Wednesday, December 2, 2015

How I use Gmail as a Freelancer

I am what many people would call the ideal writer. By that, I mean a reclusive cave dweller who may or may not decide to put on pants. I'd like to think that Hemingway would be proud...and that he would live in the middle of nowhere with an exquisite (although expensive) Internet connection that would enable him to write and shake his fist at the monstrosities of this world.

My reclusiveness is coupled with extreme introversion. It literally wears me out to be around people. I need alone time to recharge. I loved teaching college. I loved the idea behind being a paralegal (the law office? Not always so much). So, let's just say that my aversion to society (for numerous reasons) has meant an intense white-hot love affair with technology.

Yet...I also hate technology. I don't hate all technology.. I hate the urgency that it causes many of us to feel. I hate the way it makes us feel like slaves when in reality it is supposed to help us. I use Gmail. It's on my phone. It's on my Kindle. I access it directly from my laptop. I'm a freelancer. Gmail is an integral part of my business. I have clients around the world. It's much cheaper to rely on email than phone calls (and I hate talking on the phone). I also hate the constant notification of email. Used to be that the pinging sound on my phone was music to my ears. It meant business of some sort. Now? It's a distraction.

Okay, it was a distraction...until I screwed up Gmail on my phone...or at least...I thought I screwed it up. Turns out, I freed myself and made Gmail easier and more convenient for me to use as a freelancer. Here's what happened...

I had some notification on my phone. I'll be honest...for a writer, I sometimes read too fast. This time, I didn't read it at all. I can only presume now that it said, "Hi. I'm turning off your email notifications. It'll drive you bonkers for a day, but then you'll have an epiphany and then learn another amazing Gmail features, okay?" I clicked 'Okay' or 'Yes' or something. Hell, I don't know. I probably thought it needed permission to update. I was annoyed because it had gone off.

Then...silence. Later that night, I wondered why I hadn't heard my email notification tone...for hours. I was worried. I grabbed my phone and had to manually refresh my email. Yet, there was still no noise. Then I realized that whatever I had clicked earlier wasn't an update - it was to turn off automatic download of my email and the notifications. At first, I was pissed. I really do have a love-hate relationship with technology.

I couldn't figure out how to "fix it." I thought that I'd have to wait until my oldest son could fix it for me. Disgusted, I went to bed.

The next day I got into Gmail on my laptop. I was looking for a particular client email that I knew had a response that I hadn't read. Usually, I just star items that need follow up. Sometimes, I'll leave it unread just in case I overlook the star. I thought, "This is bullshit. There's gotta be an easier way." I like a clean inbox. I like to keep my email trash emptied. I'm one of THOSE types. I can't help it.

Sure enough, there was a better way. You can arrange your email to keep all unread emails together and all read emails together. Now I don't have to go sifting through email to find what I want. I can just leave it unread and it stays toward the top of my inbox. Here's the official Google Help file to do it.

So, if you're a freelancer and you want to get more done and feel like you have more control over your inbox, turn off the notifications and arrange your email for the unread messages to always be at the top. You'll stop jumping every time your email goes off. You can check it at set times throughout your day. And you'll find what you're looking for a lot faster.

Monday, November 30, 2015

WAHM Lesson #986 Dealing With Difficult Clients

This disclaimer will be part of every WAHM Lesson. While these are true things that I've experienced as a work at home mom, many are written to make you laugh. They may or may not have happened in the order that they are listed. So, why is there a disclaimer? Because I know certain people that read this blog simply looking for dirt. Good luck with that. You won't find any. Go away and worry about your own life. For everyone that's here to read, learn, and laugh...welcome. Feel free to comment.

I've been really, really lucky during the last couple of years that I've worked as a freelance writer and editor that I've not had a ton of difficult clients. Clients with different opinions? Yes. Clients with different communication styles? Yes. Truly difficult? I've been really lucky not to deal too much with that. At least until recently. 

The red flags were there from the first phone call. Client was scheduled to call at a certain hour my time and did not. I went on with my day. My phone rang two hours later and I was busy baking cinnamon rolls. They sent a message essentially stating that I had missed their designated call. I responded with the truth: I hadn't missed the call. They called two hours past the time they said they would. Then, an excuse was provided: power outage. They didn't realize the time. So, I told them to call me later in the evening. I took time away from my evening plans with my friends and family to talk to this person about their project. Their reason for missing the call changed: they had simply lost track of time. Alright, fine. 

We settled on my usual rate and I was asked to provide a paid sample. I used their presentation (provided by them) and their blog (provided by them). I sent it over and a day or so later received a response that they had to "edit" my work more than they've ever had to edit anything. I found that odd. They asked for another sample. I asked that they return my work with Track Changes so that I could correct any issues needed. I've worked with several companies in this fashion and never have I had an issue. 

I looked at it earlier today when I had time. It wasn't a problem with the writing. It was stylistic changes. There was one misspelled word. There was also one sentence the person didn't like and stated they couldn't find it on Google. I can't speak for Google...especially since I'm not in the business of plagiarism. The information came straight from their presentation. Past that? It was minor stylistic changes. 

It dawned on me at that very moment that I am not the writer they need. I prefer honesty. Stylistic changes do not constitute editing. Changing excuses about missing a phone call just isn't honesty. Instead of putting my business or their time in jeopardy, I chose to end the contract. I included a note that stated we had different communication styles and I did not feel that I was the writer they needed. I gave them positive feedback. Why? Because sometimes it really just is the fact that you have conflicting work styles and personalities. It's not a huge problem. They left a little better than average feedback and included a note that "apparently" did not take criticism well and had ended the contract "abruptly."

Am I worried about how it well affect my ability to get more work? No. Here's why: I did and said the right thing. I knew that we would not work well together. Instead of making them or myself miserable, I chose to move on. I wished them well. I had nothing negative to say (although I probably could have). Also, the majority of my clients (including ghostwriting clients) are long term. I don't end contracts abruptly unless there is a reason for it. Anyone can see when they look at the feedback I provided (and the clear reason) and their response (which is essentially a decent rating and a complaint) that I wasn't the issue. 

So, how do you deal with a difficult client? Well, it depends on the difficulty. I've had difficult clients in the past. Generally, I finish the job and just don't work with them again. That's essentially what I did here. Then, it's just a bless and release. To deal with a difficult client, you find a nice way to just break it off. Even when it's not your fault as a freelancer it is generally easiest to give them the "It's not you, it's me" virtual speech. Other options, that you should only use if they are true, include offers for full time contract work and no longer freelancing. 

You can avoid this altogether by watching for the same red flags that I ignored. It's true that in the beginning that you sometimes just have to take what you can get. Most potential clients really don't act like this. Understand the difference between demanding excellence and nitpicking. I'm sought after for a reason, and the opinion of a nitpicking client really won't make or break my day or my business

Seriously, though, watch for those red flags. Also, trust your gut. I knew I should have said no and I didn't...partially because (as Bull says) I try to see the good in everyone. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Crockpot Tortellini and Sausage

I found a crockpot tortellini and sausage recipe on Just a Pinch. I've made a few modifications to it in order to reduce salt and fat.

  • 3 c. low sodium chicken, fat free chicken broth (I use bouillon granules)
  • 2 (14.5 oz) cans of no salt added diced tomatoes
  • Kielbasa
  • 1 package Louisa cheese tortellini
  • 1/2 package frozen spinach
  • 1 (8 oz.) fat free cream cheese
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Oregano to taste
  • Rosemary to taste
  • Sage to taste
  • Ground thyme to taste
  • Garlic powder to taste
  • Onion powder to taste
If you have Italian seasoning blend in your spice rack, you can use that instead of the oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme. 

You can totally do what Just a Pinch says and dump everything into your crockpot, give it a stir, and cook it on low. I really enjoy the entire process of cooking. So, first I put in the broth and tomatoes. Next, I added the seasonings. I tasted it to make sure that I liked the amounts that I used. As you can see, I didn't add any extra salt. Kielbasa has a lot of salt in it. That, and I'm 37 and have a slight issue with high blood pressure from time to time. 

