A Day in the Life

Fourteen Days into the Venture

hustle hard workToward the end of 2015, I decided to try again in 2016 to start my own venture and to forge my own path. Originally, I planned to write a blog post each day (or every other day) chronicling the long, hard and lonely road, especially since information about the beginning of the journey is hard to come by. Everyone talks after they're successful, after they've made it and, most likely, after others hear about them and want to talk to them about what they are doing. Hardly anyone talks about the early days, before there's traction or product/market fit or paying customers or investments. But, I think those early days are some of the most important to talk about. I think it's important to be open about how shitty some days are and how much work it takes to get traction and product marketing fit. I think we really ought to talk about how deep you have to dig within yourself in order to keep going when no customers show up, when your product isn't working, when you're running out of money and when others tell you that you can't do it.

Then Why Didn't I Start the Conversation?

I don't have a good reason. I wondered what I would write about on those days where I have nothing to show for the fruits of my labors. What's there to say when I don't get the sponsorship deal, or when no one watches the stream, besides reporting that those things happened? Perhaps I would've figured what to write if I actually started writing instead of making excuses.

I understand now that not knowing what to write was a terrible reason, but better start now than never and start the conversation that I think should be had a little more often. It's a much more real conversation to have in my opinion, since success isn't overnight, no matter how much it seems to be from the outside. I also think a conversation likes this acknowledges failures and missteps as part of the process of success instead of the antitheses of success.

If All We Talk about are Winners, then What Does This Say About Losing?

Not everything is going to work. Not everyone wins. Not everyone wins every time. Not every step is a step in the right direction. This doesn't mean those steps were wrong or bad. This doesn't mean that those lonely days where no customers show up are indicative of anything personal or permanent. The days where it feels like you're banging your head against a wall are part of forging your own path, and a part of life. In hindsight, the tough moments are easier to canonize and incorporate into the larger story of success. But, on that day, without hindsight, it just sucks.

But, failures and missteps are okay. They only represent who you are if you choose to let them represent you.

So, before I can fit failures and bad days neatly into a narrative of victory, I'm going to start the conversation and document the lonely road on this venture. I know it will take a lot of hustle and hard work. I know the great things won't happen overnight.

I know a lot of people will tell my I'm crazy, that I ought to quit, that I can't do it, that it's not possible etc. Those comments are going to come. Shrugging all of that off is easier said than done. Sticking to your guns is easier said than done. I'm not writing this post and wanting to have this conversation because I'm delusional about myself and my abilities. I'm doing this, and want to do this, to showcase how hard it is not to be.

Content Marketing Tech Tool of the Week: Dreamstime

dreamstime business bloggingThis week's Tech Tool of the Week is especially crucial if you do a lot of business blogging It's no secret that pictures make your blog posts more attractive, and pulling your pics from Google searches can get you into trouble. The best way to avoid the copyright hassle is to use stock photos, and my favorite place to go to for stock photos is Dreamstime, this week's Tech Tool of the Week. There are many places to go to get stock photos, and granted not every stock photo would be fun or appropriate to use for a blog post (check out these Awkward Stock Photos), but the reason that I like Dreamstime is because it has free stock photos as well as ones that you need to pay for. Even through the free ones sound like they may not be very good, some of them aren't that bad at all. I've done a little of both, and keep them on my hard drive. This is just in case I could use the photo again for another article or blog post. This is also so I get my money's worth out of the one's I've purchased.

Granted, Dreamstime may not be as robust as iStock Photo with illustrations, audio, and video to choose from, but I don't need those as often as I need the photos. Plus, both work on similar pricing models, so although one may seem expensive for photos, it's really more of the going rate. And, yes, you can get your photos free from online searches and places like Creative Commons, but Dreamstime has a much better portfolio. I've never had any trouble finding a suitable image for my needs. I definitely have had that problem in Creative Commons.

If you need photos, then use this week's Tech Tool of the Week. That way, you don't have to worry about sourcing and licensing and copyright.

