Three Steps to Website Revision

I recently completed the three stops to website revision: Procrastination, New Headshot, Revised Content.

Procrastination

I’ve needed to revise the Writing Services section of my website for almost two years. During the previous iteration, I called myself a pen-for-hire. I do have reliable and lucrative clients who pay me to write for them, but the truth is more people hire me to teach and to talk, activities that build audience and allow me more time to write what I want. I kept planning to revise the content on these pages – as soon as I had a new headshot to go with.

New Headshot

Moose

Camera shy charismatic mega fauna photo by my friend Kathy Lena

Like most charismatic mega fauna, I don’t like to stand still for the camera, so I kept “forgetting” to ask my friend who’s a wildlife photographer to snap a new headshot. Then, I lost the names of the two professional photographers my hairdresser recommended. I put it off, cleverly combining this task with procrastination.

But on a leadership retreat in February, I met Kelly, someone I knew by sight and got to know better. I liked her a lot. It turns out, she’s a free-lance photographer. Even before I saw her spectacular portfolio, I hired her.

alternate headshot

I love this shot, too.

Working with a professional photographer was a revelation. It taught me new respect for both photographers and models. Posing is exhausting, but working with Kelly was a blast. She put me at ease; I trusted her; she encouraged me. We spent most of two hours and ended up with more than a dozen really good shots. She took so many good pictures of me, it was hard to choose which one to use.

In this case, procrastination paid off. Or maybe waiting for the right photographer wasn’t really procrastination. Maybe procrastination is really just another way of saying, Readiness is all.

REVISED CONTENT

Once the headshots were done, I doubled down on revising Writing Services, which now includes Manuscript Development, where I can help you tell your story, as well as Pen-for-Hire, where I can write your story for you. New sections on Teaching and Speaking are in the works.

The goal is to make it easy for  visitors to find out how to hire me to tutor, teach, or talk. It’s a work-in-progress. Ultimately, it will include some new headings in the navigation bar, and some changes in the sidebar, including notice of upcoming speaking events. Stay tuned!

My webmistress is Codewryter, who does the customized coding. She’s also teaching me how to navigate the back end of the site, which is surprisingly user friendly. Even though the site upgrades aren’t all finished, I’m pleased with how they’re taking shape. I hope you’ll visit and let me know what you think.

Deb wearing purple

Another great photo!

Deborah Lee Luskin posts an essay every Wednesday on a variety of subjects centered around Living in Place in rural Vermont. You can visit her at www.deborahleeluskin.com

Paid to Talk

Photo courtesy of Phyllis Groner

An unintended consequence of being a writer is being paid to talk.

Never shy about sharing my knowledge or opinions in print, I now speak them out loud to just about anyone who wants to listen, and I do it in a way that’s not just informative but also entertaining. And yet – just as in my opinion pieces – I challenge my audience to think about current problems in new and not always comfortable ways.

I have a collection of popular off-the-shelf talks, and a nearly limitless willingness to talk about anything about which an audience and I have a mutual interest. Give me a topic; I’ll give you a speech.

Currently, I have four off-the-shelf talks: Lessons From the Long Trail, about my transformative end-to-end through hike of The Long Trail when I turned sixty, and three through The Vermont Humanities Council Speakers Bureau:

Getting From Here to There: The history of transportation and settlement in VT

1964: A Watershed Year in Vermont Political and Cultural History

Why Are We Still Reading Jane Austen?

I make customized motivational and celebratory speeches to groups who want to hear what I have to say. After teaching reluctant writers, leading Weight Watchers, and raising three children, I’ve developed some serious motivational skills that can be translated into a celebration and/or call to action.

I’ve also spent the past ten years learning about restorative practices as well as Roberts Rules of Order, so if a group needs a facilitator, I’m good at making sure everyone in the room has a chance to be heard.

Of course, I’m always ready to talk about and teach writing and literature, from blogs to biographies. Earlier this year I lectured on Virginia Woolf for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and I’m currently teaching a grant-funded memoir-writing class at my local library. We’re having a blast.

