Do Typos Matter? Not As Much As You Think
I'm a writer (who coulda guessed?), so my eyes are trained to spot typos everywhere. I can't help it. It's part of who I am.
But one thing I find interesting is that as much as I get paid to make sure writing is flawless, there are times when even I question its significance.
What do I mean?
Well, conventional wisdom says that typos will absolutely KILL your chances at success.
If a typo (or two) (or three) are in your resume, you're done.
If a typo is in a business email to a potential client, forget about a response.
If your e-newsletter has any typos, people will hit that "unsubscribe" button for sure.
...Or will they?
I get newsletters with a typo or two. I also get salesletters from million dollar companies that missed using a space between words.
And yet, they still mange to be successful.
Which leads me, a writer, to ponder: IS a typo the big deal everyone claims it is?
I mean, in every field of life, there are purists. In my niche of copywriting, purists scoff with disdain at conversational writing. But yet, that is what sells because writing like one speaks is what connects with people-and in sales that's the whole point, not a literary masterpiece!
With typos, the same applies. But let's not get greedy. One to three typos applies here, but not typos in every sentence throughout the document. That WILL make you look bad-bad enough to get rejected.
Let's say you have a newsletter and there's one typo. Did it make you unsubscribe immediately? Did you never buy their products because they wrote "you're" instead of your?
The answer, most likely, is NO.
Before I get hate mail for my low standards, let me state emphatically that I never turn in work to a client with typos. I always aim for excellence, but I also understand that typos happen.
They do. It's called lyfe-whoops, I meant life.
This is just to encourage you that one or two typos don't matter in the grand scheme of things. What matters are the results you get and if those results are what you want.
I've seen a multi-million dollar company have a typo in their brand slogan for a white paper. Did it slow them down? Not at all.
Did their stock prices dip? Nope. Did it stop their growth? N-O.
In fact, this particular marketing piece continued to flourish and sell really well.
I've personally bought eBooks that were poorly edited with lots of typos. These eBooks happened to be bestsellers.
I was critical but realized that I got alot out of the eBook, and my writer's pride aside, didn't really care about a few typos. (in some cases, ALOT of typos).
Because at the end of the day, it was the CONTENT that I needed, so who cares?
I've pitched emails to potential clients, only to notice a typo after I hit SEND. And, to my surprise, I still got the contract!
I've seen queries to publishers with typos still get picked up....because the book was THAT promising!
And I also noticed that referrals rarely care about a typo in an email. Or formatting.
Because at the end of the day, who you know trumps what you know every time.
The moral of the story, kids:
Typos won't automatically kill your business or chances of success. Aim for excellence but more importantly, no matter what anyone tells you, it boils down to quality over quantity (or perfection) every time.
Need writing help for your business or coaching to take your writing to the next level?
Don't wait! Set up a time with me ASAP!
2/25/2015 0 Comments
Am I an Author or a Writer?
When I first entered the writing scene a few years ago, I realized something early on.
There's a difference between being an author and being a writer.
First, let's share the commonalities.
Authors and writers both:
So, most of my articles are helpful to both authors and writers.
But, there is a difference. I found this out by hanging around authors as an aspiring freelance writer.
Some people were writing screenplays. Others were writing books. But none were writing for a living.
I was starting my writing career. Yes, authors can have a career, too-think of Wayne Dyer, Stephen King, the Harry Potter chick (I completely forgot her name)....
But freelance writing is worlds different. Most authors don't even know the difference.
But writers write for other people as a profession. For example, I am a copywriter, a.k.a. marketing writer. I write the words you see on websites and every other piece of marketing material you come across.
And I don't just write words. Similar to authors, we writers create words meant to capture the attention of readers and to keep them reading. Writers, however, aim to get those readers to make some kind of purchase, be it clicking on a free eBook download or hitting the BUY NOW button.
Writers are hired to create, revise, edit and proofread things most people take for granted, such as those brochures someone shoves into your hand as you're walking down the street in New York City or a monthly newsletter you receive from a company whose website you're subscribed to.
Other things writers do:
Authors and writers also have different hurdles in terms of career paths. As a memoir ghostwriter, I've worked for authors and have seen the challenges first-hand. Authors have to deal with a fading traditional publishing model and the scary self-reliance of indie publishing.
If they go the traditional route, much learning is needed on how to land a literary agent or try to get a publishing deal without one.
Writers have to choose between their day job and writing freelance or between writing "in-house" at a company or agency and being self-employed.
There are other differences between authors and writers in terms of what is required to be successful.
Authors require good team players: a ghostwriter (or good writing skills), an editor, agent, publisher, book designer, book formatters (for eBooks) and diligent book promoters, printers and distributors, just to name a few.
Writers require good writing skills, self-editing skills, writing mentors (in some shape or form through books, mastermind groups, or personal relationships), and really good networking and marketing skills to land clients for gigs or longer-term positions.
Why does it matter?
Distinctions matter. You need to know if you are a writer or an
author (or both) so you can discern how to best approach being successful at it. As I said, writers and authors have their own challenges and criteria.
Virtual vs. The Office: Which One is for You?
As a professional freelance writer (or aspiring), you've searched job postings across the internet seeking work opportunities.
