Multi-passionate writer, author and solo-preneur

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I think I’m having a thought. Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s a thought. Now I’m having a plan…

This has been a terribly off week. Despite a lovely, restful, craft-filled weekend, on Monday I woke up with a stomach ache and barely any energy, and my condition didn’t improve much throughout the day. Yesterday I felt better, but we needed to make a Target run in the morning, which threw off my routine, and by 4 PM my wrist was throbbing from tendonitis and I had to log off to let it rest.

I went to bed early last night, hoping for a good night’s sleep that would let me hit the ground running today and make up for the lost productivity of the last two days, but then I woke up around three o’clock this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep until almost six, only to be woken up again shortly after seven by my dog, who didn’t care about my sleep deprivation nearly as much as he cared about being fed and let out to pee.

So I’m a little on the zombified side today, and will most certainly require a nap before I even attempt any of my freelance work. Needless to say, it hasn’t been a good week for making progress on my fiction, although I did at least add quite a bit to the PANIC outline on Saturday.

One good thing, though — after I shut everything down yesterday afternoon, I decided to go for a walk. That isn’t the good part, although I did need the exercise.

I had a lot more written here about my freelancing journey over the years, but I was getting into overshare and way too much thinking out loud, so here’s the TL;DR version: I’ve been doing some soul-searching about what I really want to be doing for a day job (until my writing can become my day job), as opposed to basing my whole business model on “what can I do that people will give me money for?”

At the end of the day, the answer to that is that I want to take all of the knowledge and experience in writing and editing, web & graphic design, social media, marketing and branding, etc. that I’ve accumulated over the last several years and focus it all on helping other self-published authors succeed.

So the good thing that happened is that during yesterday’s walk I came up with some good ideas on how to go about doing that, as well as some inspiration for branding and promoting this new venture. So that’s going to add a whole lot of stuff to my To Do list that will probably take a while to bring to fruition, but even so, it’s nice to have a goal and a direction for my freelance biz beyond “what can I get people to pay me to do for them this week?”

And that, to me, is very exciting. Or at least it will be after I have my nap.

Why finding time to write isn’t the same as finding time to type words.

I’m late to the party by several years, but I just discovered the Writing Excuses podcast. This morning I listened to the very first episode, Brainstorming, whilst folding towels [insert snarky comment here re: the glamorous life of the writer], and it drove home something that’s been on my mind a lot lately. Namely, the fact that working at home and freelancing are really not conducive to writing fiction.

This is the exact opposite of what I believed back in my days as a cubicle-dweller. I used to go to my job and sit at my desk and daydream about all the scads of free time I’d have if I could just freelance from home and create my own schedule.

I’ll just pause here a moment to let any freelancers who are reading this get done laughing.

See, back when I used to work at a “real job,” I had a 45 minute commute each way, I took long “wake-me-up” showers every morning, and I had a lot of busy-work at my job that didn’t require a lot of concentration. These times, strangely enough, are when most of my writing got done. Not the actual typing, mind you, but all of the parts of writing that result in having something to type up.

These days, I only leave the house to run errands, usually within a five mile radius, and my husband usually drives, so there are no long drives or time stuck in traffic to let my mind wander. My client work requires complete concentration, and the less said about the showering habits of the freelance writer, the better, methinks.

To compound the problem, as a Christian, I do my best to devote the quiet moments in each day to meditating on scripture and talking things out with my Maker. A lot of fiction writers advocate going on long walks to generate story ideas, but my morning walks are dedicated to prayer time.

So where does that leave me as a fiction writer? For now, I’m making it a point to schedule quiet time every now and then for brainstorming, but I’m finding it really hard to force it. This is why all of my novel WIPs are, well, still WIPs, and why I’m having a really difficult time filling in the middle bits of the new novel’s outline. I’ve managed to carve out time in the late morning for writing, but really, that time is for the typing. The magic part of fiction writing needs sufficient time to happen in between the typing bits, and right now I’m kind of at a loss as to what to do about it.

Ah, well. Maybe this task of reclaiming the cat room is just what I need. I’ve been spending that time listening to podcasts or music, but today I’ll try cleaning in silence and see if that jogs anything loose in the story plotting centers of my brain.

Speaking of the cat room, I’m going to have to stop calling it that soon, because it’s slowly starting to resemble a craft room once again. Yesterday I ran into a lot more brown recluses than on day one, and I’m proud of myself for only screaming once. I’ll only get to spend half an hour a day in there — if that — during the week, so progress will go quite a bit more slowly now, but the holiday weekend sure gave me a good start.

