Simple Blogging Rules to Guarantee Biz Blog Success

We chatted a bit last week about why you need a blog for your business.

There are a few rules you need to follow, especially if you want people to spend their time on your site in as good a mood as possible. You know, the sort of state of mind that makes them want to buy stuff from you, or make use of your services.

Keep it consistent.

A regular posting schedule is what will keep your site as the go-to for your particular city and business type. Falling off the radar for a week or two may not break your business, but it doesn’t look all that great compared to sticking to a regular posting schedule.

Don’t think that you have to be posting every day, either. Once per week is good enough and is a safe starting point. It keeps the site fresh, shows that you haven’t fallen off the face of the Earth, and is fairly easy to keep up with. If you’re using a WordPress site you can easily schedule posts ahead of time — and you can always hire someone to write those articles and keep the site up-to-date.

Keep it positive.

You may be in the business of solving problems or otherwise tackling stuff that may be less-than-happy, but you want to instill some sense of hope in potential clients. If you’re telling people the pitfalls of purchasing a home on an unassumed road, tell them how those problems can be tackled — or how you, specifically, can reduce the risks. Posting about the signs of a termite infestation? Tell people what they can do about it. Your solution will most likely result in a bit of self-promotion … and that’s fine!

Even if you’re talking about something you don’t particularly like you should try to put a positive spin on it: offer alternatives that you prefer, ways to improve the issue, other design options, anything that will leave your audience thinking, “Hey, these people really know what they’re talking about.”

People generally respond better to positive stimuli.

Keep it professional.

If you use Facebook, you’re probably following a few pages for businesses. Facebook is a popular platform for local businesses because the audience is huge, it’s mostly accessible, and it’s not overly difficult to get started. Making the page take off can be a pain, but that’s not what I’m focused on here. Take a look at the content those businesses are posting. Is it related to their work? Is it positive? Is it informative?

A lot of businesses feel the need to use their space on the web to show off their political views, post tasteless jokes, or otherwise share content that might make their great-grandmother wash their mouths out with soap. There are businesses that use their various web presences to attack other businesses or respond negatively to bad reviews instead of trying to solve the problem.

Your business’ blog is not the place for this stuff … unless this stuff makes up your business, then by all means.

The purpose of your biz blog is not to share your personal interests and causes with the community — it’s to promote your business, or create excitement for your business, or share what your business can do, or otherwise provide valuable information that keeps people coming back. The people that will keep going back to your sexist jokes or inflammatory political commentary are probably not going to be contributing to paying your bills. Any average visitor that just wants to know what you do and whether or not they should hire you isn’t going to be convinced by a Minions graphic that declares you’re fluent in sarcasm.

Keep it clean.

I’m not referring to clean as in not raunchy.

An overly-busy-looking blog with too much flashy advertising or an eye-burning colour scheme will turn people away. Frequent spelling mistakes will do the same thing. It’s also important to break up your content in easy-to-digest chunks because people like to skim articles instead of swallowing them whole. So to speak.

If you use a picture as the background, make sure the text is on a solid colour so it’s readable. When you include images, use just enough to get the point across without crowding out the written content. If you use advertising like Google Adsense, don’t put them anywhere and everywhere that has space.

Keep your site looking clean. It’ll be easier to navigate, and everybody will be happier for it.

Does your blog break any of these rules? Do you need help figuring out how to rein it in? Let me help you out and we’ll get your blog back under control.

Selling the Dream: Guy Kawasaki and Business Evangelism

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I have a habit of buying a lot of books. I love books. I don’t tend to get the time to read a lot of books, but the effort is made. There are two types that I look out for: names I recognize in the business section, and metaphysical stuff.

Guy Kawasaki is a familiar name for people that are interested in business, or in Apple Computers. Either way. During the 1980s he was a product manager at Apple, back when the company was getting their feet wet and just before they became successful. Mr. Kawasaki has entrepreneurial experience under his belt, too. Basically: if you find one of his books, get it, read it.

The title I managed to get my hands on? Selling the Dream.

