From Unemployed to Self-Employed Pt. II

 

 

 

 

Question Person

Keith Owens became a full-time member of the Writing It Right For You writing team on August 1, 2011. An award-winning writer and journalist, Keith also is a regular contributor to the Jack and Jill Politics blog. He is writing a series for Jack and Jill Politics about starting a career as a freelancer as a Black Liberal Boomer. You can read the 1st installment of “The Self-Employment Chronicles” here at the Jack and Jill Politics Blog.

The Self-Employment Chronicles Part II

Like I said in the last post, I gave myself no more than 24 hours to suffer from the shock of losing my “good government job” with Wayne County. Then it was time to get busy. Although I had some reasons to suspect that something may have been coming down the pike, that my job was not exactly as stable as I would have liked, I still simply did not expect to walk in on a Monday morning and then, within 45 minutes, be walking back out the door with what little personal belongings I had bothered to bring with me to the office over the previous five years.

And now? Looking back? I have to say that my small amount of personal belongings is a bit of a revelatory peek into the somewhat subconscious state of mind I was in throughout the entire time I was working my day job. The fact that after five years as a department executive with considerable responsibilities I could nevertheless easily leave the office carrying all my personal belongings in a medium-sized box?  I mean, if you peeked inside the office of just about anyone else at the job, any executive or manager, you would likely see pictures of family, stuffed animals, plaques, plants, you name it. Stuff to make the environment seem more homey.

The only thing I had on my wall was a calendar provided by the office. I didn’t even have a photo of my wife in there. Nothing. Just office stuff.  Looking back it’s like I went in there with the feeling that I did not plan on being there long. Maybe I always knew what I really needed to be doing was working for myself because that was likely to be the only time I was truly willing to commit myself all the way. Committing yourself 100 percent to somebody else’s company or vision is great for them, but what does it do for you in the long run? For me, I will easily concede it was a fine learning experience where I picked up some valuable skills that will serve me well as I move forward in pursuit of my own life’s fulfillment, but in no way was it ever where I was destined to spend any length of time.  Not to say that getting laid off was a great experience – it wasn’t – but I am definitely saying I have yet to miss anything about the place. It’s amazing how fast some things can disappear into your rearview mirror.

That’s the good part. The more, oh, let’s say ‘challenging’ part, is what lies ahead. I know exactly where I want to go and what I want to do. That’s not the problem at all. I also feel for the first time in a very long time that I am headed in the right direction and that what I am doing is right for me. I have quite honestly never felt this right about anything except marrying my wife. But how to get there?

Time to sketch out the plan. The clock is ticking, and it’s getting loud…

 

You can contact Keith for your writing, blogging, social media, and journalism projects here.

Have you faced an employment uncertainty or challenge? Let us know in the comments section!


What We Do: Grants and RFPs

CollaborationApplying for grants and responding to requests for proposals (RFPs) are very arduous and time-consuming undertakings. Some organizations have staff people dedicated to just those tasks, but most do not. Special expertise and experience are called for; and if your organization would like to apply for grant funding or respond to private or public requests for proposals, the writing team at Writing It Right For You can help.

Pamela Hilliard Owens, M.Ed., has years of experience in both the public and private sector in sales and sales management, and has helped companies apply for dozens of grants and respond to scores of RFPs. Her eye for detail and excellence in English grammar and usage is perfectly suited for such detail-oriented work.

Allan Brauer has spent years working in the private sector in human resources and procurement and presently specializes in working with non-profits, arts organizations, and progressive political groups.

If your organization needs funding, you need to contact us! When filling out the contact form, be sure to request our special document detailing our grant writing and RFP application process and services. We look forward to working with you and your organization.

Ask Questions, Get Answers

QuestioningAre you thinking about hiring a freelance writer or editor to help you to complete a project? Are you a freelance writer or editor negotiating with a potential client? Over the years, I have found that the best way to develop a successful relationship with my clients is to ensure that everyone is “on the same page” from the beginning. When you ask a lot of questions, you’ll receive a lot of answers; eventually, each of you will have a strong foundation for managing your project.

As my friend and fellow writer, Sharon Hurley Hall (@shurleyhall) writes on her blog, a client questionnaire will help to clarify for both the freelance writer/editor and the client the terms, conditions, and “fine print” of each project. So, whether you are the freelance writer/editor or the client, what should you look for in a client questionnaire? There are many different formats that you as a freelance writer/editor can customize; as a potential client, there are informational sections to look for:

1) Complete contact information. With today’s global business environment, many people work non-standard hours and are location-independent. It is important to for the contractor and the client to be able to communicate across time zones and during non-business hours.

2) Complete background information. As the potential client, what is it exactly you are looking for? The more information you can give about you, your company, your goals and objectives, and your competitors, the more your writer can successfully meet your needs.

