How To Find That Elusive 1% Inspiration

A graphic designer friend of mine told me that she uses Pinterest to find design inspiration. I said, but there’s so much stuff in there, it’s chaotic! She said, that’s how I find it. In a world of chaos, I will find something that jumps at me!

Isn’t that a stark contrast to authors and famous writers who find inspiration in peace and tranquility, in surreal and serene scenarios?

Well, if you ask the muses, they will probably say inspiration can come from even the most unimaginable sources. Including Pinterest which I call an organized chaos, actually.

Jack London said it perfectly: “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club!” For me that means, with full gusto and armed with an open heart.

Still stuck

But what if you’re really stuck in a rut and you can’t seem to channel your inner muse? What then? We all have to start somewhere. If your neurons aren’t getting wired too tightly, look into this writers’ tips list of inspiration sources. These have worked wonders for some of the best ones out there, hopefully, you included!

  • Stare at something blue or green

Let me go scientific on this. It may sound funny but research says that blue and green are the best colors to influence creativity. Maybe because the sky is blue and green means growth.

  • Try laughing

A positive mood can construct a background for creativity. Try it! I’m hysterical now and see how far I’ve gotten!

  • Meditating really helps

Try a relaxing moment where you just shut out and shut down everything. Even the purring of your hard drive should be off. And just listen to the silence.

  • Create something with your hands

Our fingers are so used to typing, it could use a little bit of knitting perhaps, or clay molding. This activity is a welcome distraction for a while. It doesn’t need thinking so you are refreshing your gray matter.

  • Spend time outside

Go for a swim, take a hike or go camping under the stars. The fresh air will relieve you and feed your spark box.

  • Do some heavy exercise

A quick jog around the block or about 35 hits to a punching bag – anything that will strengthen and flex your muscles will free your brain of activity. After a hearty sweat, you develop a certain sense of purpose.

  • Change places

If you have the capability and time, go abroad and look at the new cultures you will find. Creativity can come from intercultural experiences. Those immersion groups are always a good source of inspiration and a sense of awe.

  • Make a stash

Create your own storage of all your ideas, feelings, observations, worries, hopes and impressions. Or just about anything that comes to your mind. Don’t we all wish we could just download our instant thoughts so that they never get lost? (I heard Elon Musk is already developing this). These ideas will be useful someday for scenarios or characters.

  • What activity excites you

What tickles your fancy or stirs up your emotions? Old habits can make you recall something from the past that inspired you. It could be something very normal or it could be something really weird. Dan Brown (author of Da Vinci Code), would find inspiration by hanging upside down. He says it helps him relax. Charles Dickens couldn’t write if his hair was out of place so he constantly ran a comb through his hair. I can imagine how relaxing that is.

  • Get some sleep

Get some shut-eye and wake up fresh. Believe that the next day will bring in fresher ideas after a good night’s sleep and it will happen.

  • Your muse will come

I can tell you a thousand reasons NOT to start writing, but start anyway. In one of those lines, your muse will appear by your side leading you on. Why? Because you never stopped looking for inspiration even without her.

It’s all about emotions

These are some great writers’ tips. But one should never write uninspired. There is no audience at all for uninspired writing. Because then, there won’t be any emotions involved. And it is exactly those emotions that can be transmitted from author to reader.

Thomas Edison said that genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration. Still, you can’t have a hundred percent without that fleeting bit of 1% inspiration. So put on those positive jeans, flex those creative metacarpal bones, don your thinking-cap-cum-light-bulb and start writing! Remember, if it doesn’t give you pleasure, it’s not worth writing.

The Tools Any Freelance Writer Needs to Start a Successful Writing Career

Take note of my aim here: How To Start a Successful Writing Career. This means, this article will help newbies and career shifters who have not dipped their toes into freelance writing.

