ran across an article in Consumer Reports about the types of work at home scams that are out there.

Check out the scam entitled "Start an Internet business." You give them your credit card number to ship a free CD, which signs you up for a recurring charge of $72.21 a month unless you cancel your membership. Unsurprisingly, the company has hundreds of BBB complaints against it — which, unfortunately, are being largely ignored.

What does this remind you of? Freelance Work Exchange, a.k.a. GoFreelance.com, of course!

I still get emails and blog comments every single month from people thanking me for my warnings about Freelance Work Exchange and GoFreelance.com, or sharing their stories of how this work at home scam ensnared them. I have quite a few posts about them, but here are the highlights:

Is Freelance Work Exchange a scam?, in which I repost a lengthy complaint about FWE's questionnable practices
Freelance Work Exchange is now GoFreelance.com, a warning about FWE's new name and website — same basic scam
A note from Rob Palmer, in which the owner of FWE and GoFreelance.com gives me his email address and claims to be willing to resolve the complaints against him
GoFreelance.com fails AGAIN to keep Rob Palmer's promises, in which Rob Palmer strikes out — I gave him a chance and he blew it!

Judging by the Consumer Reports article, Rob Palmer isn't the only get-rich-quick genius using these scammy tactics. But if I haven't convinced you yet to be more cautious, then hey, leave your credit card number in the comments and I'll be happy to sign you up for a FREE smack upside the head every time you even think about signing up!

Writers who ought to know better

I was shocked to read that the well-known columnist Maureen Dowd recently was caught plagiarizing. Not only that, but the paragraph she lifted was the work of a really high-profile blogger!

She claims that she heard the line from a friend, and didn't realize that her friend was just repeating something she'd read. I'm not sure that I buy that, but in any case, wasn't she still trying to pass off someone else's words as her own? Does it matter if she thought they were her friend's words, rather than another writer's?

Even more laughable, the article referred to the plagiarism as an "error." Ha! Really, a writer like Maureen Dowd ought to know better than to make an "error" like that!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Happy belated Writers Worth Day

Well, Writers Worth Day was Friday, and I forgot to blog. Instead I spent the day with my husband, who had taken the day off, and made up a few hours of work in the evening.

Being able to take days off like this is, I think, one of the strongest arguments for upholding your worth as the writer. If you take low-paying jobs, you'll have to work almost constantly just to keep up with your bills. If you only take jobs that pay professional wages, on the other hand, you can afford to have a personal life as well as a great career.

Low-paying writing work is demoralizing, not only because it forces you to work for a pittance, but also because it usually leaves you with no free time. Being able to balance my need for income with my desire to spend time on my hobbies is my biggest reason for setting my rates where I do. What's yours?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Busy as a Beaver

I have been SO busy lately. Not long after I told Lori Widmer that I was comfortably busy, not slammed, I ended up... slammed. I think I jinxed myself, though I haven't quite been able to bring myself to regret it!

April was a big month for me, bill-wise, and May is no less momentous. Just the other day I had my horse's spring vet visit, and I have a few other unusual expenses this month. So believe me, the extra work is definitely not a bad thing!

But then you add to that the extra time I've been spending with my horse in celebration of the nice weather, plus the time I've spent on some writing projects related to my doll collecting hobby, and you're looking at the beginnings of a very busy summer.

In other words, I don't have the time to spend on projects that don't pay me well. I have a certain amount of income I need to make, and a limited amount of time I've set aside to make it in. And that, I think, is probably one of the biggest arguments ever for writers setting professional rates.

Which brings me to my next point: Tomorrow is Writers Worth Day. You've no doubt seen the shiny new widget in my sidebar. You can find out more about it on Lori Widmer's blog. Honestly, I won't be surprised if she sets fireworks off from her blog tomorrow. If any one person can make a holiday official, it's Lori. The woman is tireless!

As for me... My husband has tomorrow off, so I'll be splitting the day between him, my horse, and work. What better way to celebrate Writers Worth Day than by reminding myself why my time is worth so much?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Examine this!

There has been a lot of talk lately about Examiner.com, a website that pays writers per pageview. They've been posting ads all over the place and growing pretty rapidly, and as a result they've come to the attention of WritersWeekly.com.

Last week, Angela Hoy ran sort of an introductory column about Examiner.com, asking for responses from writers who work for them. This week she printed the responses she got about how much Examiner.com writers are making. The average, per the responses she got, was $1.46 per article. Atrocious!

But what really appalled me were the writers who were happy with their pay. For instance, one writer said,

The only problem I see is when writers expect to make money quickly or easily. This could be a way for new writers to get accustomed to turning out regular content. I understood the game in the beginning. The problem with newbies is they don't read before they jump in and they expect something for nothing.

So let's get this straight: expecting to earn a living wage is a problem? Even newbies can and should be able to start earning professional wages right away as a writer. What do you think would happen if doctors were told they had to work for free for several years after earning their degree, and anything else was expecting "to make money quickly or easily"? You'd better believe we'd have a whole lot fewer doctors in this world.

