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Jennifer Oakes of J. Oakes Photography Shares Her Story of Balancing Career and Family

19 May
Readers, you are in for a treat today! I am very pleased to introduce you to a fantastic guest blogger who just happens to be my younger sister and a very talented photographer from upstate New York . Would you please help me welcome Jennifer Oakes of J. Oakes Photography!

Jennifer has been successfully working from home for a couple of years as an on-site portrait photographer, while simultaneously raising two beautiful children. What’s so wonderful about Jennifer is that she is able to experience a career that allows her to have more balance as a wife and mother, plus do what she loves best – capturing once in a lifetime images of people’s most cherished memories. From maternity and baby photos to stunning family and wedding portraits, Jennifer is making a big name for herself by giving others a glimpse into her point of view. Today, let’s read more about how Jennifer got her start in the world of photography and what inspires her….
I started taking photos of friends and family members when I was about 11 years old. I remember using those wind up disposable cameras and buying a new one every week when I got my allowance. I loved photographing my friends on the playground and the different ones dating in junior high. I also have many memories of the sleepovers my girl friends and I had, dressing up in silly ways and trying to become the next model for “Glamour” magazine. What fun we had!
Friends and family members would comment along the way as I laid out my scrap books from the “old times” and continued into the present years with photos of my son and husband. “What a great shot,” they would say. Well, I never thought anything of it. I just loved being behind the camera to capture these moments I wanted to remember. There is one photo of my son’s second Easter (one of the first he began to understand), that particularly stood out to me. That is when I really started thinking, “hey, I could do this for other people.”
Now, I would be lying if I took all the credit for my idea to go pro. I was greatly influenced by an old high school friend of mine who had been performing private photo shoots for fellow army families. Brianna A. Showerman was stationed in Colorado with her soon-to-be deployed husband and their one year old son. I envied the work she performed and her amazing editing skills.
So, I began to ask questions.
I figured out real fast that coming up with a professional name, setting up a web page, doing research for photo ideas and poses, taking the photos, and finally editing them, was the easy part! It was finding the free time between working as a certified nursing assistant at a local nursing home, my husband’s work schedule as a logger and forester (never having set hours), and taking care of my toddler.
In October of 2010, we got the added news of a new baby on the way. It was then that I knew something would have to change! After the birth of our daughter in June 2010, I went back to work part-time at a local mini-mart thinking I would take on just enough hours to help our income. WRONG! So, to keep a long story short, in January 2011, we made the decision for me to become a full-time stay at home mom.
It’s been tough, but being able to be home with my two children has been the greatest blessing God has given me. Adding to this blessing is the time to concentrate on my business, J.Oakes Photography, and having the extra free time to perform more photo shoots for families around the area. It has been great and I have begun to expand into a wedding photographer as well. I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunities that I have received through my love and passion of photography.
The future is bright for Jennifer as she continues to grow her home based business and expand her portfolio, but the main thing is that she followed her true passions and talent to build a business from scratch. I’ve had the priviledge of watching her blossom over the last few years, as a photographer and a young mother. What impresses me the most is that she has dedicated herself to learning all she can about her craft, pours her heart and soul into her photography, yet always remembers to prioritize her family life.
If you would like to learn more about Jennifer Oakes at J. Oakes Photography, you are welcome to visit her at   http://www.joakesphotography.com   and you can also find her on facebook ! Right now she has a special deal going on (but hurry as this is a limited time only offer) for a FREE framed 5×7 photo when you book a photo shoot from now until 8.31.11!
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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?

Why Web Copy Writing is the Best Home Based Career

6 May

The most common question I get is “how did you get into copy writing?” Just a few years ago, if someone had asked me what I wanted to be “when I grew up”, I would have never considered working at home as a web copy writer! In fact, I had my heart set on working in human resources for a long time, being able to make a positive change in the lives of employees and helping others to develop long-term careers.

But, things change as things have a habit of doing, leaving me going through a period of transition as a professional. I found myself exploring various work from home careers and stumbled upon writing as an actual career. It was the best discovery of my life!

I fully believe that we copy writing is one of the best home based careers available to people today. For many reasons, including:

  • The ability to work remotely from anywhere with an Internet connection.
  • A flexible schedule that allows project work around other responsibilities.
  • Writing opportunities in every industry and on every topic imaginable.
  • Challenging tasks and projects that never get boring or monotonous.
  • The ability to be as creative as you want to be and enjoy the results of this effort.
  • Ongoing work with a multitude of really cool clients around the world.
  • No worry about noise factors or having to talk on the phone to rude people all day.

There are other benefits of having a home based career as a web copy writer, but those just come with the territory! I love the freedom of expressing myself through words. I love working with incredibly talented and smart people daily. I love seeing my name online whenever something is published. Nothing I’ve ever done in my past life as a corporate HR professional has ever compared to the absolute joy I get as a web copy writer in Charleston, South Carolina.

So, if you are thinking about taking the leap of faith and writing for a living, I encourage you to explore all the avenues that are available to you in freelance web copy writing!

Feel free to leave your questions or comments below – always happy to respond!