Creative and Freelance Writers Beat the Winter and Solitary Blues in 7 Easy Steps

Have you heard of seasonal depression or the winter blues? Freelance writers, if you live in a cold, gray, snow, or rainy part of the U.S. or an area of your country of origin that’s not sunny and warm, you may suffer from seasonal depression. Also, you may get depressed or crabby from time-to-time because you work alone. This is normal and treatable.

Some freelance writers prefer the solitary life while others are very sociable creatures. If you fall into the latter category, you probably like to be surrounded by people and may become irritable if you constantly stay indoors. There’s no need to be blue about writing alone, you just require the knowledge and tools to free yourself from the grips of writer’s depression.

Creative and Freelance Writers Beat the Winter and Solitary Blues in 7 Easy Steps

1. Decorate your home office with colorful artwork or homemade art from your kids.

2. Hire a Feng Shui expert to design your home office.

3. Place fresh flowers in vases or put plants in your office.

4. Get a pet that you can easily manage.

5. Get out! Freelance writers; meet with clients face-to-face once or twice a month. Creative writers may want join a coffee group or visit your local library to see what classes they offer. Also, go to the beach, park, or walk around your neighborhood.

6. Become a volunteer at your favorite charitable organization.

7. Take up a hobby like painting, pottery, drawing, model airplanes, or whatever interests you.

It’s true that writing can be a lonely profession, but you can join writer’s groups or attend weekly or monthly book clubs. Let’s face it; staring at the same four walls every day could slowly drive you insane! Seriously, working by yourself could get to you if you let it.

Creative and freelance writing does not have to be a depressing career. You could listen to music while you write. Also, don’t allow the solitude of writing choke you. Make sure you’re involved in activities other than writing such as working art, painting, yoga, dance, etc. It’s good to branch out of your comfort zone and try something new.

You can overcome the winter and solitary blues. So … Before you do something drastic like quit writing, find something else that you’re passionate about and do it. Creative and freelance writing doesn’t have to be a gloomy profession. You don’t have to be the stereotypical depressed artist. There’s a bright side to your profession, you just have to find and appreciate it!

Amandah

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Freelance Writers Use This Simple 5 Step Laptop Maintenance Plan

Freelance writers, do you work on a Mac or PC? What’s your backup plan? My laptop has been acting up lately. It gets stuck when it goes into sleep mode and sometimes Windows takes a long time to boot. My laptop is four years old, but I was expecting it to last a little longer than that! I’ve been trying to ‘diagnose’ the issue, but I can’t be certain if it’s the CPU, hard drive, motherboard, Windows Vista operating system, or RAM. Who knows? I’m a writer, not a computer technician!

Freelance Writers Use This Simple 5 Step Laptop Maintenance Plan

1. Always backup your files. Choose a day during the week or month and backup up your computer system. You can also purchase an online backup system or purchase an external hard drive and backup your files.

2. Clean your laptop. Keep your laptop clean by cleaning it. I know it’s a ‘no brainer’ but you’d be surprises how many people own laptops but don’t take care of them. Use non-abrasive cleaners on laptop and it will look good as new.

3. Delete old files. Clean your system by deleting old files. When in doubt, transfer files to a USB or external hard drive and then delete them from your computer’s system.

4. Use a good surge protector. It’s important to protect your laptop or MacBook Pro from power outages. Purchase a heavy duty surge protector and make sure your outlets are up to code.

5. Defrag and cleanup your disk. If you’re not a techie or that computer savvy, have someone else do this for you. Locate your ‘My Computer’ on your laptop and open it. Find ‘Properties’ and right click on it. This brings up a menu. Select ‘Disk Cleanup‘ and allow your laptop to work its magic. If you feel comfortable with ‘moving’ around your computer, check out Tools and check for errors, Defrag your system, and Backup your files.

Amandah

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Freelance Writers Learn to Interview like Diane and Katie in 10 Easy Steps

Interview

Image by smiling_da_vinci via Flickr

Freelance writers, how many times have your clients asked you to interview sources for articles, blog posts, or books? By the way, you can find ‘sources’ at HARO or Reporter Connection. Anyway … Interviews can be conducted via phone, SKYPE, face-to-face, or through email. Remember, it’s important to research the background of whomever you’re interviewing in order to create a list of questions that are provocative, yet informative. Review websites, social media sites, and read any material written by your interviewee. Gathering information from these resources will help you create your list of questions.

