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Big Announcement: Changes to JW

There are soon to be some changes made here on JW. First, I’m changing wordpress themes. So there will be a new look rolling out (probably this weekend or early next week).

I’m going to change the name of the link round ups – they will be called “Around the Watercooler” or “The Freelance Watercooler” or something like that … I haven’t decided exactly what yet, but the idea is to make it catchier than “link roundup.” And there will be several new categories with posts on new topics (though don’t worry – I’ll still provide tips / progress reports on my freelancing biz).

See, I want to involve all of you awesome people in some of the projects I’m working on; I want to be able to talk to you equally about the PR project I’m taking on for my Dad’s motorcycle club, the online magazine I’m starting up, the day job (TDJ) and everything else that gets in the way of freelancing and how I balance (or fail to balance) all of it.

I started this blog and my freelancing business about 8 months ago; over that time I’ve build a small but steady audience for this blog, built just enough of a freelance client base to keep myself busy and decided to launch a HUGE new project. I want this site to reflect that, and to allow all of you to join me on that journey.

I’m also considering several major life changes – planning a move (although probably not for a year or more into the future still) that will hopefully allow me to go freelance full time – and looking for investors for Project Women, so that can turn into a full-fledged business (more about that in the near future).

Stay tuned…. new and exciting things are in the pipeline.

Link round up

How the Simple Dollar Works – I’ve read a lot of posts about how to make money from blogging. This post isn’t about that. Instead, it’s about how one man is making money from his blog; The Simple Dollar. For those of you who aren’t familiar with The Simple Dollar, it’s the story of a man who went from buried in debt to debt free. It’s tips and tricks for making life a bit more frugal, generally by investing money in areas that really matter to you and skimping on it in areas that aren’t so important (by doing things like making your own laundry detergent). The Simple Dollar gets 1.4 million page views a month, on average. It makes the writer enough to live well – if cheaply – and in this post he shares how that works and what it takes to do the same.

How Easy Is It To Do Business With You? – “Would you buy from yourself? I mean, honestly would you give yourself an order and most importantly one after that and one after that?” Pawel’s question reminds us to look at things from our clients’ perspective and seriously consider how we can generate the best clients who refer us to the largest possible number of their friends. And it all breaks down into three steps.

6 Steps to a Prettier Blog (sans designer) – “design does matter as there’s really nothing worse than a poorly laid out or cheesy site,” Marian writes. No designer herself, Marian explains how even with no knowledge of code a few small tweaks can take a blog from basic to awesome-sauce.

Fresh Direct’s Lesson: The Price of Bad Service – “It really costs a lot of money to give bad service,” Mr. Braddock chief executive of Fresh Direct is quoted as saying in this piece. If you’ve  ever doubted the impact of your attitude and level of customer service have on your business, think again. Ditto on the importance of building a repeat-customer base. Did you know it’s cheaper and more valuable to retain repeat customers than to find new ones? Fresh Direct gives us a perfect example of how these things made a big difference.

Is Your Freelancing Psychology Broken? – Most freelancers think they want to work hard and earn lots of money freelancing, but it’s a lie. Men with Pens’ writer “AgentX” gives you a simple test to figure out if you’re in the right frame of mind – and some tips on how to get there, if you find you’re not.

Stick it to ‘Em – Post-It notes recently celebrated their 30th anniversary – whether used to jot a congratz or a reminder, Post-Its are perhaps one of my favorite office supplies of all times (though, like the writer of this post, my heart goes into overdrive when walking into any office supply store).

When the Word Well Dries Up

I wanted to title this post Melissa and the Very Bad Day, but thought that might be a bit over dramatic.

See, last week I had a Bad Day.

You know, the kind where you feel like Eeyore? Your tail has fallen off and it’s raining only on you.

When I get in that mood, I have no creativity. No enthusiasm. I basically just want to crawl back into bed, pull the covers up until all you can see of me is my toes down at the bottom, and yell at the world to GO AWAY.

This happens to me about once every two weeks, almost always right on schedule. You see, since I work full time and write whenever I’m not working, I run myself a bit ragged.

Every other weekend I take off. But when I’m not off, I’m ON.

On “Off” weekends, I go upstate (my family lives there) where I spend almost no time online or doing work. Those weekends I spend enjoying myself with my significant other, spend as much time as possible outside and generally relax.

But the weekends when I’m not “off” I am very definitely “ON.” Those weekends I spend 8-10 hours a day (or more) doing work. Writing, pitching, talking to clients, marketing… whatever it takes. And after working 5 full days, then spending 2 days doing yet more work, I tank. The Monday after an “ON” weekend, I generally feel dried out–and knowing that I still have another 5 days to go through before getting “off” time, I want to curl up and hide.

Unfortunately, hiding isn’t an option.

So on days when I want to hide, I don’t do client work (because if I did, I’d probably just have to redo it). Instead, since I have to do something, I do things that don’t require being creative or intelligent. I file paperwork. I fill out invoices. I update my excel spread sheets.

I give my writing brain the night off, and instead spend the day doing things that don’t require being a writer. Sometimes I deal with my inbox, responding to emails – other times I look over Craig’s list for freelance writing jobs I should apply to. Sometimes I do research for upcoming projects, learning more about the field or storing away links to explore later when I’m feeling passionate again.

