Take 2: Thinking About Being a Self-Employed Writer?

This is a reworked post from almost exactly a year ago. The question is evergreen and the conversations it started were quite helpful then, as I think they will be now.

If you’re on the fence about making the leap to self-employed writer and how to make a living, perhaps something here will help you along.

My (former) home office

My (former) home office

About me: I only have myself to rely on for income. There is no alimony or child support or money from any non-client coming to me. I do not have any children to feed or any crazy-ridiculous expenses to worry about such as music lessons, sports teams, camp getaways, college tuition, etc.

I usually hear one of these two replies when people learn I’m an independent writer/editor: “Hey, that’s fabulous that you have no one but yourself to worry about! No money worries at all!” or “Oh, wow, if something happens to you, you might be up the proverbial river without the proverbial paddle. Does’t that stress you out?”

I don’t have a formula, but here’s what there is to know about how I am now 11+ years into being my own boss:

  • When I decided to leave the corporate world, I gave myself 1 year to get my finances in order and find affordable health insurance. It was/is important to me to have at least 4 months of savings to cover bills.
  • At the time I quit, I downsized (sold my house) and have been renting ever since, which is less responsibility and has more predictable expenses (to me), so I can save money as well as pay myself.
  • I am frugal – this means I minimize my bills, but I’m not lacking. I have Internet, a smartphone, use AC, and buy too much food when I go to the grocery store; I don’t work by candlelight to save on my electric bill or live in a library for free WiFi. 🙂 I always pay my credit card in full each month to avoid finance charges.
  • I maintain my older vehicle instead of having car payments.
  • I network to meet other solopreneurs and learn how they thrive in their business and try tips I learn.
  • I use LinkedIn to find contract opportunities.
  • I only take on jobs that interest me, which keeps me happy and lets me give my best to the client.
  • I absolutely love what I do and (literally) say “Thank you” out loud every day to the cosmos.

I don’t know of a magic bullet for self-employment success, but I know (1)  it’s important to love what you do and that you have to work at it. If you want it to work and approach it honestly, I believe you’re more than 75% to your goal.

And (2) having money readily available if monthly income checks don’t arrive when planned is quite helpful at keeping stress about money at under control.

What is your tip to someone thinking about becoming self-employed?

Or, what was your final hurdle before jumping into self-employment?

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Are You on LinkedIn Yet?

LinkedIn_logo

If you haven’t heard, LinkedIn is a powerful marketing and networking tool. It offers a lot of opportunities for writers of all calibers and in all industries.

You can be starting your own business or be self-employed for numerous years. You can be a multi-published author writing fiction or non-fiction; long or short. You can be any type of writer with any level of experience and benefit from the power of LinkedIn to find jobs, connections, and resources. Resources that can gain you new clients and help you improve your craft.

I posted about Getting Started with LinkedIn a few months ago. Check that post if you haven’t delved into LinkedIn yet.

Your profile is a powerful marketing tool. Make sure you have it as complete and relevant as possible — to the type of work you are seeking, skills you can offer, and connections you want to make.  (Avoid diluting it with too many interests that are unrelated to your career.)

Connections are important. Decide if you want to be an open networker (keep all your connections visible) or private (hide connections). There are benefits to each – for instance, if you currently have a job and are seeking another, you probably don’t want your employer to be able to see you connecting with recruiters. (I prefer being an open networker and generally accept all requests as long as there is a profile, photo, and introduction in the Request-to-connect email.)

Building your platform (name recognition). By joining groups related to the industries you want to write for, types of communities you think will help you grow your business, and writers’ groups, you can comment on discussions and start your own. And since you will have a complete profile (with photo), people will be able to follow up with you as they see your name/photo appear in their feeds.

A venue to show your talent. There are multiple ways to share your talents with the world:

  • Publish your own posts on your own feed.
  • Upload samples of your writing.
  • Use Slideshare to share information.
  • Link to your website, Twitter, and other social media accounts.
  • Start your own group.

