Monday, June 30, 2008


In my never-ending quest to find new writing opportunities, I signed up with Helium. In their own words, "Helium is home to thousands of writers who share their expert knowledge, insight and point of view on virtually any topic." I signed up because they have a page where magazines place "ads" for articles they want written on a variety of topics. Up until late last week, I've never seen anything on the list that I felt knowledgeable enough to write about.

On Friday, I found an ad for an "experience" article, and decided to submit. The parameters (write 200-250 words about the best intern experience you ever had in the media/entertainment industries) were somewhat vague, but I had an internship at Ohio Magazine in college, and that seemed to me to fit the bill.

A few hours later, I went back to the site and saw that my article was ranked first out of 2. Then I was first out of 5. Then fifth out of 19 . . . every time I looked the ranking was different. Curious, I went to their help section to learn about their rating system.

Turns out that the rating is done by other Helium members, not by the publishers (the rank does determine whether or not a publisher will look at your article, though). It also turns out that not all of the members who rated my article felt that magazine publishing falls within the media/entertainment industries, so I don't feel too bad about finishing tenth out of 21 and seeing that big red "Unpurchased" next to my article.

I'm curious if any other freelancers who might stumble across this post have used Helium before, and what their thoughts on the site might be. Anyone care to comment?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Friendship, friendship. That's the perfect blendship.

A few days ago I had a conversation with someone with whom I will hopefully be working in the near future. He mentioned that he had read my posts about how much I dislike networking, and said that he, on the other hand, enjoyed it. More importantly, he's good at it.

This made me think about how great it is that I have a lot of friends who are also good at it, and use their networking savvy to my benefit. One friend recently had a booth at an eWomenNetwork event and included literature for my services in her display. Another friend, who coincidentally was at that same event, gave my contact information to a woman who is looking for a ghostwriter.

I have tons of examples like that, and I reciprocate when I can. The moral of the story, kids, is to count yourself lucky if you have friends who are strong where you are weak--and then be that same kind of friend to others!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Autobiography, the sequel

I kept journals in high school, with the idea that someday when I was rich and famous people would clamor to know what my life was like in the '90s, and my journals would give them a window into my soul. Right. Reading back over them, even I don't know what my life was like--and I lived it!

There were times when I was intentionally vague, lest my journal fall into the wrong hands (from July 28, 1990--"Things happened tonight which I don't really feel like writing in here. Or anywhere else, for the time being."), and times when I skipped a lot of detail because I was naive enough to think I'd always remember something that at the time seemed so important (from July 26, 1990--"Found out lots of new and interesting info about [the boyfriend I had at the time], which I won't share with me because I already know it. Ha ha.").

And of course all of the journal entries have an overly dramatic, teen angst-ridden tone to them. I can barely stand to read it, so I don't know why I ever thought anybody else would be interested.

Will I look back at this blog when I'm an old lady and and cringe at how dumb I sounded when I wrote it? Probably. But by then I'll be rich and famous and people will be clamoring to know what my life was like in the '00s, and my blog entries will give them a window into my soul.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

What it feels like to be a freelancer

This comic strip (Rick Detorie's "One Big Happy") speaks volumes about what it sometimes feels like to be a freelancer. You don't always get projects that excite you--but the project is exciting to the client, so you have to channel their enthusiasm.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bad nature!

There is a bird in my yard that will not shut up (this is not a picture of that bird, it's just the only bird picture I have without going on a hunt for one). And it may soon drive me crazy. It's not one of those melodious birds, it's a one-hit wonder. "Cheep! Cheep! Cheep! Cheep!"

Every chirp exactly like the one before it, the pause in between chirps exactly the same length as the previous pause.

The darn thing has been going at it since I sat down at my computer this morning. Every once in a while it will take a minute off, but even then, I hear it in my mind. It's making it very hard to concentrate on anything. Oh wait, here's something new: the bird has added a new bit to its repertoire. Now I hear "Cheep! Cheep! Cheep! (chirp) Cheep! Cheep! Cheep! (chirp)".

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


I just finished reading David Sedaris' new book, When You Are Engulfed In Flames. It got me thinking about the art of autobiography, and how even when we set out to write the truth about ourselves, it is sometimes still fiction.