Undoubtedly you've come across many ads of people looking for writers. These postings fall under one or two categories:
1. "In-house" or on-site
2. virtual or remote
The question is, which one is best for you?
Sure, you don't care . You need some cheddar, some scrilla (that means money y'all).
Anything goes in self-employed "bills-gotta-get-paid" wonderland. They say you fake it till you make it, but writers hungry for dollars and experience will "take it till they make it".
I feel you. Believe me.
But if you're like me, one is a better choice.
If you're like me, there is only one choice.
I confess. I'm biased. I am a freelance copywriter (and ghostwriter) who works from home. So almost all my work is virtual. Even the ones where I come in to the office is 98% virtual.
And that's just how I like it-I mean, love it.
With that out the way, I thought it would be useful to have a little writer's chat about choosing which employment style of writing is best for you.
For me, working virtually is the best choice for the following reasons:
1. Bye-bye to bossholes. I prefer "Are we there yet?" to be left up to Ice Cube in the movies. Honestly, I perform best without someone hovering over my shoulder, asking me, "Are you done yet?"
The office is a petrie dish of insecure, immature and dysfunctional people. Different people have different ideas about everything, including what you do.
It never fails: I feel like pulling my hair out just writing about this....
Been there, done that. No thanks.
2. No more commuting. Due to various circumstances, including health issues and living in an extremely cold environment where snow measures in feet and roads get icy, working from home allows me the ability to work uninterrupted-which brings me to...
3. A DIY Office. I love working in the comfort of my own home. In the job office, for some reason, it's freezing in the summer and well, freezing in the winter, too. It seems the office air conditioning is always too high or the heat is too low. Either way, it sucks and I'm miserable, unable to concentrate and get any serious work done.
4. The world's best wardrobe. I really enjoy working in my jammies. It rocks. The End.
5. A flexible schedule. Having a flexible schedule is worth more than money can buy. When you are stuck in an office all day, with only a half hour for lunch, it feels like a prison sentence. In prison, you HAVE to be at a designated place at pre-determined time with your "free" time carved out for you.
At home, I can get my work done between naps or taking time to chat on the phone, going to run errands or out to dinner with a friend. Sweet.
6. Mobility. I work from home, but really I work from my computer. I can go out of town on vacation and still work if I take my laptop with me. Technology gets a high -five, back-hand slide for creating ways of making a living outside the office.
7. No more drama. I was telling my brother the other day that there's something about the office that seems to bring out the worst in people. In that setting, there is more backbiting, lies, and every other dirty, nasty little thing you can imagine taking place. People who smile at you in line at the grocery store will slit your throat in a second if they are your supervisor at work. At home, I don't have to suffer through the office politics. Thank goodness!
You've just read my reasons why working virtually works best for me.
So, what about you?
Are you best suited for the bathrobe or the corporate wardrobe?
How to tell:
I believe in part it's a personality thing. The alpha vs. beta, the independent spirit vs. the co-dependent spirit...
Then there's your strengths and weaknesses-how you work best and under what conditions. Think about agriculture. You can't take an avocado seed and grow it in a cold climate and you can't plant an apple tree in a hot one. Every type of seed thrives under different conditions.
We writers are no different. We are creatives, and creative people create their best work consistently under certain variables. For me, those conditions have been mentioned above. Under those 7 conditions, I thrive. When I'm in an office position, I fail to thrive.
You, fellow writer, or aspiring writer, may be "ambidextrous" in that you can vacillate between the office and virtual freelancing. Some of you may be best suited for a total "in-house" office position.
Here's a few signs working onsite may be for you:
1. You have a hard time working independently. You need structure to thrive and get work done. You may not like someone leaning over your shoulder, either, but you need it to work effectively.
2. You're a procrastinator. Virtual freelancing isn't for the faint of heart. You have to have self-discipline and self-determination to structure your own schedule to get work done on time-and done, period. If that's not you, then virtual freelancing may not be your "schtick".
3. You need company. Some of us work better independent, others work better with people around us. Nothing wrong with that. Interdependence is normal and healthy. If you're a social butterfly and need conversation and interaction with people on a daily basis to feel sane, BINGO! It's the office for you.
I try to make career choices that are in alignment with my own strengths rather than my weaknesses. It seems flowing with the stream is better that swimming against the current.
Whichever path you choose, be it one-or both-make sure it's what's best for you.
Why I don’t read writer's tips in "how-to" articles
Yeah, sounds funny, doesn't it?
I’m a writer. Why WOULDN'T I want tips from more successful writers in how-to articles?
I’m a comparison freak.
That means I compulsively compare myself to others. And not in a good way.
(Wait--IS there a good way?)
Well, I almost can’t help myself. When I see someone doing "better" than me, I measure myself against that person—in this case, other more successful writers.
Shall I go on?... Don't act like it's just me!
I’ll end that list right here, because—well—it can get lengthy. And neither you or I have that kind of time. We’ve got writing to do.
This is the reason I don’t take the average articles on how to write too seriously. This includes the ones on how to be a successful writer, or what Apps are best to use, or advice on finding a mentor or how to earn six-figures as a freelancer...
Not that these articles aren't valuable.
Not that the person writing the blog is an idiot (although they may be...hopefully I'm not one of them).
