October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

JS, Medium

It’s horrible to think about, terrifying to live through, and needs to be talked about.

As you well know, I do NOT shy away from talking openly about difficult subjects.

The University of Utah is holding SafeU Month, where there will be dozens of opportunities to engage in safety awareness, education and training opportunities on campus. See what’s happening throughout the month here.

They are stating that “safety is a culture” and they are right.

They launched the month by publishing a list of resources, trainings, actions, and library book list for students, faculty, and the general public.

On it, they included You Are Not Alone, my collection of 56 deeply personal stories from women and men around the world of their experiences with sexual assault, abuse, and harassment.

I am honored and grateful that the University of Utah stocks my book and encourages it as a resource for those who need it.

If you are experiencing domestic violence, there are help and resources at both the state and federal levels in the U.S.

Federal:

State:

Each state is different as to what they offer in resources.

Signs of an abusive relationship:

If your partner is isolating you from family and friends, has anger issues, is controlling, or physically harms you or threatens to harm you or the people/things you love, please get help and get away safely. Here is a list of signs to look for to determine if you are in an abusive relationship.

And remember, physical violence is never “just one time.” It will get worse. Be strong.

  • Tells you that you can never do anything right
  • Shows extreme jealousy of your friends and time spent away
  • Keeps you or discourages you from seeing friends or family members (isolation)
  • Insults, demeans, or shames you with put-downs
  • Controls every penny spent in the household
  • Takes your money or refuses to give you money for necessary expenses
  • Looks at you or acts in ways that scare you
  • Controls who you see, where you go, or what you do
  • Tells you what to wear and how you should look
  • Prevents you from making your own decisions
  • Tells you that you are a bad parent or threatens to harm or take away your children
  • Prevents you from working or attending school (isolating you)
  • Destroys your property or threatens to hurt or kill your pets
  • Intimidates you with guns, knives or other weapons
  • Pressures you to have sex when you don’t want to or do things sexually you’re not comfortable with
  • Pressures you to use drugs or alcohol
  • Threatens to kill you or someone close to you
  • Throws things or punches walls when angry
  • Yells at you and makes you feel small
  • Keeps you from eating, sleeping, or getting medical care
  • Locks you in or out of your home

Be safe, always.

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How Saying “No” Has Made Me Successful

How Saying “No” Has Made Me Successful

Entrepreneur, JS, Medium

When I first started my business, I said yes to everything. You need a press release? Sure! You want help with a sales strategy? Of course! Oh, you need me to design the information architecture for your new website? Why not?

I didn’t always know exactly how to do some of the things I said yes to. But I kept saying yes.

And I learned. I researched and figured it out, and the clients had no idea it was the first time. Confidence comes in handy!

Remember, being an expert doesn’t mean you know everything, being an expert means knowing that you DON’T know something are not afraid to go find the answer. Being an expert is knowing how to find those answers.

I said yes to everything because I was at the very beginning of building my business. I didn’t have any long-term clients yet, and I was doing what I could to make money but was not completely sure what direction my business would eventually take.

I thought I needed to say yes to everything so that I could make money.

In fact, looking back now, there is no way I could have predicted where I would be now, almost three years later. My business has evolved, I have cultivated relationships and have clients I adore, and my focus has shifted significantly from where I started.

And saying yes to everything helped with that! At least, at first. I was able to try new things and discover I was good at them and enjoyed doing them. I was able to come to the realization that some things were not what I wanted to spend my time on and focus on. I even wrote about what I learned in that first year freelancing, and it has been amazing to see the growth.

I’ve spoken before about how what happens when you’re working on things you don’t want to do, and how to break up with clients. This was something I had to learn.

There was one time when I was telling my husband about how one of my clients paid well but was really pushing me into working entirely on sales and marketing projects. Things I didn’t want to spend so much time on. But the money was good and I felt like I couldn’t turn away guaranteed income.

He looked me in the eye and said, “Isn’t the biggest perk of being an entrepreneur getting to do the work you want?”

It was like a light bulb turned on in my head. Of course, it is. That is why I became an entrepreneur in the first place!

The next day, I spoke with that client and broke up with them. It was the best decision for me and opened me up to other new possibilities.

Saying No

As I continue to re-frame and evolve my business and discover new things I love to do, I am finally saying no to work. I still often say yes to interesting new things that I want to learn, but I have given myself permission to turn down paying work that I don’t want to do.

I am making good money now, and am in a position where I am able to be aligning everything with what I WANT to be doing. I don’t need to take low-paying projects to make ends meet anymore, and I don’t want to.

