Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan. More than a cliche’…

Time to Plan
Time to Plan

Well, here in the U.S. the July 4th holiday is over, and so is the first half of the year. That was fast! Way back at the end of December last year and the beginning of January this year, we were excited for the promises of a new start, new opportunities, and new goals! Now that the 2nd half of this year has started, it’s time to ask ourselves: How did we do? Where do we go from here?

Those are exactly the questions you and your team need to answer right now, today, before you get busy with the day-to-day operations and projects of your business. On the one hand, planning takes a lot of time, but on the other hand, proper planning actually saves time in the long run.

You have a choice for how you can manage your planning process: on paper in a paper planner, on a whiteboard, or digitally in an app or on your digital calendar. What is important is that you revisit and refocus your goals as needed, set achievable targets, and then make action plans to achieve each of your goals. What should your action plan include?

Key initiatives and actions that can actually be completed and directly relate to your goals. The operative word here is “key”. Remember you can’t do everything.

Your budget. You should be hard-nosed and realistic here, and your budget should consider the amount of both your money and your time that you can afford to commit. Both are finite.

Please, don’t ever be “too busy to plan”. Planning now will save you much time and money later, and the ROI (return on investment) will be worth it.

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Pamela Hilliard Owens is a former teacher, former college instructor, and former corporate and network sales leader and manager. Now a freelancer and business owner, Pam started her first company in 2008, Writing It Right For You (WIRFY), offering copywriting and editing services to individuals and businesses. After working with several authors, Pam and her husband and business partner started a second company in 2011, Detroit Ink Publishing DIP), to work with authors for ghostwriting, editing, and manuscript preparation. DIP is an independent publishing house that publishes books by Pam and Keith and also many for the authors they work with. In 2013, Pam added yet a third company, Your Business Your Brand Creatively, through which we offer branding and marketing services and online training specifically for creative professionals.

My team and I know that “It Matters How You Say It,” and I would love to talk you about how I can help you achieve your copywriting, editing, marketing, publishing goals. Please feel free to contact me via email: phowens@teamowens313online.com, or by filling out the form on the contact page for any one of the three companies.

Happy Pi(e) Day!

Pi Pie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reposted for 2014!

What kind of pie will you serve for “Pi Day”?

 

Every March 14 (3.14) is “Pi Day”, because 3.14 is the beginning of the never-ending mathematical computation

of the ratio of a the circumference of a circle to its diameter.

As a former English teacher, the above is the most I will say about math!

But you remember calculating “pi” in school, don’t you? Some scientists have calculated the value of pi to at least 10,000 digits, but in reality, the value of “pi” has no ending. In mathematical terms, “pi” is an irrational number and repeats forever.

As a bonus, it is also the birthday of Albert Einstein, so math geeks are really geeked today!

For those of us who just want to celebrate the day, the best way to do that is to have a piece of pie!

What is YOUR favorite pie? Whatever it is, could you please bring me a piece? I’ll be home about 5.

cherrypie

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Defamation: Libel or Slander?

Writing It Right For You - English Grammar Usage Tips

“Defamation” is the legal term for publishing disparaging information about a person in verbal or written form with the intent to damage the reputation of that person. Whether the defamation attempt is considered “libel” or “slander” depends on how the defamation attempt is published.

Libel is a defamatory remark that is published in writing, on the radio, or in audio or video form.

Slander is a defamatory remark that is published orally via a gesture or verbal communication that is not recorded.

The person who is the target of defamation by either libel or slander can file suit against the defamer by with court action to prove:

1) that a defamatory statement was made;

2) that the statement was published (as outlined above) to a 3rd party;

3) that the defamer knew or should have known that the statement was false;

4) that injury was caused to the target of the defamation.

Unlike the usual court cases where someone is “innocent until proven guilty”, in defamation court cases, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff or the person who is the subject of the defamatory publication.

That is why it is imperative for creative freelancers and other business owners who provide services to clients to ensure that they are protected with detailed and legally binding contracts and that they have complete documentation of any and all communications–just in case.

The person who intends to defame, even “casually”, should also be prepared to defend their claim as they can very easily be counter-sued by the original plaintiff.

 

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney, nor do I play one on TV. Please consult your own legal professional for detailed information on libel and slander.

