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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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!
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.
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!
It happens to everyone who owns a business or works as a freelancer - a bunch of work will come flooding in all at once, and then it slows down. And then, happily, it comes flooding in again!
It's easy to get anxious about those slower times and to freeze up out of the fear of what if I never get work EVER again?! But we all need slower times with our business to sit back, reflect, re-energize, and work on other non-business / volunteer / personal projects.
Here are some of the things that we can do when business starts to slow down:
1) Reconnect with old clients.
Send a note just to say hello! Make an effort to maintain relationships with people that you like and work well with but haven't connected with in a while.
2) Work on personal projects.
How many of us have a novel that we have been "working on" for years? Now is the time to brush that dust off and get to work! Bonus points if your personal project in some way enhances your business (for example, writing a novel when you are a writer, sewing your first article of clothing if you are a DIY blogger, etc.).
3) Explore new ways to expand your business.
When business slowed down for me a bit earlier this summer, I started working on an idea that had been on the back burner. I knew it was going to take a concentrated number of hours to make a lot of headway on the project, and when business slowed down a little, it was the perfect opportunity for me to start working on building my brand and expanding my services!
Seriously. Take some time off. If you have just experienced a crazy-busy workload and now it's starting to ease off, this is the time to take a break, rest, and prepare yourself for when the intense workload starts up again.
5) Do research on your industry.
Sometimes we get so caught up in our work that we forget the importance of knowing what's new in our industries! Take some time to find out what's going on, what the trends are, and what's working for other companies. Have fun with it.
6) Job-hunt in ways that you haven't tried before.
If you aren't comfortable with networking, why not ask a friend who is very good at it to help you out? If you always get your work through a particular set of clients, why not make an effort to reach out to potential new clients? Take this time to get out of your comfort zone a little!
7) Spend time with the people you love.
This one goes hand-in-hand with #4. Go out with friends and live a little! Enjoy your social life, spend time with family, and get outside of your usual little bubble. Who knows - you might even make some new contacts out of it.
8) Take the time to review and update... everything.
Everything from your LinkedIn profile to your resume to your portfolio to your list of contacts probably fell by the wayside while you were busy juggling multiple projects. Now is the time to play catch-up! When was the last time you updated the "About" section on your website, for example? These things are extremely important to keep updated, but we often neglect them when more urgent tasks come up. Now is the time to really make those things sparkle.
9) Work on ongoing projects for clients or get caught up on your volunteer work.
I have a few clients that I do a little bit of work for each month - it's not a huge time commitment, but it's still one more task to think about. Why not get a jump-start on those projects while you have a lot of extra time?
Something else you can do when business is slow is to engage in volunteer activities. A word of caution, however: do NOT over-commit yourself! It's easy to get caught up and excited with an issue you're passionate about, but you should always be realistic about what you can and cannot realistically do. Now is a time to catch up on volunteer work that you've neglected, or to do a little bit of extra volunteer work in the short-term (which you won't necessarily have to continue to do for the long-term).
What about you? What do you do when business starts to slow down? Share in the comments section below!
My first time trying NaNoWriMo last year was a complete failure.
For those of you who don't know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it is held every November. The idea is that you write a 50,000-word novel in the space of one month. An ambitious, yet exciting, prospect, to be sure!
So last November I tried it for the first time. My grand total for the month was a dismal 1,100 words. Ouch.
But then I happened to discover, midway through June this summer, that there is something called Camp NaNoWriMo which takes place every April and July. During the Camp version of NaNoWriMo, you get to choose the length of your book, and you also have the opportunity to write anything. It can be fiction or nonfiction, novel or story, screenplay or poetry... you get to choose. And I thought to myself, this is a little more up my alley. So I signed up for July's Camp NaNo.
Since I had failed so spectacularly back in November, I decided to keep things simple. Several people have asked me, since I started freelancing full-time, about whether I'm planning to write a book. I kept laughing the idea off, but when I realized there was a Camp NaNoWriMo, and was thinking about what to write about, I realized that there is so much I have learned about over the past few months which would be really helpful for new freelancers or business owners. And how better to convey that than in an e-book?
So that's how I found myself, in the week leading up to July's Camp NaNoWriMo, planning out a 15,000-word e-book on the business of writing and editing.
As it happened, for the first week of July, business slowed down. So I figured that it was the perfect time to get some writing done!
I wrote more than 5,000 words the first day, I was just so excited about Camp NaNo. For the next week or so, I wrote between 500 and 3,000 words each day (which actually didn't take up too much of my day), and I completed the second draft of the book in its entirety by day 10 at 17,112 words. I surpassed my original 15,000-word goal in one-third of the time I had expected!
The stars aligned perfectly, too: just around the same time as I completed the second draft and passed it on to Mr Science for a first review / edit, business picked up again. How very convenient.