Between writing, teaching, and public speaking, I’ve fallen behind on other tasks, like keeping my website updated, but that’s next. In the works is a calendar where anyone who wants to attend one of my public lectures can find out the what, where, and when. And for those who may be interested in a custom-made talk, just contact me.

At the end of the Long Trail, 9/8/2016.

Deborah Lee Luskin posts an essay every Wednesday at www.deborahleeluskin.com

 

You Want to Make a Living as a Writer? Are You Crazy?

If you have a passion for writing and have non-creatives in your life, you have probably heard some form of this mantra for years:

No one can make a living writing; find something practical to pursue. 

What’s ‘practical’? What makes sense if your passion is for words? Fitting the square peg into a round hole never works, does it?

The comfort of working for yourself

The comfort of working for yourself

It helps to be a little crazy when pursuing something many people can’t relate to. But if you want to make a living as a writer, there are a few skills that can help you succeed.

  • Passion for words – I believe you need to have a yearning to learn about words, to want to play with words, to strive to get sentences just write, to want to share part of yourself through written expression. You want to make an impression on your audience in some manner.
  • Confidence – Believe in yourself and in your passion to write. Take pride in every piece of writing you create; in every story your muse delivers to you. Every new piece of writing is more experience that helps you grow, expand, and refine your skill.
  • Discipline – this is such a big deal! You absolutely have to be able to set a schedule and stick to it! Writing only when you’re in the mood will not help you make a living as a writer at all. Take writing seriously – get your butt in a chair and your hands over the keyboard – and write! Daily!
  • Training/Education – Take some writing classes (online or in person), practice writing and submitting to contests that offer feedback, join a critique group. Practice different types of writing to discover what you enjoy most – also learn about what pays well — you want to make a living as a writer! (this helps build your confidence and discipline too)
  • Marketing – as a solopreneur writer, you have to not only create, but you have to advertise – let people know you have the talent, time, and ability to deliver on their writing needs. Marketing takes time, isn’t easy, but is absolutely required in order to make a living as a writer. If people and businesses don’t know you exist, the money will not come.

To make a living as a writer, you must have business skills. There isn’t any way around it — other than hiring someone to manage the business side of the writing life — but even then, you want to have an understanding of all that is involved.

The writing life isn’t something to jump into – take the time to honestly assess your skills, passion, and interest in words.

If it’s truly what you want – go for it! Being a little scared and unsure is natural – it means you’re pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, and there’s never anything wrong with that. Ever. (in my humble opinion)

Do you have what it takes to make a living as a writer?

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.

Generating Income with Public Lectures

Recording at VPR's Upper Valley Studio.

Recording at VPR’s Upper Valley Studio.

Writers can generate income by activities other than putting words on the page; one of my favorites is giving public lectures. Never shy about sharing my knowledge or opinions, I’m happy to talk when asked. In fact, it’s a direct outgrowth of my work as an editorial commentator for Vermont Public Radio, the Rutland Herald and other newspapers, as well as my blog. They are part of my mission of “advancing issues through narrative and telling stories to create change.” Challenging my audiences to think about current problems in new ways is one of the reasons I’m a writer.

Speaking at Brooks Memorial Library in Brattleboro, VT.

Speaking at Brooks Memorial Library in Brattleboro, VT.

I’m also a scholar and educator, and lecturing gives me an opportunity to talk about what I’ve learned, so I’m pleased to be on the Vermont Humanities Council’s Speakers Bureau and to lecture for Vermont’s Osher Life Long Learning Institute, among others.

The Speakers Bureau helps match libraries and lechistorical societies seeking programming with speakers who can provide it. For the Speakers Bureau, I’ve prepared and delivered a talk about the political and cultural changes that occurred in Vermont in 1964, a subject about which I learned a great deal while researching Into the Wilderness, my novel set in that time and place. Lecturing about that time allows me to use this knowledge again and to extend it to those who maybe haven’t read my book and who now might – or who maybe never will.