For example, my mother and I were emailing back and forth the other day, and we somehow landed on the topic of pet goldfish. My mother asked, "do you remember Chewbacca and the other goldfish you had when you were in Kindergarten?"

I responded that while I remembered Chewbacca, I did not remember having other goldfish. I then told her that in my recollection, Chewbacca was "suicidal" but managed to survive several jumps out of his bowl. She, on the other hand, did not remember this at all. In her memory, I had Chewie and another goldfish at the same time, and nothing dramatic ever happened. So which of us is right? Is either of us right?

Here's another example, from probably about that same time. I distinctly remember my uncle Tim getting mad at me for being annoying, and tying me upside-down to a post on my grandmother's front porch. Uncle Tim doesn't remember this at all, but Uncle Bob does--in his memory, he AND Tim got annoyed with me and conspired to tie me to the porch. So why do I remember one uncle tying me up so vividly, but not the other? And why does one uncle remember it, but not the other? Also in question is the length of time I hung from the porch. I recall it being HOURS, but Bob says I was just up there a few minutes before they took me down because I was wailing and attracting attention from the neighbors.

So to all those who criticize and question the truth behind the memoirs of the likes of David Sedaris, Augusten Burroughs, etc.--who's to say what you remember is true either? Just sit back, relax and enjoy the tale.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The results are in

I finally did make my remaining follow-up calls (on Friday). The outcome of 5 of the 6 calls was as follows:
  • Left 1 voicemail message
  • 2 lines just kept ringing (no voicemail in this day and age?!?!)
  • 1 was disconnected (a little internet investigation uncovered that the shop had closed and she is now only running an online business)
  • 1 asked me to bring another brochure by this week, in case the owner had misplaced the first one
The outcome of the 6th call was pretty funny. I had reservations about even sending this person a mailing because of some things I've heard about how he treats his customers. But I did it anyway, and the follow-up went a little like this:

ME: Hi Mr. So-and-So, this is Amie Horan. I'm a freelance writer and editor in the neighborhood, and I'm calling to follow up on a letter I sent you about a week and a half ago.
MR. SO-AND SO: Oh yes, I remember getting that--you run . . . what's your company called again?
ME: Written Expressions.
MR. SO-AND SO: Right, right . . .
ME: So as you know from the letter, I am reaching out to other small businesses in the neighborhood to see if there's anything I can do to help in terms of marketing materials, websites . . .
MR. SO-AND SO: (cutting me off) Well Amie, I used to write for the State Legislature, so I do all my own stuff.
ME: (in my head) Oh, and that makes you a good writer . . . legislation is really compelling reading!
ME: (out loud) Oh, I see! You're lucky--most business owners don't make good writers, or if they are good writers they don't have the time to do it because they're too busy running their businesses.
MR. SO-AND SO: Yeah, well, I guess I am lucky. I have people calling me to write their stuff!
ME: Well, if you ever decide you want some help, give me a call!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Warm fuzzy

Everyone likes to be praised for their work, so it should come as no surprise that I was pleased the other day when someone had this to say about some copy I had edited*: "IMPRESSIVE. Wow. How do you do that?!" As pleased as I was at this praise, I couldn't help wondering how it is that NOT just anybody could do what I did. I guess I don't always see what I do as a talent, and it is surprising when others do.

Maybe that's one of the reasons I find it so difficult to promote myself.

* The scope of the project was distilling several pages of existing text and a few PowerPoint slides into 2 pages of copy.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I wonder if they hire freelancers?

I watch a lot of TV. Lately, two things have happened that make me wonder if I can parlay my TV-watching into something more lucrative.

On VH1's "Best Week Ever" this morning, there was a bit about some rapper thanking his fans for making his latest album a success. The bit was about the general incoherence of the rapper's thank you speech, and Sherrod Small (one of the "Best Week Ever" folks) trying unsuccessfully to translate it. The speech itself was so incoherent, we put on the closed captioning. And that's when the real fun began. First, instead of "Sherrod Small", the captions listed the BWE guy as "Sir Rodriguez Small". Then, at a particularly unintelligible part of the speech, the captioning offered this translation: [mumbling].


