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Illustration by Ramiro Roman

Oh, the lovely struggles of a writer’s life — bloodthirsty deadlines, toxic clients, lack of inspiration… These things come with the package, whether you like it or not. But did you know that you are the greatest enemy of your own work?

Out of hundreds of excuses — bad days, the dreaded writer’s block or simple laziness — you, as a writer, bear the sole responsibility for whether words appear on the page or not. It took me a while to acknowledge this and improve (a bit). Now I want to make it easier for you.

Take a look at these four signs and see whether you’re making the same mistakes!

1. You Don’t Prepare an Outline

As much as I like to get “adventurous” with my writing once in a while, my disorganized soul always craves for a grain of order and structure. It’s surprising how even a simple plan can help with all kinds of writer’s ailments.

I’ve battle-tested working without and with an outline, and the writing has always been smoother and more pleasurable for the latter. Even the roughest of rough outlines will give you a solid direction and keep your thoughts from going astray. It will also prevent you from constantly adding and changing things!

Don’t get me wrong. You probably won’t need a master plan for a simple Tweet. But as your projects get more complex and wordy, an outline will be the only thing standing between you and a rambling disaster. You don’t have to go to extremes and follow your plan to the letter; an outline is meant to give you a heading, that’s all.

2. You’re Getting Your Deadlines All Wrong

A reasonable deadline will help you to stay on track with your writing, be it your next big novel or that blog post you should deliver in two days. An unreasonable deadline will give you a headache at best.

Now, I get it. It’s difficult to set sensible timelines for your work when you’re just starting your writing career. It takes time and many finished projects before you can estimate the time needed to wrap an assignment. But are you honest with yourself when you’re setting those deadlines?

I sometimes try to fool myself that a certain project is going to take longer or shorter than it really should. I realized that I do this get more downtime between assignments or simply postpone the work as much as I can.

What to do instead?

  • If you struggle with setting attainable deadlines, review your past projects for estimates.
  • If you’re just starting delivering projects, make sure to track your project time for future reference.
  • Give yourself a small time margin for unforeseen hiccups (10-20% of the total project time).
3. You Try to Do Everything at Once on the First Draft

Do you sometimes stop writing your first draft only to improve a sentence or use a better word? If so, then you’re sabotaging your writing big time.

Silencing your internal editor may be difficult, especially if you’re a perfectionist and want to write a masterpiece on the first try. That’s what would happen to me when I was just starting writing longer pieces and delivering client work. I’d constantly halt and ruminate on a phrase or a sentence that just didn’t seem like a good fit.

If you’re like me, then the spellchecker probably drives you crazy with all those red marks popping up all over the page (Ok, if your page is covered in “blood” from header to footer then you can probably slow down, just a bit!). But the truth is, everybody gets spelling wrong on the first run, and for some, this remains true all the way till the final draft.

It’s even more tempting to combine writing your first drafts with research. Some people prefer to look things up as they go instead of digging into a topic in advance. This approach is even more destructive and totally breaks the creative flow.

If you’re still troubled by your spelling mistakes, you’ll find many interesting insights in this post.

What to do instead?

  • DO NOT attempt to fix all the flaws of your fledgling text on the first draft; your first draft should be free from criticism, both internal and external.
  • Do your research first, and don’t you dare google things up as you write!
  • Unleash your internal critic on the 2nd, 3rd and all the consecutive drafts, but not before that.
  • If the spellchecker distracts you, turn it off.
4. You Celebrate Way Too Early

There are those moments when I finish a paragraph or a substantial part of a project and think: “I’ve done a solid piece of work here…It’s time to rest now!” And so I rest…

I grab a sandwich, take a walk, read a book or even go for a bike ride. The possibilities here are limitless, and since my brain has just done the heavy lifting, it deserves some downtime, right?

While taking occasional breaks from writing is absolutely necessary to keep your mental nuts and bolts in place, I learned the hard way that short breaks tend to beef up in duration if you let them. It’s tempting to notoriously stretch break time and justify it with a flabby “I’ve accomplished something and deserve this!”

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t reward yourself for little successes and reserve some time for small celebrations. By all means, please do (a stroll in a park makes for a great brain-reset). But sometimes it’s better to be a bit tougher on yourself than to despair over a deadline that has just flashed by because you got lost in a book, again.

