Staying Real But Not Too Real, Ratting Yourself Out On Your Own Hire Me Page…and Green Apple Sangrias

This post is dedicated to my two awesome friends, Anne and Nancy, who helped me laugh-cry my way through some of the most frustrating aspects of starting a freelance business.  Thank you for letting me be real, then for laughing your asses off at me when I dramatically described my website woes.

And now, on to the post.

2018-10-11 Post Photo not-hear-3444212_1280
Me, at the height of my marketing genius

Some time ago, I published a post called ‘Staying Authentic in Your Blog When Everyone Has a Blog’.  I was finding it tricky to exude confidence and professionalism as a new freelance writer without sounding like every other freaked out freelance writer trying to do the same thing.

I found myself using buzzwords to describe my skills and services.  You know the ones I’m talking about.  I caught myself nodding off reading my own hire me page.  I was struggling to find my unique voice in an oversaturated freelance marketplace.

One day, I had an epiphany:

What if I stopped worrying so much about ‘being’ authentic and ‘finding’ my voice, and just showed up as me — unfiltered?

I would share my ups and downs as a freelance writer without fear that my struggles would make me look incompetent or weak.  I would just be real, thank you very much —  opinions be damned.

My blog makeover started with a new name.  Begone pretentious old blog name! (“Eleanor and Jane: Navigating the Journey to Freelance Success”) *barely stifles yawn*

Hellooooo hip-and-happening new name! (“Eleanor and Jane Chronicles: Lessons and Confessions of a New Freelance Writer”¹)  It had a certain cadence and conspiratorial appeal.  New posts would be announced to the world with this tweet: “Click here for the latest from Eleanor and Jane Chronicles: Lessons and Confessions of a New Freelance Writer”

I had a whole schtick.

I triumphantly published and tweeted my post about my return to authenticity.  A couple of readers left kind, positive comments.  A freelance writer I admired sent me a shout out on Twitter encouraging my decision to stay true to my voice.  I felt liberated and free.

I infused personality back into some of my older posts.  I spent time reworking my Work With Me page until it felt more like me and less like the thousands of other new freelance writers jostling for attention in the writer blogosphere.

Then, weeks later, I deleted my post and the comments and tweets that went with it. 

Because when I looked at my blog again, all I saw was fear, worry and self-doubt.  My quest to “keep it real” and “be myself” showed up as me taking subtle and not-so-subtle digs at myself online — before anyone else could.  As an example, take a look at my old hire me page:



Former Work With Me Page
(previously titled “Can I Help You?”)

Hi, I’m Kari, writer behind Eleanor & Jane.

After years in the legal field as a medical malpractice paralegal, I now use my extensive research and writing skills to help others build their online presence with informative and engaging web content.

What can I take off your plate?  I can help with the following:

Blog Posts, Articles, Case Studies, White Papers

I can provide you with quality, well-researched blog posts, articles, cases studies, and white papers.  Whether you need short-form or long-form content, my goal is to help you inspire, educate and connect with your audience.

Editor’s Note: Kari, I crossed out white papers because you know nothing about writing white papers — yet, anyway — although I’m sure if you can write submissions of evidence on behalf of doctors and hospitals in med mal cases, you can handle white papers. Give this some time. Love your gusto, but let’s slow your roll a bit and work your way up. As for the other services – great choices.

Fact-checking, Research (or hire me to be your research assistant)

As a former paralegal, research is my passion. If you like to use stories or quotes to illustrate a point, I can fact-check your work to make sure your sources are accurate.

Tired of rehashing the same ten quotes and stories about the same ten people?  I can prepare a list of fresh inspiration for future use on the specific points you want to hit home.

Pssst!  If you’re writing a book and need a go-to person to tackle small research assignments to help you finish your story, I’m your girl. Seriously, this is the type of thing I did for years as a paralegal. It’s my superpower.~Kari

Editor’s Note: Yes, I agree. If research was a superpower, it would be yours. You are a bloodhound when it comes to sourcing information.

Proofreading, Editing

Nothing impacts your site’s bounce rate faster than awkward grammar and stilted sentences. When hired as an editor, I will not only edit for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors, but also for clarity and “flow”.

Editor’s Note: The first sentence is a little hokey and sales-y, Kari, but you make your point. And you’re pretty good at keeping your writing real.

Can I help you?

Yes, why thank you! I’d love to help! What can I take off your hands?


Now, who is the ‘Editor’ behind the ‘Editor’s Note’ you ask?

Me.

Yes, folks, I added semi-snarky editorial comments to my own Work With Me page, online, for the world to see.

WTH.

My husband, bless his heart, was confused.  He literally said, “I don’t get it. Who wrote the comments?”

“Me!” I said, delighting over my marketing genius.

“Okayyyyy,” he said slowly.  “And tell me again, why would you do that?”

“It’s funny,” I explained patiently. “It’s ironic. I’m being me. I’m standing out, you see.”

“Are you sure? It kinda sounds like you don’t want to get hired.”

Poor guy.  He didn’t understand. (He’s not in the biz)

He also didn’t get why I wanted to call my rates page ‘Currency Exchange’. 