My first-ever experience with Camp NaNoWriMo has taught me the following:
- Timing is crucial to creativity. If it hadn't been for a slow time in my business, I doubt I would have written the book quite so quickly. When you have your own business or you're a freelancer, it's a good idea to have a plan for the slow times so that you can at least still be productive even if you don't have a ton of work coming in. Writing a book on your industry is kind of perfect for that!
- Sometimes you need to broaden the rules. The original rules of the regular NaNoWriMo (a 50,000-word novel in 30 days) was a little too overwhelming and restricting for me. Being able to choose my own, much more manageable word count, and a genre which appealed to me, made this Camp version of NaNoWriMo go that much more smoothly.
- Having a daily goal can make a huge difference. I loved being able to see my little graph go up every day. Knowing that I was being held accountable by my profile on the Camp NaNo website was excellent motivation for me to keep working and keep writing to reach (and surpass!) my goals.
- Being practical about what you can really do is very important. Let's be honest: a 50,000-word novel in one month isn't very realistic for me. However, a 17,000-word book on business was exactly what I wanted to write about this month, so it was perfect! Knowing that I needed to write about 500 words / day made the project much less daunting, and I think that was a big part of the reason for how I was able to complete the book within the first 10 days.
- Plan and strategize to set yourself up for success. Before July even began, I mapped out my book. I wrote down some broad ideas I had for it, and the voice, tone, and style I wanted to go for, and I even wrote out the various chapters I wanted to write and some appendices to attach at the end of the book. When July started, all I had to do was write. Knowing exactly what I would be writing made it so much easier and more manageable for me to successfully complete.
I hope to spend the next six months or so writing a few more books on the subject of freelancing and owning your own writing / editing business during any down-time that comes up, and then publishing them at the same time next spring. Hopefully all goes well! But this July's Camp NaNoWriMo has certainly been a wonderful inspiration for me to share my knowledge with others and write practical resources and books on the subject. I'm excited to see the direction it takes.
Have you participated in NaNoWriMo or Camp NaNoWriMo? Have you written a book (print or e version) before? What have been your experiences? Is it something you haven't done yet but would like to do someday? Share in the comments section below!
Writers, or content creators, might be just the thing you need to enhance your business and to best market your business to your target audiences. Here's the background you need on why hiring a professional writer could be one of your best decisions.
Why does writing matter?
Just like with editing, having high-quality writing can make or break your business. High-quality writing is important for the following reasons:
- It provides your business (and therefore your products / services) with additional credibility.
- It shows how fantastic you and your business are, and speaks to and with your target audiences.
- It tells the story of your business - without being cheesy, bland, or generic.
- It illustrates that you are a professional and that you offer high-quality products / services.
- It balances scientific facts with anecdotal evidence and personal experience.
- It is personalized to your target audiences.
- It engages your readers and customers and leaves them wanting more.
What does a writer / content creator do?
A professional writer (also known as a content creator) can help to market and promote your business in all of the right ways. Here's what you can expect a writer to do when you hire them:
- Research and review your business, products / services, industry, and target audience to ensure a thorough understanding of who you are, what you do, what your industry is all about, and who your audience is and how to best engage them.
- Create, write, and put together relevant, engaging content for your business.
- Edit (and sometimes publish, in the case of blogs, for example) the content they have written.
- Identify and make good use of relevant and appropriate headlines, key words, and images.
- Advise and make recommendations on best promoting and marketing your content and using it as a tool for your business.
- Adapt writing style, tone, voice, format, and content based on your business, target audience, and medium.
- Ensure all writing is clear and concise, and has been proofread.
As you can see, there's a lot more that a writer does beyond *just* write for your business. Depending on the needs of your business, they could do everything from minimal research and writing of the piece, to a full-scale research, write, edit, and publish of the piece. It all depends on what you want and need! When you hire a professional writer, they can help to identify your needs and advise how they can best fit into your business team as well.
Why does high-quality writing matter to you? What do you look for in a professional writer? What have been your experiences with hiring writers for your business? Share in the comments section below!
Most of my friends and acquaintances have jobs where they work 9 - 5 on weekdays. Because of that, I get questions all the time about what it's like to be a freelancer. Since I adore my freelance life (and my dear friends!), I'm always happy to give them a glimpse into what the freelance life is all about! And today I'm going to share that with you, too. Here are some of the most common questions I receive about the freelance lifestyle, plus my responses.
The Freelance Life: Q & A
Q1: Do you wear pajamas or sweatpants all day long?
A1: Definitely not. I like pretty things, and I enjoy getting dressed up! On the weekend I'll usually work in my comfy clothes, but every other day of the week, I get dressed. It puts me in a good place for being productive and getting lots of work done.
Q2: Is it scary not knowing when the next paycheck is coming?
A2: Of course! Luckily, I love planning ahead and I also adore budgeting, so I pay very close attention to my finances and to my workload. I generally have several backup plans in case projects fall through or in case of slow times. But as scary as it is, it is so much more relaxing and enjoyable to not know when your next paycheck is coming and loving your work, compared to knowing when your next paycheck is coming and being unhappy in your job. I'll take freelancing any day!
