Shout Out To All The Bizzy Women Out There!

My “Trialing is Good For You & Me” post got picked up by Bizzy Women, a new site for “empowering professional women, business women, and career women.”

Be sure to check it out here. Especially love the home page montage of “The Office” with my words underneath. Somehow it just works.


Hooking Your Freelance Self Up With Some WOW

Balance happens where we least expect to find it.

Below are a few things that could have saved me some major hassle, not to mention temporary insanity meltdowns, when I started on my home office-in-a-box/freelance business.

It’s my hope that these words of wisdom (WOW) will also benefit those of you adjusting to life as solo entrepreneurs:

  • Invest In Your Physical Space: Part of the reason I settled into more of a makeshift office scene from the get-go was because freelancing for me was a temporary gig and not part of my long-term plan. Only, the more time that went by and the more I found myself with freelance work, the more I discovered that idle objects such as a proper desk, lighting, and file cabinets were critical to providing me with an organized environment suited for doing work. And whether or not I wanted to admit it to myself, uncomfortably slouching over my laptop sitting on the couch 12-18 hours a day still qualified as me working and earning money so why not invest in a home office that acknowledges that? And saves me from a future of bad posture?
  • Time Tracking Widgets Are a Gal’s Best Friend: The more clients and accounts I worked on, the more things got complicated so I started looking for the best tool to track and log my hours. To find the best tool,  I posted a question on LinkedIn’s Q&A forum and while I got some pretty interesting feedback and networked a bit (always a plus) with respondents, I ended up finding the Harvest app through my Yahoo widgets. I can access the widget and start logging hours when I start working, juggle multiple accounts for single or multiple clients, and can later import all this info into a handy, dandy invoice. Harvest does this all on it own and saves me the headache of needing to go back and count hours. While it’s always recommended to do your due diligence just to keep track of your hours, Harvest helps out in a pinch!
  • Keep Your Support Crew On Speed Dial (or Gmail Chat, Facebook, or Twitter): It’s important to stay upbeat and positive and who better to keep it real than your intimate crew of like-minded entrepreneurs. I have a group of a few gals and we Gmail Chat or Twitter ourselves into sanity (in the form of silliness) throughout the day, sharing our tales of woe and elation as we try to meander ourselves through the ups and downs of our freelancing lives.
  • It’s Ok To Do Group Events: As a freelance writer, networking isn’t always my bag, but it’s a necessary evil for those of us trying to drum up business and it helps facilitate us continuing to do what it is we love to do. I was at a loss for finding pertinent, relevant events (Mediabistro wasn’t a broad enough group for my technology tastes) until I came across Gary’s Guide. Simple in its interface, it lists all major networking events for technology and entrepreneur meet-ups for 11 metropolitan areas, including New York, Boston, and San Fran. I always find an event on there that’s interesting and potentially a good hook for my line of work.

Wading in the Calm

This is me. This is me on work at work when I work.

This is me. This is me on work at work when I work.

After a few busy, hectic weeks of wedding mania, I’ve now settling back into the mundane routine of my day-to-day.

I’m not good with down time.

I prefer keeping a maddeningly Olympic-speed frenzied professional pace. It suits my quasi-Type A personality and affords me the mental stimulation to keep my brain cells from dying off at an exponential rate.

While I’ve never resorted to recreational drug use and drink maybe twice a year (and mostly on Jewish holidays when it’s mandated), I’m still neurotic about my mind slowing down.

I’m sure it’s an age thing – up there with my teeth going yellow in the near future from too much caffeine and the brow lines that have prematurely crept their way unto my face. Getting old happens, but having too much time too think about such uncontrollable circumstances really doesn’t have to. It just means you’re not actively preoccupied enough with stuff that really interests you.

It’s easy to love yourself when you’re too busy to care. It’s another thing to muster enough confidence to feel the same when you’re experiencing a drought.