And not that the information is moronic. (Although it might be).
Most often it isn’t. Usually the content is pretty useful.
I—yours truly—happen to be an info-junkie. It is an obsession of mine. I never tire of new information, classes, blogs, how-tos, what-nows and everything imbetween.
But there comes a tipping point where my brain feels like it’s going to melt, oozing out both of my ears when opening an email crammed with newsletters, articles and emails.
I have to protect my mind from the tsunami of information out there— information which I write for a living, by the way—oh, the irony.
Bottom line, some tips are really good... but not good for me.
Sometimes it’s where I’m at in my career. Here’s an example: I read some good advice this week from a free online course on how to write the way Google thinks. The first course was somewhat preliminary. It’s like someone teaching a 5- year-old to walk for the first time.
Good training, but the kid learned to walk 4 years ago.
This advice was good two years ago but not today. I’m at a different place in my career now.
There are other reasons I screen tips on writing how-to articles.
Sometimes it’s too damn early in the morning. Or too late at night. Or I have a migraine. Or it doesn’t fit with my personality or my business plans.
A tip may not work in my niche. It may apply to writing a book, not a blog. Or vice-versa.
I might be just plain ol' overwhelmed. TMI. Too much information to try and apply today. I need time to process.
Whatever it is, I realize that all advice is not created equal. I also realize that I’m the type that feels like I have to take everyone’s advice. I'm not proud of this, but authoritative voices tempt me to doubt myself. (Although I'm working on improving this daily). At the end of the day, advice and tips are just that-advice and tips. I don't have to take them. And just because I don't, doesn't mean I'm making a mistake.
The article may be a "shortcut to success", but not for me.
Screening through tips, taking what works and leaving what doesn’t is a muscle I have to consistently exercise.
But as a writer (and a human being), I’m the better for it.
Writing as a profession can be an emotional rollercoaster.
In the movies, the writer's life can be quite the opposite. The scene is usually something out of "The Devil Wears Prada" in New York City with the character (writer) as this whimsical, neurotic, (sometimes dark) eccentric and somewhat flaky dreamer. Usually they are authors-not writers- struggling to pen their next novel while dodging repeated voicemail messages from an angry publishing house editor.
....Wait, hold up-
What does she mean authors, not writers? I give you the lowdown on the difference between authors and writers here.
I'm going to assume you're a writer reading this. So let me say that if you're beginning your writing career, you're quickly finding out that the writer's life is not what you see in the movies or on t.v.
That doesn't mean the writer's life is a bad thing. Just a reality check.
Me? I have no regrets of the path I've taken. I'm a born writer and this is my destiny.
However, (clearing my throat here), there are some challenges I face, along with other writers I've heard from who also face-that sort of come with the writer's life, if you know what I mean.
In other words, being a writer ain't easy.
THAT'S where writer's depression can set in.
I've been there. Okay, I was there an hour ago...
But I have some victory stories of winning the battle with writer's depression under my belt, too. And I want to share those victories. I also want to share how I've grown in my writer's journey. It may help you. Either you can relate, you know another writer going through it or you're a candidate for the experience in the future.
Maybe I can help you avoid some of the pitfalls. Maybe you won't feel so alone. Or maybe you won't feel so crazy, like it's just you. It isn't.
Writer's depression happens to all of us, to the worst of us, to the best of us.
You may be wondering, what IS writer's depression? Well, since I coined the term, I should be the one to define it, shouldn't I?
That's easier said than done, but I'll give it a go.
Writer's depression is:
That's in MY book. Your writer's block may not be writer's depression. Use your own radar here.
Now let's discuss the...
5 Steps to Overcoming Writer's Depression:
Step #1: Face your failure. It's easy for us writers to be depressed when we feel like the biggest loser. That may be awesome for obese purposes, but for writing professionally, it sucks eggs.
Feelings of failure overtake us writers when we apply for a million jobs or independent contracts without hearing back. Or we have difficult, cheap clients back-to-back. Or no clients at all. Or we are living in a "feast and famine" existence, not secure in knowing where our next work is coming from.
That makes us feel like failures. Like we can't do this writing thing. We question our choice to pursue such a career that isn't considered a "real job". What were we thinking?
Well, in order to face failure, we have to redefine what failure actually is.
As children In the school system, we learned that failure is worthy of ridicule and punishment. It is the worst thing in the world to get an answer wrong on a test or the teacher calling on you unexpectedly.
But failure is not a bad thing. Not bad at all.
Freelance writing is a learn-on-the-job profession. If you don't fail, how will you learn?
Failure is, in all actuality, a stepping stone to success. Thomas Edison is noted for saying how he failed his way to success. He looked at each failed attempt as an indication of what not to do again and to do something different next time.
In fact, the more you fail, the more you can learn-if you don't quit, that is.
And that's what failure is: quitting.
In writing, you're going to have A LOT of failures. Accept it now. A LOT. Some days it feels like all you do is fail.
When we fail, we need to not internalize it. Face it head-on. Everyone fails. They've f*#%ed up. They've made mistakes.
I know, it doesn't seem like it. When we mess up, it feels like we're all alone. When you're a writer, (and a writer who works from home at that), the writer's journey seems like you're alone on an island. So when you fail, it feels magnified ten-fold.