Does any of these signs sound familiar? Are you guilty of committing similar crimes against your writing? Let me know!

The post 4 Signs You’re Sabotaging Your Writing (And What to Do About It!) appeared first on LittleZotz Writing.

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Illustration by Ramiro Roman

What’s the most important piece of paperwork in your freelance arsenal?

The contract, right?

It’s that little piece of paper that outlines the scope of work, ensures your client is legally obligated to pay you, and is the official start to all new working relationships.

But here’s the thing.

If the contract is the start, then what’s the end of your agreement? What is it that ties off the agreement and lets all parties involved know that the job is, officially, complete?

The answer is your invoice.

Your freelance writing contract and invoice are the book-stops to the job you’ve agreed to take on. They’re the hard start and stop for each job. And sure, contracts might get more love in the freelance advice world, but these two should always go hand-in-hand.

The invoice you send to the client doesn’t just officially close the agreement (pending payment of it of course), but it reminds the client of the payment terms and work completed.

In my humble opinion, the invoice is almost as important as your freelance contract, but its one of those elements that gets very little coverage online.

And we’re going to change that.

I’m going to run through the key considerations for crafting a killer invoice, as well as list some awesome tools to help you look even more professional.

Why You NEED a Professional Looking Invoice

I’m not going to BS you here and say an invoice is an ironclad solution to the problem of non-payment.

If a client never had any intention of paying you, there’s very little you can do except take them to court. And then you have to weigh up whether the legal fees will eclipse the payment itself (more on mitigating this risk later).

However, a solid contract and invoice combo will go a long way to ensuring you avoid clients who never had any intention of paying you. It gives you the paperwork to properly battle any non-payment and secure the money that’s rightfully yours.

And thats incredibly important because there’s a huge issue in the freelance world with non-payment. It doesn’t take long to find various studies explaining how difficult some freelancers find it to secure the payment that’s rightfully there.

  • This Paypal study explains 58% of surveyed freelancers had trouble securing payment (source)
  • FreelancersUnion puts the number at 71%, and puts the average monetary loss at $5,968 (source)
  • Experience reports 1 in 10 freelancers have struggled with rent/mortgage payments due to delayed payment from clients (source)

It’s a big issue, right? I mean, over 50% of us are struggling to get the payments we’ve rightly earned form people who promised to pay up.

But that’s not the only use for a well devised invoice. No, the other use is, arguably, even more important. If you’ve ever been subject to an impromptu tax audit, you’ll know how necessary it is to have kept proper documentation of all the payments coming your way.

This is all a very long winded way of saying that an invoice is not something that’s nice to have. It’s a necessity for your business. But what’s included in a professional invoice?

The Anatomy of a Freelance Invoice

Rather than a long list of elements you should be including in your invoice, I’ve gone into my accounting software and created a test invoice so you can see what it actually looks like.

However, don’t think this is the only format you can use. You should be using all of these different elements, however, you can do so in whatever order or design best suits you and your brand.

Here’s what a basic invoice template of mine looks like; I’ve followed it with an explanation of what everything is and why you need it.

1 – Your Business Name

The client has to know who’s sending this invoice so they know who they’re paying. If you’re established as an LTD/LLC, then use your business name. If you’re working as a sole trader, then use your own name or the name you trade under.

2 – Your Logo

Technically this is an optional inclusion. I always think it’s nice to include as, even a simple logo like the one above, adds more of a professional veneer to everything.

3 – Your Contact Details

Immediately after your business name be sure to include your business’s contact details. You can include as little or as much of the below as you want, just be sure there’s at least 1 method through which the client can contact you.

I include all of the below just to ensure everything moves forward smoothly.

  • Physical address
  • Phone number
  • Website
  • Email address
4 – Client’s Contact Details and Address

Again this is super important. This is an official request of money, you need to make sure the client’s business name address, and contact details are included. Otherwise it could be for anyone.

5 – Invoice Number

This is important because, if you ever do get hit with an audit you’re going to need things in order. Numbering your invoices allows you to keep better track of everything. However, this goes hand in hand with another tracking method. You’re going to need to keep the invoice numbers in either a piece of software or a simple excel spreadsheet with other details like date and amount.

It sounds like a boring process, but this will save you so much time when it comes to doing taxes later on.