Links: What’s Steampunk, Sleepy Hollow preview, and more

I didn’t get all of my freelance work done before the weekend, so I’m having to work today. It’s mostly my own fault for not managing my time as well as I could have, but then again this was a pretty hectic week that involved more errands and more reasons to leave the house than usual (including a second trip to Bixby to pick up Pete’s meds from the vet because she didn’t have them stocked when we were there on Wednesday. Let me tell you, that is quite a long way to drive for such a simple errand), so I’ll go ahead and cut myself some slack.

The plan is to get this last article written before lunch, then I’ll be free the rest of the weekend. Except I also have a couple of short things I need to write for a Fiverr client by Monday evening. I’m still dithering on whether to buckle down and get those done today so I can take Labor Day off, or just wait and do them Monday so I can enjoy most of my Saturday. Considering that “enjoying” my Saturday involves laundry and vacuuming the house, I’ll probably hold off on the extra work until Monday.

Also on today’s agenda: trimming my unruly hair (still debating whether to give myself straight bangs or keep them longish and side swept, even though I usually regret straight bangs because they never lay down like I want them to, and yet I never seem to learn), fiddling with the outline for the new novel, and pulling my horror short story collection together for beta readers.

And now I’ll leave you with some links that are open in my browser that might be of interest to you:

Why writers need to blog. And a sad puppy.

There’s a reason I’ve always been so inconsistent with keeping up this blog. It’s because taking time to blog here makes me feel guilty. It’s not something I get paid to do, and it’s time I’m not spending working on my fiction. So in the hierarchy of things I spend my writing time/energy on, blogging always comes dead last, after paying work and fiction projects. Of course, once those priorities are out of the way, I often don’t have any time or energy left for writing a blog post (and when I do, my content marketing blog usually wins, since it exists to attract potential paying clients).

But what about building my author platform, building my audience and selling books? This week, Kristen Lamb’s Blog had a great post about the importance of blogging, which makes some excellent points, not the least of which is the importance of a well-kept blog in building your platform and connecting with your readers. She also talks about how blogging consistently helps train you to write through distractions, overcome perfectionism, and meet deadlines.

But the point that convinced me to stop putting my blog last is a truth that I knew already but had forgotten: blogging (at least, for me) serves as a fantastic writing warm-up to loosen the creative gears and get me into the necessary frame of mind. So instead of keeping on doing what I’ve been doing, which is sitting down to work on freelance writing and not allowing myself to blog until it’s done, and then continuing to sit for more than an hour and stare at the screen between checking Facebook while trying to psych myself up to actually write something, I’m going to try to start out my non-fiction writing sessions with a blog post to warm up. At least then I’ll actually be doing something productive with that time.

In other news, we took our Chihuahua, Pete, to the vet this week. He’s had six seizures this month (that we’re aware of), and he was due for blood work to check his thyroid. Because of the seizures, she (the vet) went ahead and did a full panel, and discovered that his liver enzymes are extremely elevated, which she things may be responsible for the seizures. So we’re treating that (poor dog’s taking more pills now than Matt and I combined) and hoping it will put a stop to the seizures, or at least slow them down.

Was he happy about going to the vet? Not at all:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InwtJLAa5gM]

Poor little guy. But at least he hasn’t had any seizures in the last few days.

Freelance Writing and Fiverr: A Match Made in the Good Place

If you’ve followed me online for very long, then you probably know that I’ve spent the last couple of years doing a lot of writing for Demand Studios to help pay the bills (and you probably also know that it hasn’t been my favorite, but at least it was fairly reliable and steady pay). Well, we ran into a bit of a rough patch earlier this year when the assignment queue there started to dwindle down to nothing, which was followed by an announcement that they were shutting down for “a couple of months” to re-tool — which basically meant that they were temporarily laying off their entire freelance writing staff.

So that kinda sucked, especially since they were the only steady client we had going for us. But then again, I was also relieved to get a break, and it seemed like the kick in the butt I needed to finally get myself off of the content mill hamster wheel and start doing freelance writing on my own terms. Initially, this meant that I was going to start querying online and print publications and pitching articles. But it turns out that the article query process is about as slow as the book query process, and I needed to get paid last week.

