Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Holidays Celebrate!

I've been a little lazy with these posts. A lot of this has to do with the fact that the holidays are upon us, and I'm rushing to get as much work done as possible. Work tends to slow down around this time of year, so as a freelancer this is necessary hunting and gathering time so that we can have a stockpile of moolah for the winter.

The holidays can really throw a wrench in a freelancers business. First, if you conduct interviews for your pieces, a lot of sources are out of town. This can make that pressing deadline even more intimidating because, if there's one thing you don't have control over, it's your sources getting back to you.

Second, people just don't have the time to dole out work to you as much. They're busy closing up shop for the year and getting their workload done so they can chug down eggnog at the office Christmas party without having to think of that report on their desk. So it's a good idea to plan in advance for this time of the year, whether that menas doing extra work in October and November or bugging your clients incessantly a month before Christmas.

Finally, you as a freelancer don't want to work during the holidays. You've worked hard all year. Take a break already. But there's no break for a freelancer. No work means no money which means no fun. So although you might feel like kicking back and enjoying a big turkey dinner or a few carols by the fire, you really should be pestering clients, cruising job sites and conducting as much work as possible so that you don't fall out of practice when the real work starts coming in during the new year.

Now if you'll excuse me, I got some stuffing with my name on it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Now There's That Fear Again

Besides being a writer, I am also a performer. I never meant to be a performer. I always wanted to be just a writer. This comes out of a place of fear. I have terrible, terrible social anxiety. The thought of going to a party alone terrifies me as does acting on stage.

Funny thing is, I've been on stage probably about 50 times. I know it's not much, but for someone who harbors the kind of fear I do, that says something. In fact, I have a performance tonight. And I'm more nervous about this one than most because a lot of my friends will be there. You'd think I'd have more security in my performance since I have people that care about me sitting in the audience. But it's the fear of their judgment and letting them down that really bothers me. And this fear is utterly irrational.

Being afraid of networking or giving a public speech or performing on stage is always irrational. But that doens't mean just identifying the irrationality of the situation makes everything okay. You have to first recognize your fear and then accept it. Stage fright isn't going to go away over night, and in fact it may never go away completely. But if you accept that it exists and understand that it is irrational and concentrate on the task at hand, the nervous energy that was once fear will be channeled into your performance to make it even better.

I'm hoping to break a leg out there tonight. I know I got talent, and I have nothing to prove to anyone. I'm giong to go out there, accept my fear, and give a great performance.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Third Time Is Not A Charm

Ah editing. Is there nothing less thrilling than having to go back to a piece that you already wrote and retool for the sake of a client? No really. But it comes with the territory of being a freelance writer.

Industry standard is to allow two rewrites included in the cost of the project. If you're charging an hourly rate, then you charge the rewrites using the standard hourly rate. If the amount of rewrites goes beyond two, then you should have a stipulation in your contract or Letter Of Agreement which states that there will be additional charges.

I've never really had this situation arise quite yet (knock on wood). But I'm sure it would result in client pushback. And nothing is worse than client pushback. It's a tenuous situation. On one side, you don't want to upset the client because after all you want to retain their work in the future. On the other side, you got to eat and pay rent. My advice is any client that will jerk you around and try to get you to work for free or make additional demands without promise of pay is not a client worth working for. It's tough to cut ties with a client, but in the end it is best for your sanity and yoru busienss. You might be able to come up with a compromise, such as doing the additional work at the standard rate, but you should be compensated no matter what.

We as freelancers need to uphold a certain level of self-respect. If we let our clients walk all over us, we are doing a disservice to the freelance community as a whole.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Where's My Weekend?

I was sick again. Something happened when I was getting better last time, and I regressed. But I'm on meds so I'm getting better.

I'm swamped with work this week. I have three major deadlines looming over me, and it looks like this weekend won't be much of a weekend at all.

A trade off with being a freelancer is that although you set your own hours, sometimes those hours kind of suck. Yeah, I typically pull a 4 to 6-hour workday during the week, but oftentimes that requires me to put some time in on the weekends. I'm fine with doing this. I'd rather have my freetime spread out throughout the week rather than bunched up in two days. But others don't function that way. To each his own.

It also helps that I do my best work on deadline. So I don't mind working on a Saturday or Sunday if my deadline is on a Monday because I know what I produce is going to be solid. Also, it's incentive enough to know that getting an assignment turned in at the end of the weekend will ensure a lighter load throughout the week.

