Archive for Working at Home

The NYT is Good for Something, Or Why I Got Roses Just Because

Newsflash: The New York Times still serves a valuable purpose in the lives of ordinary Americans.

My husband came home one day this week and presented me with a lovely bouquet of flowers. Why? Just because…

He explained he was reading this article about how children increase marital tensions and he just wanted to let me know that he appreciates me and all I do for our family.

The articles discusses how children bring happiness, but they can also bring stress into your relationship with your spouse.

My husband and I love each other, and we adore our children. Sometimes all of the juggling of doctor’s appointments, and household chores, and daily routines on top of our careers can become overwhelming. It is definitely important to have a reminder now and then that we need to set aside quality time for each other.

How about you? Do children bring couples closer together? Or did you have more time and energy for your mate before the babies?

15 Tips for Freelance Writing Success

I am a freelance writer, I make a fairly good living working about 10-15 hours a week, and I currently have more available assignments than I can take.

Working from home, I make about $40-50/hr for writing texts and curricula and $75-130 per magazine article.

If you are interested in becoming a professional writer, check out my list.

I am not trying to sell you anything. Of course, if you find these tips helpful and want to give me an ego boost, you can head over to Mamanista!, subscribe to our newsletter, and visit our affiliates and sponsors if you see anything you like.

So, why I am sharing this information with you? Because I am tired of seeing desperate housewives scammed. People are constantly asking me, Should I subscribe to this service? Is this a good offer? How do I get paid to write? Because I don’t think this is a zero sum game, I’m happy to share some of what I have learned. Maybe you’ll share some tips with me, too, about this subject, or something else down the line.

If you have a tip to share, need clarification, or like my list and want to see more, leave me a comment!

1. Don’t write for companies for free:
Value your own writing and others will do the same. If someone is making money off your writing, you should get something in return as well.

2. Two exceptions: Non-profits and Blogging. If you can provide a service to a non-profit, that is worthwhile for both the joy of contributing to a worthy cause and for networking benefits. Blogging is unique because it relies so much on community-building and because the immediacy of the Internet allows you to see the benefits of “guest blogging.” Check out ProBlogger if you are mainly interested in Blogging.

3. You’re an expert: Honestly evaluate your interests, skills, and experience. Everyone has a story to tell, everyone has something to share. Sit down and write down everything you enjoy, everything you can do, and all of the valuable experience you have acquired.

4. Identify niches and markets: Use the list you brainstormed and locate magazines and companies in your market. Do your research and learn about the sections in each magazine, the style, and any upcoming themes and topics.

5. Submit queries to these magazines: Queries are usually a brief summary of the article you propose to write, your sources for the article, and your qualifications for this article. Some magazines may request longer outlines, others may even require complete manuscripts. If you really believe in an article, it may be worth writing the entire piece because you can always re-work it later for another publication. Regardless, remember that you are trying to catch your reader’s attention and show off your talents and style as a writer.

6. Think outside the box: A lot of people want to publish their short story in the New Yorker, review Indie bands for the Village Voice, or have their children’s story published as a board book. Definitely keep working towards those dreams, but also consider alternative venues. Find smaller publications, industry magazines , and other places where you can showcase your writing AND get paid. Magazines for children are interested in original fiction, an airplane in-flight magazine may want your tips on area wines, and your community newspaper may have an opportunity for you to review local theater productions.

7. Consider corporate opportunities: Corporations produce website articles, training seminars, internal newsletters, mailings to their customers, and billions upon billions of words. Some of this work is done in house but a lot is hired out to freelance contractors. This may or may not be your dream job, but no matter what your area of expertise, chances are there is a paid opportunity to write about it.

8. Work those connections:
If you have special access to an interesting interview subject, that may get your foot in the door. Do not be afraid to use those connections! At first I did not include my university in my queries. Then, I mentioned a class with a specific professor at that university and BAM!–instant acceptance. There are ways to ask people for assistance (a genuine compliment won’t hurt!) without bugging them. Just do your homework first so you have something to show and you do not waste your chance to get good advice and introductions. If you have a genuine connection to a person or an institution, do not be afraid to use it.

