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Sometimes I suprise myself.

After my success at the networking event for work I had to wonder if I had turned a corner, or if it had just been a fluke. When I arrived at the business networking event I had RSVPed for this week, I had decided it must have been a one-time-thing; my hands were shaking and I couldn’t get myself to introduce myself to the woman who rode the elevator up with me. Shit. I thought to myself – this is going to be a disaster, and it’s going to last FOUR HOURS.

I arrived, business cards at the ready, determined to meet at least four people (one of my goals for the evening), with a post-it note in my purse where I had written down how I was going to answer the question “What do you do?” and with my talking points at the ready. I planned to ask questions and listen more than I talked. I read a great piece right before the event (it made the rounds on twitter Wednesday afternoon, but now I can’t find it) that had dished out a number of great tips, boosting my confidence.

It recommended creating a more-interesting-than-normal response to the one question that probably gets asked the most at any networking event–”What do you do?”

The writer said you should craft a response that included what you do, how you do it, and the result–something similar to an elevator pitch, but a one-liner. While what I came up with didn’t do this perfectly, it did yield much better results than just saying, “I’m a writer.” My carefully crafted (meaning, thrown-together-five-minutes-before-leaving-the-office) answer was, “I work with individuals and small businesses helping them put what they’re passionate about into words.” If the person still looked like they were listening, I followed it up with “I write content for marketing materials, brochures, press kits, website content, that sort of thing.”

Anyway, my point is, I was “prepared.” But I was still nervous. The venue wasn’t open yet when I got there, even though I was on time, so they asked us all to wait for a few minutes in the lobby. I played with my phone. Around me, a few other people were doing the same thing (presumably checking their email or making a call before the event–I’m sure they weren’t just pretending) while others chatted and mingled, networking (after all, that’s why we were all there).

Once the venue opened and we all filed inside, I forced myself to put away my phone and talk to someone–anyone. Fortunately, NYEBN (the group holding the event) has sponsors that set up tables. So to get myself started I walked around looking at tables and talking to the people behind them about their companies. From there, I found myself talking to one of the other attendees, who happened to be talking to the woman behind the table I was at too–and I got my first business card.

While that first conversation wasn’t with someone likely to need my services any time too soon, it helped me break the ice and get over my nervousness. Once he and I had chatted for a bit and exchanged information (he was an accountant, so there is a chance I’ll interview him for a piece one of these days), I felt much more relaxed–still apprehensive but not paralyzed–and began to use the tips I had come up with at the last event I attended and the tips I’d had recommended to me, once I put up that post. I looked for people standing by themselves or not engaged in conversation. And introduced myself to them. At least twice I had people thank me for coming up to them–they were clearly nervous themselves. Each time, that helped bolster my confidence a little more.

At the end of the night, I’d met 17 people, over four times the number I was aiming for. I ended up staying until 10:30, when they kicked the few of us still there out, because I was involved in a great conversation. About half of the people I spoke to were vaguely interested in potentially using my services at some point; about 4 are potentially serious prospects. And I’m definitely going to attend another event.

See, the nice thing about a networking event is everyone is there to network. The goal is to meet people. So when you walk up to someone, they aren’t thinking “who is this person and why are they trying to talk to me?” – they’re trying to decide if you’re someone who they can sell their product to, or whose product/services they are interested in.

Part II: A Q&A With Jamie Farrell

This is Part II of a two-part Q&A with Jamie Farrell. See Part I to find out how Jamie got started or, for more about Jamie, see below or check out her blog or her Brazen Careerist Profile.

Jargon Writer: How long have you been consulting and either: A) What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome? or B) What has your greatest success been thus far?

Jamie Farrell: I’ve been consulting for six months full time and eight years part time. The biggest obstacle for me is saying “no,” when I don’t have the time to give something my all. Whether the reason is I want to learn from someone, I believe in a new product or mission, or I’m being offered more money, I have to be extremely disciplined to say NO if I don’t have the time.

My greatest success is being able to say I only work with companies who mission, values, and ethics I believe in.