Enter Fiverr.com. Based on a tip from Freelance Writers Online, I decided to set up a writing gig there to start building non-content-mill writing samples and collecting testimonials. The plan, originally, was to get enough of both to get off to a good start and post them on my freelance writing CV website. I figured that I’d set a word-count limit that was not completely unreasonable for $5 while remaining competitive, and only accept assignments that interested me from people who were more concerned about quality than cheap and fast.

Granted, I figured this was a long-shot. But my goal was to get good samples, not to make money — something I didn’t really think would be possible on a site where everything costs $5.

Except, I quickly discovered that everything doesn’t cost $5 on Fiverr — at least, not anymore. I originally set up my account on there a few years ago, when they were still new and everything did, in fact, cost a mere five bucks. But it turns out that Fiverr has grown up a lot since then, and once you prove yourself as a reputable seller, you unlock additional benefits, including the ability to add on “gig extras” and start charging more for your work.

Another thing I quickly discovered — there are, in fact, plenty of people who are happy to pay for quality over quantity. It turns out that my gig — 250 words from a veteran writer and blogger with over a decade of experience and a strong publishing record — stood out amidst a sea of gigs offering higher word counts from writers for whom English is clearly not their first language. I started getting work almost immediately — and it was work I actually enjoyed, about topics I found interesting.

After the first 30 days, I had enough sales and positive reviews racked up to earn my Level 1 Seller badge and unlock gig extras — including the ability for buyers to order multiples of your gig, which meant people could hire me to write lengthier articles. Just a week later I had already advanced to Level 2 and was able to add even more gig extras at higher prices. I was a bit worried at first that the pricier stuff might scare off the clientele I had built up, but so far they’ve been happy to pay for the extras.

Long story short (…too late!), in about six weeks Fiverr has gone from a means of jump starting my flagging freelance biz to not only reviving it but forming its backbone. I’ve got a few steady writing clients there, and also a number of editing and novel critique clients. I’ve got several graphic design and self-publishing related gigs on offer, too, because I can do all those things and I thrive on variety, but so far my most popular gig by far is the writing gig, followed by the novel critique one. Between those two, my queue stays busy enough that I’ve had to recruit my husband, who’s also got some good writing chops, to help me stay on top of it. We’re working on expanding it and making him an official part of the team, as soon as we can find the time to rewrite the profile description.

We’re not 100% up to being able to cover all the bills with our Fiverr gigs yet. Demand Studios is slowly starting to release new titles into their assignment queue, so I’m going to have to stick with them a little longer to fill in the gaps. But I’m optimistic that Fiverr will be able to close those gaps for us before too much longer and we’ll be able to bid adieu to content mills forever.

This was ostensibly meant to be a post about how to get started selling on Fiverr, which has been much requested of me on Facebook. But I felt like I needed to give my testimony first, and I didn’t think it would run quite so long. So I hereby promise to do a follow-up post later in the week with some best practices for getting your Fiverr business up and running. In the mean time… is there anything I can help you with for five bucks?

Nanowri-NOPE!

A few things…

  • Nanowrimo’s not happening for me. There’s just too much on my plate right now for me to be able to make it a priority.
  • Relatedly, I think I need to take a semi-hiatus from this blog until things settle down and I figure out exactly what I want to be doing with it. I’ll still post if there’s news, but for the time being I won’t be posting just for the sake of putting content out there.
  • Since my freelance writing resume page imploded, I FINALLY made time to reconstruct it. Except instead of a page on this blog I set up a whole website for it. If you happen to know anyone who could use a freelance writer or content development coach, you can point them to my credentials here: Jean Marie Bauhaus – Writer for Hire

  • I am really, really glad it’s Friday.

Surrender

God has really been at work in me lately. He’s been patiently pulling me through a rather painful and difficult process of learning to let things go, to stop being led by my ego and my stubborn desires and to submit my will to His.

I confess that we haven’t been happy lately. Pretty much the opposite, really. Not with each other, I should clarify — our marriage is the one great thing we’ve got going. Well, and our dog. He’s pretty great, too. He makes us laugh when we really don’t feel like laughing. But everything we’ve been working on and toward has ground to a halt. For a little while there it seemed like the freelance biz was starting to pick up and maybe head toward success, but it’s floundering again, and while we’re still managing to scrape by, home repairs are piling up, and other little emergencies keep cropping up, and things have been overwhelming and we’ve just kind of been drifting, directionless, not knowing where to go next or what to do. It’s like God suddenly said, “NOPE! This isn’t the direction I want for you guys.” And for a while, instead of humbling ourselves and praying for Him to show us the right direction, we (I, mostly) kept stubbornly butting our heads against the wall trying to make it move.

