Writing Fiction: The Keys to Characterization

Serious music students practice their scales, learning the notes by rote before they ever play a piece of music. They play the same piece over and over, receiving correction from a teacher until playing at a satisfactory level. Likewise, a writer who uses a spelling, grammar, and plagiarism checking tool to review a piece can learn from the corrections, improving her finished product. The writer who studies her craft can learn to play symphonies, while the writer who shuns formal learning and relies solely on instinct may find herself stuck playing “Chopsticks.”

What is Characterization?

Talent and learning must come together to produce great writing. Like spelling and grammar, characterization is a skill that can be learned. Characterization is, simply defined, the process by which the author reveals a character to the reader.

Details like mannerisms, dialogue, and physical appearance all contribute to the building of the character in the reader’s mind. The reader gets to know the characters through the process of characterization.

Characters, like people, reveal themselves through various means. Dialogue, appearance, speech, and the effect a person has on those who already know him all play a part in forming our assumptions of a character. Characterization can be either direct or indirect, and both types fall into one of several categories.

Direct & Indirect Characterization

Direct characterization should be used sparingly. Description of a character’s appearance, mannerism, personality, or habits is direct characterization. A common ploy, especially among new or inexperienced authors, is to have the character studying himself or herself in a mirror. The technique, when the writer uses the opportunity to simply describe the physical characteristics, results in the impression of a narcissistic character obsessed with his or her appearance, unless the physical description is secondary to the character’s thoughts and feelings about his or her appearance.

 

In Piers Anthony’s book Ogre, Ogre the main character, Tandy, examines herself in a mirror:

She was nineteen years old, but she looked like a child in her nightie and lady-slippers, her brown tresses mussed from constant squirming, her blue eyes peering out worriedly. She wished she looked more like her mother- but of course no human person could match the pretty faces and fantastic figures of nymphs.

From this short paragraph, the reader learns that Tandy is childlike, with brown hair and blue eyes, but far more of Tandy’s character and current state of mind is revealed than her physical statistics. The reader sees a troubled young woman, the child of a mythological creature who is slightly insecure in her own emerging womanhood.

Characterization with Dialogue

Actions may speak louder than words, but in writing, speech is the primary tool for revealing a character to the reader. Dialogue is one of the most effective ways of conveying not only information that moves the story forward, but details about the speaker.

Grammar, word choice, dialect, accent, tone, and delivery all come together to paint an indelible picture in the reader’s mind. Dialogue may be spoken (external) or written (internal). A picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words. Well-crafted dialogue will paint a picture in the reader’s mind, revealing clues about age, education, social status, attitude, worldview, and bent, that would take pages of pure description to create.

A Character’s Effect on Others

 

The effect a character has on others is another subtle yet important tool. The character who commands an air of respect is likely the hero, while the one who inspires sneers may be the villain or the underdog. Lemony Snicket, in A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning, used the children’s first impression of Count Olaf to strongly influence the reader’s view of the villain:

They wondered … whether, for the rest of their lives, they would always feel as though Count Olaf were watching them even when he wasn’t nearby.

The Effects of a Character’s Name

What’s in a name? A character’s name can be an indicator of their basic personality. Draco Malfoy and Severus Snape both have memorable and sinister-sounding names that fit their personalities. Bilbo Baggins sounds like a respectable sort of individual from a long line of stolid ancestors. Huckleberry Finn is the ideal handle for the delinquent child of a drunken vagabond. By employing a combination of direct and indirect characterization techniques, the writer can create characters that come to life on the page.

[box]Nikolas Baron discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown children’s novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, traveling, and reading.[/box]

How Google+ is Changing Search Results & How Writers Can Profit

Google plus logoEvery writer longs for the coveted top spot in Google search results—the one that everyone will see and, most importantly, the choice that will receive the most “clicks.”  You’ve composed stellar content, tried to figure out the rules of search engine optimization, but your articles still inhabit pages 8 through 10—the veritable internet no man’s land.  Well, stop banging your head on that wall.  No, really, it’s quite distracting.  There is good news for writers, thanks to Google+.

Here are some ways that Google+ is making life a whole lot easier for writers and bloggers.