First published back in the late 80s and revised in the early 90s, it references a lot of outdated companies and technologies, but the principles are sound. Selling the Dream introduces readers to the concept of evangelism from a business perspective.

If you’re already familiar with religious evangelism, then you have a vague idea of what Guy brings to the table. The basic premise is this: your job, as the person in charge or the voice of your company, is not only to believe strongly in what you’re offering — but to convince others to believe just as much as you do. It’s a form of selling that we still see today, and admittedly Guy has made “sales” the equivalent of a four-letter word. I’d consider them interchangeable. A Christian evangelist is selling the concept of God, a business evangelist is selling their product, service, dream, vision, or overall business idea.

My favourite part of this book is just how sarcastic Guy is. Many of the footnotes are little remarks, occasionally poking fun at himself, that I couldn’t make myself skip simply because they were so amusing (and mostly informative). I don’t pay attention to footnotes in most works. They’re boring. Not this time. His writing style is conversational which makes it an easy read, and it’s not hard to fall into a rhythm and find yourself looking up three hours later when you realize you’re hungry. Possibly late for an appointment.

I wish I’d read this book years ago. I wish I’d found it years ago, and I really need to give it another read.

Selling the Dream is the perfect read if you’re stuck and floundering, you’re not sure about your business, or you want to get started but you need a kick in the ass. Guy is great at lighting a fire under people. He’s great at stoking excitement, and the real-world examples of evangelism at work in the business world really help drive the point home: if you want other people to be gung-ho about your business, you have to feel that way first. This is one of those books that has made it on many entrepreneurial ‘must read’ lists and I’d add it to my own, too.

Whether you’re established, just starting out, having a crisis, or just looking for some new-old ideas, get your hands on a copy of Selling the Dream and thank me later.

 

Your Business Needs a Blog

Having a blog for your business is a must in the 21st century.

It’s not just something pretty for people to look at. So much business is content-driven anymore that not being able to produce something for the public to latch onto is a huge mistake. You wind up missing out on leads, which are potential clients, and hits to your website. All of this represents possible interaction with your brand that could be making you money.

We all like to make money.

What’s a blog?

A blog is a form of web content that’s written in a conversational tone and meant to educate or inform. It’s kind of like keeping an online diary, except you’re not usually writing your deepest secrets (and it’s harder to doodle on). Most businesses use their blogs to share their expertise on whatever they do. Some use them to share news about the business, talk about specials and sales, or even share new products and reviews. There are blogs for everything, no matter how niche they might be.

They’re a great way to prove that you know what you’re talking about without having to rehearse an elevator pitch.

What will a blog do for my business?

Over 27 million pieces of content are shared per year: videos, images, articles, you name it. Blog posts are content. A business that has a blog gets 88% more leads than a business that doesn’t — leads mean sales, clients, information that results in clients. That’s what brings in money.

Websites that are regularly updated have a higher chance of showing up on a Google search when someone’s looking for something specific, such as “your town” “business type”. A website with a regularly-updated blog — at least once per week — shows up more often than a site that is completely lacking, or doesn’t post very much. Other things that improve your site’s ranking on Google include proper use of keywords and content that is actually valuable. You don’t want to be putting out a website that’s just a list of phone numbers with no context, or is otherwise outdated and badly-written.

Yes, Google pays attention to these things.

A business blog also allows you to showcase what you do. From sharing your latest projects to answering questions about your business, you’re provided with the tools to really help people get to know how you can help them solve a problem. That’s why you’re in business, right? To solve problems? With a blog you can do that in a way that people can keep up with and keep coming back to.

You know what else a blog lets you do? It lets you gather contact information from potential clients and figure out who’s interested in what you do, so you can reach out to them and offer to help. You can’t really do that with a phonebook anymore — people tend to frown on random phonecalls. But with a simple form from MailChimp, for example, you can be prepared to build up your list of contacts for future use. More on that in another post. 😉

How do I set up a blog?