6 – Date and Payment Terms

As mentioned above, your invoice is an official request of payment. You have to not only list the date the invoice is sent, but also the terms for payment.

The most frequent terms are:

  • Net 15 (to be paid within 15 days of receipt)
  • Net 30 (to be paid within 30 days of receipt)
  • Net 60 (to be paid within 60 days of receipt)

You can see above that I favor Net 15, however, you can also request payment upon receipt which I do for deposits for jobs.

You’ll notice above that I include the due date for payment as well, just so there’s no confusion. Just be sure that the payment terms were outlined in your contract as well.

7 – Payment Method

This is optional and, honestly, I rarely use it. I have some clients who prefer bank transfers, others prefer Paypal. If they have no preference, I’ll list a specific method, usually bank transfer unless they’re international as it saves me paying PayPal fees.

8 – Deliverables

The deliverables area is one of the most important on the invoice. It’s here you list what you did, and the price it’s going to cost the client. Now, depending on the client and any pre-agreed format, there’s a couple of things that I’d always recommend doing.

8.1 – Don’t bundle everything together. If you’ve done 4 blog posts at $300 each, don’t say “blog writing – $1200”. I wouldn’t even use the quantity box for this to say “blog writing $300 x 4 = $1200”. No, write the title of the articles as individual deliverables so the client can quickly cross them off as done and paid for.

8.2 – Do use the quantity for things on an hourly rate, but be prepared to provide proof. For example, the handful of times I’ve worked hourly rates I’ve listed my research by the hour. So It would read something like the below:

“Researching target audience for landing page creation at $100 per hour. Qty = 8 // Rate = $100 // Amount = $800.

8.3 – Don’t itemiz, etc.,e too much. I focus on the deliverable, but that’s because I charge by the deliverable. Don’t think you have to break everything down into the bare bones steps. If the client is paying you for a case study on a flat fee, don’t give them an hourly rate for research, drafting, editing , etc., Just put the deliverable in and the fee.

9 – Total Due

So this is what you’re really after. This is where you list exactly how much your clients are going to have to pay you for the job. All it is is a sum of the total deliverables’ amount. However, if you’re charging tax on top, be certain to include that addition prior to listing the total.

10 – Payment Details

So how’s the client going to pay you? You’ve got to include your business bank details on the invoice so they now where to send the money. You’ll note in the above that I have listed my full bank details (including my name) but have also added a sentence which explains which Paypal account t use should they prefer PayPal.

11 – A Final Reminder

I include a final reminder of my payment terms and the late payment penalty at the end of the invoice. This is just to cover my own back in case they say the late payment fee wasn’t clear. I can then point to it in both the contract and invoices.

Getting Started with a Professional Looking Invoice

When I first starting freelancing I couldn’t afford some fancy software or an accountant to handle these things for me, so I needed a pretty cheap solution.

And there’s nothing cheaper than doing this yourself.

I actually built my own invoice template in Google Drive. I’d fill this in every single time I closed a job and sent it to clients and a PDF (so the details couldn’t be amended). Here’s a look at that template, and here’s a link to download a copy of it yourself if you’re just starting out and want a free solution.

I’d fill this out every single time and log the details of each invoice in an Excel spreadsheet so I could keep track of everything. Here’s a look at that sheet:

This was a good solution for the time, and I’d recommend every newbie freelancer to do something similar simply because it’s free. All it costs is time. And once again, if you want a free copy of these templates, simply click here.
However, after a while it’s going to become too costly for you to keep this up to date. It’s simply not an efficient method of storing your invoice details once business picks up because it takes too much time.
I’d recommend that once you’ve hit a certain income level, I’d recommend $1000 per month, you invest in some accounting software.

Where to Progress From Manual Sheets?

Once you progress to $1000 per month (or if you’re already there), you should look at investing in some accounting software. What this will do is make it far faster for you to invoice clients and track payments. Much of it can be automate (to an extent) with things like direct debit set ups for repeat clients, and even the simple things like populating client details with the click of a button save time.

I haven’t tried every accounting service under the sun, but I have tried a few and here’s what I’d suggest.

I’d recommend you use either QuickBooks Online or Dubsado.

Quickbooks Online Breakdown

If you’re looking for a tool purely for accounting, Quickbooks will be the best bet. The invoice I used above with the numbers is from Quickbooks.

