Thursday, November 18, 2010

The 3 important things I've learned from freelancing on

Although I spend most of my day chasing after small children, I have also been a freelance writer for the past two years. I discovered a love of writing when I was very young, but never thought of it as an actual talent until I was in my 30's.

I'd like to think that I can write fiction, but I tend to be a very non-fiction oriented writer. I'm slightly jealous of those who can just whip off a story that keeps me up until 2 am, but I know my own strengths. I write articles, press releases, blurbs, app reviews: You name it, I've done it. I haven't even updated my portfolio with as much as I could, but it is safe to say that I write something new every single day.

I started freelancing on Odesk, and because people ask me about it so often, I'd like to share a few things about working on there.

First of all, for those who aren't familiar with, it is a website that allows freelancers (like myself) to search for jobs (that people post). I had some history with freelancing websites (I was the employer, and it was NOT a good experience), so I was a touch leery of Odesk in the beginning. Fortunately, I was just being paranoid, and I have enjoyed over 2 successful years freelance writing on there. I have a spotless, 5 star profile, and I really work to keep it that way.

I've learned a lot along the way, but here are 3 of the most important lessons I've learned on Odesk:
  • Start Small: I cannot emphasize this enough. I don't know how many profiles that I've seen with people who say they are freelance writers, yet have no feedback, have not taken an Odesk test, and have nothing in their portfolio. Oh yes, and these are the people who are asking for $25 -$30 per hour. Unfortunately, you just can't do that. I started freelancing at $9.00 per hour, and I did this because I knew that I had to work at it, get experience, and slowly up my rate as my portfolio grew. Yes, you may be the best writer out there, but why should an employer simply trust that. You need to prove yourself, just like in any other job. 
  • Act like a professional: I have a background in customer service. I know how to treat people, and it never mattered to me that they were 'virtual' people that I had never met. If someone contracts me for a job, I bend over backward to ensure that they have the best writing and that I meet the deadline. If they aren't happy, I will rewrite over and over again until its right. I never take on a job that I can't complete, and I will often offer up ideas or thoughts on their posting. Sometimes an extra pair of eyes really helps complete a project, so I never feel like I'm overstepping when I go the extra mile. 
  • Know that you can say No: When I first started freelancing, I never said no to a single project. I took on everything and anything, including editing a video that honestly made me want to tear my hair out. I spent Christmas one year editing a website for a client and I ended up making about $5 per hour when all was said and done. Once I had built a portfolio, I decided not to take on any projects that I didn't want to do, no matter what they offered. Instead, I focus on my strengths. I write excellent press releases, can whip off a non-fiction ebook with ease, and enjoy researching and writing articles. I also focus on those areas that I am trying to grow, like query letters and honing a pitch.
In my own experience, Odesk has been an excellent platform from which to grow a freelancing business. I have clients from all over the globe, and I wouldn't have even had confidence in my writing if it wasn't for Odesk.

If you have any questions, comments, feel free to ask! For an idea of what its like to write on Odesk, take a peek at my profile:

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Your gonna need a shoe horn - 3 things that are great for post-Halloween, pre-Christmas muffin top

The room is dark, with just a bit of light peeking through the plaid squares on the curtains. I am staring at the pillow case that is dropped half haphazardly in the corner of the room. It is staring back at me.

Normally, pillow cases don't have personalities in this house. They remain on the pillows in some cases, and in others they end up crumpled in the corner of the room. Possibly, they were a backdrop for some epic Star Wars action figures battles. This pillow case, the one that is staring at me, is full of candy. Therefore it has a personality.

I know the reason I had children was for Halloween candy. Around 12 or 13 you outgrow trick or treating, and then you have to spend the next 10 or 15 years pretending that the tiny bags of chocolate bars and fuzzy peach slices are actually for handing out on Halloween. No matter that you may have been living in your parents house, and the only person knocking on the door to your bedroom for treats is your cat. If you spent some time actually eating your way through a bag of candy, you'd feel horribly guilty because you know you shouldn't do that.

Halloween candy comes without guilt. That pillow case in the corner is a big old bag of chocolaty guilt free goodness. And I'm going to eat it up while they are at school, but not before I talk about muffin top.

Muffin top. Such a lovely concept. For those who may not know what a muffin top is, its the wonderful addition to your stomach that comes with having multiple children. Yes, some women who have only had one child have muffin top, but this was not the case with me. No, I had to have four kids, just to try it all out and see if it would happen. And it did. Such fun.

Muffin top is most noticeable when you shoe horn your body into jeans that might have fit when you were say, 21? Your top overflows like the top of a big ol' muffin. This problem is only amplified by your choice in Tshirts. Maybe that sparkly slim fit tshirt made out of glorious organic cotton caught your eye. Yes, its a bit tight around the middle, but it looks great right? Sure, pair it with of your skinny jeans and viola, muffin top! Don't be in denial like the contestants on American Idol: Instead of just accepting the muffin top, fight against it by choosing your clothing wisely.

To disguise your muffin top, you could avoid slim tops, grab a pair of Spanx, and get a damn good pair of jeans:

  • Spanx -  The woman that invented Spanx knew what she was doing. Great product, and it really works. In the summer it feels as though you are encased in heavy tar paper or plastic, but wow, you look good.
  • Old Navy jeans - Yes, the mecca of denim and children's clothing with numbers on it came to Canada a few years back, and they brought some jeans that actually fit properly. Look for the lower cut versions and avoid the skinny and ultra skinny jeans. You will look like Gingy from Shrek when he exploded out of the oven. Boot cut is best, with a bit of stretch.
  • The Gap jeans - Old Navy is owned by Gap, and although Gap is possibly the more expensive of the two, they have great jeans for muffin top. Try the 1969 line if you can find them, and remember, if you wear low cut jeans, you can hide a big belly better by avoiding tight tshirts. (Can you say that three times?? Big Belly Better, Big Belly Better, ah, nuts, no I can't).
The common theme here? Avoid jeans that are too small and don't wear tshirts that are too tight.  Did you ever wonder why our moms or your friends moms would wear those horrific house dresses? (And on a side note, can you believe they still sell those? Perhaps there are still some housewives out there who do nothing but run a feather duster along the coffee table and watch soap operas while eating bon bons?).

Back to that bag of candy. Its still staring at me, but now that I've written about muffin top for 20 minutes I think I'll just whack it over the head with a hammer and quietly put it away in the closet. I may have had children just for the chocolate, but I don't have to eat it.