It depends. The easiest way is to follow Gina Horkey’s advice and set one up with WordPress. Most website hosts make it fairly painless to add to your site — though I can always do it for you.

Once set up, WordPress has a wide variety of plug-ins and themes to help make running your blog a breeze. It’s easy to add pages, posts, menus, and more. There are plug-ins for every functionality you’d want on your blog. There’s a reason I’ve been using WordPress since 2008, after all — and its ease of use is but one part of the whole puzzle.

It’s incredibly flexible.

Okay, I’m done singing the praises of WordPress. Moving on!

If your business doesn’t have a blog then you’re missing out on opportunities to get your brand out there and working for you. Not tech savvy? Don’t know what to do or how to do it, or even just intimidated by the whole process? I can help you. I promise you that having a blog for your business will help, not hurt … as long as you follow some simple rules that I’ll be going over next week.

Writing Prompts: What They Are and How to Find Them

You’ve been trying to figure out what to write for at least three hours. It sucks. I’ve been there plenty of times. You’re wracking your brain trying to figure out what you want to talk about for just one post, all you need is content for one post, but nothing’s coming.

That’s the kind of thing writing prompts were made for.

A writing prompt is a word, sentence, phrase, and/or idea — or series of them — that you can turn to for inspiration for writing. You start with that word, that sentence, that phrase, that idea, that question, and you write something based upon it. It can be as short as a drabble or as extensive as a long-form blog post, or it can turn into a full-blown novel. The idea is to just get you writing.

Who needs writing prompts?

Any writer that needs a push.

You can draft a blog posting schedule on writing prompts alone, as some sites offer monthly word lists that can be used for this purpose. They aren’t just meant for fiction writers, either, non-fiction prompts abound all over the web.

Types of writing prompts

Prompts come in multiple flavours: single word, phrase, question, scenario, sentence, and more. When you write from a single word prompt, you’re taking that word — ‘apple’, for example — and writing something including or about that word. The same goes for a phrase or sentence prompt — you use or write about that phrase or sentence. In question prompts, you’re answering a question, and with a scenario prompt, you write whatever scene you’re being asked to write.

It’s also possible to write prompts based on pictures, though they aren’t quite as common. A photograph or piece of art gets presented and you have to write something, anything, that comes to mind.

How to respond to writing prompts

There’s no set way to respond to a writing prompt beyond just getting something down on paper or computer screen.

How you answer a prompt depends entirely on your preferences — do you write narratives? Are you a blogger? Do you write poetry? However you decide to write, it’s up to you! The point of answering writing prompts is to get creative and flex your writing muscles. Just write.

I know that’s usually easier said than done, but just trust me on this: when you find the right prompts, the words will come. If they aren’t? Then that’s not the right exercise — pick another!

Where to find writing prompts

Not only do I share prompts on my Pinterest page, you’ll find them on these other sites and by searching Google:

  • /r/WritingPrompts – Reddit’s home for all sorts of prompts. Browse at your leisure! Just be careful, since it is Reddit.
  • Writer’s Digest Prompts – A highly recognizable name for writers, Writer’s Digest usually publishes writing prompts once per week.
  • Writing Prompts on Tumblr – A specialty Tumblr blog for all sorts of zany writing prompts. Their archive goes all the way back to 2010!
  • Writers Write on Pinterest – Writers Write is a fantastic source of writing prompts, and they post every day. Check out their website and sign up for prompts in your e-mail!

Where do you like to go to find writing prompts? Have you used them to help give your writing a boost? Tell us in the comments, and share your results!

Depression is a disability.

MDD. Sometimes called ‘clinical depression’, it’s treated with a mixture of drugs and counselling and the aim is generally to ease symptoms, keep them in check, and help whoever’s suffering function in their day-to-day life. Even with treatment there are bad days and good days.

Most people with MDD also suffer from anxiety or other forms of mental illness — and being depressed with anxiety is wanting to do absolutely nothing while being in a tizzy over all the things that you need to do. It’s an exhausting way to be. The part that’s even better (read: worse) is that you can’t outright show the panic you’re in, usually, it’s just your brain working at breakneck speed while your body just … does very little.