 

 

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Learning to Use New Apps for Increased Productivity

Dragon_Dictate_348X300 ScrivenerForWriters

It’s the first full week of February, and “Punxsutawney Phil” has predicted six more weeks of winter (like a rodent is actually a meteorologist…but I digress). This is a perfect time to really work on learning two apps I’ve used in the past.

Scrivener is the #1 app designed exactly for writers, I am in the process of moving all of my writing and editing projects from Word to Scrivener. It is already making a difference in how I work on projects for clients and for myself. In addition to the two books that I will have finished for myself by the end of this month, I have seven client writing and editing projects that I have uploaded to Scrivener to work on. I recently published a post about how I plan to use Scrivener.

Dragon Dictate for Mac (I stopped using a PC years ago) will allow me to speak most of what I want to do on the computer instead of typing. I am really enjoying working with a microphone and seeing what I see appear on the screen. I use an approved dictation microphone with the app on my MacBook Pro at my Midtown Detroit co-working community office, and I use the Dragon Microphone app on my iPhone5S with Dragon Dictate on my MacBook Air in my home office.

Both apps are so feature rich that I know it will take months for me to become really proficient with them, but I look forward to the increased productivity that I will have.

I always appreciate the fact that I can use apps on both on my MacBooks as well as on my iPhone5S, iPad2, and iPad Mini because of seamless integration.

I will keep you updated on my progress as I learn to use all of the features of these great apps that help writers like you and me.

If you use one or both of these apps, we’d love to hear your story! Let us know in the comments!

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Stay in Your Lane and Hire the Best

keep-calm-and-stay-in-your-laneAs I write this post, it is early afternoon, and I have completed three smaller client projects while members of my team are working on different components of a few much larger client projects. In a few minutes, I will participate in a Google Hangout with yet another client.

While I “know how” to do many different business tasks and activities, including blog design and setup, Powerpoint slides, app installation and use, those are not my specialties. What I do best: writing, editing, publishing, project management, and social media marketing. 

In the five years since I started my first business in July 2008, we have grown to three related businesses, four employees, four independent contractors, and clients in Michigan, the United States, and eleven other countries.

What I’ve learned along the way is to focus on what I do best and to grow my team with wonderful and uber-talented people who have other specialties and skill sets. 

I can provide the best service to my clients and achieve better work-life balance when I stay in my lane and hire the best people to work with me to grow my business and to manage and complete my client projects.

 

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Motivation or Inspiration? Which Works Best?

really

Many times we’ve heard people say that so-and-so motivated them, or that they were inspired to achieve something. The words “motivation” and “inspiration” are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same.

Simply put, motivation is usually external, while inspiration is usually internal. 

Many people are motivated to achieve a goal or finish a project because of what they will get at the end. What is gained at the end can be either positive or negative.

  • If you are motivated to finish planting your garden, your motivation is what you will see when you are finished: beautiful landscaping or a food garden that will yield enough food for you for a year.
  • If you are motivated to avoid dangerous situations, it is because you know what would await you in that situation is something painful or something you fear.

You can be motivated to make a job change because you will make more money or finally work in the field in which you have your degree.

You can be motivated to stick to your diet because of the fear of diabetes or other health challenges, or even fear of not fitting into your clothes.

Inspiration, on the other hand, is not so much in your control. Have you heard the phrase, “I’ll do it when the mood strikes me”? That is one way of understanding inspiration. Inspiration comes to you, often when you don’t expect it.

Dr. Wayne Dyer gives a great explanation on the difference between motivation and inspiration:

  • When you are motivated, you get hold of an idea and you carry that idea through to its natural conclusion.
  • When you are inspired, the idea gets hold of you and it carries you to where you are supposed to go.

The word “inspire” originally meant being in or with a spirit or “force”. When you are inspired, all blockades and limitations seem to disappear; the “how” just appears. When you are motivated on the other hand, you have to figure out how to get the task done.

What motivates you to achieve something? When have you been so inspired that you knew you just had to do something?

Let us know in the comments section.

 

discreet or discrete–which is correct?

QuestioningHomophones are pairs of words that sound alike but have different spellings and different meanings. Discreet is an adjective that means showing reserve or respect with one’s behavior or speech. The noun “discretion” is derived from “discreet”. Discrete is also an adjective, but it means something distinct, separate, or unrelated. Example: The child gave ten discrete reasons for his actions.

