Making up for that lost hour

I am someone who HATES Daylight Saving Time. I get up at 4 a.m. and even if it wasn’t a requirement for work, I would still get up pretty early. I love the sunrise and delaying it an hour doesn’t make me happy.

Losing that hour also dismays me. I have struggled with getting back in my groove since my parents died last year and I just found a system that works for me. I block off time where I shut off social media, my phone (gasp) and any distractions so I can just focus on work for that hour or 45  minutes. I then take a break for 10 t0 20 minutes or a meal break if needed.

This system has increased my productivity but I am still working on perfecting it. Losing an hour that could have been a work block or sleep is distressing.

How are you making up for that lost hour?

Pajamas and a laptop

I am a child of the 70s and 80s and I remember when I dreamed about working in a city, wearing cute clothes and eating at trendy restaurants.

Flash forward to 2017 and my dreams are about working at home, wearing my pajamas and eating mac and cheese for breakfast. Add in some trips to interesting small towns, the Smoky Mountains and maybe a big city or two and you have described my ideal life.

In today’s society, working from home has become a career goal not only for moms with young children but for people who hate fighting traffic or who just don’t like having to deal with office politics or boring meetings. I work at home only part-time. I have a full-time broadcasting gig that I get up very early to do so most days I am home by 2 p.m. For 18 months in the late 2000s, working at home was my only source of income. I have found that I have a routine I follow no matter how many hours I work.

  • I wear pajamas or something equally comfortable. Even on non-freelance days, I put on my pajamas as soon as I come home. The only exception is if we have plans for a short time later.
  • I always put my computer in front of a window or facing outdoors. Years ago I had a desk on my back porch. Those were the days. My current view may not be the most scenic but I like it. view
  • I tend to work in blocks of time. I have a difficult time sitting for long periods of time. The longest I will sit is about two hours. A four-hour work day usually consists of an hour and 15 to 20 minutes at a time with 10 to 30-minute breaks. While it turns four hours of work into a six-hour stretch, I am more productive this way.
  • I keep the door shut when I don’t want to be disturbed. If I am researching an article or pitching clients, the door is open. When I am writing, it’s almost always closed. My family has learned to only contact me in dire emergencies. Problems with Netflix, opening a package or taking clothes out of the dryer are not dire emergencies!

Finally, get the image of home workers basking in their filth out of your head. One thing I do every day is shower. When I was working at home full-time there may have been several days when I didn’t put on shoes but my feet were clean. For me, taking a shower officially started my day.

If you work at home, what are your routines?

Kim

 

 

Just doing it

I have been doing this freelance writing thing since 2003–almost 14 years! For a couple of years, it was all I did. And it’s hard. But I have met some wonderful people and written some pieces that give me pride.

The last 10, yes, 10 months of 2016 were some of the hardest I have experienced personally and professionally. As I approach a “big” birthday this spring, I knew I wanted to really do more freelance writing for financial and professional reasons–a dream of mine for more than 20 years. I stopped bidding on those low-paying job sites and signed up for the Carol Tice’s Freelance Writers Den. I snagged a great magazine gig and several other assignments.

But remember, I said those were hard. I lost my mother-in-law, then my mother and then my father. I kept up okay until my father became very sick in the fall and then passed away. Losing daddy took the wind out of my sails.

Thankfully, I had clients who were patient and understood. I still have a full-time broadcasting gig I go to very early day. My writing career suffered.

Now I am getting back on track–a track I couldn’t even see a couple of months ago. I am dreaming again and I have snagged a few more assignments.

I have also had a mortifying moment. I sent a draft, not my finished product, to a client. Not just any client but one I really wanted to impress. I didn’t realize it until she sent back some edits. Sadly, I struggled for a couple of hours before I realized what I had done. She was cool with it and said she had done that once herself.

I think my defining moment came on my other blog, kimjinspired.com. I shared more on my grief and my life since my parent’s death. I cried while writing it and I cry when I read it again. But I hear my mother’s voice telling me in her own way just to do it. So here I am, getting it done and hopefully making my parents proud.

Finding my new normal

My feed looks flighty. I posted in September that my mother died in August. Three months and one day after my mother died, my father passed away after a brave fight with cancer. Keeping up with this blog was not at the top of my priority list over the past few months.

I am lucky that  work had slowed down and I had some very understanding clients.I was really just getting started AGAIN with my freelance career. But I do not regret the break I took to be with my mama and daddy. They did so much for me and I wish I could have done so much more for them.

I feel like I am starting over again. Honestly, it feels strange to have so much time on my hands to pursue my passions–content writing, social media marketing, publicity and journalism. But it’s part of my new normal without two of the most important people in my life.

 

 

Tears and tenaciousness

I have been absent from my own site but I have not stopped working. My mother died last month and I have focused my energy on my clients and radio work. While this has been a terrible loss to me and my family, I have learned so much in my professional career I want to share.