Aches and pains are common. Exhaustion. Sleep? Usually too much.

The combination of symptoms from mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, plus the side effects of the various medications, contribute to MDD being considered a disability. A lot of people, even with treatment, either can’t find work or simply can’t work — that, or they can’t find a job that can accommodate their needs. You’re going to have bad days where you absolutely cannot work. You’re going to have days where you can’t concentrate, and everything’s fuzzy or spinning or something, and you can’t be expected to do much in that condition. The side effects of the medications can be bad (‘brain zaps’, dizziness, digestive issues, headaches, etc.) … but aren’t nearly as bad as what you’d be without them.

It’s all even more interesting when you’re just getting started with a new medication, or you’re weaning off one to get started onto another.

The United Nations has this to say on the nature of a disability: “disability is an evolving concept and that disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.”

What really makes MDD a disability?

A person with Major Depressive Disorder and/or other mental illnesses experiences barriers to fully participating in society — barriers that a neurotypical person does not have. A neurotypical person, that is, someone without a mental illness or brain-related disorder, can be expected to go about their day without being exhausted a few hours into it. They don’t experience thoughts of ending their own lives, and they don’t otherwise have invasive thoughts that tell them lies about themselves or others. They can participate in the world around them without having to compensate for lower energy levels, pain, or medication side effects.

As mentioned above, this also includes difficulty with working, finding work, and receiving accommodation for one’s illness.

For all intents and purposes, having a mental illness is being sick. A mental illness interferes with someones’ day-to-day life and they don’t have as much control over that as they’d like. Some manage to control their illness(es) quite well with medication, counselling, or both. Others struggle regardless of what tools they use.

It’s important that we recognize mental illness, including depression and anxiety, as a disability and provide the support that’s required. It’s difficult to concentrate on getting better or at least improving when you have limited energy to begin with, and most of that gets taken up by work (which often makes things worse anyway) alongside other family-related stuff.

Okay, mental illness is a disability. What next?

If you think you may be suffering from mental illness — maybe you’ve been in a funk you can’t get out of, your thought patterns have changed and gone in a bad direction, or you’re considering ending your life — contact your doctor for a consultation. If you are unable to or don’t have a doctor, visit the ER at the nearest hospital — most hospitals have an on-site crisis worker who deals with mental health issues and can make arrangements for a psychiatric consultation (if necessary) or provide you with some form of help. Whatever you do, don’t give up: it may require a lot of fighting to get the help that you need.

What’s Your Writing Voice?

A vintage photo of a woman reading a letter. Image from The Graphics Fairy.

Every writer has their own voice. Every single one of us worries, or has worried, that we’re not using our authentic voice, somehow we’re borrowing it from someone else — or worse, ripping them off. How do you know the difference? What can you do?

How does a writer develop their voice?

We’re constantly told that if we’re going to write, we have to do a lot of reading. That’s great advice, everyone should follow it whether they’re a writer or not. Reading helps us develop our writing style. The more reading we do, the easier it becomes to figure out what our voice sounds like. It’s not a cliché. You don’t have to read the latest novels or whatever this week’s bestseller is, in fact, going through your list of favourite blogs counts. Those self-help books you’ve been collecting just in case you have time for them? Add those to the pile. Your favourite magazine. Fanfiction. Just read.

How do I know that voice is mine?

Trust yourself. It’s natural for us to adapt quirks and new words from the people we engage with and the work we read. There’s nothing actually wrong with this. Unless you’re pasting someone else’s work onto your blog and claiming it as your own, you’re writing in your own voice. The best part is, it’s going to change as time goes on. As you gain more experience, you’ll refine your “style” and get better.

If you’re just reading one person’s work all the time you’re probably going to wind up sounding a lot like them, so it’s important to branch out. Read everything, remember?

At the same time, don’t force it.

