Essays and articles

Fill That Empty Page

How to Work Freelance without Losing Sight of the Big Picture

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The challenge to fill the empty page with fresh and original contents is on. SEO writing is just one of the many opportunities for writers in the cyber age. There are a lot more waiting to be discovered by those adept and patient enough.  All you need is skill and talent in basic writing and a good grasp of the language. If we browse through the profiles of those who write online, a big percent of these professionals are not educated in Creative writing or marketing courses. In fact, you will be amazed to see health, engineering and physics graduates in the list of top rated writers. Wonder why this is so?

The Allure of Freelance Work

In a continuously advancing age of computers and high-tech gadgets, people’s lifestyles have also changed. The world has become one global village, as most writers would say. Flow of products and even ideas have become easier with the advent of social media, online commerce and crowd sourcing.  These innovations may have inherent downsides, but the opportunity to create new concepts and mechanisms that can make human life more vibrant and productive is also ripe. Technology is a neutral thing. How people make us of them is the big question. It goes the same for work. As people become more networked, new patterns and structure of work have cropped-up. This opens new doors for freelance jobs, and supposedly widening the options of those who do not want to be tied down to one employer or organization for life. This suits highly independent individuals whose approach to work is more flexible. And it goes for those who value creativity and innovation rather than routine. If there is one thing that makes freelance work attractive, it is the sense of ownership that goes with the process and output of work. You own your time; manage your own resources and the final product. Although in some writing jobs you do not get the byline, the decision is in your hands whether to accept the arrangement that will make you lose your intellectual property or not. Some writers do not think this is an issue, after all we can always rationalize that knowledge is common property.

If you are into freelance work it does not mean that you are already cut-out from the mainstream workforce. The adjustment period may not be the same between those who had been working for themselves from the very start and those who had been employed by firms or organizations and have decided to work for themselves. The latter has a point of reference and comparison between life before and after. Here are some points of reflection why we should not lose sight of the big picture when going into self-employment:

1. Have an authentic reason why you chose to work freelance

While it is true that the economy is in bad shape, this is really a seasonal thing. Except for cases when mass lay-offs and huge unemployment rates rock society, workers will always find ways to get by. In times of chronic crisis, companies may downsize adding number to the multitude of displaced. We can always cite a number of reasons external to what we are though these affect us in different degrees. One thing is clear though, doing freelance work does not mean we are isolated from all events that are unfolding. Freelance work is also an option for women who choose to work from home. It gives them the chance to balance home and career. They can work at their own pace and still be around for their kids. It can be a productive venture and hobby at the same time.

2. Set clear work goals

Set goals. Write them down, too. Better yet, post them on your wall. This is something you can always go back to from time to time. You can measure your achievements from targets that you set. Be smart in formulating your objectives. They should be very specific, can be gauged or measured, within your reach and the time frame is clear. While working in organizations, we normally keep our annual plans and break them by quarter. You can still do this while working on your own.

3. Take stock of your resources

What do you have now that can help you reach your targets? Skills: they can be enhanced. Time: they can be managed. Equipment: a good internet connection, laptop or desktop are essential. You can always work anywhere. This is the beauty of freelance online jobs. It gives you so much freedom and space to create those quality contents that are required by your clients.

4. Manage your portfolio

Have a good list of potential sources for projects or short-term work. Join an outsourcing network like oDesk, Elance, Freelancer and many others. There are so many websites for freelance writers. All you need is to browse through them and find one you are most comfortable to join with. As you start your new career, manage your work load well.  Take smaller jobs and slowly build your portfolio. As you survive the days, you also get more confidence that you can sustain your new work status.

5. Pay it forward

Always be grateful for the blessings that come your way. Believe in the principle that we have to pay back to society what we are given. Share your extras to those who need help. As a writer, use your skill to promote good social causes that will improve humanity. Volunteer in a charity, local NGOs or humanitarian organization. Say something about protecting the environment, etc. We can always find something, even small things that can make a difference.

