5 Reasons Freelancing Sucks Ass

Courtesy Eloquent Science.

Yesterday, you were treated to some of the positives of the freelancing experience. As previously mentioned, freelancing is a double-sided coin. To keep a positive spin on the post, I’ve included possible solutions to each of the 5 reasons freelancing sucks ass.

1. Self-motivation is tough. Ever had trouble scrounging up the energy to leave the house? Take a shower? Make your bed? Put pants on? If you’ve ever been unemployed (or just really, really bored), you probably understand that the power to create your own schedule can also be the undoing of your schedule. It’s great to have that freedom, but there are days when self-motivation is tough.

Solution? I try to solve this problem by visualizing benjamins. I’m not some greedy, money-grubbing bastard. But everyone likes a little extra cash. Because your income is tied directly to how much work you do, you can use this fact to kick your own ass into gear.

2. Taxes. Taxes are perhaps the single worst wake-up call in the history of freelance writing. As a freelancer, you’ll love getting massive paychecks with no withholdings. The problem? You’ll have to pay those withholdings quarterly or at the end of the year. Of course, you can write off a world of new expenses. But that comes with hours and hours of administrative and accounting work.

Solution? Pay diligent attention to your finances. Be sure you’re putting away at least a quarter of your monthly earnings every month. Work with a professional accountant as soon as you go freelance so you know what to expect based on your state’s tax laws. SAVE EVERY RECEIPT.

3. Less social interaction during the day. Freelancing doesn’t exactly imply psychosis-inducing loneliness. Still, you’re going to have fewer meaningful interactions with a human throughout the day than you’re used to working in an office.

Solution? Get out of the house or apartment a couple of days a week. You’ll exercise your social skills buying coffee. You’ll surround yourself with other people at the library or a coffee shop.

4. More distractions. Sometimes, the opposite of having no motivation is having too much motivation. If you’re trapped in your house or apartment all day, you’re bound to think of things that need to be done around the house. Errands are a popular way to distract yourself from working. Whatever the activity, you’ll find things you’d usually save for nights and weekends to do during the day.

Even working for too many hours can become a hassle. If you’re a super-awesome self-motivator, you may be tempted to work into the night to get that paper.

Solution? Make a to-do list and take distractions one at a time. There are positives to having the day to yourself; if you can stay disciplined enough to take care of business in piecemeal, you’ll be able to keep yourself on schedule for work. Plan night activities with friends to keep yourself from becoming a workaholic recluse.

5. Access to alcohol. Let’s face it: writers tend to enjoy the drink. It’s inevitable that you’ll hear the call of that six-pack in the fridge before the day is done, especially if you’re working with stressful clients.

Solution? Simple. Don’t stock your fridge with booze. If you’re aching for a beer after work, force yourself out of the house or apartment. The convenience factor lowers, reducing the chances you’ll start to get your drink on too early in the day.

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5 Reasons to Go Freelance Immediately

Courtesy SummerBrew Films.

Freelancing is a double-edged sword. But it’s a lot of fun and games. You take the good with the bad. In this case, let’s take a look at the good. Here are 5 reasons to go freelance immediately.

1. Make your own schedule. I’ve riffed on this one before. Freelance includes the word ‘free’, which makes it the most ‘Merican occupation in the country. You’re free to define your own schedule. Work all day and all night. Or don’t work at all. The power is in your hands.

2. Get more monies. When you’re locked down at a company, higher pay isn’t an easy thing to come by. With freelancing, you determine your own net worth. If the potential client doesn’t want to pay you what you’re worth, you find someone who will.

3. Expand the breadth of your portfolio. If you’re writing anywhere other than an agency, you’re focused on one topic. It’s great to become an expert. But if you’re stuck in a market you don’t particularly enjoy, it’s difficult to move elsewhere with a narrow portfolio. Play around in other fields until you land on something you love.

4. Break your chains. Reporting to clients can be a hassle at times. Still, you’re ultimately your own boss. No more corporate drama. No more managers looking over your shoulder. Break free from your cubicle. Explore your new space.

