“A Reason to Get Out of Bed” at Yahoo! Voices for Mother’s Day

I recently signed up to be a contributor over at Yahoo! and they post some very interesting assignments. These articles don’t pay (they’re performance-based, meaning I only get paid for how many times people click to read them) but that’s not the point. Rather, the prompts get my brain pumping. Recently, I claimed an assignment just in time for Mother’s Day: What does being a mom mean to me?

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This article, A Reason to Get Out of Bed, is what resulted. Go take a look and leave a comment there or here. I’d appreciate it. I know you’re probably all sick and tired of hearing how grateful I am for my little girl. But she’s changed me for the better in more ways than I can name. Truly, I am a better person right now than I was the day she was born and it’s only been 7 1/2 months. I already owe her a million things.

Besides. Look at her. She’s perfect.

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Learning How (and When) to Say “No” (And “Yes,” When Appropriate)

Sometimes, I need to say “no.”

Whether it’s to a project or social engagement, I need to say “no.” However, more often than not, I say “yes.”

I say “yes” to social plans and “yes” to web content projects. I say “yes” to blog management gigs and I say “yes” to article assignments. I say “yes” to Bob and I say “yes” to Jane. I say “yes” to everyone.

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Source: donnamarijne

And sometimes, it bites me in the ass.

Don’t get me wrong, saying “yes” has given me an abundance of opportunity. It’s opened doors and it’s paid my bills. It’s been largely positive and I won’t stop saying “yes” anytime soon.

However, I do need to learn how to say “no.” And more so than that, when. Knowing when a project is worthwhile and when it isn’t is vital, not only to your bottom line, but also to your overall well-being. So I’ve done some soul-searching (and some Googling) and came up with the following.

Here are a few tips for learning how and when to say “no” with pointers on identifying the projects that will add to your life (to which you should unabashedly say “yes”).

  1. If the project seems like it’s more trouble than it’s worth, it probably is. I think every freelancer has gone through this at some point. Tell me if this sounds familiar? You start a project only to have the details change in the middle. Or, maybe the client isn’t very clear upfront about what he or she wants. Or, maybe you actually complete the project only to find out the client didn’t understand what he  wanted and told you to do the wrong thing. Now, he expects a revision (which amounts to a rewrite from scratch) for no additional charge. There are a million variations, all of them frustrating. In short, if the client doesn’t seem like he’s got it together, he probably doesn’t. It might be best to skip this project for the sake of your own sanity.
  2. If the client doesn’t respect you (or your time), move on. I know every freelancer has gone through this and it isn’t pretty. The client thinks you’re available 24/7. I’m not talking about emailing at 1 am when they get an idea. That’s fine because it implies I can respond at my leisure. I’m talking about the sort of client who emails you at 1 in the morning and expects a response right away! So you wake up to an inbox full of “Are you there?” and “Why aren’t you returning my messages, this is important,” and “You are being very unprofessional–I expect a timely response!” Or, maybe the client messages you on Skype “just to chat” at odd hours. Maybe she schedules an interview and then keeps you on the phone for an hour and a half. These are all things I’ve dealt with in the past and if you can smell this scent of desperation on a client, close the email or put down the phone. Say “no” to the project and just move on!
  3. Get paid for your work. Seriously. Always.* You have a skill and deserve to be paid for it. If you’re even remotely decent at your job, you deserve to be paid. This sort of ties into #2 on this list; failing to offer money for work (or an insultingly low amount) implies a lack of respect. Why work for a client who doesn’t respect you?
  4. If a project gives you the opportunity to broaden your skill set, and it’s a skill set you want to have, do it. Being a freelancer is a funny thing. Once you reach a certain level, you can pick and choose who you work with. After a while, you learn what’s worthwhile and what’s not. So, if you come across a project that pays lower than your usual rate but will provide hands-on training in web design (and you’re a writer), go for it! Sometimes the cost/benefit analysis incorporates more than cash and that’s okay.
  5. Turning down good money is okay (sometimes). You don’t have to love every single project you do. That’s perfectly fine. But if you get an assignment and it’s making you cry tears of boredom, compromises your personal ethics, or makes you uncomfortable, why put yourself through the torture? Unless you need the cash, skip it. I realize most of us need the cash so this might be mute, but if you’re ever in a position where you’re living comfortably, for god sakes, say no!

I’m sure there are more tips but that’s what I’ve come up with for the moment. Let me know in the comments how and when you say “no” to projects and what signals indicate a project you just have to take.

*Sometimes exceptions can be made for those just starting out and for passion projects. For instance, if you don’t have a lot of experience and need pieces for your portfolio, go ahead if you think it’ll help. Or, if you want to get some experience writing for RPGs and the client has a decent portfolio of past work, why not give it a shot? It’s your time, after all. Spend it how you see fit. 