  1. Pictures = Clicks

By linking your blog posts to your Google+ account, you will create a search engine result that sets you apart from the rest.  It will have your profile image, and everyone knows that the inclusion of a visual prompt makes it more eye appealing.  And if your eyes are drawn to it, your mouse will likely follow.  Simply put, a professional headshot and a link to your Google+ account will increase your blog’s traffic and readership.

  1. Bios = Clicks

Thanks to Google+, people now have the chance to click on your name, exposing them to a portfolio of your works.  It’s like having your own Google search engine.  And all of the results lead back to you!

Now, potential followers will be re-directed to other posts that tickle their fancy—making them much more likely to join your readership.  If you install a “Google+” recommendation button on your blog, it will also increase your Google+ rankings, which will push your blog further up the search engine results.  It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

  1. Good Writing = Rewards

Illiterate hacks will not be rewarded by Google+, but literary masters and rapier-witted humorists will.  If someone clicks on a page, but only stays there for a blink of an eye, nothing happens.  After all, the visitor moved on, unimpressed with what they found.

If, however, said visitor stays for a few minutes, captivated by a blogger’s clever prose and sharp intellect, this blogger will reap the rewards for a post well done.  When the visitor presses the “back” button, they will see that your search result has changed.  Beneath the original text, they will see a line that says “more by [insert your name here]” with the links to more of your works.  Yes, your reward is more “clicks” and increased traffic—and that is exactly what every writer hopes for.

  1. Original Works = Rewards

Google+ enables Google’s search engine to verify authorship.  This means that a post by the original author will be much higher in search engine rankings than a copycat’s hack job.  After all, it is your creative property, so you alone should receive the applause.

  1. Separating the Smiths

If you were blessed, or in this case cursed, with a very common moniker, you are likely tired of having your works confused with those of other “Jim Smiths” or “Jennifer Joneses.”  Thanks to Google+ authorship, you can now mark your masterpieces as your own—and set yourself apart from those who only wish they had your talent.  Google’s search engine will finally be able to recognize you as the unique individual that you are—and so will potential followers.

So stop punishing your cranium and create a Google+ profile, instead.  Your writing career and online reputation as a master wordsmith will thank you.  And your landlord will greatly appreciate less holes in his walls.

What tips do you have for maximizing a Google+ following?  How has Google+ helped your career?

Kimberley Laws is a freelance writer and avid blogger. A relative newcomer to the land of “plussers,” she is thoroughly enjoying building up her following. Her Facebook account, however, is feeling rather neglected. She clamors for attention at http://theembiggensproject.wordpress.com/.

Stop Hunting For Better Clients

freelance writing burnoutI received the following email and thought it might help other freelancers to read my response. The author of the letter agreed to let me post the email anonymously.

Hello Emily,

I am a budding freelance writer. Truth be told I have been a budding freelance writer for more than three years now. I have spent a lot of time writing for low paying content mills, and to be honest I feel that I am pretty much burnt out from it. At the moment I am burdened with low paying clients, and I spend over 12 hours per day writing articles just to pay the rent and eat!

I am constantly reading that there are good paying clients around and I do not doubt that, but so far I have not had any success in attracting their attention or even finding where they are. I don’t think I am a bad writer, and I have a couple of decent clips on Yahoo, Blog Critics, and places like Hubpages.

I really don’t know what it is I am doing wrong. It seems to me that I am missing a piece of the puzzle. I know it all takes hard work and effort, and I am certainly not adverse to rolling up my sleeves and getting stuck in. I have just wasted so much of my effort thus far digging in the wrong fields. I am worried I will be burnt out before I realize my full potential as a freelance writer.

Kind regards,
Burnt Out

Dear Burnt Out,

My advice for you is threefold: dump the content mills, stop searching for work, and stop blogging for other writers.

I know what you’re thinking, but let me explain.

I spent some time writing for content mills back in the day, and I’m not surprised you’re unhappy. It might put food on the table, but it’s uninspired work that pays poorly with unreasonable deadlines. My first piece of advice to you? Fire them as clients.

I know you’re dependent on freelancing for your income, so phase them out if you have to. But you can’t accept better jobs if you’re spending 12 hours every day writing drivel. You also don’t have time to improve yourself or your business with such a workload. When will you update your portfolio? Your website? When will you blog for your business?