Me: “Honey, everyone has a ‘Rates’ page. It’s boring. I’m being unique!”

Perplexed Hubby: “What if people don’t click on it thinking you’re talking about conversion rates or something?”

See where I’m going with this?

Ladies and gents, trying to be authentic doesn’t always mean you get it right.  Sometimes you come off as trying to be cute, even if that’s absolutely not your intent.

I certainly didn’t set out to be cute.  I thought I was just trying to listen to my gut.  Word of caution: Trust your gut, but if your gut is telling you to do crazy things like making cases against hiring you on your own hire me page, then perhaps it’s not your gut that’s doing the talking.  Perhaps it’s something a little more intuitive.

So if you can’t trust your own gut yet, what can you do?

Well, for me, I started by taking down my old hire me page and putting up one that highlights what I can do, and not what I can’t.

I renamed my ‘Currency Exchange’ page to, yep, you guessed it: ‘Rates’.

And I stepped back from this space for a bit and had drinks and lunch with my girlfriends.  As I dramatically recounted my hire me page woes over green apple sangrias and vegetable lo mein, their laughter caught me off guard.

I was in the middle of explaining how I was struggling to find my voice, and how I decided to throw shit to the wind and add some personality to my hire me page.

Yes, I said, I listed my services on my hire me page and then crossed one out with an editor’s note that I wasn’t ready yet to provide that service.

Yes, I said, on my own hire me page.  

Suddenly, my shoulders started quaking and before I knew it I was laughing right along with my friends. I laughed until tears were sliding down my face.

Awesome friend: You wrote “slow your roll”…to yourself?

Me (gasping for air): Yes! On my own hire me page!

Sometimes you just have to laugh.  And find the humor in what are indisputably first world problems.

Is there a lesson in all of this?

Yes.

Give yourself permission to laugh at yourself once in awhile.

Have a drink with friends.

Take a moment away.

You’ll feel more human and less like a fraud.

You’ll look at your situation with kinder and fresher eyes so you can (cliché alert) get back on your horse and start riding again.

___________________________

¹ The blog has since been renamed, again. That’s a story for another post.
Advertisements

Online Options for Daily Gratitude Journaling: Resources for Those Who Prefer Keyboards to Pens

journaling-865110_640

My best friend has the most beautiful handwriting.  It’s flowy and pretty and easy to read.  She loves to send cards and letters the old fashioned way, so for years I’ve been the lucky recipient of some of the most beautifully penned thoughts and sentiments.

I used to have beautiful handwriting.  But somewhere between grade school and college my handwriting slipped from award-winning to mediocre to hieroglyphic symbols.

“It’s like my brain moves too fast for my hand,” I say half-apologetically to the cashier as I furiously scribble out my check. “Believe it or not, I used to win penmanship awards in grade school.”

Sure, my horrible handwriting has had some consequences:

Text from irritated husband: “I can’t make out the grocery list. You want eggs, milk and what?”

Me (equally irritated):  “Bread, honey.  It says bread.”

But for the most part, the only person this flaw has affected is me, and in pretty minor ways.

Recently, though, I’ve been hearing more and more about the benefits of daily journaling.  Research ‘morning rituals of successful people’ and you’ll likely find that most of them incorporate some form of journaling in their daily routine (whether it be morning pages, gratitude entries or just a free flow of thoughts).  The following are some of the most commonly reported reasons for keeping a journal:

  • to clarify thoughts
  • to dream big
  • to set goals and intentions
  • to track and monitor progress
  • to become self-aware (through honest reflection)
  • to preserve mental energy (by expelling ideas and thoughts onto paper)
  • to express gratitude
  • to improve writing skills through the daily exercise of writing

(I highly recommend this article on Medium: How I Use My Journal to Create My Future and Achieve Goals by Benjamin Hardy)

It didn’t take me long to see the benefits, and I soon began drooling over which moleskin journal I would select to start chronicling my journey to success.  I imagined myself in a coffee shop writing life-changing affirmations in bold, black ink, reminding myself of who I am and who I’m working to become.

Post - Online Options for Gratitude Journaling

And then I remembered my handwriting.

Rather than be stymied, I did what any self-respecting writer and former paralegal would do, I hit up Google:

2018-09-14 Post - Google search

Fortunately, Google also serves as my spelling and grammar police:
2018-09-14 Post - Google search results
Why, yes.  Yes, I did.

Google’s corrected search produced the following page one results:

2018-09-14 Post - Google search results 12018-09-14 Post - Google search results 22018-09-14 Post - Google search results 32018-09-14 Post - Google search results 5

My personal favorite:
2018-09-14 Post - Google search results 4

Now, I’m a huge self-improvement advocate, but I’m not gonna lie, my handwriting is not on my list of Top 10 things to work on right now.

So I did some more research and found several online journaling resources. Here are a few, including brief descriptions of each in their own words:

Penzu
“Whether you’re looking for a tool to record your daily emotions and activities in a reflective journal, keep track of milestones in a food diary or pregnancy journal, or even record your dreams in a dream journal, Penzu has you covered. Penzu gives you all the tools you need to focus on the ideas you want to preserve, rather than the process of writing itself.”