5. Become a mercenary. Don’t like where you’re at? Move on. Find the highest bidder. Take part in a commission program. Write about a new market. Try to sell articles to your favorite magazines. Your world is a gyrating glowworm of opportunity.

Why Would You Hide One of Your Best Attributes?

A small business owner once approached me for a copy project. We talked a bunch about the themes and messages he wanted to run throughout.

“What I want,” he explained, “is to give the impression that we’re a big company.”

This wasn’t the first or the last time I got this request. I responded: “Why would you want to hide one of your company’s best attributes?”

Alright, I probably didn’t word it that perfectly. But you get the drift. Time and time again, executives want to give the impression that they’re bigger than they are.

Guess which one Apple sponsored.

By projecting a big company feel, they think:

  • Customers respect a company that’s obviously been around for several years
  • A big brand equates to reliable customer service
  • Doing it longer means doing it better

In reality, customers don’t necessary want a big brand. They want big accomplishments. They crave reliable customer service. They want a reliable product or service. Big companies tend to assume small competition. As a result, companies like GoDaddy, Comcast, Best Buy and AT&T have customer service problems. Because they know they can get away with it. They’ve cornered the market. They put their big budgets into marketing and ignore things that customers care about.

Why project that image? Why not tout the benefits of a small company feel? Successful small businesses offer a more personalized experience for customers. Try carving out a niche on which you can actually deliver.

Small businesses imply:

  • They’ll work harder to get and keep their customers’ business
  • They’ll offer personal, human interaction
  • They’re trying something new that will advance the market

Your copy should embrace your aesthetic. Customers will thank you for your honesty. And maybe that honesty will result in massive growth. Then, you can start ignoring what your customers want. *rolls eyes*

Cultivating the Creative Mind

What’s happening with creativity?

A fair question, is it not? It’s suddenly lost on Hollywood. You won’t find it in the widening gulf of politics. Today’s popular literature literally shuns creativity. Everyone is rehashing the same old ideas. And there are no twists.

You could make an argument for creativity in tech development. But then again, aren’t we just pushing ideas that require us to think less? Is that intellectual evolution?

This guy could have created you out of existence with a snap of his fingers. (William S. Burroughs, circa some time after a heavy heroin binge)

As our collective knowledge grows, it’s become clearer that the constant stimuli surrounding us are killing our creative juices. We have the answers at our fingertips. Thinking is unnecessary. When faced with a blank page, today’s writer is super efficient. Unfortunately, most of that efficiency comes from borrowed content. It’s a necessity sometimes. But as a writer, it’s important to exercise your creativity from time to time.

Take a second to breathe. Here are some simple ideas to get your mojo back.

Disconnect. Every time you interact with technology, you’re shooting up. Kick the habit for a day or two. Go the old-fashioned route: carry a notebook and a pen and jot down ideas for later.

Read. Sit down with a good book, a magazine or an honest-to-god newspaper. You’ll find it’s a lot easier to process information when you have a single focal point.

Escape. The traffic. The late night drunks. The texts and calls. Get out of the city. Go enjoy the outdoors for a bit. And remember to bring that good book (and notebook) with you.

Simplify. If you’re like me, you have 50 browser tabs open. In addition to 33 documents. Add Skype, AIM and Gchat to the list and you’re going nowhere fast. Close everything and put Microsoft Word into “focus” mode.

Exercise. It’s taken me a long time to finally get into this. But I’m surely reaping the benefits. Exercise is an important part of getting in tune with your body and clearing your head.

Mute. I’m a gigantic music geek, but it can add a layer of overwhelmingness to your brain. Turn it off and work in silence for a few hours so you can focus.

Additional reading: check out this recent article in Fast Company for psychological perspective into the world of the creative process.

Watch Your Tone: 5 Tips on Brand Voice

Everyone has a unique voice.

Some voices are simple.

Some voices are terribly verbose and sometimes boisterous!