When a prospective client says to me, “Well, that is too much money for this.” Instead of negotiating as I did at the beginning, I simply say, “Ok, what is your budget?” And if there is no compromise to be made (less work to fit within their budget) then I walk away.

You are allowed to say no to doing things that do not fit within your business model.

You are allowed to say no to someone who wants to pay you far less than what you are worth.

You are allowed to say to people you don’t want to work with — for any reason. You are allowed to choose who you do and DO NOT want to work with. If someone treats you badly, yells at you, or does not appreciate you, guess what? You have the power and authority to hop on the Nope Train and not work with them. Chug right along to the next one.

And I know that this can be easier said than done. Trust me, I get it. When you’re not making the money you want, you feel like you need to say yes to just make more money. But the truth is that by saying yes to things you DON’T want, you’re stealing that time from focusing on marketing and finding the right clients, the right projects, the ones you are best at and want to do.

Evolving

As my business continues to evolve, I am able to continuously find new and interesting ways to stretch my talent and grow as a person and as a business owner.

Most importantly, I continue to find things I love to do, say no to things I don’t want to do, and work with amazing people.

This allows me to also be able to work on passion projects outside of my client work, such as writing and publishing my first book in 2017 and then my second book in 2018, creating a book writing mastermind last year, and now working on my third nonfiction book.

Giving myself more space in my business to do the work I want and the projects I love has been great for me and allows me to be creative while still continuing to grow my business.

How did you learn to say no to work? Has this been beneficial to you and your business? If you have never said no to working with someone or on something — why not?

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Self-Publishing vs. Vanity Publishers vs. Trade Publishers

JS

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

I came across this question on Quora: “ Why do publishing companies charge authors for publishing their books when the publishing companies make their money from a percentage of book sales?

Here is the answer:

They don’t. What you’re referring to are “vanity publishers,” which are companies that help authors SELF-PUBLISH their books. They charge for editing, formatting, cover design, and often marketing and promotions to help your book get exposure.

They are typically far more expensive than simply self-publishing your own book. They also typically require an upfront payment and do NOT take royalties from book sales.

Traditional publishers do NOT charge the authors any money and take care of editing, formatting, cover, publishing, distribution, and promotions and DO share royalties with the author for all book sales.

If you are a big enough author, they may offer an advance payment on future royalties, however, most trade publishers these days do not pay first-time authors an advance and instead start paying royalties from the first book sale.

Why Do People Use Vanity Publishers?

There are a few reasons why someone would use these online vanity publishers.

  1. They don’t know how to or are intimidated by self-publishing. (Or do not know how to find professional editors, designers, and formatters and want help.)
  2. They don’t know how to market or promote their self-published book.
  3. They do not know the difference between vanity and traditional publishing.

These are the main reasons I have seen. I’ve worked with several vanity publishers as an editor and have had a good experience with most of them.

While I, personally, believe that most vanity publishers overcharge for their services, I also know that many authors are happy with these services and get to realize their dreams of being published authors without having to find, interview, and retain professionals for editing, formatting, and their cover, and can hand over that responsibility to people who know what they are doing.

The marketing and promotions aspect is something many vanity publishers do well. They know how to use social media, ads, and blogs and podcasts to get their authors exposure the authors may not know how to get themselves.

These promotions often lead to book sales, which is what the author wants.

Upfront Payments

The payments are the main difference between vanity publishers and traditional publishers. While most vanity publishers are NOT promoting themselves as trade publishers, many people not familiar with the publishing industry simply don’t know the difference and may feel duped.

As an author, it is really your responsibility to do your research and identify if the company you’re working with is really what you want.

A simple breakdown is this:

  • Vanity publishers require upfront payments for their services, do not usually distribute your physical books to bookstores and libraries, and the publishing is done under the author’s Amazon account. There are generally NO SHARED ROYALTIES on book sales. [Note: If you’re talking to a vanity publisher and they want to split royalties, run away. It’s YOUR Amazon account. How will they know the book sales or how much you owe them? How long will they want royalties? You are already pre-paying for their services.]
  • Trade publishers do not cost the author any money. They take on the risk of paying for everything with the assumption your book will sell enough copies to make a profit for both them and the author. The publishing is done under the company name and not your personal Amazon account. They distribute to many physical and electronic locations.
  • Self-publishing is truly doing it yourself without the help of marketing or people who know editing and formatting vendors. You find those people yourself, pay them for their services, and upload your own book to Amazon.