So while I await all the new professional opportunities that are bound to come my way (even in this slowish economy), I’ve decided to make a list of all the banal, albeit useful ways that I could choose to occupy my time:

  1. Make an appointment with the dentist. It’s gross to think I’ve gone 4 years without getting a cleaning.
  2. Order new set of contact lenses and update my lenses for my glasses. Never underestimate the importance of proper lighting and a good pair of respectable, stylish glasses, especially when you spend your days and nights on the computer. Your eyes are your most coveted asset, apart from your growing ass which makes for a good cushion.
  3. Maybe read the first of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series I’ve heard so many good things about. This one is a more timely to-do as when the Twilight movie comes out, I will never end up reading the book. Why bother?
  4. Discover and try new recipes from The Book of New Israeli Food, a wonderful cookbook my mother-in-law gave me months ago.
  5. Use my Best Buy $100 coupon to buy a much-needed vacuum cleaner, but might treat myself to Rafael Nadal Tennis for Wii instead.
  6. Go see Tropic Thunder with my husband and laugh our asses off. I think we’ve earned it…

The Upside of Social Networking?

Quote of the day:

What ever happened to human contact and the kind of gut instinct first impressions that only come from true face time? Sure, there are upsides to cyber-connections. You save postage by not having to mail out hundreds of résumés. You save on gas by not having to drive to dozens of interviews, but the downside is you could spend three weeks on LinkedIn networking with the CEO of a startup, only to find out that his headquarters is a cardboard box and he just changed the name of his company to “Homeless Depot.” (Plus the stock-option, base salary, sign-on bonus package he offered you was actually a scratch-and-sniff tear-out from Mademoiselle that he triumphantly excavated from a recent dumpster dive.)

Courtesy of Tom Stern (author of the blog, “A Kick in Your Career”, Fast Company.)

And for the more visual learners, here’s a video that effectively breaks down SN into more palatable terms:

Even Olympic Athletes Aren’t Perfect

The closing ceremonies for the 2008 Beijing Olympics are just around the corner and already I’m experiencing a bit of choked-up nostalgia about the thought of having to say goodbye to all the star athletes whose faces I’ve come to know and respect over the past two weeks (and who will most likely will go on to loftier endorsement deals than they might have dreamed their Olympic feats could ever carry them.)

In her most recent post, Escape from Cubicle Nation blogger Pamela Slim writes about channelling Olympic gold motivation to finish her book and how watching these superstars’ rise to excellence has transformed the way she disciplines herself and her overall work ethic.

It got me thinking to how the 2008 Olympics sharply contrasted all my previous years of watching. This might have something to do with some of the setbacks in my own life over the past year, but for the first time this year I watched athletes fall (a lot) or simply come up short either with their own goals or from the expectations others had of them.

To sum it up, I watched people we all put up on a pedestal take major spills and it took me a while to digest and make sense of all this.

I used to find these athletes infallible – incapable of human error. And while watching superhero Michael Phelps beat another athlete by 1/100th of a second was fascinating (more for technological reasons), watching U.S. gymnast Alicia Sacramone fall from grace off the balance team to dash her team’s chances of finding gold only to have her bounce back a few days later in the womens’ individuals with a stellar performance on the vault to lose to someone who couldn’t even stick the landing was somehow even more awe-inspiring because it proved that while some chapters may end without redemption in sight, the journey will go on and might even lead to better breaks.

In this year’s Olympics for the first time in history we had a 41-year-old mother compete in the highly competitive and youth-favored sport of swimming and while Gold-medal favored Dara Torres had to settle for second best with a silver in her individual race, she extended a gracious smile and a show of enthusiasm for her peer that took gold.

She also showed that getting gold or being #1 isn’t everything. Sometimes just showing up and participating and giving your all really can be enough, even if you still end up feeling less than the best.

And last but not least, pint-sized male gymnast, Jonathan Horton wins silver in the uneven bars after he daringly improvises and adds two difficult high-risk elements to his well-oiled routine at the last minute days before the competition.

His high stakes gambling antics solidifying the notion that even when everything’s in your favor, success is really one big crap shoot in the end.

The Twitter Bug

Followers do a body good

Being apart of the pack

Recently, BusinessWeek columnist Sarah Lacy wrote about using Facebook to “fire up” your career and employing social networking tools as a means to build out your professional network. She mentions Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn as ripe resources to unearth potentially untapped contacts and network your way to gainful employment.

