Freelance Writing: 8 Ways to Stay Motivated Throughout the Day

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As a freelance writing veteran, I can safely say I have experienced it all. Days where I couldn’t focus, days where I did nothing but stare at a blank document all day, and days where I just had zero motivation. The latter is one of the hardest things about freelancing in general and especially working from home.

While there are no “tricks” to staying motivated since everyone is different, I do find the following things to help tremendously. I hope you are able to find what works for you so you can stay motivated and make your writing dreams a reality!

Write what you love

Let me preface this by saying I know when you have client projects, you don’t usually have control over what you write. But for the rest of you – you do! If you are a freelance writer that writes content for revenue share sites, your own blogs, or submissions for print publications, you have a choice in what you write. What what you love. Don’t feel like you need to only write about what is currently trending. You will face burnout really fast when you’re spending 10 hours a day writing about investing in gold coins (been there many a time).

Make a to-do list

This is by far the best way to stay motivated throughout the day. Start each day by making a to-do list of what you need to accomplish that day. Write down big things, write down small things, write down what seems like menial tasks that you need to get done. Include writing, editing and proofreading, marketing your writing business, sending invoices, working on your website or personal blog, updating social media, and formatting completed eBooks. It doesn’t matter what it is you have to do; write it down! You will feel accomplished during the day when you start crossing things off your list, and that is the best motivation of all.

Write the easiest parts first

If you’re like me, introductions take you forever. I can write a 500-word article in about 20-30 minutes once the research is done. The intro easily takes more than half of that time. When you notice you have been staring at a blank document on the screen for a good 15 minutes, skip the intro and write the parts of the article or blog post that are easier for you. Do you find the conclusion or CTA the easiest to write? Okay! Go ahead and start there!

Personally, I find the body of an article to be the easiest. Once I get that written, I write the conclusion, then I go back up and write the intro. Knowing what is in the body of the article actually helps me get that intro done. Win-win!

Take a mental break

While you need to stick to a regular work schedule, you also need breaks. Stop trying to get all your work done in six straight hours without looking away from your computer screen. You are only making it harder on yourself. You should give yourself at least 5-10 minutes of non-computer time every hour or so. If you have been working for 4 hours straight, close your laptop and go for a walk or grab a snack. Your brain (and eyes) will thank you.

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Create a vision board

It may seem like a stupid suggestion or one that is recycled on every “motivational” blog post in the history of blog posts, but it’s for good reason. Some of us find our motivation visually. If your long-term goal with freelance writing, or freelancing in general, is to buy a house in the country, then that is going to become your best motivation. Every time you feel like giving up or spending half your workday watching Friends on Netflix, you will be reminded why you are doing this.

Whether you have a Pinterest board with inspirational quotes to keep you going or an actual vision board on the wall in front of your desk, it can be your new best friend.

Figure out your peak writing time

This is not the first time I have given this advice, and I doubt it will be the last. You have to find your peak writing time. Just because your favorite writing friend writes during normal business hours, doesn’t mean you have to. You’re a freelance writer who probably works from home. Guess what? You can write whenever you want! With the exception of strict deadlines, you should have some freedom to choose your own schedule.

Try to figure out what time of the day you get the most work done and when you are most motivated. For me, I can do the bulk of my day’s work between 5 and 10am. Once lunch time hits, I’m useless. I take advantage by waking up super early and working during that time. Find the time of day when you seem to get a little more done, and write!

Have a dedicated workspace

This is something that has taken me a little longer to learn, and I am still working on getting my office set up. You need a workspace that is only for writing. It doesn’t have to be a fancy office either. Set up a laptop desk in the corner of your living room, take over half the dining room table, or create an outdoor office on your patio. Wherever you feel comfortable and are free of distractions is perfect. Make this space your own, make it comfortable, and try to make it ergonomic to save your back, neck and shoulders a bit.

Challenge yourself

I like to play little games with myself during the day to keep me focused on my work. It gets a little tedious when you’re writing 30 articles about the same topic. If you keep losing your focus and motivation, try challenging yourself. Do you know you write articles in about 45 minutes? Set the timer for 40 minutes and see if you can finish it in that amount of time. When you beat the clock, try for 35 minutes. The trick here isn’t just to write as fast as you can, but to keep your quality up while still writing faster.

You may not be able to do it in the beginning, but it’s fun to time yourself and see exactly how long it takes to do each task. Plus, practicing actually makes you a better and faster writer, which either gives you time to increase your productivity, or lets you finish your work sooner.