JW: Do you set goals for yourself? What goals are you working toward currently? If not, why not?

Farrell: The goals I set for myself are typically personal goals as professionally, I have always gone where the ‘wind blows’ and followed my gut. I don’t set professional goals (short term) because I’ve found that tying myself to one objective may lead to missing other opportunities; kind of like DMB says, “If you hold on tight to what you think is your think, you may find you’re missing all the rest.”

My personal goals tie in with my professional goals in that my personal goal is to have a healthy family someday that I can spend as much time with as I would like. In order for me to reach that personal goal, I must continue to build out my consulting practice and possibly start my own small online company (so I guess you could say that is a professional goal – yet a long term one!)

JW: How successful do you feel you’ve been thus far? Why?

Farrell: I guess that depends on how you define “success.” From a monetary standpoint, I am making as much (sometimes more) than I did in the corporate executive role. From a happiness standpoint, I am far happier and have learned to spend more time focusing on ME as a person, not valuing myself based on my work, but rather who I am.

Overall, I believe I’ve been pretty successful based on the comments above.

JW: Do you have a top tip for others who want to do what you do?

Farrell: No matter where you work or what you do, you need three things: 1) Passion 2) Tenacity 3) A mentor. For me, tenacity was the most important. Always move forward. Appreciate the mistakes you make because that’s how you learn and grow. Don’t ever work on something you don’t believe in because you will not succeed. Set your long-term goals first and work backwards on how to get there. Work with people who have similar value sets so you enjoy going to work everyday. Stay positive and eradicate negativity from any clients or environment.

If you want to consult, don’t be one of those, “I just got out of college and I can take on the world” people…put your time in and build a track record for yourself. Results speak far louder than a webpage or words.

For eight-plus years Jamie Nacht Farrell has built and managed businesses in the for-profit education sector; over the last year she has gained additional expertise working with state universities. She has a proven track record in all aspects of the higher education industry and has held management and executive level roles in business development, call center sales and management, marketing, strategic initiatives, and operational planning.

She has worked in leadership roles in two start up ventures; both in revenue driving leadership roles and has been successful in both endeavors.

Jamie has successfully taken the sales and marketing model from the Education Sector and mirrored it across several verticals including health care, finance, and other inside and outside sales organizations.  She currently owns her own consulting company and has a waiting list of clients.

Giving It a Second Go – Planning to Network

I realized it’s been a while since I’ve posted info from the book. I’m slowly nearing the end of Parker’s book and am debating what to do once I’ve finished it. Go on to another book? Just keep writing my life? I’m not sure yet. If you have a preference, let me know in the comments. The main reason I choose to start the blog by discussing topics in the book was to give me a place to turn when I needed a bit of inspiration on what to write about. Yet, I find that hasn’t been a problem as often as I’d expected it to be.

Tomorrow night, I’m going to have a shot to apply my new networking tips (more tips here) again. Keep your fingers crossed for me. I’ve signed up to attend a networking event from 6-10. That seems to me to be a long time – four whole hours! but I’m going to go and give it my best shot. Parker has a few tips for preparing for these events:

- Set a few goals before the meeting: My goals for tomorrow night are simple. I hope to meet at least a few new people, exercise my growing networking muscle, and show myself yet again that the walls won’t fall down if I’m not there to hold them up. I’ll be very happy with the evening if by the end of the night I have one prospect and I’ve met at least three people–which shouldn’t be impossible for a four hour event.

-Have a supply of business cards conveniently at hand: I recently had mine printed, so I have a whole box. Tonight before I go to bed I’ll pack a handful (or more) in my purse for tomorrow.

-Put out samples or brochures if appropriate: I don’t think it’s appropriate for this particular event. However, I am reviewing my portfolio in my head, and thinking about assignments I’ve done previously so that if someone asks about examples of my work, I can talk about one or two in-depth, and in a way that makes them sound interesting.

-Prepare a short description of your business in case public introductions are called for. Be sure to include something listeners will remember: Essentially, this should be my elevator pitch. I feel a little dumb because I don’t really have an elevator pitch (creating one should be one of the first marketing steps any individual takes), but I’m working on it; after I put up this post, that’s my other goal for tonight. Writing, editing and polishing a elevator pitch.