Essays and articles

Beating the Block that Obstructs Your Writing Output

Writer’s block, anyone? There are days when it is easy to be distracted than inspired. Something like a heavy piece of wood tied to your hands, you cannot string together a respectable flow of words. What could have triggered this paralysis? Some days the creative juice keeps flowing in abundance. You can think clearly. You can deliver good enough, if not excellent materials. Then comes that day when like a faucet, nothing drips. If indeed something comes out, you feel like you should stop this whole thing, now. Writing is a love affair with your inner self. Even if you accepted a commercial work to do, it still demands a part of you. Perhaps, all beginners are like this. Newbies, they are called in SEO lingo. This affair with words can come with great expectations on the part of the writer. Somehow, in the early stage of your relationship with yourself, you demanded perfection. Then, comes that day you feel the insult of the empty page. Nada – you can’t give something. I’ve read about an author who would soak himself in the tub for hours, just to get back the inamorata. Or there’s another guy who would do series of push-ups on the floor expecting a sudden turn-around of his moods.
Sometimes inspiration comes when you least expect it. From taking long walks in the park, or a busy street. I used to do this when stationed overseas. Afternoon walks were my favorite calorie- busting form of discipline. That was six years back. For somebody who does not like crowds, I found that habit effective in setting my mood to write something – a training manual, monthly report, a project concept to give birth to. Perhaps what encouraged me to walk was the fact that I was stranger to the place, nobody knew you. Locals do not care why you are walking through. You’re just another shopper passing by. Sometimes you may bump into a compatriot (someone from your own country) along the way. A smile or wave of the hand is enough to acknowledge each others presence in this alien land. What is important is that – it’s another great afternoon to walk.
Back to that piece of wooden blocks tied to your hands. Where does writers’ block come from? I realize mine where coming more from the outside. Noise – you get them most of the time. One writer advised to switch-off and learn to focus. These are difficult moments. The stumbling blocks can be heavy at times. No amount of meditation or being present can shift your focus to your work. In moments like this, the best recourse is a time out. Stop. Take a rest. Lie down for a while. Get a cup of coffee. Drink a glass of water. Or watch that silly TV sitcom for a good laugh. When you feel revived, get back to your desk and see if the faucet is slowly dripping again.

Essays and articles

Use the Best Word Every Time

 

Welcome to the wonderful world of words.

As writers we are accountable for every word we write and use in our articles, story or manuscripts. Words can be powerful. It can change the way things are done, correct mistakes, build bridges, educate, inform, or simply amuse.

The written word is a vehicle for self-expression. Every writer has a story to tell, a truth to uphold, or a message to convey. Words can open a window to see new ideas. It can also work to promote a product or a service – practically everything which human beings need for their survival, leisure, or interests.

Words are territorial. Every culture has its own set of words to convey their interpretation of the world, their shared meanings and feelings. So does every profession. Jargons are exclusive, understood only by among those who speak the same language. To grapple with the meaning of words, we need to place them in their proper context. Why were they used in this particular paragraph or line? What was the context for using this word or phrase?

Words are materials. They can be used to build a story, a poem or a copy. Thus, to create a good story or a good copy, use only the best words. Author Jan Venolia wrote, “By making the reader’s job easier, you [the writer] show respect.” I totally agree. Clutters are best cut. This is not only the job for the editor, but for the writer as well. I normally spend more than 75% of my writing time, re-writing what I have written. Although “what is good language” is being contested and debated, I do agree that we need to conform to standards. I hope I will not be mistaken for promoting “grammarian fascism” or being a “grammar fascist” as some English journalists call people who are stickler to grammar rules. I am not an English language major myself, but I have studied and continues to study the language. Contrary to what others perceive, I believe that editors are the writer’s best friend. We cannot be perfect all the time, hence, a good edit is always appreciated.

Words are vehicles. Have you ever felt like you were riding a roller coaster when immersed in a Tom Clancy novel? Or seduced by the words of Robert Browning? This is the power of words. It can conjure a myriad of images without the reader actually seeing them. The writer’s ability to make us laugh, feel sad, thrilled or angry is embedded in how cleverly words are played, stringed and crafted to form classic lines or dialogues. Even in the era of e-commerce, words play an important role in selling a product or promoting a lifestyle associated with it. For example, when you sell green tea, you are promoting a healthy lifestyle by motivating the consumer to drink this beverage. Two words – green and tea, if used as one idea sans the conjunction conjures an image of the healthy drink.

The writer then is advised to practice good writing. The more we polish our work, the more it will shine to attract readers. Use the best words every time.

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