After I got it flavored the way I know that Bull and I will like it (since it's just us this week - which means I bet I have to freeze a portion), I cubed the cream cheese and added it. Then, I sliced the kielbasa. If you've never had kielbasa, look for it. You can also use Polish sausage. It's essentially the same thing. I do NOT recommend getting John Morrell. The taste isn't very good. Either purchase Farmland or Eckrich. I buy whichever is on sale. Add this to the sauce.

Next, add half of a small package of frozen spinach. You could use fresh spinach if you have it or if that's less expensive in your area. I used frozen because I never use an entire bunch of fresh spinach before it begins to turn. 

Finally, add your package of tortellini. I stirred mine to get as many of the tortellini pieces as I could in the liquid. I have mine on low. I'm a fairly experienced home I expect it to be done in about 4 hours. I do plan on stirring it from time to time. Which, if you don't know, pushes back your cooking time by 15 minutes each time you open the lid. 

You could cook this on the stove top fairly fast, too. Just boil the tortellini in water (then drain). Then, cook it with the sausage and spinach in your sauce. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Bad moods, slow times, and douchebaggery

When I woke up this morning at 6:30 am, I had three thoughts:

  1. Why the fuck is it pitch black outside? Time just rolled back. Which means that if it were last Tuesday, it would be 7:30 am and pitch black outside. WTF is this shit?
  2. Do I really have to get up and face the day?
  3. Why hasn't my husband's alarm gone off since he had a contract to attend to within an hour?
Queue the waking him up to make sure he wasn't late. He wasn't, by the way, going to be late. His alarm went off 10 minutes later. I'm not an asshole wife. I only woke him up because his alarm has this habit of not working. So weird. 

I was in a shit mood. I wasn't upset with anyone. I wasn't in a bad mood. It was just the feeling of, " we go again." Then, my husband fixed it by giving me that hug that everyone says they want on FB. You know, the one where all the "broken pieces" stick back together. And it was amazing. And I felt least, until we hit morning traffic. 

Just in case you were wondering, freelancing (self-employment of any kind, really) isn't for the faint of heart. We've been really lucky over the last couple of years. I have a pretty sound mind for business decisions. Other than the first couple of months when I started, we've been able to predict my income fairly well. We've done alright. We aren't rich by anyone's standards. Yet, we manage to keep the bills paid, the family fed, and a roof over our head. Of course, by world standards that's pretty fucking impressive. 

The last two months have been slow. Really slow. In September, we felt the pinch. No big deal. There's always a bit of a fall slump because of the back to school stuff. I don't know why. It's not me. I work just as much, if not more, than I did during the summer. I think that, in reality, it's businesses taking some time to reassess their needs now that their workforce is back from summer vacation. It wasn't a big pinch. All the necessities were taken care of. In October, it was slow again. Ouch. Double ouch when you think about the upcoming holidays. 

I took the "I'll enjoy the quiet while it lasts" approach because for me? The quiet times are few and far between. So, at first it was like a universe sanctioned vacation. Unpaid, of course. I started an art project. I did some personal writing. I just slowed down and caught my breath. 

I've always been fairly good with money. If you're not good with money, you probably shouldn't be self-employed. I've been able to make less money take care of business. So, was stressful, but alright. 

Last week, I started to panic inside. Work still hadn't picked up. My academic students already had their papers edited by me. The websites that relied on me for their editing were all caught up. Oh shit. So, I started scrambling and applying for more gigs. I landed a nice one. Of course, it's not full time work or even steady work. It's "as needed." Overall, that's fine. I love variety. 

Oh, then there was a lawyer who contacted me for writing articles for his very well to do firm. How do I know he's well to do? In addition to telling me, he sent me his website which listed all of his awards (both from the community / bar and monetary from court). So, I gave him a below average bid on four articles. It was still a good rate, a reasonable rate for me. He wrote back, "Give me your best rate." Really, dude? My life does not revolve around garage sale bargain pricing. I don't get to call my electric company and offer then $10 for my $100 electric bill. I don't get to call the gas company and offer then $20 for a $200 gas bill. That's what I wanted to say...I didn't. I responded and told him that IS my best rate. He basically responded with, "! Give me your best rate." So, I know someone that I won't be working with. Such douchebaggery. Do you think he allows clients to haggle his rates? That's a big fat nope.

Then, a week ago today I felt sick. Really sick. At first, I didn't think anything of it. Anyone with kids knows that they are walking petri dishes. Well, I was sick from Tuesday until Sunday. In the midst of that, the work from all of my clients began to pick back up. So, I went from panicking because I had practically no work to panicking because how will I ever get it done? 

So, as I sit here and contemplate if I write the four articles that are due, finish my pitch for a legal website, or edit a last minute paper...the dog has decided I shouldn't do any of it. In fact, she didn't want me to write this blog post to remind you of the instability of freelance work. 

There's no real reason for this post other than I'm killing time. I guess if you need to learn anything from what I said it would be continue to flesh out work or keep good relationships with "as needed" clients during the times you have a ton of work so that you have something to do during slow times. That worked for me for two years. I was lucky that my slow period was only a couple of months, but that still puts a pinch on things. 

Panda says HI GUYS.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


I received this product for free from INFLUENSTER and popchips for the purposes of testing.

Okay, I love baked chips. I love sea salt. Because of my recent rekindling love of fitness, I don't eat fried chips anymore. So, I was really excited to get a voxbox that I wasn't expecting to get.

Popchips are gluten free. They are vegan. They are cholesterol free and don't use synthetic colors, preservatives, or fake flavoring. Instead of frying or baking, they are cooked using pressure.

Downside? A third of the calories are fat calories. They also have 150mg of sodium although being sea salt, that's just the compromise we make.

I love the texture. I love the crunch. I love that my hands aren't greasy. I love that I can eat a small package without too much guilt. Hey. I do like....almost 11 miles every day so...I think I can eat a small bag of chips! :)

I can taste the rice flour used. Unfortunately, I think it tastes a bit like licking a piece of cardboard.

But...I bet that the other flavors are great. I do like having an option for a "healthier" potato chip. If you watch your salt, fat, or caloric intake for any reason....I'm a heart patient...then you should check out Popchips.

Overall, I like them. I'd definitely get them from a vending machine I'd saw them in there.

Monday, October 26, 2015

WAHM Lesson #67 - Sometimes Your Schedule Doesn't Mean Shit

This disclaimer will be part of every WAHM Lesson. While these are true things that I've experienced as a work at home mom, many are written to make you laugh. They may or may not have happened in the order that they are listed. So, why is there a disclaimer? Because I know certain people that read this blog simply looking for dirt. Good luck with that. You won't find any. Go away and worry about your own life. For everyone that's here to read, learn, and laugh...welcome. Feel free to comment.

I am a big, big advocate of keeping some sort of schedule when you work from home. Believe me, it's just better...because otherwise your entire day has gotten away from you. Before you know it, it's bedtime for everyone. You're exhausted and you damn sure do not feel like working. So, your schedule is your friend.

I don't time stuff down to the minute. That, for me, is a bit over the top. I get up between 6 am and 8 am unless I was already up all night. It's breakfast and family time until school time on kid week. Then, after school drop off I come home and do a couple of chores or a workout....then, I get to work. I work until it's time to get the little one from school. If I didn't work out in the morning, I go around 1 or 2 pm to the gym to get it in.

When we get home, it's snack time and then dinner time is soon upon us. Then, I try to get a little more work in either on client projects or projects of my own. That's usually coupled with hanging out with the family. And, you know, the winding down routine of the evening. Sometimes after he's in bed, I have to work some more.

Yet...sometimes....your schedule doesn't mean shit (and that's not even because of the kids). It could be family emergencies. It could be (true story) texting a client back to set up a call later in the day and their response is, "I'm free now," while you stare longingly at your shower. It could be a last minute change. If you typically go to the grocery store the evening that you are often paid, that will obviously change if your client was busy and didn't send the payment.