Use the multitude of opportunities on LinkedIn to get your name (and face) known by offering useful feedback, tips, references, and commentary whenever you can and watch your business grow.

**It takes a while to build up your network, so there’s no time like the present to get started if you haven’t already! Don’t wait until you are self-employed or are seeking clients to start on LinkedIn.

If you have specific questions about LinkedIn, feel free to ask in the comments. If you connect with me on LinkedIn, personalize the e-mail and let me know you read this blog.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

I Know Mystery Writers Are Regular People, too, but this still happens

Today is the day after my favorite 3-day conference for mystery writers, New England Crime Bake. It’s the day after I reconnected with far-away friends, and made new friends.

Like past years, and attending any writing workshops or conferences, my brain is bursting with new tips, tricks, and inspiration for getting words onto the page.

But my big takeaway is thoughts of the people and conversations.

So many of my friends are now published authors. On Friday night, we got to celebrate the ‘debut’ mystery novelists. It’s such a thrill and honor to be able to congratulate others on their accomplishments. (If they can do it, so can I, right?)

The celebration was called “Death, Desserts, and Debutants.” The only thing that died was our will power to resist chocolate – the desserts buffet was simply decadent.

I ended up at a table with a debut mystery novelist I hadn’t met before. She was a so funny. I recognized her name and thought she was a panelist or presenter. She wasn’t. I knew I’d never met her before, but there was something so familiar that I had to keep staring at her and talking to her. I couldn’t write it off as simply recognizing her name from the attendees roster.

And then it happened. She mentioned the name of her book. Idyll Threats. And I swear I became a teenager barely able to contain a Squee of excitement. Yes! Of course! Stephanie Gayle! I became all “OMG,” and “Stephanie, I loved your book,” and “Stephanie, when’s the next one coming out?” Such a star-struck fan. I laughed at my behavior, but couldn’t help myself.

My fan status started a few months back when Stephanie’s publicist contacted me about Stephanie and her novel. I ended up interviewing Stephanie and reviewing her novel on my blog, and then even interviewed her for a couple of hours at The Writer’s Chatroom one Sunday evening. I loved the book, loved the fresh writing, the protagonist, all of it. It was a treat to get to know more about the author behind the story.

On Friday night, it took a while for all the pieces to click into place. But then, there I was, with the author, and, wow, like everyone else I’ve met at this conference, she was a normal person. She even has a full-time day job and has to find/make time to write. (She’s 3rd from the left in the 2nd row in the pic).

DebutMysteryNovelists

2015 Debut Mystery Novelists at New England Crime Bake

Several ‘big names’ always attend the conference (this year’s guest of honor was Elizabeth George, others include Craig Johnson, Joe Finder, Lee Child, Charlaine Harris) and guess what? They are people too!

I love being part of the community of mystery writers. And I love this particular conference for the wonderful conversations and long-lasting friendships that develop.

Two of my fellow NHWN bloggers, Diane, and Julie (aka Julianne Holmes, debut mystery novelist – 3rd from left in last row in pic) were there, too, celebrating and meeting their fave authors, getting star-struck, and striking up conversations with new friends.

What author(s) turn you into a (giggly) star-struck fan?

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with manufacturing, software, and technology businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Getting Started with LinkedIn – for Writers

LinkedIn_logoLinkedIn is a powerful marketing and networking tool that offers a lot of opportunities for writers.

Whether you’re just starting your own business, or you’re a multi-published author; whether you write fiction or non-fiction; whether you write long or short, LinkedIn can help you find jobs, connections, and resources to improve your craft in your chosen specialty.

This post is a quick snapshot on getting started with LinkedIn if you are a writer. The tool is user friendly and quite a great resource for finding companies you want to work with or for.

Getting started:

Create an account. You can use LinkedIn a lot for free (it’s the version I have), so don’t feel like you need to invest money. You can, of course, but it’s not required to start out.

Create a profile. LinkedIn walks you through the profile creation process step by step. Help is available all along the way, too.  Use it; it’s actually helpful! Creating a profile is the most time-consuming part of getting started, but it’s definitely worth it to pay attention to each section.

