Posts tagged: schedule

Jul 24 2012

Hot Topics: Writing and your life

It’s not always easy to know how writing is supposed to fit into our lives. Is it a hobby? Is it work? Is it some combination of the two? How we classify writing says something about its importance – and, therefore, its place in our lives.

When I was working full-time outside the home, I had visions of what my life would be like if I ever got the chance to stay home all day, every day. I thought I would write constantly, and fit in pesky things like housekeeping around my writing schedule. The reality has been much different. Starting Artful Words and taking on clients and projects has made it just as much of a challenge to get my writing done as it ever was when I was working a “regular” job. I spend my mornings on exercise and housework, and my afternoons are for work. I would like to get up at 7.00 a.m. and write then, and I do manage that once in a while, but for the most part I am still searching for spare moments that I can spend on my writing.

Part of the problem, I know, is the Internet. I love it, but it’s a time-suck. I sit down at the computer, intending to work on a story, and instead I find myself reading e-mails, Facebook, and message boards. My writing time is gone very quickly, and I don’t get anything done.

Another problem is that whole idea of getting up early to write. I know 7.00 a.m. isn’t actually all that early, but I have never been good at getting out of bed when the alarm goes off.

I’ve solved some of the problem by putting some lined paper in a binder and printing off pieces I have on the computer. Now my first drafts can be done longhand, and I can even do some editing by hand. This low-tech approach is working quite well, until it’s time to type up whatever I’ve done by hand. Then I have trouble again.

But writing isn’t a hobby for me. I enjoy it, but I want it to be more than that. I do want it to be work. It is work, after all, to find the words that express whatever it is you’re trying to say in just the right way.

And so I keep trying to find a way to keep writing, to get those stories written, to get the words on the page as best I can, and every once in a while, I succeed tremendously.

How does writing fit into your life?

Jun 27 2012

Hot Topics: Treating your work like work.

If you are really going to make a go of this writing (or editing) thing, you need to treat it like work, because that’s exactly what it is. It’s work to get the words on the page in the right order. It’s work to edit your words to make them say what you mean. It’s work to edit someone else’s words to make them say what they mean without obscuring the author’s voice!

What takes you from being a hobbyist to being a professional? Here are a few things that I think are important in making the switch:

  1. You have (and stick to) a work schedule. It doesn’t have to be 9-5, nor even eight hours a day, but you should block out your days and decide when you’re going to work. You should also objectively evaluate the projects you have on the go, and do your best to ensure that you’re meeting your deadlines (whether self-imposed or given by clients). Paying work should generally take precedence over personal projects, unless you’re finding that you have no time at all for your personal work: then you need to assess your work situation and decide whether you need to increase your work hours or decrease the number of paid projects you take on at once.

    I work afternoons during the week and prefer to work on personal projects over the weekend, especially if I’ve had so much paid work during the week that I haven’t been able to do much personal work.

  2. You have (and follow) a policy regarding invoicing and payment by clients. Your policy needs to take into account how often you invoice (e.g., at the end of each project, on a monthly basis), when payment is due (e.g., upon receipt of the invoice, within 30 days of receipt of the invoice), and when you will send a reminder about an overdue payment (e.g., 30 days after sending the invoice, two weeks after you expected payment to arrive).

    My policy is to send invoices on a monthly basis. The invoices list all projects completed for that client during that month. My invoices are numbered (very important so that you and your clients can be sure you are talking about the same document), and they state that payment is due upon receipt. I do, however, keep myself informed of the policies of my clients, so that if a client’s policy is to pay all invoices within 30 days, I wait until that 30 days are up before sending a reminder about an unpaid invoice.

  3. Your communication is professional when dealing with work topics. If you are writing to another writer or editor, you need to ensure that you are using correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation. This goes double for when you write to a client. You should try to avoid being too casual with your business contacts when you are discussing business, even if they are your friends. You don’t have to address clients by their last names if you have known them for a long time, but you should try to maintain professional language in the body of your message.

    My primary client is a company for which I was an employee for about six months. As a result, I know many of the people with whom I communicate on a more personal level than I might had they hired me through my web site. When I e-mail anyone in the organization, I begin with “Hi FIRSTNAME.” Depending on the person and the reason for the e-mail, my language may be more or less formal, but I do my best to maintain a sense of professionalism.

A quick note regarding doing work for free: I consider volunteer (unpaid) work to be on a par with paid work in terms of importance. I know that many professional freelancers will say that doing volunteer work is a terrible way to run a business, but I consider it an opportunity to gain practice with various skills that my paying clients may not require on a regular basis. It also allows you to collect more items for your portfolio. It does not lower the value of your work in any way, and it does not hurt your reputation. My main caution regarding volunteer work is that it is very important to volunteer for things you enjoy doing. For example, my primary volunteer work right now is doing the leaflet for Sunday services at the church I attend. I offered to do the leaflets each week on a volunteer basis for a few reasons: first, I saw a need that I could meet; second, my parish cannot afford to hire any kind of office staff; and third, leaflet design is a skill I learned when I was a church secretary, and it is something that I care about very much.

If you’re going to work at writing, work at writing. Devote time and attention to this activity, and work to become better and better at it. Don’t be afraid to take on volunteer projects, but also don’t be afraid to ask people to pay you if they owe you money. And be professional in your communication as a writer or editor. You can’t expect people to hire you or to keep working with you if your communication doesn’t demonstrate the skills you are trying to put to use.

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