So, it's important that you have some sort of backup plan. Make sure that you know what you can work on in times where you're sitting at the ER (unless it's your own kid - then you might want to leave the work at home). Make sure that you know the consequences of texting your clients before you've officially started your day. Make sure that you have a backup plan for when your clients fall behind even momentarily. If you don't, you'll find that losing control of your schedule will drive you crazy. If you're new, you might not give working from home a fair shake because you failed to plan ahead for these instances.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Ultimate Secret of Success

So, why am I telling you about the ultimate secret of success? I could lie to you and say that it's because I'm just a really nice person. It wouldn't be a total lie. I do what I can for people. I could give you a partial truth and say it's because I want people to be as successful as possible. Well, actually that would be entirely true and not just partially true. I said partially for this post because that's not why I'm doing it... So, then why am I posting the ultimate secret of success? Well, it's because I'm tired of whiners and people being victims of life. 

Here is the ultimate secret of success:

If you don't like how your life is going right now...if all you can do is complain about how your life isn't fair or how bad things always happen to you...then get off your ass and change the way you think, the things that you do, and the people you run around with. Yes, it really is that simple and that difficult. 

Don't like that you can't buy the things that you need and want? Get off your ass and change something. Work toward obtaining the knowledge you need to have the career that you want. Hustle and build your business. Never say die. Never quit. It is said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again. You're doing it to yourself. Do something to change your situation. Someone else's success isn't a detriment to you. It should be a case study. Overnight success doesn't happen...someone may seem to appear famous overnight, but there was a lot about that person and their struggle that no one saw. 

Don't like your life? Change the way that you think. Suffering is a part of life. That's a Buddhist philosophy. More than that, it's the truth. We all have struggles. We all will face sickness and death. That's just the way the world works. So, if you feel like life is beating up on you, then you need to change the way that you think. You must come to terms that life is hard for everyone. The only person that can save you is you. The presence of a problem is also the indication that there is a solution. There is a solution for every's just that most people don't like the fact that the solution is usually them doing something different. The saying is that if you focus on your blessings or your problems that you will find an abundance. So, if you want to find an abundance of happiness, begin to focus on the good things in your life. Oh, and stop focusing and thinking about yourself so much. Go out and make a difference in the lives of others. 

Don't like being unsuccessful? Look at the people you're friends with. You should make it a habit to meet new people, meet people in the industry that you want to be in, meet other successful people, and not just talking to the people that have been trying to live like their life is a party for the last 20 years. If you're the smartest person in the room, then you need to find a different room.

So, yes. That's the secret to success. If you don't like depending on others, change something. Even if it is hard to do, change something. I didn't want to live in the ghetto as an adult. I decided that as a child when I had no choice other than to live there. So, I did the hard stuff...I studied. I didn't go out and party a lot. I didn't get to where I am by hanging around people with no vision, no goals, and no dreams. I got to where I am because I did what I needed to do...because I wanted a better life. 

If you want to be successful, that's what you have to do. You have to be willing to actually do something with your life. You have to be willing to not be like everyone else complaining about life isn't fair. You have to work for it. No excuses. None. Zero. Zip. 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

How to Pick Blog Topics

Even as a professional writer, it can be hard to determine what I want to write about here. Part of that is because I spend a lot of time editing online content, writing blog posts for others, and ghostwriting ebooks. So, sometimes I just don't have the time to mess with my own blog. One thing I am asked on a fairly frequent basis via Facebook is how to pick blog topics. So, I thought that I would walk you through my personal process for my own blog. I'll also be writing a business take on this (although many of the tips here will work for a business). Yes, there will eventually be a video and podcast discussing the topics. Since I've only had two hours of sleep, I figured blogging is the best place to start...because it's a hell of a lot easier to edit than a video or podcast. Let's get started.

For the sake of simplicity, I'm going to presume that you've already chosen your blogging platform, and that you have it set up. Oh, and one more thing...this isn't about how to get visitors to your blog. This is literally what it says - how to pick blog topics for your blog.

Take Time to Think About What You Want to Blog About

Taking the time to think about what you want to blog about is probably the best thing you can do to develop blog topics. One thing I will tell you about this is that you will come up with great ideas and some not so great ideas. Don't discard ideas because you think they've been done over and over again. If I took that approach, there are some topics (such as this one) that I would never discuss despite the fact that people still want to read about it. So, think about those ideas as more along the lines of you taking the time to explain to someone your process or your experience with something. Think about it in the terms of a hard school subject. Let's take math, for instance. It took a lot for me to understand math. In high school, I had some good teachers and some not so good teachers. By not so good, that doesn't mean that they were just bad teachers. It's more that the way they taught the concepts didn't quite make sense for me. My Uncle Gary...he was a tough man. Yet, he could teach me hard math concepts that I couldn't understand at school. It's not because he had a sparkling personality (although he was a brilliant business man). He just knew how to take concepts and relate them to the individual who needed that information. So, when (not if) you think that a blog topic has been done too often by others, do it anyway. You may say it in a way that helps someone understand an idea that they couldn't previously grasp.

As I stated in the last overly long paragraph (sorry - two hours sleep)...when you're brainstorming, you will also have some ideas that are less than stellar. You have a couple of options with these blog topics. First, you could just decide not to tackle that topic. I mean, sure this is my personal blog and maybe sometimes I talk about personal things, but I don't know crap about why would I blog about engineering? That would be a bad topic for me...right?

Well, maybe not. Before you totally trash a topic I want you to do one thing...figure out how that subject ties in with the main theme of your blog. What is it about that topic that makes you want to write about it? How do those things relate to your overall theme? So, if we look back at engineering...and if you've ever read this blog may seem like a mismatch. I have a Bachelor's in Paralegal Studies. My Master's is in Forensic Psychology. Clearly, I don't know squat about engineering. However, what I could write about is how someone who is an engineer or an engineering student can benefit from learning how to write in a clear way.

Use OneNote, Evernote, a Word document, or even just an old fashioned notebook to write down every single idea...ideas...not blog titles. We will talk about how to write a blog title in a few minutes. Let's move on and choose the best keywords.

Choosing the Right Keywords for Your Blog

You may or may not know what SEO is...and that's okay. I'll talk about the ins and outs on another day. What you need to know is that SEO stands for search engine optimization. If some jackass ever offers to submit your blog to all the search engines for a $50 or more fee, tell them to kick rocks. You can do that yourself and you can do it for free. I understand paying someone to do it for you out of the convenience category, but don't get screwed. SEO changes a lot. The two things you should know (for now): quality content will always be Internet royalty and keywords are your friends unless you abuse them. The most common abuse is keyword stuffing. Don't do that. It will get you penalized by the search engines. Anyway...moving on...

There are two types of keywords. There are your regular keywords and long tail keyword. A long tail keyword is more like a series of keywords. For instance, I could write a series on "becoming a freelance writer." That would be a long tail keyword; "freelance writer" would be a regular keyword. See the difference?

So, the real question is how do you choose the right keywords for your topic? Well, there are a few ways. Actually, there are a lot of ways. What you see here will be my favorite ways.

Use Your Search Engine. It is your friend! Take your topic and open your favorite browser. Now, go to your favorite search engine. I use Google. Type your topic into the search bar. Don't hit enter. Just watch what pops up next to it (Google loves to finish my sentences) and under it. There. Now you have at least a few more refined ideas for your topic. When I do the videos for YouTube, I'll show you exactly how to do it via screenshare.

Use AdWords Keyword Generator. Make sure that you sign up for an AdWords account even if you never plan to use it. You'll have to still set up a mock campaign. I listed $1 as my daily budget. It doesn't ask for any payment info. Scroll down to where you can type in keywords. Put in your first idea. The number that pops up next to it when you hit enter is how many searches the topic receives (I think in a day, but I might be wrong). The higher the number, the more competition there is for that phrase...meaning it could be a little more difficult for you to rank organically in the first few pages (but that's okay - you can still do it). Now, when you place your mouse near the number, you'll see a little button that says "More like this." So, click that. You'll get some other related topics. Many of those topics will not have the same amount of competition. :) I'll show you how to do this when I record the YouTube video. This post is getting so long that it might end up being a series of videos!

Use Other Keyword Tools. There are other great (free!) keyword tools that you can use online. This is one of my favorites. The one by Wordstream isn't bad, either! I'll tell you this much...I love keyword research. Yes, I know I'm a freak...and I can lose a lot of time in the research process. So, if you love research, be careful.

