How to Improve Your Skills When Writing Doesn’t Come Naturally

Share Button

This post was contributed by Alicia Rades of The Writing Realm.

Poetry always came easily to me. I recall writing my first poem when I was 8 years old, and when I reached my teen years, I became an avid and passionate lyricist. But story writing and blogging never came naturally to me until I started practicing like mad to become better. Now, blogging is my favorite form (and probably my personal best form) of writing. Take a look at how I improved my skills and what you can do when writing doesn’t come naturally.

Dedicate Yourself to the Craft

If you don’t want to become a better writer, it’s likely never going to happen. You’ve probably heard of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule, but if you haven’t, it’s the idea that it takes 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to truly master a craft. If you’re doing it full-time, it would take you about 5 years to master the craft of writing, but if you’re not dedicated to actively improving, you’re not going to put that kind of effort into it. So, if you really want to become a better writer, make sure you’re prepared to put in the time.

Take a Training Course

Don’t get me wrong, practice is great, but you aren’t going to get everything you need from practicing without learning what to practice. About a year ago I completed a training course in writing shareable content. At the time, I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know about blog writing, and to be honest, I was scared because I wasn’t very good at it and didn’t know if I would get better. But after I completed the training, my eyes opened up to all these techniques I wasn’t using and tips I should be using. I started practicing, and my skills skyrocketed.

If you’re anything like I was, you’re terrified to take this step, perhaps because you don’t have full confidence in yourself. But believe me, it’s worth it. I’m not going to tell you what course to take since it all depends on the type of writing you want to do and where your skills are lacking, but there are countless bloggers, authors, and businesses online offering training courses. You could even enroll in a local course at a nearby college.

Learn From the Experts

Once you’re done with your training course, you’re still not done learning (and you probably won’t ever be). Take advice from experts who know what they’re doing, have been there, and will help you succeed. I’m not talking about me, either. I’m talking about getting free advice from people at the top of the industry like Joanna Penn, Joe Bunting, K.M. Weiland, and Sophie Lizard.There’s no reason not to learn from these people and read their posts when they have such great advice for free.

Practice Your Writing

Now it’s time to get your 10,000 hours of practice in. Don’t let the 10,000-hour rule get you down. It doesn’t take that long to get good at writing, only to master the craft. If you’re looking to improve your writing, simply practice when you can, and try incorporating these tips into your practice:

  1. Practice often, if only for a few minutes every day.
  2. Don’t worry about the quality of your content at first as long as you’re learning something.
  3. Use feedback in your practicing, whether you ask friends for feedback, post your content online, or evaluate your own writing.
  4. Continue learning from others.
  5. Don’t quit practicing just because you don’t think you’re “good” at it. It will come slowly, but it will come.

Now I want to know what you’re good at and how you were able to improve your skills in that area. Let me know in the comments section.

Share Button

What Does Your Home Office Look Like? I’ll Show You Mine.

Share Button

I love freelancing because it means I’m not confined to a desk. As a matter of fact, there are several places around my home where you will find me working because I don’t like the traditional home office. I think I’d go crazy if I had to stay in the same place all day. Take a look at my favorite work spaces at home.

 With My Feet Up on the Comfy Couch

On the Couch

The number one place you will find me during the day is sitting on my living room couch with my laptop. It’s a comfortable place to work because I get to put my feet up. I usually start my day on the couch and then move around later. I can’t really work on the couch when my husband is at home because our couch is in the only room where we have a TV and I get too distracted from my work when the TV is on. However, if I had to pick just one place to do my work, the couch would be it.

At a Traditional Desk in My Office

Home Office Desk

I like to transition to my traditional desk around noon, mainly because I can eat my lunch without worrying about my drink spilling. I write a good chunk of articles at my desk because I have a really big screen — this lets me open a Word document on one side and have my internet browser open on the other side. That beats clicking back and forth between research and my documents when I’m on my laptop. Additionally, I have the least amount of distractions in my office because the only thing in there is my desk and computer.

Walking on the Treadmill with my Laptop

Treadmill Desk

When you have to be in front of a computer screen to get your work done, it’s easy not to get enough exercise during the week. So, one day I decided to buy one of those laptop shelves that attaches to the handlebars of a treadmill and try to work while walking. I know this sounds crazy, but it works; you just have to walk slowly. Actually, I’m able to increase the speed a bit when I’m simply editing, so that’s when I like to work on the treadmill the most.

I’m not in very good shape, but I do try to stay as active as possible because otherwise my legs get restless and that makes it hard to concentrate. I’ve also tried pedals that you place under a desk to get your legs moving while you work. This worked for a while, but I couldn’t use them anymore when I got a new desk because my knees would hit the bottom of the desk.

