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


The Fears You HAVE to Overcome Before Launching Your Business

It was just six months ago that I started freelancing full-time, but before that, I had been doing part-time freelance editing and writing for many years. A lot of work has to go into preparing to launch your business (even if it's a lower-risk, home-based business!), but even if you might have all of the necessary tools and ideas in place, there might still be some mental barriers to get through.

Fear is a major reason why people don't start their business in the first place, and why they shut their business down before it's had the opportunity to flourish. It's imperative to overcome these fears before launching your business, or your business won't be everything you want it to be!

business fears

No fear!

Five fears to overcome before you start your own business:

1) The fear of being unable to find work. There will always, always, always be more places to look for work. It might be a little terrifying when you start out, especially if you have little to no clients, but marketing is something that can and should be an ongoing process. It boils down to putting yourself out there, networking, and letting people know how and when you can help them by offering your services.

2) The fear of being unable to pay the bills. You probably aren't going to make a huge amount of money in the first year - plan ahead to prepare for this! Have enough money to draw on (and several additional back-up plans) for the first few months. But ultimately, if you can put yourself out there enough and find the work, and if you are very careful with budgeting, and if you ensure that not paying the bills isn't an option, it should all work out.

3) The fear of doing a poor job. You need to be confident in your skills / services before you launch your business! Be cognizant that you will always need to learn more, and make sure you have plenty of resources and reference materials within easy reach. There's no reason why you shouldn't be able to do a top-notch, high-quality job at any of the projects you take on.

4) The fear of failing at *making it* with your business. Again, this one boils down to thinking in terms of not making it is not an option. You can *make it* if you are marketing yourself properly, churning out high-quality work, and charging reasonable prices.

5) The fear of success. This is a perfectly legitimate fear to have, and it's okay! But you do need to overcome it before launching your business. Focus on the happiness and satisfaction that comes from success, rather than anything negative that you might associate with the notion of success.

What barriers would you add to this list that are necessary to overcome before launching your business? Has fear stopped you or someone you know from succeeding? Share in the comments section below!


Effective Note-Taking: Tips for Writing Notes

It's back-to-school season - and that means that it's time to start doing a whole bunch of writing and note-taking during class! I mastered the art of note-taking when I was in university, and now that part of my work includes professional transcribing and note-taking, I've really managed to cultivate the skill. These tips for writing notes are essential for any university or college student.

If you or someone you know is heading back to class this semester, here are some tips for effective note-taking:

  • Summarize the main points. The point of university is to learn, not to memorize. Unless your professor tells you that they want you to repeat back word-for-word definitions and that sort of thing during tests, it's a good idea to summarize ideas in your own words and to take down key points in ways that you can best understand. If you're new to university, err on the side of taking too many notes. After you review the notes from your first few classes, you'll be able to recognize what information you can leave out.

how to write notes

  • Use different colored pens or capital letters to highlight important information. Have fun with note-taking! Using all-caps, underlining, different coloured pens, and highlighters can help you to quickly identify later on which information you need to know. A word of caution: you might be tempted to colour and highlight everything, so maybe take a break from doing this if your notes start to look like a rainbow.
  • Draw diagrams and pictures. If there are diagrams on the board, include them in your notes! Some people also remember better when they have a visual picture rather than words to refer to. Consider using graphic facilitation to improve your memory.
  • Make additional notes to help you remember things for tests. Did the professor provide a helpful analogy or tell a story when they were explaining a complex theory or idea? If so, jot that down! You'd be surprised at how quickly things can come to mind later if you can associate them with something else.
  • Review your notes afterwards (and re-write them if necessary). There's no point in taking notes if you're never going to look at them again. Make a point to scan them quickly after class or the following day. If it helps you to better remember things, re-write your notes, or add and remove items from them to make studying that much easier for you. It's also a great idea to begin your plan for studying early on in the year: generally your professor will tell you what tests will look like at the beginning of the semester, so you can already start creating cue cards and other studying aids as you go throughout the term. When it comes time to prepare for a test, you'll already have everything ready to go!