Google Alerts! For certain clients, I use Google Alerts to determine what topics I should use in a blog. You don't have to save the alerts. You can just go to the Google Alerts page and then just type in the subject. You'll get an idea of other content that's out there. That can help you figure out what to write about.

When you write, you need to do it in such a way that you're not forcing the keywords to fit. I chose a couple of keywords for this piece, but frankly...content quality is more important. Quality content gets attention. It's more than keywords that raise your ranking in the search engines (organically).

How to Word Your Blog Title

Okay, so with any luck you know by now exactly what you want to blog about and the keywords you plan to use. So, now you have to develop a title. You, again, have three options. Your first option is to write your draft first and then settle on a title. I do this sometimes. I might have two good title ideas, but not know which one to use. Writing the piece usually solidifies which headline is more fitting.

Your next option is to look at the current trends in titles. "How to..." and "______ Hacks" are easy ways to get readers right now. Oh, and remember the listicles of 2014? And who could forget the "infograph" trend? That was one trend I was glad to see die out. So, think about the types of things that your target audience would want to read. Why do you think I chose "How to" for this blog title? I could have just called it "Choosing Blog Topics." I used "How to" because that's what people use in the search engine and that's what people want to click on through social media. So, I give you guys what you want.

The third (and yet a really good) way to word your blog title is to use a blog title generator. There are several out there that are very good. I'll show you some of my favorites when I do the video(s) for YouTube. Just search "blog topic generator" in your favorite search engine. Specifically, there's an article that comes up by Wordstream that is excellent and lists eight really good content title generators.

Ta-da. There you go. That's how you can pick blog topics, refine your keywords, and word your title. Please do me a favor and leave me a comment below if you have questions or if you found this helpful. Also, please share through social media!

Friday, September 11, 2015

5 Reasons Freelance Writing Will Change the Way You Think About Everything

Tomorrow, September 12, I will turn 37 years old...or, as I like to refer to it: it is the fifth anniversary of my 32nd birthday. :) Actually, it doesn't bother me at all to turn 37. I just think every woman needs a good joke about her age. I've written in one capacity or another since I was about 8 years old. My first creative writing exercise that I can remember was in third grade. I wrote a story about a dog. By seventh grade, I was called the next Stephen King by my peers. I do have a bit of an evil streak that is found in my fiction writing. In eighth grade and on through high school, various people would pay me small sums to write poetry, apology letters, and other small written things. That was my first introduction to writing for money. Fast forward to now, I've been a professional writer for the 18 months or so. It's not because I'm in between jobs. It's because I love writing (even when it annoys me), and, even more, I love getting paid to do it. Here are the top 8 reasons freelance writing will change the way you think about everything.

You Learn That What You Offer to the World Has Value

As a freelance writer, you learn that what you offer to the world is a valuable commodity. Now, that doesn't necessarily mean that everyone will value what you do in the same way. So, instead of relying on other people to determine the value of your services, I encourage you to define it for yourself. Do I sometimes adjust my prices for people? Sometimes. I don't do it for everyone. I'm of the opinion that if you've determined that you need a professional writer that you should properly budget for one.

Once you work with a few amazing people, it won't bother you when people don't see the same value that you know that you offer. Let's face it: if writing were so easy and not worth the money that a professional writer should be paid, then folks wouldn't be looking for a freelance writer. They would just do it on their own, right?

Seeing your value as a freelance writer will begin to affect other areas of your life. You'll start to see that you are a valuable person and that you deserve to be treated with respect.

You Learn How to Manage Your Time

If you learn one thing by becoming a freelance writer, it is how to manage your time. This is particularly true if you work from home. I work from home. My husband and I have three children. One is 17. One is almost 15. One just turned six. The almost 15 year old plays football. The six year old has multiple appointments during the week on top of school. We rely on one vehicle. For myself, there are days when I'll be in the truck for three or four hours per day. So, you take that and add in my professional responsibilities and the things that I do around the house (and yes, people, my husband does help despite the fact that he works 12 hour days).

If I didn't know how to manage my time, I couldn't work as a freelance writer. I'm really not working extremely odd hours (although there was a time or 12 when I've done that). It just becomes a matter of determining a schedule to write and edit for my clients around the needs of my family.

Note that in my last sentence I said 'needs.' I'm not going out of my way to do errands for others or watching the children of someone else simply because I work from home. When you work from home, you must enforce your boundaries or you will never be successful. You'll be far too busy doing everything for everyone instead of focusing on your business.

You Have the Ability to Learn Anything

Freelance writing has a bit of a learning curve to it. Then again, I'm sure that most professions have some sort of learning curve. I know of very few people who come out of college or high school or tech school (or whatever) and gone straight into a job knowing exactly what they should do (unless perhaps they worked in the industry as an intern). As a freelance writer, you get new things thrown at you on a regular basis. You realize, after your daily panic attack, that you have the ability to learn anything. This transfers over and gives you more confidence in other areas of your life.

You Can Never Have Enough Knowledge

There's a big debate in marketing and sales in general that tends to infect the freelance writing profession. That is the idea of information overload. What people fail to realize is that information overload is subjective. It depends on the person receiving the information. We do our clients and our target market a grave injustice when we assume that too much information will overwhelm them. It's all about the way that information is presented.

Think about it: when you learn something new, consider how you like to receive your information. When you want to make a decision, don't you want all of the available information? It's not about how much information is thrown at you. It's about how that information is presented to you.

It's the same with freelance writing. You can never have enough knowledge. You will become an expert or a professional, but that doesn't mean that you know it all. It doesn't mean that you have all of the answers. You may be like me and write great nonfiction work for your clients. I don't write a lot of fiction for clients although I have in the past. It takes me longer to do fiction than it does for nonfiction...even though my nonfiction is quite amusing and creative. Although I write a lot of nonfiction, I don't do a lot of sales based writing (although this is now changing). So, although I know a lot about how to present great information, I have a lot to learn when it comes to writing with sales in mind. You can never have enough knowledge as a freelance writer.

It Is Okay to Have Fun

As a freelance writer, I've found that it's easy for me to lose myself in my work. You might think that's not such a bad thing. Well, when you get a bruise on your ass from sitting too much you will think otherwise. Honestly, I can go weeks and sometimes months without contact with others (in person) aside from my family. Frankly, that aspect doesn't really bother me. Yet, when I walk outside and wonder what the giant fireball in the sky is for, then it is time for me to make some arrangements to get out of the house. I'm getting better at doing this on a regular basis. For instance, this week my husband and I had lunch together during his lunch break. I also went to the bookstore. Monday is our anniversary. So, we will either have lunch or dinner (after our boy's football game). It is okay to have fun and go against the grain and buck your schedule once in a while.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Pronouns Gone Wild!

Not too long ago, I wrote a post about gender neutral writing. Here I am, writing about it again. Here's why...

Those Crazy College Kids!

By crazy college kids, I mean overzealous college educators and administrators. I was listening to talk radio this morning. To be honest with you, I was only half listening at first because I was also reading a book. I don't remember the college, and for the point I'm about to make the college name doesn't matter. Anyway, some of the people there have decided that everyone should stop using common gender pronouns (he, his, her, she). Instead, people should use ze and zir to become gender inclusive.

That argument was so stupid that it made me put my book down and squint at the radio. Really? That doesn't solve anything. That doesn't make anything more inclusive. If this were adopted, you would just be substituting the male and female pronouns with other "pronouns" that perform the exact same thing: refer to the gender of a person. So, tell me. How in the hell does that solve the gender pronoun issue? It doesn't. It just recolors the problem and momentarily distracts you while making you feel like you've done something good. It would be like me telling you that my dog isn't a dog. It's a chien. By the way, that's French for dog. Ze and zir would simply be used to replace the current gendered pronouns. So, you'd still have gendered pronouns...they'd just look and sound different and give you something to bitch about later.

Pronouns Aren't Bad - They're Just Written That Way

Pronouns are a lot like Jessica Rabbit. They're not bad. People think they're bad because of how they're used. When I took my first legal research and writing class back around ten years ago, the textbooks had recently changed to discourage gendered writing because it is archaic. Wow - imagine that. The world's most conservative professional field (law) began to look at how pronouns were used as potentially archaic.