What do you do to stay motivated? Share in the comments!

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Yahoo Contributor Network No More: What to do With Your Articles

 

If you have been writing for Yahoo! Contributor Network (YCN), you have likely heard the bad news by now; they’re shutting down. Yahoo purchased Associated Content several years ago for.. wait for it.. 100 million dollars! CRAZY. But they have decided they no longer have a need for it and are closing their doors forever. Cue sad face.

I wish I could buy something for 100 million dollars and then be like.. oh, just kidding. I’m done.

Not only are they no longer accepting new submissions, but writers have a month to figure out what they want to do with all their hard work, sweat and tears. Actually, if you got sweat and tears from article writing, it’s probably not for you.

Here are some things you should know:

  • All of your articles are going to be removed by YCN in August.
  • You will be getting one more payment for July’s views.
  • You cannot submit any additional articles to the site.
  • They are returning permissions to you when the site shuts down for good.
  • You need to download your work if you want to submit it elsewhere.
  • Your work will no longer be published, which means it cannot be used as online samples for other writing jobs.
  • While you will have permissions in a month, you don’t as of today. So don’t try to submit them elsewhere, otherwise Google will give you a big slap on the hand for plagiarism.
  • You need to wait for the work to no longer show up in search engines before submitting it elsewhere.

So now the big question: what to do with all your work? Some writers have hundreds or thousands of articles on YCN, making this a big headache. At this point, what you do with your articles is entirely up to you, but here are a few suggestions:

Rework them into a blog post.

Submit them to other passive income sites. (links coming soon in a later post)

Turn them into PLR and sell packs of articles.

Hold on to them and use as samples for freelancing projects.

Start a niche blog if you have multiple articles on the same broad topic.

Save them until you have a freelance writing project in the same niche, and rewrite it to fit the new assignment.

If you have time-sensitive articles, you’re shit out of luck.

Delete them, yell “Fuck you, Yahoo!” and never look back.

If you have been writing solely for Yahoo Contributor Network, now is the time to start looking elsewhere. There are some content mills, though they are dwindling fast. All of the recent changes with Google’s algorithms are changing the landscape of content writing. It isn’t going anywhere, but it’s changing. This is the perfect time to start looking for your own clients or start a new website or blog and writing for yourself.

If you’re interested in content mill work, Writers Domain is currently hiring. They pay $20 for standard articles and $40 for premium articles. The application process involves submitting a 400-word article and taking a grammar test. If you want to tell them who referred you: Jennifer Magnesi

Tips for the writing sample:

  • Keep it as close to 400 words as you can.
  • Choose a creative, non-generic article topic about the keyword they provide.
  • Split it up into shorter paragraphs and use headings when applicable.

 

Byeeeeeeeeee

 

Freelance Writing: Nothing is Forever and Why Your Basket Should be Full

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Hi Nerds!

I’m finally back with another freelance writing post. This one is important, especially if you are just starting out with freelance writing. I promise you, at least once in your career, you will deal with having so much work you can barely keep up without that third pot of coffee, and then absolutely nothing at all. I mention this briefly on the Pros and Cons of Writing for Content Mills.

Like everything in life, freelance writing and assignments come in waves. Certain times of the year and certain seasons work tends to pick up, and it dies down at other times of the year. I have been doing this for about four years now, and in that time, I have had a lot of work, a lot of clients, and worked for a lot of evil dictators content mills. I have also had days and weeks of nothing, eaten a lot of ramen noodles, and missed a lot of bills. The latter was almost always because of having the “perfect” writing job that was there one day, and gone the next.

Reasons Clients and Mills Cut Back on Work

There are a lot of reasons you might find the unlimited amount of work has suddenly become 50 articles a day and 10 writers fighting tooth and nail for them. Here are the most common ones:

The content mill is changing management.

The client is switching to a new project.

A new Google algorithm (like Penguin and Panda) has dropped and the client’s rank has dropped.

Clients can no longer afford to pay writers (or they outsource to pay less.. sorry folks).

The content mill has realized they have hired far too many writers, and now don’t have enough work to go around.

Just for fun.

Nothing Lasts Forever

I wish it did. I have had some amazing projects over the last few years, but things change and technology changes and you have to move on. You’re a freelancer, so no matter what you do, you need to accept that you’re taking on projects, not jobs. Projects are temporary.

Keep Finding Those Eggs

No matter how much work I have, no matter how many hours I am sitting in front of the computer probably giving myself a brain tumor, I almost never turn down work. I have been burned too many times before, by both clients and mills. It happens and most of the time, you don’t see it coming. Things come up, work goes dry, mills change directions, clients give up on their current project. Don’t underestimate the power of having a back-up plan.