3) Project details. This is the place to be very, very specific. This section should include the deadline, the milestones, the update schedule, the number of revisions, the contact person, and the exact details of the project.

4) The budget and payment details. This is the section where the freelancer and the client discuss the project budget and finalize the payment arrangements. Each project has a budget, and each freelancer should be paid for his or her services. This section outlines the specifics.

A well-written client questionnaire will benefit the freelance writer/editor and the client. The writers at Writing It Right For You have a questionnaire and a project plan template ready to work with you. You can contact us here.

If you are a freelance writer or editor, do you use a client questionnaire? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

Are you a client who has worked with a freelance writer or editor? Did you complete a client questionnaire? What other information would you like to see included in a client questionnaire? Let us know in the comments section.

 

You’ve Got E-mail! No, You Don’t

emailIf you are like me, your computer inbox is always full. No matter how hard I try to achieve “Zero Inbox”, I send and receive hundreds of messages per day. But help is on the way! I will no longer be inundated with “e-mail”, because the proper spelling for electronic mail is now “email”: no hyphen! According to the AP Stylebook, which is one of the standards for writers, “e-mail” is now to be correctly spelled “email”.

The “e” in email of course stands for “electronic”, and when sending electronic messages first became popular a few decades ago, it seemed natural to hyphenate the term. But AP now says that “email” qualifies as a term in itself and has standardized the new spelling. Of course, AP adds to the confusion by stating that other forms of “e” communication, such as e-books, e-commerce, and e-business will retain their hyphens, for now.

If you need assistance with e-spelling, contact the writers at Writing It Right For You! We’ll get right back to you; via email, of course!

Top Ten Reasons to Work with Keith

Keith A. Owens

1)    Keith has more than 25 years of experience as a professional journalist. Keith knows what makes a compelling news article, as well as a compelling piece of commentary that is likely to get the attention of editors.

2)    Keith has also published works of fiction and is an avid reader of all sorts of fiction, with a special attraction to sci-fi, horror, and character-driven literary fiction. If you need someone to read over your novel, or short story, and make helpful suggestions about how to make it better, Keith is your guy.

3)     Keith has experience writing/creating his own blog site as well as writing for others. He is currently a regular contributor to the widely-read political blog site Jack and Jill Politics. If you would like to know how to write tight, compelling blog posts that will attract readers, Keith can help with that. Keith is NOT the guy to see for improving blog design, however. Words are what Keith does best, and he prefers to stick to that.

4)    Keith has a lot of patience, and does not believe in beating up aspiring writers to make them better writers. Keith believes this method only results in adding to the already overflowing pool of beat up aspiring writers. If you’re serious about getting better, Keith will do everything in Keith’s powers to make you better. And if you happen to be a better writer than Keith, Keith will quickly recognize that and bow down.

5)    Keith has a great sense of humor, which helps Keith survive those who don’t.

6)    Keith prefers not to handle numerous clients at a time so that he can devote more quality time to the relative handful he may be working with at any given time. The top number of clients Keith will work with at once will range from 3 to 5. Apologies in advance to those who may not be included at first, but this really is done to maximize devotion of time and resources toward the needs of my clients.

7)    Did I mention that Keith has a great sense of humor?

8)    Keith also has experience writing press releases, and will gladly provide assistance to anyone wishing to write a concise, strong press release likely to get the attention of readers and editors. Keith would prefer not to get involved in the distribution and marketing aspect of press releases. In other words, Keith will help you write it, but it will be up to you to know where you plan to send it.

9)    Keith asks that each client have a clear set of goals to work toward, which makes everything easier. If this area is still somewhat murky, Keith is willing to work with clients to help them better define what those goals are and/or should be.

10) Keith is good to work with because Keith actually loves good writing as much as he hates bad writing. The army of good writers needs reinforcements, and this is where you come in.

Guest Post: Writing Then and Now

One of the awesome benefits of full-time freelancing online is the opportunity to meet and interact with so many wonderful people around the globe. I receive so much great information and inspiration from one of my wonderful and talented writer friends from “across the pond”…enjoy her post, follow her on Twitter, and check her websites with the links below.

Sharon Hurley Hall
Sharon Hurley Hall

When I started as a writer, all I needed was a notepad and pen. Over the years I’ve collected significantly more gear. Some things have stayed the same, like how I approach the writing task. How I execute it has changed a lot. Here’s a peek inside my writer’s toolbox over the years.

My First Day as a Writer

On my first day as a working journalist, more years ago than I care to remember, my editor walked me to the stationery supply cupboard and issued me with a couple of notebooks and pens. That was pretty much all I needed to start writing.