9. Promote yourself: Stop blushing. You are trying to succeed and fulfill your dreams, not win a humility contest. If you don’t broadcast your strengths and talents, no one else will. If you have sold a story, you are a writer, not “kind of a writer” or “dabbling in writing.” Get yourself some business cards, especially if you are interested in technical writing or copy writing. Ask that agent or publisher for her contact information. You never know who you might run into.

10. Stretch yourself: If a topic interests you, don’t turn down a story just because you are not already a full fledged expert. If you can think of a plan for how to become an expert in the topic, then go for it. Don’t ever “fake it” (besides being just plain wrong, it is easier than ever for people to catch you, call you out, and destroy your reputation), but don’t sell yourself short, either.

11. Focus: Seek out industry-specific directories and search engines. I found wading through the jobs at Monster.com to be somewhat counter-productive, but I have found several lucrative contracts at Agent K-12, which is specifically aimed at educators.

12. Consider re-print rights: When deciding whether or not accept a project, factor in whether or not you retain the rights to your material. As you progress as a writer, you may find preserving the rights to your material a valuable benefit.

13. Think ahead: This is what I am working on right now. I make good money and am able to stay at home with my baby and for that I am grateful. However, I do not want to lose sight of my larger goals. Sometimes it is worthwhile to turn down profitable projects to allow you time and energy to focus on where you want to be. To take this a step further, sometimes less lucrative projects are worthwhile if they move you towards your goals. Should I spend my precious work hours on a project that ads nothing to my skill set or portfolio but will allow me a few more luxuries, or one that pays less but will give me more credibility. Determine your writing goals (making money? becoming an expert? publishing a dream project?), develop a strategy, and consider your tactics.

14. Keep writing: No matter what, keep writing. Share your writing. Seek out critiques, but stay true to your voice. Writing is a skill that improves with exercise, so keep it up.

15. Don’t be a sucker: If someone asks you to pay a fee upfront (legitimate agents will take a percentage), or promises you that you will get rich quick–run! If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

BONUS: 8 Valuable Freelance Writer Resources:

Markets:

1. Writing For Dollars: This newsletter has genuine tips and three paying markets in every issue.

2. Writers Write: Tons of resources, including guidelines for thousands of paying markets.

3. Lifetips: Establish yourself as a guru and earn money–you can also collect your tips into an e-Book. One of my friends in marketing hires people from this site. They screen to ensure their writers know what they are talking about. If you have determined your area of expertise, honed your skills, and accumulated experience, Lifetips will help you find paid opportunities.

Resources for Writing a Book

4. 78 Reasons Why Your Book May Never Be Published and 14 Reasons Why It Just Might: My friend who works for a major publishing house said this is the book to read if you are trying to get published.

5. Literary Market Place: Locate publishers and others in the industry.

6. Everyone Who’s Anyone: Advice, tips, lists, directories…lots of stuff.

Professional Blogging

7. Problogger: If you are interested in making money as a blogger, Problogger is a daily must read.

8. Blog Mastermind: Even Problogger and eMom recommend Yaro Stark’s guide to blogging for profit.

Mommy Books: More Buzz Than Buyers

Super Dad and I were just talking about what sort of market there actually is for all of these mommy books out there. And today he sent me this article:

Mommy Books: More Buzz Than Buyers By MOTOKO RICH

My first thought before even reading is that this is about more than Mommy Books–it is about books about “us.” “Us” being pretty much any demographic that has been identified, buzzed, and marketed to.

The books I purchase generally fall into three categories: useful references I believe I will turn to repeatedly (baby books by doctors, good cookbooks); non-fiction that reminds me I used to fancy myself edumacated; and fiction that I know to be or hope is a work of astounding beauty.

None of these include books that cause me to say, “Yup, that’s right. My friends and I say that all the time. And here it is. In print. Cool.”

It is not that those sorts of interesting ideas paired with anecdotes don’t have their place–I’m an avid blog reader and I do occasionally read magazines–it is just that reading a book is a commitment. These books just don’t justify that sort of expenditure of time…or money. $24? I could buy one piece of ultra-chic baby clothing with that…or a whole bunch of really cheap things for Baby Diva to destroy. Either way, more fun.

