Archived entries for Personal

Recap of Week 1: Not Quite What I Expected

I’ve finished my first full week (well, almost full week) of freelancing.

I arrived in NC on Tuesday about midday and spent that evening as well as the rest of the week working. The thing that surprised me most? How much it doesn’t feel like work. Not having to go into an office and sit at a desk for 8 hours a day has meant I work from about 9:30 in the morning until close to midnight most days–but there are many more breaks, including some that last a couple of hours. As a result, I feel fresher and actually accomplish more.

I’ve also been surprised Continue reading…

Show Don’t Tell

You may have had college professors preach to you to “show, don’t tell.” The ironic thing about that statement is that it contradicts itself.

Take the video I’ve embedded below, for instance. In the video, a blind homeless man is begging for change. A young woman comes by and changes what he has written on his sign–and in response, many more people begin to give to him. Now watch the video (I’ll wait) and I think you’ll see it’s about a lot more than that.

Originally an ad for a web marketing company, the piece is about how much words matter and about creating a shared experience.

Being a Better Reader Makes You a Better Writer

Telling you what the video was about didn’t accomplish the same ends as you watching it; telling you how to be a better writer doesn’t achieve the same ends as you learning yourself.

There are many ways to learn to be a better writer–you can work to improve your grammar, you can improve by practicing (the more you write the better that writing is likely to be)… or you can learn by reading. Continue reading…

Recommended Reading: Freelancers Are Chickens

This week’s reading recommendation comes from friend and fellow freelancer P.S. Jones.

Over at Diary of a Mad Freelancer, P.S. Jones breaks down the difference between being a chicken and being a pig this way, “Either you can be a pig or a chicken. When it comes to making breakfast, there are two levels of involvement. The chicken is pretty involved. It creates and passes an egg through its hoo-haw. Then, it donates it to the  breakfast cause. However, the pig is extremely dedicated. It lays down its life for breakfast. While a chicken will go on to be a part of many other breakfasts, a pig has everything riding on this one.”

Therefore, she says freelancers are chickens, while employees are pigs. Not convinced? Read her piece here.

And since I haven’t caught you up in a while on what I’ve been writing about elsewhere… Continue reading…

Why (and how) I Redesigned My Freelance Website

Okay, so the title of this post is a tad bit misleading–it uses the past tense, implying I’m finished redoing the site. Really, it’s still a work in progress. And the truth is, I don’t think I’ll ever be “done” working on the site. I constantly apply tweaks, and as of right now, there are at least 5-6 more things I want to change.

But when I decided to refocus on my freelancing work, I took a good look at my existing site. Was it really on target? Did it portray everything it needed to? A lot of the copy was okay, but the site was very basic and didn’t really go into as much detail as I wanted it to. I began poking around, looking at free wordpress themes and found one I really liked. It was cleaner than my previous design and much easier for a novice like me to play with on the back end. I understand just enough web design to be dangerous.

I’d also decided this site wasn’t very client focused. As much as I love sharing my journey, posts about how to price freelancing services aren’t going to help me sell said services to a new client. So I wanted to create a resource on that site with pieces that clients could look through that *might* help them decide to purchase my services. So I’ve launched a new blog on www.melissabreau.com for that purpose exclusively. I brought over some of the more targeted pieces from the Jargon Writer archives, but mostly it’s new content. Continue reading…

An Honest Review of Site5 Hosting

So even though you can’t see it, this week I made the biggest change to Jargonwriter.com that will be made: I changed hosting services. The site is now hosted by Site5.

I agreed to do a honest review of the process in exchange for $5. So they’re totally going to credit me five bucks in return for this – no matter what I say. That disclaimer given, I promise this is a 100% honest review.

I decided to switch hosts for a variety of reasons, namely because I was having a few issues making regular, necessary upgrades and updates to my wordpress platform. Initially I had signed up with my previous hosting company because I knew the owner and we had done business together before – he offered to host my sites for free in a barter / services exchange. But I don’t know the backend stuff from the ground up like I should (though I’m working to remedy this). So updates required help from my fantastic tech friends.

That led to a decision to change hosting services. Danny, who I have mentioned before (he’s kind of my secret weapon for all things web-related…because he’s just that awesome) recommended checking out Site5. There were several points from the get-go that made them a good choice for me. First was their price point. As someone who is still in the launch phase of her freelance business, I don’t have a ton of cash to sling around. Site5 offered a solid plan for about $15 a month. For that price I get unlimited websites, bandwidth and disk space. I also got a free site migration. And they have 24/7 live chat customer support.