  • For your current job title, avoid generic terms such as president, owner, wordsmith or crafty titles such as ‘word whisperer’, ‘writing goddess’, ‘chief bottle washer’. Think about how companies you want to work for will search for someone with your skill set. Keep it simple, straightforward, and relevant.
  • When you add in current and past employment, do the same with the titles (as prior bullet). Sure, you may have been ‘senior manager’, but that doesn’t benefit you when someone is seeking a software writer. You can include ‘senior manager’ in the description of the job, but put key works in your job titles, as well as in descriptions of job responsibilities.

Search for jobs, groups, people. The search bar at the top of the screen offers numerous search methods, and you can take advantage of the Advanced feature to help narrow in on the jobs, groups, and people you are seeking. Search on such terms as ‘beginner writer’, ‘(industry) writing’, whatever you want. Just like doing searches on Google or Bing, you’ll naturally start discovering the search terms that work best for you.

  • When you do searches, particularly writing-related ones, you’ll discover the profiles that appear at the top of lists — look those profiles over and see what catches your eye for wording that you can adapt to your profile.

Connect with people. LinkedIn offers many ways to import various address books, and if you do that, invitations will be sent to the people in your contact list. It can be a good way to get started, but you won’t have any chance to personalize the e-mails sent out.

If you have specific questions about LinkedIn, feel free to ask in the comments. If you connect with me on LinkedIn, personalize the e-mail and let me know you read this blog.

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with manufacturing, software, and technology businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn

Thinking About Being a Self-Employed Writer?

I get asked quite often how I make a living as a professional writer and editor. Maybe something here will strike a chord with you if you are on the fence about being self-employed.

My home office

My home office

To know up front: I only have myself to rely on. There isn’t any alimony or child support or income from anyone coming to me — other than what I earn myself. I also do not have any children to feed or any crazy-ridiculous expenses to worry about such as sports teams, music lessons, camp getaways, college tuition, or anything else.

I usually hear one of these two replies: “Hey, that’s fabulous that you have no one but yourself to worry about! No money worries at all!” or “Oh, wow, if something happens to you, you might be up the proverbial river without the proverbial paddle. Does’t that stress you out?”

I don’t have a formula, but here’s what there is to know about how I am now 10 years into being my own boss:

  • When I decided to leave the corporate world, I gave myself 1 year to get my finances in order and find affordable health insurance. It was/is important to me to have at least 4 months of savings to cover bills.
  • At the time I quit, I downsized (sold my house) and have been renting ever since, which is less responsibility and has more predictable expenses (to me), so I can save money as well as pay myself.
  • I am frugal – this means I minimize my bills. I have Internet, a cell phone, use AC, and buy too much food when I go to the grocery store. It does not mean I’m working by candlelight to save on my electric bill or that I live in a library for free WiFi. 🙂 I always pay my credit card in full each month to avoid finance charges and I pay my bills monthly, not weekly.
  • I maintain my older vehicle instead of having car payments.
  • I network to meet other solopreneurs and learn how they thrive in their business and try tips I learn.
  • I use LinkedIn to find contract opportunities.
  • I only take on jobs that interest me, which keeps me happy and lets me give my best to the client (I always meet or beat deadlines).
  • I absolutely love what I do and (literally) say “Thank you” out loud every day to the cosmos.

I don’t know of a magic bullet for self-employment success, but I know (1)  it’s important to love what you do and do what you love and that you have to work at it (very much like a personal relationship). If you want it to work and approach it honestly, I believe you’re more than 75% to your goal.

And (2) having money readily available if monthly income checks don’t arrive when planned is quite helpful at keeping stress about money at under control.

What is your tip to someone thinking about becoming self-employed?

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with manufacturing, software, and technology businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn

Weekend Edition – You Are Not Alone Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

You Are Not Alone

Image by Luis Barros. Follow him on Instagram (@luishb) for wonderful images, each one brimming with story possibilities.

Image by Luis Barros. Follow him on Instagram (@luishb) for wonderful images, each one brimming with story possibilities.