If you don't blame a spoon for making someone overweight, then you can't blame the pronoun. It is a tool of people. People are the ones ultimately responsible for their bodies and their words. So, let's look at how you should properly institute gender neutral writing (and yes, I know that there will be some grammar purists that will want to find me and shake the pencil lead out of my ears).

You should only use he, she, his, her, and other versions of our favorite gendered pronouns if you know without a shadow of a doubt that you are, in fact, dealing with the specific appropriate gender. If you don't know the gender, then you do not use those pronouns. It's just as easy to use they, them, their, etc., as it is to make assumptions. It's also less offensive.

If you know someone who is biologically born a man and they openly identify as a woman, then you may refer to them in writing with female pronouns. If you know someone who is biologically born a woman and they openly identify as a man, then you may refer to them in writing with male pronouns. If someone identifies as gender fluid, cis gender, or even androgynous, it is up to you, the writer, to ask how they would prefer to be addressed. When in doubt, just ask.

As a professional, if you see the use of Mr., Ms., or Mrs., in a file, then it is safe to use the appropriate gendered pronoun. If you have no indication of gender, then you either need to ask or use something gender neutral (they, them, their, etc.).

We Don't Need New Words - We Need Better and More Responsible Writers

It's true. We really don't need new words (especially when they confirm about English what the world already knows: that our difficult to learn language beats the shit out of other languages and then steals their words while they're bleeding on the curb). Let's face it, we aren't doing such a great job making up our own. Awesome sauce is now a word in the dictionary. Just let that sink in for a minute.

What we need in this world are writers that truly care about the craft of writing. We need writers that understand the proper way to choose and use words for their written pieces. We need writers that take the time to learn something before they vomit pointless opinions onto the Internet and into print media for all to read. I'm a professional writer and editor. That's why I can say that. Far too often, I see writers of all experience levels making mistakes with word choice that just shouldn't happen. Native English speaking writers are the worst about not bothering to take the time to find out how what they will say will affect others. That's really sad because that's the key that will make or break your career.

So, if you're a writer, whether professional or casual, you must learn how to properly categorize the person or people that you are writing about in your work. You must take the time to keep up not just with trends, but with appropriate measures that are professional and timely that will enhance your work and make your publications more valuable. You don't....we don't...need more words (from other languages that do the exact same thing, but sound trendy). We need to use the words that we have in a more responsible manner.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

An Open Letter to Stalkers and Narcissists Around the World

I can only write this based upon my own experiences. I hope that at least one stalker reads this and realizes that their behavior is ridiculous and changes.

Stalking is lame. It makes you lame. It makes you a loser. When someone decides that they don't want to be with you or when you decide that you don't want to be with someone, then you need to let go and leave them alone. What they say and do isn't your business. You're not their parent. You're not a god. You're just some loser that needs mental help. The actions you take before, during, and after a protective order by continuing to break into social media accounts, look people up online, post negative untruths, etc., says a lot more about you than it does about me or anyone else that's been stalked.

It's always struck me as just downright absurd that a stalker can leave someone for the purpose of being with someone else, but if their victim tries to move on then all hell breaks loose. Keep in mind - when you walk away from a relationship for any reason, you lose the right to have an opinion about anyone that the other person has in their life. It's also really funny, and illogical, when the fit is thrown because the other person moved on despite the fact that you are most likely already involved with someone else. That is a sign that you need mental help. You're most likely a narcissist since you think that you should be forever worshiped by someone that you didn't want in your life.

When the new person smartens up and is no longer your flying monkey, they leave. Most often, they do contact the victim and apologize. They've gone from love bombed to gas lighted...and all it took was a little piece of paper that said marriage. Once it ends, it's delicious for the rest of us because we've moved on and we are in normal, healthy, loving relationships.

Again, you are advised to take stock of your own shortcomings. Get help - the problem wasn't and isn't with your victim. The problem is and was with you. You look for people who want to fix you or want to please you...but nothing they do will ever be enough. When they start slipping away, you freak out. When they leave, you harass and stalk. You've clearly not taken any notes from people in successful and healthy relationships. That's not how you win someone over.

Really, stalkers and there a true point to following people around on social media or breaking into their accounts? What are you seriously hoping to find? You aren't the sun. You aren't the source of all happiness. Is it the fact that you hope you'll see something that shows they're suffering in some way? Would that make you feel better? Because most of us aren't suffering. We move on. We may always look over our shoulder and improve on ways to protect our privacy, but we're still happier than we've ever been. Are you looking to see if your victim is talking about you? Even if they are, it's not your business. If you wanted people to talk nicely about you, then you should have behaved better. Although narcissism is a personality disorder, you wake up with the same decision the rest of us do: whether or not you should be a dick to people. Unfortunately for you and others, you choose to be a dick. That's no one's fault but your own.

When people talk about you, o stalker and narcissist, it isn't because they miss you or want you back. It's not because you're so amazing. Frankly, it's not even because victims are looking for a way to badmouth you (oh, and telling the truth isn't badmouthing - it's just telling the truth; I know that's a concept you don't understand). They talk to continue their healing process.

My advice to stalkers and narcissists? Get mental help. You need it. You have no hope of a normal life without it. Leave the victims alone. Move on with your life. There are plenty of people with flying monkey personalities out there for you to try to run your game on...and sadly, you'll be successful. Speaking of success, why not take the energy that you expend on your nefarious activities and redirect it to something positive like actually working while you're at work or picking up a good book to read? If you want the world to revolve around you, then you need to give the world a reason to do it by being the best in your field instead of just being a douche bag.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What It Takes to Succeed as a Content Management Provider

Recently, I acquired a new client who runs a small service-based company. When this person contacted me, I was told that three blogs per week would be needed plus assistance getting things put on social media. No problem. For those of you looking for a writer, I don't always charge to go and schedule your posts through your social media account. I only charge if it becomes a time consuming activity. Anyway - I had no idea that the client also had a content management provider. When my new client asked if I could help with content rewrite on the site in addition to blogging, I said yes. Then, I was put in contact with what I was told was the "web company." As a professional writer, the results were less than stellar. I also saw some flaws that I had to immediately tell my client because their errors were casting a bad light on my client's service. So, in this post I hope that writers, business owners that are considering a content management solution, and content providing companies learn something. That 'something' being that the Golden Rule is still important and that you shouldn't try and talk down to people.

Check the Process That the Content Management Provider Uses to Complete Your Work

Look, a one or three day turn around time is great, but if you don't understand the process of what it takes to bring your content from idea to publication, then there's something wrong with it. If it's so muddled that you have no idea who you're supposed to email, that's a problem.

While many content management providers look for ways to provide a system of checks and balances to ensure what they post is quality, that process still needs to be reviewed to ensure that you understand how it works. For instance, first I was told to write a post and send it to two people. When I did that, I was told that there was a new process:

  • Send to person A
  • Person A would then send it to Person B
  • Person B would eventually notify the social media person
  • Social media person was to schedule the post
Within 24 hours, that changed to me posting it and then notifying person A who would double check my work and then notify the social media person. That brings me to my next couple of points.

Do Your Job as a Content Management Provider

As a content management provider, your job is to provide accurate, thoughtful, and timely content. You are professionals. That means that your work on client sites should be error free. I should not have to point out words that you misspelled at the bottom of your own post. Most back office content systems have spell check. If you're doesn't, copy and paste your work into Word or even Google Docs to double check your spelling. "Curtsy" and "courtesy" are not the same thing. As professionals, you should know this. 

Continuing with the "Do Your Job" tip, when someone new comes into the picture it is still your responsibility to do your job. My client asked me to post things to social media. Then, I found out that the client had a social media manager with this company. That person told me that if I wanted to do it, then it was fine. My response? "Well, then why is my client paying you to do it?" 

It's highly unprofessional to essentially take someone's money and yet pawn the work off on someone who was already doing it for free. It's also highly unprofessional to set yourself as a gold standard when spelling and process are sub-par. 

Treat Other Service Oriented Professionals as You Want to Be Treated

As a writer, I've been screwed over by two or three content providers by not being paid. However, I don't treat other content providers with the contempt and disrespect that I have for the companies that screwed me over. I understand that content providers occasionally end up working with crappy writers. Yet, much like anyone in the world who wants to have a successful relationship, you can't take out your past experiences on someone else. 