What are your best tips for effective note-taking and for writing notes during this back to school season? Share in the comments section below!


10 Ways to Boost Productivity

Having trouble staying focused? Try one (or several!) of these 10 ways to boost productivity in your work:

1) Step away from the computer. This will help you avoid eye strain, and it can stimulate your creative juices as well. Even just five minutes away from the computer (enough time to make another cup of coffee, do a load of dishes, or deal with some filing) can be enough to get you back on track once you return to your work.

2) Take a quick exercise break. And I mean quick. Do 25 jumping jacks, 10 push ups, or go for a power walk around the block. Get your heart rate up so that you're well-energized for getting back to work.

pretty flowers

Sometimes you need to take a moment to enjoy the outdoors before getting back to work.

3) Switch projects. If you have several projects to work on and your productivity is on a nosedive, why not set aside this project for the time being? Switch to something different and you might be surprised at how much productivity and quality you have left in you for today!

4) Listen to music. Ideally, you'll know what music spurs you on and increases your productivity already, but really anything with a fast tempo and which you enjoy should do the trick.

5) Set a timer and a goal. Challenge yourself! Set a timer for 10 - 30 minutes and make yourself a goal (for example, write X amount of words before the timer goes off)

6) Get caffeinated. Have a cup of coffee, or indulge in a little sugar boost. This might just provide you with the energy you need.

best ways to boost productivity

Set up a temporary workspace in a new location to boost productivity!

7) Do something completely different. Spend 15 minutes gardening if your work is typically based indoors. Doodle or create some artwork if you generally deal with words. Indulge in the opposite of what your work entails for a short period of time, and then return to it.

8) Alter your environment. If you usually work in a cubicle, check and see if you can work in a coffee shop instead. Or try changing the portraits on the walls of your office, or even changing the colour of your computer desktop or screensaver.

9) Have a quick chat or brainstorming session. If you're stuck, sometimes bouncing ideas off of other people can really do the trick. Barring that, chatting for a few minutes with a co-worker or a friend can be enough to refresh your brain.

10) Analyze your work. If you're feeling your productivity plummet, make a list of the different tasks involved with your project. What steps need to be taken to complete the project? How much time will each task take? By writing everything out as simple steps with time estimates, the project will seem more doable - and you'll be much more excited about it!

What tips do you have for boosting productivity? What works best for you? Share in the comments section below!


Five Ways to Manage Your Time When Business Really Picks Up

Last month I wrote about how to spend your time wisely when business slows down - but how can you effectively manage your time when business is doing really well?

It seems to be the law with freelancing that you either have no work or else you have piles of work! These tips should help out any freelancers and business owners out there who have to juggle multiple projects with tight deadlines:

1) Write a list of everything you need to do.

Since it's likely that you have multiple projects all due within the next few days or the next week, I recommend creating a list of all of the tasks you need to accomplish over the next five to seven days. Include projects for clients, as well as business administrative items, personal business projects, and other commitments or activities that you have planned for the week.

freelance business

Good organization skills are fundamental to managing your time effectively.

2) Eliminate items (or transfer them) as needed.

Is there anything that can be pushed to next week, when you might have a little more free time? Are there things on the list that really don't need to be completed any time soon? Create a new list for next week, as well as a list of items that will eventually need to be taken care of but which doesn't have a deadline, and transfer those items to the new lists. Your main list of items for the week should now be a little bit reduced and more manageable already.

3) Estimate the amount of time each item on your list will take.

Be honest with yourself here! How long does it take you to accomplish each task? Some items might not take nearly as much time as you initially thought when you looked at all of the projects outlined on your list. In fact, some projects might only take two or three hours, max.

Doesn't your list seem much more doable now? When you estimate the amount of time each task will take (and then add 15% onto that, just in case things come up and it takes a little bit longer than expected), you might discover that you have much more time to accomplish everything than you previously believed.

4) Prioritize each task.