JRNL
“JRNL offers a unique and enjoyable journaling experience while providing innovative tools that you are going to love.”

Online Journal
“Online Journal gives you a very private and free place to record your thoughts, feelings and ideas. We have tons of journal topics to help you get started. You can use it as frequently or infrequently as you would like.”

Five Minute Journal App
“There are plenty of benefits to journaling, whether you take time to write out your full thoughts or just spend a few minutes jotting down the things you’re most grateful for every day or lessons you’ve learned. The Five Minute Journal app makes this process easy enough to do on the go.”

All of the above are ways to record your thoughts online in a private way.  Of course, you can simply create a private blog.

You don’t need anything fancy.

In fact, my current online journal is simply a running Google doc in Google Drive.  Here’s the beginning of an entry from last week:

2018-09-14 Post - Snippet 5 (gratitude)

Nothing fancy.  It’s simple and uncomplicated.  I’m not limited in length.  I can copy and paste quotes, pictures, meaningful e-mails.  I can access it from anywhere.  I can print it off whenever I want to — even when it’s 300 pages long.  I don’t have to worry about losing it, or not having it when I want to journal. I can create a back-up or copy with ease.  And, most importantly, I can look back at my entries and actually read them.

I wasted weeks thinking about journaling, but once I convinced myself that it wasn’t “fake” journaling to type my thoughts into the computer, I started journaling right away and have been doing so almost every day since.

There is still something so beautiful and classic about manually penning your thoughts and dreams into the pages of a notebook or journal.  After all, it’s been the primary means of expression for hundreds of years.  I suppose I’ll have to comfort myself with the knowledge that methods of self-expression have evolved since the beginning of time, and the importance is less in the mode, but in the expression itself.

Takeaway:  If your handwriting isn’t the best, or if you simply prefer typing to handwriting, check out some of these online journals, start a private blog, or just open a new Google doc and start journaling today.

Ditch any feelings that you’re not “doing it right”.

You’re 100 times more likely to stick with something if you choose a method that works for you.

Resources:

How I Use My Journal to Create My Future and Achieve Goals by Benjamin Hardy
Source: Medium (9/16/17)

Five of the Best Sites for Creating an Online Journal or Diary
Source: Blogging.org (1/18/18)

The 10 Best Journaling Apps for 2018 by Melanie Pinola
Source: Zapier Blog (1/4/18)

8 Reasons Keeping a Journal Can Help You Reach Your Goals by Joshua Becker
Source: Becoming Minimalist Blog

How to Become Ridiculously Self-Aware in 20 Minutes by Tom Kuegler
Source: Medium (5/29/18)

When The Domain Name You Want Is Taken: Lesson Learned

2018-08-26 Photo of Kittens on Eleanor and Jane Blog
Meet my unfair competition: Jane and Eleanor from the blog, The Adventures of Eleanor and Jane

See this picture?

This what happens when you wait too long to register your domain name: it gets scooped up by your competition.

And since no one can resist cute, cuddly kittens, particularly a pair of orphaned sister kittens who were given a second chance at a happy home, I’d say they have a rather unfair advantage.

Let this be a lesson to you.

If your domain name is available, register it now.  Seriously, it’ll set you back $15 – $20 at most.  That’s less than a half a tank of gas or two Chick-Fil-A value baskets.

Even if you aren’t ready to pay for hosting yet, register your domain name. Or better yet, if you haven’t launched your website or blog yet, make sure the name you want is available before you go all in — and then, register your domain name.

It will save you the hassle of possibly having to rename everything in the future.

Back when I started this website, my goal was to just get it up and running.  And so I did.

I launched it on a free WordPress.com account. I chose WordPress.com over other free content platforms because I thought if I couldn’t have a .com site yet, a .wordpress.com site would look better than a .blogspot.com site.

So my official URL was (and is): www.EleanorandJane.wordpress.com 

My goal was to save for hosting and a domain name, and then to ultimately migrate this website to the self-hosted platform, WordPress.org.  I even went so far as to check the domain registry to see if EleanorandJane.com was available.  At the time, it was.

Then life happened, time went by, and I left this space dormant for some time.

When I returned fully committed to my writing career, I resurrected this blog. I soon realized that if I wanted to be taken seriously, I needed to switch to a self-hosted WordPress blog because that’s where all the professionals hang out.

I began researching hosting packages and design elements for my website.  Everything was coming together until, on a hunch, I decided to make sure my domain name was still available.  I typed www.eleanorandjane.com in the address bar and, bam!

In my absence, two kittens had hooked their teeny tiny claws into my space.

Never mind that one kitten was also named for Eleanor Roosevelt. (The other kitten, Jane, was named after Jane Ives of the TV show Stranger Things, not the literary great Jane Austen)

And never mind that the blog is written in the voices of Eleanor and Jane — yes, the kittens. Here’s the blog tagline:

Just two mischievous tabby cats that love to run and play. Here are our adventures through the eyes and voice of our family.

