The “gig” economy (and why it’s a good thing)

Note: I asked my 16-year-old son to write about the “gig economy.” This is his view of it with just a few edits from me. Let me know what you think.

Stable salary, health-care benefits, steady hours — these are the things that might come to mind when you think of jobs that are largely considered desirable. But all these things come with a price some aren’t willing to pay: repetitiveness, little opportunity for advancement, and short, scarce vacations, among other things. However, there is another option outside of a traditional workspace.

Many people work outside of the organized system, and they’re all the better off for it. A wedding planner, for example, chooses what events they organize, how much they will be paid, and when their hours of client service will be. These same freedoms are afforded by freelance writers, photographers, and anyone who chooses to take “gigs” as they see fit, for prices they see as fitting.

This idea may seem scary. It may seem to threaten the very foundation of the American workplace. But it has enormous benefits for all of us. Freelance workers have much more freedom than those who work for an employer, and that tends to magnify their skills. Because they have no one to look up to — no one to rescue them if they get into a bind — they tend to work harder, and with more passion for the life they’re pursuing.

Ambition is the driving force behind so much of the progress we see in this modern day. People with original ideas, who choose to work on their own accord and not under another’s thumb, have brought us many of the products we use every day. If it weren’t for these brave people, you’d be hard-pressed to find top-notch creative minds. Organized corporate jobs can be stifling.  Freelancers are not only defying tradition, but they are paving the way for those who feel too constricted by workplace structure to pursue the ideas that may very well be the next big thing.

However, there are many challenges in working for oneself, and health-care comes in high on the list. It’s expensive. Outrageously expensive. You pay your own taxes and Social Security and file quarterly.

There’s also the aspect of loneliness associated with this workspace. The self-employed often have no co-workers. Their only regular human interaction would be with clients, and those they spend their free time with if they have any to spare. However, organizations such as collectives and networks can help these people communicate with and work alongside others like them.

Yes, the “gig” economy may seem like a threat to traditional jobs. But, traditional jobs are not for everyone. Freelance workers are facing the challenges of expensive health-care and questionable stability to bring upon us a more innovative and passionate America. They are bringing us the America of tomorrow.

 

Afternoon productivity hacks for morning people

I am one of those people that wake up every day with my to-do list already written the day before or I have it in my brain. I am great until about 1 p.m, usually after lunch, then the bed in my “office” starts to look very inviting. The problem is I can only do so much from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. I need to work a few hours in the evening or afternoon.

I am not a doctor, psychologist or life coach even though I played a talk show host once at a dinner theater. I learned some productivity hacks by trial and error how to not crash after lunch and actually get things done—like my blog posts for my sites!

  • Watch your diet. It’s just science that a heavy lunch will cause you to be sluggish, especially if you suffer from a chronic disease like diabetes. Try a lower carb option like a salad instead of that all-you-can Chinese buffet. Some people eat a large breakfast and skip lunch, something that has actually worked for me.
  • Watch your caffeine. I get up at 5:30 every day. Most days, I only drink a caffeinated drink at this point of my day. Then…
  • Drink more water. It’s easier than you think to get dehydrated, trust me. And I always just feel better when I drink more water.
  • Do “administrative” or non-creative task in the early afternoon. I find it easier to muddle through tasks such as answering emails or planning social media campaigns when I am sluggish than trying to write an article or blog.
  • Take a break.  I am lucky to be self-employed and be able to make my own schedule. A couple of days a week my schedule may look like 6 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. than 3 p.m. until I am finished.

Are you a morning person or a night owl? How do you remain productive no matter what time of day it is?

 

 

 

This school of life

I loved school. All of it. Even the draining term papers on some random moment in history and the calculus I don’t really understand even now. My recent work has been a re-education of sorts for me. I am lucky to have worked on a variety of projects and realize that I need to read more! Understand, I am not stupid. I just spent many years in the daily news grind. Once you write the arrest report, cover a county commission meeting and write a story about the latest charity event, the last thing you want to do when you get home is think. Here a few of my recent subjects.

  • My first big challenge was an assignment that included a referent to IoT. I had to look it up and I learned the Internet of Things applies to every industry differently.  I haven’t found a way to drop it into a conversation yet, but I will.
  • I have written for the financial sector before but now I am deep into it daily. I apparently missed the news stories about the Dood-Frank Act but I am on top of the Financial Choice Act. What is happening in Congress is very interesting right now.
  • Did you know that gun holsters can save an officer’s life? Safety companies can rate a holster’s “retention,” or the amount of time it takes for an officer to get the gun out of the holster. Those few seconds can save an officers life.
  • Some of the permafrost in Siberia is beginning to thaw. This can be big trouble for a country that’s infrastructure is built on the frozen tundra.