But it's the last sentence that really gets me. "The problem with newbies is they expect something for nothing." Uh, hello, we're not asking for handouts here! Writing articles for someone is NOT nothing!

It infuriates me that a fellow writer, one of our own, should suggest that writing is worth nothing. In fact, I find this writer's attitude just as offensive, if not more so, than the rates Examiner.com pays. By saying things like that she is contributing to the low opinion of writers that lead many clients to underrate our services.

Friday, May 08, 2009

"The check is in the mail"

One of the things I hate is dealing with clients who are slow in paying. I'll actually sometimes decline to work again with certain clients who are especially bad about this, and I'll give preference to clients who pay with PayPal — despite the fees that are deducted for each transaction, it's worth it in order to get payment quickly and remove the possibility of the "check is in the mail" excuse.

A couple of months ago, I had two clients around the same time saying they had mailed a check, yet neither was arriving. This was the first time I'd actually had this happen with two clients at the same time, so I was actually concerned that something was happening to our mail! As it turned out, one client had forgotten to mail the check (it sounds suspicious, but I actually believe him because he went to the trouble to meet me in person and hand-deliver it), and the other had simply lied — clients may claim that "the check is in the mail," but the postmarked date will tell the real story later on!

Do clients really think we're too dumb to note what the postmark says?

I personally don't advocate working with a client who gives you cause not to trust them, even if they do ultimately pay you. Have you heard the "check is in the mail" line before, only to get it a week or more later than you would expect? If a client lies about when they've sent payment, but they still pay you, do you still consider that grounds for terminating your relationship with them?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Q: When is a sick day not a day off?

A: When you work from home!

[insert laugh track]

Seriously, though, I have to be pretty ill to not work at all. As in, I'm-going-to-puke-on-my-computer or I'm-cross-eyed-from-medication kind of ill. Otherwise, it just doesn't seem quite honest. After all, how much trouble is it to bring my laptop to bed with me?

I woke up today feeling a little under the weather. As a result, I've been moving a little slow all day. I'm disappointed because I had a lot of plans for today, and now I may not get to anything that doesn't involve curling up on the couch with my computer.

I'd love to hear from other freelancers. How do you handle it when you aren't feeling well? Do you let your clients know and take the day off, or do you suck it up and keep working? And if you usually do the latter, what is your breaking point — how bad does it have to be in order for you to take a sick day?

My hero, Judy Blume

Planned Parenthood recently sent around emails with a message from Judy Blume. Yesterdaay they sent another message stating that she'd gotten a lot of hate mail as a response, and asking us to stand up for Judy Blume.

Of course, I sent an email right away using the message form. I'm a huge fan of Judy Blume; in fact, I'd have to say that she's both a personal and a professional hero of mine. Young adult is the genre I'd like to write fiction for, and I often tell friends that if I have half as many books banned or challenged as she has, I'll be the happiest writer in the world!

Here's how serious I am about Judy Blume being my hero:

Judy Blume as one of Glamour's 2004 Women of the Year

That's from 2004, when she was selected as one of Glamour's Women of the Year. It's been on my fridge ever since — right next to the Peanuts strip where Snoopy is hiding in the mailbox while he waits to hear from his agent.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

That time of year again!

The days are getting warmer — spring is finally here, even by Colorado standards. (In Colorado, "spring" is actually just winter and summer duking it out, and eventually summer wins.)

During the warmer months, I love to sit out on the porch with my laptop and work. Because our house faces west, in the summer I can only do this in the mornings — in Colorado, the most intense heat is during the late afternoon and early evening. Until then, though, the porch is more than comfortable with the shades down.

I think it's during the summer months that freelancing is the most challenging. Nice weather makes me want to spend time outside, particularly out at the barn with my horse. Working outside on the porch is how I get my "fix" and still get my work done.

(Last summer I tried working off my horse's board by cleaning stalls. The idea was to minimize the amount of money I had to make while giving me more time to spend with my horse. It worked, but it also backfired in a way because it was so darn hard to leave the barn and go back home to work.)

How do you cope with nicer weather as a freelancer?

Review of the Asus Eee battery

Recently I wrote an Asus Eee review, but at the time I had just gotten the netbook and hadn't had a chance to test out the battery. Now that I've been using the Eee for a couple of weeks, I finally feel ready to post a review of its battery.

First of all, my Asus Eee came with the 4400mAh battery. Despite its small size, I've been sufficiently impressed with its performance. With normal use (for me — which means Outlook is open, wireless is on, screen brightness is up, and several Internet windows and/or Word windows are open) I get about three hours of battery life. However, one night I got about two hours on half a battery with the wireless turned off, screen brightness turned down, Outlook and Internet windows closed, and the processor speed turned down to the slowest (power-saving) mode. I haven't been able to go four hours yet without using email or Internet, but I imagine I'll get about four hours of battery life with all of the power saving settings on!

I find this all very impressive. I'm also considering buying the 6600mAh battery for my Asus Eee, simply for the sake of having an extra hour or two of battery time, but it doesn't seem to be a necessity!


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