Remember, failure should never be personified. During these down times as a writer, challenge yourself to debunk the belief that you ARE a failure; in reality, you just HAVE failures. Writer's Depression comes when you confuse the two.
Failures are lessons. Learn the lesson and when the chance comes again, rock it out next time.
Step #2: Counteract your fear.
They say the fear of failure is right up there with fear of public speaking and death. Again, we've been trained since birth that failure is bad and that if we fail, we're not valuable. It's a fear that we're losers (valueless) if we make mistakes. It's treated as the worst thing in the world.
It's no wonder that we fear failure so much. But as Susan Jeffers says, "feel the fear and do it anyway."
Fear (or as some call it, False Evidence Appearing Real) is a natural part of the human experience. When there is something we are unsure of, we feel afraid. When our safety is threatened, fear overtakes us.
If we are in the woods and we cross a grizzly bear, fear is activated. Holy crap! Your body's fight or flight response takes over. You run away and survive. So fear can be a helpful survival tool.
In today's world, the wildest animal we have to encounter is a house spider. But we have other threats to our safety that activates fear in us. Our physical lives aren't threatened- it's our stability, comfort and security that seems to be in danger.
When it comes to living the writer's journey, fear can really hold us back from success.
Here are some common fears I have felt (and probably you've felt, too):
It's life. The fear will be there. My theory is that we have to neutralize the fear to overcome it.
I've found the secret to overcoming fear: Doing it anyway.
Hit the accelerator. Take the green light. Go. Do it. Try it. Plan for it. Apply to it.
Apply for that contract position. Put your bid in-even if you fear being in over your head.
Put yourself out there. Whatever it is you fear, face it head-on...then do it.
That's how you counteract fear. Neutralize it with action.
Step #3: Self-boost your self-confidence.
When we writers suffer from writer's depression, we are in effect suffering from low self-confidence.
This is sad to say, but true: Most writers have low self-confidence.
I found this out the hard way. I entered into the writer's den pretty naive, thinking that us writers should talk shop and stick together.
I wish it was that easy.
I've connected with other writers online and in person and at writer's conferences. These interactions were not what I expected.
I thought we aspiring fledglings would be having these "power talks" about the craft and about growing our business. In my mind, we were "supposed" to be swapping juicy industry secrets and forming life-long colleague friendships...
Instead, I found myself standing in a circle of "little people" holding their head down, shoulders slumped. Swapping was going on all right-swapping of loser stories, of how writers are on the bottom of the totem pole, how writers get no love, stories of poverty.
It was the Biggest Losers Club. (And I don't mean with Jillian Michaels, either.)
The first few times I thought it was a fluke. Maybe I was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe I got a bad batch.
Then I found myself in that "little" circle again. And then again. And again.
By now I think you've gotten the message that I think there's a pandemic of low self-confidence (self-esteem) going on among the working writers of the world. We as a group generally consider ourselves to be the sweatshop workers of the intellectual world, slaving away for pennies on the dollar trying to meet quotas only a slave driver could love.
This low self-confidence thing: what is it and what can be done to boost it?
The way I see it, low self-confidence can be equated with low self-esteem. It's the value you place upon yourself, your time and your work.
But in order to have high (or even adequate) self-confidence, we have to value ourselves on an intrinsic level.
We matter. Our work matters. And oh yeah, our time surely matters.
When clients haggle with us, it affects our self-esteem. Having to explain (and downright justify) our fees can make you feel that you, your work and your time aren't valuable.
To boost your self-confidence, try the following things:
#1: A change of scenery. Get from around "little people" and seek out a crowd of "do-ers" who make things happen. Seek out writers who are closer to (or currently are) where you want to be. To make it in this business, us writers are going to need to develop a thick skin of self-confidence to the point of a mild narcissism. Our line of work is one of ongoing critique of our work.
#2: Fake it till you ARE it.
When someone asks you what you do for a living, smile, look them straight in the eye, and say:
"I'm a writer."
Just keep saying it. When someone asks what you do, keep telling them you're a writer. I know it feels about as fake as saying you're a superhero. You'll be embarrassed the person will keep asking questions about it that you can't answer and you'll end up looking stupid. You're terrified they'll ask how much you make and you'll look like a loser.
But keep saying "I'm a writer". Each conversation will move you closer to confidence and away from bull-jiving and pipe dreaming. You don't have to believe it yet.
As a kid, I remember getting clothes and shoes that were a little too big because I would grow into them in a matter of weeks. The same goes with our writing careers. Calling yourself a professional writer may seem fraudulent at worst and delusional at best, but you have to own it.
Cuz' if you don't believe you're a real writer, nobody else will.
Life is 90% confidence. The other 10% is skill. Clients need to see that you are confident in both your abilities and what you can do to help them get what they need.
Business is about 90% psychology. You have to FEEL like a real writer to act like one and attract REAL clients. I'm talking to myself here, too. As I take my writing business to another level this year with bigger clients and larger stakes, it is a fear indeed worthy of shitting bricks.
It took me a while to grow into calling myself a writer, Then it took some time to call what I do a business. Saying the words, "my writing business" has become much more normal these days. I can actually say it without cringing now.