Content Marketing Tech Tool of the Week: Google Calendar

content marketing calendarGetting all those deadlines straight can be tough. Even tougher may be setting your own deadlines to weekly or reoccurring work. Either way, it all needs to be organized, remembered, and stuck to like a diet regimen. There are many ways to do it, but this week's Tech Tool of the Week is the method that I prefer: Google Calendar.

Most people probably use Google Calendar as a daily or weekly planner. I prefer a paper one for the daily and weekly stuff. I like being able to see my entire day at once with a paper planner, while with online calendars like Google Calendar, you have to do a lot of scrolling. I hate scrolling, as I see no reason why online calendars have to show the hours of 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.. No one ever schedules anything for that time of night, except sleeping. Anyway, Google Calendar is great for things like deadlines, where there's not necessarily a certain time something is due, just a date. As include those at the top, as shown in the pic, and color code them depending on the publication or client (there are a few weeks when I feel that Google Calendar could use more colors).

I went this route originally because these deadlines clogged my planner. I had Google Calendar as part of my iGoogle home page, and figured that seeing each day's deadlines would be helpful for me. I also like that I get reminders each day via text message, just in case I forget. I also update the calendar every Friday, so I can plan for the week ahead. This helps me to spread out my work throughout, so I don't have eight things due on Tuesday, for example. It also helps me to gauge how busy my week is going to be before it even begins.

Using Google Calendar keeps me from putting certain tasks off and allows me to accomplish a certain amount of things each day. Do you use Google Calendar? If so, how? If not for deadlines, what do you do to keep track of deadlines? I'd love to hear about your thoughts and techniques.

How to Blog: Always Do Good Work. No Matter What

I rode the bus home from my meeting last night. It was a cold, wet night, standing 20 minutes in the rain after missing the earlier bus by seconds. I was tired. I wanted to go home. The next bus couldn't come soon enough.

While waiting, I noticed someone familiar waiting for the bus as well, amongst the 10 or 15 of us on this poorly lit bridge, all of us either heading home after a long day or heading to work for the night shift. I didn't say anything at first. It was so dark that I couldn't be sure that I knew him or not, and if it wasn't who I thought it, I could mistakenly annoy someone who had no interest in being bothered.

Once the bus came and we boarded, turns out I was right. That man that looked familiar was Dre, a custodian at one of the academic buildings at Saint Louis University. Dre and I shared many late nights during my time at SLU as my friends and I spent out time studying in the building that he still cleans today. We caught up with each other and it was the shortest bus ride home ever.

In our conversation, Dre told me that he still has the article that I wrote about him over four years ago. It was one of my first articles with the campus newspaper. The newspaper needed someone for their "Let Us Introduce You" column, and I thought Dre would be a good choice. He's always been popular among the students, and he's been there for quite a while. Plus, the column doesn't feature university staff like the custodians or food service workers all that often.

Anyway, I wrote the article after interviewing Dre when he was on shift. He spoke about his family, and his time working at SLU, and about growing up in St. Louis. When we came to Dre's stop on the bus route, he let me know that the article still means a lot to him, and will mean more than any plaque or award that he could get.

The article is less than 500-words, and probably didn't take more than 90 minutes of my time, including the interview. However, what matters what that I took the time to do it, and to do it well.

Moral of the Day: Take the time to do things well and to do a good job, even on the simplest or what may seemingly be the most meaningless of things. You never know if those things will mean something to someone else.

Funniest "Writer Wanted" Ads, Part 2

happy face ballsHere's another round of funny "Writer Wanted" ads. Okay, maybe there's one or two that aren't specifically for writers, but are still funny anyway. I wasn't actually planning to do a part two, until a friend sent me the first one and suggested that I keep going. So, enjoy!

Compile a Hilarious Collection of Jokes about Women

I am looking for a writer to compile a monster book of jokes on the topic of women. The jokes can be clean, dirty, old, new, used, borrowed, blue.

The end product will be an eBook with a minimum of 299 jokes in total and all making fun of women.

PLEASE NOTE that I am looking for a talented writer to work with LONG TERM and will need you to also write other reports , compilations and books in the very near future providing your work is of the highest quality and your price is reasonable.