However, where Quickbooks really shines is its ability to sync with your bank accounts so you can more accurately track your income and spend. You can accept payments directly through your invoices for a small charge (2.9% = 0.25c)

Quickbooks will  also quickly log all of your profit and charges so, at the end of the year when tax season rolls around, you can get detailed reports on profit/loss, expenses etc at the click of a button. That alone is worth the money in my mind as it makes taxes incredibly easy to do.

Also, when you progress to the point of needing an accountant, the majority of them will be able to log straight into your QB account (QB actually has a list of qualified accountants who use the tool to make finding an accountant easy).

Getting an accountant once you hit a livable wage with your writing (or before) is a necessity as these guys will be able to point out where you’re wasting money and how to reduce your tax to more manageable levels.

Right now, the price of QB starts at $20 per month. There’s always a free or half price offer somewhere though, so see if there’s any affiliate links to get you a discount.

Dubsado Breakdown

I’m relatively new to using Dubsado. I came across it after one of the writers I hire sent me both the agreement and invoice through from this service.

And whilst we’ve not been together long, I absolutely adore Dubsado.

Dubsado is both more and less than Quickbooks Online. It struggles to keep up as an accounting tool as it doesn’t have the accounting functionality of QB. But then again, it’s not a specialized accounting tool.

What Dubsado is a customer relationship tool for creatives. In this tool you’ll be able to put together proposals, attach contracts, and send invoices.

It’s pretty much a one stop shop for everything you need to get your next client relationship off to a flying start. It does have bookkeeping options, but as my accountant works in QBO, I’ve not used it.

I can say that the proposal, invoice, and contract options are awesome. There’s even the option of one click payment for your clients. You can add a button to invoices so the client can pay with card through the invoice directly.

Source

Dubsado is a great tool but if you start earning a full time wage I’d recommend using it in tandem with Quickbooks (they do offer a full integration) and getting an accountant just to help you not fall foul of the tax man.

If you fancy trying Dubsado out, feel free to use my affiliate link to get 20% off your first month.

Invoices are an Integral Part of Your Client Strategy

And you can’t overlook them.

Whether you’re at the beginning of your freelance career or somewhere later on and already earning good money, you’ve got to have a firm focus on your finances and how you’re requesting them.

Don’t let an otherwise perfect collaboration end on a weak note by sending through an unprofessional, amateurish invoice.

It might look like a single piece of paper, but your invoice is the official close of your professioanl relationship.

Make sure you end on a strong footing with clients.

The post How to Invoice Your Freelance Writing Clients Like a Pro appeared first on LittleZotz Writing.

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Illustration by Ramiro Roman

Blogs are well-known as internet logs or platforms that allow you publish your thoughts on almost any subject you’d like to.

Nevertheless, if you’re a beginner to blogging, as well as to advertising, there are some essential things that you will want to know.

Choosing Your Blogging Purpose

Blog marketing is straightforward if you have a marketing mind. Then you can use the blog as the place to let people know about your products or services.

Or, you may find that many people use blogs as a just diary but not to make them money. When used this way, your blog can be used as an awesome hobby for you — a place to talk about your interests and meet new people.

If you have never managed a blog before, the first step that you can do is to start one. By simply jumping in, your new blog will teach you what the blog is, how to it set up, and manage it. Through trial and error, you’ll discover what to write about, and how to make it popular.

Blogs Versus Websites for Beginners

Using a blog to market something is cheaper than creating an entire website. There are so many free blogging platforms on the market that you can to use to get the word out — and they’re just as good as having an internet site that you pay for.

There are, of course, some advantages to having own URL; but, for a newbie, a free one will work until you get the hang of it and wish to move it onto your preferred domain name.

However, free blogs are not as customizable. If you’re not acquainted with HTML, you will soon discover that your blog will look like everyone else’s. That’s okay from the to start off with! Right now, you just need a practice playground (you can even choose to make your blog “private” until you feel more comfortable with what you’re publishing!).

Content is Vital

When you’ve got your blog set up, you’ll be accountable for the content material that is posted on it. You can determine what is said, and what is not.

However, there are a lot of blogs on the web. So, to beat your competitor’s your blog, yours should be distinguished by the high-quality content. It should be useful for your readers, provide them some benefits, and be well-written.