Times have indeed changed. There are more writers now who want a piece of the content pie. And if you’re one of them, it’s a great way to live and express yourself through the art of writing. But patience played a great part when I started writing. It was easy at first, what was next was the hardest part. You don’t really need a lot of tools to start. Most of these tools are at minimal costs or you already have them. A quiet small bedroom or office space will be beneficial. Let’s start you off with the necessary tools and writing tips you need in your toolkit:

  1. A trusty calendar

Freelance writers’ Rule No. 1 – Never miss a deadline. Once more writing gigs come in, and you start expanding your portfolio, you will need a calendar.

Set up a Google Calendar. You can access them through any device you have or public computers as long as you log into your Google account. You can create a list of to-do for the day, put deadlines per client or per project. You can create alerts for forthcoming projects.

  1. A new laptop

New career, why not new laptop? For a newbie writer, you don’t want problems with technical hardware from an old clunky laptop. Why not invest on a new one and a good back up. Load it with the best virus protection software and update your system regularly.

  1. A paying service like Paypal or Venmo

Get a Paypal account. You will receive your payments faster. You can withdraw from you Paypal account straight to your bank account. Whenever possible, always encourage the use of e-payments. Your checks could be delayed or lost. If you don’t like Paypal, get Venmo. Or both.

  1. A tried and tested Internet provider

You need the internet for emails, research, conference calls or text-chats. If your Internet Service Provider is not too reliable, you might consider scouting for another one. And always have a back-up internet connection.

You could always go to the nearest Starbucks and have the free Wi-Fi connection.

  1. Word processing and spreadsheet programs

Microsoft Word and Excel come to mind. If you’re a Mac user all your life, you might still want to use MS Word for Mac. Almost all your clients and prospects will be using Word. You don’t want compatibility issues cropping up. Formatting can change the whole document. But since you’ll be using Word as a word processor long term anyway, why not invest in it.

Excel has its own merits as a very good spreadsheet where you can lay out all your expenses and invoices. Classify your clients per tab or per sheet. You can do a lot more like tallying word count, cost per word, date of submission, etc. Once you get the hang of Excel, you’ll find it really helpful.

Open Office is a great substitute for MS Word because it’s free. And it also has its own version of Excel.

The other nice word processor I recommend is Evernote. It actually does more than word processing.

  1. An accounting program

You may need an accounting program for your invoices, payouts and other financing needs.

Programs like Freshbooks can keep track of each of your payments, compute for tax payments and monitor your invoices. It tells you who owes you money and vice-versa.

  1. Virtual drives

I personally use Dropbox and Google Drive. You definitely need these drives. There’s no point in having all your files and tools in your local computer or laptop at home. With these, you can access everything from wherever you are.

  1. Website creation tool

If you’re planning to do your own blogging, then you might as well know how to use WordPress. It’s so newbie-friendly with all its free themes. Set up your portfolio with it and start blogging away. 

  1. Video –conference tool

Video-conferencing is one important aspect of connecting to clients. You will need apps like Skype (it’s free!). It has video and chat where clients can call you to discuss project details. 

  1. Anti-plagiarism tool

Anti-plagiarism tools are also necessary. Use Copyscape and purchase credits, they’re cheap ($10 for 200 checks).

  1. Image sources

If you need images in your articles, Flickr is a great place to get some. So with IStock and FreeDigitalPhotos. Go on and experiment on these three.

  1. Grammar editing tools

And finally, you could use a little more writing tips and grammar help like Grammarly which has a free version. Another editor helper is Hemmingway. 

That’s all for now

There are so many tools out there to get your writing career going. But you need to start somewhere. As soon as you’re already comfortable as a freelancer, and the money starts flowing in regularly, you could take on more serious tools to make your writing life much more comfortable.

Once you’ve gotten off to a great start as a freelance writer, come back and message me. Tell me which tools you’ve added and which ones made a big difference. Good luck!

Content Writing Myths You Need To Ignore In Your Writing Career

With so many rules coming from Google and with new ones every day, content writers feel that content creation is becoming quite exhausting. But there is a common denominator that all writers have – a passion for writing the content they want and need regardless of rules and regulations that may seem scary and limiting. But writers shouldn’t be intimidated. In fact, what some believe to be rules may just be myths.