Please keep in mind that I do require the following from you;

A signed contract stating that this is a WORK FOR HIRE creation that you will own no rights to and that your name will appear nowhere on or within and that I will own all rights to including resell and distribution rights.

The report must be written in;
A font size of 12 points
Times new roman font type
Single spaced
With margins no more than 1” on all sides (left, right, to, bottom)

I also need you to include;
- An amusing 1-2 paragraph introduction that simply explains what the book is about and what it covers. (THIS IS A MUST!)

The completed project is to be delivered in Microsoft word within 14 days of me selecting you. 

Again, I am looking for a talented and original writer to work with long term on a variety of topics as long as your content is of quality and your price per report is reasonable.

This is a VERY EASY job, especially if you are a great writer and researcher, so please bid fairly.

I am not looking to pay any more than $25 for this

IMPORTANT – My codename for this project is Bushby. Please use this codename in your reply to let me know that you have fully read this post, understand completely what to do and that you can do it efficiently to produce high quality work.

Thank you for taking a look at this project and I look forward to developing a long lasting working relationship with you.
We are looking for a humorous writer who can blog about the office dog called Oscar. The premise is that he is a dog that lives in a dog food factory; and each day he’s attempting to get his paws on the food. There is a cat that lives nearby who is his arch nemesis who seems to always get the better of him and wins more food than him. That’s the idea… We’d like to blog a few times per week; ideally the blog would include a cartoon of this weeks story. I would be open to the blog being a cartoon style as long as we had copy to blog.
I have a friend who is a politician in the public service sector who needs some public relations to help improve his image. I wonder if you have some ideas on what you can help with re: blogging, press releases, maintaining a website etc etc. etc.. Is there a way to talk over the phone? Thank you.
Hi. Here is the project and the background, etc. My boyfriend's cat died this summer. We just had a couple of photos of her and they aren't very good - have attached the best one. I need to have the photograph of the cat (just head and shoulders) made into a line type drawing. Something artsy and eclectic, but I want it to look like her - her face and eyes, etc. I paint as a hobby, so I would take that line drawing and transpose onto probably canvas and then paint and add my own personal touches. Thanks. 
I would like a summary of all the Real Housewives Of Atlanta episodes (there have been 3 seasons) and something about the new seasons episode. Document type: Opinion or Editorial, Blog or Web Content Topic or topics to be covered: Summary Of Housewives Of Atlanta Episodes Primary message of the document A summary of Housewives Of Atlanta episodes Target audience Fan of the show Desired length: 2000+ Additional comments: An episode guide 

I just signed up for Match.com and after showing a few friends, they think it needs an overhaul to attract the right kind of woman. I need a woman's touch and opinion for this job

Knowing What You Don't Do in Content Marketing Services

stop signThe DISC Assessment is a personal assessment tool that determines who you are by determining what you aren't. Many companies use this assessment to learn more about their employees and how to improve productivity, teamwork, and communication among each other in the office. I took this assessment almost a year ago when I was with CMS Solutions, and the results of that assessment were incredibly accurate, showing that what you aren't, and what you don't do, are just as important as knowing what you are and what you do.

When developing your freelancing or content marketing services business, you spend a lot of time figuring out who we are by determining what sort of services we will offer. But, with that it's also important to think about what services you won't do, no matter how much money you are offered. You never know when someone is going to want something done that you never considered doing before, and you can't be everything to everyone. So, it's vital to the business and you're branding to think about what sort of content marketing services you will never do under any circumstance.

For me, one of those services that I will never do is grant writing. From my understanding, grant writing requires special certification that I don't have and have no intention of obtaining. Fortunately, I know a few folks who are certified grant writers that I could pass along if I ever come across a lead who wants grant writing services.

Another one of those services that I don't do is social media management. This may seem crazy since it's a service a lot of people want, but I think that social media management needs to come from inside the company and needs to be done on a daily basis. I am not "inside" any one company and I do not have the time to manage the Facebook and Twitter accounts of multiple clients. Managing my own is hard enough. This one is based on personal philosophy and research, and while I will promote other companies and their content through my own social media channels from time to time, I will not do it on their channels. Any company who wants to outsource social media is making a bad move, in my humble opinion.