After working there for a month or so and with my first big interview coming up, I splashed out on a tape recorder. Now, we’re talking about the old days so it wasn’t as small as even a Walkman (anyone remember those/). It was big, it was heavy and it drank battery juice. I always had to make sure I had four spare batteries before starting an interview. That was what my writing toolbox looked like for the next couple of years.

Small Technological Improvement

It stayed pretty much the same for quite a while, with the recorder getting smaller and then becoming digital. It was nice to have a recording tool that could fit in the palm of my hand. Even though my recorder was digital, all it did was improve the sound, but there was still no easy way to do anything useful with the recording. I also had a computer, but owning a laptop was still something that only high powered business people did.

A Big Change

But by the time I went freelance in 2005, the writing world had changed for good and the technology I used had changed along with it. By that time I had a laptop which I had been using to prepare and show presentations to my journalism students. I also had a slightly better digital recorder. And within a couple of years when I was once again working as a journalist I found that I took with me was slightly different.

My Writing Toolbox

Now, although I carry a notebook and pen (preparing for technology failure is a lifelong work habit), I hardly ever use them. Instead, I type my notes directly into a new document on a laptop that isn’t much bigger (and is certainly a lot lighter) than the old fashioned tape recorder I used when I first started. Typing the notes gives me a head start on completing the finished article, which is a bonus.

Of course, being paranoid, I still record all my interviews, but instead of using a purpose built recorder, I use my smartphone (which has much more memory than my first three computers put together!). My recordings are saved as MP3, making it easy to share them online if need be.

Dealing With Carpal Tunnel and RSI

There is one other tool that has become an essential part of my writing life. That is Dragon NaturallySpeaking — speech recognition software that saves me from carpal tunnel syndrome or RSI and massively improves productivity. When I first worked as a writer, no-one was using computers and no-one talked about carpal tunnel. These days, it’s a reality for many. Dragon allows me to remain productive even if my wrists are aching. And now that there’s a smartphone version for dictation on the move, I’ll be adding that to my arsenal in the near future.

A Love of Writing

During my writing career, I’ve seen a big change in technology, but there’s one thing that remains a constant. Although I have replaced putting pen to paper with putting fingers to keyboard, I still love to write – and that’s one thing I don’t expect to change.

Bio:

I’m Sharon and I was born to write and blog. I’m a word nerd, a Scrabble fiend, fanatical about grammar, and am fascinated by learning new things. I’ve been mentoring other writers at Get Paid to Write Online since 2005 to help them improve and build sustainable and successful writing careers. I also blog professionally; check me out on sharonhh.com.

Once You Go Mac…

 

Keith and his iMac
Can you find Jimi Hendrix in this photo?

Keith A. Owens, award-winning journalist and writer, is now a full-time member of the Writing It Right For You Team! As you may know, Keith is also a musician, heading the very successful Detroit local funk-fusion band Freedom Underground–the band’s first CD is available for download from iTunes!

So, as a BIG part of his new and exciting career change, Keith has updated his office computer configuration…he has finally gone Mac, and he swears he’ll never go back!

Keith has an iMac with a 27-inch display, the “Garage Band” and “Logic Stuido” apps from Apple, and an Apogee thing-y to connect to his guitar to Garage Band, and a Stomp Foot pedal thing-a-ma-jig to use with one of his five guitars, his iPod and his iPad. Did I mention that Keith is a musician?

Keith’s also a writer, so he also just downloaded the Microsoft Office Suite 2011 for Mac.

Keith and I (did I mention that Keith is my husband?) are very excited about our joint venture. Along with our other Senior Writer, Allan Brauer–who heads up our northern California office, the Writing It Right For You team is working hard with our clients and students providing a variety of writing, copywriting, and editing services to businesses and graduate and post-graduate students in the U.S. and eight other countries!

Contact us–we are ready to work with you! Keith REALLY wants to get going on his new iMac! He’s still wondering how he has lived his whole life without a Mac configuration.

Watch this space for more exciting announcements in the next few days!

Maybe You’ve Just Been Misunderstood (Part 2)

QuestioningWell, we’re back with Part 2 of our series on some of the most misunderstood words in the English language. Some words are so confusing that even a dictionary or thesaurus can’t help. That’s when you contact the experts at Writing It Right For You–we’re ready to help you!

(Thanks to Grammar.net for these great word exercises!)

4) “continual”: you THINK it means ongoing with no interruptions. It really means lasting over a long period of time, but not necessarily uninterrupted.

5) “infamous”: you THINK it means the same as “famous”, but it means just the opposite. “Infamous” is never a positive description–an infamous person has a very bad reputation.

6) “systematic”: you may THINK it means the same as “systemic” which pertains to the body as a whole. “Systematic” involves using a system in an orderly manner.

Check back soon for the 3rd Installment of “Maybe You’ve Just Been Misunderstood”!