So to all those people that poo poo working on the weekends, remember that while you're sitting in your office watching the clock tick until five, I'm busy going to the gym, buying groceries and folding my laundry. Suckers!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Many Hats: IT Technician

I'm on hold right now with Epson, the printer company. My printer broke a couple weeks ago, right in the middle of crafting several outlines, a process that entail printing out my interviews and reviewing the information I've gathered. I tried my darndest to fix the printer. I replaced the ink. I ran a number of diagnostics and tests to try to get the thing to work. Nothing. In the end I had to purchase a new printer.

But this incident, like so many I've encountered as a freelancer including the destruction of my laptop at the hands of my cat, highlights an important element of freelancing - the wearing of many hats. As a self employed person, you play every role within your company, both front office and back office. One of these back office roles that we must play is IT technician. And despite specializing in writing about technology, I know very little about fixing the stuff.

I think it would probably benefit any freelancer to take a few courses on IT troubleshooting. Whether its understanding how to troubleshoot certain, frequently used appliacations, such as the Microsoft Office Suite or Adobe Suite of products, or hardware, such as printers, computers and digital cameras, learning how to solve your own problems without turning to a costly technician can save you a lot of money.

That said, any expenses accrued from fixing your office equipment are tax deductible. So save those receipts! You might be kicking yourself for having to buy a costly new printer, but at tax time, you'll be happy to see the tax relief you get from your technical incompetence.

Friday, November 7, 2008

What the Hecktomy

Sorry it has been a few days since I last posted. I relapsed and became sick again. It happened at the Obama rally (whooo! Go Obama!). I was standing in Grant Park in Chicago for 5 hours. When I got home, my legs felt like they were on fire. I figured it was due to muscle fatigue. The next morning my entire body felt like my joints had rusted, and my forehead felt like an oven. I went to the doctor who told me that basically anything that could be infected inside my head was infected (sans my eyes thank God). He gave me some antibiotics and sent me on my way. Did I mention this was on my birthday? Yeah. Yay me!

The doctor did mention one other thing. He recommended that I have my tonsils removed. Now getting those little buggers at the back of your throat removed when you're a kid? No problem. You heal in about four days, and you get to load up on all the Ben & Jerry's you want. Getting your tonsils removed as an adult? You bet your sweet ass you're going to be in for a world of pain. People have nearly died from getting their tonsils removed thanks to bleeding that can errupt suddenly and cause you to lose pints of blood in your sleep. And I live alone!

How does this little anecdote fit into the theme of this blog? Well, I think there's a good parallel between my potential tonsilectomy and self editing. Listen.

A tonsilectomy is painful because you are getting something chopped out of you that is literally part of you. Self editing is figuratively doing the same thing. Recovering from a tonsilectomy can be a slow and grueling process. Self editing is most often a slow and grueling process that makes you want to cry and bang your head against your desk at the same time. No amount of anesthesia can truly take the pain away that results from a tonsilectomy. There is no cure for the pain caused by self editing.

Self editing is an art. And you can bet this isn't going to be the only post I write about the topic. It's a big topic for me. As a technical writer, I self edit fairly casually before turning a project in. That's because my client typically gives the piece a first-pass edit themselves. Comedy writing, on the other hand, is much more frustrating. I don't have the luxury of having a comedy editor at my disposal so I bare the entire process of writing and editing on my shoulders. True, I can have fellow comedians look over my jokes and give me tips (which is a great thing to do mind you). But more often than not, I have to rely on myself to trust that what I write is good quality. Luckily I'm insanely hard on myself and am truly a perfectionist, so I'm only content with something when it's probably about 10 times better than it actually needs to be.

Anywho, I'm going to continue reading horror stories about tonsilectomies. If you have any experiene with tonsil removal or know someone who has, leave a comment. I'm really curious about other people's personal experiences.

Monday, November 3, 2008


Oftentimes as a freelance writer you find yourself juggling multiple pieces at once. This can really cause a lot of confusion, especially if your topics blend into one another. Currently I'm working on three major pieces, all dealing with the legal industry and each having to do in some way with litigation. The deadlines are days apart.

Some freelancers probably work on one piece until completion until working on the next. Others flip back and forth from one assignment to another seamlessly. I take a mixed approach. When writing, I make sure to finish a first draft of one piece before beginning another. However, while writing on piece, I can still review notes and create an outline for my next piece. Whichever piece is due first is almost always the first piece I tackle, though if deadlines are no more than a day or two apart, I might weigh it by which assignment is more work intensive.

What it comes down to is knowing your work ethic. If you are a great multi-tasker, than by all means take on as many assignments at once as you can. But if you are a more linear worker, than you might have to really work hard to complete multiple assignments on time. Devise a method that works for you and stick with it. Take some time periodically to scrutinize your method and see if there are improvements can be made. Freelancing is all about efficiency, and the most efficient process will yield the best results.