Freelance Writers Learn to Interview like Diane and Katie in 10 Easy Steps

1. Be natural when you interview someone. If you think of an interview as having a conversation with a friend, you won’t get nervous or make the interviewee nervous.

2. Ask journalistic questions: Freelance writers, you know what questions I’m talking about: Who, what, when, where, why, and how. Prepare questions ahead of time; however, if you allow the interview to unfold, you’ll intuitively know what questions to ask.

3. Be professional. If a phone interview is scheduled for 2 pm EST and you live in another state or country, make sure you’re familiar with time zones. It’s embarrassing to have an interviewee call and ask you if you forgot about the interview.

4. Expect the unexpected. Freelance writers, if the interview gets off course, gently guide the interviewee back to the interview.

5. Phone interviews. Freelance writers, some interviewees prefer phone interviews. You may want to use a program called Audacity which is a FREE audio editor and recorder. It works great for phone interviews.

Tip: Avoid interrupting the interviewee when they’re speaking. Wait for pauses and then interject and ask questions. The interview will flow better if you do this.

6. Email interviews. Some interviewees prefer email interviews and want the questions sent within the email. Others require freelance writers to submit questions in either Notepad, Word (.docx, .doc, .rtf), or some other program. Always ask.

7. Face-to-face interviews. This provides you the opportunity to see your client and their facial expressions. Bring a recorder, notebook, and pen. You may want to bring an extra recorder and batteries to ensure the interview is recorded — sometimes technology malfunctions. Make notes as you conduct the interview because they could prompt you to ask additional questions and write down key points.

8. Listen. Learn when to interject with questions by listening to definitive pauses.

9. Forget about a set time limit. Avoid using a time limit unless your interviewee is under  a time constraint. Interviews are anywhere from 15 minutes to one hour. But if the interview is flowing ask the interviewee if they’d like to keep going.

10. Transcripts. Freelance writers, how fast do you type? Some interviewees will ask for a transcript of the interview. You can transcribe the interview yourself, use a transcription service, or hire a local transcriber. It’s up to you.

Tip: Freelance writers, remember that an interview may be posted on the interviewee’s website. Ask interesting questions that will engage the interviewee and readers. Boring questions are the fastest way to dash your hopes of a poignant interview. Ask open-ended questions that you can build upon if necessary. Stay away from questions that require a “yes or no” response because they don’t add anything to an interview.

Freelance writers have fun with interviews. Make sure an interviewee is relaxed because it will make the interviewing process easier. Be prepared for the interview with a list of questions, but don’t be afraid to ask questions that you think of as the interview progresses. This will show that you’re paying attention to what your interviewee is saying and guarantee you another interview. Good luck!

Amandah

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How to Improve Your Blog to Increase Web Traffic in 5 Easy Steps

Creative, freelance and ghost writers, the number of blogs on the internet increases every day. What makes yours unique? You may have noticed that some blogs have the same template or theme. There are numerous blogs about freelance writing, blogging, screenwriting, fiction writing, and other niches. How does your blog stand out from the crowd? What makes a person want to read your blog? Attracting web traffic doesn’t have to be difficult. If you write and publish useful, unique content and engage with your current followers, you’ll gain more followers.

Writers, I know you’re no stranger to blogs. Freelance writers write blog posts for clients and authors usually have a blog on their website or at least a link to their blogs. The key is to write a headline that will ‘hook’ readers and write a blog posts that will solve their problems or entertain them.

Writing a blog can be tedious if you’re writing on the same topic as everyone else. Be original and break away from the same old, same old. Use a different angle when you write a “how to” post. Provide information that hasn’t been written about yet. Readers appreciate blog posts from different perspectives. Dare to be different!

How to Improve Your Blog to Increase Web Traffic Visitors in 5 Easy Steps

1. Write unique posts in your style, tone, and voice. Forget about copying your writer because that’s too boring.

2. Create attention grabbing headlines and back them up with solid information.

3. Change your color scheme one in awhile. You may get bored with the look of your blog or it could use a makeover. Breathe new life into your blog with a different a color scheme and layout. It could help your increase your page ranking.

4. Breakout of the “how to and tips and tricks” blog posts. There’s more to blogging than “How to do this or How to do that.” Be bold and daring and write posts that make readers stop and think. Don’t be afraid to be controversial. If you disagree with something, present your opinion and back it up.