You also can’t build an impressive portfolio if all your clips are content mill samples. The best writers still produce subpar work when they’re burnt out and underpaid.

My next recommendation is that you stop searching for clients at all. Do you know why content mills can make outrageous demands and pay so little for the work? Because writers keep applying. And the only writers willing to apply to them have convinced themselves they’re desperate for the work. Trust me, the mills know this and they’re all too happy to exploit it.

So change up your business model. I haven’t searched for a client in a few years now, because at some point I realized I was wasting my time. Instead I’ve invested time and money assisting potential clients in their search for me. I built a website and blog and made friends on social media so that when people searched for “Indianapolis freelance writer” they found me. Then they contacted me.

All I do these days is respond to the requests for quotes that land in my inbox and reach out to potential clients in my network. I don’t cold call anyone ever. I don’t scour openings on Elance or oDesk or Craigslist.

Back to the website stuff for a minute. I’m not a keyword expert and I don’t know all the ins and outs of search engine algorithms, but I have common sense and know how to improve my chances of being found online. I recommend you do the same using “freelance writer” or “content writer” with a local qualifier like your town, city, region, or country to bring in search traffic. That’s how they’re going to find you.

The next problem is: what will those people find on your site when they get there? When potential clients see you’ve been blogging to other writers or complaining about the horrors of content mill writing, they’re going to be confused. You need to be posting content for people who hire writers not for other writers. At least until you’ve established a solid client base.

It’s great to commiserate with people who understand, and I don’t know where I’d be without my freelance writer friends, but none of them are ever going to become my next client.

I recently separated my blogs. I have the professional blog for clients and this blog for writing whatever the heck I feel like. But I have a full-time job paying the bills at the moment, so I have some freedom in that regard. If you don’t have the time to run two separate blogs, writing to a client audience should be your priority.

Now, I’m not saying this next part describes you, Burnt Out. But it’s worth putting out there for all the struggling freelancers:

Sometimes I think new writers see talented, successful writers running classes and giving advice to budding writers and they think they need to mimic that behavior to be successful. Great freelance writers have freelance writer followers! Great freelance writers are mentors and give advice! I should do those things to be a great freelance writer too!

Unless you’re in the business of educating new writers right now, it’s not a profitable way to spend your time. If that’s something you want to pursue later, awesome.

I hope this helps you, Burnt Out. Let us know how things go.

Emily

My New Copywriting Blog

One of the things I’ve decided to do as a result of feedback from the web copywriting instructor at Mediabistro is focus on building the professional side of my web presence.

Don’t worry, this blog isn’t going away. And neither is any of the content. I’m just making a formal announcement so that those of you interested in my copywriting and freelance writing content know where to find it.

Read the blog here.

Subscribe to the feed here.

Or subscribe by email.

In Review Part 2: MediaBistro’s Copywriting for the Web Online Course

ad copywriting certificateThis week I got feedback on Assignment #1. So, let’s discuss.

My assignment was to write about myself and my online identity. I put together a one-page narrative with links to my website, blog, social media accounts, and the sites where I contribute content. A few days later, the instructor returned the assignment with commentary. I’ve excerpted some of that feedback (mainly the critique) to help you get a feel for what goes onside inside the virtual classroom.

The Short Version

For any of you who don’t care to pick through the details, here are my thoughts on this week in a nutshell:

  • If these courses pay for themselves in any way, it’s in instructor feedback. They spend a lot of time writing thoughtful commentary.
  • I don’t think many people take Mediabistro’s Copywriting courses to learn; I think they take them to learn to make money. I find this a little off-putting, but I realize that I am the weird one here with the social organizing background and the liberal arts education. The vast majority of students I’ve encountered so far are marketers and advertisers through and through.

About My Website

emily suess copywriter“Think about the proportion of that top banner compared to the portfolio samples and the elements beneath it on the home page. It’s great to see you and to have that hero shot of the city that places you in IN, but perhaps if the other elements were bigger you could explain more the business challenges along with the samples in one shot rather than the ‘…’ to the subpages.”

The instructor had more to say about improving my website, most great suggestions except for one thing: I’m working off a template. Changes to the writing? That I can do. Changes to design? Imma need a bigger budget for that. For now the size of site elements and the “…” cutoffs are beyond my control.