Being a grown up can be lonely.

Being a writer can be lonely.

Being a grown-up writer can be seriously lonely, but it doesn’t have to be.

Last weekend I watched my daughter compete in a mountain bike race. It was my first time at this kind of event. Mountain biking is something she does on weekends with her dad. The wooded trails with their steep drops, tight turns, and obstacle course of mean rocks and wily roots are his territory.

There were more than four hundred riders, many with friends and family in tow, milling around the trampled corn field that served as a staging area for the organizers preparing to release the different classes of riders onto the course. We haven’t had any real rain here in weeks, so the movement of riders and spectators stirred up clouds of dust that dimmed the bright colors of the riders’ racing garb and gave the scene an air of festive chaos – like cowboys preparing to move an anxious herd across an arid plain, or young daredevils limbering up just before dashing out in front of Spanish bulls.

Though I finally spotted my daughter, and my beau was at my side, I felt like a stranger lost in some exotic land. The conversations that swirled around me with the dust and dirt may as well have been in a foreign language. Technical chatter about different kinds of bikes and gear sounded like gibberish, and then there were all the riding terms – endo, grinder, kick-out. Riders compared war stories and battle scars, referencing techniques and trails in a quick banter that left me curious but completely baffled.

And then, through all this noise and color and motion, I heard a voice ask, “Is that a Grub Street t-shirt?”

Grub Street is a writing center in Boston, and the shirt I was wearing was one I had picked up at their annual conference a couple of years ago. It’s hard to miss – a charcoal gray tee with a keyboard printed in white across the front.

The speaker, as it turned out, was not only a fellow writer and Grubbie, but also a Grub Street instructor and a friend of the woman who is teaching the flash fiction class I’m currently taking. Small world.

Our conversation was brief (we both had riders to cheer), but those few words exchanged made me feel at home. Even there, amidst all the unfamiliar sights and sounds, I was suddenly grounded in the fact that I am a writer in a community of writers. And, we are everywhere.

The trouble is, we’re not always easy to recognize. Mountain bikers, runners, boaters, even gardeners – these people are easy to identify by their garb, gear, and equipment. They congregate regularly for group events, display their badges of membership for all to see, and often practice their passion right out in the open.

We writers usually fly a bit farther under the radar. Though we do have our classes and conferences, these events rarely garner much attention from non-writers. A road race with hundreds of bicycles, driving club with dozens of antique cars, or garden club doing spring cleanup around town are likely to attract the attention of even the most unobservant. A group of writers meeting in a coffee shop or even attending a large conference in an urban center are likely to go completely unnoticed.

It’s almost like we’re members of a secret society. And, who knows? Maybe, unbeknownst to even ourselves, we’re actually a silent majority.

My point is this: keep your eyes open.

You never know when a fellow writer might be standing right next to you, or seated at the next table, or across the aisle on the subway. The barista at your local coffee shop might be a writer, or your bank teller, or your child’s teacher. Perhaps the woman who organized the school bake sale is working on a memoir, your mailman could be writing a cozy mystery, or the young lady who jogs by your house every morning might be working on collection of nature essays.

Look for clues. Listen carefully. Maybe you’ll notice someone writing in a notebook or reading a a book on story structure. Maybe you’ll hear someone mention a writing podcast or a reading. Sometimes, all it takes is a t-shirt.

We’re out there. Everywhere. You are never alone.

What I’m {Learning About} Writing: Flash Isn’t Just About Brevity

underwater icebergSo, I’m a week-and-a-half into the flash fiction course I’m taking via Grub Street, and the more I learn about this form, the more fascinated I become.

The first way people define flash fiction (aka short short stories, micro fiction, and a handful of other miniature monikers) is by word count. The jury is out on exactly how few words warrant the label “flash” – 300, 500, 1,000 – but the general gist is, of course, that flash is short.

Brevity, however is not the whole story by a long stretch.

Though the number of words appearing on the page is few, the world of a really great piece of flash fiction is as expansive as real life.

