There are lots of howto books out there for those who want to be freelance commercial writers. Many of these books can be skimmed because, while quite helpful, they are also full of hype (or else they are simply trying to bulk up to be book length).

While this is quite do-able for reading, in my opinion, it is entirely insufferable in audio form. I have greatly benefitted from reading books that I think would have driven me insane if I had been forced to listen to them.

I bring this up, because it applies to my podcast listening. One essential element in starting a new (and it is still new to me) business, is feeling like one belongs to a new group. That is an intangible but highly necessary benefit which people crave, and it is the engine behind all sorts of networking, meetings, and professional associations. The attraction for these things cannot be explained simply by the purported value of the usable information one gains from them–even though without that information one might look elsewhere.

So I look for podcasts. And I have found that some types of formats are simply insufferable. Ultra-successful experts who claim they can solve all your problems simply don’t work for me. I want people who are still on the journey. Reasonably successful people who are honest about their lives their work and their needs for improvement are much more encouraging and helpful. (The other kinds of audio casts might be helpful if I could stomach listening to them.)

So, here are too “real” podcasts I have discovered recently and expect to keep up with.

  • Freelance Radio
  • Freelance America (warning: there is an “explicit” warning on this one in iTunes and, while that doesn’t seem exactly the right description, I would not listen to it with children in the room.)

Both of these are really encouraging and worth listening to.

What to blog about?

Since one of my hats is consulting with businesses starting a corporate blog, I sometimes have to jumpstart topic ideas.

I thought this post from All Freelance Writing was pretty helpful.

Do you ever get blogger’s block – feeling like you’ve already blogged about everything in your niche, where you just can’t seem to come up with new blog ideas to write about? I do. I’d bet most bloggers do from time to time.

No matter how much you’ve written, you probably haven’t really tapped your niche (even if it’s a pretty narrow one). So, when these dry spells happen, how can you come up with blog post ideas to keep your blog fresh? Here are a few suggestions (using the “making money online” niche as an example):

[READ THE REST]

Among my other jobs, one aspect of my business is new media consulting. I recently had to deal with one of the most popular blog publishers for businesses and corporations, Typepad. While I know it is an excellent service, I ran into a problem that I have also encountered in one form or another with several different services. I still haven’t figured out how to fix it.

As I was on the phone with a client about their new blog, I noticed that I wasn’t seeing that many icons on the visual control panel. Since I use a Mac and was viewing the site through Safari, I wasn’t that surprised or concerned. I switched over to Camino and had a much better experience. But options were still missing. So I switched to Firefox (which is somewhat resource-intensive on the Mac, so I only use it as a last resort). I still could not see a simply image-posting button. It simply wasn’t there. I tried Opera. Still no way to post images.

Not a problem. I’m not married to the Mac. I have a PC in the house as well for just this problem. So I went to my PC. First I tried Internet Explorer and then the Windows version of Firefox. Still no way to post images. I searched the knowledge database and found the directions on how to post images. The included a picture of what the screen should look like, and it was different than what was visible in my browser. There was a button for posting images, which I was missing. I have no idea what could be wrong in the case of my PC, unless Typepad’s interface is only fully functional for the XP operating system rather than Vista.

As I said, I’ve run into this problem in other services. I can’t use Safari to post to any of my WordPress blogs anymore, because all paragraphs markers are stripped out of the entry. I typically use Camino.

Has anyone encountered this problem and, perhaps, found a solution. Posting images is a significant feature. I could work around it using html and an offsite storage for the image, but that would be rather clumsy. It would defeat the whole point of a WYSIWYG interface.

This story is pretty terrifying to me.

In speaking with PayPal they told me that because I don’t have a shipping code or proof of delivery for a tangible product, I’m not covered by their Seller Protection Policy….  The only resolution of the claim was that, well, the credit card company is going to side with their own customer. I never received a response as to what the outcome was after I had put my case forward and supplied evidence of receipt of the product and service. The full transaction amount remained deducted and there was nothing I could do about it.

My policy has to been to wait until a mailed check clears.  I’m sticking to it.

SF author and freelancer John Scalzi has recently been blogging about money issues for writers. He just posted a link to this great personal story of how one writer got into the business. She is more of a “pure” freelancer than I am, writing for publication under her own name. What’s odd about this is that she mentions The Well-Fed Writer which, according to my memory, didn’t encourage pursuing magazines. That was John Scalzi’s advice, which is why I now own a copy of The Writer’s Market, which I have never used to find work (Though I have found another project for which it is necessary. No. Not a door jam. Something to do with publishing.)

But maybe her story will convince me to try something new, even though my chance of breaking into the biological sciences journal industry is approximately zero.

RELATED

About books about how to make money writing

Leveraging Literacy: advice to would-be commercial writers in the pastorate or some other job that needs economic augmentation

I hate to admit it, but talk of recession really scares me. But there are always winners in economic shake-ups.  News of the impending end of traditional media outlets might mean that those developing other sorts of marketing, especially in new media, might actually find new business. 

I used to work in a normal office with fellow workers in cubicles and rooms.

And I loved casual Fridays. I never wanted to dress up. Later, when I worked in an office by myself and had to go and visit people, I became aware of the help a “power tie” could offer. But I still preferred ultra casual.

Now I am a freelance commercial writer. I can dress down as much as I want on most days. Yet I increasingly find I hate being too casual. I prefer to avoid blue jeans for other more professional looking pants, and try to make sure my shirt at least has a collar.Why the change? As far as I can tell, I get a lot more work done if I dress like I’m working. For one thing, it provides a definitive start to my day. I walk out of the bedroom with a strong sense that I am now on the clock.

So I was glad to see that others think that dressing for work is an important key to productivity. Anna Goldsmith at Copyblogger includes, among her tips for successful freelancing, this gem:

Take off your pajamas. No, I’m not saying you should work naked, but dress like you’re going to the office. Because, guess what? You are. Even if your “office” is your kitchen table, putting on regular work clothes gets you into the right mind-set. It also makes it less embarrassing when the UPS man shows up in the middle of the afternoon.

Her other tips are great too!

By the way, one piece of advise about getting testimonials:  When you have a happy client, ask immediately for him to write a blurb you can use.

While this post is about fiction writing, I think it contains much truth about commercial writing and how a real professional will go about doing his job for a client. Go read John Scalzi’s blog entry where novelist Marcus Sakey confesses, “I don’t have big ideas.” What he says is quite insightful for anyone who makes a living or who wants to make a living writing:

What I have instead is a string of little ideas. Observations about a situation, bits of dialogue, a flash of character. Incomplete notions rather than perfectly formed a-ha! moments.

Obviously, by the time, you have completed a project, you have to have articulated notions that are no longer incomplete. But you have plenty of time for that in the four stages of production.

(Oh, I haven’t mentioned the four stages yet? I like to use the acronym ASAP because deadlines are, well, deadlines. ASAP stands for:

  • Amass data.
  • Shape your research.
  • Author your content.
  • Perfect your content.

See, you get to wait until “P” before everything must be, duh, perfect.)

The problem happens when you lack confidence to start. If you are paid on a contractual basis, almost certainly your client isn’t counting on you billing him for time spent looking out the window. You have to start producing ideas right away.

So be satisfied with small ones. As you amass data by research and shape it into an outline, you will surely find your better ideas growing while shedding the ones that were never that promising. By the time you are done you will find that you gained inspiration through the process.

On the other hand, if you expect to find the magic bullet before you begin, it is likely you may never get started.

The Mad Russian knows my work and decides to pay me a compliment. For the record, not only did I not pay him, I didn’t even ask him to write those nice things.

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