Knowing what you don't do provides focus, and allows you to market the services that you do better. For example, you could specifically target those services that you do offer, such as press release writing, or blog writing, or whatever it may be, instead of a jack/jill of all writing trades. It's much better for search engine optimization and it specifically targets the needs of potential clients. How often does a company need a writer to do just about everything? Not that often. More likely, that potential client needs a few select services, or maybe just one service or two. After all, if the company did need a writer for anything and everything, the company would be better off hiring someone full time instead of on a project basis.

Have you ever taken some time to think about what you don't do and what sorts of things you don't write? If you haven't, you probably should. You don't necessarily have to tell people your reasons, but it's a good thing to keep in mind when considering content marketing services.

Non-Tech Tips and Tricks to Improving Productivity

If you are aware of my work on Smallbiztechnology.com, you may have noticed that I've written about office productivity more than once. Since it is a tech blog, I tend to cover different types of software that improve productivity, or ways to use technology to improve productivity. As cool and helpful as technology is, let's not forget how helpful those non-tech tools can be.

I get the feeling that productivity is the newest buzzword. That might be because school has just started, so there's now a lot more focus and hype on time management and getting things done. Or, it could be that the final quarter of the year is coming up (October is next week, can you believe it?), so more people are focusing on meeting goals and quota before the third quarter and the year are up. Whatever the case, if you have a few things that you need to get done, here are a few tips and tricks that I personally use to get things done:

  1. Set a Daily Quota - Hopefully, you already make a daily to-do list. If you don't, consider that Tip #0. If you do already make a daily to-do list, then set a daily quota for the number of tasks you will do from the list. I used to set mine at 50 percent. So, whether I have 20, 40, or 60 tasks on the list, I set a quota of completing half of those tasks. That was a bit of an easy quota, so I upped it to two-thirds. I'm doing well with that new quota, but there have been a few days where I didn't quite make it. Once that number gets too easy, then I'll up it 75 percent. This works because this keeps me from getting overwhelmed by a lengthy to-do list.
  2. Select the Tasks That Meet the Quota - After you set the quota, then select the tasks that you will do in order to meet the quota. For example, if your list has 30 tasks, and you've set your quota at 50 percent, then you need to do 15 tasks to meet that quota. Once you know that you need to do 15 tasks, pick the 15 tasks from the list that you will do. I've just started doing this, but I've found that this saves me the time from deciding which of my many things to do next and prevents me from losing motivation because I've lost interest in doing any of the remaining tasks. Selecting tasks also organizes your priorities, so you may find that you're doing the important things first, and reducing your stress in the meantime.
  3. Develop a Routine - I like when things are orderly and predictable, so developing a routine in performing certain task has been helpful for me. When I wake up in the morning, I do my emails, marketing, and follow ups with my cup of coffee. I do this every morning. At 2 p.m., I do the work I need to do for Smallbiztechnology.com, since that's when the Google Alerts come it. It's a natural launchpad to getting some work done. I read what I need to over lunch, which I usually take at around 12 p.m. Since I've paired behaviors and tasks together, it's come to a point where something is wrong if I am not working on certain things at certain times.
  4. Eat Lunch - I don't understand how folks can go without eating lunch. Eventually, my hunger gets distracting, and I can't work unless I get something to eat. Please eat lunch. It not only gives you a break and a chance to work on easier tasks, but it's also good for your health. Good breaks and good health can make it easier to work when you need to. Plus, lunch breaks give you the chance to get out of the office. I usually take that time to run to the bank or pick up some groceries.

Overall, technology is helpful for productivity, but we certainly shouldn't forget about the things that we do offline and off the computer. Those things can be equally as helpful, or as destructive, to our productivity as we allow them to be.