Now, to be fair, I was going from hosting I didn’t have to pay for to hosting that I would pay out of pocket. That meant I had/have high expectations. I ran into a few glitches (almost inevitable when making major changes), but their customer service was responsive, got back to me quickly and I was thrilled to be able to get someone on live chat late at night on a Thursday.

That said, I think it would be really helpful to have one person per shift handle my ticket, so that I would be communicating with the same person rather than requiring each new person to acquaint themselves with my issues (which I believe is what led to the email issues / mix up described in detail below). So far, their hosting services have been solid (no downtime that I’m aware of). Their customer service has been really good (quick response time, good follow up). They offer great add-on features (like the free migration), an affiliate program and all sorts of interesting backend features I’m in the process of learning how to use. Overall, I’ve been very pleased with them so far and have already recommended them to several friends (one of which is now using them too). Continue reading…

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!

An Overlooked Female Mentor – My Mom

This post is dedicated to my Mom. She probably won’t read it, because I don’t think she knows this blog exists, but regardless.

You see, my mom and I do not have a traditional mother-daughter relationship. Until fairly recently I didn’t appreciate her very much. We’ve never been super close: my father gave me the sex  talk. Mom was out of town when I got my period for the first time, so the only advice I received on that note was from my grandmother, and all she said was to wash the undies in cold water. I taught myself to shave. For a long time, the things that I didn’t learn from my mom, that I felt I should have, stopped me from seeing the things I that had learned from her–things that affect me a lot more than having had to teach myself how to keep my legs hair-free.

There are two things in particular in which my mother excels. She is meticulously organized and she is extremely good with money. This past weekend, for example, I was visiting my parents and one of the evenings I arrived home after visiting with a friend to find my parents sitting on the couch. Mom had the big calendar she keeps on the fridge in her lap and she was making my father go over his vacation schedule and syncing their calendars. This obsession with dates and keeping information up-to-date is something I learned from her. While attending undergraduate school full-time, taking graduate classes and working three part-time jobs I maintained two calendars–a wall calendar and a personal date book, that was on me at all times–and updated the two almost nightly. Without these meticulously kept organization systems, there is no way I would have been able to pursue so many different interests at the same time and juggle my schedule efficiently.

My mom also does taxes for most of our family, manages my father and her accounts, handles my grandmothers accounts and taught me almost everything I know about budgeting and prioritizing my spending. She taught me how to balance a checkbook and is already reminding me on a regular basis that I need to start planning for retirement.

While I may not have learned many of the typical mother-daughter lessons from my mom, what I did learn has been infinitely more valuable and has played a much larger part in defining who I am.

You may ask, what does this have to do with being mentored? A lot. You see, often we overlook the mentors we do have because they don’t fit the criteria we may expect. But our parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and teachers can all also serve as mentors. Wikipedia says a mentor is “a trusted friend, counselor or teacher, usually a more experienced person.” It describes a mentor-relationship as the pairing of a newcomer or less experiences person with a more experienced person, who advises and serves as an example.

I’ve been listening to Keith Ferrazzi’s book, Never Eat Alone, in which he talks about nurturing relationships (I’ll discuss the book further in upcoming posts). One of the important points I took away from this book is the importance of recognizing those who have helped us attain our goals and learn important lessons.

I’ve seen a lot of posts (like this great one from Speak Softly and Carry a Red Pen) and comments lately on how rare women-to-women mentoring seems to be. Many people seem to think women just become cold and defensive once they attain positions of power; I however think there are two other issues at play. First, I think when women offer advice it tends to be in a less formal atmosphere, so we’re less likely to recognize it, like with me and my mom. Second, and perhaps the cause of my prior point, is that I think women are less likely to recognize their own success; therefore they feel less qualified to give advice and tend to give it less authoritatively. That leads to fewer women feeling they have something to offer younger women. This feeling that we haven’t “earned it” has been credited with the reason women are less likely to ask for a raise, or negotiate a salary. Men are more comfortable with their own achievements, making them more comfortable offering advice and arguing for better pay. This feeling of not-having-earned-it, may also stop women from asking other women to be mentors. We don’t want to be a “bother.”

That said, another less I’ve taken from Never Eat Alone is this: It never hurts to ask. After all, what’s the worse that can happen? They can say no, and then you’re no worse off than you were previously.



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