Emerald Musings

~ 01 Butterfly, Monarch_05Welcome to my writing blog, Emerald Musings! 

Grab a comfortable chair, a cup of your favorite beverage, and enjoy while I explore one of my great passions- storytelling.  At Emerald Musings, I focus on writing and art of storytelling.  I do reviews, rant about the business, and rave about gems of the fiction and non-fiction worlds.

If you are interested in me reviewing your book, please check out my post about reviewing books.  Also, because I want to support my fellow authors as much as I can, please note that I will review only copies I pay for from now on.  If your book isn’t published yet, that’s fine –just let me know the price you’re intending on selling it, and we can possibly make arrangements.

So, as always, please enjoy, and happy reading!

 

    How Expensive is your Needle? Pricing Out Your Freelance Work

    So you've gotten started in the freelance world.  Great!  You've started to apply for jobs.  Wonderful!  You've decided on how much you will charge for your services.  Wait.  You haven't?   Well, it's time to fix that.

    Many new freelancers operate under the assumption that what they get paid is dependent on what the customer is willing to pay, and whether or not the customer can find it somewhere else cheaper.  And while budget considerations should certainly be a factor to consider, there are other ones to consider as well -- such as your time, your energy, and this little thing called being able to make a living as a freelancer.

    When it comes to pricing, most new freelancers fall into a few different "traps":

    1. Low Prices Make Me Competitive -- Umm, perhaps, but not in the way that you want to be.  Content mills, sites like Fiver, or other websites that sell your work for cheap do you absolutely no favors.  Why?  Simple -- when you deliver high-quality work for pennies on the dollar, your client will expect it, and you'll have to take on more and more work just to make ends meet.  That leads to burn out.  Not good.  Plus, there are literally THOUSANDS of people out there perfectly willing to churn out work for little or no pay.  I'm not entirely sure why, but there are.  Do you really, really want to compete in that type of market?
    2. Only Veteran Freelancers Can Go for the "Big" Clients -- Absolutely not.  Simply put, if you have the skills to get the job done, there is absolutely no reason why you can't go after the big fish.  Just make sure you can deliver on what you promise!
    3. If I charge too much, I'll price myself out of the market!  Well, that depends on which market you're aiming for.  Sure, if you want to try competing with the low-paying content mills, or other such websites or companies, chances are if you charge a reasonable rate, you will.  However, if you want to compete on a different level, dare I say on the professional level, having a reasonable rate is not only expected, it is encouraged.
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    Finding the Needle: How to Use Classified Ads and Aggregate Sites for Freelance Work

    When you first start looking for freelance work, it can be difficult to know exactly where to look.  There are quite a few options out there, and finding ones that fit your needs can be a hassle.  As I said in last week's post, which you can find here, I do have a few favorites that have proven, at least for me to be quite fruitful.  One of them falls under the category of what I call "raw classifieds" -- or those sources that simply list the job, with no filtration, and no fuss.

    So how do I use Craig's List to find freelance work?  It's actually pretty simple, especially if you keep in mind the points I made in the earlier blog post:  preparation is key, be picky about your sources, and be picky about your jobs.

    So here goes -- this is how I typically find the jobs I want to apply for on Craig's List.  By the way, this process also works well for aggregator sites like problogger.com or freelancewriting.com as well.

    Step 1:  Decisions, Decisions.

    Before you even open up your browser, think about what type of jobs you're going to apply for.  Set some criteria for what is acceptable.  Here are a few things to consider:

    • How many hours a week are you willing to devote to one project?
    • What is the minimum hourly or per word/flat fee you're willing to accept
    • Is there any type of work that you consider taboo?  Something you simply will not do?
    • What is the max number of projects that you can work on right now?

    Once you have this information determined, open up your browser and go to Craig's List.  Since Craig's List is regional, your "home" Craig's List may be a different location, but the basic layout is the same:

     

    There are two areas you want to focus on -- the "Gigs" category in the lower right-hand corner, and the location menu on the right-hand side:

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    Finding the Needle: A Freelance Guide to Finding and Landing the Job

    So you've decided to take the plunge, huh?