Get Them to Come to You

If your schedule is like mine, you don’t really have the time to look for more work. When this is the case, try to get clients to come to you instead of actively seeking them out. Have a LinkedIn page, start a Facebook fan page for your writing business, or start a blog or website. The more you get your work out there, the greater the chance is that someone will find you.

If you already have so much work you couldn’t possibly find the time to look for more, then you’re already doing great. Just be careful with depending on anything, because in the end, you’re a freelancer and nothing is guaranteed. Keep communicating with your clients and encourage them to let you know if anything is going to change in the future so you can plan for it.

Have fun!

JennSig

 

 

A Day in the Life of a Freelance Writer: A Semi-Typical Day

I know these posts usually have pictures, but who has time for that?! Will do better with the next one!

 

Today (though this is going up tomorrow) is a semi-typical day. It is fairly close to what I do every day, with a few exceptions. I usually do more writing and less research than I did today, but I have some in-depth articles and reports to write, so the research part takes up more time than actually writing it. I also had a phone conference, which only happens once a month.

Whether you’re interested in what freelance writers (or freelancers in general) do all day, here is a brief rundown of my day.

6:00 am – Wake up, get ready for the day.  I woke up at 6. It’s fairly normal. Most days I get up between 4:30 and 6:30. Just whenever my body decides it’s time, or my dogs jump on my face demanding I get up.

6:30 am – Check email and apply for jobs. By 6:30 I’m ready to work for the day. I spend 99% of my time in yoga pants and t-shirts. That’s just how I roll. So “getting dressed” simply means changing my pajama yoga pants into my day yoga pants. I spend the first hour of my day checking and responding to email, applying for jobs on the daily job boards, and checking my social media. I was finding that I was checking it too much throughout the day, so I force myself to only check in the morning, at night when I’m done working for the day, and on my breaks if I get any.

7:30 am – Walk to the store. I don’t have a car and I needed a few things from my store, so between 7:30 and 8:30 I was just running some errands.

8:30 am – Started researching work. At this point, I was ready to finally start working, which consisted of going through my workload for the day, creating documents, coming up with titles and topics, and starting to research them. Today, I have roughly 13,000 words total to write, so it’s going to be some heavy research.

10:00 am – Conference call. From 10-11, I had a conference call with my writing team for one of my bigger projects. It was the first one, so this isn’t something that usually happens for me. I was about as awkward as can be expected.

11:00 am – Photographed jewelry. Another thing I don’t have every single day is stuff for my Etsy shop. I recently got supplies for a new Spring line so I had to take advantage of the natural lighting I was getting. It really messes with my focus when I have to stop working for things like this, but it has to be done!

11:30 am – Finish researching work. Another hour was spent researching work. Because of this, I had to skip lunch today, so I just quickly made a sandwich and ate while I worked.

12:30 pm – Finally start writing. It’s pretty rare that I don’t write until after noon, but I had some other things going on in the morning and researching this work took longer than it usually does. Some nights, I can get everything prepared for the morning, but today I had last-minute assignments come through in the morning that added to my day’s work.

3:00 pm – Edit jewelry pics and post. I took a break from work to get some of my pics edited. I really want to get all of these up as soon as possible since they’re being marketed for Spring. Posting items to Etsy is time consuming, so I tried to rush through this as much as possible. I photographed a lot, but only had time to edit and post a few.

4:00 pm – Back to writing. I am now finished with 6 blog posts, 3 business articles, 3 hotel descriptions, and 2 re-writes. I spent this hour starting on the rest of my travel articles for the day.

5:00 pm – Dinner time! I lucked out and had my husband make dinner tonight, since I didn’t have a spare moment and we got microwaveable pre-prepared meals from Fresh and Easy. Seriously a life saver when you don’t have time for shit!

6:00 pm – Finish work, research, get my husband’s work ready. The end of my day is for finishing up whatever isn’t done by now. I always have a goal to be done before dinner, but I have yet to accomplish it. I finished my writing work for the day, and managed to research about half of what I have for tomorrow morning. I also get my husband’s work ready since he is up at night doing other writing/editing/research projects. This started as my business alone, so all communications go through my email. I just make him a list of what needs to be done at night. There are certain projects I save for him because of the topics or if they are due early the next morning.