You couldn’t manufacture this cuteness if you tried.

I’m not gonna lie.  It was easy to get woo-wooed by their adorable furriness. I got sucked into their sad backstory and read every post.

After all, I’m not an evil supervillain.

Truth be told, I know Eleanor and Jane doesn’t exactly shout, Kari Watterson, Content Writer for Hire.  I chose the name for the women they represent, and partly for the way it rolled off my tongue,“What do I do? Why, I write for Eleanor and Jane.” 

I know conventional wisdom says your website name should clearly reflect your personality and brand. You should know by the name exactly what you’re going to find.  So while Jane Austen is a writer, it’s an abstract (albeit deeply personal) connection.

So it’s back to the drawing board for me.

I may decide to rename this blog and still migrate it to WordPress.org.

I may keep the name and just keep writing here on WordPress.com.

Either way, I’ve learned my lesson.

I’ve taken the plunge and set up hosting and a domain name for an entirely different project. It’s an idea I’ve been nurturing for some time.  It’s still in its infancy.  When I’m ready to share, I’ll post about it here.

My first two domain name choices for this new site were already taken.  Frustratingly, the names don’t even match the content, but I’m happy with the name I finally chose. It sets the framework for everything I’ll be doing, and one I’d be proud to promote.  It will take a bit of time to build this new website out, but at least I’ve preserved the name.

As for the other Eleanor and Jane, the supercute kitten duo that unknowingly stole my name and my heart, I wish them and their human family all the best.

What I’ve Learned in 7 Weeks of Blogging

Post - 7 weeks of blogging

Hi there.

I just realized this blog is officially 7 weeks old. (I’m counting from when I officially relaunched in the beginning of July)

Seven weeks sounds like an infant in blog years, but it’s enough time to take stock of how things have been going so far. Since I did this with my freelance writing business in my last post, I will focus today’s post just on my blogging efforts.

Here we go:

Blogging for blogging’s sake is easy; intentional blogging is harder.

For the record, blogging is not as easy as you might think. It’s not just writing what you want, when you want, how you want.  Now, if you don’t care about numbers, then that’s just fine.  Keep doing that.

But if you want more readers than your mom and your best friend (and I hate to tell you but your friend is likely too busy to read your blog), then you need to approach your blog with focused intent.

It’s sharing what you want to share in an honest, open and authentic way without sounding like you’re trying too hard.

It’s trying to perfect the no make-up make-up or the messy-hair-don’t-care look, but in the blogosphere.

Whole industries have been built on teaching people like us how to start and grow our blogs the right way so we can stop hitting ‘refresh’ every 30 seconds to see if anyone’s liked or commented on our posts. There’s definitely skill and expertise involved.

How do I know this? 

Because I’ve consumed countless video tutorials, podcasts and blog posts on this very subject. 

As a freelance writer, I know there’s a real need in the online space for well-written, consumable content.  I’m learning as much as I can now so I can add as much value as I can later for my prospective clients.

A good blog post includes at least one really good, relevant visual aid or photo.

Whether we like it or not, aesthetics play an important part in how others view us in the online space.

We all know really good content keeps readers on our sites, but fantastic images help get them there in the first place.  That’s where many of us get stuck.

We see the beautiful Pinterest-ready or blog-ready images, but don’t know quite how to turn them into what we want. I’ve used Canva before and have been able to crank out fairly decent images with basic text overlays, but I’d love to know how to do it really well. Pictures and graphics are a huge time suck for people like me who know what they want, but presently lack the skills to bring their visions to life.

Goal:  Start learning the basics of graphic design with Canva. Design a business logo and learn to create beautiful, branded blog images, social media graphics and infographics.

Value:  Increase blog engagement and readership experience with visually appealing pictures or graphics. Build brand awareness through consistency in brand color palette, logo and choice of fonts and images. Help stand out on more visual platforms like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.  Add value to work for prospective clients.

Tools:  For free design programs: Canva, possibly PicMonkey (free versions); For free stock photos: Canva Free Stock photosUnsplash.com, Pexels.com, Burst.shopify.com

Links to more great resources:
21 Amazing Sites with Breathtaking Free Stock Photos by Chris Gimmer

Source: Snappa Blog (3/28/18)
URL: https://blog.snappa.com/free-stock-photos/

8 Data-driven Tips for Using Images With Blog Posts by Neil Patel 
Source: HubSpot Blog (Originally published 10/31/14, updated 8/26/17)
URL: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/images-in-blog-posts-tips

Social media and online networking is critical to gaining traffic.

You can write a good blog post, but what’s the point if no one knows it exists?

I have to remind myself of this whenever I write something new.  Bloggers write to be seen or heard by others, or we’d set our blogs to private or write in a journal instead.  Since I’m using my blog to help build my online presence, I make it a point to share my posts on Twitter and, on occasion, in re-purposed form on Medium.  While I don’t have a ton of followers yet on either platform, I do get a couple more every time I post, and even more when others engage in what I’ve written.  It’s easy to see how social media — when used effectively — can really drive traffic to your blog.