This is an important step. Figure out which tasks need to be done now, and mark them as A priorities. Longer tasks should also be marked as higher priorities. If a project will only take an hour or two and it isn't due until the end of the week, make it a C priority.

As you go through each task throughout the week, check in with yourself and where you're at in your day. Are you ahead of schedule? Are you behind schedule? What can you do to ensure you meet deadlines?

5) Breathe.

In university, I was never one to pull an all-nighter and complete an assignment the night before. That's just not my style! Your work is simply not going to be as good as it could be if you rush things and submit them without reading them through again, or if you don't give yourself the chance to step away from the project before returning to it and revising it.

That's why I think it's important to create internal deadlines for yourself (is something due on Wednesday evening? Aim to complete it by Tuesday afternoon, and then give it another look over and submit it on Wednesday morning). It's also important to rest and allow yourself some breathing space before moving on. Your work is not going to be high quality if you try to cram too many things into a short period of time. It's better to rest, or get outside for some fresh air or exercise, and then return to your work with refreshed eyes.

What are your tips for managing time effectively when business really picks up? Share in the comments section below!

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At What Point Should I Hire an Editor to Review My Manuscript?

This is a question that I'm seeing all over the place these days. Should I write several drafts and get friends and family to read my book and ask an editor to just review the final copy? Should I work with an editor right from the beginning stages? Can I show my book to an editor after the first draft?

These are all really great questions, and they are important to think about when you are writing a book! If you're wondering about this, here are some questions you should ask yourself and some points to take into consideration which might help you out:

  • How much direction and planning have you already conducted for your book?

If you have the entire manuscript laid out, you know what each chapter will entail, and you are happy with your overall direction and organization of the book, then you can connect with an editor midway through working on your manuscript (or towards the final drafts, if you just want a proofread).

On the other hand, when you have a vague idea in mind for a story, but you aren't sure how to put it all together - or if you know roughly how it will move along, but you'd like to bounce ideas off of someone - I strongly suggest you get an editor involved right in the beginning. There are all kinds of editors and different services that they provide, and one of the services which can be extremely helpful is to work with you on reviewing manuscripts and providing heavy edits and recommendations on moving the story forward. This is a good option for new authors especially.

hire a book editor


  • How confident do you feel in your writing skills and style?

If you have a really great idea, but you're concerned that your writing style and tone need some work, get an editor involved after you have written a few drafts. Once you have the general story, characters, and minor plots in place, an editor can come in and review the work to provide suggestions for enhancing your voice. Editors can also re-write some sections as needed in keeping with your voice.

Are you a good writer and have you already written books in the past? In that case, you can certainly bring an editor in during the early stages of the process, but it's probably not necessary until the book is closer to its final drafts.

  • What do you want to get from an editor?

This is a really important question to ask yourself! Are you hiring an editor to simply proofread your manuscript and fix typos and spelling errors (which everyone should do!)? In that case, you should give your manuscript to the editor in its final draft.

If, however, you need an editor to provide recommendations for sentence structure and writing style, and to do fact-checking, it would be wise to provide them with your second or third draft. Do you need an editor to do more of a structural, developmental edit of the entire overarching story and plot? In that case, you should definitely get your editor on board and work with them after the first draft, or even during the initial writing phase.

A final thought on the subject

Ultimately, you can get an editor involved at any stage in the writing process! Fees will likely be higher the earlier on in the process that you hire an editor, but you'll be able to get quite a bit more high-quality professional feedback, ideas, and edits as well.

If you are starting to write a book, or if you have already written part of it, I recommend connecting with an editor to get their advice on when they think it would be most appropriate and make the most sense for them to come in and start working with you on the book. Every author, editor, and project is going to be different, and the more communication you have between yourself and your editor around your project, the better the final product of your manuscript will be.

At what stage have you requested editors to review your manuscripts? Where in the writing process do you need the most input from other people? Do you prefer to work on a book with other people or to hand them a completed copy from start to finish? Share in the comments section below!