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

25Oct/140

Re-cap of the week of Oct 19, 2014 in my #freelancelife

As promised in my recent Blog Makeover article over at Living Healthy in the Real World, I'll now be posting re-caps of the past week as a home-based business owner (as well as thoughts from the week and answering FAQs about the freelance life) every Saturday here at Living Rhetorically in the Real World!

Here's what this past week looked like for me:

  • Sunday: Edited a US lesson plan. Over the years I've sort of "fallen into" editing educational materials - and I have to say I love it. This project took me three days to complete, but I did the majority of it on Sunday. The rest of the day, I did a little bit of social media for a client and went for a long walk.
  • Monday: Blogged for a client and prepped blog posts for my personal blogs. I also did some job hunting (as always!) and dealt with other administrative tasks and correspondence for my business, as well as worked on social media for my personal accounts.
  • Tuesday: Transcribed for three university lectures and proofread web copy (educational materials - different client than the one with the lesson plan that I edited on Sunday). This semester, Tuesdays are busy days for me with all the transcribing, so they don't generally give me much time to work on other freelancing projects. It's nice to be able to do the bulk of my transcribing all at once - and fun to be able to learn things from the classes at the same time! But since two of my classes are in the evening and one of them was cancelled today, I was able to squeeze in an extra couple hours throughout the day to proofread web copy (educational materials for early years) for one of my regular clients, and do a bit of personal blogging.
  • Wednesday: Spent most of my (very short) workday editing a press release and book chapter, and responding to questions from a client; I did some administrative tasks for my business as well. I had an acupuncture session in the middle of the day (got to prioritize self-care!) and it was election day, so those two things ended up taking quite a bit of time out of my workday. This was definitely one of those where did the time go? kind of days!
  • Thursday: Focused more on personal items and volunteer work today. A couple transcribing classes were canceled today, so I ended up doing a fair amount of blogging, social media, responding to inquiries, and doing planning for the upcoming weeks, as well as completing a newsletter for a volunteer group and organizing my workspace.
  • Friday: Proofread educational materials and dealt with business correspondence. Went for a lovely lunch (the monthly Friday tradition with my mother, godmother, and honorary godmother) and took a long walk as well.

I generally take it a little easy on Fridays and Saturdays, but since I did more personal and administrative work on Wednesday and Thursday this week, I'm catching up on some ongoing work for clients today. One of the things I like best about freelancing is the freedom to be pretty flexible with work!

What did your workweek look like? Share in the comments section below!

22Oct/140

Five Steps to Organizing Your Filing System

You can be far more productive (and avoid a lot of headaches!) by making a few small changes to your organizational system. This can work for both the office or in the home - and if you have a home-based business, then this is exactly what you need!

  1. Get a real filing cabinet, not a cardboard box. We're doing many things online now, but we aren't going to be a completely paperless society for a looooong time. Invest in a proper filing cabinet to hold all of your paper needs! Remember that you're going to continue to accumulate more paper over time, so get a slightly larger one than you think you'll need to account for future paper you need to document.
  2. Use trial and error to figure out what you use most frequently. When you're setting up your filing system, organize your file cabinet drawers based on what you use most and less frequently. You can also make a simple reference sheet in Word which outlines all of your file folder names and which drawer they're in so as to find them easily. Within each drawer, arrange files in alphabetical order.
  3. Enhance and improve your storage options. Take into consideration what works for you right now - and what doesn't. If you don't have a lot of floor space but you have high ceilings, opt for a skinnier, taller filing cabinet. Choose folder sizes that work for your typical document size (I recommend using slightly longer file folders, since some legal and professional documents are typed on 8.5 x 14 paper rather than our typical 8.5 x 11). And lastly, think carefully about where to place your filing cabinet! It should be easily accessible so that it takes no time at all to file documents as soon as they arrive.
  4. Ruthlessly purge. Get rid of old documents that you don't need anymore. How many old papers are you holding on to "just because"? Be sure to shred or burn any personal items, and also double check that you aren't throwing out any important records that you need to hold onto! But old appliance manuals for appliances that broke a year ago, generic form letters, and membership documents that have long since ceased... chuck them.
  5. Set aside some time every week or two to ensure your system is all in check. Ideally, every single paper you receive will get filed immediately! But let's be realistic: that's not likely to actually happen every time. So instead, try to make a point fairly regularly to check if you need to file anything. It's better to let things pile up for a week and then take the time to file them properly than to shove papers into a folder and not know where you put it later.