Right now, though, I’m still deep in the learning curve and have made a few rookie mistakes.  Take it from me, know your settings on your various platforms.  I’ve sent duplicate tweets about the same article because both my blog and Medium accounts were set to automatically tweet whenever I published new content.  I’ve tweeted links to posts without any pictures or descriptions (which, unless I’m Tony Robbins or J.K. Rowling, is akin to launching your work into a gaping black hole). I’ve tweeted without hashtags which, again, may be fine if you already have your loyal following, but if you’re just starting out you need all the potential engagement you can get.

Beware, though.  As you start ramping up your online efforts, you may run smack dab into a thing called social media FOMO.  With Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Snapchat, and multitudes of other lesser known platforms, it’s easy to spread yourself so thin in your attempt to be everywhere that your content quality suffers simply because you’ve run out of gas.  Choose a platform or two that makes most sense for you and what you’re trying to accomplish, and don’t worry about the rest. Remember, a Jack-of-All-Trades really is a master of none.

I’ve chosen to expend my energy on Twitter, Medium and Pinterest.  Technically, Medium is an online platform to share writing and Pinterest is more of a search engine (akin to Google), but both require time and intentional cultivation, so I’m including them here.  I’ll save my reasons for focusing on Pinterest for another post, but it has to do with the long half-life of a pin (for marketing purposes), traffic generation, and the set-it-and-forget-it marketing strategy.

This means I’m currently not actively engaged on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn, all powerful social and networking platforms for freelance writers.  I plan to update my LinkedIn profile in the near future. I’ve also considered starting a Facebook group for freelance writers or bloggers, but there are so many great ones already with engaged followings that it may be more valuable to join one of those existing groups than to create a new one.

One final thought on social media: Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are all extremely visual — another nod to why it would be a wise investment of time to learn to create those click-worthy images and graphics that stand out and make people want to engage.

Goal:  Really understand how Twitter posts are circulated and how they show up in users’ feeds. Learn how to use hashtags to get content in front of a target audience. Learn Twitter etiquette and the life cycle of a tweet (including retweets, likes, comments).

Additional great resources:

Creative Revolt with Jorden Roper: https://www.creativerevolt.com/twitter-for-freelance-writers/

Make a Living Writing with Carol Tice: https://www.makealivingwriting.com/writers-win-social-media/

The Writing Cooperative on Medium (Angely Mercado): https://writingcooperative.com/how-i-use-twitter-to-help-my-freelance-writing-3ab878cd0f30

Your website or blog is your business card.

We live in a digital era, and, in the freelance industry anyway, our primary contacts are no longer limited to those in our local community.  As our networks become more global, our websites and blogs have become our digital business cards, conveying to the world who we are, what we do, and what value we have to contribute to the online marketplace.

The good news: we have the ability to make amazing connections with people and businesses all over the world.

The bad news: the space is incredibly saturated with people vying for the same attention as us.  What this means is if we have, let’s say, only three to five seconds to make a decent impression on our blog, then we need to take care that our content really hooks and grabs, and that our site is as visually pleasing as possible.

In addition to publishing new content and tweaking the old, I’ve been trying to create a more inviting reader experience by customizing my WordPress theme. Since I’m limited to what I can do with the free themes, I’ve been experimenting with the side bar widgets, the site pages on the menu bar, and the font types of both the headings and paragraphs (for readability).

By adding the ‘Recent Posts’ widget to the sidebar, I hope to boost my site’s stickiness factor by showing readers there’s more good stuff to read other than the post that originally brought them there.

Since the ‘Recent Posts’ only lists the blog titles, I know I need to make them as interesting and catchy as possible to entice readers to click and read. If they read a couple posts, maybe they’ll ‘like’ the posts or even choose to follow my blog.

Increased engagement = valuable social proof to prospective clients that my writing could boost their audience engagement as well, which may convert to more subscribers and lead to potential sales.

Blogging as a powerful promotional tool for your business.

So where does that leave us?

Blogging is more of a business tool than I ever imagined.  Initially, I thought blogging would be a way to build community with other freelance writers and to showcase my writing skills, but the more I learn the more I understand the power of a forward-thinking, value-laden blog.

While I still see value in sharing parts of my journey as I continue to build my freelance writing business, I want to take care that each post includes a valuable lesson or takeaway that will help others — otherwise my post is just a confessional and I’m only serving myself.  While writing to work through struggles is an extremely valuable practice, it may be best reserved for private journaling or morning pages.

I’m excited to see where this blog leads.  I’m even more excited to share what I’m learning with you.

The Power of Momentum: How One Action Toward Your Goal Motivates You to Take Another

Post - Power of MomentumI know it’s been some time since my last post.  I haven’t given up.  I’ve been taking consistent, intentional action to build my freelance writing business.

Here’s what I’ve been up to:

1. Working through Heather Deveaux’s course, How to Confidently Start and Run a Freelance Writing Business. (See previous posts for my thoughts on Heather Deveaux’s blog, podcast and freelance writing course). I’m currently on the seventh module – creating writing samples. Be prepared to roll up your sleeves and spend some time on this section, as it is easily one of the most valuable. You will work through exercises designed to sharpen your online writing skills. Heather provides topics, minimum word count and keywords to hit. By the time you complete the exercises, you should have a diverse portfolio of writing clips to show to prospective clients. Heather even offers to review your samples and give pointers on how you can improve.