5. Find your niche. If you’re not passionate about your subject matter it will show in your blog posts. Make sure you’re passionate about what you’re blogging about. Have fun with it!

Blogging can be a solo professional or company’s worst nightmare; this why freelance writers are hired. Freelance writers know how to write error-free blog posts, and they incorporate key words to assist in increasing page rank. 

If your blog needs a makeover, think about how you can revamp it. First, step back and reevaluate why you created your blog in the first place. What’s your goal for the blog? What do want to accomplish? Second, think about the layout and color schemes. Dark color schemes sometimes work, but the most popular color scheme is blue because it’s known as a ‘trustworthy’ color. This is why you’ll see politicians and business men and women wear blue — it conveys a ‘feeling’ of trust. Finally, have your blog critiqued by an expert in web design and SEO. They’ll provide you with suggestions on how to make your blog user friendly. Your web traffic will increase in no time.

Amandah

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Freelance Writers: How Do You Use Facebook?

Freelance writers, there are more than 500 million active Facebook users. Of course, with the 2010 release of The Social Network the number of users has steadily increased. The one drawback to Facebook is that you must choose either a personal or business profile — they are not the same. A personal profile has more options than a business profile which is why most professionals opt for a personal profile page. This may not be a good idea if your family and friends want to “friend” you.

Freelance Writers: How Do You Use Facebook?

What do you do if you have a personal profile page and your family and friends want to friend you? How do you handle it? Do you really need to know everything that’s going on in their lives? Do your potential customers and clients need to know? How about your business and industry associates? What about your co-workers? Using Facebook can be a sticky situation for some professionals. You may not want your family and friends on your Facebook page. If they post offensive material it could scare off potential customers and business partners.

The selling point of Facebook is that professionals and businesses can use it as marketing tool. You can create fan pages which people can “like” and you can advertise on Facebook. Using these tools can help you increase sales and the bottom line. It’s also a great way to network and build a database of potential clients, collaborators, and partners.

If you opt for a personal page, your family, friends, and childhood schoolmates from 20 years ago can find you, and they may want to be your friend. Is this a good idea if you’re trying to build a business? Maybe, maybe not. 

Freelance writers, before you join Facebook, ask yourself why are you joining? Is it to keep in touch with family and friends and to find your long lost high school love or is it to build your business? If it’s the latter, you may opt for a business profile page. If you want all the options that come with the personal profile page, gently tell family and friends you’re on Facebook for business reasons. And whatever you do, use Facebook responsibly!

Amandah

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Freelance Writers Follow These 7 Steps to Write Catchy Headlines

I was supposed to attend Copyblogger’s Headline Clinic on Thursday, December 15, but I had a meeting regarding Event and Party Planning. Anyway … As a freelance writer, it’s important to write appealing headlines for your clients as well as personal projects such as blogs, newsletters, articles, teleseminars, webinars and so forth. Below you’ll find 7 steps to writing catchy headlines.

Freelance Writers Follow These 7Steps to Write Catchy Headlines

1. Know your target audience and write for them.

2. Write headlines that contain 40-80 characters.

3. Identify the problem and offer a solution in the form of a question. Example: How to Write a Newsletter in 5 Easy Steps.

4. Pay attention to headlines in the newspaper and online. See how they create a call to action or make you want to stop and read the post.

5. Use the headline formulas of Question + Problem = Solution or Question + Problem + Solution = Specific Answer.

6. Make a statement without making a statement. Translation: statement headlines can appear weak — use them in moderation.

7. Read gossip magazines (I know) to see how they write jaw dropping headlines.

Amandah

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Steal Like Oscar Wilde: Improve Your Writing and Online Presence

Are the best writers’ thieves? According to history, the answer is yes. Oscar Wilde stole from everyone. It’s speculated (some believe) that William Shakespeare didn’t write his plays, but rather Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe or Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford did. Some historians believe that Thomas Jefferson plagiarized the Declaration of Independence by stealing from John Locke. That’s John Locke, aka The Father of Liberalism, not John Locke from Lost. Good show, by the way. Anyway … I digress.

It’s illegal to violate copyright laws or claim a work of fiction or non-fiction as your own. But it’s not illegal to observe and learn from other writers and adapt whatever it is they do for your own work. After all, you’ll want to put your own ‘spin’ on anything you publish. Otherwise, it will be bogus and inauthentic.