I’m currently preparing a Speakers Bureau talk about the history of transportation in Vermont, an outgrowth of research I did for Elegy for a Girl, a novel set in 1958, when Vermont’s interstates were being built. I have contracts to give the lecture twice so far, which allows me to reuse the research I did when writing the book. But for the lecture, I’m extending my research as far back as Indian trails, military roads, canals and trains, all of which I find highly interesting. And who knows: I may stumble across a story to tell in the process.

The Bernard Osher Foundation supports “lifelong learning institutes for seasoned adults.” Vermont has the second oldest population in the US, and one of the most literate. I’ve delivered lectures on Jane Austen at different Osher locations around the state, and I’m looking forward to preparing a series on Virginia Woolf next year. As a seasoned adult myself, I often enjoy attending these lively and informative lectures, too.

Occasionally, I’m asked to speak at a local event, such as the elementary school’s farm-to-table annual dinner. These are good-will talks for which I charge no fee; they’re a part of being an engaged citizen in my community.

On book tour with my first novel. Photo courtesy of Phillis Groner

On book tour with my first novel. Photo courtesy of Phillis Groner

I’m also still asked to address organizations about my novel, even though I gave more than forty public readings the year Into the Wilderness came out. Indeed, every speaking opportunity is an organic marketing opportunity and another reason it’s good for a writer to get dressed and get out.

As with any free-lance opportunity, there are some guidelines to follow:

  • Clarify expectations with whoever is hiring you.
  • Write them down! Some organizations have contracts, which I read carefully before I sign; with others, I send a letter of agreement.
  • Be clear about what they want and be sure that’s what you deliver.
  • Show up on time and prepared; stay on topic; speak for the contracted time period; answer questions; say thank you and stop.
  • Likewise, be clear about what you expect in return.
  • In addition to a speaker’s fee, this can include a projector and screen, a microphone, and clarity about who the audience is and how many they’ll be.
  • It’s also good to be clear about marketing expectations for the event to ensure that an audience shows up. Even when the host takes on this responsibility, I always offer my headshot and bio, and I ask if they want me to broadcast the event through my media and social media outlets.

Do you have other guidelines to add to this list? Have you ever given a public lecture? What was it like?

Deborah Lee Luskin, M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin,
M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin is a novelist, essayist and educator, as well as a pen-for-hire. Sign up for her blog, published Wednesdays, at www.deborahleeluskin.com

Bread & Taxes

I baked bread and prepared my taxes. (Deborah Lee Luskin Photo)

I baked bread and prepared my taxes.

Last Sunday, I baked bread and prepared my taxes. It was a productive combination, inspired by Julie’s recent post about Pomodoro, a time-management tool.

Since reading the post, I’ve used Pomodoro a few times, working with uninterrupted concentration for twenty-five minutes stretches separated by five-minute breaks. It suits both my work style and the demands of my tiny wood stove, which requires frequent feeding on very cold days.

The tiny but demanding wood stove in my studio.

The tiny but demanding wood stove in my studio.

In fact, when I’m out in my studio, this little wood stove serves as an organic Pomodoro, allowing me thirty-to-forty minute spells of writing between short breaks to feed the fire and longer ones to split wood. But I’d set aside Sunday for preparing the taxes, a job for the dining room table inside the house, where the wood stove and passive-solar gain keep the room warm with less effort.

While we often discuss how to earn money from writing, we haven’t talked much about the tax consequences of doing so. Mostly, it’s a matter of good bookkeeping, both keeping track of income and proof of expenses. I’ve been doing this for years, and it does get easier, mostly because I’ve set up systems, including a separate bank account and credit card for my writing business, an established business in home, and a method to track expenses according to what the IRS asks for in a Schedule C.

Spreading out on the dining room table.

Spreading out on the dining room table.

Easier is not the same as fun, but if you earn income as a writer, you are obliged to report it and pay taxes accordingly. It’s better than not earning money in the first place.

