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Blogathon 2011 Theme Day “My top 5 favorite places to write”

22 May

Well, here we are just ten days shy of the end of the 2011 WordCount Blogathon and I have to say that it’s been a blast! My blog has grown so much, I’ve met some wonderful fellow bloggers, and had a bunch of terrific guests share their insight here.

Today, as part of the Blogathon, I’ve been tasked with writing on a theme “My top 5 favorite places to write are…”, which really got me thinking! Does where I write have an effect on the type of writing I do?

Since I left the corporate world years ago to pursue web copy writing full time, I’ve written in all kinds of environments from a bedroom office to local coffee shops. The people and things around me must have some kind of influence on my work. Being a freelancer, I meet some wonderful people everywhere I happen to connect my trusty Dell laptop to the Internet. I often encounter other freelancers, small business owners and busy Mom’s who are building careers for themselves. These people share fresh ideas and perspectives with me, which are often the inspiration for new material. One would have to say then that the choices of where I love to write have a positive influence on my writing.

So, without further ado, here are my top 5 favorite places to write:

1. My queen anne style, vintage cherry writing desk. This desk is the center of my world as a Charleston web copy writer. I picked it up from an estate sale about 6 years ago, from a neiughbor who told me it was his mother’s cherished desk. It has been the place where I have sat many hours late into the night drafting new business articles, worked with clients on marketing plans, and just tried to keep it all together as an entrepreneur. Wherever I go in life, this desk comes along with me and it centers me enough to do my very best.

2. In my bedroom late at night. Sounds like the start of a great romance novel, doesn’t it? Well, to be honest, on days when I am seeking creativity the most, I take my laptop into the bedroom and get under the covers in my jammies to write. I love to write my blog posts there at the end of a busy day. I often write devotionals for my church ladies’ lunch group early in the morning when I wake up, before I roll out of bed to start the day. My bedroom is a safe haven where I ca express myself in any way I wish.

3. My little front porch. What can I say, except I am a real nature girl at heart! Ever since we moved into our dream home last fall, I have made my front porch into a mini oasis away from the stress of a work day. There’s lots of comfortable chairs, green plants and a nice breeze which refreshes my mind. During the times when I get a little burnt out from churning out articles, I relax on my front porch to have some lunch and scribble in my notebook.

4. Local Coffee Shops. Not only do they make great places to spend an afternoon with friends, the coffee shops in my hometown like Starbucks and Bigby Coffee give me a chance to write and collaborate with my clients. I often meet new clients there to go over ideas for web content, or share a quick bite to eat while brainstorming their social media strategy. When my Wi-Fi goes down, coffee shops give me a backup so I don’t lose contact with anyone or miss an important deadline.

5. The beach. Naturally, since I love the outdoors, one of the best places to refresh the soul and do some creative writing happens to be at the beaches here. In the middle of the week, I will sometimes grab my satchel, a pair of sandals, and my trusty notebook to spend an afternoon on the beach. There’s something about the sound of waves splashing against the sand that is so relaxing, and yet inspiring. Late afternoons after all the tourists and crowds have gone are the best time to write on the beach!

Well, there you have it…Please feel free to share where your favorite places to write ( or be creative ) are!

Finding Inspiration in Everyday Ordinary Things

12 May

Today, I am having one of those days when I am trying to squeeze too much into my day trying to be super-writer! Ever go through this as a writer yourself? This feeling often comes from trying to multi-task way too much and not giving enough focus to the tasks at hand. It can also come from biting off too much at once, hoping to rake in the projects and dollars to pay the bills as a freelancer. When this happens, I have to remind myself to take a small step back and seek out inspiration in everyday ordinary things.

Let me explain a little more what I mean here….

The world, as we know it, is filled with little bits of inspiration. Like clever quotes found on people’s social media posts, the stories of people who have made their dreams happen, or beautiful images of the natural world right outside your own window. We can see this in the smiles of our children’s faces, or in the love and care we give to others. The key is to take a moment to declutter your brain enough to notice these small snippets of inspiration, if only for a moment.

My father once said to me, “take the time to stop and smell the roses”. In fact, I have a bookmark that he gave me the last time I saw him when he was in the hospital fighting his final battle with Leukemia. This wonderful man had worked hard all of his life, rarely taking a vacation or personal time, to support my Mother and younger sisters, and yet he never got to enjoy his retirement years. This poignant phrase has stuck with me for years, and has taken on new meaning as I became a home-based professional. Each day, I try my best to live up to his words by taking five minutes to reflect on what I have learned that day and if I have indeed taken a moment to experience the sweet smell of success. Afterall, without these moments of inspiration – what is life worth living for?

Personally, I find that the best inspiration I get is from other creative souls. For example, I love walking in downtown Charleston, SC for the art walks. Those artists and the amazing work they produce inspires me on so many levels. Or the random musicians I find in my daily listens to online radio stations or on reverb nation. Today, I found an incredibly talented musician by the name of “Minds I” (David Isaac Marchant Jr.) whose soulful ambient songs gave my brain a fast infusion of divine inspiration!

Other days, I just have to take a short walk outside to be reminded of how lucky I am to work from my comfortable home office daily as a web copy writer in Charleston. Anytime I desire a mental break, all I need to do is step outside and breathe in the fresh air on my front porch. What a feeling of absolute freedom, that inspires me to do my best!