Outside on the Back Patio

Back Patio

Another place I like to work is outside. During the warmer months, I really enjoy taking my laptop out to my back patio. However, this isn’t one of my most productive work spaces because I can hear the school bell and noisy kids playing at recess during the week days. I also have a neighbor that likes to play loud music, so I have to move inside when he’s outside working on his car.

So, those are the places you’ll find me working at home throughout the day. Do you do similar things or do you prefer sitting at a desk all the time? I’d like to know. Leave a comment below and links to pictures of your at-home work space.

Share Button

3 Reasons Why You Need a Blog Posting Schedule

Share Button

All major bloggers have some sort of posting schedule. However, it varies from once a week to more than twice a day. If you want to be a successful blogger, you need a posting schedule, and here are three reasons why.

1. It Keeps You Motivated to Create New Content

Content is still the most important part of a blog. Without it, readers have no reason to visit. That’s why you should be creating new content all the time. Having a blog schedule will help you do this because it makes you accountable and helps you stay motivated.

Of course, when it actually comes down to creating a blog schedule, there is a lot of debate about the best time to post and how frequently. For instance, according to Kissmetrics, blogs get the most traffic on Mondays, but the most comments on Saturdays. This might affect when you make your posts go live. Ultimately, your blog posting schedule should be based on what works best for you. Aim high and then adjust your expectations after you know what you can produce. In general, the more you’re able to post, the better.

Having a blogging schedule will help you stay on task, but it shouldn’t interfere with the quality of your posts. That’s why James Chartland of Men with Pens says to ditch your blogging schedule. I don’t think you should kick yourself too much if you miss a day or too, but a schedule does help you create new content on a consistent basis. If you’re having difficulty sticking to a blogging schedule, a better solution is to reduce the amount of articles you want to produce in a week or month.

2. It Helps You Stay Focused on a Specific Theme

Another advantage to having a blog posting schedule is you can create weekly themes. For instance, if you have a food blog, you can write about breakfast on Monday, lunch on Wednesday, and dinner on Friday. Just choose a theme or keyword and then schedule to write about it on a certain day of the week. This makes it easier to come up with blog post ideas, too. That’s what Kelly Kautz of One Woman Marketing tries to do on her blog.

3. It Tells Readers When to Check Back for New Posts

Creating a strong readership is important because it helps spread the word about your blog. One way to help you establish a good following on your blog is to post articles frequently and on a schedule. This tells your readers when to check back for more. Of course, you want to be careful not to overload your readers’ email boxes with updates because this can cause them to unsubscribe. Marcus Sheridan of The Sales Lion says he doesn’t want to slam too much information down his readers’ throats, which is why he only aims to post two times per week.

The important thing to remember when creating a blog posting schedule is to keep your readers engaged. If the quality of your content is suffering because you’re pushing yourself to create too much, your readers will be able to tell and this will damage your reputation.

What is your blog posting schedule and how did you come up with it? Leave a comment below.

Share Button

8 Signs Freelancing Isn’t For You

Share Button

Have you ever dreamed about working from home in your pajamas? Lots of people argue that anyone can do it. To some degree this is true, if you have enough drive and ambition. However, just because you can be a freelancer, doesn’t mean you should. Take a look at these eight signs that freelancing isn’t for you.

1. You Don’t Want to Be On Call 24/7

Many freelancers have a hard time separating work life from personal life because it all takes place in the same space. This can make it seem like you are on call 24/7. And, a lot of the time, you truly are because of your client’s needs. Flexibility can be a curse because it may mean you have to work at all hours of the day.

One time, I worked for a client that had a project manager in India. India is on basically the opposite time schedule as me, so I had to adjust my lifestyle a bit to ensure I returned emails in a timely manner. This meant sleeping with my cellphone close to me so I would wake up whenever I heard an email come in. This was a less than ideal situation, but it’s something you have to be prepared to deal with as a freelancer. Clients expect you to work on their time, which puts you constantly on call.

Even vacations can be affected by the freelance life. A client from the past may email you with new work and you’ll need to respond. Clients wouldn’t be happy if they had to wait a week or more before getting a response. By that point, they probably would have found someone else to do the job.

2. Your Attention Span Is Short and You Can’t Get Organized

You have no supervision as a freelancer. This means you have to hold yourself accountable for the work you do. To be successful, you have to manage your time wisely to stay on target to meet your deadlines. If you’re someone with a really short attention span, this can be a difficult adjustment as you enter the freelancing world.

Additionally, having young children at home can be a major distraction. People think that working at home is the ideal situation because you don’t have to hire daycare, but it actually requires a high level of organization and patience. You have to prioritize your work and juggle lots of other things at the same time without losing focus on your deadlines and goals.