Don’t feel bad if you can’t finish something you’ve started reading, or if your style isn’t developing as quickly as you’d like. You need to be patient. Writing and finding your sea legs are both things that take time, and if you’re not interested in that kind of investment, you may be in the wrong line of work.

How do I keep developing my voice?

Write.

Don’t just write articles, try your hand at fiction, poetry, look at various writing prompts, re-write stuff you’ve read in your own words. As long as you’re writing, you’ll figure out who you are. Like any muscle and creative exercise, writing requires practice. Whenever I can’t figure out what to blog about I turn to my various fanfiction and roleplaying blogs — as long as I write something that day, whether it gets published or not, it’s a win!

Here’s an exercise for you: have you found your own writing voice? What (or who) has influenced your style the most?

What is ‘Basic Income’?

Over the past few years we’ve been hearing more and more about “basic income”, “unconditional universal basic income”, or “universal basic income”. Everybody from healthcare specialists to anti-poverty advocates have been chiming in about it and making the case for basic income being a necessity as jobs become automated and times change. What is it? Let’s find out.

Basic Income 101

A basic income, or ‘UBI’, is a no-strings-attached monthly payment from the government that everyone would get. It would become everybody’s base salary amount, which would get added to if they had a job. The idea is that it would reduce or eliminate poverty by providing everybody with the minimum needed to put them at or above the poverty line. Basically, it’s the one thing that would have saved me and people like me a hell of a lot of heartache when the economic downturn first punched us in the face.

The Dauphin, Manitoba basic income experiment

From 1974 to 1979, the Trudeau’s federal Liberals and Schreyer’s Manitoba NDP ran an experiment on guaranteed annual income (nicknamed ‘mincome’, for minimum income) in Winnipeg and the boonies of the province. Dauphin was the only site where people could opt in to receive a minimum income and get a specific, set amount; the other locations’ recipients were randomly assigned.

Joe Clark’s Conservatives shut the whole thing down in 1979 and had the data shelved, with Canadians not even knowing this project existed for decades. Some of the information was analyzed in the 1980s and provided surprising results.

The people of Dauphin didn’t just stop working. There was very little impact on the overall workforce, with the most notable exceptions being that teenagers were less likely to work and instead concentrated on school. Those years marked higher rates of high school graduation than before. Mothers with newborn infants were able to take more time off to spend time with the baby, too.

Another unintended effect was the lack of social stigma of receiving UBI versus welfare, which I’m sure every single one of you is familiar with. The public views welfare recipients in a negative light instead of as people that are having a rough time and need help.

Hospital visits also dropped by just under 10% during the course of Dauphin’s experiment, as fewer people were having to go in for work-related health issues.

Can you imagine that now?

Alaska’s partial basic income

When the Permanent Fund was started up in Alaska in 1976, the state had earned over $900 billion in leases for oil drilling — and promptly pissed it away. Soon after that, Alaskans added an amendment to their constitution which states that:

“at least 25 percent of all mineral lease rentals, royalties, royalty sales proceeds, federal mineral revenue-sharing payments and bonuses received by the state be placed in a permanent fund, the principal of which may only be used for income-producing investments.”

‘The Only State Where Everyone Gets Free Money’, Motherboard.Vice.Com

What did this mean for Alaskans? Every year since 1982, a portion of the money that goes into the state from companies that extract its resources gets paid out to all living Alaskan citizens. The only requirement? That they’ve been living there for at least one year.

This fluctuates between $1500-$2000 per year, depending upon how much money the state pulls in from its resources and investments.

The impact has been positive. Although it’s not enough to live on, it does provide a boost to families, especially in counties where there just isn’t much wage-based work available. It allows families to make one guaranteed large purchase per year, and/or put money away for the future when times are tough.

Oh, and one of the best parts? Alaska is only second to Utah for the lowest amount of income inequality in any of the states, and it’s the only one where the lowest-earning 20% of the population have their incomes grow faster than the highest-earning 20%.

Why push for UBI?

Automation is ramping up.