So, ask yourself what inspires you? Have you taken the time to smell the roses today?

3 Steps for Maintaining Balance as a Web Copy Writer

8 May

If you are a freelance writer, do you often find it difficult to find that perfect balance in your life? Are you continually feeling guilty about not having enough time to do it all? A while back, I wrote a post about maintaining balance as a small business owner, which provided some helpful tips for anyone struggling in this area. Now I’d like to address the writing community out there specifically, to talk about some of the ways to find a better balance between writing work and a personal life.

First, let me start off by saying that being a full time web copy writer is by no means an “easy” job, like some of my corporate counterparts like to think. They seem to imagine me as this free-spirited person who has all the time in the world to dream up content for websites whilst I relax in my pajamas eating bon-bons all day. I suppose it’s because they wonder what it is that I do from 9-5  in my little home office. When I tell people I write for a living, I often get that puzzled look and then a question like, “So what books have you written?” My response is then, “Well, actually I don’t write books, I create website and print marketing copy that helps small business owners get their message out there more effectively.” Then it makes better sense and people realize that I work HARD all week long.

When I first started out in this biz, I had the same set of expectations which included: being able to roll out of bed when I wanted to, work on the projects I chose, and deal with clients on my terms. Instead, I found out very quickly that I had a lot of hoops to jump through as a service provider. If I didn’t spend time daily looking for new opportunities, they wouldn’t exactly be banging on my door. My world quickly got out of balance as I spent more and more hours glued to my computer.

Then I started taking a real hard look at my business and set up a 3-Step Plan to get myself back into focus and create a more reasonable work-life balance for myself (and my family). Here’s what I came up with:

1. Establish standard business hours. Without a clear schedule and work hours, it’s easy to let things get out of balance. The lines between work and personal time begin to blur. In addition, clients begin to think that you will be available at their command, any time of the day or night. When you get a call from a client at 4 AM on a Sunday, you know you have a problem with balance. So, I decided what work hours work best for my clients and I, and then I set them into action by stating them clearly on my business website.

2. Allow goof off time or mental health days. One of the ways that freelance writers get out of balance is by not allowing themselves time to relax. Spending 12 hours in an office chair  6 days a week is not a healthy way to conduct a business or produce quality copy. So now, I allow myself at least one hour of “goof off” time during the day, and take a mental health day off twice a month. I also frequently plan on-site client meetings and go to business networking events to get out of my home office. Getting away from the desk refreshes my mind and helps me to focus on work when I am in the office.

3. Learn to ask for help when needed. The biggest lesson I had to learn as a web copy writer in Charleston was getting help from other writers or creative professionals when the project called for it. The personality of an entrepreneur is to try to do everything yourself. But this is also an indicator of being a complete control freak! If a big project comes in, I quickly assess how much time it will take me to do my part, and then I get in touch with a couple of trusted entrepreneurs I have in my network to help out. This has created more balance in my business and life.

So, whatever you find yourself dealing with now in your writing career or as a home based business professional, know that you CAN find a better balance for your life. The key is to learn what your priorities are and establish clear boundaries so that you can focus on what’s most important to you. Don’t wait – do this now and save yourself a lot of stress and frustration.

How do you find balance as a freelancer?

Managing the Balancing Act

8 Feb

As a small business owner, do you often feel like you are on a high wire about twenty feet above the circus crowd trying desperately to stay on top of everything in a balancing act?

Well, you are not alone! About 99% of all entrepreneurs feel this way on a regular basis, what with all the responsibilities and demands every day.

So what to do when you get to the point where you feel like you are ready to jump? Here are some suggestions from a fellow solo-preneur who’s been there a time or two ( and lived to talk about it):

#1 – Take a Mental Step Back

When the entire pile of papers and work on your desk feels like it may topple over and you can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel, get up out of your chair – take a walk outside and feel the fresh air on your face for a few moments. Or unplug from all your electronics, emails and social media outlets for ten minutes to gather your thoughts. Oftentimes as business owners, we are so connected to all the things we must do and all the people we must keep in communication with that we lose sight of the real joy of having a company. Give yourself the freedom to take a mental step back and refresh your mind, which will give you a restored vigor and actually make you more productive.

#2 – Ask for Help

This has got to be the most difficult thing for an independent business owner to admit – that he or she needs help. First of all, the greatest leaders got where they did by asking for help whenever things got overwhelming. Everyone needs to seek the services and support of other professionals when the tasks seem insurmountable. Get in contact with your networks and find a good virtual assistant or an intern who wants to learn the ropes. Then delegate, delegate, delegate until it all gets done. You’ll have more time to go after new business and you’ll be less likely to stay up late at night trying to do it all alone.

#3 – Network with Fellow Entrepreneurs

A great way to learn how to cope with the balancing act of being an entrepreneur is to seek out the feedback, encouragement and advice of other similar professionals. There are tons of local small business networking groups as well as those found online in places like LinkedIn, Meetups and more. Find others who share your vision and get together over coffee for goal setting or brainstorming sessions. When you are around others, you will feed off their creativity and ideas, which helps you to be a better business owner. You’ll be turned on to new resources and support which will fuel your growth as a professional over time.

Whatever you do, if you are dealing with the “madness” of trying to juggle too much at once, allow your self the ability to play hookie from your business, for at least a few hours. Give your mind and your soul something to look forward to and you’ll be a more balanced person and a more effective business leader as a result.