Sites like Facebook and LinkedIn may make you visible and vulnerable to internet search engines, but Twitter is your face in bright lights with all its glaring blemishes.

I created a Twitter account over a year and a half ago when Twitter went beta and after a whole 24 hours was so disengaged I didn’t update it till just short of 2 weeks ago. So now I’m back on Twitter and starting to rethink its appeal – for professional purposes.

As long as active Twitterers are conscious of the fact that any of the 25 comments they update in the course of the day may show up in a search, there’s no real harm done and more to be gained from using Twitter. In fact, Twitter is all about encouraging constructive conversation, if used the right way.

  • For one, I love that potential clients can “follow” me and keep abreast of all my professional endeavors. It’s the easiest way to insure that I’m in front of them at all times and that visibility could lead to potential gigs.
  • It’s free advertising and effective self-promotion for the brand of you!  I can post links to my work and showcase my current work-related pursuits without resorting to an email blast which equates to more fun for everyone…
  • You can choose to be a “follower” and pick the right contacts for you depending on your professional goals and who you should be mingling with. Responding to the right peoples’ comments will then allow you a more direct line to engage in a conversation with people you might otherwise have never yielded a response from.
  • You can switch up the conversation on a more personal and accessible level. It’s not simply that you can reply to a comment left by someone you want to get in touch and exist solely on a professional plane with that individual. It’s the fact that you can set the tone of the conversation, its subject, and choose to much less formal in your discourse.
  • Call me a voyeur, but keeping an eye on what other people in my field are up to is the most efficient way for me to research what’s out there and keep competitive with peers in my industry. Not to mention learn more about opportunities I might be interested in and what events I should be attending and most likely, am not.

Trialing is Good For You & Me

I’ve been living la freelancing vida loca lately and enjoying the grind quite a bit. Between web copywriting gigs and generating entrepreneurship content, I’ve kept myself busy enough to feel productively sane.

I’ve also benefited from a bit of “trialing.” It’s a term endeared to consultants and employers who’ve taken on enough stringers in their lifetime to know that there’s such a thing as over-promising on a relationship that might not work out.

The same concept applies to us lowly stringers on the opposite end coming from a place where I’ve signed on to work for/with someone only to realize a few weeks into it, that it just wasn’t meant to be.

I liken trialing to boot camp for contractors. It’s like getting a scholarship to go to school and have your education paid for by a benefactor. In this case, it happens to be a potential employer and the trade-off is a week or two of intensely hard work and crunch time which either leads to landing the gig or getting your stomach punched in – figuratively.

So having been put through some trialing recently with some new clients I engaged through virtually networking my little tush off, I’ve come to realize the benefits of trialing far outweigh the cons.

  • Commitment-free means fewer facial lines: Being a successful freelancer demands you try your hand at many different jobs before you can pick the ones that are right for you. This also translates to having the time available to do this which means before you commit, do yourself a favor and walk the walk. You’ll be less stressed out for it!
  • Choosy freelancers choose the best gigs: Don’t be afraid to turn down something you don’t really want to do. If you can swing it financially and have enough on the backburner (even if it’s on a low flame), then respectfully decline the project, but don’t burn the contact. Your contact will respect that you were self-aware enough of your enthusiasm (or lack thereof) to let this project go, not to mention considerate enough to be upfront with them.
  • Juggle freely but don’t lose focus: Be mindful of learning curves while trialing. Most of the time what on average might take you half the time once you’ve mastered the rhythm of a particular project and aren’t reinventing the wheel each time, will take you double or 3X the time in the beginning. Be patient with yourself and factor in the excess time when taking on a lot of trial gigs at once.
  • Flat rates work best: I remember feeling so guilty when I charged a client an hourly rate for my first assignment and it took me twice the time it should have. I felt pressured to get it done faster so as not to charge too high while trying to put my best foot forward and make a good impression so I could land more work. Recently, when a new client approached me and suggested a flat rate for copy for the first two sites she commissioned me to work on, I was able to to take my precious time and make sure that I got the copy down pat before sending it off to the “printer.”