Which homophones are confusing to you? Let us know in the comments section.

If you need assistance with homophones or any other writing, editing, or grammar challenges, feel free to contact the English professionals at Writing It Right For You. We’ll be glad to help you!

 

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The English Language is So Much Fun! (Or is it…)

I found this graphic on my Facebook Page (posted by “Grammarly”) and I just HAD to share it with you!

What English words drive YOU crazy? Let us know in the comments section.

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The Importance of Monthly Business Planning–What I Use

It is the first day of the month, which is the best time for you to take a few hours and make your plans for your business for the upcoming month. It is said that you cannot hit your target if you don’t know what your target is!

Do you know:

* How well did you achieve your goals last month?

* What do you have to change, revise, re-configure so that you will achieve your goals this month?

* What ARE your goals this month?

The time that you take to PLAN NOW, will definitely pay off tomorrow, next week, and next month.

Those of you who follow me and Writing It Right For You know that I LOVE gadgets and apps, but sometimes, some good old-school paper and pen make the best planning tools. I use the productivity planners from Charlie Gilkey, a small business productivity specialist. On his website, Productivity Flourishing, there is a whole suite of paper planners that you can print out for free! There is also a premium planner set that you can purchase–that is the set I use. Every month, I print out my planners and take a few hours to plan out my month. Thanks, Charlie!

 

 

 

 

Do you take the time to regularly plan for your business success? Do you have any favorite tools (digital or paper) that you prefer? Let us know in the comments section!

 

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Celebrating the Legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Most people have at least heard bits and pieces of the “I Have a Dream” Speech delivered by Dr. King in Washington, D.C. on August 25, 1963. But how many have actually read the entire text of the speech? By focusing only on a few of the famous lines, it is possible to miss the entire context. Offered here for you is the entire text; I would encourage you to read it and to evaluate it within the context of the times and also to focus on what can be done today to continue the work and legacy of Dr. King.

 

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

 

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Happy New Year! I Resolve…

2011 to 2012One of the blogs I regularly read is “All Freelance Writing” by Jennifer Mattern. Jennifer, a wonderful role model for freelance writers like me, published a 2012 New Year’s Resolutions blog post the other day. I would like to use her model to publicly state my 2012 resolutions for Writing It Right For You:

1) Make and meet my schedule for all of my websites, my blogs, my upcoming ebooks, and other personal and business projects.

Just like Jennifer, I asked another freelance writer friend, Sharon Hurley Hall how she gets so much written every day. Sharon, who has written two guest posts for this blog, recommended Dragon Dictate, which Jennifer and I have installed, but haven’t used to its full potential. So one of my goals is to really put Dragon Dictate to use to help me write more and faster.

My husband and business partner, Keith Owens, and I have four books almost ready, and our goal is to have them published by the end of this quarter.

2) Ensure a minimum 25% increase in my monthly base income.

I actually declared this resolution last week in a tweet, but I am res-stating that goal here. Our company did pretty well last year, but like all freelancers, our monthly gross income fluctuates–often wildly by thousands of dollars. But we also have several regular and ongoing clients and graduate and post-graduate students–bless ’em–on retainer; they are the ones who provide us with our monthly base income. That monthly base income from retainers is what we will increase this year by 25%.

3) Finalize the revised look and feel of our websites and blogs. 

As many freelancers and small business owners know–especially when you have lots of wonderful clients to work with, it is difficult to stay on track with the other non-income-producing projects that are important but not critical. What I have done is make a project list for each one of the administrative and personal projects I want to complete and I add tasks to those lists as I think of them. Then when I have scheduled open slots in my schedule, I tackle each project one task at a time. That really relieves my stress levels–the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. The same is true for completing all of those projects vying for your attention.

4) Complete the remodeling and re-working of my home office.

Again, this is a work in progress. I know and I have visually (with before/after photos) set up how I want my office to look. It will be a lot of work to totally finish my office, but my goal is to greet spring with a newly remodeled office. Let’s see, that is about March 21 here in the northern hemisphere. I’ll post pictures when that goal is met.

5) Continue to find the right balance between work-family-community.