While there may be plenty of myths out there, let’s dispel some:

Myth 1 – Anyone can do content writing

It’s easy! Just have good grammar, watch your punctuations and you’re set! Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. While yes, anyone can write. But wouldn’t you want to let someone with a bit of journalism skills, a little knowledge of marketing, SEO skills and a writing flair that is engaging help you get your brand introduced. There may be some differences between web content writing and newspaper writing. It’s still a lot similar since you’re telling a story. But then again, even if some writing skills can be learned, some writers are not meant for the web. You don’t even have to have a marketing degree, but yes it helps. Remember, you are writing to sell a product, you are writing to connect your readers to your product by answering their questions and you are writing to make them potential loyal customers.

Myth 2 – Publish as much as you can, as often as you can

The more the better, isn’t that what everybody wants? No, it’s not! It’s true, we need to produce on a regular basis (as directed by content marketing). But after all the content you’ve churned out, the quality of these content types still supersedes quantity.

If you’re in the pest control business, and you’re worried about website freshness and being up-to-date, you wouldn’t want to produce 3 articles per week. And for sure, your audience wouldn’t want you to either. Instead, write about your business that’s worth publishing because they are relevant, they answer a lot of clients’ questions and they offer valuable information about the pest control industry.

You gain nothing by publishing more for the sake of publishing. Google will not reward you either.

Myth 3 – 600 – 700 is the most ideal length

Actually, there is no set or accepted number of words to ensure that people will read your content. It all boils down to how engaging and how interesting your writing is and how well-written and informative your post is. An article that’s less than 700 may have no informative value. While it may look easy to digest to a reader, it will give him no satisfaction having read something short but useless.

Myth 4 – Nobody likes lengthy posts

This myth seems to contradict the previous myth, doesn’t it? Because in today’s busy digital world with multiple tabs, social media notifications and so much written content to read, you would believe people don’t like reading long posts and would rather skim through or just read the headlines.

The truth is, people won’t read long and boring posts that don’t offer solutions. Again, bottom line is if the post can answer clients’ questions, even if it’s 1,000+ words, he will read it because at the end of the post is a satisfied reader armed with so much information he never had before.

It takes longer to write long form content because of the research and skills involved. But if it’s interesting and relevant enough then write it in long form the way you want to tell you story.

Myth 5 – Keep keyword density in mind always

SEO experts will tell content writers to put in a specific number of keywords in an article. Truth is, there is no magic number. Yes keywords are important, having less and having too many are both critical for rankings. But that shouldn’t be the focus when you write. Instead, make your keyword scattering in such a way that it doesn’t seem planned. Also, use synonyms since Google uses Latent Semantic Indexing to track related keywords so you won’t have to use the same exact keywords over and over again.

Don’t count how many times you used the term “expert SEO” in your article. Why not use “professional SEO” instead and let it be read as naturally as possible. Be creative by using an introduction that can hook an audience, a relevant, informative and interesting middle and an end with some form of call-to-action.

Myth 6 – Make SEO love your content

Definitely not! Make your audience love your content! It will give you more success and a much bigger and loyal following. You shouldn’t even be worried about ranking yet. What you should prioritize is getting good quality content that will lead to conversion and a good ROI. Ratings will follow as well as a loyal audience. They see your commitment to produce content that they need in a way that reflects your true passion as a writer.

 

Conclusion

At the end of the day, what do writers really need to take into heart? Creating content for the art of it knowing that the reader will have better knowledge of the products he needs. The writer was useful in the audience’s eyes. Forget these myths and view them as writers’ tips instead. It is your job to give the best user-experience to the readers because they will become loyal followers. They want the best information? So write and give it to them!

Hey Women Writers Out There – Is Freelance Writing For You?

