17 Mistakes To Avoid As A Freelancer

17 Mistakes To Avoid As A Freelancer

Books, Copywriting, Entrepreneur, JS, Medium

A straightforward list of tips and advice to build your brand fast.

I saw this question on Quora and wrote up a nice long answer. I realized it would be useful to you as well! So here is my answer to “What should I avoid when I am a freelance writer?” originally asked on Quora with some more information for you.

There were some other excellent answers, but here are the 17 mistakes that I came up with and some details as to why.

The top things to avoid as a freelance writer are:

  • Working for free for any reason — you do not need a portfolio of published pieces or free work to get started. Anyone with any level of experience can pitch to clients and use PDFs or Google docs of written pieces as writing samples. Never work for free. 
  • Self-doubt — Insecurity, imposter syndrome, and self-doubt are extremely common, especially among new or inexperienced freelancers. The reality is that if people are willing to pay for your work, then it is valuable. You have to value yourself and your skills and be confident in your pitches to succeed. Entrepreneurship is hard enough without self-sabotage.
  • Working for very low pay — If a site or agency or client is offering 2 or 4 cents per word, no matter how fast you write, it is too low and unreasonable. Value your skills and time. If you are making at or below even minimum wage, it’s WAY TOO LOW. Freelance writing is a specialized skill, especially if you have a specific highly specialized niche. Charge more and say NO to too-low wages. Use that time looking for higher-paying projects.
  • Writing free “samples” — If a company or client asks for free writing, it’s a scam to get free posts. Even if they are a legitimate company, they are still scamming you. Reputable good companies will pay for any samples or tests they ask you to do in the interview process.
  • Bad clients — Clients who try to scope creep (asking for more than you agreed to and are being paid for), demanding, late with payments, nickel-and-diming you, and who are unresponsive are simply not worth your time and frustration. Spend that time looking for better clients. Trust me, this one is huge. Here’s a post about how to identify these types of bad clients.
  • Freelance content mills — I personally am not a fan of Upwork and similar sites, simply because it always feels like a race to the bottom. Value quantity over quality. Marketing yourself can sound overwhelming but if you pick a few companies that look like good fits and reach out directly, you are far more likely to get a response and start building a relationship.
  • Overbooking yourself — If you overload yourself with work, you risk missing deadlines, stressing yourself out, and making mistakes. Know your limits of how much you can do in a day, a week, and a month. It is ok to say “I am not able to take that on this week but I could start on it next Tuesday with a deadline of Friday if that works for you.” Give yourself permission to take a break, a nap, a walk, and have some free time. Freelancing doesn’t mean being busy every second, it’s about working smarter and building relationships, and working on the types of things you WANT to be doing.
  • Missing deadlines — Don’t do it. If you make a commitment, make it happen. If you overbooked yourself or didn’t allow enough time for it, then grind it out and do it this time and learn the lesson of how long things take you and how to estimate deadlines. When creating your deadlines, build in some wiggle room.
  • Working without a contract — This is a huge no-no. Don’t do it. Even if it is a simple, relatively inexpensive project, contracts are hugely important. Your contract should dictate payments, deadlines, deliverables, and anything else having to do with the client/freelancer relationship. Contracts are put in place to protect ALL parties, not just the freelancer. The client is getting a guarantee of the work and deliverables they can expect, as well as timelines and payment schedules.
  • Not asking for referrals and reviews/testimonials — This is a mistake many freelancers make. They either “feel weird asking” or forget to ask for referrals and testimonials. Not me! I assume that every client I work with had a good experience — because I put a lot of effort into making sure I am easy to work with and give them what they ask for. After our project is complete, I let them know I enjoyed working with them and ask if they or anyone they know needs any writing and editing services. If they write back a good review, I ask if it’s ok to put it up on my website.
  • Not looking for long-term or retainer clients — This is one many freelancers learn as they go. Projects are great and especially good for filling gaps and making faster money, but longer-term projects and monthly retainer clients are the best way to build stability into your paycheck and work. I have retainer clients that pay a flat fee per month and get X number of hours or work or X number of posts per month from me. I invoice them monthly and build a solid relationship. I also tend to get more referrals from this type of client.
  • Not asking for more money/negotiating — If a project or client seems interesting and you want to work with them but they are offering too low of pay rates, try simply asking for and negotiating for more money. It never hurts to ask. I often will take a little time to educate them on “average” rates and why they often get what they pay for. I show them my value and the benefits they will get from working with me. This works more often than not.
  • Not be proactive about pitching/marketing yourself — Many new (and seasoned!) freelancers join sites like Upwork and write for their own blogs and just wait for clients to come to them. This is the worst possible strategy. Being successful faster requires you to go out and identify ideal clients and actively reach out to them and introduce yourself. No one knows who I am. They are not searching for ME, they are searching for a random writer to fit with what they need. Being proactive is extremely effective and often results in better clients, better work, and better pay.
  • Not having their own blog — Having your own blog that you update regularly is a huge boon. People can find you organically and you can also use it as your writing samples. It is a great way to get your name out there and build an audience. Some clients will reach out to you simply because they found your blog and it was a great resource for them.
  • Not diversifying their income — You do NOT have to stick to one thing. Maybe you started out ghostwriting blog posts, but that doesn’t mean that is the only thing you can do. There are tons of other ways to make money, some more passive than others. For example, you can write a book and get royalties from sales, you can do some affiliate marketing if it makes sense on your blog, you can start a podcast or a Youtube channel, you could create a short webinar or online course that can be sold in perpetuity.
  • Not starting an email list early — I didn’t start my email list until I was ready to publish my first book and I was definitely missing out. Newsletters can make you money, make you a thought leader, let you give valuable information to your readers, and is a great place to announce new things happening with you — book releases, a new service offering, and more.
  • Not double-checking the details — When writing or editing something for anyone, make sure you not only reread your work several times but also that you reread the brief or outline to make sure it is what the client wants. Also, run your work through editing software like Grammarly as a final step, just to make sure you didn’t miss anything. We all make mistakes and typos, it’s human nature. So, just do whatever you can to avoid them in the final product.