My point is I spend the night working, because I have to, but I don’t try to force words when they don’t want to come.

Don’t get me wrong – I love what I do, or I wouldn’t put myself through it at all. But it’s not always easy.

How do  you cope with working on your business, even when you don’t really “feel” like it? How do you deal when you’re having a bad day? What about dealing with writer’s block?

Refocusing Jargon Writer

Heads up! I’m working on some changes here on Jargonwriter. I’ve made it through the book that original prompted this blog and have, even in my own mind (frequently the last barrier) become a “freelance writer.” As a result, I’m working on restructuring the format and the purpose of the blog. No worries though – it will still bring you tips on becoming a freelancer drawn directly from my progress.

But it might broaden a bit, beyond freelance writing, to discuss business, some of the projects I’m working on (like the Project women post, about starting a female version of Esquire Magazine,  not too long ago) and things that I’m struggling with as I balance a freelancing career with a full-time editing job.

Either later this week or early next week I’ll put up a post with all the changes detailed for you. In the meantime, if there are questions you want answered, topics you want addressed, things you think might work that I’m not doing now … post them in the comments and let me know!

Link Round Up: Tips for Creating a Website

I did a series of posts a while back about what it takes to create a website. Here are some links that go beyond what I’ve talked about and that offer solid tips for building a site that will help you grow. Also, if you’re a freelancer and want to offer SEO copywriting, these links are a great place to learn how to do that.

Increase Website Traffic – Erica Douglas retired at 26, after selling her company for … well, a lot of money. This piece talks about how the content on her website helped her achieve her success, with an explanation of how these tactics work and ways that you can apply them.

Secrets from a Search Marketing Manager – Ever wondered why you can’t just look up keywords then put them all in one big list on your website and get billions of hits? Or how to get those billions of hits without spending more money than it takes to feed an elephant? This interview is with someone who knows the answer to both those questions, and who has decided to share them with the rest of us.

Choosing the Best Web Host for Your Blog – One of the biggest steps to setting up a website is choosing and buying a host, or someone to be your online “home” for your website. They keep all the files and make sure the site is always accessible. This piece provides some tips on what to consider when comparing hosts.

The Juice Behind Your Website – Choosing the right CMS  – and if you don’t know what that means, then you’d better read this! CMS or Content Management Strategy, is all about usability. If you’re not a web developer, your CMS allows you to edit features of your website without accidentally deleting half of it (or turning it into a random jumble of elements).

Website Building for the Rest of Us – I’m not a web expert; this piece does exactly what it’s name suggests – offers ways to cheat at what would otherwise be an exhaustive process.

My Story – How it all began

Last December

I was stressing out.

I was crunching numbers, comparing my salary from my “day job” to my projected student loan payments. The numbers didn’t balance. I realized that I would really be struggling to make payments and I began considering finding a second job.

Instead, my significant other suggested I freelance. He knew it was something I had always wanted to do. Freelancing full-time had been a long-time goal of mine, but one I had thought couldn’t happen until I was married with kids on the way and a significant chunk of “real world work experience” built up. It was something I really wanted to do, but I had a lot of doubts.

With his encouragement, I began marketing myself. I started this blog  (which follows my progress as I work to become a full-time freelancer) – and began to actively seek freelance work.

(I just want to pause for a minute and point out that having someone in your life – whether you’re a freelancer, a business owner or whether you still work for a boss – who is willing to encourage you to push your boundaries and work for what you want is essential. It’s no coincidence that I’m dating the person I’m dating. He’s an amazing person with an incredible ability to encourage me (and sometimes enable me) even when he doesn’t agree or share my passions.)

I fell in love with editing in High School…

My high school graduating class had over 600 people in it. I only remember this number because I was number 62 and still made it into the top 10%. While in school they broke us up by “academies,” each of which has a particular “major” (similar to how a college might break things down).

I spent my high school years in the communications academy, where I fell in love with the process of editing – of slowing going through something, tweaking it, making small changes, until the final project was much better than the sum of all those minor alterations.

I’ve always been a detail-oriented person who really enjoys slightly tedious tasks that allow me to learn, that require me to be incredibly organized and that revolve on a tight deadline.

But at the time I was divided. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to work with words or video.

College let me make that choice.

I experimented (the way one should in college) with multiple career goals, trying video editing (I worked in the student lab and frequently helped other students with projects), working on film sets, immersing myself in that culture. I also did a semester-long independent study where I read up on freelance writing, crafted queries and did other types of research (looking into publications I might want to write for, for example).

After trying both, I decided I wanted to write and ultimately, I wanted to freelance.

But self-doubt held me back.

I didn’t think I could freelance right out of the gate. At the time I wanted to write about the publishing industry, so I decided I’d get experience in the industry first. Thus my current “day-job.” Slowly, however, I’ve been realizing that I have what it takes.

What was a “maybe one day” is quickly becoming a “soon.” However, without that initial push, I wouldn’t have decided to give it a chance. Instead, I would have waited until who-knows-when (or if).

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