So I got some useful feedback, but I’ll have to bookmark it for later.

UPDATE 4/13: Thanks to some helpful people on the internet, I’m able to make some of the suggested changes to my website. Hooray!

About My Social Media Accounts

“I think your LI is looking fine for the most part, but your Twitter seems kind of all over the place, and while most people use this channel as a microblog, if you are selling social strategy remember those that want to hire you are probably holding your feed to a higher standard …. Your Facebook seems more focused on the author challenges, and while I am sympathetic, I would suggest keeping the publishing content about the pitfalls of the business separate from the marketing writing one. Suess’s Pieces also got kind of lost at the bottom of many of your web site pages.”

My Tweets are all over the place, but my God are they ever representative of the things that matter to me. I started the @EmilySuess account in 2010, and most of my followers would wonder what the hell happened to me if I limited myself to updates designed to impress potential clients or employers.

For me Twitter truly is social. I chat with people I like. I stay in touch with real-life friends. And I think this has worked for me so far for two reasons: 1) I’m a part-time freelancer and 2) I am my own brand right now. If a potential client doesn’t like that I’m vocal about women’s rights or they think retweeting my friend’s giveaway is off-topic, I’d probably find working for them a soul-crushing experience. They’re choosy. I’m choosy. It works out in the end.

But! I do realize where the instructor’s coming from. I’m not sure a separate business account is the way to go, but I’m giving it some serious thought. In the meantime, I’ve got a couple of client accounts to share during the application/proposal process for new gigs.

My excuse for Facebook is that I post what engages people. Ninety-nine percent of my Facebook followers are fellow writers, not clients. When I attempted posting client-focused content, it just bombed. That’s life on the internet.

small business bonfireAbout Writing for Small Business Bonfire

“[The Small Business Bonfire] seems like a colorful, energetic site, but unless they are paying you … why not just write about similar topics on your other blog or sites instead?”

Of course they pay me. People think this a lot—that I write for Bonfire for free—I can’t figure out why. It worries me, though, for reasons I don’t care to get into at the moment.

About Writing Self-Publishing Content

“Well, you obviously know a lot about this topic and just from glancing at some of your publishing posts, I share many of your concerns …. My question here too is whether it is worth your time to offer this advice for free rather than teaching a class about it down the road or being on a panel where you get some sort of compensation?  I believe writers should really strive to get paid or compensated on practically everything that they do, and I see that you are really busy with your job and already have so many outlets, so I guess consolidation is what I am pushing as a thing to consider.”

Back to the money thing. I get it—that’s why most people are taking this course.

I would never suggest a writer write for free or for the promise of “exposure” ever. I believe in making money for what I do. But, dude, money isn’t everything. Writing about self-publishing and teaching authors how to not get scammed by dubious assholes? That’s a labor of love. I will never charge a penny to share what I’ve learned about the industry. Ever.

In fact, the The Self-Publishing Services Directory is making other people money. I’m okay with that.

More next week!

Want to read past posts? Browse the Ad Copywriting Certificate Review Archive


Emily paid the full price for enrollment in Mediabistro.com’s Ad Copywriting Certificate program and is not being compensated in any way for her reviews.

In Review Part 1: MediaBistro's Copywriting for the Web Online Course

ad copywriting certificateLife got kind of busy there for a while, and I took a break from MediaBistro’s Ad Copywriting Certificate Program. But I’m back now, and ready to share what’s going on in the next course: Copywriting for the Web.

This week was week one, so it was mostly introductions and settling in to the program. It’s a six-week course with a challenging, jam-packed syllabus. The class looks to be more promising than the last for a few reasons:

  • This is not the instructor’s first time teaching the course.
  • I’m more comfortable turning assignments from this course into portfolio pieces. (I can’t design an ad to save my life. But respectable looking website templates are pretty easy to come by.)
  • While an obsession with Mad Men made me think I wanted to do more print, TV and billboard advertising, the truth is I don’t. Web and interactive copythat’s my thing.
  • It’s not the holiday season anymore, and I feel like I’ve gathered my wits some.