I hope you find this helpful and can avoid making these mistakes as you build your freelancing empire!


Check out my book Concept to Conclusion: How to Write a Book and learn everything you need to know to conceive of, outline, write, publish, and market a book! Or check out my first-ever beautifully illustrated kid’s book I Love You Bigger Than All The Stars In The Sky.

Sign up for my mailing list for writing and freelancing news and information.


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21 Ways to Spark Your Creativity in 2021

21 Ways to Spark Your Creativity in 2021

JS, Medium, writing

What to do when the Creativity Well runs dry.

As a writer, sometimes I just don’t have a great idea.

We’ve all been there. Artists and sculptors and designers and architects — any profession that requires creative ideas — have had times when they hit a wall.

In writing, it’s simply called “writer’s block.” A simple, clear phrase that indicates a brick wall in my brain between “I want/need to write” and “I have no idea what to write.”

But creativity is not a waterfall. It is not continuous. Creativity is more like a river. It moves, changes directions and shoots off down a tributary, it ebbs and flows, it rises and falls.

Creativity, like water, is powerful.

It’s a driving force inside us that makes us want to create.

To make something.

Whether it’s a simple blog post, a new sticker design, a paint by number, or Michaelangelo’s David.

Creativity can sometimes be forced. Like anything in life, sometimes you don’t know the end result but you just have to start something.

Here are 21 ways you can shake off the block, dance past the wall, and spark your creativity:

  • Set a timer. Turn off all distractions, set a timer for 5 minutes, and write or draw the first thing that comes to mind. It doesn’t matter what it is! Let the pen move and see what happens.
  • Get outside. Just take a walk and clear your mind. Go outside, get some fresh air, and let yourself breathe. Stop focusing so hard and trying to force an idea and just enjoy a nice walk. You’ll be surprised what sparks in your head when you stop trying to force yourself to be creative and give yourself a break.
  • People watch! This is one of my favorites. I like to look out the window or go to the park and just watch strangers go by. Sometimes I make up stories about where they are going or what they do, who they are, why they are in a rush. It’s a really nice way to pass some time and let creativity come in.
  • Just dance! Sometimes we need to get out of a rut and shake it off. Especially with the pandemic, we’re moving less and staying in more. Put on some upbeat music and shake it out. Move your body and shake and shimmy and gyrate and sing along and just enjoy the music. Get your heart rate up and your let your body move!
  • Go drive. Much like taking a walk, often just removing yourself from where you are will change how you think and help remove creative blocks. Go drive through an area you haven’t before, go anywhere and just enjoy the open road.
  • Read a book. I know, you should be working and it feels lazy to take a break and do something fun like reading when you really should be getting shit done. But give your brain a break! Read something you enjoy, not a nonfic about how to be creative…let your brain relax!
  • Meditate. Some people find meditation to be very relaxing and allow them to reset and revitalize. Breathe!
  • Browse social media. I do this with Facebook and Quora. I will just scroll through and see what people are talking about. What questions are they asking? What are they thinking about? Seeing what others are talking about often sparks ideas in me. Pinterest is another great one to look through.
  • Browse the news. Don’t just doom-scroll and go into a spiral, but run through the headlines. What is happening in the world or in your area right now? Often, seeing what’s going on will spark something in your brain and that will thread out and become a great idea.
  • Think like a kid. If you don’t have a kid handy to chat with, think about what you were like as a child. Look at pictures, think about what you wanted to be when you grew up, what you enjoyed doing as 5, 10, and 15 years old. Let yourself wander down memory lane.
  • Talk to a friend. Get out of your head and onto a call or video chat with someone you love. You don’t need to talk about the lack of creativity — just enjoy spending quality time with someone you love!
  • Do some decluttering! Is there anything more peaceful and beautiful than an organized and clean space? Pick one area — your desk, your dresser, the kitchen pantry, the coffee table — and declutter. Clean up, organize, Marie Kondo the crap out of the area. Then wipe it all down and bask in your new-feeling space.
  • Buy a new tool. What I mean is to buy something that relates to your creative outlet. A new pen or notebook (we writers ADORE journals and notebooks) for a writer, a new brush or paint set for painters, a new set of markers, a sculpting tool, anything. It doesn’t have to be expensive — think how you feel every time you open a new pen/brush/marker. It feels so good and you want to use it ASAP!
  • Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask people what’s on their mind or what they would draw/write/make! Tap into other people’s creativity and let the ideas flow.
  • Change the scenery. Take yourself somewhere else. A change in environment is a great way to revitalize your brain. Go to a coffee shop, take your stuff to the backyard, or just move to a different room than where you normally work. Shake up the scenery and think differently.
  • Change the story. If you always paint flowers and it’s just not feeling right today, try painting a dinosaur. If you write nonfiction and blogs, try writing a short fictional story. If you always make mugs, make a little penguin. Get out of the rut by forcing yourself to think differently instead of staying in your normal routine. This makes you leave your comfort zone — and brilliant things happen when we step out of the expected.
  • Change your routine! Do you always approach things in the same way, do the same morning routine, have the same breakfast? Try doing things differently or out of order. See how that changes your perspective and gets you past the block.
  • Brainstorm differently. Do you keep a mental or physical list of ideas? Do you normally just do whatever pops into your head? Try brainstorming differently — such as mind maps, word clouds, flow charts, or drawing out ideas instead of listing them.
  • Doodle. Whether you write, draw, design, or anything else, try just closing your eyes and moving a pencil on paper. Let your mind relax and just draw whatever comes to you. This is a great way to get out of your head.
  • Write by hand! We type a LOT. We use computers and devices for everything. Try brainstorming or writing by hand and feel how different that is from typing.
  • Rearrange your workspace. Try rearranging the furniture or changing out the art on the walls of your workspace. If you don’t have space or time to move furniture, try rearranging the stuff on your desk and reorganizing your desk drawers. Change your space, change your perspective.

Do any of these ideas work for you? Let me know!


Check out my book Concept to Conclusion: How to Write a Book and learn everything you need to know to conceive of, outline, write, publish, and market a book! Or maybe you want something lighthearted and great for kids? I just published a brand new children’s book called I Love You Bigger Than All The Stars In The Sky and it is garnering very positive reviews!!

Sign up for my mailing list for writing and freelancing news and information.

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Freelance Business Coaching — What is it & why should you care?

Freelance Business Coaching — What is it & why should you care?

JS, Medium

I get so many questions from new and aspiring freelancers — especially surrounding how to find and get clients, how to determine or raise prices, and how to “break up” with clients. Typically, I take the time to thoroughly write out an answer for each one, whether it’s on Quora, Facebook writing/freelancing groups, comments on my blog, or through email.

While I do still intend to write a guidebook of sorts for beginning freelancers with pitch examples, writing samples, scripts, contract templates, etc., I think doing one-on-one freelance business coaching is really helpful for people who want one-on-one help, advice, and accountability with a real person.