-Avoid talking or sitting only with people that you know: This definitely won’t be a problem, since I don’t know anyone at the event. I am, however, going to browse through the list of people who’ve RSVPed tomorrow during my lunch break, and see if there are any people in particular I’d be interested in meeting.

-Spend enough time with each person you meet to learn something about that individual: For any person I meet, the goal is to find out at least three things about them; then, once I’ve finished talking to them, to jot those three things down on the back of their business card (or in a small notebook that I carry in my purse) so that I can remember those points later. I have a horrible memory, and it’s only worse when I’m meeting a bunch of people all at once.

-Follow up on good prospects within a week: My goal is to meet at least one prospect, and I’ll probably follow up with them by next Tuesday (since Monday is memorial day); the way I see it, it’s sort of like that unwritten dating rule: if you follow up too soon, you’ll see desperate. If you wait too long, you’ll seem uninterested. The trick is to be in the middle. Maybe that’s silly, but that’s just how my brain works.

I’ll be sure to let you know how the event tomorrow goes!

*Items above in italics are points Parker made in Chapter 8 – Selling Your Services.

Gimme a Break – Taking Time Off

“Gimme a break, gimme a break, break me off a piece of that kit kat bar!”

As the Kit Kat Commercial implies, sometimes we all need a break. And whether it’s 5-minutes to enjoy something sweet, or a weekend where you unplug and reengage in real life, it’s important to remember that its okay to take that time for yourself. Many small business owners and writers get so wrapped up in deadlines and work that they forget to stop.

In my household we joke that we don’t know what the word “rest” or “sleep” means. Both my roommate and I work full time and run our own businesses, after we finished our day jobs. That means a lot of late nights and crazy weekends. Both of us thrive in that environment – we like to go-go-go-go. But it’s important some times to remember to stop.

For the last two weekends in a row I’ve signed offline and stayed off for most of the weekend–and you know what? The sky didn’t start falling. The world didn’t end. And I rediscovered how amazing and incredible the guy I’m dating is; when I re-focused on work on Monday, I was able to look at things with a fresh perspective that allowed me to get more done. Obviously, I can’t do that every weekend, but it’s important to remember to do it some weekends. Creating a good work-life balance is essential to succeeding in the business sphere.

Unfortunately, this is something I used to be good at, then forgot all about. Recently, however, I’m beginning to get the scales back into alignment. Here are some of the tricks I use to stop from burning myself out:

Tip #1: Schedule In Down Time – I planned a weekend camping trip last weekend; it forced me to completely unplug. I loaded camping equipment into backpacks and we hiked into the woods. My phone was off, because it didn’t get reception anyway. I focused on the nature around me and on the simple things – building a fire, cooking food over it, cuddling up next to it with my hunnie… it felt good to get away, knowing that I had planned that time off and my deadlines weren’t going to suffer for it.

Tip #2: Reward Yourself with Time Off - When working for yourself, it’s important to remember to reward yourself with a lack of work, or the deadlines just pile up and you begin to burn out and feel overwhelmed. While it’s not the same as earning days, I reward myself with 5-45 minute breaks while doing work. Once I finish a particular assignment or reach a notable milestone, I put down work and do something else for a while. Sometimes, I read a chapter of a book (one I’m reading for personal pleasure), other times I get a snack, still other times I’ll watch a show on Hulu. Even if you only take 5 minutes to eat a Kit Kat bar, the sugar will give you the energy to sit back down and accomplish a bit more.

Tip #3: Stop work for the day when the work is going well – Hemmingway said, “I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.” The idea is that if you stop while the going is good, then when you sit down to continue working on it the next day, you will know where to start, getting you back into the swing of things and helping you to gain momentum again.

Part I: A Q&A with Jamie Farrell

This is Part I of a two-part Q&A with Jamie Farrell. For Part II with Jamie’s advice for others who want to become a consultant, or for more about Jamie, see below or check out her blog or her Brazen Careerist Profile.