I’m working on Assignment 2 for this week, which includes picking from a couple of instructor-provided options to create web copy. I’ll be writing a home/landing page, an about/mission page, a banner ad, and identifying audience segments and writing relevant social media content for three social media platforms. (I’m going with the obvious here—Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.)

It might not sound like a lot of work, but it’s a sizable commitment for someone like me who has a day job and a freelance writing business and still tries to find time for life’s little frivolities. You know, things like eating, sleeping and laundry. There’s plenty of reading involved in a course like this if you’re like me and want to scarf down all the supplemental links too.

The first discussion for the course was held Thursday night, but I didn’t make it. So more on that aspect of the course in a future post. If you have specific questions about the program, toss ’em in the comments. I’ll answer them to the best of my ability. If you’d like to contact me privately, that’s cool too. Just use the contact form to send me a message.

 

Read other review posts:

In Review Week 1: Mediabistro’s Ad Copywriting Certificate
In Review Week 2: Mediabistro’s Ad Copywriting Certificate
In Review Week 3: Mediabistro’s Ad Copywriting Certificate

 


Emily paid the full price for enrollment in Mediabistro.com’s Ad Copywriting Certificate program and is not being compensated in any way for her reviews.

Wealthy Web Writer Review & Giveaway

Wealthy Web Writer ReviewThe Wealthy Web Writer is a site that provides a “comprehensive resource and community for anyone seeking to become or already working as a web copywriter.”

It’s been around since 2010, and in that time the minds behind the site have compiled a pretty extensive list of how-to videos, articles, and job leads for freelance web writers.

Wealthy Web Writer is associated with American Writers and Artists Inc. (AWAI), a company you may have heard of in conjunction with past International Freelancers Day events.

Free Resources

So we’re clear: the Wealthy Web Writer is a premium content site, meaning they make money from monthly subscriptions. However, they do offer some free resources and advice on the blog.  A sampling of recent topics they’ve covered include:

  • Marketing Basics: Closing the Sale & Asking for More
  • Marketing Basics: Generating Leads & Following Up
  • How to Make Money as a Travel Blogger
  • 15 Link-Building Strategies that Google Will Love

Paid Resources

This is what it’s really all about. Is the site worth the current $27 per month price of admission? That, of course, depends on your current skill level and how much you can absorb in an independent, online environment.

While there are more resources available on the site like forums and a web copywriting glossary, here’s a rundown of a few key things you have access to with a paid membership:

Improve Your Skills 

In this section, you can browse content in specific areas related to specific web writing skills. You can learn more about writing for social media, B2B copywriting, writing autoresponders, and how SEO strategies are constantly evolving in the web writing business.

Build Your Business

This section covers a lot of newbie questions regarding fee structures, contracts, basic bookkeeping and organization. It also includes advice on marketing yourself as a web writer and landing those first couple of clients.

Tech Corner

With article titles like “WordPress Maintenance 101” and “Using Google Webmaster Tools” the topics in Tech Corner will hit home for a lot of freelance writers who like a little introduction before they dive head first into a new application or platform.

Wealthy Web Writer ScreenshotTraining Center

While you can browse upcoming and previously recorded webinars and teleconferences in the Training Center, I think the 3-Minute Guru videos and Roadmap Tutorials are the most promising features here.

The 3-Minute Guru videos walk you through practical instructions on things like using Google Alerts and learning how to prevent Google from indexing your site until you’re ready for search traffic.

Roadmap Tutorials walk you through more complex topics in a series of modules on topics like:

  • Build Your Freelance Website with WordPress
  • 12-Step Roadman to Success
  • Become a Web Writer
  • WordPress Tutorials

Wealthy Web Writer even offers to generate content for its Roadmap Tutorials based on user feedback. So if there’s something specific you want to learn about, you tell them and they promise to build a tutorial or find someone who can.

Jobs

Last but not least, the Wealthy Web Writer does provide some unique freelance job leads for users. On top of that, they pay web writers too. So, if you have a content idea, you can submit it for possible publication on their site. If selected, they’ll pay you for your trouble.

Summary

I know that those of us who have been freelancing for years could still stand to learn a thing or two about running the business, but I really see this site being more beneficial for newbie freelance writers.

Also, a word to the wise: content focuses on running the business and writing specifically for the web, not on learning to write in general. So if you don’t already excel at writing, it’s probably a little premature to sign up.