Thus, blog writing requires a lot of focus, dedication, and knowledge. Be it poem writing, article writing, story writing, or any other piece of writing you are struggling with; you need to begin and end in a way to create a better (and lasting) impression with your readers.

I have gathered some essential tips you should pay attention to when writing your content:

Brainstorming

Brainstorming is essential to find out your purpose and goal of writing. Once you are clear with this, you should hardly face any trouble while writing.

Think as much as you can and jot down all your creative ideas on a piece of paper. You can create a file on laptop or mobile where you can note all your ideas that appear at any time.

Choosing the right subject

This is another important step to write an impressive piece of writing. Always keep in mind your target audience and write whatever you think they will value. It can be the solutions to the reader’s problems, for example. So, choosing the right subject is extremely important. Doing so can help you create a better “story.”

Concise and clear

You need to be very concise and clear so that one can easily understand.  Readers don’t have a lot of time for reading. Write an attractive and compelling “hook” to reel them in, then write short and clear text about your subject using numbering, bullets, infographics, photos, and any other relevant content to explain the issue better. 

Use of short sentences and simple words

It is extremely important that your message should be clear and concise. Use of short sentences and simple words can help you create a story that is easy to understand for readers. Long sentences and tough words not only make the piece of writing complicated but boring as well.

Grammatically correct

You need to be grammatically correct as it creates a better impression and trust in your work. Nobody wants to read text with mistakes.

These are some of the major tips that, if followed while writing, can help you create an impressive and interesting blog.

Blogging is a superb skill to learn. Keep improving your skills. In the end, your blog will not only provide you hours of entertainment, but a profit as well.

The post Better Blog Writing Tips for Beginners appeared first on LittleZotz Writing.

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Illustration by Ramiro Roman

Becoming an efficient blogger with a productive way of working is crucial to success.

It’s unlikely that your blog will fail from a lack of love for your topic. After all, you took the time to get started. That’s more than most people with an idea will ever do.

It’s more likely that life will throw curveballs that make it difficult to stick to your original vision. Unless you treat your blog as a priority, a ‘must’ rather than a ‘should’, it’s easy to let it stagnate and die.

If you want to give your blog every advantage, read on to discover:

  • How tech can help you stay focused while blogging
  • How mapping out your creative process can help you stay productive
  • How a strict schedule can make your blog resilient to life’s challenges

Use Tech to Stay On Track

The information age is a double-edged sword for most bloggers.

While we enjoy instant access to more information than ever before, we also run the risk of greater distraction.

If you find yourself starting out with the intention of researching a blog post, but end up in an unproductive mess of opened tabs and social media notifications, help is at hand. Studies have shown that willpower is a finite resource. If you struggle with staying focused, take your willpower out the equation.

The following apps will help you focus on blogging, regardless of how much willpower you feel at the time.

RescueTime

More often than not, especially when starting out, you will be the sole boss of your blog.

You won’t have another person to monitor you, cajole you or put pressure on you to use your time well. As a result, you run the risk of losing track of exactly how your time is spent.

RescueTime give you a clear understanding of exactly how you spent your day. The software offers detailed reports of how long you spend on particular apps or activities. You can set limits, and review your progress in making changes to the way you spend your time.

As busy bloggers, we are often so caught up in getting things done that we lose the big picture oversight of exactly how we got them done. RescueTime will help you better understand yourself, and use your time in a way aligned with your priorities.

FlowState

Do you ever feel trapped in your own head while trying to write?

Sometimes, getting words down onto the page feels like drawing blood from a stone. It can be easy to get waylaid by self-judgement, criticism or a lack of urgency.

FlowState is an extreme solution to force you out of writer’s lethargy. You simply set a period of time and begin to write. If you pause for longer than five seconds, you lose everything.

Freedom

Perhaps the toughest part of staying on track as a blogger is resisting the sheer variety of demands on our attention. Smartphones with push notifications, tabbed browsing, and mobile apps engineered specifically to be addictive are the sirens we must ignore.

Freedom allows you to totally customize which websites and apps you can access. For example, there might be a period of your day where access to email is conducive to productivity, and another where it is not. Freedom makes it easy to choose exactly when and where you will focus your precious attention.

Understand and Improve Your Blogging Process

If blog posts are like recipes, then bloggers are like chefs.

Although blog posts share many common ingredients, there are unlimited ways of putting them together.