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

Jamie Farrell: I guess this depends on how we define “consultant.” While working for large companies I consulted “pro bono” for the past eight years, as I believe working on projects and with individuals outside of your day-to-day job is the only way to network, learn, and grow in other areas.

I’ve been doing nothing but consulting (for money) for the last six months and plan to continue. I started consulting full time because I’m in an industry that’s ‘booming’ right now–the higher education industry. Because the industry is relatively new (about 10 years old) and I “grew up” in this industry, I’ve been a founding manager of a couple of innovative (and now extremely profitable) companies. Thus, I was lucky enough to receive recognition for this at an early age and people are constantly calling for help/advice. When the consulting jobs were piling up and the money was too much to say “no” to, I left my ‘corporate’ job and started consulting full time.

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

Farrell: Higher Education. I’ve worked from the bottom up in the following departments in schools: Admissions (Inside Sales), Marketing, Training, Retention, Operations, and Career Services. I specialize in turnarounds and can typically take a marketing CPE down at least 25 percent and increase sales conversion rates a minimum of 50 percent.

As Admissions / Marketing is really just call center sales and backing into CPAs I took these skills and mirrored them successfully across several verticals: healthcare, insurance, etc. and have branched out and am now working on sales and marketing models in all online industries.

JW: What about the idea of consulting drew you?

Farrell: I’ve been working 80-90 hour weeks for about seven years. As soon as I realized I could make more money in less time and be innovative, creative, as well as work with a variety of people who I’m sure I can learn from, it seemed like a no brainer.

For eight-plus years Jamie Nacht Farrell has built and managed businesses in the for-profit education sector; over the last year she has gained additional expertise working with state universities. She has a proven track record in all aspects of the higher education industry and has held management and executive level roles in business development, call center sales and management, marketing, strategic initiatives, and operational planning.

She has worked in leadership roles in two start up ventures; both in revenue driving leadership roles and has been successful in both endeavors.

Jamie has successfully taken the sales and marketing model from the Education Sector and mirrored it across several verticals including healthcare, finance, and other inside and outside sales organizations.  She currently owns her own consulting company and has a waiting list of clients.

Tip of the Iceberg – Diving into Networking

Before declaring that I’m done holding up walls the other day in my post on networking, I’d known I wasn’t the only one who felt awkward at networking events, but I was still pleasantly surprised by the number of people who  reached out to share their stories, or to pass on additional tips. The post quickly became the most popular post I’ve done. Apparently, I had only seen the tip of what was truly a massive number of people with cold, clammy hands clenched behind their backs as they leaned up against walls at these events, or hovered uncertainly near the buffet table.

In addition to posting the blog piece here, I began several conversations on Brazen Careerist and Twitter on the subject, that also elicited a number of great ideas and tips. So I wanted to take a chance to share their pointers:

From ChaChanna Simpson: Pretend your the host of the event, and it’s your duty to introduce yourself to everyone. “I usually find a group and say, ‘I’m breaking into this conversation.’ People usually say it’s fine and then the conversation goes from there.”

Paula Duarte agreed – “The best advice I ever received was to pretend I’m the hostess. When I’m in charge, I try to greet all my guests, hook up people with similar interests–I’m just too busy to get self-conscious!”

If that seems beyond you (and I’m not sure I’d be able to be that bold), try this tip from Neille Hoffman: stand by the door and smile at each person as they enter – “often times they will think you are the host and will strike up a conversation with you!”

From Scott Rafferty: Keep a drink in your hand–”not necessarily booze to relax, but as a tool to keep confident body language.” It gives you something to do with your hands, and creates a casual posture, that’s inviting to others. Body language is a huge part of successfully networking.

Dawn Lennon says to leverage social media to your advantage. “Social media is a great way to inquire about who is attending a certain event,” then, she says, you can set up meetings with some of them; since you’ve already chatted online, it makes that initial conversation less awkward. Further, you can tell them why you’re attending the event and what you hope to get out of it – a backhanded way of asking for their help.