Treating Every Minute Like the Last Minute

Just last week, I finally finished a project proposal, one that I've been putting off for almost two weeks. I put it off because I'd never completed a project proposal before, and didn't look forward to the idea of finding a template and rewriting words to fit my purposes. However, once I got it in, the potential client was immediately interested in what I had to offer his company. Just yesterday, we signed a contract and I am one-third of my way to this week's goal: three new clients. Now, imagine if I had gotten that project proposal done one week sooner, or even the day that I was asked to put together the proposal. I could have had this client sooner, meaning more work on my plate and eventually, more money in my pocket.

Even the best of us procrastinate from time to time. There are just projects and tasks that we dread doing, or simply have no motivation to do. It then occurred to me that you can really do something about procrastination if you treat every minute like the last minute. That way, you're always procrastinating, but you're always productive at the same time. It's a good tactic, especially if things actually do come up at the last minute, like a meeting or an interview.

Psychologists cite procrastination as a mechanism for coping with the anxiety of starting or completing a task, or in making a decision. Procrastination is only procrastination is the high-priority task is replaced by a task of these three criteria: counterproductive, delaying, and needless. Since procrastination is based on a sense of anxiety, treating every minute like the last minute may seem counter-intuitive. After all, who wants to spend every minute anxious and stressed? However, Psychology Today says that procrastination is the result of the mismanagement of emotions. When we procrastinate, there's difficulty in regulating our emotions today, as well as predicting our emotions for tomorrow. By treating every minute like the last minute, your at least taking control of your emotions and regulating how you feel day by day.

According to Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at De Paul University in Chicago, real procrastinators tell themselves five lies:

• They overestimate the time they have left to perform tasks.

• They underestimate the time it takes to complete tasks.

• They overestimate how motivated they will feel the next day, the next week, the next month -- whenever they are putting things off to.

• They mistakenly think that succeeding at a task requires that they feel like doing it.

• They mistakenly believe that working when not in the mood is suboptimal.

Essentially, procrastination is a problem of self-regulation, not time-management, laziness, or ambition as it is usually thought to be. By learning how to regulate ourselves, from there, we can learn how to regulate our time and our goals. By treating every minute like the last minute, we begin that process of regulation, since we are now taking control of our emotions, instead of leaving them to the whim and possibility that "I'll be motivated to do it tomorrow." By doing this, we're saying "I feel like doing it now" instead of waiting on the motivation to come.

Content Marketing: What it Is and Why It's Important

content marketing, what is content marketing, why is content marketing importantContent marketing is defined as a marketing format that involves "the creation or sharing of content for the purpose of engaging current and potential consumer base." With more and more publications moving online, or developing an online presence, and with more and more businesses publishing content for marketing purposes (whether it's in the form of a blog, white paper, ebook, or case study), it's become vital for freelancers to understand content marketing and how to write content for marketing purposes. Previously, marketing content was more of the copy writing stuff such brochures, direct mail and ad copy. Nowadays, more businesses want to market by being less salesy and more informative. After all, people don't like to be sold to, but people do like finding and receiving valuable information on the things they want and need. This is where content marketing comes in. If someone is in the market for a car, for example, providing valuable information on car maintenance, which types of cars are best for snowy weather, and on how to buy car insurance, would be great. Only talking about the car sales your having and the newest models you have isn't exactly helpful, as the person looking to buy a car isn't any more knowledgeable about these models and about what type of car would best suit him or her.

True, magazines and trade publications may still be great places for freelancers to earn money, but don't overlook content marketing and this new style of corporate communications. Over 50 percent of blog readers say that blogs are useful in providing purchasing information. Meaning, blogs are influential in consumer behavior. Every minute, 60 new blogs are created. With growth like that, if a business doesn't have a blog, it's very likely a competitor will. If you're in the market for a car, and one dealership has a blog and is offering valuable information, and the other is just putting ads on the television, which one would you think is more knowledgeable about their product and their customers needs? Which one would you rather purchase from?

If you're a freelancer who hasn't considered content marketing as a great way to make money (and to market your services) then you should give it shot. Offer these services to a few small businesses in town and see what happens. Target a few who may already have a blog running, but could use a bit of help. You'd be surprised by the results.