First, most people understand when you are going through something as hard as the death of a parent. I was almost afraid to tell clients for fear they would drop me. That did not happen.

Second, I may have overcommunicated what was happening during this time but I think it was important. My clients knew when I would be in and out of the office and how I was coping. Some days I just couldn’t focus.

Third, I always try to stay a few days ahead of deadlines. This discipline kept me from getting too far behind during this time.

While I cried, and still do at times, I also remained tenacious in my goals for myself and my clients.Tears and tenaciousness are an odd couple but they get me through my days.

 

 

Social Media–It’s not just for tweeters and Facebookers anymore.

I am old enough to remember the days before the Internet and social media. Back then, PR was mainly local. You wrote a press release, sent it out to the local media and saved the interview or newspaper clipping. National companies were usually in Washington, D.C or New York where national media outlets were also headquartered.

Fast forward to 26 (gulp) years later and because of technology, I have worked with clients in England, Australia and of course the United States. I can do most of my work in my pajamas if I chose. A couple of years ago I thought I was doing pretty good keeping up with the social media trends until my teenage son asked me if I had an Instagram account. Because of my day job covering crime my mind immediately pictured an app where child predators would try to get hold of my child until I added it to my phone. Of course like millions of others, I found Instagram to be addicting.

It wasn’t too long after that when my son asked me if I had a Snapchat account. I had heard some negative stories about it but I got on there just to make sure I was monitoring my son. And again, I became addicted. One of my daily tasks is seeing the new things I can do to my face with the app. See?

What is really neat is that these two apps are becoming marketing tools for this new generation. As a crafter, I follow Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, and JoAnn along with other brands I like. I also follow places I have been like Gatlinburg and many places I want to go.

My son recently shared some Instagram photos from two indie coffee shops. Both companies shared his photo. That was pretty cool for my teenager.

I don’t know exactly when Snapchat began doing their  stories but what a brilliant idea. Looking on my opening page I see People, ESPN and CNN. I haven’t really used Snapchat to see what is there in marketing but I know millennials are.

For the older crowd, this means we have to do a lot of reading and take a lot of webinars and classes to keep up. While I am primarily a writer, I like to help my clients  with all everything.

Oh, and I understand writers are using all of these other social media apps for their own marketing. So look for my Instagram and Snapchat accounts soon!

P.S. If you haven’t found me on Twitter or Facebook, here are the links:

https://www.facebook.com/Kim-Sloan-Jarrett-225593554138562/

First impressions in the digital age

I am old enough to remember what it was like before the Internet. I interviewed in person for all of the jobs I wanted. As a freelancer, I have clients I have never met in person and some who have actually flown me to their city to work onsite. Almost all of the clients that hire me have never met me in person.

Recently, I have applied for gigs that I seem made to do.  I have extensive experience in the industry. I have great clips that pertain to the industry. Yet, I am either rejected or I never hear from the potential client.

I honestly think sometimes that if they only met they would know how fabulous I was and hire me on the spot! I have the talent (you have to be confident to be a writer because you deal with daily rejection). Am I not making a good impression?  So how do you make a good first impression when you don’t meet face-to-face?

You can find a lot of information online  about pitching clients. I am a firm believer that one size does not fit all and what works for you may not work for me. But I think we can all agree on a few basic tenets that make a good impression.

  1. Don’t have spelling errors or grammatical errors, especially if you are a client pitching clients. I have a tendency to want to get things done fast. But if you take just a few minutes to read over that pitch you will likely find an error or two.
  2. If you are sending the same pitch to several clients (which I don’t recommend but hey, we all have  to save time),  make sure you change the address line. You are guaranteed to make a bad impression if you send the email to different client, especially if it is a competitor.
  3. Tailor each pitch or email to the client. It takes just a few minutes to peruse a website to get to know what the client is about. You may also get some ideas of how you can better direct your pitch based on their needs.
  4. I have read a lot of debate about when and should you follow up after you have sent a pitch. I will be honest. I don’t always follow up. Sometimes I look back on my pitch and I don’t think it was very good. Or I may not think the lead is very hot. My follow up is also determined by how busy I am and if I have developed hotter leads. This leads me to my final piece of advice.
  5. No matter what your niche or talent, there are thousands of businesses that you can pitch. Make sure you keep some sort of record on who you pitch. Some people use spreadsheets and some simply keep up with their pitches and follow up in a notebook (my method).

As I said earlier, one size does not always fit all. You can find a lot of amazing resources online. Develop a plan that works for you and success will follow!

 

 

 

A little rant about plagiarism

I went on a little rant on my personal Facebook page last night after I watched so many people downplay the accusation that Melania Trump may have copied part of her speech from an address by Michelle Obama in 2008. This post, like my other one, is not about politics. I will never post my political views here. It’s about a subject that angers every legitimate journalist and writer that has their work stolen by someone else.

As I said in my original post, if I were selling cars and someone stole one from me people would not even question that it was a theft. But if you copy someone else’s words or ideas some people seem to think that is okay.