After all, having someone to answer questions, give direction and actionable steps to take, and hold you accountable may help you get more done!

I’ve been doing book coaching and free freelancing mentoring for several years now, and this felt like the perfect next step.

What is freelance coaching?

Great question! It’s basically interchangeable with career or business coaching — just focused specifically on freelancing.

It’s me as an expert, coach, and mentor to someone looking to start freelancing or for freelancers who want to level up and streamline their business.

Basically, if you want to start a side hustle as a freelancer selling your services or create a full-time freelance career, I can help!

Services include:

  • Deciding if you need a niche, and if so refining your niche
  • Marketing yourself and finding clients
  • Helping you pitch yourself to potential clients
  • How to determine your pricing/rates
  • How to negotiate rates with potential clients
  • How to raise your rates with existing clients
  • Time management and organization
  • Learning to identify “bad” clients/red flags and say no before ever starting to work with them
  • How to “break up” with a client you no longer want to work with
  • Helping you come up with copy for your website and write a bio
  • Free access to a contract template
  • Recommending free or low-cost tools and software that make your job easier (no affiliate links, no kickbacks, not required to use — just recommendations)

And more!

What do you think?

Are there services missing that you would find useful? Drop them in the comments and I can add them to the list!

Questions for YOU

Have you ever worked with a coach? What were your biggest positives and negatives when working with one?

Was there something that REALLY worked for you — or something that really, really didn’t and disappointed you?

I’d love to hear about YOUR experiences with coaches as the client and whether the coaching was “worth it” for you — or what would MAKE it worth it.

Thank you for your help!


Check out my book Concept to Conclusion: How to Write a Bookand learn everything you need to know to conceive of, outline, write, publish, and market a book!

Sign up for my mailing list for writing and freelancing news and information.


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How to Expand Your Work With Existing Clients

How to Expand Your Work With Existing Clients

Copywriting, Entrepreneur, JS, Medium, Sales & Marketing

Marketing and looking for new clients is extremely important for small businesses, freelancers, and entrepreneurs. It’s how you grow and expand, right?

When you’re looking for ways to expand your business, the first thing most people do is look for new clients.

This is not a bad thing! In fact, I know that effective marketing and sales is imperative to the success of any freelancer.

But there are two key things many freelancers and entrepreneurs overlook when they are wanting new/expanded business and more money.

#1: Expand your work with existing clients.

It is easier and less expensive to keep a client than it is to get a new one. Both in terms of money (such as any marketing spending or other customer acquisition costs) and time (time spent maintaining a current client versus the time it takes to market and talk to and retain a new one).

That’s why strong customer service is so important for small businesses and freelancers. People want to work with freelancers who do a great job, stay organized, and are easy to work with. They continue working with you because you get stuff done and make it easy for them to keep the relationship going.

Price and rates are not generally the deciding factor in maintaining a client/freelancer relationship — or not usually the main factor (after all, they already agreed to your rates and hired you).

So, you have great customer service, are easy to work with, and your client likes you. What’s next?

Now, it’s time to expand the work you do for them. You already have a foot in the door — why not blow the door wide open?

Consider your offerings and what the client is currently getting and send them an email or, as I prefer to do for this, have a casual conversation.

I don’t make it into a big thing or make some formal announcement, I just take every opportunity to expand what I do with my clients.

For Example:

If I am already writing the text and story of a Kickstarter/Indiegogo campaign, I ask them if they also want me to write a script for the demo video, a press release, and/or an email marketing campaign, too.

Or if I am already ghostwriting blogs/articles for a client, I always ask if they want me to come up with topic ideas, source photos, upload the blogs to their site, and if they want me to write a couple of social media posts for each one (but not post, I do not like doing social media management).

Or if I am editing a book manuscript, I’ll ask if they are also interested in having me upload it to Amazon for them (if self-publishing) or help them write a query letter (if looking for a literary agent).

And when they are interested or if they have questions, I let them know what my new/additional rate will be to add that service onto my existing contract.

“I’m happy to do that. It’s going to be $xx per month/total on top of your existing payment. I can just add it to the same invoice. Want me to get started on that now or wait until next month/billing cycle?”

If YOU make it into a big deal or sound nervous or you over-explain or you don’t sound confident, then the client may not want to expand your services with them — even if they love working with you already.