Q3: Do you stick to a regular schedule?
A3: These days, my "weekend" is generally Friday and Saturday. Most days of the week, I wake up, exercise, spend the first hour of my day responding to emails and updating all of my social media accounts, then work for clients throughout the morning and the afternoon, and spend the evening doing administrative work for my business. I deal with household tasks and personal errands on Friday and Saturday, although I always work for at least a few hours on those days, too.
Q4: But you have, like, TONS of free time, right?
A4: Haha! No. Much of my work requires fast turnaround time, which means that I have to organize my time very wisely to make room for urgent jobs. And when I don't have work, that means that I'm not making an income, which means I can't pay my mortgage - so I spend most of my "free" time networking, marketing, and searching for more work.
Q5: What exactly do you DO all day?
A5: I sit in coffee shops with fancy, overpriced coffee, tapping on my computer as though I'm incredibly important but actually looking up shoe sales online.
KIDDING. Ninety-five percent of the time I work from home, and I spend my day working on projects for clients (editing, writing, and managing social media) and managing my business (dealing with administrative tasks and marketing my business). The actual work itself is split fairly evenly between writing and editing work (which might include everything from editing professional documents to writing articles and web copy to transcribing to editing manuscripts... a little bit of everything!).
At this stage in my career, since I'm still relatively new to the full-time freelance life, I also spend a fair amount of time networking and connecting with new and prospective clients. Since *I* am my brand, I probably spend around 50 hours each week on work items and business-related activities combined (and I work six or seven days each week).
Q6: Don't you miss being around people?
A6: As a matter of fact, I'm an introvert (I know, right? An editor / writer who's an introvert - so original). I love being around other people, but it drains me pretty quickly. At my previous job, I really liked everyone I worked with but I never had any energy to have a social life! Now that I work by myself all day, I have that much more energy for socializing. And besides that, Mr Science spends about 75% of his time working from home while he is doing his Masters degree, so I actually do have company throughout the day.
Q7: Do you get distracted by personal stuff all the time when you're supposed to be working?
A7: For me, I *am* my brand. And that means that a lot of my personal life runs parallel to my work life! But in all honesty, I actually get more distracted by my work life than my personal life. I dislike running personal errands with a passion (I actually put off renewing my passport for MONTHS, even though it only took about 30 minutes in total to get new photographs, fill out the form, and stand in line to hand in the form. How embarrassing). If there's one thing I've learned from the freelance life, it's that I would so much rather do work than deal with menial personal tasks!
Q8: Freelance editors charge a lot of money! Why is it so expensive?
A8: This question is answered perfectly by Small Blue Dog Publishing (you can read two articles on the subject: Why are book editors so expensive?? and The other reason book editors are SO expensive). In a nutshell, these articles explain how long it takes to edit a piece (about 1,000 words / hour) and how many other things are included in the fee (such as the computer, professional development, memberships, business development, etc.).
Depending on the project, my editing rates are around 5 cents / word or $50 / hour. As you can see when looking at standard and national rates, listed on websites such as the Professional Writers Association of Canada and Freelance Industry Report and Media, Entertainment, and Arts Alliance, my rates are pretty average (and actually quite low considering that I specialize in rush jobs). Editing rates can seem like a lot, but hiring an editor is well worth it!
What types of questions do you get with your line of work? Do you have any other questions about being a freelancer? What do you like best about your job? Share in the comments section below!
So you have written a manuscript, copy for your website, children's book, promotional or professional material, newsletter, or just about any other document you can think of - and someone tells you that you should get it edited. But why? Why does editing matter, and what does an editor do?
Why does editing matter?
Editing can make a huge difference to your work! By getting your materials professionally edited, you will be able to ensure that:
- Your writing is cleaner and more concise, without losing the voice and tone of the piece.
- Your writing is free from typos, inconsistencies, and errors in grammar or sentence structure (which not only frees you from embarrassment, but also makes your work that much more credible!).
- Your writing is clear and appealing to your target audience.
- You are able to convey your message efficiently and effectively.
- There is nothing lacking in or missing from your document.
- Your final product is of the highest quality.
What does an editor do?
A professional editor can look at your writing from the basics of proofreading to entire developmental and structural editing, depending on the type of document and your needs. Here is what an editor is generally doing when they are at work:
- Reviewing for (and fixing!) typos and spelling / grammar mistakes.
- Comparing your work with relevant style guides and adhering to them.
- Checking for consistency in the content of your writing.
- Providing comments and recommendations on your word choice, the style and voice of your writing, and best practices for appealing to and engaging with readers.
- Formatting your work where necessary to ensure it flows as smoothly as possible.
- Critiquing and offering a reader perspective on the document before it goes public.
- Rewriting ambiguous or convoluted sections.
- Researching and fact-checking as needed.
- Identifying gaps or areas where more content is needed.
- Ensuring that all work is publisher-ready!