I LOVE what I do and I am very grateful that my work reflects my passions, my values, and my skills. But again, like all freelancers and SOHO (Small Office Home Office) business owners, I constantly must ensure that I do more than just “work”–especially when my commute to my office is about 5 feet! It is very easy to work all of the time, blur the boundary between home and office, and be constantly connected with all of my computers and gadgets . So this year, I will work especially hard to find the right balance between everything I love to do–and I will try to actually “unplug” for a while every day!

Jennifer had 1o (!) resolutions, but I will stick with 5. That is enough for me!

What are your resolutions for your business in 2012? Do you have any tips or apps or methods that have been successful for you? Let us know in the comment section! Happy New Year!

 

(This post is cross-published to my BlogHer Blog…)

 

 

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NaBloPoMo Day 4

When you are writing, do you prefer to use a pen or a computer?

Well, I stopped writing with primarily pen and paper as soon as I learned how to do word processing on a computer many years ago. At this point, just about everything I write–from notes to myself to research to personal and professional writing is on the computer. The major reason I keep everything on the computer and “in the cloud” is that I can always find what I’m looking for. All of those notebooks I previously used are just on my book shelves and I have no way to quickly “search” their contents.

I still write with pens and paper–especially fountain pens, which are my new favorite. But everything that I want to keep and use as reference for personal and business use, I write by computer.

 

 

NaBloPoMo 2011 Day 3

Can you listen to music and write? What song did you hear today?

For the 3rd day of National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), the prompt asks about a blogger’s music listening habits. Actually, I cannot write WITHOUT music. It may seem strange, but I cannot work in total silence. Unlike many other people, total silence causes my mind to wander, while having music in the background helps me to focus.

I cannot say exactly what one song I heard today. I listen to my iTunes playlist, or I put on one of my 100+ Pandora stations, or I listen to a SiriusXM genre station. I love almost every genre of music. (I even have three (3!) country songs in my playlist–but just three.) When I really need to concentrate, I listen to either classical or jazz–otherwise I start singing along with the track and that is when it is hard to write and listen.

What is your favorite type of music? Do you like to listen to one kind of music at a time, or do you like to mix things up?

 

NaBloPoMo 2011 Day 2

If you knew that whatever you ate next would be your last meal, what would you want it to be?

OK. My answer to today’s blog post prompt might seem maudlin or simply cheesy, but if I were in a “last meal” situation, I wouldn’t care what the meal was. Why would I? The first answer that came to my mind when I read the prompt was: give the food to someone who could really use it. The idea came to me because yesterday, when I was looking for a canned ingredient for today’s dinner, I discovered that I had three and four of the same item–many more food staples than my husband and I could eat in several months. There’s just the two of us here (plus our two rescue dogs) and we always have more than enough food. But just down the figurative street from me, there are many, many people who have NOTHING to eat; and a large number of them are part of the “99%” who never thought they’d be in a “homeless and hungry” situation.

I was brought up to be one of those “bleeding-heart liberals” who believes that we should reach back to help and take care of those who are less fortunate and/or “just ain’t able” (as my grandmother would say), and my natural knee-jerk answer would be to give away what I don’t need.

So whatever would hypothetically happen to me to put me in a “last meal” situation, it would lead me to give my last meal to someone who really needs it to live another day. I would neither need nor want another meal.

 

NaBloPoMo 2011 Day 1

 

 

 

 

 

What is my favorite part about writing?

That is the writing prompt for the first day of National Blog Posting Month: NaBloPoMo, as it is affectionately called. The task is to publish a post every day of the month. This is one of my writing goals for this month.

So, what IS my favorite part about writing? It is hard to choose: the beginning, the middle, the ending? It is hard to decide, but when I think about it, my favorite part is right after I actually start the writing. Writers, like athletes, often get “into the zone” after the starting gun. Sometimes, it’s hard to get going; sometimes there is a lot of preparation research and planning to complete before the actual writing begins. But once the actual writing starts, the words begin to flow.

That is my favorite part of writing: when I’m “in the zone”. In my business, I do all kinds of academic and business writing and editing. I love all of the different writing and editing projects I do and my job is very interesting because I write and edit so many different topics and issues. But no matter what type of personal or professional writing I do, my favorite part is when I’m “in the zone”.

This Day #1 of NaBloPoMo is cross-posted on my page at BlogHer.com.