We have AT&T's U-verse, and on the whole I love it. But there is one aspect of their TV service that annoys me: the descriptions of the TV programs. They're riddled with typos (yesterday, describing an episode of "Man vs. Wild", I was informed that Bear would be killing a rabbi), run-on sentences and general misinformation. Maybe distilling a half-hour of programming into 20 words or less is more challenging than it sounds, but I don't think so.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Why didn't I think of this?

Two things happened today that fall into the "why didn't I think of this?" category:
  1. I read a recent post in fellow freelancer Lori's blog Words on the Page about people who have brilliant story ideas and then don't use them.
  2. I Googled something (can't remember what), and this was first on the list.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Well . . .

I didn't make the rest of my calls yesterday. Or today (though I got other things accomplished). Fingers crossed for tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Getting my name out there

In my first post, I mentioned that I do not like to network. In all truth, I'm pretty uncomfortable with self-promotion of any sort. But it is a necessary evil, so last week--on the anniversary of my last day at my 9-to-5 cube farm job--I sent out another round of letters, brochures and business cards to businesses in my neighborhood. The first time I did this, I ended up with one GREAT client, so I figured it was worth another shot.

In my letter, I told the recipients that I would follow up with them. I am a woman of my word, so I started making calls yesterday. Ugh. I hate it! I don't know why I get so worked up about it, but I do. I find myself desperately trying to find something else to do (like write 2 blog entries within 2 hours, for example . . .).

I have 6 more calls to make. Will I get them done today? Maybe I should take the "bandage removal" approach and just get it over with quickly. Or maybe I'll just wait until after lunch . . .

Every Monday Matters--oh wait, it's Wednesday

For my birthday this year, my friend bought me a book called Every Monday Matters: 52 ways to make a difference.

It's an interesting concept, although it can come across as a little preachy and the folks who did the layout of the book must never have learned about readability (lots of crazy fonts and competing graphics). Basically, for every Monday of the year, there is a different life/environment/society-improving "assignment". All are designed to be fairly easy to do, ostensibly to allow people to feel that it's easy to make an impact without really going out of your way to do so.

So far this year I've:
  • made a list of what matters most in my life
  • turned off my TV for a day
  • set my cell phone to receive AMBER alert text messages
  • ate healthily
  • tried to reduce junk mail
  • helped the hungry
  • increased my internet safety

There have been some that I haven't done, either because I was already doing what they suggested (changed my lightbulbs to CFLs, registered to vote), because I am a procrastinator and just haven't done it yet (donated books), or because I thought it was kind of stupid (party with a purpose).

This week's task was to create, support or appreciate art. Yesterday, when I realized I hadn't actively completed my task, I felt a little guilty. But then I started thinking about it. Art is subjective. So, I suppose, is the creation, support or appreciation of art. While I may not have set out to do any of these things, I think I can check off this activity without any feelings of guilt. Here's why:

  • Over the past 2 days, I have written some pretty compelling copy (not to pat myself on the back--but pat, pat). That's creation of art, right?
  • There are drawings that our friends' kids have done on our refrigerator, and I have a painting one of my friends did on my desk. That's support for the arts, right?
  • I took a walk yesterday afternoon and admired all of my neighbors' landscaping. That's art appreciation, right?

Next week's task is "Ridesharing". Given that I work from home, I think I'll probably skip that one. Or think up places to go and then ask people to carpool with me.

Monday, June 16, 2008


In a stage whisper a la Haley Joel Osment's character in The Sixth Sense: "I see typos . . ."
  • In the newspaper.
  • On TV.
  • In books.
  • On signs.
  • Most recently, at my cousin's Senior Exhibition for the College of Design at the Ohio State University.

It takes every ounce of self-control I have not to take out a red pen or make a comment, but I try to contain myself (usually) because I know that the general populous isn't just waiting around for me to point out errors. Plus, I know I can be overly critical, and that doesn't do anybody any good.

I also know how it feels to be on the receiving end of those kinds of comments--they always come too late to do anything about them. A former coworker of mine had a knack for waiting until whatever I had written had been sent off for printing or distribution before coming up to me to point out a typo. I always felt like strangling her while yelling, "Where were you when I was begging people to proof my work?!"