Some are confident bordering on cocky. Others are gentle and sympathetic. But whatever your brand’s voice sounds like, it must be consistent. It must fall with impact upon the ears of your target audience.

Easier said than done. How do you define your tone and ensure it resonates with potential customers?

No no, not a voice that irritates. One that resonates.

The answer to that question is complex. To get started, take a look at five tips on brand voice and tone.

1. Carefully defining your audience is central to ALL marketing. How do you know how to talk to potential customers if you don’t understand them? Narrow your audience down to people who actually have use for your product. Once you know who you’re targeting, you’ll have a better grip on how to talk to them.

2. As always, keep it human. You know…unless you’re targeting robots. During some sort of robot apocalypse.

3. Keep it simple. Planning to tell a story? Keep it short. Include the details that resonate most with your audience. Simplicity is the best policy for the diction you use, too. Just because you’re targeting a group of rocket scientists doesn’t mean they want to waste precious brainpower reading clunky words, phrases and sentences.

4. Speak like a peer. Companies that speak down to their audiences tend to lose them. Yes, you have the solution to your customer’s problem. But you’ve been in their shoes. What they do is just as important as what you do. And don’t you forget it.

5. Get specific. You can speak more effectively to a narrower audience. Use words, phrases and inside jokes that only your readers understand.

Is Outlining Really Necessary?

As a young writer, I struggled with the concept of outlining. If you already have a strength and passion for writing, you may struggle with this, too. You feel that you need the purity of the creative process undisturbed. You tell yourself that truly creative thinking follows no form.

Of course, if you get anywhere in your writing career, you’ll soon realize that this is hogwash. Yeah, that’s right. I said hogwash.

Hogwash.

Professional writing requires structure. And the longer the piece, the more structure you’ll require. The more detailed your structure, the less you have to fill in during the writing process. Outlining eliminates frustration and writer’s block while easing drafting and revision.

If you decide to write without outlining your concept first, you may be in for a huge headache. Outlining forces you to:

  • Organize your thoughts in a fluid but visible way
  • Make a simple-to-follow reference sheet
  • Order thoughts in the sequence that makes the most sense
  • Ensure you have enough content to deliver a complete message
  • Get a high-level view of your piece and make sure you don’t forget anything
  • Understand how to weave any themes into the narrative.

Before you sit down to write a piece, take five minutes to jot your thoughts down on a blank page. Put them in a logical order for your reader and craft stronger, more coherent pieces.

Why I Had No Choice But To Stop Idolizing Kerouac

It’s a hard thing to get older. You end up replacing some of that good, old-fashioned idealism with tough cynicism. As writers, some of our biggest influences die right before us. You realize that you can’t be them, and you can only barely be like them.

Keep the dream alive. But don’t forget you’re living in reality. That’s why I scaled back Kerouac’s influence on my writing.

I can’t be the only writer out there that considers Kerouac a genius. How old were you when you first read On the Road? The book is wildly appealing at any age. But if you read it as a teenager, there’s a romanticism that seems imitable.

But Kerouac was one of a kind. And it wasn’t just On the Road. Novels like Big SurThe Dharma Bums and The Subterraneans are all intense, lively and inspiring reads. They brim with youthful energy fueled by alcohol, sex and art.

Everyone wants to attain the raw energy of Kerouac’s writing, even in the world of professional writing. How do you get there? Stop trying to imitate him.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But flattery will get you nowhere with a dead author. It certainly won’t get you anywhere as a living writer. Trying to imitate someone like Kerouac is a dead-end for a writer. Especially a professional writer. His big, sweeping sentences are the exact kind that can lose your reader.

It’s sad when you finally give up imitation. But it also opens up a whole new world. It’s a scary world. We want to imitate successful writers to use them as a standard for our own writing. When you give up those influences and write from your heart, you’re likely to lose faith in your own unique voice.

Fortunately, that’s how writers get prolific in the first place. Remind yourself daily that none of your favorite writers imitated their favorite writers. Inspire yourself by discovering a style all your own and hone it to perfection.