Weekly Writing Inspiration: April 23, 2013

I thought I’d start a new thing here on my writing blog. What’s inspiring me this week? We’ll start out with a handful of things and see how that goes. I may cut back on these or increase them depending on what my life is like at the time. But this week, I’m inspired by:

Writing inspiration

Coffee + blogging = a good morning

  1. 1/2 caf Americanos. Just enough caffeine to kick my rear in gear but not so much to leave me a jittery mess
  2. YouTube videos by Google engineer, Matt Cutts. Learning so much cool stuff. Yes, I’m that nerdy.
  3. Moving forward on projects. After stagnation on a few big projects, they’re finally moving forward again and I’m feeling really positive about them. There is actual measurable progress. Which is awesome.
  4. New routines. I’m developing new routines and plans for my blogs, which is seriously exciting. I’ve blogged forever but never consistently enough. If I want to advise people on how to “market their brands” and “increase search engine traffic” and all of those other buzzwordy things, I need to actually do it myself. It’s more work, yes, but it can only yield positive results. And dammit, I find that inspiring!

That’s all for now. I’m going to try to make this a weekly thing, as I’m sure there will be at least one thing that inspires me each week. And please feel free to share what’s inspiring you this week, whether it’s something someone said to you, a particularly fun thing you did over the weekend, or a quote you read online, I want to know!

Health and Fitness Writing & Content: It’s Sort of My Thing

When I started freelance writing back in 2004, I scraped together projects however I could manage. My first article sold was actually never published. It was about Irish step dancing. From there, I had articles picked up by a few online publications, then print like ePregnancy. Unfortunately, that magazine folded. I did some more print work for Cat Fancy and Critters USA, which was awesome. Several articles appeared in international publications as well.

However, around 2007 I needed to increase my income substantially. I was moving out of my parent’s house and couldn’t just rely on writing for magazines to pay the bills. At that point, I’d done a few content projects here and there. I wrote ebooks and press releases and all of that. Just not as much as I do now.

In fact, for the past five years, I’ve spent most of my time writing web content, SEO, and doing work for companies like crafting white papers and company bios. Still, I never lost my love for the editorial style and it pleases me greatly that my work has once again shifted toward writing for publication.

I already blogged about my gig with Fit-Journey.com, which is exciting and allows me to really stretch my creative writing muscles (see what I did there?) but I’ve neglected to mention my work for other fitness and health sites.

As a contributor to Demand Media, I write articles for several sites including The Nest, AZ Healthy Living, The Bump, eHow, and Livestrong. I will be writing about this more in the future, but I just wanted to mention it now since these articles take up a significant portion of my workload. In fact, I went on a pinning rampage on Pinterest the other day and found I’d written over 500 articles for Livestrong covering health and fitness, beauty and skincare, credit/taxes, and business. Isn’t that nuts? All this time, I was worried I didn’t have enough content to share with you all but I was obviously mistaken!

As I move forward in this niche, I was wondering if any of my readers had preferences as to the subject matter I covered? Is there any area of health and fitness that you would like to see more attention paid? I’m always looking for new angles to cover so feel free to share!

New Contributor to Fit Journey

197345_257590267709483_1812477838_nGood news, ladies and gents! I was just contracted as a contributor to Fit-Journey.com. I’ll be writing eight articles a month for the site, covering the gamut of health and fitness topics from workout info to food ideas to lifestyle tips.

You can check out my latest article here:

5 Reasons NOW is the Time to Get Healthy

I’ll be posting snippets of articles as they’re published in the future. I’m excited to be writing about health and fitness. It’s a niche that is near and dear to me because it marked the beginning of my writing career. Thanks to Julia for the warm welcome to the team!

UFYH, Or “I’m Making My Life Better, Damnit!”

This post might be a bit off topic in the sense that it doesn’t relate directly to writing. However, what I’m going to talk about directly affects my ability to be a writer.

Like many creative people I know, I have trouble keeping my shit together. That is, the sink will fill with dirty dishes. The bed will lay unmade. The floor unswept, the clothes stuffed in a laundry basket after being washed, etc, etc.

I recently stumbled upon this thing called UFYH or Unfuck Your Habitat and it’s seriously changed how I view being an adult. Before, I thought I had to do ALL THE THINGS ALL AT ONCE and if I didn’t manage to do that (which I never would), I’d be OMG THE BIGGEST FAILURE EVER. In the past, I’d usually hit a tipping point in terms of cleanliness. I’d trip over the pile of clothes on the floor one too many times. The kitchen would smell. I’d walk into the living room and see clutter everywhere and sigh just a little too loudly.

My typical reaction in these cases was to scurry about the house and try to clean up weeks’ worth of mess in a few hours. And I’d not only fail, but I’d exhaust myself on the notion of cleaning. Process repeat.