Step #4: Get motivated.
For most of us artists, a lack of motivation can be a huge stumbling block. We've heard the artist's dramatic mantra, "what's my motivation?"
Um, if you don't know what motivates you, I can't help ya.
Don't over-think your motivation. Just pinpoint what makes you motivated. I wish I could tell you where you can find motivation, but it isn't a place. Motivation is an internal thing. Granted, some personalities are naturally more motivated than others. I've found that motivation is something dormant within you that requires activation-kind of like a new debit card you get in the mail. Motivation or drive is therefore activated when you want something more than what you currently have.
Tony Robbins is a master at explaining this. He says pain and/or discomfort is the driving force behind motivation. Two things make you take action: sheer conscious will/determination or when the pain of inaction outweighs the pain of taking action.
In other words, you either get up off the couch when you don't feel like moving because you know you need to and make yourself move or the discomfort of sitting there outweighs the rewards of getting your butt moving. Maybe you hear one of your kids scream and a thud so you jump up because if you don't your child could be hurt- or worse.
I believe we have a choice of what motivates us to write. My motivation is my own and so is yours. My passion for writing drives me, but so does my bank account and daily needs. I also am motivated to be the best writer possible to give freelance writers a good name. I am driven by success and the future experiences of my dreams materializing. I have a list of goals and I am relentless about seeing them manifest-for me. To know I can. Because,,,I can. And my whole life I was told I couldn't.
These are some of my personal "musts". Tony Robbins is the go-to guy for that topic as well. He explains that to get motivated, we must determine what our "musts" are in life.
I call it my "hell no's". Once you know what isn't an option, your motivation is a no-brainer.
Your motivation may be the haters out there who said writing isn't a "real job". It may be a "must" that you end up living mediocre lives like they are. Do you want to end up in the same boat as your critics? DO you want to prove them right as a failed wanna-be writer? Hell, NO!
Motivation now activated.
Step #5: Unblock your writer's block.
Every writer has experienced writer's block. It's creative constipation.
Crude, maybe, but true.
The "laxative" to writer's block is very personal. It depends on the individual person and the cause of their block. Is it fear? Low confidence? A lack of motivation? Maybe you need to set some detailed goals for yourself to get focused. Maybe it's the people around you who don't think writing is a "real" job and sling slick negative comments your way to undermine you. Maybe they don't appreciate your time and want to do frivolous things when you need to be working.
You have to pinpoint the issue. Then you have to figure out how to neutralize it so it doesn't block you from creating.
Writing is a time-sensitive business. People want to know how fast you can produce content. And it's impossible to produce content at a competitive rate if you're riddled with writer's block.
We all get it. It's part of the writer's journey. The difference is that with authors writing a book or a poet writing poetry, they have more creative license to "find their motivation". Professional writers have deadlines. We have to develop the skill of working through writer's block quickly and effectively.
A few techniques I use to unstop my writer's block:
If there's one only thing you take away from this article, fellow writer, it is that you're not alone. If you're having writer's depression, don't believe for a second you're the only one. I go through it, too. But I also recover from writer's depression quite well. And so can you.
Are you lovin' this? Stay connected with your fellow writers by following me on Twitter and Facebook.
by Helen C. Holt
Most freelance writers aren’t getting enough gigs (or well-paying gigs), plain and simple. But—and this is the important thing to realize—we don’t make the appropriate connections between our confidence and our results.
In my article, The 5 Step Beginner’s Guide to Overcoming Writer’s Depression, I covered this problem, discussed how writing blocks work, and shared a variety of practical ways to improve the quality of the writer's life. If you’re looking for a primer on ways to overcome writer’s depression, I ever-so-gently nudge you toward reading that article.
However, if you want to improve your writing, there are actually some very simple and practical ways to go about it. I call these strategies the 3 Laws of Writing.
Here’s how they work…
If you want to improve the quality of your writing and boost your performance, there are 3 Laws you can “activate” to give yourself a boost:
1. Law of Deliberate Thinking
2. Law of Rituals
3. Law of Perseverance
Law of thinking refers to how you think (who woulda guessed?) As I described in detail in another article, there are different phases of thought. Two of these phases are particularly important: Deliberate thought (also known as conscious thought) and Subconscious thought (or Subliminal thought). The percentage of thinking time you spend in these two phases largely determines the quality of your writing.
Because your mind is your most powerful tool for your writing. Deliberate thought is when you consciously are aware of what you’re thinking (as you’re thinking it) and actively choosing which thoughts to dwell upon. Subconscious thought is the opposite, a “tape loop” that runs its programs upon triggers from external stimuli.
Both are important but one is active thought and one is passive. If you’re not writing how you want to write, if your confidence in yourself as a writer is low, then you need to tap into Deliberate thought (active) to control—and create—new thoughts that serve you well.
Law of Rituals refers to when you write (and don’t write). It means the things you do consistently that work to help you improve. What time of day do you write best? This factor is important for two reasons:
First, if you get in some kind of habit around the same time each day, it is easier for your mind to develop good automatic writing habits. Second, the time you write should be in accordance with your circadian rhythm, which I also describe in detail in my 10 Writing Rituals article.