Fiction

1. Vampires, werewolves, hybrids, witches, warlocks, outcast/loner, headhunters, magical lands, fairies, far-away lands, etc. can be found in many books. Change the names, time, setting, and tweak the plot, and you basically have the same book.

2. Mysteries are no different. Whether it’s a retired cop or rookie detective, a mystery’s a mystery. The case will be solved and it will be closed … or will it? Trilogies happen.

3. Horror is no different. Slashing, thrashing and bashing can occur throughout the pages of a book or graphic novel. Whether it’s a guy with a chainsaw or some out-of-this-world creature, the horror of it all will continue.

Tip: The best horror books don’t contain a lot of blood and guts. They build suspense and ‘suck’ you into the story. They keep you on your toes and make you want to turn the page to find out how it ends.

4. Historical novels contain the same basis of the story … history. You can’t go back and change the War of 1812 to the War of 1814. However, you can change the character names, plot, scenes, dialogue, etc.

Non-fiction

1. Have you ever been down the self-help aisle of a bookstore? Pick up a couple of books and compare them. They probably contain the same information but are packaged and written differently because people are different. An author who resonates with your friends may not resonate with you.

2. Do you know how many baby name books can be purchased online or in a bookstore? A lot. Pick up any book and you’ll find the meaning for the most popular baby names. Again, the packaging and verbiage are different but the origin of Emma is still Old French and Old German.The meaning is still entire or universal.

Let’s face it; you may think your idea is original, but the reality is another writer probably already wrote a book or screenplay using ‘your’ idea or is in the process of writing something along the same line as you. It’s the same situation with blogs and articles. It’s not a big deal because readers know what they like and will choose to ‘follow’ authors and writers who appeal to them. The key is to observe and learn from the ‘best writers’ and take what they’re doing and apply it to your own writing career. History has shown us that this happens time and time again.

Amandah

 

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What Writing Advice Would You Give to Your Younger Self?

Since 2012 is fast approaching, I’ve been thinking about my career as a writer thus far. I’ve been writing professionally for three years; however, I’ve been interested in writing since elementary school. In fact, my mom found my kindergarten picture, and lo and behold, the backdrop is a large bookcase filled with books. My hands are resting on an open book. On top of the open book is a quill and ink bottle. If that wasn’t the universe giving me a ‘hint’ as to what my career could be I don’t know what is.

Here’s the writing advice I would have given to my younger self:

1. Write because you love to, not because it’s a good career choice.

2. Write what you know but also write what you don’t. Venture into unfamiliar writing waters now and again.

3. Take the pressure off of having all of the ‘mechanics’ worked out. Just write!

4. Write every day, even if it’s for one hour.

5. Outlines are your friend — use them wisely.

6. Keep an ‘idea’ book in case you need inspiration or want to try something new.

7. Take part in writing prompts because they’re fun, a good way to enhance your writing skills and meet other writers.

8. Don’t be afraid of criticism. Professional criticism can make all of the difference in your writing career. The operative word is professional.

9. Ignore family and friends who say, “Writing won’t pay the bills. How will you support yourself?” They won’t understand your dream and that’s alright — they don’t have to.

10. Go for it! Take a risk; otherwise, you’ll always wonder ‘what if’ and that’s a terrible way to live.

Amandah

What writing advice would you have given to your younger self?

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Freelance Writers and SEO: Are You Writing Content for Humans or Spiders?

Recently, I signed up for HubSpot‘s webinar “The Science of SEO.”  As freelance writers, we’re often requested to create clever titles to entice people to ‘click-on’ a blog post or article. However, if content isn’t what users are looking for, they’ll move onto the next website. Clients need to understand that titles do matter; however, content trumps titles.

Here are some key points from The Science of SEO

1. Most use Google to search online.

2. Most trust a ‘description’ rather than a title. People look for the description to determine if search results are relevant to what it is they’re looking for.

3. Those over 30 trust a higher page rank as indicating a trustworthy website. Those under 30 didn’t believe a higher page rank indicated a website was trustworthy. This is why it’s important to know the target market.

4. Most trust organic searches rather than PPC ads; however, most will not admit to clicking on a PPC advertisement.

5. Clients’ websites are listed next to ‘spam’ and must be distinguishable from ‘spammy’ websites.

Take away: if you’re a freelance writer with a web design background, make sure clients know and understand the importance of ‘standing out’ from ‘spammy’ websites. Colors, fonts, images, etc. do matter. Spiders work 24/7; they never take a break.