    Well then, welcome to freelancing!  It's a wild, sometimes frustrating, always competitive, and occasionally nerve-wracking, but if you're anything like me, the idea of going back to the 9-5 job won't be considered.  This life isn't for everyone, but if it's for you, you'll know pretty quickly- say in about six months or so.

    As a freelancer, you'll no longer have the luxury of a regular paycheck, of having your employer deal with taxes, the employee provided insurance, or even paid time off.  Gone are the days of two-week paid vacations, regular hours, and camaraderie around the water cooler.  Say hello to 10 to 12 hour days at a time, multiple demanding bosses also known as clients, sometimes laughably low wages, and most of all the looming uncertainty of how to pay the next bill.

    Still with me?  Stil want to be a part of this game?  If so, good -- the world needs more people like you.

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    The Dance of the Story

    It's amazing what you can learn about yourself when you write creatively.

    Sure, there is the normal stuff -- like finding your passion, what drives you as a person, or even the various small pet peeves you have.  What I'm talking about though is the really interesting things that no one really talks about anymore.  Not the "why" of what you do, but rather the nuts and bolts, explaining exactly "how".

    For me, that's where things get interesting.  As a writer, or an artist, how do you come up with your creations?  Are they inspired by a muse hidden somewhere in the clouds, playing a magical lute?  Or is your inspiration a little more grimy, a little closer to home -- such as a resilient sewer rat that you saw race towards the next grate on the sidewalk?  And once you have your spark of inspiration, how do you go about actually creating the masterpiece?  Is it torn violently from your mind in a torrent of activity, or is it more of a slow, plodding process?

    I have discovered that often my inspiration is the reality around me, and the creation process is not a quick one.  But there is also something that I recently discovered about my process -- something that I think that some of my fellow writers and even publishers might be a little confused about. I dare say many would think I'm off my rocker, so to speak.

    So here goes...

    I don't give a flying horse's rear end about genre when I'm writing.

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    5 Things I Wished I had Known Before Becoming a Freelancer

    So our "5 Things" series on Emerald Musings is coming to an end.  Before that happens, I definitely want to thank all our wonderful contributors -- there is no way that I could have done this without you!  So without further ado, here is my humble contribution to the series.

    Five Things I Wished I Had Known Before Becoming a Freelancer

     The Right Client Will Pay What You're Worth -- So Demand it.

    In the beginning of my freelance career I fell into the common trap of thinking that in order to be competitive, I had to price my services low enough that someone would give me a chance.  I worked for the content mills and priced my services out at prices so far below the going market rate that I was sure that I would get the opportunities and shine like never before.

    And not surprisingly, there were clients out there that were happy enough to pay me the likes of $0.0005 per word, or even $0.001 per word if I was lucky.

    Do you know what was also not surprising?  The fact that I was working nearly 80 hours a week just to make ends meet.  If I wanted to do that, I could have easily stayed at my grueling 9-5 job.  No thank you.

    Here's the truth -- Clients will pay you what you demand, as long as your quality justifies it.  If you can show that your work is great enough to justify $50 - $60 an hour or $2.00 per word then, by all means, charge it and only negotiate to a minimum that you are comfortable with.  Will there be potential clients that scoff at you and walk away from what you offer?  Yes.  But honestly, in the long run, the clients that do take you up on your offer will be the ones that are worth having.

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    Five Things I Wish I Had Known About Marketing Before I Published My First Book

    By Andrea Hintz

    Through every process in life, we all have those, “I wish I had known” moments. We wish we had known how to do things better and how to be more effective. For this series, I chose the topic of five things I wished I had known about marketing before I published my first book. I would like to share my experiences in the hopes of helping new writers as they go through this exciting and inspiring journey. I will go ahead and dig straight into these five topics:

