Living Rhetorically in the Real World A blog about freelancing, writing, editing, business & social media.


Best Tips for Practicing Writing

Writing is a skill we can always get better at - and practice is something that definitely helps improve our skill! Here are a few tips for how to practice writing to improve your skills at it:

  • Try writing for a genre or in a style you have never done before. If you generally write fiction, try non-fiction. If you usually write horror, try romance. If you prefer writing for adults, try writing for children. If you are usually all about writing descriptions, try writing a screenplay. Mix it up and try something totally new to get out of your comfort zone.
  • Experiment with writing different lengths. Take up the NaNoWriMo challenge and write a 50,000-word novel in one month... or try writing six-word stories. Shift from writing a manuscript of several hundred pages to focusing on Tweet-sized pieces of writing.
  • Prepare an outline and summary for a story. This type of organizational writing and summarizing can be extremely challenging if you're not used to it, but it's an important craft!
  • Spend 15 minutes free writing. Sit down at the computer or with pen and paper and just write. Don't worry about if your sentence doesn't make sense or if the content is silly; just write and see what comes out.
  • Edit your work. Editing is a different skill than writing, but editing your own work can help you to see where your writing can be improved. While you certainly can send a first draft of a manuscript for an editor to review, you will be able to improve your writing by going through and editing the first draft yourself.
  • Do some collaborative writing. Write an article or story with another author. What's fun about this way of writing is that it introduces you to a whole new style of writing. You can also talk with the other author about why you are each writing in these ways, what you like and dislike about your writing style, etc. (And when I say "author" here, I don't mean that it necessarily has to be a published author - a friend who likes to write will do just fine!)
  • Re-tell a story that you know in your own words. Write your own version of a classic fairytale. Write a different ending to one of your favorite books. Doing this will give you the opportunity to get to know familiar characters in a new way, and think about plot and voice in a new light.
  • Learn new words. If you like to write, the chances are you know how to put a story together (the basics of it, at the very least!). Of course, there's certainly nothing wrong with taking courses or reading books on how to write a story, but I tend to feel that learning new words can be more useful. Broaden your vocabulary so that your writing can expand and evolve.
  • Create a character analysis. Either create a new character and conduct an analysis of them, or work off of an existing character (from your own writing or someone else's). Get as deep into the character as possible, taking into consideration what they would say or do if you spent the day with them, and where they will be in 10 years, and how they would react to shocking news. This will help you get out of your head and into the character's.

What tips would you recommend for improving writing skills? Got any questions about the above writing tips? Share in the comments section below!


Projects I worked on during the week of Nov. 16, 2014

Rather than doing an hourly breakdown or a daily breakdown of my freelance life, this week I figured I'd share with you my project breakdown!

These are the projects I worked on this week:

  • Edited a manuscript and created content for the back-of-the-book blurb.
  • Updated and managed social media for a client.
  • Conducted a website analysis for a client.
  • Transcribed lecture notes for university courses.
  • Worked on a business book for NaNoWriMo.
  • Wrote blog posts for a client.
  • Wrote blog posts and updated/managed social media for my personal accounts.
  • Attended a resource and development meeting for a volunteer committee I'm on.
  • Did some big-picture planning for my business (I've got a brand new service---just for bloggers!---in the works that I'll be launching in January. I'm really excited for it!).

What projects did you work on this week? Share in the comments section below!


How do I ask for testimonials?

Last week we talked about why testimonials are important for freelancers. Now it's time to discuss how to request testimonials from your clients!

Here are some tips for asking for testimonials from clients:

  • Ask for testimonials from clients with whom you have an established relationship and history. I was working part-time as a freelancer for years before I asked a single client for a testimonial. When I finally did request testimonials, I asked for them from three clients. I had been working with all three clients on and off for at least a few years; one of them, I had provided work every single month for five years in a row. If you're just starting out as a freelancer, obviously you shouldn't wait years before asking for testimonials! But ideally, you will start out by asking for testimonials from clients that you're comfortable with and who you have worked with a few times before.
  • Explain why you want testimonials. Let them know where you'll be posting the testimonials. If you have used that client as a reference in the past, explain that you are hoping to use a testimonial from them instead of always needing to contact them about being a reference for you, for example.