Law of Perseverance refers to how long you write. This one is simple: how much time do you spend writing each day? 30 minutes? 2 hours? As an artist, it can be easy to convince yourself that duration isn’t very important, that inspiration is the key to your success. But perseverance is critical to your growth, performance, and success.
But it’s not just about the length of time you sit at a computer. I’m sure you’ve heard that one before and are rolling your eyes in frustration. Yeah, yeah, write every day, you groan…Been there, done that. Life, however has other plans.
True, true. If sitting down at your computer for an uninterrupted hour every day was that easy, everybody would be doing it. I also experience this, as some days I’m not “on” and writing anything feels more like a dry heave after a night of heavy drinking than divine inspiration.
What really makes the difference between you and all the other writers out there is your perseverance. As the saying goes, “A good writer is one that didn’t quit”. That means you KEEP GOING despite the rejection emails, the lapse in creative juices, the months or years rolling by without steady work…
The formula is so simple it’s hard: You persevere until you’re where you want to be.
Many times I’ve felt like I just wanted to trash my laptop and live under a bridge like a hobo (or worse thoughts than that) but the reality is, your moment—if you persevere—can be any second, any minute any day. You’ll open your email inbox and that Fortune 500 Company’s email is sitting there with a huge contract. You’ll get that message on your answering machine while you were at the grocery store from your literary agent saying a publisher wants your book.
One email, one phone call, one person you bump into at an event—can be that moment that changes your life forever.
That’s why you keep going. Sure, you can argue that not everyone’s going to make it. Or that working hard and long doesn’t guarantee success.
But one thing’s for sure—you’ll never have a chance to make the winning shot if you drop out of the game.
How can you use these 3 Laws to improve your writing?
When it comes to your thoughts, the truth is that there isn’t much you can do about random pop-ups in your head. You can use your conscious mind to manage the intensity and duration of those thoughts, however. You do this by being aware of what you’re thinking and deciding if that thought is productive or destructive for you.
It’s extremely hard to do at first, but after awhile it becomes second nature. We have an estimated 30,000 thoughts a day, so it’s impossible to track every one. But we can “quarantine” toxic thought patterns that are embedded in the subconscious mind.
Examples of toxic thoughts are:
These toxic thoughts were most likely embedded deep in your subconscious during childhood.
My article on the subconscious mind explains how our “knee-jerk” thought patterns come from the subconscious mind. But here I want to emphasize that you can recognize those patterns and do something positive about it. Because your thoughts have a strong correlation with your future reality. In part, this is because your thoughts precede your actions and if you think being a successful writer is “too hard” then it’s almost impossible to do the things necessary to achieve what you desire when facing challenges. When the challenge presents itself, you think it’s too hard and shut down.
This is actually good news because it simplifies things for you. Because you only need to focus on two factors: timing (when you have those thoughts) and duration (how long you dwell on them).
If we make another assumption, then we can simplify the situation even further. That assumption is this: You think approximately the same thoughts each day regarding your writing. And those thoughts are what’s driving you to succeed (or holding you back). They also are what’s feeding (or starving) your confidence.
If you have the same thoughts (and subsequent feelings) at about the same time each day, then your perseverance is basically determined by the quality of thoughts you’re thinking at certain moments. Generally speaking, if you catch yourself thinking self-defeating thoughts that erode your confidence early on before you start spiraling downward into depression and insecurity, then you’ll end up writing better.
Signs of a Confident Writer
When I first started out, one thing I noticed in the writing world was the strong undercurrent of low self-esteem and self-confidence. This culture of pauperish second-class citizenship has got to go in my opinion. If there are writers out there who are willing to slave away in sweat shops—I mean content mills—then all of us in the marketplace are screwed.
Think of it this way: one person buys a house for 500 grand, another pays a dollar. It’s the same house. Why? Because monetary value is not intrinsic. It is based on what someone is willing to buy and sell for something.
Here are 3 Signs of a Confident Writer:
1. Confident writers don’t think making money is a sin. They expect to be paid what they’re worth. They don’t dwell on thoughts about being a fraud and not being good enough. Most- if not all- of us have those thoughts but we choose not to hone in on them for too long. We understand that the people and/or companies we write for are not doing us a favor. We are providing them with a valuable service-using our ideas and intellectual property. We are marketers for businesses who help create and execute Brands and convert people into customers. So confident writers have a high sense of self-worth. This is critical to anyone trying to “make it” in the writing business (or any business, for that matter).
2 Confident Writers focus on things that reinforce their confidence (and their skillset). I learned quickly to avoid writers who talk that same old “Pauper” talk. Especially online, where I connect with writers through social mediums. That loser writer’s mentality is infection. Instead, seek out confident writers that currently have (and talk about) the success you envision for yourself. These types are not afraid to talk about money and how to make more of it. Confident writers saturate their minds with success. Focus on listening to music, watching television, reading books that will reinforce your confidence level and improve your craft. There are plenty of free material out there that you can use to reinforce how to be a better writer.
3. Confident Writers take risks. There’s a saying that goes: “Jump and grow wings on the way down”. Too many writers hover around the “I’m gonna be” stage. They take course after course, seminar after seminar, book after book thinking, “eh, not ready yet”.