If you find yourself struggling with the assignments, Heather encourages you to reach out to her directly.  I did, and she offered some great, actionable advice:

  • Just start writing: Heather says to resist the idea of a perfect first draft. What’s important is putting pen to paper. “Allow yourself to write something awful if that is what it takes to get on with the process.”
  • Avoid the research rabbit hole: It’s easy to get derailed by the sheer volume of information available on any given topic. If information overload is hindering your writing, Heather says, “Don’t worry about the research. I know that is like telling a banker not to count the money before they put it in the vault, but trust me. Pick one. Pretend you know everything there is to know about it and pretend that whatever you put on the paper is the God’s honest truth.” Then, with draft in hand, go back and do some focused, targeted research and add substance where needed.
  • Choose to add value:  After you’ve done some research, you’ll need to decide what information to include in your final work. Heather offers this suggestion: “I constantly ask myself: what didn’t I know before I started reading this? Because you know more than you think and many readers know more than they think, so lead with a question that draws out the most important information first.”
  • Stay on point: “Before you sit down to write something that you have researched, come up with the working title and then refer to it numerous times asking the question, ‘Does this information contribute to the answer of that question or fulfill the promise of the title?’ For example, if I am writing about how to improve SEO in a blog, I need to be careful to only include information that answers the question, ‘How can I improve SEO in a blog?’ and that helps filter out all the other crap.”

2. Publishing content on the online writing platform, Medium. My reasons for doing this are six-fold: 1) To exercise my ‘discomfort’ muscle by putting myself and my work out there; 2) For a sense of community as writing can be isolating; 3) To sharpen my writing skills by occasionally writing on topics unrelated to my blog; 4) To start building an online presence on an internationally read platform; 5) To push traffic to Eleanor and Jane; and 6) To read others’ work.

Stephen King wrote in his memoir, On Writing, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

Medium is a fantastic place to do both.

3. Building social engagement. I know that networking and online engagement are critical to increasing traffic and growing an online business. I’m a fairly private person, but I’ve found that commenting on particularly informative or well written posts or articles allows me to contribute to the community and connect with my fellow writers and readers without the in-your-face feel of other engagement efforts. Sometimes I’ll comment on a blog directly; other times I’ll tweet a link to an article on Twitter. Word of mouth marketing is powerful. If I feel a specific blog or podcast would be right up a person’s alley, I don’t hesitate to share.

4. Revamping the Eleanor and Jane website. I actually started Eleanor and Jane a couple of years back, when I was thinking about writing for a living. At the time, the only thing I really knew about WordPress was that anyone who was anyone used WordPress for their business website or blog. So I signed up for a free WordPress account, uploaded a free, basic theme and wrote a couple posts.  Then I left the blog dormant for a good year or two.

More recently, I posted a couple of articles on the technical side of starting an online jewelry business on Etsy. I mistakenly thought that any content was good content for Eleanor and Jane, so long as it was informative and somehow touched on any aspect of building a freelance business. It was only after I started sharing Eleanor and Jane with others that I realized my website was all over the place. I knew I needed to streamline my content in order to reach a more targeted audience. Although I was proud of my posts about my Etsy business, I decided to take them down.

Fast forward to last month. When I fully committed to making a living as a freelance writer, I went back and tweaked my first post, added another, and switched to what I thought was a more professional-looking theme. I still didn’t want to spend too much time on website design — I really just wanted a place I could direct people so I could start establishing my online presence as a freelance writer. I figured that, in time, I would register my preferred domain name, switch to self-hosting and hire someone to redesign my website so it would match the vision in my head. (More on what’s wrong with this line of thinking in posts to follow.)

When I first started writing on Medium, I did not include a link to Eleanor and Jane on my Medium profile. I realized it was because I was not proud of my website. And since exposure to my blog was one of my main reasons for joining Medium in the first place,  I spent last week revamping my site until I was happy enough to add the URL to my Medium profile.

I wanted a minimalist, clean website. I went with a different WordPress theme, switched fonts, added a short bio, added a sidebar widget to showcase my blog post titles, and, most importantly, added a Work With Me page with my services and contact information.

Is my website perfect? No. But it’s better than it was and now readers and prospective clients have a way to contact me.

5. Next steps

In the near future, I plan to transition to a self-hosted plan which will allow me to do so much more with this blog. I’m excited to learn about the popular plugins, in particular Yoast SEO.

I’m looking forward to learning more about the backend of WordPress. Understanding the technical aspects of blogging will allow me to offer a more valuable package to prospective clients.

I’ve recently started looking into registering my domain name. I hit an unexpected (but not uncommon) snag which may result in me having to rename this blog unless I want to keep it on WordPress.  That’s a story for another post.  One step at a time.

Your turn.

What have you been working on lately?