 

To make the chore more palatable, I decided to bake bread, which would serve as the kind of organic timer similar to the studio woodstove and very much in keeping with the concept of the Pomodoro app.

I decided on bread because I’d said I’d bring bread to the friends’ who’d invited us over for dinner that night; I hadn’t expected the unintended, metaphorical, consequences – least of all the subject of a blog post.

Sunday brunch with Tim during a break from taxes while the bread dough rests.

Sunday brunch with Tim during a break from taxes while the bread dough rests.

Rather than use the bread machine, which we use for our every day loaf, I turned to my well-worn Tassajara Bread Book, and started a sponge. While it foamed, I set out all my files and answered the questions in the survey about economic events of the last year that our tax preparer sends. After adding flour and kneading the dough, Tim and I enjoyed Sunday brunch.

While the dough rested, I filled in the easy data: W-2’s, 1099’s, property taxes and the like. I discovered I need two numbers that I don’t have, so I scheduled time on Monday to make the phone calls to get them.

Punching down the dough.

Punching down the dough.

Fifty minutes later, I punched down the dough. While it rose a second time, I calculated how many miles I drove in 2015, how much money I spent keeping my car on the road, and how many of those miles and those expenses could be allocated to my writing practice. Then it was time to shape the dough into loaves.

While the loaves rose, I plucked the numbers for the Schedule C from my accounting software: IT, telephone, internet, office supplies and the like. I finished just as the loaves were ready to go in the oven. While the bread baked, I double checked my numbers and cleaned up.

Bread and Taxes done!

Bread and Taxes done!

And then I sat down to my reward: taxes ready for the accountant, and the reward of fresh, nourishing, warm bread.

Deborah Lee Luskin blogs Wednesdays at Living in Place.

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

Creating images for blogs and other social media sites

033015_imageOver the weekend I learned a new skill: creating a header image for an organization’s website.

I was intimidated, nervous, and wondered if there was enough time left in that day to actually accomplish the task at hand.

Canva.com has been mentioned as a resource on this blog in the past few months. Deborah’s post lists several resources for culling free images, and Julie’s post mentions canva in passing as something she uses quite a bit.

As I was in need of the image for the mystery writer’s group I belong to with Julie, she’d mentioned canva.com to me a few times and said it was easy to use.

I couldn’t put the task off any longer, so I clicked on over to canva.com and found I could log in with a Google account. I liked not having to create an account. Ahh!

And then I was ready to go.

First up is to select the type of image to create – one for a Facebook post, Facebook cover, presentation, poster, and so on. I needed one to use as a website header, so chose Use custom dimensions, entered the dimensions and entered a new screen.

I was ready to create my header image. There is a keyword search box to get you started, and also a super short but informational tutorial to get the not-yet-designer up to speed.

I played around with layouts, different text, and backgrounds. It really was easy to move back and forth and play with colors, styles, and images.

I personally like playing with different text layouts and fonts – those are word-related. Visuals are challenging, but this site gives me hope that I can create images when I need them.

Once done creating an image there are options to download, share through social media, and save.

The image included above isn’t going to win any awards, but I created it in less than 3 minutes. It’s two images in one — and I needed some color today. Winter may be over, but spring colors have yet to start appearing outside my window yet! Browns and dirty white isn’t all that appealing.

This is the first image I created:

Heroes, Villians, and Sidekicks

*Not all images are free on the site, but if there’s a fee ($1), it’s noted on the image.

I’m not endorsing this site, simply sharing my experience. It was worthwhile to me to use, and I plan to continue using it (I bet I can create something without green in it, too!) — as it keeps the process of designing images simple and gives me what I need.

What do you use to create visuals for you social media accounts?

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 Lisa on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Is Multitasking a Way to Be More Productive?

Multitasking – it’s a method of working that easily divides an audience: folks seem to embrace it or run from it.

Do you find multitasking productive? Or a time suck?