We’ve seen the manufacturing sector replace millions of jobs with robots at an average cost of $8/hour compared to $25/hour for a human worker. Let’s take General Motors in Canada, which went from 40,000 workers across the country in the 1990s to about 8000 around 2012. Self-driving cars and trucks are currently in testing phases and could replace human-driven vehicles in as little as ten years. Whether people want to admit it or not, the manufacturing sector is not going to return to an all-human workforce; machines are far too efficient to give them up.

Even service-oriented jobs are starting to see more automation. You don’t have to talk to a cashier at McDonald’s anymore. There are several other fast-food-restaurant robots being used in China and Japan, too, including ones that interact with customers.

We’re in a position now where getting a job that pays someone well above the poverty line requires specialized training. If you had a job and then lost it anytime over the past ten years, it means having to go back to school, or go for the first time in your life. Even then, with training for a niche position, you aren’t guaranteed to get a job.

A woman in computer sciences? Good luck. Over fifty? I’m sorry. A woman that’s assumed to be of childbearing age (regardless of whether or not they want a family)? You’re seen as a liability, too.

This is without taking stock of the fact that college and university are expensive. Not even skilled trades are safe — a robot can complete welding work on the auto assembly line for about $5/hour.

What other benefits does UBI have?

Universal basic income would reduce the need for welfare, employment insurance, and other similar programs — or remove them entirely. Healthcare costs to the provinces would be reduced because of fewer people receiving workplace injuries, lower stress levels, and fewer work-related mental health problems. Not having money coming in and trying to find a job as quickly as possible are both very, very hard on one’s mental health. I developed severe anxiety and worsening depression because of this, y’know. A basic income would take a lot of weight off my shoulders and those of so many others.

Imagine a world where working part-time isn’t seen as a horrible thing, where people can afford to get as much education as they want without working themselves to death, and a single mom can put food on the table without sacrificing time with her kids.

In general, the different services that are used to help the poor get by can be eliminated or rolled together. Recommendations for Ontario’s basic income experiment stated a monthly UBI of about $1300, with an extra $500 for those who have a disability (making UBI worth a hell of a lot more to disabled Ontarians than ODSP). You can learn more about Ontario’s pilot program here.

It would be ridiculous to keep putting off basic income. It needs to happen sooner rather than later.

Think of it this way: people not having to prove they’re in need means fewer hours wasted with bureaucracy and paperwork and all the nonsense in-between. Streamlining government? We can have that.

Not convinced? Here’s more information:

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5 Common Blogging Mistakes I Made So You Don’t Have To

I’ve been blogging off and on for several years. In that time, I’ve learned several bad habits as well as all the stuff I should be doing, both from experience and from listening to other professional bloggers. I’ve also had a lot of time to think about all those things I didn’t do when I started! I’d like to save you all the trouble that I’ve gone through and just get it all out of the way: what didn’t I do that you should?

I didn’t have any posts prepared ahead of time

Back when I was guaranteed to be writing every day or every other day (because I was in front of a computer, by myself, all the time), this wasn’t an issue. I was active in World of Warcraft’s blogging community and spent a lot of time learning about what was going on in the game, so I had lots to write about all the time. When I started writing here, however, I didn’t quite have that sort of time.

Living at home and not having any time to yourself can really take a bite out of your writing time.

If I were to start from scratch (kind of like what I’m doing now), I’d write and have at least 3 months’ worth of posts scheduled. If you want your blog to update every day, you’re looking at about 90 posts — don’t do that to yourself! That’s an awful lot, and you’re bound to burn out before you get everything together.

Instead, assume you’re going to be posting once per week. You can always fill in as you go, but you’ll at least have four posts per month ready to drive traffic to your site. A regular posting schedule tells Google that your site is active, and an active site shows up in search results.

I didn’t set a regular posting schedule.

Troll Bouquet was an odd beast when I started it back in 2009. I posted at odd hours, once — sometimes twice — per day, whenever I had something I wanted to share or an idea bit me. Other blogs I’ve started since have either been super busy (like my private Tumblr blogs) or had spotty postings. By agreeing with yourself to have a set schedule, and sticking to it, your readers will know exactly when to expect to find something new on your site.

