Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mythbusters, freelance edition

One of the most common misconceptions of freelancing shared by people who have "regular" 9-to-5 jobs is that freelancers make their own hours. "It must be great to work when you want," they say in envious tones.

The reality is I don't really have that much flexibility, and I don't always get a choice in the hours I work. I work when my clients work, and sometimes I work long after they've gone home. And even when I'm not doing billable work, I'm often working. Bookkeeping at 10:30 at night, when I finally remember where I put that receipt from Office Max. Updating my brochure on a Saturday afternoon, because I was struck by inspiration while taking a walk. Sometimes, I feel guilty scheduling a vacation or taking a lunch break.

Those last two are my own issue, as I'm sure my clients don't begrudge me a few days off or some afternoon sustenance. But my point is, a freelancer's life isn't something to be envious of--freelancing is a job, just like any other (except that I love this job, and I can't say the same thing about my previous positions). It has its positives and negatives, its risks and rewards. As long as the positives outweigh the negatives and the rewards outweigh the risks, I'll keep freelancing. If the tide should ever turn, you may find me talking dreamily about a 9-to-5 corporate position.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Amie joins another cause

Remember when I said I am not much of a joiner? That does not apply to charity races. I loves me some charity races.

May 16th is the annual Columbus Race for the Cure, supporting breast cancer awareness and research. I'm not sure when I started doing this one, but I think it was around ten years ago. This year, in addition to walking the 5k (I don't run, unless something is chasing me--and even then, it had better be pretty darn scary) I am attempting a bit o' fundraising. If you'd like to donate, or learn more about the cause, please follow the link below. Thanks!!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Amie joins a cause

I'm not much of a joiner, but this is a cause I think is worth fighting for.

Writer abuse has reached epidemic proportions in our country. One in five writers will suffer eye strain from the lack of an anti-glare coating on their computer monitor. One in three will have to wear one of those silly carpal tunnel gloves because of an ergonomically incorrect workspace. And this very second, a writer is crying because she was unable to decipher her client's cryptic notes.

Okay, so I made those statistics up. But there is a real plight affecting those of us who make our living by the pen (or keyboard): unrealistic beliefs about the value of our skills. The spores of this disease are germinated by "clients" who think it's okay to post projects offering pennies for what amounts to hours of work. The disease is spread by the writers who are willing to work for such paltry sums. Okay, so the economy is in the toilet and businesses have to tighten their belts. It's one thing to hunt for a good deal (hooray for capitalism), but to expect us to give it away is unfair. Not only is it unfair to the writer who is foolish enough to take on the work, but also to the rest of us writers out there who have bills to pay and mouths to feed.

Lori Widmer--blogger, professional writer, and advocate of writers everywhere--has declared the third Friday in May to be Writer's Worth Day. The First Annual Writer's Worth Day was held last May 16th as a way of (in Ms. Widmer's own words) "saying yes to competitive wages and no to accepting what isn't worthy of our talents."

Prospective clients: writing is a skill. If you could do it yourself, you wouldn't be asking us. You expect a professional outcome, so you should be willing to pay a professional's fees.

My fellow writers: take a stand for your skills. Charge what you're worth! And mark your calendars for the 2nd annual Writer's Worth Day, May 15th, 2009.

Writers Worth Day

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Opportunity accidently sends an email

Tuesday evening, I was cc'd on a series of strange emails from the general manager of a night club in California regarding a flyer to promote an upcoming event. Sounds like the kind of little design project I take on occasionally--only I had never heard of this guy, the guy he was emailing, or anybody else he'd cc'd. I'd never heard of the club, and I'd never been approached about the project (though I have worked with clients in California before).

Weird, eh? I asked my California client if he knew anything about it, and he informed me that he did not. So I emailed the general manager and told him that I'd received his emails but was unsure who he was. He replied that his assistant had given him the wrong email address and I should just disregard the emails. I sent him back a quick note saying I would, but that if he thought he might ever need any writing or editing work done and didn't mind working with a freelancer in Ohio, to tell his assistant to hang on to my contact information.

Will I ever hear from him again? Probably not, but stranger things have happened. After all, he found me once (albeit by accident), right?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Nothing to say

Once upon a time, when I didn't have regular projects and had lots of time on my hands, I posted every business day. Some days I had more to say than others, but I posted without fail.

But now that I am working pretty regularly (and not working from home), it's difficult for me to find the time to post--and when I do have the time, I find myself at a loss for anything to say. I started this blog with the crazy notion that I would be chronicling my adventures in freelancing . . .


I love what I'm doing, I love my clients, I can't think of anything else I would rather be doing for a living. But there's nothing terribly blogworthy about getting up and going to work.

So I'm faced with a decision: keep the blog going and just post when I have something to say, or give up the blog. If I choose the former, I risk becoming the kind of blogger I hate (well, perhaps hate is too strong a word)--the kind that doesn't provide regular updates. And if I choose the latter, I'll miss all the fun of blogging (and it is fun--when it doesn't seem like just another chore in my day).

I really don't know how bloggers like Lori and Angie do it--lead busy lives and still find the time to post thought-provoking, entertaining entries every day (sometimes even more than once a day!).

To all of you regular posters out there: what's the secret?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

It worked for Twain . . .

A cute little segment from this past weekend's "CBS News Sunday Morning":

Watch CBS Videos Online

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Beat it

After four visits to my primary care physician, a stress echocardiogram and a month spent wired to a cardiac event monitor, I finally have an answer to the issue of my "weird chest sensation."

Sort of.

Basically, my heart just has an extra beat every so often, and unlike the majority of people this happens to, I can feel it. And then I freak out about it, which exacerbates the issue.