9:00 pm – Blog post, then family time. I’m getting through this blog post as fast as I can. My dogs know when it’s time to stop working for the day. One is pretending to stretch on me while the other is laying right on top of my feet. As for family time, we always make sure we have at least an hour or two every night for spending time together away from cell phones and computers. Usually my husband and I watch a movie, play a video game, or play with the dogs during this time. Sometimes I’m so exhausted I just sit and listen to him talk. Either way, it’s important to us to make time for it.

11:30 pm – BED TIME! 

In case you lost count, it’s about 14 hours of working. Whether that means researching, applying for jobs, sending communications, getting docs ready, uploading to Google Docs, working on my Etsy shop (it also generates income) or actually writing, it’s still work. When you freelance, everything is your responsibility, from marketing to writing and editing.

You will notice I didn’t do shit around the house 🙂 I have gotten better with that lately, trying to save an hour in the afternoon for at least picking up, or I will do laundry sporadically throughout the day, but I don’t have time some days. Men super suck at cleaning, but I do give mine a list of things I need done/don’t have time for that he can do without screwing it up. Like vacuuming.. God Bless a husband who likes to vacuum! Aside from that, if it doesn’t get done, it doesn’t get done. I don’t see any cleaning police showing up at my door with a citation.

I hope that helped, or at least made you see what a workaholic I have become, and why I almost never have time to write a blog post. I’m working on that too!

JennSig

Common Misconceptions About Working From Home

I love working from home about 99% of the time, so this post isn’t so much biased, as it is completely hypocritical. But I won’t deny that there are moments when I think.. well, that didn’t go quite how I thought it would. In fact, most of the dreams and fantasies I had about working from home full time (full time as in 12+ hours a day, 7 days a week), are completely false.

I have always been someone who wanted nothing more than to work from home, though writing really wasn’t what I thought I would be doing. There were a lot of reasons, but mostly because I’m lazy and the thought of getting up to go to work every day sounded like hell, and it was. Plus, I’m an introvert, so being a freelance writer is literally the best thing that could have happened to someone like me.

Now that I have been doing it for over 3 years, I consider myself an expert at pointing out all the exaggerated visions of working in your pajamas, sleeping until noon, and getting to make your own schedule.

Here are some of the most common misconceptions about working from home:

You can make your own hours. This was one of the biggest perks for me, as I envisioned staying up until 2 or 3 am and enjoying the days for running errands, walking my dogs, sleeping late, and lounging around the house with my husband. Yeah, not so much. You work when you have work. So while some days, you have the work ahead of time and can technically do it when you want, the majority of freelance writing has very specific deadlines and it is assigned during random times throughout the day. That means being available almost 24/7 to accept it.

You can work in your pajamas. Technically this is true, but there are multiple drawbacks. First of all, it takes forever to throw on a bra and look somewhat decent when someone rings your doorbell at 10 am. Second, it is really hard motivating yourself to “work” when you don’t at least change out of what you wore to bed. Now yoga pants, you definitely wear.

You get to sleep in. Again, maybe you do get to sleep in, but it didn’t work out that way for me. After years of waking up at 5-6 am every morning for work, my body got used to this schedule, as did my dogs. I still wake up by 6 every single morning, whether I want to or not. If I don’t, my dogs jump on my face until I give up this fantasy of sleeping in until noon.

You will have more free time. Will you? Do you think the only reason you never seem to have time is because you work outside your home? Nope. I have less free time now than I ever did with my out-of-house job. When you work from home, your home becomes your office. Which means every time you are at home, you feel the need to be working. It’s unavoidable.

It will be easier to diet. This might be just me. I used to think eating a healthy diet would be easier at home, because I have access to my kitchen and don’t need to worry about bringing something to work that I can put in the microwave. I may not be tempted by vending machines, but I eat just as shitty as I did when I was a diamond grader.

You can work anywhere. Because I am a freelance writer (and not a customer service rep relying on being near a phone or other office equipment), I can technically bring a laptop to wok anywhere I want. When you are working around 12-14 hours a day, sitting on your bed or couch starts to get physically painful. You WILL end up working at a desk just like a normal office job just to save yourself from severe physical pain. I learned this the hard way.

With that being said, I am thankful every day for the opportunity to earn a living from the comfort of my house. But it definitely has its challenges, so consider them before you quit your job and just go for it.

JennSig

Freelance Writing: The Pros and Cons of Writing for Content Mills

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A content mill is essentially a website that pays writers for articles they choose to write. Each of them works slightly differently, so you need to get used to the requirements, pay schedule and process of each of them individually. For example, some mills include Demand Studios, Textbroker, Crowdsource and Scripted.