Self-Publishing vs. Vanity Publishers

The end result is the same. Whether you do it yourself or a vanity press does it for you, your book will be self-published under your personal Amazon account and royalties will be sent directly to you, and you’ll be able to track book sales on KDP.

It’s the process of getting your book ready for publishing and then promoting it which the vanity press addresses. Some people simply don’t have the time or inclination to do it themselves and prefer someone who knows what they are doing to just take care of it. This is where vanity publishers shine. They understand the process, have the vendors, and know what books need to be ready for publishing.

It is up to the author to decide what is right for them and how they prefer to publish.

Just remember — being self-published does not preclude you from being picked up by a traditional publisher later. I know, it happened to me. Some people think it does and blame self-publishing, but that is truly not the case. Self-publishing is a great way to get your work out there, get book sales and exposure, and be a published author while retaining full creative control.

What are your thoughts on the different ways to publish?

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Self-employed vs. Employed: Pros & Cons

JS

Which is better??


Photo by Martin Shreder on Unsplash

This is not going to be some deeply controversial rant about why one way of making a salary is better or worse than the other.

This is not a verbose way to toot my own horn and make you spend your time and energy reading about how great I am.

This is not an article filled with cat pictures (sorry).

Because the question of “Which is better?” is an unfair question. The “right” answer is completely subjective.

I am currently self-employed and I love it, though of course there are drawbacks.

I previously worked for 10 years in corporate America and it was also both good and bad.

There are “dream jobs,” of course, but the reality is that even your dream job has drawbacks and days that suck sometimes.

Both self-employment and traditional employment have advantages and disadvantages, it is truly about what is best FOR YOU as an individual and for your family.

As Quora user Kelven Swords points out:

Pros:

  • YOU make the decisions, no one else… and you thus reap the rewards.
  • YOU control the finances, no one else… and you thus reap the profits.
  • YOU determine who is on staff, no one else… and you thus control the social structure.

Cons:

  • You make the decisions… thus have no one else to blame for your errors.
  • You control the finances… thus have no one else to blame for any wasted money.
  • You determine who is on staff… thus you have no one else to blame for any parasitic staff members who poison the well.

Let’s take it a step further than what Kelven has described above.

There are obvious advantages to working for yourself.

  • You can set your own working hours.
  • You choose who to work with…and who NOT to work with.
  • You have significantly more control over processes, contracts, clients, work, time, and everything else.
  • You can work in your pajamas — and even sleep in!
  • You get to build great relationships with your clients because you’re steering the ship and choosing how to cultivate those relationships.

There are some obvious disadvantages, as well.

  • You have no one else to rely on.
  • You do not have a manager setting tasks or deadlines, so all deadlines are self-imposed, which can be difficult for some to manage and stick to.
  • Time management becomes extremely important, which is hard for many.
  • No company insurance or other benefits.
  • No sick time, paid vacation time, or maternity leave.
  • Less stability in terms of income.
  • You will find yourself working far more than 40 hours most weeks.
  • You do not have coworkers and it can be sometimes lonely and isolating.
  • You are probably not an expert in every single thing a business needs: processes, sales, closing sales, marketing, website building and maintenance, creative stuff, contracts, organization, admin work, etc.
  • Higher potential for burnout/overworking.
  • Doing your taxes is harder.

When it comes to working for a company, you are getting some very specific advantages, in terms of a stable, dependable income, medical and other benefits, having people to ask when you need help, and being told what you should be doing.

Something people rarely think about when dreaming of being self-employed is the lack of structure and organization.

You have to create your own schedule, keep yourself on task, make sure work gets done, track deadlines, invoices, payments, all business expenses, and create a structure to your day.

It is incredibly easy to lose track of time or lose focus and end up spending half your day on social media when no one is watching!

There are many tools out there to help you get organized and create a structure for your day. Some are free and some cost money — which you need to keep track of so that you can make sure to deduct it on your taxes as a business expense.

Taxes are different and a bit more difficult when you work for yourself, and you have to save some of your income to pay it, and it WILL be a difficult check to write.

If you have personal assets, you’ll need to consider if it makes more sense for you to be a sole proprietor, LLC, S-Corp, or several other options, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. There is much research involved in starting your own business!

For Me

Being my own boss has been fun, challenging, interesting, and lonely. I love being a writer and being able to choose what I write and who I work with, and I created a business model which works well for me.

I also continuously refine and evolve my business offerings, update my own website, look for clients, maintain my social media accounts, and blog regularly. All of which is part of running my business, but is ultimately unpaid work.