Writing is an industry that is unique in the sense that there is no college or trade school certificate of completion to demonstrate you’re worthy of being called a professional. In this business, you have to learn and train as you go. I call it paying dues. Since we writers are sensitive to criticism and hate making mistakes, we often get stuck in writing purgatory, waiting for that magical sparkly moment when the clouds part and the ray of sunbeam hits our face and a voice booms, “Now you’re ready.” But confidence doesn’t work that way. Writing confidence is built over time with experience.
So build your skills—and your confidence—write now.
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The Writer's Craigslist Guide: How to Avoid Time-Wasters
If you’re a freelance writer of any kind, chances are you’ve come face to face with Craigslist.org. I know many of us freelance writers have. Over the past few years, Craig and writers typically have had quite a relationship. An affair with Craig can definitely be a rollercoaster ride.
Craig seems to have an affinity for some of the shadiest characters and lowlifes around. That’s why perusing the job posts oftentimes feels like dancing with the dark underbelly of society. But one must admit, Craigslist (also known as CL for short) has also really come through a few times, and continues to surprise us with golden writing opportunities when we least expect it. At times when I want to throw my hands up and walk away, I think of those glorious times. Craig and I, although he’ll never be my main squeeze, we will always be good friends.
With that said, certainly you fellow writers reading this can relate. Especially those writers who are serious about their craft—and about making a real living at it. It’s an open secret of how tough it is to find quality, high-paying (or just paying) writing opportunities on CL. I, too, struggled with this conundrum.
Now, with that said....
3 Reasons Craigslist irritates freelance writers:
Reason #1: Delusions of grandeur. I’ve seen it all. People offering exposure in exchange for your veteran skill-set. People demanding a laundry list of requirements more thorough than applying to work in the Secret Service…all for $8 an hour. People offering unpaid slave labor—uh, I mean “internships”—while demanding top-shelf professional experience.
Wait a minute—I have 5+ years experience at marketing agencies, stellar conversion rates, and everything imbetween…and the best I can do is do an internship…for free ? Seriously, Craig? Yes, seriously.
Reason #2: Cheapos. Too many writing gigs were literary slave labor. I’ve had situations where these content mills want me to literally pump out 5 articles a day. When you start talking about quotas like that, it gets a bit too reminiscent of a NIKE sweat shop somewhere in Indonesia.
Reason #3: Lies. Craisglist, being free of charge, opens up the door for the scam artists to offer opportunities that either don’t exist or are there to take advantage of someone. Certain ones annoyingly post the same scam over and over again in different varieties, and you find yourself opening these posts again and again with the same fruitless result. One person kept putting out an ad for a writing assistant and once you responded, they sent you a shady email about them being this big business owner who was out of town and in need of my address for them to mail checks to....my thoughts exactly.
For a while now, I’ve been compiling some lessons learned from my own personal dealings with CL and I am so thrilled to finally be able to share them with anyone who can benefit.
The 5 Red Flags on Craigslist to watch out for:
1. When they say, “I could do it myself, but I don’t have time.”
Hmmm. I’ve answered a few of those when I was starting out and desperate and it didn’t end well. (It never does when they don’t respect what you do.)
2. When the person says “it’s easy.”
That means what you do isn’t that big of a deal and isn’t worth being paid for. Hit the back button immediately.
3. When they say how long it should take you to write it. “This is just a tagline, only two sentences…it should take about two hours.”
Alrightee, then. The point of being freelance is naming your process
4. When the Compensation box says, “TBD”
Uh, run! When was the last time you saw To Be Discussed and it turned out good for YOU?
And last but not least…
5. When the person says, “a % of royalties”.
Nooo thanks.... This especially happens with ghostwriting gigs for books.
Think of it this way: when the construction worker builds a house from the ground up, do they get paid for their work or do they wait to get a % of the house when (of if) it sells? ...Exactly.
As a freelance writer, hey—you live, you learn. One thing we all will hopefully learn is how to avoid people and jobs that aren’t worth our time.
Just like one of my favorite quotes says: “When you know better, you do better.” ~Maya Angelou
About the author: Helen C. Holt has been in the freelance writing biz since 2009. Her specialty blends creative and business ghostwriting and copywriting. Tweet her @writesideup.
At this point in my life, I've learned something: Everything is connected in some way.
As a freelance writer, I typically set my own hours which leads to the reality that what I do is interconnected with other parts of my existence: discipline, mind-set...and physical stamina (or the lack of it).
Fatigue is one of our biggest constant problems. And it's connected to our ability to live the best quality of life we are worthy of experiencing.
You're probably fatigued right now, so enough intro. Let's get down to the 6 things that really could be sapping your energy and draining you:
One: Your prescription drugs. If you take any pharmaceutical drugs, take a look at the label's long list of side effects. Usually, fatigue is a common side effect. Plus, drugs are toxins, so they overload your liver, brain and other important energy-making body functions-which means your body is functioning at a low capacity-which also means you're tired and sluggish with symptoms like brain fog (especially if your particular drug crosses the blood-brain barrier). Remember, if you are fatigued, you can't really think correctly. Thinking may be unseen, but it requires energy just like running a mile does.