Most writers and communicators have a plagiarism detector we use. Before I send copy to a client, I run it through a program then I send a screen shot of the report with my copy.  I pay less than $15 a year for a plagiarism detector. And there are many programs  you can use that are free!

But here’s a simple rule to avoid being accused of ripping off your copy. If you use someone else’s work, give them credit! I have no problem with people who use my work as long as they acknowledge me or my organization as the source.

I agree with some of the pundits who say that some of the things said in the speech are commonly said by many people. In 2010, I wrote a sentence for an article only to discover I had written the same sentence in 2007 for a different client. I ended up rewriting the article even though I had plagiarized myself.

Having your work ripped off by someone who is just cutting and pasting is very frustrating. One day I watched a colleague work for nearly an hour on a graphic for a story that was posted online. I put an invisible watermark on the photo. Sure enough, I was alerted another news site had used our graphic and the story on their site without giving us credit.

The media and all communicators offline and online have a big responsibility and as a 26-year veteran, I still take it seriously. I understand mistakes are made at times but own your mistakes and put safeguards in place to make sure they don’t happen again.

Shamelessly starting over–again

I told you when I started this blog that I have been out of the freelance writing business for a few years. I did about a dozen projects or so during my hiatus but those were mostly referrals and I was not looking for that work.  I am back for several reasons. The less sexy one is we are saving and paying off bills to purchase a house. But the other reason is I do love it–even when it is hard.

I was going to tell you about a new app I started using but that can wait. I am going to do some shameless self promotion. I will use bullet points because to tell you about my skills just because I like bullet points.

  • Press releases and publicity. This is probably some of my favorite work. I have been a journalist for a very long time and I will be honest, most press releases go in the trash. That’s why I work hard to write an exciting press release that may capture an editor’s eye. But writing the press release is not the only part of publicity. You have  to follow-up and pitch that story idea to the editors. I have pitched a lot of stuff from murder mystery dinner shows to face cream to my favorite, nonprofits.
  • Newspaper/magazine articles. These are not blogs or SEO articles. These are pieces where I do interviews, research and a lot of rewriting. I have written for trade publications, newspapers, radio, television and magazines. I love learning new things and meeting people.
  • SEO articles.  When I started freelancing over a decade ago, I had to adjust to using keywords in online writing. Back then clients wanted you to stuff as many keywords as you could into the copy and some of those words did not make sense. Coming from a newspaper background at the time, it was very frustrating that the keywords were more important than the quality of the content. Google and other search engines have changed their algorithms and now keyword stuffing is often penalized. I don’t do as many of these types of articles now.
  • Blogs: Businesses from attorneys to stores to even your local beauty shop often have blogs. Often business owners lose interest and the blog is dormant for months, sometimes years. I help businesses keep their blogs alive. I specialize in law firms and employment agencies.
  • Social media marketing: When I started freelancing, Facebook had another name and no one was tweeting yet. Now we are instagramming and snap chatting our hearts out. I love doing posts and social media management. But it means I also read a lot of websites and take at least two online classes a month to stay up to date on what the latest trend is.
  • Voice overs. I am an award-winning broadcaster and from time to time I do some voice over work.

So do I have room in my schedule to help you or someone you know? Right now, yes. But like all smart freelance writers I make sure I am continually marketing myself and I do have a lot of queries and proposals out there. If you have a need, drop me a line and let’s talk about how I can help you.

And stay tuned later this week for a blog on a fun app I found that may help your business.

 

Do you understand native advertising?

As I have said before, it’s been nearly three years since I have been actively involved in online marketing, content writing and publicity. This industry is always changing so I have been taking a lot of online classes and reading a lot.

In the three years that I have been away from this industry, native advertising has grown. An article in Business Insider last month indicates that 74 percent of add revenue by 2021. That number should alarm those still clinging to traditional advertising models.

Unless you are in the business you may not know what native advertising is. Many people in the industry are often unclear and sometimes confuse it with content marketing. Readers may not know it is actually advertising because it is formatted like the site on which it appears. Let me break it down simply:

  • Have you ever seen a sponsored post or tweet in your social media feed? That’s native advertising.
  • Have you ever seen suggested content when visiting a traditional news site such as CNN? That’s native advertising.
  • Some native advertising is easier to spot. It is labeled “sponsored content.”

Native advertising works like the advertorials you may still see in some local newspapers. It looks like a real news story but it’s just there to promote a company or product.

This type of advertising does work, even on “professionals” like me who think they are smart enough to spot a sales pitch. Just this morning while reading my Facebook feed I drifted off into some sponsored content out of my curiosity about the actors in some of the high profile commercials.

Traditional media sources such as newspapers, radio and television stations have websites and are using this type of advertising as well. The use by consumers of mobile phones and computers for their content is what is driving the native advertising trend.

Have you clicked noticed native advertising and clicked on it lately?