When you understand your own blogging process, you are able to write ‘recipes’ of how to get a consistent outcome from a defined series of steps.

Mapping out the way you produce blog posts isn’t intended to kill your creativity. Far from it. Instead, it gives you a structure to work with, and improvise around as you see fit.

There are days when it can feel absolutely overwhelming to sit in front of a blank screen, knowing that you have to produce a certain amount of content you feel happy enough about to share with others. On days like this, having a simple step by step process of ‘do a, then b, then c’ can make the task a lot more manageable.

If you feel you could benefit from having your personal blogging process mapped out, consider the following ideas:

  • How do you define the start and end of your process? Does it begin when you first start thinking of an idea, or when you sit down to write the post? Does it end when you hit publish, or when you finish promotion?
  • Define the complete range of tasks needed to produce a blog post. Which are essential and non-essential? For example, you might define hitting publish as essential, but optimizing your image alt tags as non-essential. Doing this makes the complex process of blogging effectively seem more manageable. You know exactly what is involved, and how important each aspect is.
  • Is there a particular sequence of work which tends to produce the best results for you? For example, if you notice your best blog posts result from researching carefully before sitting down to write, you should make this sequence a part of your process.

Taking the time to map out the way you do your best work gives you a valuable recipe to follow on those inevitable days where you feel uninspired or overwhelmed.

Scheduling Your Success

Once you’ve unlocked your most productive way of working, it’s time to devise a schedule to keep your blog on track. Advance planning, both in terms of a content publication schedule, and batching tasks together, keeps your blog consistent and in line with your intended vision.

  1. Devise a content schedule, but make it achievable and in line with your aims. It’s better to keep your goals manageable and steady. If you try to publish too often, or in a way which doesn’t mesh with your life, you run the risk of burnout and blog abandonment.
  2. Look for opportunities to batch tasks together. When we switch from one type of task to another, we lose focus and take a while to ‘get in the groove’ again. You can overcome this by batching related tasks together, and scheduling them appropriately. For example, you could consider creating headlines for your next 10 pieces of content at the same time, or producing top images in a single session.
  3. Make use of tools such as Trello and Google Drive to schedule and collaborate. Or keep it old-school and use a paper calendar. Whatever works for you.

Have you got a personal spin on any of the above ideas? Do you have any other powerful productivity advice for your fellow bloggers? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

The post 3 Powerful Productivity Tips to Become a Better Freelance Blogger appeared first on LittleZotz Writing.

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You have been blogging for a while and you think it’s finally time. You want to stretch your wings and fly into the world of freelance blogging!

You’re not sure what to expect though, or if you’re even qualified to be a freelance blogger.

I can almost hear you now…

“What are people going to expect from me?”

“What if they don’t like what I write?”

“What if I get rejected?”

These are all questions I asked myself (and, just between you and me, sometimes I find myself still asking them!).

I know you are scared, and thinking about how hard this is going to be. Basically talking yourself out of even trying.

It’s ok to be scared, but you need to stop thinking about how hard it’s going to be. Just start writing. It’s that easy.

Do you love to write, and do research, for your articles? Do you love being able to reach out and connect with your readers? I know you do, or you wouldn’t be here looking for the help you need to get your butt moving.

Let me give you six tips that helped me when I was starting on my journey to become a freelance blogger.

1. Pick a topic that you feel very strongly about

When you write something that you are passionate about, you are put your heart and soul into each and every word. Your readers will be able to feel that — they will know that you truly care about what you are saying.

Think about it this way: when you are talking to a friend and you are really excited about an idea, or trip you are taking, or a band you are going to see… How do they react? They get just as excited as you are, right?

That’s what happens when you write about something you are passionate about. Your excitement shows on the page and will extend outward to the readers, and they will get excited too. Nothing sucks more than reading a monochromatic blog – BORING!

2. Get to the point!

Yes, some articles you write are going to need some kind of back story, an explanation, or a starting point to get the readers interested in what you are going to be writing about. Keep it as short as you can, make it as interesting as you can, and stay on point.

You want to grab the reader’s attention right off the bat or you could lose them.

Do not use filler and fluff to make your articles longer. People hate nothing more than finding an article that they really want to read only to discover there are 20 paragraphs of rambling before they “get to the point” of the article.

3. Pictures or no pictures?

Did the editor ask for pictures? Does the blog use pictures? If so, what types of pictures do they use? Entertainment, silly knowledge, or the how-to types of pictures?