how to ask for testimonials

  • Emphasize what exactly you are looking for in a testimonial. This is extremely important! Make it as easy as possible for your clients. Explain that you're just looking for a few sentences about what they like best about your work or why they use you as a freelancer, for example. That gives them some direction. Then you can also make a point of saying that if there's anything else they'd like to add, they can feel free to do so. That gives them some opportunity to get creative or add in other things you might not have thought of. When I first requested testimonials from clients, I was surprised (in a good way!) at how they all commented on the quality of my work and the timeliness of it. Testimonials can be very useful at getting insight in how others see you and where your strengths are!
  • Include a testimonial request at the end of each invoice. This is a good way to ask for a testimonial without actually doing it - a nice option if you're shy! You just need a single line at the bottom of your invoice, inviting them to provide you with a testimonial that you can publish on your website. You can even link back to your Testimonials page so that they have an idea of the type of thing you're looking for. This option doesn't yield quite as good results as it does from asking for a testimonial personally, but if you're working up the courage to request a testimonial, it's something that is easy to implement.

When it comes to getting testimonials, you don't need to ask for them all at once. For some people, you might ask for testimonials earlier in the work relationship than others. Ultimately, go with your gut! If it doesn't feel like it's quite the right time to request a testimonial, then wait. As long as you have a minimum of three thoughtful testimonials, you are off to a great start.

What would you add to this list? How do you feel about asking for testimonials (or being asked to provide a testimonial)? Share in the comments section below!


Word of the day: syllogism

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Saturdays, as you know, are a bit of a mixed bag around here! While I'll mostly be posting updates on the past week, sharing quotes and ideas from the week, and providing insights into the freelance life, I might also occasionally slip in something like a word of the day---just for the fun of it (and, of course, the opportunity to constantly learn more!).

I quite like today's word. From the Canadian Oxford English Dictionary:

syllogism (noun)

1. a form of reasoning in which a conclusion is drawn from two given or assumed propositions (premises): a common or middle term is present in the two premises but not in the conclusion, which may be invalid, e.g. all trains are long; some buses are long; therefore some buses are trains: the common term is long.

2. deductive reasoning as distinct from induction.

Can you think of any syllogisms you've encountered recently?


Why do freelancers need testimonials?

All freelancers can benefit from having testimonials and recommendations for their work. Just as you wouldn't hire someone as an employee until you did a few reference checks, you also want to make sure that your freelancer is highly recommended by their past clients.

Getting freelance gigs is a little bit different with each client. Some potential clients want to see resumes and do reference checks; other potential clients want to see writing/editing samples and testimonials; and still other clients want to get started based on what they already know about you (which is where a blog can come in handy! Blogs are awesome for getting to know people and to provide potential clients with the opportunity to see your personality and writing style). All of these are great! They're just different. And that means that as freelancers, we have to always be prepared for any of these avenues.

This is one of the reasons why testimonials are so useful. If you're connecting with potential clients fairly regularly, it's a little inconvenient to constantly check back with past references if it's okay that you use them yet again as a reference. I'm sure none of them mind - but you start to feel rather silly when you're constantly giving your references the heads up that they might be contacted about such-and-such a gig.

Nowadays, when potential clients ask me for references, I direct them to my Testimonials page. I always let the potential client know that I'm happy to provide them with references as well if they want references in addition to the testimonials, but only one person has ever requested contacting a reference on top of seeing my testimonials page.

On a side note, I'd also like to point out that LinkedIn is a nice option for a resume. I've had a fair amount of clients look me up on LinkedIn before connecting with me (or at around the same time that they connect with me), and it's a nice way for them to gauge my style and expertise before moving forward. Although as a freelancer you have clients rather than employers, people still like to be able to see the work you have done in the past, and an online resume is a great way to showcase this. The point is, the more options that you can have online, the easier it is for potential clients to determine whether you're the right person for the job.

Even if you only have three or four testimonials, if they are from the right clients and they provide enough detail about the type of person you are and about your work quality and ethic, they can make a huge difference to your business. Start out with a few testimonials and build them from there!

Next week, I'll address the issue of how to ask for testimonials from clients.

If you're a freelancer, do you try to get testimonials from clients? Do you think they're important for illustrating who you are and what you do best?

If you've hired a freelancer, are testimonials and references important to you? Do they help you make up your mind about who to hire? Share in the comments section below!