Saturday, June 14, 2008


I met with a woman from another creative staffing firm the other day (this one came with a personal recommendation from somebody who has used them and loves them), and we were discussing how important it is to be able to quickly learn enough about whatever business you're doing a project for that you can write intelligently about it. I mentioned that my knowledge about a lot of industries is "a mile wide, but an inch deep." The woman laughed and said I'd make an excellent Jeopardy! contestant. I replied, "but they always have at least one category that I know nothing about!"

That got me thinking: if, by some miracle, I found myself as a contestant on Jeopardy, what would be my ideal categories? And here, because I know you're dying to know, is the list (in no particular order) that would at least ensure I would do well in one round:
  1. 19th Century British Literature (all the great Dead White European Males!)
  2. One of those categories where you have to spell your answers
  3. Greek Mythology
  4. 1980s Teen Movies (I HEART JOHN HUGHES)
  5. Botany (I don't know why, I just seem to always do well in this category)
  6. World Cheeses (On a trip to Wisconsin several years ago, we actually went out of our way to visit the Mars Cheese Castle)

Now, the chances of ever getting those categories in the same game is slim to none, so I guess I'll just have to continue to play at home, where I don't get penalized for wrong answers.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The inaugural post

My first blog entry . . . very exciting stuff. This will likely drag on a bit, so bear with me.

Several of my friends have personal blogs, and I always enjoy reading them, but I never wanted to create one of my own because it always felt a little too much like leaving your diary where your mom can find it. So, thought I, how about a business blog? Given that writing IS my business, I guess this makes all the sense in the world.

So what can one expect from this blog? In a nutshell, a glimpse into my world as I enter into my second year as a freelance writer and editor.

How did I come to be in this position? I've been writing for a long, long time, but up until a year ago I've had a steady 9-to-5 job so my freelancing has been strictly "on the side". I quit my last job (which I held for 6.5 years) for many reasons, but mostly because there didn't seem to be any other opportunities for advancement there. I quit without having another full-time job lined up, because after months of looking there was just nothing out there that appealed to me. Everything I found was either a similar position or a step backward. I had no desire to continue with the status quo or settle for a job at which I'd have to work up to what I had just left.

Now before you start thinking, "is this girl stupid?" please note that I did not leave my job without some sort of plan. Before turning in my notice, I hooked up with a placement company that specializes in finding project work for freelance creative types. They promised me great things--variety, flexibility, steady work--and unfortunately they didn't deliver. I rarely heard from them, and when I did it was usually because I reached out to them. Phone calls and emails to them went unanswered, the associate I was working with left the company. When they did find me projects, they were nothing like what I was looking for--sticking labels on envelopes for $10 an hour, or a 3rd shift position with a local newspaper.

I was fortunate that my former company still had a need for my services, and continued to use me on a contract basis for several months after I left. That gave me a little cushion as I set out to build my own business. I formed an LLC and got an EIN. I developed a logo, drafted a brochure, and had business cards printed. I was officially Written Expressions, LLC. Woo hoo! Surely the money would start rolling in at any minute. Oh wait, business cards and brochures don't distribute themselves. I would have to get my name out there.

Now, networking is not my strong suit. I find it difficult to pimp myself out to total strangers. But I set my discomfort aside and made some phone calls, which resulted in a small project updating the brochure for a local candy shop (had she offered me chocolate in return for services, I likely would have taken it--but fortunately for my waistline and wallet, she paid me by check). I posted an ad on Craigslist, which resulted in several hits but nothing that amounted to anything. I scanned freelance sites, but never saw anything worth pursuing. Finally, one day in November, I sent out a letter to several businesses in my community. The next day, I got a call from one of them (a marketing/communications firm) asking if I could come in for a meeting.

A few days later, portfolio in hand, I arrived at their office and immediately felt a kinship. These were my kind of people. Creative, fun, and--most importantly--excited about the possibility of working with me. Since then, we've collaborated on several projects, and I hope to continue working with them for years to come.

I've also been lucky in that several of my former coworkers have started their own businesses or gone on to work for other companies who don't have writers/marketers on staff. It's been great to continue building those relationships.

That's enough for now. Coming up in future posts . . .

  • what I'm up to now
  • the crazy stuff that goes through my head