For me, it is always a super casual conversation. “Hey, I was thinking about how you’re going to market your blog/you said yesterday you were thinking about how to market your blog. I am happy to write up 3 social media posts for each blog post I write and include hashtags for you. It would be about $50 more. Let me know which social media platforms you get the most traction on and I’ll research appropriate keywords and hashtags.”

Or something like “I know you plan to do a marketing campaign for this. What’s the plan? [listen to plan] Sounds great. I can definitely do a press release and a series of marketing emails for that. Yes, it’ll be $xx and I’ll just add it to the next invoice.”

I try to not wait for a client to ASK if I do an additional service or specific thing. I bring it up as soon as I notice they need something and offer it to them before they even need to ask.

If they have to ask then they likely are already thinking about/pricing out/considering someone for the service. Part of my customer service and relationship management strategy is anticipating their needs.

This way, when I offer myself to expand my services, I am clearly looking out for their best interests, anticipating their next need, and proving my value over and over again. I know what comes next and am experienced enough to understand their upcoming needs sometimes before they’ve started thinking about them.

As the expert, this should be something you can do, too, and it will absolutely benefit you to verbalize it to the client as soon as you notice they’ll have another need soon. The longer you wait, the more likely they will find someone else or do it themselves.

It comes back to confidence and customer service. You must be confident in your own skills and that the work you do benefits and helps and is good for the client. And then sell it to them!

#2: Ask for referrals.

It might seem like a no-brainer, but you might be surprised at how many freelancers either forget to ask for referrals, feel it is too intrusive, and/or don’t follow up.

Here are the steps you should be following:

  • Every single time your wrap up a project, ask your client if they know of anyone who may need similar services. It can be as simple as: “Hey, it’s been great working with you! I currently have availability for 1–2 new clients, so if you know of anyone who needs writing or editing work please let me know.”
  • For monthly/retainer (not project-specific) clients, I just ask that same thing after the first month or so and again at the third and sixth month, and so on. Just every now and then mention that if anyone needs anything, I am happy to work with them.
  • Every 6 months or so, check in with former clients to ask how they are doing and if they need any work now AND if they know anyone who might need something. Try another simple/easy check-in like the above: “[name], Hi, I just wanted to check in briefly and see how you’re doing. I hope you’re well and that business is booming! It was great working with you on [XYZ] last year. Are you in need of any writing or editing services now? Or do you know of anyone who may need my services? Oh, and here are a couple of recent articles I wrote that you may find interesting — [link1] [linke2]. Thank you and have a great day!”

If a client had a good experience working with you, they will generally be happy to refer you to others. Plus, no minds a brief check-in to see how they’re doing. It keeps your name at the forefront of their mind and reminds them of the work you do. Plus you provided a couple of free resources or articles they might find interesting — heck, they might even share one of them with their network, giving you new exposure to their audience.

If you’re worried it is somehow intrusive to ask for referrals, then you are not thinking with the business in mind. Have you ever in your life felt intruded upon or offended by someone saying “Great working with you! If you know of anyone who could use my services please let me know.”?

It is not intrusive to ask for referrals. It is incredibly common and even expected to a certain degree. Besides, if a client enjoyed working with you and had a good experience, why wouldn’t they be open to referring others to work with you?

Referrals are the #1 way I get new clients these days. In the last 2 years, 90% of my new clients have been referrals from others.

Those are my two best tips for expanding services with current and former clients.

Are you already doing these two things? Or one of them? If not, do you plan to incorporate them into your process?

And if you do NOT do these things — why not? What is the block or why does it feel like you “shouldn’t” or “can’t”?


Check out my new book Concept to Conclusion: How to Write a Book and learn everything you need to know to conceive of, outline, write, publish, and market a book!

Sign up for my mailing list for writing and freelancing news and information.


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The #1 Thing You Must Do to Be a Successful Entrepreneur

The #1 Thing You Must Do to Be a Successful Entrepreneur

Entrepreneur, JS

When people ask me how I became profitable immediately when I started my business, I always answer the same way:

“I didn’t spend ANY money on websites, business cards, marketing, or software/tools. I started by going out and FINDING CLIENTS first. That was my top and only priority. I had to prove there was a viable market for my skills before investing in anything.”