Finally,  while the content seems well-rounded overall, I think from a user’s perspective the content in Tech Corner could stand to be beefed up a little.

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

[box]I was given a three-month subscription (and a three-month subscription to give away ) to Wealthy Web Writer for the purpose of evaluating the site and publishing an honest review. This post contains affiliate links.[/box]

13 Ways to Boost Your Freelance Career (Without the Internet)

By Terri Huggins

My name is Terri and I have a problem. I think most Americans can relate to it. (I can’t be the only crazy one.) I am addicted to the Internet. I always knew my excessive Internet use was a problem but I didn’t know how big an issue it was until October 2012. I, amongst thousands of other Central Jersey residents, found myself the main target of Superstorm Sandy. I was one of the fortunate people, though. I am alive, my home was intact, and we never lost power. Yet, I still found myself suffering when it came to work.

freelance writing careerObviously, never losing electricity wasn’t a problem. The problem was that everyone else did. That meant I wasn’t able to email editors, follow up on pitches, or schedule interviews and expect a response. When everyone lost all connectivity, I lost all connectivity. That loss made me feel like a fish out of water. (Of course, it wasn’t as extreme as those who actually lost electricity.) It turns out I didn’t know how to function without sending emails with instant gratification, calling people and sending tweets for sources. As a result, my productivity and business really began to suffer. It was then that I learned I rely on the Internet way too much.

Sure, having access to Gmail, HARO, and WordPress have boosted business and helped journalists stay organized, connected and on top of breaking news. However, when you lack the ability to operate without these tools your business may be in total jeopardy. It was a life lesson I learned the hard way. To spare others from learning that lesson the way I did, I’ve come up with a list of 13 Internet free tasks that can boost your freelance career.

1. Do some cold calling

Most people lost phone service during the storm. Truth be told, I got a lot of busy signals, error messages, and voice mail prompts during my cold call sessions. However, I did strike gold every once in a while. But when cold calling proved to be pointless, I decided to make a list of people I planned on contacting once business went back to normal. When it was time to return to my normal routine, having the list on hand made my work schedule easier and increased my productivity.

2. Assess your client list

It’s easy to take on clients blindly out of excitement. After all, it’s extra work and pays the bills. But they don’t always fulfill your mission or may not be worth the time. Revise, your list of clients and analyze which ones aren’t as profitable. Are you satisfied with your relationship with them? Do you have too many clients to handle right now? Do they assist in reaching a bigger goal? Can you afford to cut some loose? Do you need more clients? Now is the perfect time to reevaluate.

During the loss of connection, I found that many of the clients I took on don’t assist in fulfilling my reason for being a writer. By the time, everything was restored I was able to begin eliminating those who no longer fit my needs and work towards getting clients that do.

3. Revise your marketing strategy

It is always wise to have a marketing strategy. Otherwise, you will be moving blindly toward your goal. If you don’t have a strategy, take out a pad and scribble down your plan of attack. Should you already have a marketing strategy, decide whether or not it’s helping you reach your goal. Do you practice in-person networking? Are you writing guest posts? Do you send out email campaigns? Are they working? It’s normal for marketing strategies to not fit as businesses they grow. Take the time to analyze and see what needs to be amended.

4. Edit your resume and bio

The rumors are true. Even as a freelance writer, you need a resume. Occasionally, you still might run into the potential client who decides a resume, bio, and portfolio are necessary before hiring you. Make sure they paint an accurate picture of you. Update your resume to reflect your best and most recent gigs. Make sure your bio is still relevant. I had been putting of the update of my resume for a long time. Sandy provided me with the nudge I needed to get it done.

5. Write

As freelance writers, this one should be a given. But the truth is finding uninterrupted time in which you can draft that blog post, start that article, or complete that copywriting assignment is difficult. There’s always the distraction of an open email box, Twitter alerts, Facebook messages, and phone calls. Take the time to unplug and actually do what you’re paid to do for a living.

With no Internet and calls to follow up on, I was able to write more than I ever had in a long time. It was really rewarding being able to complete my blog posts for the month in one day!