I think of multitasking as leap frogging. For instance, you start replying to emails, end up clicking on a link within an email, and then get lost in the endless world known as the Internet. One page leads to another leads to another leads to another and before you know it, an hour has passed and there are still several emails to reply to.

Do you accomplish more when multitasking? Is it the way you find the success that you want? Or do you think multitasking sets you up for failure because you don’t get much accomplished?

Like anything, I don’t think it’s absolutely-multitask-all-the-time or avoid-multitasking-all-together. There can be a balance; it’s a matter of finding what works best.

Confession: As I wrote this post, I kept checking e-mails and managed to get sucked into the Internet through one of those ‘read more’ links like I mentioned above. <grin> So instead of just cranking through this blog post in 30 or so minutes, it took me a couple of hours. Multitasking did not benefit me in this instance!

Multitasking does work at times, though. For instance, when I’m in a waiting room or in a line – I can reply to and clean out old emails, sort and save emails, and schedule activities and events. Similarly, if I’m waiting for something to update online, I can reply to inquiries on Twitter and Facebook.

How about you? Do you find multitasking beneficial in saving time or a way to extend the time taken on tasks?

 

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 Lisa on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

It’s a challenge to be your own boss

Being your own boss is thrilling, isn’t it? It’s nice to not have someone to report to every day. You don’t have to deal with someone hassling you if you don’t show up or if you spend all your time chasing dust bunnies, shiny objects, or killing time on Snapchat or Facebook.

Of course you want to impress your clients, but they come and go and care about what you can do for them, not necessarily about your personal success.

There’s a lot of freedom (insert Mel Gibson’s scream from “Braveheart”) in working for yourself. Maybe too much at times.

To be successful and keep your business on track, you need to think like a boss. What do I mean? Here are a few tips.

  • Determine and write down your goals
    • Yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals will help you achieve the success you want. Written goals keep you focused.
  • Set check-ins and review milestones
    • Schedule time in your calendar, at least quarterly to review your progress on your goals.
  • Set and stick to a schedule
    • When working for someone else, you had to show up at a certain time, it’s just as important t o set a schedule for yourself and show up daily. It doesn’t have to be 8-5 5 days a week, but you should have a regular schedule – consistency and predictability are great for productivity.
  • Track your time
    • Use a timer and track how long  you spend doing different tasks – including those ‘shiny object’ time wasters. Tracking billable hours is imperative to running a successful business.

If you had a boss, you’d be responsible for all of the above – you’d be accountable for achieving certain tasks each day, week, month, quarter, and year. You’d even have once- (or perhaps twice) -a-year reviews. Which brings up another critical requirement for being your own boss: the self-evaluation.

It can be tricky evaluating yourself, so a tip here is to act as though you’re reviewing someone else — it’s important to be honest about your strengths and weaknesses to achieve the success you want. No one else will see the report, but spend time on an honest evaluation, as it can only help you achieve the success you’re after.

So if you start acting like the boss, you can the success that you want in your own business.

Why not start now? You’re the boss – even if you’re the only employee. 

 

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 Lisa on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Quiet and Productive Time

Ahh, the final two weeks of the year have arrived.

Sure it’s crazy-busy right now with the holiday approaching. There’s last-minute planning and shopping to take care of and, apparently, bad weather on it’s way to challenge the northeast as people travel on Thursday (Mother Nature challenged many of us on Thanksgiving, too).

But, as I mentioned last year, this is generally a very productive time of year for me.

My quiet time started on Friday and other than holiday-related plans, it will be quiet and I’ll be able to catch up on everything that I haven’t paid attention to for the last 5-6 weeks. Other than catching up on year-end invoices, my business commitments to clients are complete.

It’s nice to have quiet time to do what I want, whether it’s to catch up on To Do list items, or simply kick back and catch up on reading or shows in my Hulu queue.

Do you find the end of the calendar year to be quiet or chaos for you in regard to your writing?

 

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 Lisa on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.