Two: Your thought life. Remember, the mental controls the physical. Our minds are a very infinite and powerful thing. What are we thinking about most of the time? Negative, depressed, helpless thoughts contribute to a similar physical state. So does laughter, joy, peace and hope.
Three: Lack of enzymes. Most people today have little to no enzymes left. Over time, they say we lose our enzyme count and potency so it’s important to ingest enzymes to aid in digestion. Enzymatic reactions are catalysts in the body, producing energy for its cells. Without enzymes, we cannot digest food properly and assimilate important nutrients. And most of all, we won’t be able to generate the necessary energy production (i.e. ATP) to propel us forward.
Four: An impacted colon. Today, the average adult’s bowel movement occurs around once a week. If we eat every day, then it makes sense that we move our bowels every day. The colon is a key component of overall health, vitality, and energy. If your colon is blocked (i.e. chronic constipation) it will interfere with the colon’s ability to digest and absorb nutrients. In fact, if fecal matter is stuck there long enough, it can diffuse through the colon wall and enter into the bloodstream, leaking toxicity into the blood and the rest of the body.
Five: Food and drink choices. What you put into your body has a huge impact on your energy levels. When we eat foods without enzymes (i.e. cooked foods like meat and pasta) it places a lot of stress on our bodies, causing us to utilize a huge amount of energy for the digestive process. This is why we feel sleepy and/or fatigued after eating a huge meal.
Six: You guessed it-sleep. This is difficult in today’s crazy-paced world, but having a consistent sleep schedule helps the body repair itself, digest the day’s food and rejuvenate old cells into new cells. Melatonin production is reported to take place between the hours of 12 midnight and 6 A.M. I’ve found that I have more energy when I’m asleep during these hours. Another thing that happens is that you shut down the conscious mind and allow yourself time to dream and meditate. It’s easy to get depleted when your mind is constantly running all day AND all night, too.
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Business-to-business (B2B) advertising can be tricky. When a publisher hires a freelance writer to pen articles, blogs, web copy (and the like) for their B2B advertising materials, there is one issue that comes up that most people don't think about...
As an entrepreneur, business owner, or publisher, you may want to do some research on your freelancer. Sure, your freelancer isn't costing you pension plan or employee insurance coverage, but if they are also freelancing for a competitor in your industry, the cost could be more than any pension or health plan you can think of.
One B2B editor told me that she recently had to fire her go-to freelance writer from the trade journal she was working for because she began noticing that the writer kept sneaking in promotional content of specific companies without the magazine's approval. It turned out the writer was moonlighting with one or two other companies and was "undercover" at the trade publisher, doing low-key promoting of these companies' products and services. As the B2B editor put it, this person had a huge "conflict of interest".
Moral of the story: Keep your eyes open for any clues and signs of OO7 freelancers.
You may want to have them sign a contract agreement up front with a stipulation to protect yourself. And when hiring someone, keep in mind that as freelancers, one is not an employee, so technically they can work for whomever they want. But just let them know at the door what the parameters that are acceptable for you and your company will be. I mean, can you Imagine the same copywriters creating B2B copy for both Coke and Pepsi?
A writer is an integral part of any business team. They carry the ideas and implement them as your brand. They write the website copy to draw the intended audience--and keep them coming back. (Per-click anyone?)
Writers also help you take your business to the next level. Once business expands, a writer (or two) can free you up from being stuck to your desk banging out company blogs, responder emails and newsletters so you can focus on more administrative issues.
Here are 3 things that business owners must discern to determine whether a writer is the right fit for their team:
1. Can the writer produce content in your brand's voice? How to tell: From my experience as a copywriter, it works best to be provided with a sample relevant to the owner's business. Asking the writer for a resume or random samples can be a time-waster because even if they have done work in the real estate industry, for example (and it's good), but you're in healthcare it's easier and more efficient to just ask them to write a sample on the topic you will be blogging about or a sample of copy on your "about me" page. What matters is if the writer can write YOUR blog or website or newsletter.
2. Does the writer have a website, blog, or is on social media? How to tell: Ask the writer for links and addresses to their websites, social media pages and/or blogs. I find many people looking for writers fail to actually utilize a writer's online presence as an indication of their writing ability and marketing skills. In this day and age, with online business being what it is, a virtual presence will show you more about this writer and their interests more than an email ever will. Twitter, for instance, can tell you alot about what someone thinks about because you tweet or retweet what resonates with you. It also shows consistency, ability to connect with people. A website shows you a writer takes their business seriously and has first-hand knowledge of web content writing. They should also have a "Samples" page with links to work they've done both published and unpublished.
3. Does the writer respond in an appropriate time frame? How to tell: Ask them for a specific sample and maybe 1 or 2 questions via email. Check the response time of their email replies. You can schedule a phone interview or face-to face with the writer as well. Set up a date and time and see if they cancel, are on time or are early. Speaking to the writer (be it on the phone or in person or video call) is so integral to seeing how they communicate. A one-on-one conversation can allow you to share your vision for your company and take a pulse on whether the writer is interested in your vision and with being on board.
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Helen C. Holt is just a freelance writer who's not where she wants to be but is far from where she used to be. She has fun sharing her lessons, screw-ups and victories on this journey called writing.