Podcast Spotlight: The Freelance Writing School Podcast with Heather Deveaux

Post - Podcast Spotlight - Freelance Writing School with Heather DeveauxNow that I’ve made the decision to seriously pursue a freelance writer career, I need to set up my shingle, so to speak.

I know I can write, but establishing a business framework and prospecting for clients is not yet in my wheelhouse.

I want to give myself the best chance for success, so I’ve been doing a ton of research on the steps I need to take to launch my business professionally, and as quickly as possible.

There are a gazillion online courses out there offering to teach these very steps.  Many are fair to modestly priced, but some can be pretty cost-prohibitive for those just starting out.

I bookmarked one such writing course for the future.  While the $197 price tag is well below others I’ve seen, it’s more than I’m comfortable spending right now on self-development.  I know it will be worth every penny, though, so I’ve decided to use it as an incentive.  I will only purchase the course with funds earned from writing, and only after hitting the $1,000.00 mark.

Until then, I’ve been taking advantage of the wealth of knowledge shared freely in the podcast world.  I listen to podcasts on self-improvement, motivation, entrepreneurship, and freelance writing, just to name a few.  It’s like having front row seats to networking or marketing conferences I can’t yet afford.

Often, I’ll set up a podcast on my phone and immerse myself in topics ranging from SEO, blogging, and Pinterest marketing, to the hard-fought paths to success of some of the most heralded entrepreneurs, all while running errands, washing dishes and folding laundry.

It was while searching for ‘freelance writing’ podcasts that I stumbled upon The Freelance Writing School Podcast (aptly named).

For those of you who have long nurtured a dream to make a living writing but have been too scared to start, I strongly encourage you to listen to The Freelance Writing School Podcast with Heather Deveaux.

It will inspire you to stop overthinking, push past your fears of failure and start moving toward your dream today.

I have listened to countless podcasts over the past year but never left a review — until now.  Below is my five star i-Tunes review of The Freelance Writing School Podcast:

Want to stop procrastinating and actually create the career and life you’ve always dreamed of? If so, you have to listen to The Freelance Writing School Podcast with Heather Deveaux, read her blog at HeatherDeveaux.com and watch her You tube videos.

Heather is unabashedly transparent about her former life (endless starts but never finishes, being quick to quit when things got too real or uncomfortable).

But in 2016, she had enough and decided to take action to change her life. She set out to lose weight and has since lost and kept off 80 pounds. Just in the past year or so, she launched a full-time freelance writing career (earning more than her former desk job), a podcast and YouTube channel to share her incredible freelance journey with others, and The Freelance Writing School course to teach others step-by-step how to launch their own freelance writing careers.

Yes, her language is colorful, but that’s because she is being her true, authentic self. Her down-to-her bones passion is teaching and helping others move past their own self-limiting beliefs to achieve their own version of success.

The one takeaway from everything Heather teaches? “If I can do it, you can, too, if you’re willing to get out of your own way, do the work needed, and enjoy your failures and successes along the way.”

Be ready to really dig in, analyze what’s holding you back, and move confidently and fearlessly toward your dreams.

If you’re paralyzed with self-doubt, this podcast is for you.

If you feel your previous failures will hold you back, this podcast is for you.

If you’re tired of all the years you’ve wasted not living the life you’ve always wanted, this podcast is definitely for you.

Plenty of podcasts offer great advice on creating successful freelance writing businesses.  But I find many of us aren’t quite there yet.  It’s hard to focus on being even more successful if you’re still stuck on how do I just start.

That’s where The Freelance Writing School Podcast comes in.  If you’re the type who talks yourself out of your dream before you even start, or you’ve finally committed but are overwhelmed by the next steps, Heather Deveaux walks you through each phase.

She knows what we’re struggling with because she’s been exactly where we are. 

I was thrilled to learn that she had just launched a course (How to Confidently Start and Run a Freelance Writing Business), and that it was reasonably priced (only $75 U.S. dollars).

If you’re interested, I’ve included a link to her course description (see above).  Please know that I am not an affiliate, nor do I receive any compensation if you purchase her course.  I’m just a big fan.

These are some of the things you will learn from her course:

  • How to deep dive into mental barriers that may hinder your chance for success (and what to do when they arise)
  • Setting up your business (accounting needs, project management, e-mail marketing, etc.)
  • Identifying your niche market
  • Setting rates
  • Setting up your website and social media accounts
  • Creating writing samples, maximizing samples for SEO

I am currently working through the self-paced modules and have learned so much already.  The course is definitely worth every penny.

Even if you don’t purchase her course, be sure to check out her podcast, her YouTube videos and her personal blog at HeatherDeveaux.com.  She shares so much valuable information on how she makes money as a freelance writer, for free.  

Just as valuable, however, are her deep dives into her own self-improvement journey.  She is not afraid to lay herself bare as she tackles her own occasional self-limiting beliefs.