With UFYH, I’ve learned that setting aside even 10 minutes a day to clean up one thing is a BIG DEAL when you’re a person like me. 10 minutes a day of cleaning is doable, won’t leave me exhausted, and does leave me with a sense of accomplishment. Lately, my chosen task has been making the bed every day. It only takes a few minutes, but damn if the bedroom doesn’t look better. It says, “a grown up lives here” not “an unkempt teenager passes out here.”

I still haven’t mastered putting away the dishes or hanging up the laundry right away. But my aforementioned tipping point happens a lot faster now. Another thing that’s been helping a lot is making to-do lists. It’s going to sound crazy, but putting things like “Make bed,” or “Wipe counters,” on my to-do list helps a ton! Plus, I get that crazy satisfaction of checking that shit off when I’ve completed it.

This weekend, Matt and I worked on scrubbing the tub. If you follow me on Twitter, you likely saw me bitching about my hip and I think that’s how I injured myself. Even so, most of the tub is clean now. Seriously, I forgot what color it was supposed to be. It took some serious, get on your hands and knees and use some elbow grease, but it got done.

And this brings me back to writing (I told you it was related). I find it impossible to write when I’m distracted by mess. The clutter and mess can leave me paralyzed. By tackling a little bit at a time and using to-do lists, I’m conquering the clutter and seeing my productivity rise. This is necessary, ya’ll, because I need to make money (cooking a baby in my belly, yo) and I need to finish some of my creative projects. Because when I don’t use creative outlets, I get even crazier than I normally am. And trust me folks, that’s not a good look.

l’ll probably write more posts about UFYH because it’s awesome and it’s helping me. In any case, I just wanted to share this nifty thing with you all. Would you be interested in knowing more things I’ve been doing to cope with being a real-live grownup? Do any of you struggle with these same issues?

Damned Dolphins, Or Here’s Your Dolphin Pictures Already

I wrote a post last year about dolphins. I know what you’re thinking. How quaint. You’re making assumptions about me right now, aren’t you? That I like sparkly pink purses and put stickers on everything. You’re picturing unicorns and rainbows and dolphins swimming whilst laughing and rejoicing as their glossy skin gleans in the sun. Gleans!

Ah, the acid trip of dolphin youth.

But if you would get off of your assumption train for a moment (judgmental much?), I’d be able to tell you that this post I wrote about dolphins had to do with the BP oil spill and I tied it all together with a fun anecdote about when I got splashed by a dolphin at SeaWorld.

This post is my most popular to date. I don’t have a popular blog or anything, but I got somewhere around 1,400 visits on this one post because it was Freshly Pressed. Now, this was awesome. Blogging is a combination of hobby, outlet, and way to spread the word about my writing, and someone thought enough of my post to press it. Freshly, even. I was honored.

But, with all great achievements there is a burden waiting to be taken up. My burden? The majority of my traffic comes from people looking for pictures of dolphins now. What little traffic I get from search engines rests solely on the nimble fingers of dolphin lovers. Dolphin lovers so enthusiastic about these mammals of the sea, they feel the need to hit the Google with a query punched up with maximum dolphin.

You want dolphin? Fine. You can have them!

The typical searches are for phrases like “dolphin laughing,” or “dolphin swimming.” And if they’re really getting creative, “dolphin smile.” Because really, they’re just gorgeous, aren’t they? So happy, eyes filled with the innocence of a child, metallic skin glistening under the golden rays of the sun. Some might call them majestic…

Then of course, some people have found my blog by searching for the following:

dying dolphin laugh

You sick motherfucker. Does the sound of a dying dolphin send a shiver up your spine? A special tingle? Dude, run away as fast as you can. I don’t want to know you.

I see your dreams. And judge them.

Other phrases I find worrisome:

dolphin with human baby

That’s weird. And sounds dangerous. If you’re looking for baby + dolphin photo ops, you’ve come to the wrong place.

a dolphin saying goodbye see you later

Or waving. You know, that would’ve worked, too. Unless you actually wanted to find out information about a talking dolphin that can only say “goodbye, see you later.” If that’s the case, creativity bonus points for you. Just don’t let me see your sick laboratory in the basement of your mother’s house where you try to “fix” dolphins so they can talk. That shit’s just wrong.

And the WTF award goes to:

dolphins putting up their fin like when you put up your hand in school

How strangely specific. Why would you need to look for this? What possible reason? No, I’m serious. I need to know.

how do dolphins see

Their blowholes.

dead dolphins

I thought I told you to go away! Turn around and leave. No sick bastards that like the sound of dolphin death allowed.

I'm a dolphin, bitch!

This is my curse. Thank you for allowing me to share it with you. Maybe I should write a post about sea turtles to try to balance this out. Or maybe even a land mammal to shake things up. In the meantime, I’ve dug the dolphin hole a little bit deeper. Oh no. Now someone searching for dolphin holes is going to find me. I don’t think I’m sleeping tonight.