Kary Delaria also believes in using social media to help. “I use Twitter to send a head’s up that I’ll be at the event and looking for people to talk to. More often than not, starting the conversation online eliminates the uncomfortable ice-breaker in person.”

In contrast to my tip to find someone who looks awkward, Christina recommended looking for someone who just seemed approachable and friendly. “I used to go to networking events, identify someone who looked interesting and approachable. I would count to three in my head and then jump into a conversation. After a few times of doing this I found it much easier to get conversations started.”

Patty K finds it helpful to rehearse beforehand; she pre-plans her answers to basic questions like “What do you do?” and thinks up a few questions to ask other people – along with answers to those questions, since people often ask them right back. “I find when I’m at the event, my anxiety interferes with my thinking, so this helps me through those awkward first few minutes.”

I’ll also be working on a piece about networking  for igrad, a website that shares “tools tips and advice for graduates going from being a college student to a career and life.” When that’s up (and it will include several new tips!) I’ll be sure to mention it and add it to my portfolio.

Any more tips? Leave them in the comments!

I’m Done Holding Up Walls

For a while now I’ve been meaning to attend a networking event, to make new contacts and meet people who will help grow my freelance business (either as clients or just as contacts). It’s been on and off my goals page ever since I put the page up–but I’ve been making excuses.

I didn’t want to attend a networking event until I had business cards. I didn’t want to have business cards printed until I knew what I was going to name my company. Basically, I was standing in my own way.

See, I was totally that kid in elementary school who sat at the loser table at lunch. I was the one who always stood out, even when I was trying to fit in. In many ways I’ve overcome this–I’ve decided that there are good ways to stand out and bad, and I’ve decided to set myself apart intentionally by aiming for higher goals and pushing myself harder.

But that kid that got kicked out of class for reading under her desk when she was bored with the math lesson, that kid is still in me in some ways (and yes, that did happen). I still don’t feel like I fit in. I imagine that when I talk people are mocking me in their heads; that no one takes me seriously. So I tend to have trouble at networking events, because I generally imagine that when I try to join a conversation or when I introduce myself to someone, they are just wishing I’d leave them alone.

But last night, for what may be one of the first times ever, I did it anyway. Here’s how:

Tip #1: Find the most awkward looking person in the room. Someone who is holding up a wall. Who clearly doesn’t have anyone to talk to. Go introduce yourself to that person. Chances are they feel just as freaked out by the event as you do, and will welcome the chance to have a real conversation.

When I walked up to the woman who was standing all by herself last night, my hands were shaking. So I put them behind my back. I introduced myself and asked her what brought her to the event. Just like that we had something to talk about. When I started to run out of things to say and the conversation seemed to be lulling, I told her it was great to meet her, shook her hand and walked away.

Tip #2: Offer to help someone; either someone organizing the event or another attendee. If you can prearrange to help set up chairs or work the event in some way, it gives you a great excuse to talk to people and puts you in a situation where people are likely to talk to you.

This is a tip I’ve used before–typically, when I’m attending a conference, I attend for free by volunteering to help. While it saves my wallet, it also helps me meet people and make connections.

Last night, however, I hadn’t volunteered to set up. But opportunity presented itself in the shape of a great Dane. Since it’s a pet business event, this woman had brought her dog with her–I walked over and asked if I could pet it. When the woman asked where she could find a glass of wine, I volunteered to grab it for her so she didn’t have to lug the dog across the room.

And just like that, I’d made my second connection. If you can’t find someone who needs help, be the one that needs help instead. Ask someone where to find something, or what time something is supposed to start. Those types of things are easy ways to start up a conversation–or at least make sure you don’t go home without having spoken to anyone.

Tip #3: Ask someone who is standing on the fringe of a group if you’ve met them before. Pretend they look familiar. When they say no (after all, you HAVEN’T met them before), introduce yourself and ask them what they do just to “make sure” you haven’t met somewhere … if by some crazy chance they say yes (maybe they’re pretending too), say “I’m sorry, but I can’t remember you’re name. What was it again?”

