Words of Mouse

Archive for September 2008

My Ex-Boyfriend’s Fake Job: Things Aren’t Always What They Seem

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I know your eyebrows are probably raised at today’s post title, but bear with me. I promise you this has to do with freelance writing. Jenn Mattern at AllFreelanceWriting had an interesting post on September 15. The post, titled Lessons on Freelance Writing from the Dating Scene, got me thinking about how my relationships have prepared me to be a better freelance writer.

A few years ago, I lived with my boyfriend in Brooklyn, NY. Every day, he’d get up and put on his gorgeous gray suit, dress shirt, and silk tie. I LOVED that my boyfriend was a successful graphic designer and wore a suit to work every day. This continued for a few weeks until some bills came rolling in, and finally I asked him where his paycheck was. I won’t go into details, but it turns out he didn’t really have a job. He would get up each morning, dress for “work,” and pack casual clothes in his bag to change in to after he left the house. That brings me to an important point about being a freelance writer (or any type of freelancer) and trusting your potential clients and current clients.

When you’re thinking about working with someone, you need to keep yourself from making snap judgments about their reliability and trustworthiness based on things like their appearance, income, or industry of expertise. How many times have you decided to waive a deposit because someone “seemed honest”? Have you ever gone the extra mile because someone appeared to be trustworthy and ended up not getting paid or getting hurt in some other way?

You need to protect yourself as a freelancer, so do your best not to let your perceptions of people cloud your judgment. If you want a 50% deposit up front, then everyone must pay the deposit. If you want a signed contract, get one from every client. Don’t be left without compensation for your work just because someone seemed to have a lot of money or acted like they were very honest. You may be disappointed.

Written by lzaykoski

September 29, 2008 at 9:36 pm

Hiring a Virtual Assistant for Your Freelance Writing Business

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I recently hired a virtual assistant to provide me with administrative support for my freelance writing career. I had been thinking about it for a long time, but always put it off because I couldn’t see where I would come up with the money or justify the cost of an assistant. However, I changed my mind when I listened to a free seminar given by Alexandria Brown, The E-zine Queen. Alexandria was talking about how she got started as a copywriter, and how she also used to say she couldn’t afford to hire someone to help with administrative work. Then she realized that if she paid someone $50 or $100 to do work that resulted in a $500 or $1,000 client, it would be well worth the expense. What she said made a lot of sense, so I decided to go ahead and take the plunge.

A friend of mine runs an SEO firm and he recently hired a virtual assistant. I knew he wasn’t using her full-time, so I asked him to pass on her contact information. I corresponded with her for a little while, talked to my friend about how she was working out for him, and decided to hire her. I will NOT be outsourcing any of my writing to her. My plan is to have her to do other things so that I can concentrate solely on writing. So any of my clients reading this; don’t worry. Dana will be working on online research (her first project is identifying Web design firms that I can pitch my services to), social networking/marketing (setting up profiles, updating them), posting my pre-written posts to my blog, and doing similar tasks.

If you’re thinking about hiring a virtual assistant, think about the opportunity cost of not hiring one before you tell yourself you can’t justify the expense. If you are sitting home doing invoices and administrative work when you could be out networking and bringing home new clients, it’s going to cost you more money than it would to pay for some administrative help each week.

Written by lzaykoski

September 28, 2008 at 12:32 pm

Western Union Warning

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I just wanted to let all of my fellow freelancers know about a situation I encountered with Western Union last week so you can avoid them at all costs. I needed to send money online, so I did so using my debit card. I sent $275 and the transaction came to $309 with the Western Union fee. I received a money transfer control number and was told that my transaction was successfully submitted. Then I had to call Western Union for security verification and answer a million questions. Then I was told the transaction would be declined because it “did not meet their business requirements.” However, Western Union had already asked for authorization from the card company for $309, so the $309 was taken from my available balance. The card company said if Western Union would fax them a statement that the transaction had been canceled, they would release the hold and credit my account immediately. Western Union refused to do so.

This seems like an excellent example of “security theater” – a bunch of security measures that are intended to make people feel more secure while doing nothing to actually improve security. They hassled me to prove who I am, and then I spent an hour on the phone with them trying to get my money back. Meanwhile, some actual terrorist was probably getting money from another source, or an online scammer was raking in thousands from unsuspecting customers. I understand the need for security, but I do not understand why Western Union cannot do their verification before they ask for authorization for funds from your account. I did a search for “Western Union complaints” and found a site with nearly 200 people commenting that the same thing happened to them. They paid for the transaction, called to verify the information, and then their transaction was canceled and their money was in limbo for several days.

This is not a good way to do business and it’s doing nothing to improve security. If you need to send money in an emergency, I recommend using Money Gram or a similar service. If you use Western Union, you may end up paying money for a service you don’t receive.

Written by lzaykoski

September 27, 2008 at 12:47 pm

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Frugal Freelancer Fridays: Skype for Business

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I’m starting a new feature here called Frugal Freelancer Fridays. Every Friday, I’ll post about a way to save money in your freelance writing business or link to a deal specifically for freelancers. This week’s tip is about using Skype to save a substantial amount of money on your business telephone expenses. Using my cell phone for business was working fine, but then I started getting more calls from clients, and I was talking for 30 or 40 minutes at a time. It wasn’t cost effective to keep adding minutes to my phone. I’d used Skype’s messenger software in the past, and knew they offered VOIP calling services, so I decided to try them out.