Anything else is just a pleasant surprise!

As mentioned above, Google really likes it when a site updates on a regular basis, which benefits you by guiding more people to your site. Set a regular posting schedule!

I didn’t show examples of the other work I can do.

I’m not just a blogger. I’m able to whip up WordPress sites and build graphics, and I can also code XHTML and CSS by hand. I may not do these things very often, but they’re still part of my toolkit, and they should be given attention. If you have a bunch of skills and examples of them it can be a good idea to showcase that stuff. You might not consider your various skills to really be related, but they can be in some pretty surprising ways.

Potential clients see that you’re capable of more than what they originally went to you for, which benefits you in the long run. It also gives people the opportunity to say, “Hey, one of your clients told me that you also do x, can we talk?”

Don’t forget to show off you other skills!

I wasn’t active on the right social media sites.

We all know how important social media is.

At this moment in time, Pinterest is a huge driving force in getting content out to the people that might be interested. It’s been that way since its inception — look at how many Google search results have Pinterest content attached, especially in the DIY niche. When I first started out, though, the site didn’t exist and it was all Facebook, Twitter, and some Instagram.

My networking was a flop. I wasn’t active enough, I wasn’t engaging, sure, I was sharing my links occasionally — but I wasn’t reaching out, and that’s what you need to do. Whether you’re on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, or some other site, you have to leave your little bubble and interact.

On Pinterest that can mean something as simple as joining group boards and pinning relevant content (including your own, as you ought to be joining boards that are related to things you blog about). On Twitter that can mean following a hashtag, seeking out other people that use it regularly, and posting there. On Facebook, you might post as your Facebook Page on other Facebook Pages, like other content, and contribute to discussions.

You don’t have to be active everywhere. You just need to be active somewhere.

I didn’t have a product.

If you’re a freelancer, then the product is usually you. You produce stuff, though. You know things.

So it makes sense to have something to sell or give away.

There are all sorts of things that you can do: eBooks, worksheets, graphics, spreadsheets, DIYs, courses, etc. There are multiple vehicles for delivering them, too. If you’re a guitar blogger and you happen to be really good at playing, you can offer a video-based guitar course. If you’re a home decor blogger, you can offer your services as a consultant for people like me who just can’t figure out home decor to save our lives. If you run a recipe blog, you can sell an eBook with your most popular recipes in it.

Freelance writer? Offer the worksheets you use to plan your blogging, your stories, even your daily schedule. This stuff can be put together fairly simply — tools like Canva start off free and allow you to save PDFs. Google Docs lets you provide public access to documents that you create.

What mistakes did you make as a newbie blogger? How would you avoid them if you started over?

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The New ‘Mel Writes’

 The most common piece of advice we freelance writers get is “pick a niche”. The idea is to go with something you’re an expert at, that way you become recognized among clients and potential clients as someone that’s the go-to for that particular subject. It’s good advice, and it’s worked well for a lot of people. If it didn’t work well, we wouldn’t have people like Gina Horkey who not only has a successful niche website, but also has many people that have followed her advice and can boast earnings in the five-or-six figures.

What about those that don’t exactly have a specialty, or simply cannot get their head around one particular niche?

We’re going against the grain!

I come from a Multimedia Design background with a lot of Office Admin, miscellaneous retail, and specialty experience. I have roots in Fire Service issues, experience with the post-secondary school textbook field, and I’ve worked in a casino environment. When I say “Multimedia Design”, that’s a fancy term for “I know a bit of everything from coding to audio/video”.

I am literally a Jane of all trades, but not a master in one particular thing. I have tons of knowledge bouncing around in my head, and to share that, I’d have to have my hands in multiple niches. It’s generally not recommended to have a bunch of sites going at the same time simply because it’s a pain in the ass to keep up with too many at once, and the likelihood of keeping them all going is depressingly low.