I totally pulled this off last night. There was a gentleman there–I had met other people from his company (his name tag said what company he worked for) and asked him if we’d met. I then got him to introduce me to the whole circle of people he was standing on the fringe of, all of whom he knew. While my conversation with him didn’t last long, I managed to strike up a conversation with another member of the group that lasted for quite some time.

BONUS TIPS: So when I mentioned on twitter that I was working on this topic, Keith Daw, President and Director of Media Relations for Diamond Three mentioned that this was a topic he knew quite a bit about. He provided these next two tips:

Keith says:

Bring a buddy – Some people don’t do well talking about themselves or what they do, let alone in a room full of strangers. So, bring a trusted colleague to bolster your confidence and take turns introducing one another. It’ll be easier for both of you to approach strangers and provides instant credibility. It’s easier for us to brag on a colleague, or vice versa, than it is for us to talk about ourselves. So, bring one!”

Set meetings – You’re not at the event to close the deal, merely to pique their curiosity. Establish whether the person is someone that fits your target list, then exchange business cards and set a time to speak further via phone or in person, if possible.

And then I did Something Incredible.

Sometimes, something happens and it’s so good I can’t wait to write about it. Tonight was one of those nights.

I’ve been struggling lately to create a bridge between my day job and my professional goals. Professionally, I want to work with small businesses, helping them develop marketing materials and write compelling stories about their companies to put on their websites, etc.

I want to do this because I like listening to people talk about the subjects they are most passionate about; most small business owners are passionate about the industry they are in (thus, the reason they started a business in that industry) and working with them on these types of projects gives me an excuse to do what I love, constantly learn about new things (which I also love) and write (yet again, something I love).

It’s a win-win-win. In addition to doing this, I want  to take the anecdotes and stories, the unique ideas and inspiring tales that turn up and I want to turn them into articles for business magazines; I want to help others learn from these small business owners, while helping the small business owners I work with gain notoriety. That’s what I want to do, and the goal I am working toward in the activities I talk about here on this blog.

In actuality, at the moment, I work full time as the Associate Editor at Pet Business Magazine and Grooming Business Magazine, and I work as the editor and web editor on The Pet Elite. The primary audience for these publications is made up of small business owners; namely, the owners of pet stores. When I first came to this company, two years ago, I was still in graduate school working toward my Masters in Publishing. I took the job largely because it would involve actually doing things that at other companies I wouldn’t get a chance to do for a few years (like writing articles, editing stories, etc.).

At that point, the only time I’d been published had been in high school, when I submitted a poem for my guidance counselor’s book, High School’s Not Forever. I had taken professional editing classes and knew a lot about the industry but the only experience I had to back it up was an internship at Columbia University Press, where I had mostly drafted interdepartmental memos (although overall, that internship was phenomenal).

Lately, there hasn’t been much room for me to grow in my current position. I know how to do my job, and can’t really learn much without taking on new responsibilities–but I can’t do that because then I wouldn’t be able to complete my current responsibilities. I was recently passed over for an internal promotion (more about that in another post), meaning it’s unlikely I’ll get a chance to learn more that way any time soon. So I’ve been trying to focus my attention on trying new writing techniques, making connections that could potentially be valuable even after I leave the company (which, while I’m not looking to do that immediately, is clearly something that will happen eventually) and develop skills that will help me achieve the things I want to be doing.

Well tonight I attended a networking event for pet industry professionals. I went representing my magazine(s). If you were there, you probably wouldn’t have noticed that anything monumental happened–because for most people, it wouldn’t BE monumental. But at networking events I generally act like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, hanging out near the food rather than flitting from conversation to conversation like a social butterfly.

Tonight at the event… I talked to people. Not only did I talk to people, but I INITIATED conversations. I used a “day job” event to work on a skill that I’ve been trying to develop. I used the networking event to meet new people. This is a pretty big milestone for me, and it’s one I foresee helping me in a lot of ways in the future, as I continue trying to build my freelance business. Tomorrow, I’ll provide some solid tips on how I overcame my fear… but for now, for all of you who like me, know that you too can learn to actually network at networking events.

