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Tag Archives: Writing

My most recent article, “Deciphering Data Storage,” recently went live on Your Church‘s website. And let me warn you in advance: it’s technical and it’s boring.

Basically, this article was the most difficult thing I’ve ever written. Mostly because I knew nothing about data storage; I didn’t even know what direct-attached storage, network-attached storage, and storage area networks were, let alone the differences and advantages of these options.

Well, I know a little bit more now. And hopefully the article will be helpful for churches—even if they are as clueless as I was.

I’ve also updated my “Writing Credits.” I added that article, but I also restructured it so it won’t look quite as much like a jumble of links.

If you’re incredibly bored by data storage (I don’t blame you), I’ve finished a couple other articles that should be live soon. And they’re both a little more interesting. I’ll let you know when they’re available.

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procrastinatingwriter-main_FullThe first thing I would tell an aspiring freelancer is this:

Aspire to be something else.

Maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t mind writing…and I could use a little extra income…so why not?”

No no no.

If you are only mildly interested, then find another source of secondary income. Like a paper route. Or a lemonade stand.

Because freelancing is a lot of work. And the work/reward ratio really isn’t anything to get excited about.

But if you’re still with me, still interested in freelancing, here are the five biggest lessons I’ve learned about freelancing.

1) Look For Opportunities Everywhere—even if they don’t pay
When I first started freelancing two and a half years ago, I looked everywhere for work. For example, I found one assignment on Craigslist (but beware, there’s a lot of scams on there). I also agreed to write articles that paid me nothing. Sometimes the exposure is worth it. Other times—especially for those with limited writing experience—it’s just good to bolster your writing credits.

Even though I almost have more freelance work than I can keep up with right now (a good problem to have), I’m still doing some work for free. (We’ll call it “pro bono’ to make me sound altruistic. Even though I’m not.) Recently Matthew Paul Turner used his blog (JesusNeedsNewPR) to host a Sex Week, and he tweeted that he was looking for contributors who were willing to write honestly about sex. Long story short, I contributed a post, “The Truth about Santa Claus and Sex.” Even though I didn’t get paid, I was happy to do it because it was an opportunity to write creatively and honestly (my favorite kind of writing) and it was a topic about which I’m passionate.

I also submitted a book review to The Burnside Writer’s Collective last night. I’m not getting paid for that, either, but again, it’s worth it to me. I enjoyed the book and wanted to review it; I also appreciate Burnside and enjoy being part of that community of writers/artists.

And sometimes the exposure can be as valuable as the paycheck.

2) Editors Are Your Best Friends—The More the Merrier

The day I got laid off (aka: The Day I Became a Full-Time Freelancer), I emailed every editor I knew to offer my freelancing services. Thankfully, I knew a lot of editors. In some cases, I was given work. In other cases, those editors referred me to other editors looking for freelancers. In the three months since being laid off, I’ve done work for many of those editors.

Of course, I was lucky because I had already worked with some of them (as a fellow editor and also as a freelancer). But even before I became an editor, I was working to cultivate relationships with editors. Don’t hesitate to offer your services. In at least one instance, back when I had very little experience, I told an editor I would work for free because I wanted more experience. He didn’t have any jobs to assign at the moment, but it got his attention. Very few people offer to do work for free. And making that offer shows that you’re serious about it.

If you get an opportunity, no matter how trivial or mundane it might seem, take it seriously and do a good job. If you do that, you’ll get your foot in that proverbial door and you’ll be a step closer to finding a friend in that editor.

3) Accept ANY Project
Editors often need freelancers to do things that aren’t related to writing. Offer to help with anything. I don’t care how unglamorous it might be: keywords, indexes, compiling a list of sources or related links (I’ve done all these things). It’s important to take these opportunities seriously. If you want to be trusted with the projects you would like to do, then you need to prove your mettle with the tedious and mundane.

And again, accepting assignments reinforces your willingness and interest. And if you do a good job, future projects will follow.

4) You’re NEVER Too Busy to Accept Another Assignment
When I was an editor, I was busy. Like all editors. So when I needed to find a freelancer for an assignment, I wanted it to be quick and easy. So who did I contact first? Obviously, I’d contact the freelancers I’d worked with in the past—starting with the ones who were the most dependable, and most likely to be available. If my most reliable freelancers stopped being reliable, they would have been bumped down my list.

So when an editor contacts me to see if I’m interested in a project, or to see if I have time to take something on, I always say yes. I don’t care how many buns I have in the oven (unless that aphorism refers to babies in the womb, and I think it might—because I would care very much about that), I will accept that assignment. Any assignment.

Because I know, if I start passing on assignments, I’ll get bumped down that editor’s list, and some other dependable and available freelancer will start getting the first shot at new assignments.

I don’t care how busy you are—and, truth be told, the editor doesn’t either: they just need to find someone willing to do their project. So when given an opportunity, take it. Always.

5) Quality is Key—but so is punctuality
Obviously, if you don’t have the skills or the commitment necessary to do a good job, you won’t get assignments. Quality is infinitely important. But assuming that you’ve got the talent, then the next most important thing is punctuality. When editors give you a due date, they want to know they can expect to receive a polished final product on (or before) that date.

This can be difficult, especially if you take point #4 seriously and sometimes take on too much work, but it’s essential. Once you start turning in projects late, that editor is going to think twice before giving you the next project.

To be honest, though, I should probably admit that punctuality is my biggest struggle. So I should probably take my own advice. Especially since I’m writing this blog right now when I have an article to finish (due yesterday) and another unfinished project (due today).

So I’m going to get back to work now…and if you’re still interested in freelancing, good luck.

8:00 – Stumble out of bed; brush teeth (optional); kiss wife goodbye
8:01 – Take narcolepsy meds; shower (optional)
8:10 – Make coffee
8:15 – Read Bible; watch Sportscenter…sometimes at the same time (on mute, though…so it’s all good)
8:53 – Review various “To-Do” lists; cross off items, add items, scoff at items that have spent months on lists and have no hope of ever being crossed off
8:55 – Open Word document or revisit one of the documents still open from the previous night
8:57 – Check Gmail…Twitter…Facebook…Twitter…Facebook…Gmail…Facebook
10:17 – Return to Word doc; re-read stuff written yesterday
10:20 – Realize the writing is crap; wonder about the illiterate monkey that must have commandeered keyboard during the night
10:25 – Search the apartment for said illiterate monkey
10:30 – Unable to locate monkey; find another mug of coffee and return to computer
10:40 – Send emails—most of which are somewhat work-related; think “I should write a blog today…”
11:00 – Read “tweets” and Facebook updates
12:00 – Do real work
1:00 – Scour the fridge for leftovers…
1:30 – Check Gmail; long for the days when the Inbox was overflowing with important emails
2:00 – Go for a run
2:30 – Return from run; shower (still optional)
2:40 – Hope for new and exciting emails; check Gmail; hang head in dismay
2:42 – “Tweet”
2:45 – Wonder whether “tweet” needs quotes around it
2:50 – Resort to actual work
4:00 – Take a break; play an online game or two (or eleven)
5:00 – Wife comes home; quickly close tab with online game (or mute game); open Word doc to give the illusion of a day filled with laborious and stressful writing/editing
5:15-11:00 – Talk to wife; watch TV; eat—all while working on Word docs and sending work-related emails and basically doing all the things that should have been done earlier in the day
11:00 – Check Twitter, Facebook, and Gmail
11:55 – Revise “To-Do” list for the next day
12:00 – Read in bed
1:00-ish – Fall asleep vowing that tomorrow will be a more productive day…