What are your tips for organizing your filing system? Share in the comments section below!

Get the tools you need to organize your filing system:

15Oct/140

How to Prepare for National Novel Writing Month

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is just around the corner! The fun begins on November 1st, and the idea is to write a 50,000-word novel over the course of one month.

I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo this past July (read all about my experience with Camp NaNoWriMo by clicking here), and I'm looking forward to participating in NaNoWriMo next month. Of course, if you're going to write a draft of a novel in the space of one month, it's a good idea to plan ahead!

Here are my tips for preparing for NaNoWriMo:

  1. Decide ahead of time what you want to write about. Typically, people write novels for NaNoWriMo. But what will your novel be about? What genre do you want to write? Do you know what the main plot will be, or who your main character is, or from what point of view you'll write? It's a good idea to plan this out so that you can just start writing on Day 1 of NaNoWriMo. For July's Camp NaNo, I wrote a business book, so I think I'll be a NaNoWriMo "rebel" in November and continue working on my series of business books rather than work on a novel.
  2. Figure out what your schedule will look like in November. Are there certain days or weekends that are already looking hectic? When will you have time to fit in writing? Are you going to set aside a couple days each week for doing huge amounts of writing or write a bit every day? NaNoWriMo often does writing "marathons" some days during the month, in which you're supposed to write as much as you can in a day and that sort of thing. Why not create some of these mini challenges for yourself? It's an especially good idea if your schedule is busy - you might be better off writing larger chunks on fewer days than trying to write every single day of the month.
  3. Create an outline. If you know what you'll be writing about, it's not a bad idea to have a brief outline written up. For myself, I plan on putting together the table of contents for a business book or two in the next couple of weeks. That way, I'll be able to start writing the chapters on November 1st, and I'll know exactly what I want to write about in the book. You want to take advantage of letting the creative juices flow throughout NaNoWriMo. It's no fun if you get stuck because you don't know what should come next! If you give yourself an outline, you'll have something to go on in case you need it. And if you end up branching out in a different direction, that's okay too!
  4. Collect your writing supplies. What do you need to do your best writing? Is there a specific type of music you like to listen to? Caffeinated beverages you need to stay alert? Pictures to inspire you? A special notebook and pen to write ideas as they come to you on the go? Gather all of your supplies ahead of time so that they are ready to support you once you start writing on November 1st.
  5. Plan for hiccups. Sometimes things come up and get in our way. To really set yourself up for success this year for NaNoWriMo, it's a good idea to expect hiccups to happen! If you choose to write a 50,000-word novel in November, that breaks down to about 1,667 words per day. With that in mind, plan to write 1,700 words each day, and try to get a jump-start at the beginning if you can. This year, November 1st falls on a Saturday. Why not try to write several days' worth of words in that first day? There might be other days when you just aren't feeling it or when other things come up, so if you can plan to get ahead of schedule, you'll be that much more likely to reach your goal.

What do you do to prepare for NaNoWriMo? Are you participating this year? What will you write about? Share in the comments section below!

Get some NaNoWriMo books here:

6Oct/140

How to Study for an Exam

This is the month of mid-terms for many university students. I've been finished school for many years now, but while I was in university I picked up a lot of great strategies for studying for exams. My toughest subject was History of Science - great course and professor, but understanding the science component was tricky for me (communications and English might have come naturally to me, but it was a whole other thing when I entered the math and science realm!). That was the class that I really had to put my studying practices to good use, and it certainly paid off.