Get Out of Your Own Way

As writers, frequently the biggest obstacle we have to overcome is ourselves. Parker talks about this idea in several chapters in the book – “The goal is to be IN business, not to have your business perfectly set up” (chapter 5) and “as writers, I think we often expect too much of ourselves…we need something smashing, something unforgettable, the kind of thing that will set a new standard” (chapter 7).

For example, I commonly see  articles on “Finding the time to write.” The irony here is that the time spent reading that article could instead be spent writing. By no means am I immune to these tempting distractions. I’ve spent the last who-knows-how-long designing my business cards, waiting to finalize my company name so I could add it to the design along with the proper website address. I’ve used not having business cards as an excuse to put off attending business networking events, since cards play just a large role at these kinds of events. In turn, I’ve put off moving forward, using a tool that should instead be a major resource for new clients.

Well, today, despite STILL not having settled on a business name (the latest idea is Echo Writing Services – “words that provide a real return”) I decided enough was enough. I’ve finally ordered business cards. Since I don’t know what my company name will be, they are just personal cards, with my name, “freelance writer / editor” and all my contact information on them. For a web address I included this blog, since I have my portfolio here.

You’ll notice that I didn’t just settle on a name–I think it’s important to get things right. It’s just equally important not to let that perfectionism hold you back. While it takes time, learning how to tell when to move forward and when to finish the task at hand, is an important skill to have. And whose to say you won’t learn a great tip reading “Finding Time to Write” that won’t greatly improve your productivity? You may. Just make sure that if you’re reading the article, you’re not doing it instead of writing–or you’re defeating your own purpose.

Link Round Up

One of the most excellent links I’ve followed all week was this one–JK Rowling: the fringe benefits of failure. It’s a video of JK Rowling giving a talk to the Harvard graduating class. She is at once charming, inspiring and manages in the same piece to argue the importance of both failure and imagination in our lives. It’s about 20 mins long, but I promise you won’t notice. Her voice here is every bit as irresistible as in Harry Potter. She starts with a gay wizard joke and ends with a discussion of Africa. It’s a speech only she could give.

Everyone likes lists … okay, that’s not true at all, but I do! Anyway, these three links, all from Tips and Quips for Successful Writers each offer a list of tips to improve your writing. Working Freelance-5 tips for staying busy writing tells how, despite the inevitable ebbs and flows when freelancing, you can build a sustainable business with fewer slumps and more humps. Practical and informative, it only takes a few minutes to digest but has a lot of carryover. 8 Ways to Build a Better Freelance Writing Career lists the differences between being an amateur and an expert. We each have wondered, during the down times, what could I be doing better? How can I get more gigs? Well, this piece answers those questions. Finally, 5 Signs of Bad Writing-How to Recognize Your Poorly Written Work offers some tips for self-editing. As I’ve said before, I have problems vetting my own work and deciding what to keep and what to toss. These tips helped. I’ll definitely refer back the next time I’m nervous about handing in a piece!

In addition to lists, I love quotes. Seriously–when I was younger I bought a notebook and copied several hundred quotes into it for future reference. I still have the notebook and occasionally still add quotes. It contains some of my favorites. This next link, 12 Quotes Every Entrepreneur Should Have Tattooed On Their Arms specifically lists quotes for entrepreneurs: the quotes small business owners should take to heart. Or, for writer specific quotes, check out this post or this post (from my OLD blog, that I don’t update anymore…). My favorite is:
“Words usually have something to hide — you have to shake them until the top pops off and some revelation tumbles out, an insight into some attitude that it would be hard to put your finger on by any other means.”
- Geoffrey Nunberg, Going Nucular

Why All Entrepreneurs are Designers – this link argues the case that anyone who wants to start something new is in essence required to enter a specific frame of mind; they have to let their imagination go. In it the author argues, “Design is a pattern for thinking, and while design thinking often produces the “beautiful things” which we have traditionally associated with design, widespread application of design thinking is beginning to have far-reaching effects on our society.”



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