When It's Time to Let Go: Dropping a Content Marketing Client


Clients come and go. That's just the nature of the beast of freelance writing, and business in general. The client runs out of work, or runs out of money, or decides to switch gears with its business or marketing plan. But, there are times when you simply have to let a client go.

I don't mean turning down a client if he or she asks you to work for them again. I mean severing business ties, although politely and professionally. There are clients, no matter how green their money is and no matter how much they are willing to work with you, who simply aren't worth the time and effort.

I understand that it's a difficult notion to face. No one likes to say "no," especially when it's a "no" to paying work and valuable experience. But, if you have that gut feeling that the business relationship just isn't right, find an appropriate time to cut off relations, once and for all. Here are a few instances to help solidify that gut feeling, if you're on the fence about a client or two.

  1. Outside Your Niche or Expertise - I had a blogging gig that lasted about six months. It was for a social network for scientists and researchers called iAMscientist. The blog involved topics such as science news and science recruiting, you know, things relevant to that community. I agreed to the gig in the first place because the network was one of my first clients, and I really needed to get my feet off the ground. But, I terminated the gig because even after six months, the blogging never got any easier. I don't have any degree or background in the hard sciences. It was tough from week to week to come up with ideas, since there were topics that I didn't have the skill set to write about and very few in this area that I did. So, I quit to open up that time to gigs for which I was better suited.
  2. Disappearing Acts - I've had a few clients who promised me ongoing, regular work, assigned me a few things, and then disappeared for weeks. No work. No responses to any emails or phone calls. Nothing. After a while, I stop chasing. Why waste my time chasing when I can spend that time working with clients that actually have the time of day to respond to my emails and calls, or who trust me enough to assign responsibilities so I can work without their tutelage? After all, when you finally do hear from those magician clients, they expect you to pick up the same workload that you could afford six weeks ago. Umm... things change in six weeks. I still have to make money and pay my bills. Do they really expect you to be waiting around for them? After two disappearing acts, I call it quits, because I certainly won't wait around.
  3. The Point of Contact - Drop these clients as quickly as possible. These are the clients that appoint someone as a point of contact for them. I don't mean someone who's representative of a company or a department. I mean when Joe is the point of contact for Sally, and Sally is the true representative of the company or department. In my experience, Joe doesn't quite know what Sally wants, has little decision making power himself over the project, and often has to defer to Sally anyway for just about everything. Essentially, Joe is a middleman, and a poor one at best. These sorts of clients waste time and create headaches for a return that just isn't worth it.
  4. Pay is Too Low - Not that I only care about the money, but as freelancers we're businesspeople who need to think about the bottom line. I just terminated business with a client because the publication slashed its article rates in HALF. The full price was already a little lower than what I would like, but it provided a chance to develop a niche that I wasn't developing elsewhere. But, the new rate would put me below minimum wage for the amount of time it takes to do one article. If I can make more money working at McDonald's for the same amount of time, then it's simply not worth it anymore.
  5. Credit Where Credit is Due - Get the feeling that your client is treating you like trained monkey instead of a paid professional with ideas and expertise? Yeah, I've gotten that feeling too. This client leaves little room for your questions and input. He or she simply tells you what to do, with the expectation that you won't do anything more than that. I have a client like this (who's also a #2 by the way), who steps on the gas pedal during our Skype conversations and doesn't let up til he's done and is ready to get off the call. He doesn't ask what I think about things of if I have any ideas on the project. He rambles about his ideas, asks every now and then if I'm following along and that's it. Since he's a #2, I'm chucking him the next time he disappears. If I'm not going to be given the chance to be invested in the project by actually contributing, instead of just following orders, then I won't be invested. I'll find someone else who wants me to be invested.

It's not fun to terminate business with a client, especially if the client may not see it coming. It may be particularly hard to find a good moment to do it, and to develop an explanation that's more polite and professional than "you're a horrible client and I just don't want to deal with you no more." But, there are times when it has to be done. It's better for you in the long run, and it's probably better for the client too.