I wake up excited every day about what I will learn next. For me, this is the life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Atlanta Braves, birds and other distractions

I am not a fan of summer’s hot temperatures but summer does mean baseball. But baseball also means I get distracted looking up the starting pitchers for the Atlanta Braves or the latest stats on Freddie Freeman.

Honestly, baseball is not my only distraction. And let’s be honest. We all lose focus occasionally (or once a day). Nearly everyone gets drawn into social media. Oh, and don’t forget the email panic where you check every 15 minutes just in case you have a note from a potential client.

But those are not even my biggest distractions. I do a lot of research. Let’s say I am researching bird of North America. I see that a bird is a native of a place I have thought would be a great spot for a vacation. My bird research leads to more personal research about a vacation destination. I waste 15 minutes before I snap back to reality. But hey, I am great at trivia!

So how do you overcome it? The truth is, you may never have a day when you are not distracted at least once or twice. But I have found some ways that work for me.

  • Work blocks–I have written about this before but it is a part of how I stay focused. I set aside a certain amount of time for each task I do. If I know I must complete a task in an hour, I am less likely to wonder to la-la land for 20 minutes.
  • When I need to be online, I only keep the tabs relevant to what I am working on active. I don’t want to know if an email is coming in or if I have a Facebook notification.
  • I work at home so it’s not just online distractions that can complicate my life. I often turn off my phone or hand it to my husband. I keep the door to my “office” closed for many tasks. I also have my desk facing a window and I have a group of birds and squirrels that love to put on a show for me every day. Sadly, some days I lower the blinds. I also try to limit personal conversations, even with the husband, during the work day.

Finally, if you have been around me you know I am a planner and a list maker. I always try to complete my to-do-list. And I try to reach the weekly goals outlined on my calendars.

This all sounds so easy but it is hard to do. How do you keep yourself from getting distracted?

There’s a site for that

I was living part-time with my parents a few years ago and doing a lot for freelance writing. I am not sure when it started but my once in a while my dad would come into my room and ask me what I was writing about that day. Back in those days, I was doing a lot of work for an agency that handled copy for real estate agents. I wrote community descriptions of places I’ve never been from Florida to Oregon. One day my answer was chickens because I was writing two profiles for a poultry magazine. I also wrote for a magazine about floor coverings–not too surprising since I live just half an hour from the Carpet Capital of the World. These stories were not as exciting as the hundred of crime and legal stories I wrote as a reporter and those are usually the ones I get asked about most often.

Until I started freelancing a dozen years ago I had no idea about the number of trade magazines. Even before the Internet made content king you could find magazines focusing on pizza restaurants, carpet, Christmas tree farms and tree trimming to name a few. Every once in a while one of these magazines contacts me to do an article. I also hear from businesses who want me to write up their announcements or press releases to submit to their trade publications.

This is what I love about my career. I can be writing about anything and interviewing anyone on any given day. And no day is ever the same. This week is a good example as I will be interviewing two attorneys, a chiropractor and a city councilman. You may think your business is too mundane. But trust me, somewhere there is a place for your story.

 

 

 

50 ways to…(well almost)

I was in elementary school when Paul Simon came out with “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” I haven’t counted the number of ways in the song but I don’t think it was 50.

Today, business owners have almost as many ways to tell their story than Paul Simon had to leave his lover (not sure if he left her since they were sleeping on it in the last verse). Let’s just talk about 10.

  1. Your website. This is often the first impression you make on a customer. You can include many story-telling techniques on your site but make sure to include these pages–about, contact, homepage, landing page, etc… and make sure the pages are error free and well written.
  2. Blog. A blog is an easy way to share your uncensored thoughts about your company and industry (hint, you are reading one right now). The blog can help your search engine rankings. If you don’t have one, you can create one right here in WordPress and link it to your website. And if you don’t have a website, you can create one of those right here in WordPress, too.
  3. Press release. Newspapers are not dead and not everything is “fake news.” Your local media is a great partner in telling your story. Some newspapers, like the Kansas City Star, have a separate website for posting press releases. You can also use online distribution sites to reach a wider audience. Some of these do require a fee but some of them are free.
  4. Business announcement. I consider these different from press releases because you are targeting just the business section of a newspaper or magazine. These are sections that are like “Who’s Who in Business.” Do you have a new employee? Have you promoted an employee? Send in an announcement to a magazine or newspaper’s business section. It’s good for employee morale and for public relations.
  5. Case study. How has your company helped one of your customers? Case studies tell the story of how you met a challenge with a winning solution. A case study more than a testimonial–it’s a complete story. Companies post these on their websites and add them to their media kits.
  6. White papers. While case studies focus on a customer/client experience, white papers focus on the benefits of a product for customers. These are longer and are usually just used business to business. White papers require extensive research.
  7. Photographs. You don’t just have to tell your story with words. Instagram, Pinterest and other social media sites allow you to tell your story with pictures and captions.
  8. Videos. Once very expensive to make, prices have decreased for professional videos. If the video is going to be used for a recruitment or sales too, hire someone to produce it.
  9. Infographics. Sites like Canva have made it easy for marketers to produce graphics that are eye-catching. Make sure the infographic tells a story about your business.
  10. Podcasts allow you to listen anywhere–in your car, while working out, etc… If you don’t like your own voice, hire a voice-over professional.