Over the weekend, I watched a movie called “Just One of the Guys” – a comedy about a young high school girl named Terri, aspiring to become a journalist someday. But her teachers gave her a few writers’ tips because they felt she didn’t have what it takes to be a serious writer, just beauty with no talent. So her school newspaper articles were rejected and she eventually, lost to a guy for a newspaper internship. This brought her to the conclusion that she was rejected because she was a woman. So she disguised herself as a man, entered a nearby high school and signed up to be in the school paper. This premise made me realize that women do have a certain non-edge when it comes to being taken seriously as a writer.

Well, historically speaking, men did dominate the journalism world. And even though there are already numerous advances of women in the field of journalism since the last century, alas, it is still male-dominated.

Which leads us to  question, since it seems to be a world full of men in the field of writing, can women then, dominate the field of freelance writing? What are the pros and cons then in being a freelancing woman writer?

The art of freelancing

By definition, a freelancer is someone who is self-employed and offers some form of service to businesses, most oftentimes, to multiple clients. That means, any form of work or type of service in any kind of business could be provided by a  freelancer, and that includes writing.

In today’s world of the Internet boom, content marketing and content writing, a freelance writer could and should be flexible in his or her talents. Not only should freelance writers be good in article writing but also in copywriting, blogging, technical writing, a little bit of creative web design, a little bit of bookkeeping and marketing, as in social media marketing and many more.

A freelance writer must be a one-stop shop for all your content material needs – a proverbial Jack-of-all-Trades, so to speak.

If you’re an employed woman and have thought about taking a giant leap of faith to becoming a full-time freelance writer, stop! Don’t overthink this question! Why? Because you are not alone in your dilemma and this has and will always come up in writing forums by women well into the future. You just need to know the advantages and disadvantages of doing freelancing, in particular, freelance writing.

Pros of being a woman freelance writer

You can start anytime

Ah the perks of having control of when you want to start freelancing. It could start just when you get your first client. Use your professional network or your network of friends  to get you a writing gig. Your local PTA or your kids’ friends’ parents may need a writer for their business.

Not too expensive

So you didn’t become a writer overnight. You’ve had practice and you know how the Internet works and how personal websites work. You should have the right equipment in hardware and software which are already “paid for” so your real investment must be in creating your own website with the right business tools. You could also take advantage of free linking tools like LinkedIn where you can post your resume online, help you connect to the right people, and introduce yourself. There are plenty of women writers like you who seek freelance jobs so let them know you’re in the market.

You get to choose when to work

Isn’t that great? No punch cards to record when you start and when you end. No office where you have to be physically present which means you won’t need to travel. If you’re a mom, your punch card could be a hearty breakfast with your family. Your office? The entire bedroom!

You get to choose your clients and projects

As a starting freelancer, maybe it’s’ not a good idea to be choosy just yet. You could use the extra income, even if you don’t like the project. But once you’ve established yourself as a freelance writer, you can choose which ones to take and which ones to reject.

The demand is high

There is a growing need for quality and dependable freelancers. Yes the market is growing too and competition is getting stiffer. But in many businesses, they have more freelancers than actual employees. So the demand is indeed high.

You’re in control

You get your assignment, it needs to be delivered. But how you deliver it and create it, it’s really in your hands. If you’re distracted with house chores or a child’s homework, you can still have control when you have to.

Cons of being a freelancer

You have to have lots of patience

Be patient in wanting to earn big. If you’re single or don’t have a husband supporting you financially, you need to be patient. It’s really competitive out there and you could be discouraged by how slow your career is moving and earning. As your clientele grows, so will your income. Just be patient.

Workloads can differ

Some days or months are lean, some are super heavy. Be ready to have a backup plan on lean (less money) times plus a plan of action when work becomes too much to handle. Practice time management in order to meet deadlines and not disappoint clients and family members.

Payments may not be what you expect

Expect businesses to pay new freelancers less. So don’t set too high a price if you’re still new. Give a fair amount, then as you keep writing for them, you can charge higher. You can even find clients who are willing to pay top dollar for the quality work you do.