I recently decided “screw this” and have gone against the “one niche” thing to dedicate my blog to things near and dear to my heart — and having a blog just for some of this stuff will save people around me a lot of time listening to rants. I’m passionate about a bunch of stuff. The folks around me? Not exactly passionate about the same things, and find my interests bizarre.

What does all this mean?

‘Mel Writes’ will be where I write about politics, social justice, paganism, and my adventures dealing with mental illness, while still poking at the subject of freelancing. Posts will go up once per week unless something major happens that needs a post immediately, like time-sensitive issues and current events.

GrumpyBearDruid.com will be getting a slight facelift as well. All things gaming and roleplay related will be posted there, so if that’s your jam, check it out.

The Facebook page will get some slow updates, too, though you’ll be better off seeking me out on Pinterest or following me on Twitter.

Welcome to the new Mel Writes!

Freelancing While Depressed

 

Note: This post is written from the point of view of someone with depression and anxiety. If you have written a similar post related to other mental illnesses and/or visible and invisible disabilities and illnesses, please comment and let me know so I can link to you. This post can apply to anybody that does contract work, whether you call yourself a freelancer or not (I stopped referring to myself as a freelancer at the beginning of 2016).

Freelance work presents its own challenges that you might not see while working for an employer. Instead of your hours being decided by your boss or a department head, you tend to select your own. Instead of answering to your boss, you answer to yourself and your clients. Instead of getting a salary or being paid by the hour, you’re paid based upon the projects you complete – and if you don’t have projects coming in, you don’t get paid at all.

I was diagnosed with depression in December 2009, and was jobless six months later. Unemployment contributes to depression, and that’s also added anxiety to the mix.

Think of the combination as being kinda like not having the energy to do anything, while inwardly being in a massive panic over all of the things you know you have to do, and the things you might have to do, and the things you should be doing – but you still can’t give a damn. It’s constant worry and not having the ability to do anything about it.

Freelance work helped to ease the burden.

I found that freelancing gave me a sort of freedom I didn’t have when I was working, even part-time. I could set my own hours, pick and choose my projects, and since I was a bit of a night owl, I could work overnight instead of during the day. I knew what my duties were. I didn’t have to guess at what I could or couldn’t do, based upon what the store allowed, and I wasn’t guessing on my availability for appointments because that was something I decided.

This didn’t mean that freelancing was easy.

A pug wrapped in a blanket.

There were days when I didn’t want to get out of bed. There were days when I didn’t want to work, when that project that was waiting for me just seemed like too much. There were days when applying to gigs just felt like a huge drag that I wanted nothing to do with, and checking in on clients was not something I felt I could do.

I did those things, though. I knew I needed to work, and I knew that the extra money coming in would mean that I could feed myself and help pay bills. My cat needed to eat. My clients depended on me. The last thing I wanted to do was hurt my clients.

Not everyone can do it.

This isn’t to say that I’m not sick anymore – I am. As low as I was at that time – and I’m still struggling – I had been a lot worse, and known people who weren’t nearly as lucky as I was. My doctor was great, my housemates understood and were encouraging, and I had a cat that was really good at head-sitting.

For some, trying to balance a freelance career while dealing with their mental illness is not something they can do – and they certainly shouldn’t. It just makes things worse, hurts them, and hurts their fledgling business. Those folks need to take care of themselves first.

How do you freelance while facing an illness?

  1. Only take on what you can. No more. If you can only work with one client at a time, then do that. It’ll help you feel like you’re accomplishing something, and it’ll give you something to focus on.
  2. Write down everything. Lists can help you focus. When I have a step-by-step “this is what I have to take care of for this person” list, then I know I’m not going to miss anything, and that may work for you, too.
  3. Set specific working hours. Even if you’re only going to be “active” for a couple of hours per day, that’s fine, as long as you settle on it.
  4. Take breaks. Go outside, get up and stretch, get a glass of water. Breaks are important.
  5. Take it one day at a time.

Are you a freelancer with a mental illness? What challenges do you face and how do you do it?

This hasn’t been in-depth by any means. I want to hear what you have to say.