I won’t lie; working for content mills is kind of shit. However, when you are first starting out and hoping to earn more than the pennies you get from revenue share (like on Yahoo! Contributor Network), you might need them. I started out with content mills and I got really lucky. A few years ago, they were everywhere, paid decently, and there was tons of work. Since then, Google has gone through several new algorithms, changing how search results are created, killing a lot of these sites.

You can still find some content mills that pay rather quickly and on time, and have some articles available in the pool. But for now, let’s talk about the pros and cons of writing for content mills.

PROS of Writing for Content Mills

They pay on time. I should mention they pay on time most of the time. When you freelance, you get used to things happening on occasion. For the most part, I haven’t had a problem getting paid when I am meant to.

You get upfront payment. When writing articles for content mills, you either get upfront payment or revenue share. Revenue share means you get paid per 1,000 views, while upfront payment is a set amount for the article you chose. Most content mills have upfront payment.

You can choose the topic. This also varies based on the site, but many of them simply have a pool of articles you choose from. It lets you pick and choose what topics you feel most comfortable with. Warning: There will be moments when all they have is technical automotive bullshit. You take what you can get.

It gives you experience. If your long-term goal is to be a freelance writer with private clients, you need experience. Since most content mills don’t require a lot of experience aside from showing you are proficient in grammar and proper sentence structure, it’s a great way to do that.

CONS of Writing for Content Mills

The pay is on the low side. This of course depends all on your perspective, how much you want to make, and how long it takes you to write articles. Some content mills pay a cent a word ($5.00 for 500 words) while others pay $15 or more for the same amount of work.

The work is inconsistent. As I mentioned in the pros, you can choose from available articles, but the ones available aren’t always what you want to write. One day, a content mill can have 2,000 articles in your topic, the next day they have 5 really terrible titles that are impossible to write.

Editors can be brutal. There is an unspoken distaste between writers and editors who work for content mills. A lot of it is miscommunication and inconsistency with what the clients or admins are going for. Expect some of your work to be slashed, some to be rejected, and others to demand so many edits you practically re-write the entire thing.

Everything is unpredictable. The same can be said for content mills, clients, and freelancing in general. Don’t ever assume the work you have is going to last forever. Freelancing isn’t about finding a great project and having it forever. You need to constantly grow and change and find new opportunities.

I don’t mean to be overly negative about content mills, but to give you my honest opinion so you can decide if this is something you want to pursue. The ones I have worked for have paid my bills, my rent, fed me, clothed me, and given me enough experience to get stable clients. It’s not all bad, but you need to look at it from an honest perspective and understand the good and the bad.

Good luck!

JennSig

Freelance Writing: Quick Resources

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Due to a large number of responses, questions and comments recently, I decided to turn this into a series. To start off, I know many of you are just looking for a place to start. So here are some helpful resources and tips.

Tip #1: Have a Portfolio

Even if you are just starting out and looking for your very first writing job, you need to have samples of some kind. They can be posts from your blog or guest posts on another blog, website content, or print work you have scanned into your computer. Clients and content mills need to know you know what you’re doing, so there is really no way around this. Many content mills will ask you to write a sample for them, so having experience helps.

The WAHM.com Forums

I highly recommended reading through at least a few pages of posts on this Freelance Writing section of WAHM.com. This is where I got a lot of my jobs. Not only do private clients post fairly frequently looking for writers, but writers who have extra work do, and a lot of your common questions get answered.

Tip #2: Get Work Published

When building up your portfolio, having at least a handful of articles published in your name (not as a ghostwriter) is invaluable. Having your own blog is a good start, but also getting work published by a site that is recognizable. I started out getting work published at Yahoo! Contributor Network. It is one of the best places to start, though be aware it only pays per view.

FreelanceWritingGigs.com

Another site I think you should check out when it comes time to find private clients is FreelanceWritingGigs.com. She finds all the best job listings across the web and posts them Monday through Friday on her blog. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also look yourself, but it’s a quick way to get the best listings.

Finding Private Clients

The end goal really is to have private clients, even if you do start working for revenue share or content mills. Here are some ways myself and other writers have found their clients.

  • Keeping a writing blog updated regularly
  • Having a writing website, with portfolio
  • Posting and responding on writing forums, like the WAHM.com one
  • Posting or responding to ads on Craigslist (will go more into this later on)
  • Having a Twitter or Facebook page advertising your writing services
  • Word of mouth

I’ll be back with a list of content mills that are currently accepting writers and have steady work.

JennSig