To write flash, you must know much more than what you reveal in your prose. A piece of flash fiction is like the proverbial tip of the iceberg, the brilliant bit that shows above the surface and reflects the light of the sun and moon, while the full bulk and weight of the story exists below the surface. That shining tip cannot exist without the rest of the iceberg to buoy it up.

Writing flash is, I’m learning, much like creating a poem or a work of visual art. Each word has a part to play. There is no excess, no dead weight. In order for a writer to craft the tip of the iceberg so that the reader feels the heft and gravity of the rest of the icy behemoth lurking in the depths, she must understand the whole. Only by understanding the whole can she find the right words to craft her flash story so that it reflects the entire reality that exists behind that handful of words.

Can you blame me for being fascinated?

What I’m Reading: 100wordstory.com

100 word storyI’m still in the middle of reading a couple of novels, but not yet through either one, so I’m not ready to share.

Meanwhile, one of my fellow students in the flash class turned me on to the site 100wordstory.org.

Talk about seriously short pieces.

It’s hard not to rip through this collection the way a child might rip through a bag of m&m’s, but if you were to do that, you’d be missing out. As short as they are, each of these stories deserves its own space. Part of the beauty of this super short form is that you can read a piece several times over, and each time have a slightly different experience.

If you’re curious about flash fiction, or just need a quick story fix in the middle of a busy day, I recommend 100wordstory.org. Just try not to get too addicted.

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

In lieu of a quote, I’d like to share this reality check/pep talk from one of the writers behind my favorite writing podcast, Writing Excuses. Hat-tip to the lovely Sharon Abra Hanen (aka @wellfedpoet) for this find. Loved it.

Here’s to recognizing each other out in the wilds of the real world. Happy writing. Happy reading.
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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What Do You Want from a Writer’s Retreat?

I’d like to talk with you about retreats for writers. The immediate answer to any of these questions can easily be ‘well, it depends’, but overall, I’m curious to learn what type of writing retreat you’d benefit from most within the next 12 months.

View from kitchen table of Maine cabin for retreat - many seating options!

View from kitchen table of Maine cabin for retreat – many seating options!

When you hear “writer’s retreat” what time frame leaps to mind? A few hours, an overnight somewhere, two or three nights, a week or more…

  • If your answer is ‘a few hours’, there are “write ins” popping up now where space is reserved for up to half a day, and you can show up for as much of that time as you like — it’s more for camaraderie in being with other writers at the same time than anything else — I like doing these during November (National Novel Writing Month)

How do you feel when you think about a writer’s retreat? Calm, happy, anxious, dread, excited, bummed, inspired, scared…

  • my feelings can run the gamut depending on what type of project leaps to mind — most generally, though, thinking about being around other writers makes me smile and outweighs any anxiety — if I had to pick 1 word, it would be ‘bliss’

Where do you search for information on writer’s retreats? Social media, ShawGuides, writing groups/organizations you belong to, libraries, book stores, general Internet searches…

  • sometimes too many choices result in choosing to not even look around at options — my favorite type of writing retreat is one combined with an adventure vacation (like rafting down the Colorado River [did it], or spending a week at a Wyoming dude ranch [did it], or learning to cook in Italy [on my bucket list], or camping in New Zealand [not sure if that one exists yet!]

What is important to you in a retreat? time alone to write, a group setting, critiques/feedback, sharing your work, instruction, mentorship, everyone working in same or multiple genres…

  •  All of the above, please! When working on fiction, a mix of genres works well for me. But when I’m focused on non-fiction I prefer everyone to be the same — there’s something different for me when crafting imaginative stories than truth-based stories/articles/essays/manuscripts.
Water view seating for same Maine cabin getaway. Variety is good!

Water view seating for same Maine cabin getaway. Variety is good!

If you’re new to writing, is it a feature to have experienced writers in the group, or a deterrent? And likewise, if you’re multipublished, does a retreat with newbie writers attract you?

  • As long as expectations for the group are stated and agreed to up front, a mix of experience levels can benefit all attendees.

I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on writer’s retreats.

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.