I started by being proactive and marketing myself and directly messaging potential clients. I answered job ads, messaged people via Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook, and offered my services. My message told them I could provide value with updating their website copy/blogging for them/writing marketing copy/editing books, etc.

I attached 2–3 PDFs of writing samples I’d previously written and gave a link to my free online blog.

My first 4 clients: 1 was from a direct marketing email. 1 was from Reddit’s ForHire sub, I responded to a posted ad. 1 was a response to a free ad I’d posted on Craigslist looking for clients/work, and 1 was from LinkedIn, where I directly messaged some of my contacts who are business owners/founders/CEOs, etc.

And I still get clients via social media! (Here is an article showing how I use social media to find clients with examples!)

So, getting and having clients is obviously important to having a successful business. That makes sense. But this post is NOT about marketing, this is just background info.

So, what’s the #1 tip?

Sure, marketing yourself is really the top way to be finding and gaining new clients, but what is the tip I was talking about for being a successful entrepreneur?

The #1 thing you need to do to be successful in ANY business is to have GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I know I am a decent, even a good writer. Am I the best writer in the world? Heck NO.

BUT I am extremely easy to work with.

People LIKE me, and they like working with me.

I ask questions and dig in to really understand what they need and want. I take copious notes and remember their needs and questions. I am honest; if I don’t know the answer to something, I’ll always say “I’m not sure, let me find out and let you know.” I DELIVER on my promises. Overdeliver whenever possible (getting things done before a deadline, offering extra advice, sharing ideas, etc.). I update them on my progress on their projects, so they never wonder what I’m doing or if their work is getting done. I don’t charge extra fees on top of my stated and agreed-upon rates. I make sure I have a pretty flexible schedule so I can be available to jump on a call or respond to emailed questions. I RESPOND to emails and calls quickly.

I have made it my mission to be easy to work with.

And it has made a huge impact on my business. I get a ton of client referrals, more than some other writers and editors I know. I get clients who come back to ask to work with me on different projects or different types of work. They’ll say, “Hey, do you do XYZ? I know it’s not what you usually do but…”

I make sure to give them information for free on our first call. If they are an author, I talk about publishing options and comparisons and offer to introduce them to my cover designer, if they’d like (I get no kickback or referral fee from doing so). If they are a company looking for a blogger, I offer some free ideas for topics and ways we can use calls to action.

This is what makes ANY business successful, but especially an entrepreneur.

You don’t have to be the best, most perfect expert in the world.

You have to be good at what you do, of course.

But most of all, you have to be someone people WANT to work with.


Check out my brand new book Concept to Conclusion: How to Write a Bookand learn everything you need to know to conceive of, outline, write, publish, and market a book!

Sign up for my mailing list for writing and freelancing news and information.


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Become a Digital Nomad by Starting Your Own Business in Retirement

Become a Digital Nomad by Starting Your Own Business in Retirement

Entrepreneur

This article is a guest post by Carla Lopez, owner & CEO of Boomer Biz.

Some retirees want nothing more than to relax and enjoy not having any serious commitments. Others feel like something is missing when they stop working. In the past, the only options were to either find a job or get by without one. Thanks to digital technology, seniors now have a third option: you can start your own business from home.

Unlike traditional small businesses, home-based businesses are easy to start with very little capital. Plus, you have the flexibility to work from home if mobility is a challenge, but you can also be a digital nomad and work from anywhere your heart desires! Investopedia defines digital nomads as “people who are location-independent and use technology to perform their job.”

Brainstorm the Best Ideas

If this sounds like the kind of retirement business you’d like, the place to start is with an idea. One option is to turn a hobby into a business. According to Business.com, the most important thing is to make sure your hobby is marketable. Do you make something that you can sell through your own website or an online marketplace? Or, do you have a skill that’s in demand, such as photography, writing, or graphic design?

Of course, you don’t have to start with a hobby to form a business. As long as you’re willing to learn, anyone can start an e-commerce business without having a specific hobby or skill.

Research the Latest Technology

Once you narrow down an idea, the next step is to develop a business plan and research what it will take to run your business successfully. To be a digital nomad, the main things you need are the right digital tools and apps. These are just a few of our favorites for getting started.

A Current Smartphone

You may need a laptop or tablet to do some work, but digital nomads also use their smartphones to get all kinds of business tasks done. This includes communication basics such as making calls and sending texts and emails. It also includes being able to run the latest apps for tasks like marketing and updating your website. In order to use your phone effectively, make sure you have a good data plan too. We suggest finding a provider that offers flexible or unlimited plans so you don’t run into costly overage charges.