This means that when you talk to a writer (especially one that has a mutual client as you) that you talk to them as an a partner. You are no better than the writer. You are no worse than the writer. You are an equal. You must keep in mind that certain writers (like me) are more than happy to help you out when you need it, but won't tolerate being talked down to or being disrespected. As I've been known to say: you need me more than I need you. I can walk away from taking additional work that your people can't complete and it won't hurt my bottom line. I'll still have plenty of work now and even in the future. The question is whether you will be able to find a writer with my skill level that is within your budget.

Don't Talk Down About the Writing Profession

I get it - we've all done things as professionals that we didn't necessarily want to do. I've been quite lucky in my adult life. I can't really think of a single job that I didn't enjoy to some degree. If nothing else, I feel like those previous things gave me a varied work experience that enables me to get along with and negotiate with pretty much everyone. I've also been exposed to a lot of good and bad management techniques. Yet, I don't get on the phone with lawyers that need content and tell them how much I hated working for an attorney. For the record, I've worked as a paralegal. Did I encounter some difficult moments? Yes. Do I tell other lawyers how much I hate lawyers? No. That would be suicide and also it would be a lie.

So, if you're in content management and you've actually worked as a writer in the past, don't disparage the profession. It wasn't right for you, but you obviously didn't totally change professions. You essentially became a curator or a manager. When you talk like that, it just leads me to believe that you sucked at writing and people knew you decided to hire a bunch of writers and back end people to try and make money providing content. Whatever works for you, but you won't get and keep good writers if you talk poorly about the profession that they chose. 

Clients Should Double Check the Work Received

If you've hired a content management provider, then you should double check the work they are putting out for you on a regular basis, There are some people who would not go so far as to contact you about the errors others make. That could cost you business. When I'm on Facebook or Twitter, I don't get particularly worked up when I see that regular people make a spelling or grammatical error. Yet, if I'm reading something that is put out as a business entity, I expect that the spelling and grammar will be correct. I don't mean a fast-finger typo (teh instead of the). I mean outright mistakes that should have been caught. Those types of errors can cost you business. 

Writers Must Be Able to Deal With Difficult Situations

If you're a new writer or an aspiring writer, you should know how to deal with difficult people and situations. I know that when you have no work that it can be very tempting to take whatever is tossed your way in the hopes that you can continue to grow your business...even if the work or the people providing it have the ability and most likely will make you miserable. You have the right to assert yourself. You have the right to say no. You have the right to choose the type of clients (work and personality) that you will have on your roster. I don't necessarily advise that you tell people that they need you more than you need them because for a lot of writers that's just not true, and if you say it the wrong way, you can upset people. A bad reputation does get around. So, you have to be selective about who you work with and how you respond to others. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Your opinion of Trump wouldn't be so positive if....

...he said those things to your daughter, wife, sister, or mother...and then continued his tirade about her on a show that hadn't even brought up the subject.

I don't like Megyn Kelly from Fox News. At all. I've seen better reporting and commentary come from a dead mosquito. However, Trump's commentary about women in the past and his continuing verbal diarrhea about Megyn Kelly is incredibly alarming. Do you really want a narcissistic misogynist in the White House?

I really hope not. I hope those who support Trump open their eyes. America is, at its core, a business. Do you really want someone running this country that has filed business bankruptcy multiple times? And that makes snide comments about a woman having their time of the month (to put it in a more classy manner than Trump put it when he was talking about Megyn Kelly).

Thursday, July 9, 2015

How Working From Home Helps My PTSD

Disclaimer: I don't recommend that everyone that has PTSD suddenly start working from home. Working from home is not for everyone. It's really, really not. However, if you believe that more time alone or in the safety of your own home (if your home is a safe place for you) is in your best interest, I think you should look into it (although people will tell you that you shouldn't spend so much time alone...and most of those people do not have PTSD or degrees in mental health).

I was diagnosed with PTSD as a teenager. Just suffice it to say that I had a really, really, really bad childhood. Being married to the father of my children damn sure didn't help matters. In fact, it took me getting a protective order to get him to leave me alone after he left me for someone else. As of 2012, I was very, very damaged. I was teaching college. I was exhausted. I constantly looked over my shoulder. I always carried police grade pepper spray. I kept an emergency response silent alarm pulled up on my phone. I rarely took the same way home. I had safe calls any time I left my home and arrived somewhere (and then when I left and made it to the next location or home).

I always looked over my shoulder. Always. So, due to some health issues and the fact that I felt like I was always being watched the decision was made that I would make the leap and work as a writer full time from home. It hasn't been perfect. It hasn't been stress free. However, it has removed a lot of the crushing and often debilitating belief that I was being watched. Oh, and for the record - it wasn't paranoia. I was being watched and I still have the private messages, old text messages, and old blog posts (from another person's blog) to prove it. So, no...I wasn't and am not crazy (although sometimes he convinced me that I might be crazy).

Anyway...this is what working at home has done for me:

Control of the Environment

I have total control of my environment...from the noise level to the people...nothing changes while I am working from home unless I'm the one to change it. I've been remarried for almost two years now and my husband works out of the home during the day. So, if I am having a day where loud noises freak me out...I can minimize or eliminate that all together. I don't have to turn on the television. I can turn off the ringer on my phone. I can totally control my environment.

Feelings of Safety

Working from home has increased my feelings of safety. Yes, I still have days when I feel like a sitting duck. I have a choice: I can leave the house or I can just take the time to be mindful that I am not in immediate danger. I don't have to answer my door if someone comes by. I have a very large, very protective dog that will not let people near me if she does not know them. I know my home. I know what noises are natural. I know what noises are not natural. I can leave and run errands at odd hours. I don't worry nearly as much about being followed as I did in the past.

When I Feel Overwhelmed, I Can Take a Break

People who work from home are often big proponents of taking naps during the day and participating in other things that traditional workers don't get to do. Personally, I feel like unless you're making up that work time after you wake up that making a habit out of napping is probably a bad idea in terms of productivity. However, with that said - I think it's a great benefit that people who get overwhelmed or who deal with a chronic illness have the option to take a break. Good luck not feeling guilty about it. I take an occasional nap during the day...or at least I try to (the guilt of trying to sneak in a nap keeps me awake - which is weird since I go days at a time without sleeping. In fact, I'm on day 5 of no sleep. Yay chronic insomnia).

I Don't Have to Worry About What Others in My Work Environment Might Say About Me

One of the biggest issues when you come out of an abusive relationship is that even if you don't make it a habit of telling people what happened (and many of us don't like to talk about it), there are still people who, once they find out, defend the other person or somehow know the other person and tell that person everything they find out about you. I went through it. Now that I work from home, that's not something that obviously happens. The dbag generally isn't a topic of conversation in our home, but if something does come up then I don't have to worry about my husband blabbing to anyone.

It's had other benefits, too. The benefits I get won't necessarily be the same as what others get from working from home. Like I said, though, if you think that being able to create your own environment would help you get even just a little relief from your PTSD, then it might be something that you begin to look at to figure out how you can make it a reality.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Gender Neutral Writing

I've thought about writing this post for a while. I have so much keeping me busy with my business that it leaves me very little time to write just about anything else (including keeping up with my own blogs). It's a good problem to have, amirite?

Many will think that this is a post that supports Caitlyn Jenner and the LGBT movement. I suppose to some degree that's true simply because I am an advocate for equal rights. However, that's not what this post is at all. It's a post about the one thing that I advocated when I taught Legal Research and Writing I and II more than anything else: gender neutral writing. In fact, aside from what I said in this paragraph, I won't be mentioning Jenner's decision. I will mention the movement one more time.

Gender neutral writing is more than something that is inclusionary for those in the LGBT community. It's good for everyone in the community. First, I'll tell you why. Then, I'll give you some examples on how to change your writing.

Gendered writing (writing he / she or specifically referring to someone as a he / she) is considered an archaic form of writing even in the legal community. Yes, there are still some hold outs on making the switch. However, it is not taught in legal writing textbooks for lawyers or paralegals that are currently receiving their education. The legal field is always slow to catch up on updated writing styles. I mean, really...have you read a contract? Most are still filled with unnecessary words. As an editor, I cringe when I read certain words. When I see gendered writing, I change it.

