Choices, Choices

Three-day weekends are always a treat. Even if I have to catch up on some work, there is a day of no phone calls and no appointments. This three-day weekend turned out a little differently.

Heart in the desert.

Heart in the desert.

When you own the business, you don’t want to give up too many opportunities. You don’t know when the next one will be along. As all of you promised, when I fired the client last week, something else would fill the space.

It was wrapped in bad news, too. I almost missed it. But I am the eternal optimist. Standing in a stable full of horse poop, I am always happy to start shoveling because I believe there is a unicorn in there someplace.

There may well be. But I had to write a 50-page workbook for a class. In a hurry. It’s due today. So, no weekend. I made the decision, I stuck with it, but now I want my weekend, too. Sorry, no whining.

The hard part in this, as it always is when it’s your choice, is that it is your choice.65542 No one else to blame. No one else to grumble at.  I chose to spend the weekend on my butt in front of a keyboard with no guarantees.

Still, I want to believe all of you were right. This will work, and the universe will tilt toward moral justice. (There’s a lot of the story untold, and it will stay that way.)

Another of my inner heroes is the Little Red Hen. She did the work. No one helped. And then, when it came time, she reaped the benefits. Too early to tell yet, but for all that I missed this weekend, I’d take the gamble again.

So, Little Red Hen or unicorn in the horse poop, we’ll see how it plays out. Now if only I can remember that it’s Tuesday and not Monday.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing. A lot more of it, and soon, she hopes.

 

The Word Whore*

If you are a freelancer writer, you know what you’re good for–you get the jobs the in-house writers can’t manage, don’t want, or that take up too much corporate time. You don’t get to share the sheet cake when the job is done, but you get a check–the equivalent of leaving money on the nightstand.

"Streetwalker" from gatesofvienna

Now, I ask, is this a bad thing? It depends on your perspective. If you long to be the word-wife with a house and white-picket office, a flower-box window view, and 2.5 weeks of vacation a year, then freelancing simply is not for you.

If you  are the tough writer with a heart of gold,  if you don’t mind getting last-minute calls when you’re desperately needed, but not loved, then freelancing is the life for you.  The voice at the other end of the phone pleads for your time because he’s spent the night on the couch in the office, after the angry words in staff meeting. Or the phone rings because  the regular writer has a headache. You get work because its tedious or other writers have refused.  If this seems part of your working life, you are ready to strut on the street with the other freelancers, showing your stuff.  You will never be invited to the holiday party, and you won’t be publicly recognized in meetings.  You have to be able to take that. It’s a good life, though.

Like the original working woman, your power is behind the scenes. You are called on to perform the work that is too dirty or too hard for in-house writers. But you get paid well (only if you set the price firmly ahead of time) and get respect (only if you don’t let the client treat you like, umm, you know. . .)

If you are very good, you can become a word mistress. Everyone knows who you are, you get smiled at when you visit, but people don’t know exactly how to treat you in the office. They might defer to you in public, but they talk about you behind your back. You don’t get benefits, but you earn enough to buy them for yourself. In your client’s conference room, however, you do your work well and are appreciated while the door is closed. Back in the outside world, you are talent for sale.

You won’t get a lot of proud recognition, and if you start to look needy, you’ll get dropped. Each client wants to think you work for them alone and are always available just for them. Don’t parade one client’s writing adventures in front of another, but do let them benefit from the vast experience you have, how nimble you are, how you can switch positions within the company. You may have to wear a mask or costume–be a marketer one day, a bean-counter the next, a tech expert the day after. But versatility is valued.

The word whore can occasionally become the word wife–by getting a corporate job. Yes, it gives you a certain security, maybe benefits, but in your heart you know sooner or later the corporation will turn you out for a trophy writer, a younger, cheaper version without the experience, but with a generous capacity for swilling Kool-Aid.

So choose your game wisely and with truth in your heart. You’ll be happy in your chosen profession.

* Whore is an ancient original of the word ‘ho. Whore, however, has a great deal more dignity and colorful history. Never call a freelancer a word ‘ho. It’s insulting.