Apps for Efficiency

When you start your own home-based business, it’s likely that you’ll be running a one-person show. This is why apps that increase efficiency are ideal because they help you get more done. One type of service we recommend is to use voice recording software. These services are easy to access online, and most provide free audio recordings for whatever you need. You can record podcasts for your marketing efforts or meetings you have with collaborators. While recording services are typically free, you can often pay a small fee to get your recordings transcribed.

We also love apps that increase efficiency by solving some of mundane but annoying parts of running a business. For example, Forbes recommends the app 1Password to keep track of passwords without compromising security, as well as the app Todoist for keeping up with everything you need to accomplish.

Cloud Storage Solutions

Of course, in order to get work done from any location, you need access to your files from wherever you are. According to Business News Daily, online data storage is one of the most important tech tools small businesses need to get started. There are lots of options out there, so compare the different services on the market to find the one that best fits your needs.

Running any business, even a home-based business in retirement, always takes work. The great thing about digital technology, though, is that it makes your work easier and more productive. This means all you really need are the right tools, and you can work from the comfort of your couch, a corner coffee shop, or a country halfway around the world!

Carla Lopez retired a couple of years ago, but she didn’t lose her entrepreneurial spirit. She created Boomer Biz for retirees like herself who still have a desire to work and achieve. The site is a resource for people in their golden years who want to start their own business or go back to work doing what they love. 

Where To Start When Writing a Book

Where To Start When Writing a Book

JS

The idea of “I am going to write a book” feels huge.

And overwhelming and hard.

And sure, it can be…if you let it.

One of the biggest mistakes first-time authors make is overthinking, overanalyzing, and just not getting started.

It’s easy to look at writing a book as one whole BIG step instead of as a series of smaller tasks and to-dos.

But here’s the fun part: You don’t have to start at the introduction or even at the beginning if you don’t want to.

If you have a comprehensive and complete outline, then you already know the order everything will be in for the entire book.

So, you can pick a topic or section which feels inspiring at that moment and just start writing.

If you spend so much time agonizing over that opening line that you never actually write it, what have you accomplished?

Just put words down on the page.

You can change it, edit, revise later. You can fix or change or delete anything.

But there have to be words to change.

It’s easier to fix bad writing than to start from a blank page every time.

I know that sounds silly, simple, maybe even stupid — but it’s true. You can always edit your work but there must first be work to edit.

You can do one, two, or seven drafts and change as much as you need to until it’s exactly what you want it to be.

You have to start somewhere!

Start with an outline

Create a solid outline and roadmap for your book. You’ll always know how to get there if you know exactly the path you plan to take.

Use your outline as the place to change the order, add topics, decide the structure, and identify if you’re missing important information or have some information that doesn’t really fit with the rest.

Treat your outline as the first draft of your book.

Then it won’t feel as hard to start writing — because hey, the first draft is done, now it’s just about fleshing it out!

How do I know?

Well, because I’ve written books. More than that, I’ve helped a bunch of OTHER people write books, from really refining their concept to breaking down the writing process to putting the manuscript in order, publishing, and even using their books as marketing tools for their businesses.

I love books.

I admit it, I’m a huge book nerd. Book nerds unite!

I’ve written 3 of my own books, did book coaching for dozens of authors to help them start and finish their books, and even ghostwritten a few books!

I edit book manuscripts as a big part of my business….and I also still read books for fun!

See? Book nerd.

And I just wrote my third book. It’s freaking awesome and I’m super excited. It’s coming out Tuesday, November 26th because I might be an idiot and want to release it right before the holidays.

It’s an easy read and a great reference to walk ANY author through the writing process, and it is geared specifically toward nonfiction authors (though part two has some really awesome information on the editing process, publishing, and marketing which will help fiction authors, too!).

You don’t have to read it, I won’t make you.

But I am extremely proud of it and if you do read it, I know for a FACT it will be useful and give you straightforward no-BS knowledge to break down the writing process and learn step-by-step how to get that book out of your head and out into the world.

Concept to Conclusion: How to Write a Book comes out TOMORROW! It will be FREE for 48 hours ONLY starting tomorrow morning (November 26)!


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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.

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?

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?