Here are some excerpts from the article and my thoughts:

But the book that prompted [Moen] to write a 1,200-word post on her blog,
www.mommiesparadise.com, was “The Feminine Mistake” by Leslie Bennetts, which Ms. Moen has not read and has no intention of reading.

Having seen an article from HuffingtonPost.com by Ms. Bennetts and a review of the book […] Ms. Moen believes that she knows enough about it to debate its premise.

“I really think she laid out what she wrote about in the book in the article,” Ms. Moen said. “The whole article rubbed me the wrong way, so I’m not inclined to read the book.”

A lot of these ideas are fascinating enough to sustain a blog post, an article, or even an essay…but a whole book? So much of these books seem to be padding, or they repeat themselves over and over.

But the truth is that, with rare exceptions (and it’s too early to say whether Ms. Bennetts’s book may be one of them), these so-called mommy books fail to transform their talk-show and blogosphere buzz into book sales. Talk, it turns out, is much cheaper than the $24.95 cover price.

“There is a lot of discussion out there about this issue and that’s why we’re having these books,” said Nancy Sheppard, vice president of marketing at Viking, which last year published “Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World” by Linda R. Hirshman. “But it’s mostly just a discussion.”

Discussion. We can get that on bulletin boards and blogs and with our friends. I am more interested in hearing a wide variety of opinions surrounding this idea than lots and lots of words on the topic from one woman.

[…] What is striking about these limp sales figures is that these books cover a topic that raises fierce passions, as anyone who has spent time on a playground or near an office water cooler knows. But that may get at the heart of why women are not buying books about these subjects.

“I always felt it was something that women didn’t want to look at too closely,” said Jonathan Burnham, publisher of HarperCollins, who was editor in chief at Talk Miramax Books when Ms. Hewlett’s book, which suggested that women who pursued high-powered careers could end up childless, was published five years ago. “It was a problem that touched very complicated feelings, so while they read a magazine article or watched a segment on ‘Oprah,’ they didn’t want to read a whole book about it because it was such a difficult subject.”

Oh, please. If a book is truly challenging or earth shattering, people will read it no matter how disturbing the truth it expresses. Maybe no one is buying it because they just aren’t interested in reading it. Not buying it.

Because it’s such an unresolved issue, women have a “desperate need to express their feelings and have a discussion,” Naomi Wolf, the feminist writer, said. “You don’t really need to buy a book to do that.”

Wow. I agree with Naomi Wolf.

“Among full-time homemakers, this overdeveloped capacity for denial is often
accompanied by a highly combative sense of indignation about views that
challenge their own,” Ms. Bennetts wrote in a HuffingtonPost.com article.

Now, I find it appalling that someone attacked Ms. Bennetts’ weight and appearance instead of her ideas. However, Ms. Bennetts, just ’cause you use big words, it doesn’t mean it isn’t an ad hominem attack. Haven’t you ever watched the British Parliament? Saying that anyone who disagrees with you is in deep denial is not helping your cause. The buzz ain’t selling your book and it will only prolong your fifteen minutes just a few more seconds. Get back to the ideas and I may be interested. Otherwise, blow.

“I guess the media world has changed in such a way that a book is just a pretext for television appearances and blogging and writing for The New Republic,” Ms. Hirshman said. “If the world is divided into people who don’t need my message and women who don’t want to hear it, it’s a miracle I sold any books.”

But for many busy mothers, it is simply the only-so-many-hours-in-the-day factor. “I’m home-schooling, I have three children, and my reading time is limited,” said Heather Cushman-Dowdee of Los Angeles. With many of the mommy books, she said, “I think I get their points through the articles that they’re writing without needing to delve in.” Declining to buy the books, she said, is a way to “protect your sanity a little bit.”

This is a fascinating comment on our society. Hopefully we really are taking that time and spending it on something useful instead.

Speaking of which, I should go do some writing and then get some rest so I can enjoy playing with my baby tomorrow.