My best tips for studying for an exam:

  • Set aside the time for it. Plan for proper study time - don't just do it on a whim while you're on the bus!
  • Bring together all of your notes and re-read them. Presumably, you took notes for a reason. Go back through them again! Re-write them as needed, and get out a highlighter and a red pen for the key points.
  • Use flash cards. If you start studying far enough in advance, you can get fancy with your flash cards and color code them and put a question on one side and an answer on the other. Otherwise, keep it simple: just write a few main points on each card, or just a single question, and make sure that you can answer it fully or expand as you might need to on an exam.
  • Make full use of your space. Pace around the room if you need to (that's one of my personal favorites). You might also want to use your hands to draw out complicated diagrams in the air (this worked really well when studying for my History of Science class!), or even act out things to help you re-learn and remember them.
  • Create mnemonic devices. If you need to remember a series of terms, use acronyms and create silly sentences using the first letter of each word to help you with word association. A word of caution: these are no good if you forgot the terms you're supposed to remember! This worked for some of my classes, but it's best used as a supplementary learning tool.
  • Get a study buddy. Studying for History of Science was made so much better because I studied with a girl in my class. We were both at the same level for that class, so it made studying together beneficial for both of us. Generally if one of us didn't understand something, the other did, and vice versa. That was the only class that I ever had a study buddy, and it can be tricky to find someone you can really study with and learn a lot with, but don't be afraid to study with a few different people to see who works best with your learning style.
  • Once you've got a good handle on the subject, THEN you can start thinking about it on the bus. When you feel like you've got a really good foundation or base on studying for the exam, now is the time to go through it in your head while you're waiting in line, etc. At this point, you should be at a level where you can think of most of it while you're running through the questions in your head (although it's also a good idea to bring a cheat sheet with you if you need it!). This will be a good practice for the exam itself.
  • Understand how YOU learn best. Ultimately, different studying practices are going to work better for different people. Figure out what works best for you and make sure you use it to the fullest!

What are some of your studying techniques? Share in the comments section below!

Try out these studying aids:

24Sep/140

The Pros and Cons of Being a Home-Based Business Owner

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

I love having my own business and working from home – but it’s certainly not for everyone, and there are both benefits and drawbacks to being a home-based business owner or freelancer!

If you’re considering starting your own business and working from home, here are a few things to keep in mind and the pros and cons of each:

1) You get to work in your own space.

  • PRO: Your home is (presumably) a comfortable environment, you don’t have to go outside when the weather is miserable, and you don’t have to worry about a lengthy commute.
  • CON: Productivity can decrease if you let yourself get too comfy (such as wearing pajamas all day long), and it’s possible that you might occasionally go a couple days without getting outside at all (and that can’t be healthy!).

home-based business owner

2) You never know when your next project will come along.

  • PRO: It’s exciting to always have different types of work, and sometimes projects land in your lap without warning (score!).
  • CON: It seems to be a general rule in freelancing / owning your own business that you won’t have any work for a while, and then suddenly all the work will come in at the same time and needs to be completed within a very short time-frame. This can get a little stressful if you aren’t prepared for it.

3) You are your brand.

  • PRO: Most of what you’re doing, you’ll probably love; a lot of the activities you partake in for your personal life can also help to support and promote your work life.
  • CON: You don’t ever really get a break – and you think about your business constantly.

freelance editing services

4) You get to be your own boss.

  • PRO: You can set your own hours based on the times of day that you are most productive, and you get to make all the decisions.
  • CON: If you aren’t disciplined, you’re going to find yourself in a lot of trouble! Not working with people can sometimes get lonely and also means a lack of brainstorming sessions and bouncing ideas off of others, and since you probably don’t have any employees, you have to perform every job at your business yourself.

Before starting your own home-based business, take the time to really think about your work style and work ethic, as well as some of the challenges you think you might face and some of the ways that you could manage those challenges. It will help to make the transition that much smoother!

Have you started your own business? What have you found to be some of the pros and cons? If you’re thinking about starting your own business but haven’t yet, what’s holding you back?