Which leads me to…

Why do I want to freelance? (Revisited)

I know I touched on this in my first blog post, but after working through the first steps of The Freelance Writing School course, How to Confidently Start and Run a Freelance Writing Business, I came up with a more substantive list:

  • To be able to work and travel – independently and with my family
  • To realize financial goals I never thought possible
  • To build a nest egg so I can facilitate my dream of traveling
  • To help people (still working through how I can best serve)
  • To inspire my girls to think outside the box and to never stop showing up in life
  • To know that if everything falls apart I have the wherewithal to build it all back up again
  • To be open and authentic
  • To spread hope and possibility to others
  • To learn the power of consistency and showing up daily in dogged pursuit of my goals.

Top 5 Reasons to Hire a New Freelance Writer

Post 2 - Five Reasons Why A Newbie Could Be Your Next Go-To Content Writer

Newbies are motivated to get started.

Newbies know that nothing will kickstart their freelance career more quickly than a portfolio of solid writing clips. But how do newbies start building their portfolio if most places won’t hire without one?

Motivated newbies don’t let others dictate their future. They know they’ve got writing chops. Rather than wait to be hired, they find creative ways to get their work in front of prospective clients.

Newbies are eager to build their reputation.

Newbies didn’t just wake up one day and decide they want to be a freelance writer. Chances are, that’s a dream they’ve been nurturing for years. So when they finally do take the plunge, newbies are all in and eager to get their foot in the virtual door.

To showcase their talents, they will cover all sorts of topics, such as: ‘Why Your Teen is Obsessed with Snapchat and Tumblr’, ‘Why Completely Random Stock Photos Are Still Good for Your Traffic’, ‘What Fido is Trying to Tell You With His Tail’, ‘The Importance of Breastfeeding and Why It’s Still a Touchy Subject for New Moms’, ‘Raising Kids In a Politically Divided House: How to Engage in Appropriate and Respectful Debate When Your Spouse Insists on Supporting the Wrong Candidate’.

Newbies know that reputation is gold in the freelance world. You can bet they will hustle to establish themselves as valuable contributors by producing awesome, buzzworthy content.

Newbies are research hounds.

Newbies are not afraid of what they don’t know. The digital era has leveled the playing field, and they use it to their advantage. Blog posts, articles, web content, newsletters, books, podcasts, videos. The sheer vastness of the resources available can be overwhelming, but newbies are research ninjas. They are deft at cutting through the noise and finding just what they need to craft compelling, thoughtful content for your website or business.

Newbies are sometimes sea glass disguised as newbies.

I know, say what? Bear with me.

Newbies routinely sell themselves short, often without realizing it. Consider this pitch:

Hi, I’m Newbie. Although I’ve never written anything yet in the B2B field, I have years of experience working with lawyers and doctors in the medico-legal field. I’m confident I can pick up the lingo and write your B2B sales copy in a way that will help you get the results you’re looking for.

 Newbies are surprised when this pitching style does not ‘make it rain’ for them.

Let’s read between the lines:

The newbie** in the above example may not have actual B2B sales copy experience, but she did spend over a decade as a medical malpractice paralegal helping defend doctors and hospitals against all sorts of allegations: delays in diagnosis of cancer, loss of limb(s) due to compartment syndrome or diabetes, complications from necrotizing fasciitis, negligent spinal fusions, cerebral palsy and/or shoulder dystocia due to birth-related trauma.

** Based on author’s true story.

Was this newbie a doctor or nurse? No.

This newbie started in the mailroom of her law firm, worked her way up to legal secretary, and, within a year, was promoted to medical malpractice paralegal.

Did she have any special medical training? Surely she must’ve known about CPAP machines, tumor markers, fetal monitor strips, subdural hematomas, and lumbar laminectomies before diving into this position. Again, no.

 In fact, she had to look up the Merriam-Webster audio pronunciations of countless medical terms just so she could say them correctly in client meetings.

What made this newbie think that with absolutely no medical training or experience she could serve as the right arm to defense counsel defending complex, often life and death, medical issues? The better question might be, what made the attorney she worked for so confident she would succeed?

Determination and dogged research skills (and though the attorney would be too humble to say, the invaluable experience she received under his mentorship).

What this newbie lacked in experience, she more than made up for with her exhaustive research skills. She pored through industry journals, online resources and, yes, even Google, to bring herself quickly up to speed so she could write compelling (sales) arguments (copy) on behalf of her medical (B2B) clients.

In essence, this self-proclaimed newbie spent years writing copy in the medico-legal niche. And if she can excel in this complex field, she can use the same skills to excel in other niches.

Of course, in a textbook example of how we often subconsciously undermine our own value, none of this comes through in the newbie’s pitch.

If she reframes her expertise, prospective clients will see that she’s not a newbie at all, but sea glass — shaped and polished by years of experience into something of great value.

You were once a newbie, too.

The thing is, all experienced writers, marketers, entrepreneurs, etc., were once newbies. All anybodies were first newbies before hitting their stride: Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, Shonda Rhimes, Richard Branson—even the President of the United States. To be clear, anyone making their first Presidential bid is asking voters to accept that their background and experience qualifies them to do something they’ve never done before.

While comparing freelance writing to running one of the largest democracies in the world may be a bit of a stretch, you get the idea.

Yes, I see that you do, because you were once a newbie, too.