Conclusion

It turns out, most editors are male while most of your freelancing colleagues are women. But don’t be discouraged. If your passion is really into writing, then don’t be bothered by gender gaps in the freelance workplace. Let your high quality writing do the talking for you. Write your best foot forward and you surely make it. I think the gap will be smaller soon and men and women freelance writers will be on equal footing.

Think you can be one of those incredible women freelance writers? Then why don’t you join Iris Content and express yourself freely in a content marketing agency created by women and supported by women!

And what happened to Terri? Well, she still got rejected in the new school. Gender and looks apparently, were never the issue.

How To Become A Specialized Writer: Writers’ Tips On Finding The Most Suitable Content Form For Yourself

Why do writers write? Is it for creative expression? To educate, inspire, influence or help others? Or is it something writers feel compelled to do? And that if it isn’t released, it will lead to a sad sullen life.

I’ve decided to become a writer because of the freedom to be in any topic I can come up with. Writers love learning new things, learning more about the same things and have endless amounts of curiosity about everything. But I feel that if I don’t choose one or two niches, my career wouldn’t develop any further. Why? Because each time I dive into a new niche, it’s like being a newbie writer all over again. Everything is new – new stories, new researches, new stats – you get the picture.

With being a specialized writer, your writing life becomes easier. You gradually become one with your niche.

So, what’s the best way to start out as a specialized writer? Here are some writers’ tips:

  1. You can’t be picky

If you’re a new freelancer, don’t be picky. With so many other writers out there willing to be paid less but aren’t half as good a writer as you, you should take any job that’s offered to you. But of course, have some dignity. Don’t dumb-down your work just because it pays very little or the job wasn’t very interesting. Still do your best in your writing style.

As you get a variety of jobs, you will notice a trend in your preferences. Maybe articles about healthcare didn’t really appeal to you but legalese writing does and they pay better.

  1. Be aware of the market

As new writers begin their journey, they oftentimes look for jobs that they are comfortable writing. The easiest ones in the market are usually about entertainment and the arts because they’re fun topics and it’s very easy to write about. But then there are so many writers who feel the same way. So competition is very stiff. Having more than 50 writers doing celebrity stuff, the price just went down, way down.

But think about the members of the Teamsters Union and how they can invest their money (and bonuses) wisely. They may just be looking for specialized writer to give them good quality content.

And don’t go searching for boring niches, too. Most in-depth topics give you more interesting work and will give you a reputation of being a seasoned specialized writer in that field.

  1. Arm yourself with some proper training

After deciding on your specialization, get some training. We all could use some added information and new technology or innovations in research or style. This is especially true if we don’t have a lot of experience writing about a topic. There are plenty of resources out there ready for the picking. Join writers clubs and take part in conferences whenever they have them.

  1. Know your network

Try to know people in your niche – old writers, community leaders, publishers. Start off by letting them know you, your interests and what articles you’ve just written. Build a network of potential clients, potential authorities and sources of information, blogs and news. A good source of authority information comes from thought leaders on social media. You can find them in LinkedIn and Twitter.

  1. Two is better than one

Having two niches may sometimes be better and still manageable. When you diversify into a second (or even a 3rd) niche, you’re preparing yourself for the worst in case your first one suddenly loses its visibility, popularity or relevance.

The other reason is that it can get tiring and lead to burnout. Yes, there will be writers who are like some employees. They want a sense of order or routine because it gives them security and comfort. But for others, sometimes a little distraction is just what is needed.

The decision is yours

As the cliché goes, writing is a passion. So take these writers’ tips. If you write about something you are truly passionate about, I believe your writing career will flourish and last long. But if you’re in it for the money or just joining the latest writing bandwagon, you will not succeed and most likely you won’t be so satisfied.

Don’t zero in on a niche yet until you’ve exhausted a lot of (and I mean really many) topics out there. Once you’ve gotten just a little bit of writing reputation, try to redefine yourself as a specialized writer.

It can be liberating but writing is a long and rigorous journey that can’t be rushed. So take time to discover what you want to be as a writer. No one else can define you – not anyone, not any market, not any payment. Roald Dahl says it perfectly, “A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom.”