    1. I wish I would have marketed more before the book was published.

    This is hard to do when you are just learning about the world of writing and publishing books. The more you market in advance, the more promised readers you will have. It can be disappointing when you have been dreaming about getting your book published for such a long time, thinking about how the moment your book is available for sale, the sales will suddenly begin flooding in. But most of the time, this does not happen unless you put in a little pre-work with marketing before the book is published. I remember someone once saying that writing the book is only about half the work. The longer I experience the world of sales, the more and more I find this true. In fact, right now, writing the book only feels like about 20% of the work. So your next question might be, “How do I market my book before publishing it???” No worries. I got you covered. Read on my curious writer…

    2. I wish I would have built up some book reviews before posting the book for sale.

    If you have the ability to get some book reviews before you publish your book, that will help to build your status as a writer and make your books more desirable. Now, before I continue this article, PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU COPYRIGHT YOUR BOOK FIRST! These steps will require getting your book out there before you can publish the book, and you want to make sure that your precious talent is protected. Go on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and ask your friends if they would accept a free PDF version of your book in exchange for an honest review. You can post the offer on your timeline, message individual friends, or both. I would recommend adding a watermark in Word, saying something like, “Copyright, 2017, Author Name.” Then change the Word document into a PDF so that it cannot be changed. Do this before distributing the book to strangers. Don’t know that many people who would be willing to give you a book review? Don’t worry. I got you covered for that too in my next topic.

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    Five Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Started To Write (Crime) Fiction

    By Tony Knighton

    1. You don’t need to ask permission.

    I’ve always been a reader. I thought about writing something of my own, most often while reading stories or books that were poorly written, but for decades I didn’t. Once I got around to it, I realized I’d been waiting for someone or something to tell me that I was allowed to try. I didn’t need to wait.

    2. Writing is hard.

    A piece of published writing is one-way communication – the reader can’t ask follow-up questions. You have to do more than come up with a cool story and put it on paper. Good writing will make that story just as clear and fun for the reader as it is for the writer. The fun will be missing if the writing is weak.

    3. Don’t worry if it’s bad at first.

    Like any other activity worth pursuing, writing is a skill that needs to be developed. It takes practice. When we start, we may know what it is we want to achieve, but our skills aren’t up to it, yet. You should keep going – keep reading, keep writing. Revise. Don’t be discouraged. Find people nearby who write and talk to them about it. Read their stuff. When you’re ready, ask them to look at yours. Keep writing. Revise. Take some courses. Get into a writer’s group. Keep writing. Revise. Your stuff will get better.

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    Five Things I Wish I had Known before I Started Writing Novels

    by Greg Barth
    One – Building a story is a separate process from writing a story.

    I used to think that you built a story as you wrote it. This was wrong. I’ve since learned that building a story is a thing in itself that has little to do with writing. Stories have defined components, certain ingredients that are required, big scenes that happen in certain places. It wasn’t until I knew the fundamentals of building a story that I was successful at writing a novel.
    These days I spend a lot of time turning scenes over in my head while driving, listening to music. In the evening, I jot down some notes about the scenes I dreamt up earlier in the day on a notecard and pin it to my corkboard. I move the scenes around, making sure the big scenes hit at the right points in the story. I note out the sequences that connect the scenes. It’s not until I have the story built that I begin writing it.
    Two – A strong story will work no matter who tells it.
    I don’t consider myself a talented writer. There, I’ve said it. And it’s true – I don’t. I do, however, consider myself a better-than-average story builder. Here’s the thing – a good story will overcome mediocre writing. Stories can be written as songs, novels, poems, you name it, and we all love the stories that work.
    Some of my favorite movies won’t be found in the Criterion Collection. Why? Because they don’t break ground cinematically. But they are my favorites because I love the stories they tell. Have you ever read the latest release from a best-selling novelist, one you’ve looked forward to, maybe pre-ordered, only to find that you were a little let down by the story? Maybe the writing was as excellent as you’d come to expect from this author, but the book didn’t end well, or the pacing was off. My theory is this: It takes a tremendous talent to tell a mediocre story in a captivating way. On the other hand, if the story is great, it almost doesn’t matter who tells it.
    This is why I spend time getting the story right up front because I know my writing skills are pretty basic. But basic skills are good enough for an exceptional story, especially if you don’t want your flowery prose getting in the way of what’s going on.

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