My attention span is less than stellar, but I’ve been working on making it better. I know that when I am really focused, I make more money, which is a huge motivator for me. Having a short attention span will hurt your freelancing career, but it is something you can work on improving. The biggest thing you need to do is minimize your distractions and find self motivators that will keep you on task.

3. You Aren’t an Expert at Anything

The most successful freelancers choose a niche and become an expert. If you’re not willing to do this, freelancing will be hard for you. Sure, there are always content mills that will hire you to write about anything, but landing higher paying gigs requires knowledge, experience, and authority in niche subjects. Clients will deem you an expert if they see a portfolio of articles with similar topics. You can also get a degree in a field where you want to be an expert.

I’ve been a freelance writer since before I got my English degree back in 2008. I enjoy writing about the craft of writing and I’m working on further building my credibility in the subject. Nobody becomes an expert overnight! You have to continually expand your knowledge and stay up to date on trends. Anyone can do this.

I’m also working on building my expertise in technology, small business, freelancing, and marketing. You don’t have to pick just one area of expertise, especially since your interests will change over time. For instance, when I first started out as a freelance writer, I contributed a lot of articles on sewing and crafts since those are some of my hobbies.

4. You Haven’t Built Enough Confidence Yet

Successful freelancers are not afraid to promote their work on social media or anywhere else. You have to gain exposure as a freelancer to get more work and build demand for your services. If you’re afraid of having your name attached to something, freelancing is not a good choice for you. You need to overcome the feelings of self doubt and be willing to show your work to the world. If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will believe in you, either.

Confidence comes after you have become an expert in something. This is because you’ll stop second guessing your information and be willing to stand behind your words. Additionally, the more practice you get, the more confidence you will have because your skills will improve.

At first, I had a hard time putting my bio on articles, especially if I expressed any sort of opinion, because I didn’t want others to judge me or argue my points. At this point, I’ve stopped caring — there will always be people with differing opinions. Plus, my own opinion adapts over time. That being said, I do care about the quality of my work and all freelancers need to be concerned with this, too, because it affects how many clients you get in the future.

5. Dealing with Clients Scares You

As a freelancer, you are your own boss. This means you have no one to go to if you’re having a hard time with one of your clients. If the thought of having complete control over client relationships scares you, you might want to rethink being a freelancer.

Some clients are a breeze to work with and others are very picky with high demands. A lot of the time it is hard to figure out what clients really want. One of my least favorite things about freelancing is feeling the stress of starting a new job every time I get a new client. It is hard, but you won’t have to worry about it as much later in your career when you have a larger client base.

Of course there’s more to dealing with clients than figuring out what they want. You have to maintain the relationship after you finish a project. This means you have to spend extra time reaching out to your clients through friendly emails and newsletters. And the kicker is that you have to do all of this without pay.

6. You Don’t Know How to Negotiate Your Pay

Another difficult thing about being a freelancer is that you have to negotiate your pay. Some people have no problem with this, but it can create an awkward situation. Just make sure that you charge what you are worth and build in time for emails and calls. Remember, if you’re willing to work for minimal pay, that’s all you’ll get.

Also, keep in mind that freelancers do not get insurance benefits like traditional employees. This means asking for a higher hourly rate is acceptable. Getting paid by the project instead of by the word is another great way to increase your pay rate, as long as you work efficiently.

As a side note to negotiating your pay, too many freelancers fall victim to content mill rates. This is because content mill work is the easiest to get as a freelancer. However, working for five cents a word won’t get you anywhere fast. It probably won’t even pay the bills. Some people use content mills as a way to fill in the gaps between better paying clients, but you’re better off spending your time looking for new clients. I really wish more people would think this way so that content mills would go out of business.

7. Money Management Isn’t One of Your Strengths

Being a freelancer means that you run your own business. This requires strong money management skills because you won’t have a steady paycheck. As a matter of fact, your paychecks can be drastically different from one month to the next. I once had a month where I made $4,000 and then the very next month I only made $500. If you want consistency, freelancing is not for you.

Too many people leave their full-time job for the freelance life before considering everything involved. Freelancing does not work for everyone and not everyone can make enough money doing it. It’s best to start out on a part-time basis to determine if it’s right for you before jumping completely in. Also, make sure your savings is built up before you start to help you through the first few rocky months.

8.  Being Alone Bothers You

For the most part, freelancing is solitary work. Sure, there is the occasional phone call or face-to-face meeting with clients, but you don’t truly have coworkers or anyone you can talk to about work on a daily basis. Some people thrive in this type of environment while others go crazy. If you can’t stand to be by yourself all the time, freelancing isn’t for you.