I’ve done a lot of crying out to the Lord in my frustration in the last couple of months. I’ve done a lot of casting about for something or someone (other than myself) to blame. But I’ve also been digging deeper into scripture and realizing that I’m the one who needs to change. I need to surrender my pride and my ego and humble myself to God’s will. I need to surrender all of my desires and give God rein over my life. I need to stop seeking my own pleasure and start seeking His. I need to stop trying to wrestle everything into submission to my own will and start trusting in Him to care for us. And I need to stop putting him in the back seat in certain areas of my life.

These are of course hard lessons for any Christian, but I think they might be especially hard for those who, like me, were raised in faith and grew up taking God and Christ and salvation and faith and etc. for granted. It’s hard to fully understand passages of scripture that talk about putting off the old man when you were only five years old when you got saved. It’s too tempting to think that you don’t have an old man to put off.

So now, at 40 years old, I’m just now beginning to grasp what it means to present myself a living sacrifice. I’m finally starting to understand that in letting myself be broken down like this I’m giving God material to work with so He can build me back up, and He’ll build me into something better than I ever could have imagined for myself.

Since I’ve come to that realization, things are starting to turn around. Doors are starting to open for us again. Matt and I had a heart-to-heart the other day about re-examining and re-defining our priorities and what changes we need to make to ensure that we’re walking in God’s will. Part of that is that we both need to start looking for work outside of the home, because God clearly hasn’t blessed our home business. We have to accept that maybe that’s not something He wants for us right now. Maybe it’s not something He wants for us ever. And that’s okay, because whatever He has for us will be better. At any rate, I have my peace back, and I’m full of hope for the first time in a long time.

Last year, we got to a point where business died down, and out of sheer desperation I started looking for a full-time job. I did so grudgingly. I cried a lot. I was resentful. I didn’t put my all into the search. Somehow, I still managed to find a job, but it was a terrible job and I only lasted there about six weeks, and I cried almost every day that I worked there. I came out of it resolved to make our business work no matter what.

But now, there are two differences. For one thing, we’re not desperate. We’ve still got some work coming in, plus content mill writing (which isn’t my favorite, but I’m grateful for it regardless), and while it’s not enough to prosper, it’s enough to make ends meet while I take the time to find the right job — the right job being one that meets all of our needs and is well-suited to my personality and abilities.

The other, biggest difference is that this time I have total and utter peace and contentment about going back to full-time employment. I’m even a little excited about it. And as we make our plans, I trust that the Lord will order our steps. I look forwarding to seeing where He leads us.

Lawd Have Mercy! Also, a New Cover for Restless Spirits

Guy-friendly cover of Restless Spirits by Jean Marie BauhausProject: Radium Town, the Steampunk Weird West adventure set in my hometown of Claremore, Oklahoma at the dawn of statehood and featuring Will Rogers and Tom Mix.

Writing stage: Researching, world building & plotting

What got done: Over the weekend I did a little more research into Tom Mix, and rounded out my cast with a couple of invented characters, including my requisite genius inventor and another BDD super agent, Madeline “No Mercy” Mercier, who will act as a foil to Betty. The part of Mercy will be played in my head by Sophie Okenedo (Queen Liz X to all you Whovians). And if you’re so inclined, you can see my whole dream cast, as well as research links and inspiration for costumes and setting on my RADIUM TOWN Pinterest board.

Today I used my writing time to publish the new cover I created for Restless Spirits over the weekend, which has gotten hearty approval from the guys who’ve weighed in. Upating the cover for the e-book versions on Amazon and BN.com was simple enough, but CreateSpace was quite a bit more involved. I also made minor modifications to the books themselves, including updating the cover credits on the copyright page and adding a link to buy Dominion to the end — a simple “No duh!” selling tactic that was nevertheless lost on me until I read a tip on it somewhere last week. A natural sales person, I am not.

C25K/UFYH: You know, we had all these lovely warm days in January and February, but now that spring is actually here, it’s cold. Yesterday we even had some snow. So the C25K thing is on hold until it warms back up and stays that way. As for UFYH, I didn’t do much over the weekend, but today I bagged up all the trash and recycling and took it out to the bins, and also bagged up all of the errant shopping bags that would take me far too long to fold and put away.