Gender neutral writing is more inclusive for the entire world. Think about all of the gender neutral names that you know: Pat, Ashley, Kelly, Leslie, Don / Dawn (if you hear it, you don't necessarily know the difference unless you listen for clues), Lynn, Terry, etc. I'm sure I could continue. If you've ever been mistaken for someone that you aren't, then you know that it can be funny for some people or it can be downright rude or offensive (even if the other person didn't mean anything negative by it). When I was a little girl, my mother kept my hair chopped off. This was back in the 80s, by the way. My hair was and still is baby fine. It gets easily tangled. My 14 year old lives with this horror. Instead of dealing with knots and such, my mother simply kept my hair chopped off to my scalp. This was done until fourth or fifth grade. Then, I adopted more masculine hairstyles for which my parents made fun of me. I didn't think I was a boy by any means. It's simply that I had been mistaken for a boy and constantly heard, "Is that a little boy or a little girl?" and the subsequent shock when they found out I was a girl. Now, my hair is down just past my shoulders. It's been longer in the past. I just can't seem to get it to keep growing. That's really neither here nor there. The point being that unless you actually know someone, then you really don't know which gender pronoun should be used.

If you don't know that Pat Smith is, indeed, a married woman, then your writing should not say "she" or "Mrs." If you don't know that Lynn Jones is, indeed, a man, then your writing should not say "he." Gender neutral writing isn't a matter of sexuality. It's a matter of knowledge or the lack thereof. This applies to any sexuality. This applies to any national origin.

Speaking of national origin, you might find that gender neutral writing makes dealing with names that you are not familiar with much easier. There are some names that we know are generally (keyword) given to men and women in different cultures. However, there are also times when you come across a name that you just won't know the gender unless you meet the person. So, writing in this manner will be quite helpful.

Think about it: it's the same reason why we say 'police officer' instead of 'policeman.' The second word is not inclusive of women who also act in a law enforcement capacity. It provides inclusion and cohesion as a unit instead of differentiating a policeman from a police woman. Instead, we use officer.

Here's how you do it:

The recipient will receive a three day, two night vacation. He will also receive airfare.

As you can see, the problem with this sentence is the use of "he." Unless it's rigged or one of the criteria to enter is being male, there's no way to know for sure that the winner will be a man. Instead, you should write:

The recipient will receive a three day, two night vacation. They will also receive airfare.

I know it will seem a bit awkward for you at first to use "they" or "their" and the corresponding verb "is / are / have / has /had." I promise that you will get used to it. I know that for some it creates an internal dialogue problem because you're talking about a singular winner, in this instance, and you are using a plural version. However, when we are able to include more readers, we are closer to writing a successful piece.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Let's do away with the mansplaining, shall we?'s a term one of my closest friends uses when a man says something really, really ignorant. Most importantly, it's a term we use when a man tries to justify something. So, in some instances mansplaining can also be victim shaming. Oh, and I've seen women do this as well. It just so happens that it is more common with men. So, why am I posting about this? Well, because of a conversation that started on my personal Facebook page.

I posted this image:

First, let's start with some basics about the general differences between men and women. These are general and are not meant to define every man and every woman (so, don't comment with a mansplain). In general, adult men are bigger than adult women. In general, adult men have more muscles or body strength than adult women. That's not to say that women are weak. Again, we are talking about the physical size of general terms. I weigh 135. My husband weighs about 217. Yes, there are women who are bigger. Yes, there are men who are smaller. So, again, think in general terms. So, even if an average man were attacked by a woman in some way, it would most likely -not- take his full strength to defend himself. It is not okay for women to attack men, either.

Should a man defend himself if a woman hits him? A man does have that right. However, it should be just enough to do that: defend. If a woman slaps a man, it's not going to take a man using deadly force to stop her. Again, I am not saying it is okay for a woman to hit a man because it is not. 

So, when you mansplain and say, "What about self defense?" you should really be asking yourself, "Am I oxygen deprived?" because you clearly aren't thinking in a clear, concise, and logical manner. What you really mean is that you know you can defend yourself, but you want to start a fight...and guess what? That gives some people a loop hole to behave badly. You feel threatened by some things that might not make another person feel threatened and vice versa. Just think about George Zimmerman's ridiculous self defense notion.

This is almost victim shaming. You're one step away from, "Well if she wouldn't have said or done X then...." Do you know how many stupid people I'd love to slap on a regular basis? I don't because it is battery even if I don't like how stupid they are and am just trying to slap some sense into them. 

Another common mansplain: not all men hit women. Sometimes women hit men. 

Oh, guess what? It's not always cloudy when it rains. Sometimes the sun shines and it rains. These are things we know. Here's the problem with your attempt at mansplaining:

You couldn't win a logical argument to save your own life because you can't stay on topic. We know that some women hit men. Here's something else we know. Most men do not report when they are victims of domestic violence. If more men did, then you'd see a better campaign. Domestic violence happens regardless of gender. It happens in straight couples and with gay couples. Sometimes women are the perpetrators, but it is most often reported to be a man. So, if you don't like that then I suggest you start a campaign to help battered men instead of mansplaining a picture. As far as your "not all men," yeah, we know. However, when you say that - you're in defensive mode. Here's a grand thought: how about you just show your support by liking or sharing the photo instead of countering? Nice guys don't need to proclaim how nice they are. Their actions show it. 

Oh, and here's another interesting fact about domestic violence. It's not always physical. Mental and emotional abuse is also domestic violence. That includes manipulation, mind games, control, stalking, and the likes. Don't think for one second that just because he hasn't hit you means that he's not abusing you. Statistics show that you are most in danger when you first leave and that people who perpetuate mental assault like I mentioned are very likely to lose control and hurt you if and when you leave (and you do need to leave). Don't believe me? Call your local DV advocate or hotline and ask about the statistics. When I found out that people who stalk and harass their ex after an intimate relationship are more likely to be killed because the stalker has lost that control, it was terrifying. I didn't leave my house for a really long time other than to go to work. I had armed security at work.

To this day, the ex would tell you he did nothing wrong to me. That he never pulled my hair and dragged me around the house. That he never slammed me into our washing machine, made me call someone I had asked to help me to tell them I was lying, and then broke my phone (a phone he didn't know anything about because he didn't even live with me at that time - had already left me about six months earlier for someone else). That he broke in to my home and ruined my laptop and stole my clothes. Why? Because he's "such a nice guy." He kept my children from me for a year. He also harassed me and stalked me online and off. I have a PO against him. They took away his concealed license. So, when you "mansplain" just know that you're victim blaming people like me. People who might have thought they were the problem but once out for a year realized they weren't...and that have healthy relationships with other people. I still have two of my old cell phones with crazy messages from him. I have all of the old emails. Why? It's not because I like to go strolling down nightmare lane. It's to show people who mansplain why they're wrong and why they should stop.

Please don't mansplain. You hurt victims and survivors of DV all around the world. You enable the perpetrators, regardless of gender, to continue what they are doing.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Job listing update

Hi everyone!

I recently started using Tumblr and I've discovered that it's definitely easier for me to post the gigs I find on Twitter with Tumblr. Blogger never wants to work on my phone. With that said, make sure that you follow me on Tumblr.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Sunday, May 10, 2015

I won't apologize for my life.

It's Mother's Day. It's another holiday where people tell you it's insensitive to talk about the nice life you have or the nice things you've received. I disagree. I think if someone tells you on any day where you show gratitude for the things you have or receive that you are insensitive because they don't have it, that they are selfish.

I didn't have a good childhood. My biological parents (plural) sucked. Substance abuse makes you a shitty parent. Yesterday, I still did something nice for my mother. I did it because it was the right thing to do. Setting an example and being nice is the right thing to do.

Yesterday, my husband and sons gave me flowers. We played pinball (which I love). I received new shoes and a new shirt. I also received a CD of match 3 games that my 16 year old managed to get installed on to my laptop despite the fact that CD rom doesn't work. We have plans for today as well.