6. Meet the neighbors

Unfortunately, constant access to Internet has made it unnecessary for people to actually see each other face to face. However, it’s good for business. Getting out of the home office for a while, mingling with others, and networking with neighborhood businesses is revitalizing.

7. Set and evaluate your goals

As time goes on, goals change. Unfortunately, we never take the time to stop and realize it. Think about goals you’ve already made. Are they still in progress? Have you reached them? Are the goals still relevant to your career path? Once you set and evaluate goals, you will be able to be more efficient as a freelance writer.

8. Assess your budget

I hate numbers. It was one of the reasons why I went into journalism. Journalism or not, numbers are important. It can’t be avoided for long. Tracking expenses, and income is necessary for running any business. Once you assess your budget you can determine if you need more income, slash your budget, or search for new clients.

9. Create templates

As great as personalized, unique documents are, they take a lot of time. They aren’t suggested for everything, but it can be very beneficial to have templates. If you happen to use the same format for email follow-ups, or some pitches, create a basic template for it to save some time.

10. Back up files

Technology is great, but sometimes we have to accept that it will fail. If you don’t have several copies of documents you are out of luck. Dedicate an afternoon to backing up all your documents. You’ll be happy you did should your computer crash.

11. Revisit your reading lists

Remember, all those magazine clippings, printed blogs, and downloaded e-books you saved? If you are anything like me, they are still sitting in your “rainy day” pile untouched. It’s about time you actually go through the pile. You may come across new ideas to pitch, potential sources, and inspiration for your blog post. Sandy gave me the opportunity to slash my “rainy day” reading file in half. I learned so much.

12. Organize your source list

There is nothing worse than scrambling to find sources for a story at the last minute. If you’ve been in the business for a while there is probably a collection of sources in disarray. Save yourself the time and stress by organizing your sources. When you need a source at a moments notice you’ll know exactly what to do.

13. Go to the library

The library is a foreign land to many people. After all, who needs the library when you’ve got Google, e-books, and I-tunes? The problem is many people forgot how to research without the use of Google. A visit to the library can help you relearn the basics of thorough research.

[box border=”full”]Terri HugginsTerri Huggins is a Freelance Writer/Journalist in NJ who specializes in bridal, beauty, relationships, education and business topics. She also writes marketing paraphernalia such as brochures, press releases, blogs and newsletters for local businesses. By night, Terri is a arts enthusiast, prima ballerina, education activist, and dedicated volunteer. Connect with Terri on Twitter: TERRIficWords or stop by her blog, www.terrificwords.wordpress.com. Professional Website: http://www.writingbyterri.com/%5B/box%5D

 

Image credit: svilen001

In Review Part 3: Mediabistro’s Ad Copywriting Certificate

Just a quick update this week. Why? Because Christmas.

student

Last Wednesday, we had our second online discussion covering Week 2’s assignments for the ad copywriting course I’m taking as part of Mediabistro’s Ad Copywriting Certificate. Fewer than half a dozen students stuck around for the full hour, and the majority of the time it was just four of us and the instructor. As with any course—in-person or online—you’re going to have some scheduling conflicts. So it’s not surprising that we were short a few enrollees this time around, but with an already small class the decline in participation had a definite impact on the discussion.

If I’m honest, I’m not really digging the discussions anyway. There’s a lot going on when it comes to the homework. Then, with all of us working on completely unrelated projects, I feel split in a thousand directions at once despite taking each student’s projects one at a time. I refuse to print out everyone’s assignments to have them in front of me, so I end up trying to juggle half a dozen open documents in both Word and Acrobat on my laptop. Plus there’s the open browser window with the actual discussion going on. My monitor just doesn’t have enough real estate. Anyway, brainstorming for someone else’s project on the spot is not one of my strongest suits. I’m a muller. I need time to mull.

ad copywriting certificate

From a technology standpoint, the discussion was awkward for me this week too. The instructor would say something and about 3 seconds later, I’d hear it. Not sure what was causing the lag—could be something on my end—but it wasn’t ideal.

Read other review posts:

In Review Week 1: Mediabistro’s Ad Copywriting Certificate
In Review Week 2: Mediabistro’s Ad Copywriting Certificate

 


Emily paid the full price for enrollment in Mediabistro.com’s Ad Copywriting Certificate program and is not being compensated in any way for her reviews.