My doctor suggested two courses of action:
  1. learn to live with it, knowing it's not going to kill me
  2. take a very low dose of beta blockers to alleviate the symptoms
I have decided, at least temporarily, to try the beta blocker. I don't like the idea of being on long-term medication, but I've forgotten what it's like to feel "normal." If the meds can make me feel normal again, it will be worth it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

In brief

Just a quickie post:
  • My cousin finished the design of my website over the weekend. It looks so great, I'm really excited about it. I have to get him some keywords and a description, and he's working on some issues with Internet Explorer, but it should be live before too long. Stay tuned!

  • I finally got the Photoshop and InDesign demos installed on my computer around 4 on Friday. Fortunately, things went pretty quickly in terms of work after that. I finished one project and got a great start on another.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Adobe me, ASAP

My agency client is closed for Good Friday, so I am working at home today on a design project for a local business. To make life--and specifically this project--easier for myself I plan to download a 30-day trial of Adobe Creative Suite. Given the sheer file size of Adobe products, I know that I am in for a long wait. But it's so worth it . . .

When I get my new laptop, I am also going to get at least Photoshop and InDesign. I don't do a lot of design work, but it is so much simpler to use tools that were meant to go together than to piecemeal them together as I've been doing, which is manipulating images in GIMP (the acronym for an open source program called GNU Image Manipulation Program--it's pretty cool for a free program, but a bit tough to figure out sometimes) and then doing the layout in Publisher, Word or PowerPoint.

If there were a GNU equivalent to InDesign, I'd suffer through any difficulties with the GIMP learning curve, but since there isn't, let the downloading commence!

12:00 PM UPDATE: The entire Creative Suite trial is only available on CD (for which one must pay $10.99), so I decided to download the trials for Photoshop and InDesign only, which are available for free on the Adobe site. As of this update, the Photoshop download is 91% complete. Then I have to install it. Then I get to start the download for InDesign. Perhaps by this time tomorrow I will actually get to do some work.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

I'm glad I said no

When my agency client invited me to tag along this past weekend to see the fruits of my presentation labor (in other words, to watch the actual presentation in San Antonio), I was sorely tempted to accept. But I knew that if I went, I would not be able to relinquish control of it.

Now that I know how it all went down, I know that I made the right decision. Even though the presentation was a success, it was a qualified success. As my client himself said, "We won the game 45-7, but we played horribly." From a technical perspective, there were a couple of glitches with the projector resolution and the view the presentation opened in. There were also some issues with the presenters not being quite prepared (they were paid presenters, not my clients) and also having a mild case of nerves. Had I been there, someone probably would have had to restrain me to keep me from rushing the stage in an attempt to help.

Plus, I completely forgot that I had made an appointment to donate blood on Sunday afternoon. Had I gone, I would have missed it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Suggestions welcome

I'm in the market for a laptop. I want one that can run Microsoft Office Professional Edition and not be too slow. I don't care what brand or color it is, though I would prefer a 15 inch screen or larger and I don't want it to weigh a ton. An IT friend suggested the following specs for a Dell laptop, but I suspect some of it is overkill (I imagine I could get away with 2GB memory):
  • Intel® Core™ 2 Duo T5800 (2.0GHz/800Mhz FSB/2MB cache)
  • Windows Vista® Home Basic Edition SP1
  • 3GB Shared Dual Channel DDR2 (2 Dimms)
  • Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100
  • 250GB SATA Hard Drive (5400RPM)
  • Integrated 10/100 Network Card
  • Integrated Modem
  • CD/DVD Writer (DVD+/-RW Drive)
  • High Definition Audio 2.0
  • Intel Next -Gen Wireless -N Mini-card
  • 6 cell battery
What laptop do you use, and how do you use it? Do you like it? Would you recommend it to others?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Empty Nest

The presentation on which I spent the majority of my billable hours over the past three weeks was given yesterday to a group of pharmacists at the American Pharmacists Association annual meeting and exposition. I received a text from my agency client yesterday afternoon that it went well, and will learn more later today.

As excited as I am to have it finished and delivered, I feel a little empty inside. While I can now laugh about the day I lost two hours' worth of work because PowerPoint tanked and autosave wasn't turned on, it was comforting to spend so many hours and days creating slides, monkeying with the copy, animating the graphics and getting the whole thing perfectly aligned and timed. I find myself asking, "What next?"

I suspect this must be similar to how it feels when a mother sends her child off to college. Only I don't have to worry about paying anyone's tuition!

And honestly, I know the answer to my question. Next, I get to work on writing the report based on the findings that were just presented. And I catch up on all the other work that I put on a back burner.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


The skies over Columbus were blue yesterday, the weather was temperate, and it was still daylight when I left my client's office for the day. I decided to take double advantage of the lovely evening by bringing my camera with me on a walk through my neighborhood. After spending 8+ hours indoors staring at PowerPoint slides, it was nice to be able to breathe fresh air and focus on things further away from me than a computer screen.

My neighborhood is in bloom, and it's lovely. I snapped these pictures as I meandered up and down the side streets near my house . . .

. . . and this one in my own yard!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Lori's blog post yesterday reminded me that I needed to check my progress toward goals for the month and year to date.

So far, it's been a good year for Written Expressions, LLC:

I'm happy to say that, in spite of myself, I exceeded my monetary goals for March.

I say "in spite of myself" because the reason I met my goal had nothing to do with marketing, networking or anything else I may have done to keep myself in business. My success this month is due entirely to my agency client's increased need for my services.

Would I have met my goal if they hadn't been so busy? I hope so--but I would've had to work a lot harder. So thank you, agency client, for keeping me busy.