I love my business and what I do, but I also enjoyed my work as a Business Development Director in the recruitment industry. I had a great boss, cool coworkers, a stable and dependable paycheck, and a set end time to my workday, none of which I now have.

However, I have the freedom to do the work I want, charge the rates I want, and am much more flexible with my schedule. I can go to the gym in the middle of the day, run errands whenever I want, work in the middle of the night if I am so inclined, and pet my cat all day.

For You

It’s about what works best for you. Don’t put pressure on yourself to be one way or the other or let people tell you one is “better” or more “right” for you than the other.

Make plans, do research, interview people, and figure out what is best for youand make sure you have a clear idea of both the advantages and disadvantages so you are well informed!

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Top 3 Myths of Freelancing Debunked

Top 3 Myths of Freelancing Debunked

Entrepreneur, JS, writing

There are a few overriding myths when it comes to freelancing as a writer. I see these all the time and want to address the top 3.

  1. 1. You have to work for free or at a very low price to get “experience.”

2. You have to specialize in one niche to make decent money.

3. You should do stuff for free or little money to build a “portfolio.”

You have to work for free or at a very low price to get “experience.”

I have been very clear that you should never ever work for free. Never. There is NO REASON anyone would ever need you to work for free to “prove yourself” or as a “trial.” That is what writing samples are for, and your time is worth money. Your skills are valuable. Any potential client who asks you to work for free — even on just one piece — is scamming and taking advantage of you.

Pricing yourself appropriately is understanding that you and your skills have value and not compromising that. It took me some time to learn that just because writing comes easier to me does not mean it is WORTH LESS than writing from someone who struggles.

In fact, it is worth more and is more valuable because writing does not come easily to all people. Which is why they hire you. If they could do it themselves, they wouldn’t need to hire someone.

Also, as a side note, all freelancers will tell you that the clients who negotiate and dicker and force you down to the lowest possible price are the most demanding and negative “bad” clients and always looking for something for free.

You have to specialize in one niche to make decent money.

When it comes to this second myth, it could not be more wrong. It is also not the only or necessarily “best” way to do it. Specializing is just ONE way to be a writer, and it drives me up a wall that writers preach like this is gospel. Yes, specializing could make searching for clients slightly easier, but I have gone in-depth explaining how choosing to be open and work in many different topics has allowed me to have more clients, more diversity in my work, make more money, and market myself to ANYONE instead of just those within a small niche.

Sometimes people say that because they are bad at (or don’t like) selling themselves or marketing their business. They find it easier to market themselves when they are only going after one type of business, so they can say “See? I only work on your topic, hire me!” They may even claim you can get paid more for specializing.

I like to market myself and see everyone as a potential client, so I have a lot of clients. While you may be able to charge more for super-technical or specialized topics (“I only write about drones and understand all technical aspects!”), most general topics like business, law, beauty, fashion, medical marijuana, entrepreneurship, etc., are fairly general and require little research to create a great article.

It has been my observation that deciding not to go into a specific niche has made for more successful and well-rounded writers.

In addition, being a generalist has given me a lot of knowledge on many different topics and I find my clients like that I am a jack-of-all-trades because it means I can help them with more types of things.

You should do stuff for free or little money to build a “portfolio.”

You don’t need a freaking portfolio. You don’t even actually need a website to get started. Not many people really go to my website, but I knew I “should” have one eventually.

You need writing samples.

That’s it. I have been completely profitable and sustainable as a freelance writer for almost a year and when potential clients ask for writing samples, I send them here to my Medium so they see various posts and styles and topics. Before I had a Medium blog, I sent prospects a couple of PDFs of articles I have written.

That’s it.

Just examples of your writing. If you are just starting out, do what I did. Go to your blog and grab a couple of pieces you like, re-edit them and then throw them into a PDF. You can also write up 2–3 new articles if you want some new pieces or more diversity. In total, you should have about 3 well-written writing samples of 500–700 words.

Potential clients don’t care about a beautiful website or a perfect portfolio. They just need to know you can write well.


When you are first starting as a freelancer, don’t waste your time trying to make the perfect website or write ads or any other of the million excuses there are to NOT reach out and find a paying client. And there are so many ways to find clients!

I’ve written before about finding clients and how they are everywhere! And about how being open to new opportunities is what allowed me to have such diversity in my clientele. I’ve spoken about how important it is to be confident in yourself and your writing.

Build a business you are excited about and interested in. Work with people you like, writing things you enjoy and learn from.

Be interested, confident, excited, and happy!

But Christ on a cracker, you do not need a freaking portfolio.

Check out my new YouTube channel!

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