6. Use media such as images and videos to make ‘content’ stand out and enhance articles and blog posts.

Freelance writers: make sure you have the ‘right’ to use images and photos. Better yet, have your clients provide them.

7. Comments on blog posts won’t necessarily help ranking. Posting more frequently could increase ranking.

FYI: It’s up to freelance writers to make sure clients understand the necessity of having updated material on their websites.

8. Watch the words you link to. You know that saying, “Out with the old and in with the new,” well it applies to the words you link to. Linking to words such as recent, insights, soon, answers, and others could increase clients’ page rank.

Take away: searchers online are looking for timeliness versus buzz words. Freelance writers; provide links in blog posts and articles that are relevant to your clients’ customers.

9. How many characters are you working with? It’s best to keep titles between 40 and 80 characters. You can easily find out how many characters are in a title by using Word or some other program. Of course, you could always use Twitter. They only allow 140 characters.

10. Analysis goes a long way. If your freelance writing clients aren’t using some type of analytical program such as Google Analytics, suggest they start analyzing pertinent data today and tomorrow, the web traffic will flow.

Amandah

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Creative, Freelance and Ghost Writer Reflects on 2011 — Part II

Ah yes, 2011 will be coming to an end in a few weeks. Personally, I can’t wait to get out of this year. Most of the people I spoke with this past year have said that 2011 was not a great yea r. Even online, folks have said that 2011 was one hell of a year. For me, it was about self-reflecting on what I want out of life which includes what I want for my creative, freelance and ghost writing career. Here’s Part II of my reflections of 2011.

Amandah’s Reflections of 2011

1. Released the pressure off of me to earn a huge salary from my writing. I’m a single gal and solely responsible for earning a living and supporting me and my writing. Alas, I don’t have a trust fund worth $100 million. Bummer! As I wrote in my blog post What Advice Do You Wish You Received before Becoming a Freelance Writer?, I wish I could have spoken with a ‘seasoned’ freelance writer to learn the ‘tricks of the trade’ before I began. Then again, I wouldn’t have my experiences to pass onto to aspiring freelance writers.

In 2012, I’ll continue to seek full-time employment in creative fields, coaching/consulting, education, and real estate. I love real estate and don’t care what anyone says … it’s still a lucrative field.

2. I love story telling! I believe I’m a natural storyteller; I’ve been told I’m a natural storyteller. I love telling stories and creating different worlds and scenes. I love developing characters and often find myself drawn into their world. Sometimes this is good and sometimes it’s not so good. Getting wrapped up in the details can take me away from the big picture of a story.

I’m drawn to screenwriting because it’s straightforward and to the point. Basically, “He said; She said; He said; She said.” I also enjoy seeing a story brought to life through CGI, costumes, outstanding performances by actors and actresses, the music score, etc. When you see a movie on the big or little screen, it’s amazing to think it was created from a 90-120 page screenplay.

I do like writing YA, fiction and short stories but sometimes I get wrapped up in the details. As said above, I lose sight of the big picture. I’ll work on this in 2012. Perhaps, I’ll take more writing classes and workshops. I’d love to attend a writer’s conference.

3. Encouraging my nephew to write. I’ve encouraged my nephew to pursue writing. He was supposed to start a blog but is still thinking about his topic. Also, he’s disappointed that he hasn’t heard from a credit union about an article he submitted on how teens can earn and save money. I told him to contact the credit union; I don’t think he did. Hey! I can only do so much. I know he’s disappointed because his article was well written. I’m hoping this experience doesn’t discourage him from writing.

4. I need to sell my ideas. Do you know how many ideas I have written down? I have too many to focus on at once. I really need to ‘sell’ my ideas. I’ll check into that in 2012.

5. I need to enjoy writing more and remember ‘why’ I love to write. This coincides with Point #6 — releasing the pressure to earn a huge income from my writing. I need to relax and get back to the joy of writing. I lost this for a while, but I believe it’s coming back to me. It’s one of the reasons why I started Daily Family Antics. This blog is funny, blatantly honest, not depressing, and a lot of fun to write. No pressure!

Amandah

How was your 2011? What will 2012 be like for you? Share

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