Research who you are trying to freelance for to see what their style is, then try to follow it the best you can. Remember, you are trying to get your work published, so you want it to be the best it can be.

If you find some information that is relevant to the article, but is not long enough for an entire section, you can use an information block. I love those little blocks! They are picture-sized blocks that have extra little tidbits of information in them that don’t really fit into the body of the main blog, yet are still very important. They will usually put them into the place where a picture would be.

4. Know the subject matter

You would think that this would be an easy one to follow, yet for some, it is not. As a reader of blogs myself, I find it to be very frustrating when I come across writers who don’t seem to know what they’re writing about. You know the ones. Their articles are usually a paragraph or two long and say absolutely nothing – just vague allusions to the title they were assigned.

Do your research.

Google is your new best friend, so you might as well get to know it well. Remember, there is more than one page to your search — you could find something very interesting on page ten, so don’t be afraid to search, search, search.

Then, when you think you are done searching, rephrase what you are looking up, and search some more. You will be amazed at what you can find out there (I know I was!).

5. Need an easy article idea to get started? Answer a question

Go check out at least ten different blogs. Look for different types of blogs — don’t just go to Sam’s Cooking Blog and read ten articles.

See what you like, and don’t like about them. Then, turn those likes and dislikes into questions.

For example: you read one of Sam’s Cooking Blog’s articles and he talked about his kids fighting all the time, or how his daughter won the baton championship, or that his dog that just threw up (which is kind of gross for a cooking blog). You think he shouldn’t do that. So your dislike-turned-question would be, “Do you like reading about the writer’s personal life if it has nothing to do with the blog article?”

You could also just ask your readers what they get most frustrated with when they are reading an article online.

Then, write your research-based answer on your blog.

I don’t recommend using more than six questions. You don’t want to overwhelm your audience!

Once you’re done, post it on all of your social media sites.

6. FOLLOW THE EDITOR’S RULES AND GUIDELINES

If you want to do things your way, I suggest you stick to blogging on your own site. If you want to get into freelance blogging, you’ll have to follow the rules.

The editor of the blog you are trying to get a guest post published at is your next possible boss. They have given you a set of guidelines to follow, but you don’t like them, so you do it your way…

Guess what! You just blew your chance at getting that guest post spot you wanted so badly. There isn’t a boss on this planet who wants or likes their rules ignored.

They use them for a reason, even if you don’t know what it is. So if you know how to follow the rules and you use the guidelines the editor gives you, you will have a greater chance at getting your guest post published.

By searching for information to help you get started on your freelancing path, you have already taken that first step. Is there still more that you could learn? Of course there is! I am constantly learning. You’re not going to know everything just from reading one article.

Each editor you work for will want something different, but you won’t know what that is unless you take that thinking cap off and put your writer’s cap on!

What are you waiting for? Switch them caps, and get a move on doing what you love!!

The post 6 Steps to Get Started as a Freelance Blogger appeared first on LittleZotz Writing.

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Illustration by Ramiro Roman

Staying productive and on task when you work from home can be super challenging, but, if you’re a freelancer and your home is also your office you absolutely need to nail this if you want to succeed.

Getting everything done just as you want it and on time can be one of the hardest things to get right when transitioning from office life to working for yourself at home.

When I first started working from home I’d get up just before I needed to be at my desk and then spend the morning working in my pyjamas.

I’d make regular trips to the kettle, potter around the kitchen, and, before I knew it, it was 11am which meant time for a break. I’d eat biscuits, stick on Netflix then sit at my PC to work without focusing on anything in particular.

Soon enough it’d be 3pm and I’d done pretty much nothing.

I did this for two weeks before realising I was getting nowhere and would be back in a ludicrous 9-5 office job in no time if I didn’t get my act together, pronto!

Now I successfully work from home as a freelancer and here I share my top tips for how to stay on task and be sure the job gets done when your office is also your living space.

1. Get yourself a routine

Find what works for you then create a routine and stick to it.

One of the great perks of being a freelancer is that you can choose your own hours. Don’t feel you have to stick to a 9-5 schedule if that’s not what you want.

I was so ingrained in the corporate lifestyle that it took me a while to work out that my hours were now flexible.