You know you want to tell your story using one or more of these methods but you have no idea where to begin or what may work for you. That’s where I can help. If you have read this far, I will offer a 25 percent discount on my services if you sign before June 15. Click here to set up a free consultation.

Sometimes stories write themselves

This started out as a fun conversation with a client then I posted it on Facebook.

cotton

As you can see one of my friends has the gift for writing humor.

I am not sure if I would have used a funny headline while the search for the man continued. But I certainly would have used the play on words in follow-stories. This stuff just writes itself.

 

 

 

I still believe in local news

While I no longer make my living in local news, I believe in it. My husband and I travel several times a year and everywhere we go, I check out the local media. I usually lug an armful of newspapers and notes about local television and radio stations. Then I spend a few hours relishing in learning about some of the places we were or passed through like Madisonville, Tennessee. I enjoyed reading about their community and seeing the ad for “Sloans.”

madisonville newspaper

When I read about layoffs in the newsroom at Gannett, I am dismayed.  Who is going to tell people about the county commission’s debate on a tax increase? Who is going to run the picture of the winner of the flower show? How will you learn about road and school closings when the weather is bad? Yes, online platforms like Facebook and Twitter are used but who puts out that information? Many times, it’s local journalists.

Anyone can create a website and post anything these days. My husband and I were getting very upset I while watching Law and Order SVU the other night. A person with no journalistic training was running a website accusing a Congressman of sexual misconduct. He didn’t care about the truth nor did he vet his sources. While it did lead to a real crime, the alleged crimes were never proven and this guy showed he didn’t care about the truth. I won’t print a spoiler but things did not end well in that episode.

You can find a lot of websites like that one across the country. Call me old school, but I believe in getting both sides of the story and fact checking. Even some so-called legitimate media organizations have given into just getting the story out there so they can be first without checking the facts and the validity of their sources. The media used to be respected as the watchdog for the little guy and it has become more about getting clicks and being first. And we wonder why people don’t trust the media and are quick to label all of it “fake news.”

This doesn’t mean I ignore local media and work only on social media and other online platforms. I work with clients from all over the world and I love it. But when I start working with a business or organization, I always ask about their local and state media. I compile a list of the names of editors, news directors, and producers. I still send out traditional press releases, book broadcast interviews, and market online using social media and other tools. I make a lot of phone calls pitching my clients to local media sources, too.

About 80 percent of my work is online. But I still believe that the other 20 percent of my time spent working with local publications and broadcasters is just as important. My hope is that in the future, we will begin to see the value of not only telling our story to a worldwide audience but to our neighbors down the street.

Hear’s some writting to spank you’re interest

Obviously, the headline is full of mistakes. And I will be honest with you—mistakes happen. I have made some doozies. Thankfully, my biggest this week was replying to a client’s note and signing his name at the end instead of mine. Here are some I have made and some I have prayed I wouldn’t make!

  1. I once sent off a pitch offering to spank someone’s interest. Sorry, I don’t want to spank anyone. But I am sure I may have sparked their interest.
  2. A client was looking for someone with a lot of sass in their writing. I sent him a reply saying I had lot of….well just remove the “s.”
  3. I can’t tell you how many times I have changed the “o” in shot to and “i.” A shooting is bad enough but the other?
  4. I once had a group of cyclists training 8 days a week. Thank you, Beatles.
  5. A college in my town had Angus beef sales on occasion. I had to be careful to not leave out the “g.”
  6. Also, be careful how you spell “public” area.

Side note, I once attracted a lot of porn followers on my website and social media accounts because I had two articles where I mentioned the work cock a few times. Get your minds out of the gutter. I wrote articles for a magazine in the chicken industry a few years ago.

I am sure some of my colleagues can remember some more of my blunders. But they happen and you have to pick yourself up and move on from them.

What mistakes have you made or seen? Leave them in the comments for a future post!

Have a great day!

Kim J

Priceless

I purposely positioned my desk in front of the window so I can raise it most mornings and listen to the birds sing. A woodpecker joined the tunes today. The sound of the train through my little town provided some background music every hour or so.

Among the robins, sparrows and blue jays, two cardinals were playing in the trees. The cardinals are my favorite birds because they represent so many things—faith, vitality and creativity. Some say they represent loved ones who have passed away. This thought gives me comfort that my parents are free and playful as the birds.

I am not writing about very exciting subjects today. But the inspiration outside my window is priceless.