Skype has several plans available, but I chose the plan that allows unlimited calling in the US and Canada for $2.95 per month. Unlimited here means a “fair use” of 10,000 minutes per month, but I find that to be very fair. I’ve made many calls using my subscription and the calls come through very clearly and have no static or other issues. My only problem when I first started out was that I purchased a headset online, and when it arrived at my house, the microphone didn’t work.

Another great feature of the Skype calling plan is that a record of all of your calls is stored in your account. If you use the account for both business and personal use, it’s very easy to print out a call listing and highlight your business calls for tax purposes. This makes tax documentation a little bit less painful for everyone.

Do any of you have calling plan recommendations that would help freelancers save money?

Written by lzaykoski

September 26, 2008 at 1:13 pm

Incorporation Announcement

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I decided last week that I wanted to incorporate so that I would be able to open a business bank account, get a business Paypal account, and build business credit separate from my own.  I filled out all of the paperwork (really only two online forms) and submitted it, so I’m pleased to tell you that in a few weeks, my business will officially be Word of Mouse Communications, Inc.  The process was very easy and the price was reasonable.  Most banks ask for a certified copy of your state filing documents, and even with the extra $65 I had to pay for those, the grand total only came to $249.

My incorporation will be formed in Delaware, as the fees there are much less expensive than in Pennsylvania.  In addition, Pennsylvania requires that you publish a notice of your incorporation, which can cost several hundred dollars.  If I filed in Pennsylvania, it would have cost me well over $600 as opposed to the $249 for Delaware registration.  I used Biz Filings to process the transaction. I used them many times when I worked for a real estate company and needed to open separate LLCs for each property the company purchased. I have always found their customer service to be excellent and they follow through on what they promise.

Once the incorporation is final, I can go ahead and open those business bank and Paypal accounts, use my corporate name on letterhead, business cards, and other marketing materials, and finally show my mother that I do not sit home in my pajamas all day making “fake Internet money.”

Written by lzaykoski

September 25, 2008 at 12:25 pm

Getting Organized with a Dry Erase Board

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I’m on a big life improvement kick lately – I’ve lost 15 pounds in the past three weeks, cleaned out my closet, and gotten rid of some old clothes that I have been hanging on to forever.  I naturally wanted to see what I could accomplish in terms of getting really organized in my business.  I decided to buy a dry erase board to write all of my projects and deadlines on so that I always have a visual representation of what I need to do on a particular day.  I snagged the board for under $8 at Target and also got a pack of mini dry erase markers for just under $4.

I divided the board into three columns: client projects, business tasks, and personal.  The client projects column is, obviously, where I list out all of my client projects.  If I have a particular deadline, I make a note of it and then use the board to plan my day.  In the business tasks column, I record everything I need to do for my business.  It may not be something that makes money right away, but it will be something that will benefit my business in the future.  Current tasks on the list include incorporate my business (more on that in another post), finish writing content for my new site, validate my site’s pages with the W3C validation tool, write an e-book to give away to subscribers of my e-zine, and follow up with my graphic designer on some e-book covers I am having designed.  The personal column is just a collection of personal reminders and goals.  Since I’m trying to lose weight, I have my weekly goal on there, plus reminders about choir practice, dinner plans with friends, and appointments with my doctor.

I’ve been way more organized since implementing this simple system and I’ve been able to manage my workload much more easily.  For less than $12, you can’t beat the benefits of using a dry erase board to get organized.

Written by lzaykoski

September 24, 2008 at 12:25 pm

Bright Hub Q&A: Answering Reader Questions

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I’ve been checking my traffic stats for this blog and I have found that most people are finding me by searching for things related to Bright Hub.  One of my first posts was an announcement that I had been made Managing Editor of their Medical Science channel.  Since there seem to be so many questions, let me give you some answers so you can all make an informed decision about whether you want to join Bright Hub.

Bright Hub Editing Time

This search has brought several readers to this blog, so why not address it here?  There is no set editing time for Bright Hub because every channel has a different managing editor, a different number of writers, and a different number of contributing editors.  My personal commitment to my writers is that all of their submissions are edited and published before midnight on the last day of any given month so that they can be paid for those articles during the same month they are submitted.  I may do one or two articles per day, or let a bunch build up in my queue and do them all in one shot.  When I first started, I was the only editor, so I was doing 40 or 50 articles at one time some days.  Now that I have four contributing editors, I am able to distribute the work evenly so editing times have been greatly reduced.

However, there are only 22 writers in my channel right now.  As we grow to an anticipated 100 writers, editing may take a few days depending on how many articles are submitted on a daily basis.  If you’re concerned about editing time in relation to payment, my suggestion is to submit articles as early as possible.  As much as I love editing, I do not like being chained to my computer at 11:59 p.m. on the last day of the month, working on the last of 50 articles that were submitted that day when only 5 articles were submitted in total for the entire month.

Bright Hub Complaints

This is another search that brings people here (my blog post on my new position is ranked #5 in the Google search results for this and the search “Bright Hub editing time”).  I can honestly say that I don’t have any complaints about Bright Hub at this time.  My e-mails are responded to in a timely manner, I have a lot of editorial oversight to do what I want to do with my channel, and everything has been running smoothly.  I am going to reserve judgment on payment until I receive my August payment, however.  I received my August compensation report on September 12, with a note that I would be paid in 7-10 business days.  That means September 25 is the 10th business day.  If I am paid by the close of business that day, I will be supremely happy.

Have a question about Bright Hub?  Feel free to ask in the comments and I will be sure to answer.

Written by lzaykoski

September 23, 2008 at 12:53 pm