–Quinn McDonald is a freelance writer, creativity coach and trainer in the field of business communication. See her work at QuinnCreative.com (c) 2008, 2011 All rights reserved.

Seven Tips for Freelancers: Looking for Work Online

My colleague Cynthia Haggard is a medical writer who is brilliant at demystifying science for general readership (and other writers.) Before you categorize her as purely left-brain, you should know she also writes historical novels. I love this balance and I think the historical research informs her scientific mind and abilities. Cynthia let me reprint this piece on improving your chances of finding work online.

Here is her article for freelancers:
You are new to freelance writing and you don’t have much money to spend. You’ve heard the Internet is brimful of interesting jobs, so you start surfing. You find an overwhelming number of sites targeted at freelancers who are looking for work.

Typically, the sites offer several levels of services.  For a minimal cost, they allow you to look through jobs that are more than two weeks old.  For significantly more money, they offer a “professional” level, where you get to see new jobs as they come in.  Then there are the “business” or “business deluxe” levels that claim to provide extra services for a fee. You are overwhelmed with information.  Where should you put your money?  Which sites can you trust? Here are seven tips that might help.
Try to get as much stuff as you can for free. Some sites will let you download e-books, tip sheets or job reports for free for a trial period.  Pay attention to how long that trial period is and time it so that you can do some serious downloading. It sounds obvious, but don’t end up paying for more than you need to. Company A cost $29.95 per month, which was discounted to $2.95 for the first trial week.  The site offered an e-book, a list of freelance web-sites, and free job reports.  When I tried to sign up for the free job reports, I was never able to get this service. I was forced to go to the web site and wade through all the jobs they had listed. Very time consuming and frustrating.

By this time, my one-week trial period had expired and I was paying $29.95/month for Company A’s services. This seemed a lot for a little, so I cancelled.

Do the math. Always convert the rate they give you, so you can see how much you are being paid by the word or by the hour for easy comparison. Company B allowed me to post my profile and résumé online and provided me with organizational tools for managing projects.  I signed on at the basic membership level for free, but the basic membership was so restrictive it was useless.  So I upgraded my membership to the Professional level at the cost of $74.95 per quarter. After I upgraded, the jobs started to flow in.

The problem?  I was swamped.  As I scrolled through, I noticed one job that wanted you to do 40 reports for $10 per report. It didn’t sound too bad; I would be making $400. However, when I did the math – 250 words per page at a penny a word for 4 pages equals $10 – that job translated into less than a penny a word. How many reports do you know that are four pages long? They’re usually much more. Facing a daily deluge of useless jobs, I discontinued my subscription after six weeks.
Join e-lists to meet people and get jobs. Many professional organizations have electronic discussion lists of like-minded people looking for jobs that are free.  Rather than paying expensive fees, join one of these lists, lurk for a couple of weeks to check it out, and then make a decision about staying or quitting.

Remember, the point of these lists is to get you in touch with good jobs.  If you’re being subjected to lots of gossip that fills up your email inbox and your time without generating paying projects, then you should quit.  Never fall for requests for extra money. Keep records of how much you spent and how long the subscription lasts and put it in an easy-to-use format, such as a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet or a table in Word that you can keep in a handy place like your desktop or your Documents folder.

Company C cost $25 per quarter.  The site worked by soliciting bids on projects from its freelance members. You had to be able to estimate how much time it was going to take you to do the project.  (This is difficult to do if you are starting out and learning your market.)  About a month after I’d joined, I was in the middle of bidding on a job when I received a request to bill my credit card for $75 to “automatically continue my service”.  I checked my records and confirmed that I was up-to-date with my dues.  So I stopped the bid cold and wrote an email to Company C asking them about this.  I got no response.  But at least I had not spent any extra money.  Needless to say, I stopped my subscription.

Always check out the website before you put money down. Check the name of the website on Google.  Has it been endorsed by the Wall Street Journal? Or Fortune magazine?  Who is the founder? Has this person worked for a well-known organization in your field?  How long has it been around?  What is its mission?
Stop surfing; start networking to get well-paying jobs.