For me, I go through bouts of loneliness, but this is only when I’ve been isolated from friends and family for a while. As long as I can get out and have fun with people on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, working at home doesn’t bother me. I actually didn’t experience any loneliness until I had been freelancing for about a year. Of course, I had some stressful things happening in my life at that time that also could have contributed to it.

If you’re worried about loneliness, you should avoid freelancing or be sure you know how to cope with it. There are ways to get around it. For instance, you can go to a public place to work, such as a library, café, or park. You can also make friends with other freelancers in your community or online and stay connected.

Freelancing is the ultimate job for flexibility, but it is not easy, especially at the beginning when you’re building your client base. You need confidence, determination, talent, and professionalism to thrive in the freelance world. You can make it happen if you really want to, especially if you’re able to overcome the problems with freelancing mentioned in this article.

If you enjoyed this article, please subscribe to my website. There’s a quick email opt-in at the top right of this webpage.

Share Button

5 Ways to Spot a Work at Home Job Scam

Share Button

Website scammers prey on people who want to work from home by making promises about the amount of money you can make and how easy the work is to do. They make the supposed job opportunity sound so good that you won’t want to pass it up. That’s why thousands of people fall victim to these scams each year.

If you truly want to work from home, you have to know how to spot a job scam without your emotions getting in the way. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of questions to ask yourself before signing up for anything.

Does the Website Look Reputable?

Real businesses take the time to design professional looking websites. Scammers open and close template-based websites quickly to avoid getting caught. This means that scam websites don’t usually have the attention to detail found on professional websites. If you come across a website offering a work at home job opportunity but things look like they have been put together haphazardly, you should think twice before trusting the website.

One tell-tale sign that you’re dealing with a scam website is if there is only one page of content. Real businesses typically have several pages of information and may even have a blog where they post news and business updates. Several spelling and grammar errors are another thing to watch out for.

Does the Website Have a Dedicated Domain Name or Security?

Many scam websites do not have a dedicated domain name. For instance, I often see scam websites use blogspot.com instead of buying a domain name and setting up a dedicated website. This is because scammers want to minimize the ways they can be tracked. Buying a domain name requires a credit card, but signing up for a blogspot.com account only requires a name and email address — and it doesn’t even have to be a real name.

Of course, if a website does use a real domain name, this does not mean it offers a real work at home job opportunity. You should also look for “https” at the beginning of the URL instead of just “http.” This means the website has spent money on security, which increases the chances that you’re dealing with a legitimate job opportunity, even though it isn’t failsafe.

Can You Find Real Contact Information?

Scam artists don’t provide real contact information on their websites. This is because they don’t want to be found by the government and they don’t want to be contacted by people they have scammed. If you don’t see a business address listed anywhere or any other type of contact information, the website is probably a scam. However, if you do see contact information, you should verify that it is real by doing a little research on your own, such as calling the phone number or asking a question in an email to see if you get a response.

Legitimate businesses are registered with the Better Business Bureau and list all of their contact information on their website. You should also be able to find out additional information about a business by typing its name into a search engine. If you are turning up very few results, you’re probably dealing with a work at home job scam. Real businesses are not vague about what they do or what they want their employees to do; they don’t hide anything.

Are You Asked to Provide Personal Information?

You should never have to provide your social security number, driver’s license number, bank account information, or any other personal information in order to get a job interview. These are things that only need to be provided after you receive an actual job offer. Always be wary of any website or business that wants personal information up front. Websites that ask for your personal information are typically looking to steal your identity or sale your information to advertisers. Most importantly, never give out your credit card number. There is no reason an employer would ever need this, even after a job offer.

Do You Have to Pay Registration Fees or Buy a Membership?

There is no reason why you should have to pay money to work for a business; they should pay you. This one seems like a no brainer, but if you have to pay any money up front, you’re most likely dealing with a scam. For instance, I’ve seen a scam where you have to purchase software in order to do the job. No legitimate business would make you do this. The only exception is if you have to buy standard office equipment, such as a headset, cellphone, computer, or printer to do your job. Legitimate work at home jobs require no money out of pocket and will not ask you to pay registration fees or buy a membership, either.

When looking for work at home job opportunities, remember the old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Don’t be allured by the promise that you’ll make a fortune, especially if you’re required to do very little for it. Working at home can be a reality, but you’ll have to avoid all the scams to get there.

Have you ever fallen for a work at home job scam? Help others avoid the same mistake by sharing your experience in the comments below.

Share Button

Subscribe to Life of a WAHM

  • Receive Notifications of New Posts
  • Get Special Offers via Email
  • Be the First to Learn of New Products

Enter Your Information Below