That Wednesday afternoon Yoga class that was always so appealing was suddenly accessible. I’d just work an hour in the evening instead.

I don’t work so well in the early hours so now I use my mornings to manage my social media accounts, read blogs and learn what I can about the industries that I’m involved in.

I write best after 5pm, when the evening is drawing in, so I generally use early afternoons for exercising, meeting friends or scheduling personal appointments.

Maybe you work best at the crack of dawn or the middle of the night? The beauty is it doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that you find your routine and follow it daily, that way you’ll always know what you should be doing. You won’t waste precious time trying to decide which task to tackle next.

2. Get out of the house

Whether it’s to walk the dog, go for a run or pick up some milk, just get yourself outside before you start your working day.

The effect this can have is incredible.

When you work from home it can be really tough to separate yourself from your business. You wouldn’t think something as simple as leaving the house and going back inside would help but it truly does.

Firstly, it makes you get dressed so you avoid the habit of working in your pyjamas. Some people do work in their pyjamas by the way and they work well, but, if you’re anything like me and you struggle with self-discipline getting dressed can help shift your mindset from ‘home’ to ‘work’.

I’m not talking smart business dress, just something different to what you woke up in.

Secondly, when you physically leave your home you can convince yourself you’re leaving home life to enter work life.

When you come back inside you’re walking into your office rather than the place you eat, sleep and chill out in.

3. Make a daily to-do list

Having a to-do list can help you stay on track and ensure that nothing important falls on the back burner.

Keep it in a handy place such as a whiteboard next to your desk or a dedicated planner you can carry with you.

Find a time for you to update your to-do list, you could spend 10 minutes each morning and each evening planning your day and checking whether you’ve done what you needed to do.

In the morning this can help you to get into ‘work’ mode and in the evening, when you check off what you’ve accomplished, this can help you to wind down and clock off.

The satisfaction of ticking things off your to-list is motivation in itself. It’s great knowing you’ve checked off everything you had planned.

4. Have a dedicated workstation

When you work from home it can be really tempting to work sprawled on the sofa, at your breakfast bar or even in bed.

The problem with this?

It doesn’t put you in that professional mindset to start work.

I know I keep banging on about this mindset malarkey but it’s so important it’s worth repeating … several times.

When you have a dedicated workstation you can have everything set up just as you need it.

If you’re lucky enough to have a house that has a spare room turn that into your office. Go on, do it now!

If, however, you’re like me and working from a little one bedroom flat you won’t have this luxury yet, but you can still make it work.

I have a desk in my living room that has my PC on, a desk drawer with all my notebooks, letters and business documents inside, and my whiteboard with my daily to-do list hanging on the wall next to me.

Unfortunately, I also have my sofa and TV right next to me and the wine rack on the wall opposite which can, admittedly, be a challenge sometimes.

Hey, I can give you all the tips in the world to make this work but the biggest thing here? Self-discipline my friend.

You gotta keep away from that TV. After all, Stranger Things will still be there when you clock off.

5. Block distractions with an app

You know Apple’s trademarked phrase, ‘There’s an app for that!’? Well guess what…

If you find that your number one source of procrastination is your phone there are tons of apps you can get to help.

There’s apps that block social media accounts, mute notifications, save links to read later and even lock your phone completely for a set period of time that you choose.

Do some research and find the one that suits you best, there’s plenty of free options out there too.

6. Reward yourself

Completed everything on your weekly to-do list? Landed a new client? Updated your website? When you achieve what you set out to do reward yourself.

I’m not suggesting here that you go out and buy everything on your wishlist just because you managed to tick off everything you planned to do this week. I am suggesting you treat yourself in some way. Rewards don’t have to cost a lot of money.

At the end of a successful week I like to take a bubble bath with a large glass of wine and listen to an audio book.

Landed a great new client? Well, maybe that does deserve some bubbly with your favourite meal.

Think of it like a game; the status of your reward should match the level of your achievement.

The way to stay productive when you work from home is finding what works for you.

You can read all the advice in the world but you’ll soon find that it becomes overwhelming and discover that what works for one person isn’t going to work for someone else.

Just try different ways of working and see what sticks.

Good Luck and Happy Freelancing!

What about you? Do you agree with the tips above? What do you do to stay on task? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below.

The post Six Tips to Keep You Productive When Working from Home appeared first on LittleZotz Writing.

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