Meeting people can be the most valuable thing you can do. Go to networking events held by your professional associations.  I found my first client by networking at a local American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) event.  I found my second client when a medical writing colleague gave me a job she did not want.  By going to the annual AMWA conference and talking to people on the exhibition floor, I learned there was a great need for medical writers who prepare documents for the FDA.  Further investigation revealed that it paid well, so I decided to make that my niche.
Make it your business to find out what the going rate is. Many professional organizations provide salary surveys.  Before you join, ask if the organization provides this service to its members.  Knowing the rate for your kind of work is invaluable in deciding whether you want to take on a job.

Remember that spending time doing badly paid work costs you, not only in the actual time you spent doing the work, but because you were prevented from seeking out a better-paid opportunity.  Knowing the rate will give you the confidence to ask for decent pay.

Remember also that under-charging hurts everyone. Your expertise and time should be valued and paid for accordingly.  Giving time and expertise to clients effectively takes food off the table for other hard-working professionals.  Making a living doing freelance writing is hard enough as it is; so don’t make it more difficult! Never work under your rate.

(c) Cynthia Haggard, 2008. All rights reserved.

–Quinn McDonald, who hosted this article but did not write it, is a life coach who helps people through change and transitions. Visit her website, QuinnCreative.

The Word Whore

If you are a freelancer writer, you know your life’s purpose–you get the jobs the in-house writers can’t manage, don’t want, or that take up too much corporate time. You don’t get praise, but you get a check–the equivalent of leaving money on the nightstand.

Now, I ask, is this a bad thing? It depends on how you handle it. It you want to be the word-wife with a house and white-picket office, a flower-box window view, and 2.5 weeks of vacation a year, then freelancing simply is not for you.

images1.jpegIf you  are the tough writer with a heart of gold, you don’t mind getting last-minute calls when you’re desperately needed.  The voice at the other end of the phone pleads with you because he’s spent the night on the couch in the office– the regular writer has a headache. You get work because its tedious or other writers have refused.  If this is your life,  then you are a freelancer at heart. You will never be invited to the holiday party, and you won’t be publicly recognized in meetings. It’s a good life, though.

Freelancing a good life if you are fast, flexible, and willing to take a backseat to the legitimacy and prestige of the corporate writer.

Like the original working woman, your power is behind the scenes. You are called on to perform the work that is too dirty or too hard for in-house writers. But you get paid well (only if you set the price firmly ahead of time) and get respect (only if you don’t let the client treat you like, umm, you know. . .)

If you are very good, you can become a word mistress. Everyone knows who you are, you get smiled at when you visit, but people don’t know exactly how to treat you in the office. They might defer to you in public, and talk about you behind your back. But in your client’s conference room, you do your work well and are appreciated.

You won’t get a lot of praise, and if you start to look needy, you’ll get dropped. Each client wants to think you work for them alone and are always available just for them. Don’t parade your writing adventures in front of your client, but do let them see the vast experience you have, how nimble you are, how you can switch positions within the company. You may have to wear a mask or costume–be a marketer one day, a bean-counter the next, a tech expert the day after. But versatility is valued.

The word whore can occasionally become the word wife–by getting a corporate job. Yes, it gives you a certain security, maybe benefits, but in your heart you know sooner or later the corporation will turn you out for a trophy writer, a younger, cheaper version without the experience, but with a generous capacity for Kool-Aid.

So choose your game wisely and with truth in your heart. You’ll be happy in your chosen profession.

–Quinn McDonald is a freelance writer, creativity coach and trainer in the field of business communication. See her work at QuinnCreative.com (c) 2008 All rights reserved.

Welcome to QuinnCreative’s Blog!

I’m Quinn McDonald, and I spend my time as an artist, helping other artists as a certified creativity coach. In case you need a trainer or speaker, I do that, too. And I’m a writer, as well. Quinn McDonald

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