by Barbara Cedillo Alvarez (with permission)
Several writers, veteran and new, have posted questions about how to make DS and freelancing for other clients a viable, profitable WAH (work at home) career.
I’ve been thinking about different ideas and strategies while I was driving around Las Cruces taking photos for my Quick Guides today.
1- Learn to put your writing for DS (and other clients) into the same category as working for an in-the-flesh supervisor at a brick and mortar office building you would customarily drive to five days a week. Establish set working hours. Even if you don’t wear “professional” clothes while working, wear something that you are comfortable in and that helps you to enter that “professional state of mind”. If it’s a nice pair of jeans or slacks and a nice sweater, go with that. (Even though we can work at home in our jammies, for some, getting into a professional mindset gets harder if we stay in a robe and slippers all day long.)
2- Family! Friends! Spouses! Children! They all want our attention and some of them are under the badly-mistaken belief that, if we’re sitting at the computer on the couch or in the kitchen all day long, we’re not working. That hurts us and our bottom line. Communicate, in no uncertain terms, that even though you are not driving to a brick and mortar office five days a week, you ARE working. Don’t go to the lengths of showing them your PayPal statements or bank statements. Just let them know that DS and your other clients are paying you for the work you do and that you are selling your writing. Especially in the instances where the breadwinner has been laid off or where you are the single parent/head of household/breadwinner, getting those people to back off because they think you’re only “playing” and not working is vital. Here are a couple of ideas I came up with today:
A-Give your kids a set time on the computer for their homework if you don’t have a wireless connection or if you only have one computer. You do other work such as laundry or dinner while they’re working. When their time is up, they turn the keyboard back over to you. No arguments, no ifs ands or buts. (Maybe a quivering lip, but that’s all.)
B-Offices have their operating hours posted prominently on a front door or window, allowing customers to know when they are open and closed. Why shouldn’t you avail yourself of the same idea? Create an “Office Hours” sign for your office door and front door using an attractive, eye-catching font. This, especially will drive the point home for those who insist on believing that, just because you’re home, you’re available and waiting for their interruptions.
3- Set daily working goals. Decide how many articles you are going to research/outline and/or write. Stick with that. If you get hit with writer’s block, bang out a nonsensical story or a quick Fact Sheet to break up the block.
If you decide you’re going to write (5, 7, 10) articles a day so you can earn so many dollars in a day, then don’t back down. Let your family know what your goals are. Write them down and tape them to the refrigerator so they understand how much you’re working on earning for that day. (This is tied to 2-A above — if your children bug you about getting online so they can “check MySpace (or Facebook) for just a few minutes”, let them know that you won’t be earning for the time they are online. Negotiate a time when they can Facebook or go to MySpace, but your working hours are inviolable.) If your children (and spouse) are able to negotiate the kitchen, stove and microwave, let them know they’ll need to be independent of your assistance while you’re working — UNLESS an amergency develops and someone gets hurt.
4- Make up a motivational board with goals and pictures. Prop that board up close to your working space. Type up a list of your monthly bills and obligations. Figure out how much you need to earn, including what you need to separate for fed/state taxes and FICA. Type those figures onto the bills. Break this down into how many $15, $20 and $7.50 articles you have to submit a day and include this on the bills list. At the bottom of that, factor in time for you (relaxing, family, crafts, working on a book, whatever else you want to do).
5- For those who are easily distracted–take care of your personal email FIRST (friends, online notices, news), then close your email and open your word processing and DS. DON’T open Facebook or Myspace until you have completed X-number of articles, then reward yourself for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, shut FaceBook and MySpace down and get back to work. The same goes for the DS forums. (Unless you run into a problem and need to ask for or look for help.)
6- Moms, especially have to multitask. Schedule your chores and errands separately from writing for clients or DS. Pay bills online or go pay them in person, then get to work. Shop, then get to work. Tackle one household chore a day, then work. Just get the, “Oh, but I need to do ******* first” out of the way so you have NO EXCUSES! If you can, get an older child or your spouse, if you are married, to handle some of the other work for you.
7- Just as in a brick and mortar office with in-the-flesh supervisors and co-workers, give yourself a lunch break and another break during the day so you can clear the cobwebs and refresh yourself. Eat lunch away from your computer, preferably at the same time every day.
I hope this helps all those who want to make DS and other freelance clients their full time work (or who have to because of the economy and family situations). Give these ideas some thought and incorporate them.
Living in Las Cruces, N.M., Barbara Alvarez has been writing for Demand Studios for 15 months. Her work appears on eHow, Overstock and Pluck on Demand. Alvarez was named a top content writer in September, 2009. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from New Mexico State University.