And of course I gave Sasha her meds. She’s feeling a lot better since the antibiotics and vitamins have kicked in, but there’s another suspicious place on her stomach where it looks like the cancer might have spread. We’re also giving her Interferon, and the hope there is that it will boost her immune system to the point where it will be able to kill the cancer, or at least keep it in check, without draining all of her resources. Poor kitty. She’s only 10, which isn’t exactly young, but it’s not old enough to have to contemplate saying goodbye yet, either. I think she’s tough enough to get through this, though, and I still expect that she’ll be around for several more years.

Cooking: Last night I cooked up the big spaghetti squash that I picked up on Friday, and used some of it as a noodle base for a Thai-peanut stir fry that I cooked up last night using ground chicken, shredded cabbage and a frozen stir fry veggie mix. It wasn’t exactly Pad Thai, although it tasted close enough, and it was a bit Sandra Lee what with the frozen veggies, but it was delicious all the same, and with the spaghetti squash I didn’t miss the high glycemic noodles at all. When I do cook I always make a big batch, so that’ll do for dinner for the next few nights; and the leftover squash is put away to serve as a pasta noodle replacement later this week.

Later: Client stuff. I need to keep my head down and get stuff done.

Ropin’ and Chewin’.

Project: Radium Town, the Steampunk Weird West adventure set in my hometown of Claremore, Oklahoma at the dawn of statehood and featuring Will Rogers and Tom Mix.

Writing stage: Research

What I accomplished: Today’s work was mostly passive research — watching some old clips of Will Rogers on YouTube to get a handle on his voice and mannerisms, and jotting down some character notes. That man sure did like his chewing gum.

C25K/UFYH: Cleaned the bathtub (thank you, Magic Eraser), laundered the shower curtain, and bathed the dog. I also need to bathe me, but I’m waiting for the shower curtain to dry.

Later: It’s a chilly, rainy day, so I’m going to be camped out here on the sofa with hot tea and an afghan and working on the list I posted yesterday and then failed to do most of because I was hormonal and sleep-deprived and those two things broke my brain. Although I did get started on mockups for one client’s website, and, you guys! I’m doing a website for a YA author’s vampire series and what I’ve got so far is SO PRETTY and I can’t wait to show it to her. And I’m so excited about this project I can’t even tell you. I need more SFF authors to hire me to do their sites because THIS is the kind of web design I truly love to do.

Showbiz Cowboys

Project: Radium Town, the Steampunk Weird West adventure set in my hometown of Claremore, Oklahoma at the dawn of statehood and starring Will Rogers. Now with bonus Tom Mix.

Writing stage: Research

What I accomplished/learned: On Saturday I went to the dollar store and bought a new notebook and a pack of note cards for research and plotting, and in the notebook I began jotting down a timeline of real life historical events relevant to my story and characters. In the biography of Will Rogers that I’m reading, I’m up to where he became a vaudeville sensation and joined the Ziegfeld Follies and started to get noticed by Hollywood, which is farther than I needed to go. I learned that Will was quite the world traveler at the turn of the century, and he was in England at the dawn of the Edwardian era, and I might be able to use that. I learned that he and Tom Mix were in a Wild West show together here in Oklahoma and were BFFs, and I can totally use that. I also learned that Betty Blake, the girl that Will would eventually marry, was quite different from the type of character I need her to be for my book (which I very much expected), and now I need to focus on figuring out how my alt-history directly affects her to the extent that it takes her from a quiet Kansas girl to a butt-kicking government agent.

C25K/UFYH: On Saturday we did yard work, and I mowed the back yard, which satisfied both my workout and unfussing requirements. On Sunday I did fargle-all but sit around in my robe and read steampunk short stories and watch Supernatural and knit, because last week tired me out more than I realized. Matt made a corned beef brisket and my robe was green, so that was our St. Pat’s day. ANyway, today I vacuumed the whole house and took out the compost. Later this afternoon I’m either going to go out with Matt to toss the football around or I’m going to go for a walk. Either way, I’ll get some kind of movement in, although I’m still not quite up to snuff on this whole C25K thing. I’m still waiting for the weather to become warmer and stay that way.

Later: I have design work to do for two clients, and quite a bit of e-mail to answer, and I need to work on lining up some clients for April so I’ll actually have time for Camp Nano instead of having to spend all day every day writing Demand Studios content. And then after dinner we’ll fall into bed and watch Walking Dead.

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