Stating my gratitude toward my husband and children doesn't make me insensitive. It makes me a gracious person. The fact that people want me (and others) to not talk about how it's Mother's Day isn't fair. It also discredits the nice things my family does for me. That's not fair. It's also selfish.

I won't apologize for having a great family. I won't apologize for having a nice life. I've worked too hard for it. If anyone wants you to apologize or not talk about how grateful you are for things you have that they may not have, tell them no.

Yes, I know this won't be a popular opinion. I don't really care. You don't see me telling people not to celebrate Father's Day. I give my husband a great day despite the fact that my father was a dick. Frankly, it would have been better for me NOT to have a father.

If you don't have a reason to celebrate Mother's Day, then just have a great day anyway...but don't take it away from someone else. That's not fair. Learn to be happy for others because you have things they don't have as well.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

5 Freelance Writing Books You Need to Read

Disclaimer: The only money I make from this post is if you buy my books. I don't make money from any other link in this post. 

If you are going to be a freelance writer, then you must learn as much as you possibly can. Sure, you can learn on your own...and you mostly likely will learn on your own through trial by fire. However, there's a lot that you can think about and plan for if you read and study. These five freelance writing books can help you learn more about the industry and plan to be a successful freelance writer. 

These books aren't in any particular order. 

1. Starve Better: Surviving the Endless Horrors of Writing Life by Nick Mamatas. This book...I laughed so hard. I actually read most of it while sitting in a parking lot one night while my husband was in class. It really gave me a lot of perspective about starting out as a freelance writer. It's a huge wake up call and gives you a lot of good tips (and evil tricks) about making it in the cold world of writing. I picked this up at my local library.

2. How to Start a Home-Based Writing Business by Lucy V. Parker. I bought this from Half Priced Books. It is a great book for beginners to freelance writing. If you've been writing for a while, then it might not teach you anything that you need to know. One of the best parts of this book is that it walks you through writing a business plan. You'll also learn about rate setting, but this isn't how I learned to set rates. It's still a really good read. 

3. Any of the Writer's Market books are great. One is produced every year. I save myself some money and get the previous year (or older) at Half Priced Books. My reasoning is that since so much is online now that I can find out if older listing are still active. The newest editions are great for finding new publishers. The best thing about this book is the walk through on what the low, average, and high end of rates are for just about every writing gig under the sun. If I had to choose one book, this would be it because you can't make money without knowing where to submit your work (unless you're like me and mostly work with private clients). 

4. Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale is my go-to reference book for anything grammar related. If you feel like you need a grammar refresher, but don't want to die of boredom, buy this book. It's a lot of fun to read. 

5. Crash Course Freelance Writing by Robin Bull is clearly written by me. It's a definite "must read" for beginning freelance writers. You'll learn about the sites I use to find gigs and how I set my rates. You'll also learn a lot about actually running the business. Oh, and if you check this out then you should know that Odesk recently changed their name to Upwork.

There you have it - 5 freelance writing books that you need to read. You'll learn a lot from all of these great books. I've read the four that I didn't write and also own physical copies of all of them. It doesn't get much more dedicated than that! :) 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Take Your Kid to Work Day - Freelancer Edition

So, April 23, 2015 was Take Your Kid to Work Day. I'm curious to know how other freelancers spent their day. Our five year old will sometimes bring his toy laptop and sit with me while I work. The older children aren't home this week. 

Just Because You Work From Home Doesn't Mean Your Kid Knows What You Do

It's pretty obvious the five year old isn't really aware of what I do...and at his age, he probably isn't interested in watching me do it. As far as the older kids, they know that I write and edit. Of course, as teenagers they know what those jobs include. Sometimes they take advantage of having a mom that is a professional editor. I've helped them with papers (the editing, not the writing). 

Do your children really know what you do as a self employed person? Show your kid what you do. Show them what is involved in being self employed...from the actual work that you do to the business activities such as accounting. Show your children what it really is that you do. This can help develop a love of self employment and can also expose them to more things besides what you actually do. They may not want to grow up and do what you do, but by you exposing them to everything that is involved you may be able to help them find other strengths and interests that can help shape their future. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Last Day!

Today is the last day that you can get my Kindle best seller Ultimate Productivity: 9 Awesome Ways You Can Be More Productive. It's currently #4 in Kindle's Short Read - Self Help category. If you're ready to be more productive, you can learn the things I've tried that work for me. I know it can be hard to balance your home life with your professional life...and that's why I wrote this short ebook. Make sure that you don't miss it. Learn how to reach your ultimate productivity. After today (April 20, 2015) the price goes back to .99 unless you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber.

Don't forget to leave a review on Amazon after you read it!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Why I Freelance

Today, I have a great "Why I Freelance" for you...and it's not one of those "I can do so much for others" reasons, either. I'm working at 10 PM at night (yeah, I know)....from bed...while eating strawberries in whipped cream. Yes, you can be jealous.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ultimate Productivity: 9 Awesome Ways You Can Be More Productive

Who said good things don't happen on Tax Day? On April 15th, Ultimate Productivity: 9 Awesome Ways You Can Be More Productive will be released as a Kindle exclusive. If you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read it for free. If you don't, you can purchase it for just .99! Pre-orders are now available

Thursday, April 9, 2015

WAHM Lesson # 56

This disclaimer will be part of every WAHM Lesson. While these are true things that I've experienced as a work at home mom, many are written to make you laugh. They may or may not have happened in the order that they are listed. So, why is there a disclaimer? Because I know certain people that read this blog simply looking for dirt. Good luck with that. You won't find any. Go away and worry about your own life. For everyone that's here to read, learn, and laugh...welcome. Feel free to comment.

WAHM Lesson #56 - It's easy to lose and regain perspective.

I've worked in several professional capacities during my adult life. Even when I worked in entry level administrative assistant positions, I rather enjoyed dressing up for work (even if it wasn't a necessity). When I taught, it was a necessity for me to wear business professional clothing. Now that I work from home, my standard attire is essentially jeans and a t-shirt. Awesome, right? Well, it does make laundry easier.

Anyway, there are some days that I'm lucky to get a shower. Days like today, I'll be lucky to get much of anything done that people dream about when they think about working from home. There will be no naps. There are hardly ever any naps. There will be no downtime (unless you count me adding this post). Even my time on Facebook will be business related. I know, it is what it is. I'm really glad that I work from home because like I've stated I don't know how many times's a very flexible lifestyle.

Yet...last night I was on my very large, covered front porch working. The weather was great. I had on mismatched socks, capri pants, and a black t-shirt. Sure, my hair was brushed...but I hadn't done anything with it. I wasn't working make up. I'm fairly sure that few of my past coworkers would have recognized me. I felt really, really frumpy. of my neighbors arrived home. He got out of his car dressed quite well...and I felt even worse about my appearance. It's not that I had or even have any desire to please some dude who lives next door. First, I'm very happily married to the world's most awesome dude. Second, my neighbor is not straight. Third, I've never really cared much about trying to make other people happy with my appearance. I've always dressed for me.

Then, I looked down at my laptop screen and realized that it was almost 8 pm. My home smelled like a delicious dinner. My youngest son was laughing and playing in the house. I could hear him through the open window. My husband was laughing at something on TV. And I felt better. That particular neighbor is usually gone for 12+ hours per day...and if he loves what he does, then I'm happy for him. He clearly has to get up earlier than necessary to bother getting dressed. He clearly has clothing that he must have professionally cleaned. If he's okay with doing all that, then that's great for him.

Me? I can save my valuable energy (and when you're a heart patient, all of your energy is valuable) for the things that matter. I don't have to impress anyone with what I wear. My job or my livelihood isn't dependent upon what someone thinks of my external appearance. I don't have to be up at a ridiculous hour (except apparently today) to work. I can work when I want to work. I have the choice of either dressing in my paralegal clothes or I can just wear this and go out with my youngest son and get dirty. I don't have to ask someone to take time off to do something for any of my children. I don't have to ask someone if I can come in late because of an appointment.

So, yeah...last night I lost my perspective for about 10 seconds...but not now.

Oh, and Tumblr....I set up a Tumblr that lists various writing opportunities. I'll still be curating and posting writing gigs here when I have time. Tumblr basically lists stuff that I've found through social media. It's easier to send that to my phone.